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I woke up this morning with a thought running through my head:
Leicester or Tottenham are going to win the league.
Football. Bloody hell.
Mike, LFC, Dubai
Why I hate Leicester City (from a neutral)
First off – I openly admit that my opinion of this Leicester team is completely irrational. I don’t quite understand it myself. I have never met anyone from the town nor have I been there. I live in the US and consider myself to be a complete neutral as far as English teams are concerned…
That said, I really, truly, honestly loath Leicester. Why? Because they will be the first ever team to win the league through sheer luck. Luck, and not skill. Before you spit one of several cliches at me (tables never lies, they deserve it, etc) first look at their injury record. The core of their team has miraculously been injury-free. Considering Leicester are so one-dimensional, this would affect them more than most teams (more on that later). Mahrez, Vardy, Morgan, Kante, Huth, all have been injury free practically all season. Just ONE of these players going down for any length of time would completely disrupt their counter-attacking tactics, which relies on pace up front and a strong defence to soak up pressure. And, contrary to some people’s opinions expressed on this site, injuries are largely due to luck (or lack thereof). Prepare yourself all you want, but if a player pulls a Shawcross and breaks your leg, no fitness program in the world will save you. True, some players are more prone to injury than others. But there is no way to predict the behavior of your opponents. Any number of teams’ seasons would be completely different if they had the same injury record (Liverpool, West Ham, Man United, Arsenal…the list goes on).
I hate that Leicester only have one game plan, which is to counter-attack at every conceivable opportunity. Other managers, like Rodgers or Wenger, regularly get crucified for this, (WHERE’S HIS PLAN B?!) yet it seems that Leicester cannot be criticized in any way shape or form. Somehow, the possible champions of England play better against “good” teams than relegation-scrappers, because they don’t particularly know how to properly build an attack/hold onto the ball for any length of time.
Schmeichel gets a lot of praise for some reason, but every game I’ve watched he has punted the ball directly out of play at least once, and his distribution is generally p***-poor, otherwise he is only remarkable only in his mediocrity. I hate Fuchs’ long throw, last used to get affect by the Ballon D’or winner Rory Delap. I hate that people don’t get on to Vardy for his lax racism (at a casino, frivolously spending money) because he is going through a once-in-a-lifetime season, yet Luis Suarez is the devil for doing literally the same thing (all the while being a much better footballer, incidentally). I suppose it has something to do with Vardy being white and English, and Suarez being neither of those things. Vardy also looks like the amalgamation of every schoolyard bully I have ever met, and his general dickishness (like him taunting Joe Hart, possible England teammate, by holding up three fingers, as in, we are in the lead by three goals, oh so clever) only makes me hate him even more.
Leicester will be embarrassed in the Champions League/Europa, whichever they eventually get into. If anything, Leicester City’s success just proves that the Premier League just ain’t what it used to be. Instead of treating them like a success story, perhaps we will all look back at their run as the beginning of the end of the Prem (if it hasn’t happened already)? At the very least, they are the worst team to win the thing, no?
Citizen (The table does, in fact, lie) Smike
Leicester are Jennifer Lawrence. Or Batman.
The sooner Leicester win the title the better for all of us.
I’m a Newcastle fan who has just watched Leicester beat us. It was a weird experience because, for the first time this season, I found myself hating Leicester. And that’s when it dawned on me: they need to win the league as soon as possible so everyone can snap out of it and start hating them too.
Like every other neutral, I’ve watched Leicester’s underdog dream as they cruise towards the title and have absolutely loved it. I want them to win it. I like Vardy. I really like Mahrez. I absolutely adore Ranieri. But because of how the league works, if you support another top-flight team then eventually you stop being a neutral when Leicester have to step out of that dream – like Freddy Kruger – and f*ck with your real life by beating the team you actually support. And it changes you. Over the last 90 minutes, Vardy became just a chav, Mahrez became just a diving foreigner, and (it hurts me to say) Ranieri morphed horribly from the loveable Italian Bobby Robson into just another hybrid Ferguson/Wenger old man that I wished ill upon.
I didn’t like watching Leicester beat my team because it made me feel bad about Leicester. But that in itself is the problem because I’m not a Leicester fan.
The point is, I think we’ve all been swept off our feet by lovely Leicester this season. And that is lovely. Like falling in love with Jennifer whatsherface from Hunger Games or something. But we must remember that we all have wives at home. Mine currently looks like Rafa Benitez, and I must remember that I love him and that I made a vow of ’til death (or break clause) do us part – no matter what new piece of arse trots past in a tight-fitting Leicester shirt.
I’m terrible with conclusions so I’ll end with an equation:
Leicester get 20 more points
Leicester win league
Leicester become what they have spent all season trying to destroy. They will not die as heroes, but will live long enough to see themselves become the villains.
Andrew (Shola) Murray
Are those Sky sports lads having a laugh? Drinkwater man of the match??
N’Golo Kante was sensational, I don’t know how you could choose anyone else!
