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Tony Pulis, Christ almighty…
You probably know that Tony Pulis has never been relegated from the Premier League. If you really do exist, you’ll see to this by mid-May.
Now’s your chance to show yourself big guy… Don’t let us down.
Wubblepig (Scoring is overrated anyway), Bali
No longer feeling Blue
Based on the 4 games (3 PL + 1 league cup), some surmised thoughts on Don Conte’s Chelsea:
– In my opinion, the biggest issue gripping us in the regrettable season of 15-16 was the team’s structure. More importantly, lack of midfield control was hurting our defense (yes, there’s only so much a 1000 year old JT and a not a great defender Cahill can do)
– Conte has certainly addressed it with his midfield choice of Kante-Matic-Oscar who have well defined roles (on that later)
– I dont care what the rest of the mailbox thinks, but Kante is to me the signing of the summer not just for Chelsea, as a single most awesome transfer (note, not saying we had the best transfer window, but single most best transfer). He is the difference between Chelsea being level with Arsenal than Manchester clubs. For 32m, it has to be an absolute steal!
– That means the role of Matic and Oscar are different now.. Matic no more needs to cover the mistakes of JT/Cahill, and is now a ball winner up the field, mopping up at times, while Kante takes care of sniffing dangers, leaving oscar to play the number 8 role of Lamps, though he can do way better in terms of creativity and goals
– This also means we have no space for Fabregas. As much as I love the spaniyard, the ruthless running and tracking back is not his game. I initially thought maybe he would be the pirlo here, with Kante and Matic upfield, as Kante was a box-to-box at Leicester, but Conte has other ideas (I’d still love this set up, but to do that, we need a big upgrade in our defense!)
– Eden Hazard is now free of defensive duties (partly due to the midfield structure and partly due to zonal structure), letting him free to cause havoc. He is also free of injuries after having a good summer in the Euros and pre-season. We have the best player in the division (arguably), and if he can produce moments each game, we’l be there abouts at the end of the season, provided we address our woes in transfermarket for defenders..
– Diego Costa is thinner than last summer, fitter, and hungrier… And his usual nasty self.. I only hope he doesnt get booked each game and can channelize the anger in the game than getting carded!
– Our wins so far – play good, condede scrappy goal, tactical switch and win it later through energy (west ham), play shite for most of the game and do what you did in previous game to win late (watford) and comprehensively outplay the opponent at home (Burnley).. Three different methods of getting 3 points, and I am already in love with Don Conte
– On another note, Jamie Redknapp is an absolute disgrace for saying Aguero is not that type of player. To me, what he did y’day means 3 game straight ban. Aguero always gets off the hook (that two foot stamp on David Luiz in FA cup was let go).. AgueroCrimes??? You hypocrite media!
Aravind, Chelsea Fan
…Seeing as Chelsea fans seem to be pretty rare in the mailbox and comments field recently, I thought I’d offer some opinions (if only to move away from the “is Rooney a sack of knackers?” theme that continues to plague the site).
After enjoying the Mourinho years (and I’m still a Jose fan), there is no doubting that Conte has given Chelsea a very different feel. At 2-0 up on Saturday it was genuinely refreshing to see Conte pushing for more rather than lobbing Mikel on and shutting up shop for the three points. Time will tell if this will happen/work against better opposition but it has the feel of being an exciting season ahead.
The Fabregas issue is an odd one. What he gives us in vision, he takes away by compromising the solidity of the midfield. Matic seems to provide the opposite – the midfield looks assured but the team can lack creativity when he plays ahead of Cesc. I genuinely feel that Fabregas’ future role at the club might well depend on the extent to which Conte can boost the defence.
And on the subject of the defence, the fact that Terry, Cahill and Ivanovic are getting older should have been a surprise to nobody. Zouma’s injury was of course wholly unpredictable but it blows my mind that the club has been so laissez-faire in organising replacements. With no Champions League and the renowned instability around managers at the club, there has to be some acceptance that attracting players might be difficult. Conte coming in late from the Euros hasn’t helped and the loaning out of decent players before replacing them seems stupid in the extreme.
