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I’d rather not have signed Ozil
The most frustrating thing about watching Arsenal this season (or the last several seasons?) has been their obvious flaws in their starting 11, which Wenger ignores. That brings me to the one that has been overly discussed since 2012 – a clinical centre forward.
A lot has been said about Giroud since he arrived in England. Is he good? Is he rubbish? Does his strength and aerial ability make up for his lack of pace and one-footed-ness? Overall, I quite like him as an Arsenal fan; 59 goals in 117 games (the last 3 seasons), just over a goal every 2 games. Personally, I believe he would be a great back-up option.
Now the controversial part, and it makes me a little sick to even write this, but sometimes I wish we didn’t get Özil in 2013. Before everyone calls me mad (they may anyway), if you remember back a few years, Higuain to Arsenal was a near certainty in August 2013, but Napoli got him instead, and we got dear Mesut instead, who I do adore.
Higuain’s last 3 seasons have resulted in 79 goals in 132 games, including a goal per game this season in Serie A. He is just the kind of player Arsenal need up front, with Giroud as a plan B. I believe Cazorla, continuing in the number 10 role he had in his first Arsenal season, would’ve continued his excellent debut-season form there, and I think our title-challenge would be a lot better at the moment.
Would any other football fans have rathered a big transfer saga go a different way?
Andrew M, AFC, (Mahrez for POTY) Australia
Top four finish is a formality now, right?
- Let’s not start talking titles. Yes, we look like a team that could end up as the best in the league. But there’s a long, hard road to go, Europa League included, and losses against Arsenal and/or City could see the wheels come off.
- However, we should absolutely be assuming that top four is there for the taking. To throw that away now would require a choke of gargantuan proportions. A quarter-pounder-in-one-go choke. A choke that surely even Spurs can’t manage. Can we?
- With the possible exception of the Champions League year, this is the most enjoyable season in my 20-odd years of supporting Spurs. To see these players still chasing down goal kicks after 90 minutes is heart-warming and the way they play with the ball is mesmerising at times.
- A good team is worth more than a great player. Leicester have proved this but it applies equally to Spurs. Yes it was great having Bale, but he used to win us games with the odd thunderb**tard when we’d been ragged for the rest of the game. He disguised how average we really were. What’s happening now is something genuinely special.
- Talking of team ethos, there is some wisdom in not signing anyone in January. Poch talked several times of not wanting to upset the dressing room atmosphere. More so than at any time I can remember, the players are working for each other and for the manager. That’s a delicate equilibrium and while I’d have liked to see a goalscorer come in, I can see why they didn’t move if the deals available weren’t quite right.
- I have been convinced for a while that Trippier should start ahead of Walker but his MotM performance at the weekend just cements that for me. His delivery is superior, his defensive positioning is better and his touch also puts him ahead of Walker. It’s my considered opinion, nice a chap as he seems to be, that if Walker was a yard slower he’d be a Championship player.
- Speaking of full-backs, this is one of the key areas in Spurs’ success this season. Where we used to have no decent full-backs at the club, we now have four quality options. A Mailbox letter last week said that Spurs attack narrow. That just isn’t true. We don’t play with traditional wingers, so the full-backs do that job, allowing the likes of Chadli, Alli, Lamela etc to add to the numbers in and around the box.
- The Dele Alli ride continues. Dizzy or not, he was instantly at the heart of the action when he came on and that outside-of-the-boot cross was sublime. If he pushes on, he could be the new Jack Wilshere…
- Having gone off the boil earlier in the season, Eriksen isn’t starting to look like his old self. If we really are to challenge for the title, we’re going to need him spraying balls around and finding the gaps. Now if he can just regain his set-piece ability, which seems to have dried up entirely.
- Great to see Wimmer come in and cover so ably for Vertonghen. Now I just need him to score, so i can roll out my obscure ‘Wim- Wimmer, who’s got the keys to my Bimmer?’ chant that absolutely, definitely won’t catch on. Ditto the Dembele Full (But We Hungry) masterpiece.
- Whoever wrote in urging teams to try harder in the Europa League can’t be a fan of a team who have spent much time in it. Spurs give it their all every year and usually lose narrowly to decent Spanish or Italian opposition. It’s a rough old competition with too many games and plenty of quality. The chances of winning it are negligible and it always seems to affect league form.
- A final word on Pochettino. For some reason, it has taken him a long time to be truly loved at the Lane. That threshold has now been crossed at breakneck speed. His name is finally being sung and the doubters have been muffled. I love that man. I love him like the cool Argentinian uncle I never had.