Royston (I honestly think Wijnaldum is one of the best midfielders in the league) Queen
Liverpool could cock this up yet
I have been reading on your glorious site that Man Utd have only the FA Cup left to play for..
I think they you under estimate just how inconsistent Liverpool have been this season.
Not so much March I agree but I dont think there are too many (sensible) Liverpool fans who are talking about the next round and who we would love just yet…
This is still (just about) ManUtd and they are still our ‘enemies’, they cant play that bad again surely…at home against their biggest enemies (the fans’ biggest at least)
The crowd will be baying for blood and 100% more effort than they put in at our gaff. That’s for sure.
The players must be aware what is required of them and the first goal (CLICHE ALERT) is massive in this game really.
They get it and Pool get that nervous feeling back that we haven’t seemed to have for a few games. If we manage to score first then they might just get booed of the pitch perhaps..
But let’s be honest this is far far from being over.. (though I hope that all the ManU players and staff disagree and don’t bother turning up on Thursday night)
So I for one am definitely not counting any chickens just yet..
Al – LFC (BT Sport is only a few quid a month and shows the UFC too what’s not to love!) Dortmund are gonna win it anyway aren’t they!
What is Scholes trying to achieve?
I’ve just finished reading another set of quotes from the fast becoming rent a quote, and English Roy Keane, Paul Scholes. In what has surely been his most active week in the media since he started this gig, he has claimed that he has no agenda against Louis van Gaal.
He’s beginning to sound like a broken record so scathing is he about everything United. But what I’m wondering is why does he go so far in his criticism? I know he gets paid for talking about football but so do a lot of ex-Liverpool and Arsenal players who for the past few years have had more to complain about yet don’t seem to have what they say documented as much. It’s patently clear that everything he says is being looked at under a microscope and then plastered all over the media. No matter what he says, it’s going to be blown out of proportion.
There is no positive to him speaking out, unless he wants LVG gone, which he denies. From where I’m sitting it is only adding to the miserable feeling of both those inside the club and outside i.e the supporters. He should see that he’s widening the rift between fan and club. I know at the moment everybody is talking about united but even Rio Ferdinand’s quotes haven’t been given the air time of Scholes’.
I’m sure Scholes will say he only wants what’s best for United but surely he’s going about it all the wrong way.
Paul, Seoul, LFC
No major surgery needed at Man United
I have to slightly disagree with Storey’s article on a certain squad surgery needed at Old Trafford. He rightly called the manager one half of the problem, however I don’t think the squad is the other half; Ed Woodward and the board are definitely in the running. While I believe the squad needs a few tweaks, and some players definitely need to be shipped off to China or the MLS, it’s not the dismantling/demolition job some are suggesting. A good manager with a few additions/subtractions will get the perfect blend of youth and experience to play good football.
Let’s take a critical look at that squad and see who passes the mustard and who doesn’t…
Goalkeeper: DDG (if we hold on to him) and Romero (good back-up) are fine.
Defence: RB is sorted by Darmian (started well, struggled, but will get better) and Varela (really stepped in and showed maturity).
LB is okay with Shaw (hope he returns to pre-injury form) and Rojo (solid, but needs to be more consistent).
CB is where we need a big addition, a world-class experienced defender (Hummels won’t come, so Godin? Bonucci? etc) and maybe a young defender (Stones? Laporte?) to battle with Smalling and McNair.
Youngsters Borthwick-Jackson, Fosu-Mensah and Love will cover in case of injuries.
Midfield: Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Blind (he was Dutch player of the year as DF) cover the defensive/holding/deep playmaking roles. Herrera covers the box-to-box option, and Mata, the attacking role.
What we need is one solid box-to-box midfielder (Renato Sanches? Naingollan?)
Attack: Memphis, Lingard, Januzaj cover the wings, Martial and Rashford the central striking role.
We need a fast goalscoring winger (I’d pay whatever clause they put on Griezmann) and an experienced striker to take the burden off young Anthony and Marcus (Higuain? Zlatan?).
Still got Wilson and Keane in case.
So Rooney, Young, Valencia, Fellaini, Carrick and Jones are let go; while four or five new signings (two centre-backs, a box-to-box midfielder, a winger and a striker) come in to give the squad the right balance. The squad needs leaders (only Bastian there) so it must be factored in during transfers.
Finally, send LVG to retirement, confine Ed to financial and commercial matters, get a good manager (neither Mou nor Giggsy) and a director of football, copy the Barca/Bayern model of running a club and stop the elusive search for Fergie 2.0.
Mere Godled, Nigeria (Did I break the record for brackets?)
No need for major surgery at Arsenal
Wayne (Come on the Foxes!), Ireland, let me address two points you have made. One is about spending ‘a few seasons dropping down the table’. I think it is a terrible assumption that a team can drop a few levels and return as and when they are ready. There is absolutely no guarantee, especially given the Premier League has become even more competitive due to the additional TV revenue. And if you dropped out of the top four or Europe altogether, wouldn’t it be that much harder to convince good players to join you and improve your team?