Recently I began to question who is to blame? In recent history the club has been very efficient and decisive in the transfer window. I used to think that was down to the board. In Jose’s first season upon returning, transfer business was expertly done. In his second we fannied about and ended up with Djilododji, Hector and Miazga. Now Jose has gone to another club and conducted his business efficiently and quickly again. Does this mean that the manager is the key to good transfers or is it the board? United’s board has been ridiculed over the last few years for their shoddy approach to the window – now Mourinho has gone there they seem to have pulled out all the stops. Does the board shape the window, is it the manager or is it pure luck? All I do know is that Chelsea need to sign two defenders and fast. If they get that right, I think the squad is in fantastic shape for the next few years
Ted Maul (Fully convinced that Chris “Hump3” Humphries is behind Kviznoz and his scotch egg breath. Bifters)
Six things he learned
*Cracking match at White Hart Lane. Maybe all it took was a few hugs from Jürgen Klopp, but Sadio Mané is a different player this year. The talent is the same, but the application, drive, and overall body language are worlds apart. Totally unjustified prediction based on three games: Vincent Janssen will be just short of the required standard for Spurs.
*Another week, another goal scored on a header against Wes Morgan. But how about that Vardy strike, huh? Brought back memories of the days when the title race wasn’t a procession of the super-rich. Good times.
*This week’s Michail Antonio Award for The Guy You Really Shouldn’t Give Any Defensive Duties To: Nordin Amrabat of Watford.
*Ahmed Elmohamady joins the hall of shame, beaten to the line by Wayne Rooney on his left foot. But Marcus Rashford: oh boy oh boy oh boy. Please play him as often as possible, José?
*It looks like Burnley management have decided they’re not going to overspend in pursuit of Premier League status. Good for them, but at Chelsea they were outclassed to a degree very rarely seen in this league. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope it was a one-off.
*”A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” wrote John Keats, and he was probably thinking of Alexis Sanchez’ cross for Mesut Özil, or most of Kevin DeBruyne’s set piece deliveries.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA (no one points to a whistle quite like Mike Dean)
A pain in the Arsenal? Not really…
There must be a huge amount of Arsenal fans out there that have been supporting their club since the mid seventies and can see that the cries of pain of newer fans doesn’t reflect the reality. Mid seventies finishes in the bottom third saw a slight improvement over the following two decades, the George Graham miracle years and then a spike from the day Arsene joined the club.
They had a period of super over achievement and are now bubbling along nicely well above their average league finish since 1974 ( when I started having to endure all their negative tactics). They are still one of the more attractive teams to watch, but please new Arsenal fans, grasp that since “the AW peak” your team have done really well and when you finish fourth this year it’ll again be an over achievement – based on your average league finish during the period of the football following life of your average aged fan in the stadium.
With a realistic perspective of glee and happiness you can roar on your team and try to make your amazing new stadium a place of impressive atmosphere. Safe in the knowledge that the basis of the club is absolutely sound. Imagine what could happen to Chelsea’s peak if Abramovich were assasinated ? Liverpool’s ups and downs are another realism that should make you constantly blissfully happy.
Heavens! Arsenal were so abject for most of the last 45 years. Anyway, this years team looks good again, when Lucas Perez starts to fire and Granit and Cazorla hit something akin to consistency there is a very good team that will, in my opinion (and the older Arsenal fans who probably don´t post much stuff on websites), over achieve. And to finish, I reckon Laurent Blanc would be a decent successor to the godlike Arsene.
Peter (Football business > kit clashes), Andalucia
Guess who’s back?
Football365’s early winner: Theo Walcott
What’s going on with Walcott and his new found responsibility to get back and recover lost balls? I noticed the effort he was putting in against Leicester initially but against Watford he was Arsenal’s best ball winner /recoverer (with 6). Has looked great on the right, has he suddenly realised he needs to earn his living? I think it’s the Ox who needs to be looking at improving his approach based on the start of this season!