“United are too far back now”
- Played well yesterday, were on the front foot for a lot of it but a draw was probably a fair result. Around the 70 min mark they just retreated onto their 18 yard line and invited pressure. That’s always a high risk strategy against a side with good players.
- Not too many complaints about the manager. I probably would have left Fellaini on and replaced Lingard with Herrera and Mata with Schneiderlin once it became clear they had effectively stopped trying to play football. I don’t see the logic in bringing on Depay who consistently loses the ball and never tracks back.
- Its getting harder to defend Depay now. He’s not getting many chance but when he does, he rarely does anything of note.
- I was frustrated with Rooney yesterday. He played ok but he keeps dropping deep to pick up the ball and stay involved in the game. He offers no threat in behind and his only movement is towards the ball. He doesn’t offer an out ball when the team are in trouble. Costa on the other was always on the shoulder and always in the defenders faces. He gave Smalling & Blind a tough game. Defenders often get an easy ride from Rooney.
- In my mind this was a pivotal weekend in the race for top 4. If City beat Leicester and Utd could beat Chelsea they are 7 points off them with Leicester having to come to Old Trafford and go to the Emirates. I felt that was a lead they could potentially run down. But with results going as they did, I feel Utd are too far back now. Leicester & Spurs are playing too well to allow Utd to catch them. Arsenal & City are too experienced to fall that far back in this amount of games.
- That makes things all the more interesting in a weekend where the speculation around Mourinho intensified. I know a lot of people don’t want him anywhere near the club but with the club most likely out of the Champions League next year, it’s not the time to trust a rookie. Jose may not guarantee success but it’s a hell of a lot more likely under him than anyone else available. Only Pep & Carlo have CV’s that can rival his, and they are both spoken for.
Dan, Ireland MUFC
I’ve been watching Fellaini with added interest in the last few Man Utd games to see what it is he is doing to justify a starting place in the team. I see him more of a “Plan B” option to throw on towards the end of the game to lump the ball at.
Granted he is a decent footballer but it is quite frustrating to watch him start over the likes of Herrera, who really pushes for the team with his energy and runs. But watching the Chelsea game I noticed how many times De Gea kicked the ball long (something we have’t seen so much of under Van Gaal, who prefers to play it out through his centre backs) and landed the ball perfectly on Fellainis chest, who then laid it off to another player.
In so many games Man Utd struggled to break down teams who put any number of players behind the ball. Using this tactic we are by-passing a number of opposition players and getting the likes of Mata on the ball in decent space. It will be interesting to see if this continues against Sunderland who will be set up to defend.
I guess this is also an unintended response to Martins, lfcs body part email. Fellaini is quite simply a giant chest.
A few Everton conclusions
That’s a bit of a turn around three games on the bounce 9 goals scored and none conceded – granted one was against an FA Cup minnow and the other was against Newcastle, however the last one 3-0 away to stoke (not many teams have been able to do that this season) is some change from the 4-3 defeat at Goodison.
A couple of changes that have happened:
· Our 40m to 50m pound best young centre half in Europe has been out injured
· Tim Howard, who has been under a lot of criticism for the last two years, is out injured
· James McCarthy coming back and looking fit has made a massive difference to the team as a whole –one of the most underrated players in the league
· Possession is not everything less than 40% against stoke – its what you do with it that matters
I just hope that Mr Martinez sees this and doesn’t bring both players back into the first team the moment they are fully fit and lets the current goalie and centre half pairing continue and see how the next few games go.
David (Plastic fan Dublin) EFC
Very little comment about one particular point coming from the top of the table clash between Man City and Leicester.
Leicester go 2-0 up very early in the 2nd half. Pellegrini’s response is to substitute off Toure – as in Yaya Toure, inspirational midfield dynamo, captain extraordinaire, first name of the team sheet, exemplary eater of cake – the one man you’d keep on the pitch to drag your team back in the game…
But no…after being bossed by Kante, and not showing the slightest interest…off he trudges – he’s not even visibly disappointed.
Now, to fast forward – the Chinese transfer window has a couple of weeks left – and Toure has an agent to feed…the Chinese season starts in March…and the money looks good.
Has he played his last game for Man City ?
Some thoughts from Newcastle v WBA if you will indulge me…
WBA were rubbish. If you make us look that good, then you are in real trouble. Your fans are great though.
Tony Pulis must like his trainers box fresh. Man those are some dazzlingly white kicks.