The second point is about clearing out the squad. Everyone agrees that some signings are required to improve the squad but we forget that having a well-balanced squad is integral to having a successful season. Many of the names you mention are competent squad players who will contribute occasionally throughout the season and more importantly are willing to sit on the bench and bide their time. This isn’t a Fantasy League where you buy the 30 best players in the world and only play 11-15 of them. That model is not sustainable and may also be destructive to overall squad morale.
For evidence, I refer you to Alex Ferguson’s championship winning squads which clearly didn’t have two world-class players in each position. Apart from his mind for tactics and instilling a winning mentality in the players, Ferguson was a master at squad management and balancing resources throughout the season – which is how players like John O’Shea and Wes Brown have winner’s medals. They aren’t world-beaters individually, but Ferguson knew when and how to use them in the most effective manner.
I guess what I’m saying is that the squad doesn’t need major surgery. Just this season alone, we have seen teams like Leicester and Spurs perform way above expectations without a complete overhaul from the previous year. We have unbelievable talent at our disposal, but somehow the whole appears a lot less than the sum of its parts. That comes down to in-game tactics and mentality, which are largely on the manager’s plate.
At this moment, I’m convinced Arsene will never change – he does things his way and has for so many years that it is very much part of his identity. At the same time, I think we Gooners owe him a great deal of gratitude for seeing us through the austerity years in the mid 2000s, so much that I’m willing to see him leave on his own terms, whenever that may be. If that means a few more years of floating around the top four, getting knocked out in the Champs League round of 16, with the occasional cup and even rarer flutter at the league title, I fully accept that and I think many other teams would trade places with us in a heartbeat. When someone finally takes over and ushers in a new era, I hope he appreciates that he’s building on the secure foundations made possible by Arsene. That will be Wenger’s true legacy, perhaps more than any trophy we have won under his management.
Aaron, Singaporean Gooner
Is it hard being a Brit boss starting at the top?
So I was reading through your Premier League winners and losers, happy and safe in the knowledge that United would not be in the losers column for once, and your mention of English managers made me ponder.
Now we’ve all heard the excuses from Pardew, Allardyce, et al. and most of us can confidently dispel the notion that the media gives English managers a more difficult time than them there foreigners. However, I still think the media is a huge reason for the lack of English managers in the Premier League. Bear with me here…
We’ve all heard foreign managers come to the UK and speak out about how difficult it is to cope with our media. That treatment is generally equal across managers of all nationalities (you could argue that English managers are actually let off lightly in some cases). However, this media scrutiny is what British managers have to cope with from day one if they start in the higher divisions. Foreign managers, on the other hand, generally come over to the UK with several years of experience.
Then you add in the fact that generally big jobs only go to ‘rookie’ managers with reputations from their footballing career (see Shearer, Ince, Hughes, etc.) and the media scrutiny goes up another level. So now we’re left with big name ex pros usually opting for cushy jobs in the TV studio and lesser names having to work their way up the FA pyramid, hoping that they don’t either hit a sticky patch that permanently ruins their reputation or become a ‘relegation survival specialist’.
Tom (I have no idea how coherently that came out!), Manchester
Name Witheld is one of my favourite contributors to the mailbox and I enjoyed their article immensely. The ultimate problem is that the FA really have no incentive to change the current culture and to do so they would have to withstand a few weeks of the league being absolutely mental.
During the Rugby World Cup I jumped on the egg-shaped bandwagon and although it is a tired comparison, the difference in the behaviour of both the ref and the players is startling. The standard of refereeing is generally superb as they control the game without Mike Dean-ing it up. The ‘playing the game, not the rules’ is generally kept to a minimum as they are allowed to offer longer advantages, bring the ball back and confer with their team a lot more.
One of the simplest changes that the FA should but wouldn’t consider is that only the team captain and any summoned players can speak to the ref. Cut out the crowding, the flouncing, the grabbing and the finger-wagging and the man in black has an easier environment to make key decisions and control the game. Unfortunately to enforce it the FA would have to allow refs to go nuclear in the first few weeks, dishing out yellow cards (and second yellows) for every infraction to get the message across. They simply won’t allow it, it would upset too many important players and too many big clubs.
This is the problem. Enforcing anything to do with the refs at this point upsets too many people with too much money. Imagine the outcry if Liverpool or United lost a key game after having a player disciplined for a ref-orientated offence, never mind that they would only have themselves to blame!
…I have an easy solution to the refereeing problems brought up by Name Withheld. If any player says something in which the ref deems off-color after a foul the ref pushes that team back 10 yards from the spot of the foul and that players receives an automatic yellow. After a couple of those you will see a much more respectful game. It’s very similar to what happens in rugby.
The same can be done for surrounding the referee. First time it happens the manager gets a yellow. The second time the manager is off for not being able to control his players. Allow for yellows to accumulate like players and you will see change.
My cousin is a colligate referee and a friend of mine is a professional, World Cup referee and they have spoken about similar issues Name Withheld has raised. In my opinion you are not going to see a change until referees stop allowing themselves to get screamed at.
Brian (Kante is some player!) LFC