Also it’s great to see that referees realise they are allowed to award Arsenal penalties (already equalled last season’s total! ). It’s okay harking on about Arsenal throwing away the title last season but if you take into consideration the penalty count between top and second then things could have been different (you can’t say we were only fouled twice in the area last season!).
A f***ing dilemma
Too many United fans are completely missing the importance of Rooney to this United side and, more importantly, to Jose. Wayne Rooney is capable of maybe one important moment per game, sure, but that’s not why he’s in the side. Truth is, without Wazza, this set of XI players would be horribly misbalanced.
Paul Pogba’s best position (for himself and for this team) is slightly debatable right now. He’s not a natural destroyer (unlike Felli or Schniederlin) nor is he a natural number 10 (unlike Mata, Mickitaryan etc). In the time it takes to figure that out or create a system personalized to Pogba, Wayne Rooney is of the utmost importance due to his own will to sacrifice his position.
Yesterday against Hull, Rooney attacked (somewhat toothlessly) when Pogba sat deep. When Pogba wanted to drive forward, Rooney fell back. When Pogba/Martial wanted to drift inwards off the left flank, Rooney covered Shaw. You get the gist. He’s named as the number 10 in the lineup, but Rooney spends the whole game sharing his space with two wingers who love to cut in (Martial and Mata), a striker who drops deep more often than running in behind (Ibra) and a midfielder who’s best asset is his ability to pick up the ball deep and bomb forward (Pogba).
Messi/Ronaldo have become famous for playing ‘free roles’ in attack, a role that basically means ‘take up a good position to receive the ball and do what you can without hindering the shape of the team’. Rafa Marquez (for Mexico especially) is an example of the ‘free role’ being played in defense (something that is hardly spoken about and perhaps requires a whole other mail). Wayne Rooney plays, and will continue to play, that ‘fix the team’s shape’ role in advanced midfield with Pogba and all other central midfield/attacking options available to Jose. He doesn’t just point and shout effectively (although that too is an underrated role), he moves his physical body from area to area to exert pressure, release a runner or be available for a pass at any time. Unfortunately (and it must be said), Wayne’s become a lot better at that bit than actually playing the ball with his foot but he buys himself patience from the manager (and myself) for the work his brain does.
United are playing ‘without the shackles’ of yesteryear. Fans wanted full backs attacking… they got it. Fans wanted a proper world class striker… they got it. Fans wanted a proper world class midfielder to move the ball from back to from quick and they got that too. Wazza is simply the glue that holds all this together. And there is a f*** ton to hold together.
If anything, on this premise, Wayne Rooney ought to be dropped from the England side as I don’t believe the same service is required for those players. But at United, Wazza is playing ‘manager’s pet’: players who follow the manager’s instruction to the tee are hard to find these days and managers like Jose loves to keep them around (see also: Fellaini, Marouane and Blind, Daley).
His goal scoring days are likely over but he has mostly always made United a better team by playing than by not (a few patches of form aside at differing points in his career). He still very much belongs in Jose’s plans and will be a big part of this team. Get used to it.
Emad MUFC Boston
…I’ve been a long time reader of this esteemed site and never before felt I just had to write in. But after seeing the this opening salvo of the PL I had to get this off my chest.
Rooney. The guy is a walking talking dilemma. He’s been s**t most of the time he’s been on the pitch so far, except for the times he’s been indispensable. That assist in injury time was just sublime. He chased the ball down, drove into the box and so perfectly weighted the pass that Rashford would’ve had to have been suffering from a stroke to not score. It’s been like that all three games so far ! What do you do with a guy like that?
I get what Al (ear muffs at the ready) Williams is saying. It’s clear to see from other decent teams without a solid leader or driving force (a la Pool) that even the best orchestra needs a conductor to run the show, but it’s bloody frustrating to watch him the rest of the game. Sure we won, and I know in my head that’s what matters (plus I loved that fight in the dying minutes to win) but I’d still like not to want to scream at the tele every few minutes when potato-face cocks up.