Newcastle are still in trouble. I like Rolando Arrons. He fast and tricky. He isn’t a left back though. If they’d wanted to, any of WBA players could have picked him up and thrown him out of the stadium without much effort. Dummet or Colback need to get fit quickly.
Speaking effort, Anichebe top speed appears to be ‘meander’. He’s also packing quite a bit of excess timber.
Jonjo Shelvey has an excellent passing range, especially if he is given all the time in the world to pick his pass. Which he was. Repeatedly.
Ah Tiote! That was a retro performance by him. I don’t even think he got booked! Steven Taylor also played well. He didn’t even try and handball it ‘Terry-style’ in the box…mainly because WBA didn’t spend much time in our box.
Ben Foster still has it seemingly. The poor get had little or no help from his defence all match.
James McClean is an angry ba*tard isn’t he? He seemed to put in a lot of effort but with little skill. I was asked by my wife why we were booing him, I thought, perhaps naively, it was because he played for Sunderland (the SMB chant was sung at him) but then it was pointed out it was probably because of the poppy issue. Which is a disgrace.
If you ever bring back the look-a-like section, can you put in Colocinni and Kenny G (I had not noticed this until the Australian visitor who was with us pointed it out).
Paul (I’m not allowed to name the kid after a footballer…I think Alan is a nice name), Newcastle
The Greatest Upset
Following the weekend’s glorious performance by Leicester I began to think about the implications, should they go on to win the Premier League. More specifically I was considering where it would rank in the annals of upsets. Certainly it would be one of the greatest football upsets in history, but could it be considered the greatest sporting shock of all time?
Thinking about contenders a few obvious ones spring to mind. However, I think we can immediately rule out “one offs”. While Hereford beating Newcastle or Mike Tyson being floored by Buster Douglas were shocking, you can’t compare one match/fight/game with winning over a 38 game season.
Similarly, cups and knockout tournaments don’t hold the same value. Greece winning the Euros was amazing, but that was 6 games. Goran Ivanisevic shocked Wimbledon, but that was 7 matches(and how hard is beating Tim Henman?). The Miracle on Ice, where a team of college kids beat the all stars of the Soviet Union, was scarcely believable but the same thoughts apply.
That leaves leagues. Nottingham Forest are the obvious comparison, but given the nature of football these days (where one Manchester City player costs more than Leicester’s team) you surely have to say that Leicester’s effort would be more impressive? The one comparison I’ve not heard made, which might be the most apt, would be Atletico Madrid. A team that was nearly relegated, forced to sell it’s best players and managed to beat the costly superstars of their league. Atletico started from a higher level but were competing against Real and Barcelona teams that were far superior to the top teams of the Premier League this year.
So any thoughts? Would Leicesters achievement (should they do it) be the greatest in the history of football? And could you go even further and rank it as the greatest in the history of sport?
Mike, LFC, Dubai
In his 16 conclusions on Chelsea v Utd Daniel Storey wrote “The question of managerial rivalries is a relevant one. Next season, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Premier League may be home to Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Arsene Wenger, Jurgen Klopp and Diego Simeone.” Fitting the bums to seats on the managerial merry go round, where is Storey envisaging that Diego Simeone is sitting? We know Guardiola is going to City, presumably Storey sees both Klopp and Wenger staying where they are and he is speculating that Mourinho could replace Van Gaal. But where is Simeone possibly sitting? Tottenham? Surely Pochettino is safe. Leicester? Ranieri is more likely to replace Lineker in the crisp adverts than get the boot. As Daniel says ‘’it is not beyond the realms of possibility’’ but that possibility does involve Simeone giving up his job at a top European side for at best mid table Premiership mediocrity. Has an afternoon in front of his TV with ‘’Super Sunday’’ and ‘’greatest league in the world’’ got to Storey?
Can’t say I agree entirely with Naz, Gooner. The ticket boycott is something I’ve seen advocated elsewhere over the weekend, but the likes of FSG and Stan Kroenke probably love the idea of there being no more season ticket holders. If they could sell tickets for 25+ games a season to the highest bidders, they’d probably fancy their chances of making even more money. As he says, it’s also highly unlikely that the pipeline of willing mugs (guilty) will dry up any time soon.
No, it’s the current season ticket holders at Arsenal, Liverpool and elsewhere that need to stand up and fight. And as well as coordinated protests in the stands to gain attention, the battleground is the shops and concessions at the grounds, where revenues can be hit. The ticket is not the clubs’ only source of matchday income, and a widespread refusal to buy a programme, pint, pie, scarf etc. will be immediately noticed. Clubs may respond by raising ticket prices, but that’d be toxic PR.
If you look at the money fans spend in pubs, restaurants and cafes away from the ground, and on food and drink when they get there (I must easily spend £20+ most times), it’s easy to identify an alternative for owners. By getting fans to spend more of that outlay within the stadium – better quality, better variety and longer opening times would be a start – they could afford to drop ticket prices and probably increase revenue, with the added benefits of good PR, reinforced loyalty and an improved atmosphere. There are other solutions – lobbying to be able to sell beer at UEFA matches, or stream their 3pm kick offs to subscribers for instance – but so long as we’re so compliant, why should they bother?
Of course, the American owners have the upper hand, and have the advantage that they never have to go anywhere near the protests, so if there are any Rams, Nuggets, Avalanche, Rapids, and Red Sox fans who feel like joining the cause, get in touch.
Will (notice how the Broncos are the only Denver team Kroenke doesn’t own) O’Doherty
The Liverpool walkout
So Liverpool fans aren’t allowed an opinion about their own club raising tickets prices because “they didn’t seem to care when Chelsea/Arsenal/Man U/Spurs raised their prices…”?
What would you have preferred – Liverpool fans up in arms about matters that don’t effect them, I’m sure you lot would’ve had a bloody opinion on that too!
Why not all be angry, in unison, at the guys running football clubs by trying to squeeze every penny out of “customers”;
– £55 for a replica shit
– £1,000 season tickets
– £5 beers
and all the other ways F-A-N-S are bled dry for profits. The first game where both home and away sets of fans decide to not attend/buy tickets out of protest to both clubs owners will be a landmark event which will effect change. Also, will break down some of the walls surrounding tribalism that is hurting football.
I doubt it would EVER happen but it would most certainly work.
Yeah I sound like a hippy and want to “stick it to the man” but I didn’t fall in love with this game by pretending when I playing down the park I had just be awarded a contract worth £300k a week, I dreamt of scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup Final for the team I supported, ending England 30 years of hurt with a thunder-bastard into the top corner against Brazil/Germany…
Leicester defying the odds (and EVERYONE’S predictions) to top the table and beat City convincingly on their own patch this weekend is striking a cord with so many because its Roy of the Rovers stuff… If it was written down as a script, you’d think “what a load of guff, that would never happen…” but it bloody is, in front of us and I think its beautiful!
I will probably be ripped to shreds over this but I don’t care.
“Real” fans being priced out
I’ve read with interest the articles on ticket prices, including the excellent one by John Nicholson today, and something struck me.
The assumption has always been that the clubs want the “real” fans to attend games, and they believe that they can charge what they want because the dedicated fans will always attend. But what has occurred to me is that, perhaps, they don’t want the dedicated fans to attend at all. The larger amount of their income, as everyone knows, comes from the TV deals these days. So which is more important to them? Making sure that “real” fans continue to attend matches, or making sure that the dedicated fans buy their TV subscriptions?
In all honesty, it is the latter. So the more “real” fans they can price out of attending matches (leaving matchday attendance the preserve of day-trippers who will buy from the club shop, eat overpriced pies and drink overpriced American p!ss branded as beer), the more people they can ensure buy the Sky & BT subscriptions to make sure the TV money keeps rolling in.
In effect, all of the arguments against high ticket prices – the things that seem logical to the supporters as being bad things – aren’t an unfortunate by-product of increasing prices, but are actually the point.
Interested to know if anyone thinks this makes sense, or if it’s the paranoid ramblings of someone who’s a little sleep deprived because of non-sleeping children.
Martin Gilbert (nothing to put in brackets because I have no thoughts left), Dublin.
How Ayre should have handled it
I read the piece about the futility of Liverpool fans walking out on 77 minutes and had to agree with it on the whole. You have to have a certain amount of admiration for the Liverpool fans for actually walking out (although I wonder whether they would have at 1-0, or 0-0 and they were all over Sunderland, that 2-0 looks comfortable and made the decision all the easier). However, the fact is it reminded me of Homer shouting at Moe “You’ve just lost a customer” as Moe kept asking “What Homer?, I can’t hear you” whilst readily creaming in the profits for what was originally Homers idea. Liverpool is originally the Liverpool supporters club, yet now they’re getting done over, soon to be wandering vacantly round the city murmuring “Ayre, Ayre, Ayre, Ayre”.