I’m not exaggerating, I kept a tally of the mistakes he made. In the first 20 minutes, he was dispossessed, misplaced a pass, or messed up an attack 8 times. 15 times at the end of the half and a good 27 times by the final whistle. And yet, we couldn’t have won without the guy. And he’ll start again next week. And I’ll be screaming at tele again throughout except when I watch in grateful disbelief as he leads us to (please God) a derby win.
What a f**king dilemma.
Prashanth (I’ve always wanted brackets of my own), Barcelona
…A long time F365er but first time writer. Big Man United fan since I was a young whippersnapper and now 28, I’ve seen the good and the bad (mostly good!). I’ll begin by saying I’ve been more excited after three matches than I’ve been in three years! Fearless attacking and freedom of expression, ably backed up by a solid and intelligent (little and large) defensive pairing.
What baffles me and millions of others is the continued inclusion of, yes, that man again, Wayne Rooney. He now plays to the detriment of the team. At times it’s like having a man less. Sure he glosses over this with the odd assist but it’s glaringly obvious that any of the other attacking options available would improve the team dramatically. I really believe this team has the talent to prosper without that old anchor weighing it down. Yet, Van Gaal and Mourinho seem oblivious to it all. However, this can’t be the truth. I don’t believe for a second that two mastermind tacticians can’t spot a weak link which is as clear as a great, big, throbbing pubescent spot in the middle of your forehead.
Is it something in his contract? Is it sponsorship deals? Is he some sort of mind manipulator who convinces his managers otherwise? It’s definitely not about his leadership skills as someone alluded to before. That’s laughable. I’m continuously having sleepless nights trying to come up with valid reasons for his inclusion. I’d appreciate an answer soon. Is there anybody out the with information? One thing is for sure, it doesn’t make sense from a footballing perspective.
Martin K (Dublin)
Pep has had it easy so far
It appears Guardiola has taken to the premier league like a duck to water, so has Conte, albeit with less drama and focus. Unlike their respective previous stints however, the premier league offers strong challenges than either of them faced, in Spain, Italy, and Germany, there are at most two top teams, there are 3 strong contenders in the EPL, Mourinho, Conte, and Guardiola. But Arsenal, Liverpool, Leicester, and Tottenham will throw a spanner in there. I suspect one will drop off, Chelsea are a Hazard away from a crisis.
If the premier league was a league that didn’t have any easy games, Guardiola has poured cold water on that statement, none of the 3 teams he has faced so far have offered any semblance of opposition. So the statement should be changed to, there are easy games in the premier league, but, there are 4-6 teams who can win the league each season. If teams in Spain lay down for the mighty barca, it appears some coaches in England are on their back and purring to the mighty city.(Shame on you Bilic, the hammers have been abysmal this season, the performance against Chelsea was shocking, and it didn’t improve at all against city).
The next game is crucial, Mourinho cannot afford to loose, the same applies to Guardiola, a draw works out well for both of them, but if a winner is found, he will probably dominate the affair for the next few seasons.
Dave (It’s setup nicely, a mouth watering rivalry, Mou v Pep), Somewhere
…Okay, I’m probably definitely biased and I want to make clear I’m not saying City don’t play nice football, but at what point does Pellegrini get even a tiny bit of credit for their attacking play? FFS, it’s not like Mr Pep took over from David “80something Crosses” Moyes.
Cortez (legit happy for Sterling tho) MUFC, RSA
Why would you want to play for England?
I never used to understand why fans complained when their club’s players were called up for England. I remember I felt a little angry that Steve Guppy wasn’t given more of a chance on the left for England, but given the increasingly poisonous atmosphere surrounding the England team (from media and fans), I’d much rather Vardy and Drinkwater declined the offer to play.
If I were Raheem Sterling, I certainly would, and the England fans would deserve it if such a talent decided to retire from international football early.
Alex (LCFC – love that the commentators, newspapers etc. have to call us ‘Champions’ all season)
If West Ham fans don’t sing a song for Simone Zaza to the tune of radio gaga then what’s the point in even watching football?