The thing is I reckon Ayre has missed a trick. I reckon he should have gone balls in and openly admitted that the new stand was going to be used to create extra additional revenue, and that the prices in this new stand were going to be higher than normal, and here’s the crunch. They were going to be for the football tourists. The very people that are the other bane of Liverpool fans, thems that come in, taking their seats, and ruining the atmosphere. Not only would Liverpool be seen to be creaming these fair-weather fans, but by doing so they were maintaining the atmosphere in the likes of the Kop, and also freezing prices, maybe even lowering them, for the real fan. The Local Fan. We all know it would be bull, but it put a spin that says FSG acknowledge the fans. Maybe I’m just being cynical.
I suppose in order to prevent such walkouts in the future FSG could actually come out and say this is their plan after all, but for Liverpool fans, walking out, having paid your money, and then finding out your team has let go a 2 goal lead is all a bit unsavoury. Not that most other fans, (whilst empathising), won’t tell you isn’t a little bit amusing. Don’t lie.
My other piece of advice is that FSG could always raise the tickets to £95, that way any protests by fans would just look like they were trying to avoid the traffic.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool (Celebrations like that of Mahrez make me wince, don’t get stupidly injured fella)
*Newcastle were excellent at times against West Brom, but Tony Pulis’ tactics were shameful. Against a team low in confidence, with a makeshift back four, surely the right move was to get at them early. Instead West Brom sat back as usual, let Newcastle’s attackers get up a head of steam, and were lucky not to concede a bucketful. No wonder they’re staying away in droves at The Hawthorns.
*Norwich City are in big trouble. They followed Daniel Storey’s advice and signed two defenders, but neither one has been a success so far. Ivo Pinto wasn’t even allowed on the pitch against Villa, and Timm Klose once more looked less than ready. Sometimes it takes time to bed in, but the Canaries don’t have the time. In attack, Steven Naismith has been a good addition, but Wes Hoolahan may be fading, and without his creativity they don’t have enough punch.
*Aston Villa have turned a corner of sorts (and Gabby Agbonlahor scored!), but they still don’t look ready to make a late Leicester-style charge. Just not enough quality, although I’d love to be proven wrong.
*Once again the new signings looked good for Sunderland – how about that nifty footwork by Wahbi Khazri on the assist for the equalizer — and I’m beginning to think they’ve got a real chance now. In a straight fight with Newcastle, I’d take Allardyce’s clear planning over McClaren’s improvising.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
Mignolet costing Liverpool
According to WhoScored, Simon Mignolet has made 9 errors leading directly to goals, higher than any other player in the last 3 seasons. It’s also calculated he’s single-glovedly cost us around 15 points this season (confirmation needed). If you add those 15 points we’d be joint 2nd right now.
Now, I’m not actually suggesting we would actually be in 2nd (that’s reductive reasoning and doesn’t factor in any of the other myriad things that could be different if we had a competent keeper), but you could be damn sure we would be in a stronger position than we are now.
I would go into details about the Walkout on 77 but (I think it’s obvious from some of my mails) I’m a card-carrying socialist so you can reasonably assume what I think about it. Along with 10,000 fans, it seems Mignolet left as well. I can’t even begin to fathom how he sets up his wall for that free kick and then contrives to getting beat at his near-post.
I’ve previously stated that I was done with him after the whole ‘holding onto the ball too long’ fiasco but now I’m just about ready to build a Wicker Man just for him.
Kris, LFC, Manchester
Siggy the best?
Following on from ‘Nicest man in football watch’:
Today: “Is there a better dead-ball specialist in the Premier League than Sigurdsson?”
04 Dec 2015: “Chelsea ace Willian … this season’s stand out set-piece taker”
14 Nov 2015: “Jan Molby has named Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil as the Premier League’s best set-piece specialist”
October 7, 2015: “Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen Reminds Us How Special Free-Kicks Can Be”
21 January 2015: “of the last 14 years”…“Juan Mata …, based on official Premier League data, has been the deadliest set-piece exponent”
13 May 2014: “most consistent dead-ball specialist in the league? The stats suggest it is Manchester City’s Yaya Toure”
It’s a shame Leicester didn’t buy Ronaldinho, he could also have entered a ‘Free Kick of the Month’ competition. Did I hear that Stuart Pearce was coming out of retirement?
Laurie Barton, Durham (watch out, League Two, Cheltenham Town are on their way back up! … fingers crossed … )