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Resigned to relegation
I promised myself I’d stop writing in about Villa, given how depressing it was when I got the words down, but like flies to s***, I just can’t help myself.
The reason for wanting to write in now is that I’m suddenly reading in the media that Villa now have a chance of survival, because we beat Palace and drew with Leicester. What annoys me about this is that after the Christmas period where we lost to Norwich and Sunderland, we were apparently already down, according to many of these same outlets. So what’s changed? Well, we beat Palace and drew with Leicester (both at home), of course, so now all is not lost. Wrong. Just stop it.
Do people not realise that, as well as beating the teams around us, that we were always going to need results like this to stay up? We weren’t going to manage it just by beating teams in the bottom six. So if we were down because we gifted Sunderland and Norwich 3 points each I can’t see how picking up other points that we would have needed anyway changes anything, we haven’t gained anything from what was apparently needed to survive. Either we are still down, or we never were, stop talking like anything has changed. I know it provides papers with a more interesting angle ‘Definitely down!’ ‘Now there’s a chance!’ as I guess ‘It’s very unlikely but we won’t actually know until later in the season’ isn’t quite as exciting.
Don’t get me wrong, I am of course happy to see us making a fight of it, but we won’t stay up. The reason being that we can’t score and can’t defend. Look at the goals that have got us those points; the Palace goal was a Lescott header straight at Hennessey who somehow managed to bundle it over the line for us. Then the goal against Leicester, a handball to control it before a nice big deflection to take it past Schmeichel. Do either of these goals inspire confidence that we’re about to bang them in on a regular basis? No, me neither. We have scored 2 goals in a game just four times this season (never more than 2), so it looks like to win games we’ll need to keep clean sheets, watch the recent Sunderland highlights to consider how likely that is.
So thanks Villa for making me feel slightly better about things, but I’m resigned to fact we’ll go down which makes it easier to come to terms with now rather than if it were on the last day of the season, I just wish the reactionary media would let us rest in peace.
Mike (AVFC), London
Love letter to Arsene
In the last few days it’s dawned on me that although I love Arsenal and support Arsenal and will always look out for their results in the future, I think I am actually more of a Wenger fan than an Arsenal fan. Should Wenger leave Arsenal in the next year and go to, say, Nantes or Lille or Montpellier in the summer of 2017, then I think I’d start supporting his new club to the same degree I support Arsenal.
I’m very fond of Wenger, and I’m very protective of him when he gets ridiculously lampooned in the press or set unrealistic targets or risk further ridicule. It’s already a well-established pattern that the biggest spenders finish, pretty much, in that order every season. Arsenal are the fourth biggest spenders on wages, with the fourth biggest (in terms of personnel) squad, with the fourth largest income and then, generally, spending anything from the 4th to 9th largest amount of money.
To put that in perspective, when he first joined we were second in all of the above categories (to Man Utd), and we usually finished second, and sometimes won the league. When Abramovic took over Chelsea we dropped to third, and largely finished third. When Sheikh Mansour took over Man City we dropped to fourth and, largely, finish fourth. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s safe to say Arsenal, by the press’ own standards, finish on par. But for the English Press this just isn’t good enough. This season for example, he simply HAS TO win the Premier League otherwise it will cast a shadow over his tenure, and Wenger will forever be remembered as a man who couldn’t get his team over the line. That is, pretty much, what was being spoken on Sunday Supplement this weekend. Contrary to their opinion, it’s Man City who simply HAVE TO finish first, and Man Utd simply HAVE TO finish second, Chelsea simply HAVE TO finish third, and Arsenal fourth. Of course this is Arsenal’s best chance in a long time, and they very well might do it, but no – they don’t HAVE TO, Man City HAVE TO. The pressure’s on them.
I also get very annoyed at people seemingly forgetting the last 10 years of self-imposed “relative” austerity. Very simply put, Arsenal spent an absolute fortune on a new stadium which took ten years to pay off. During those ten years, we had to sell our star player pretty much each summer just to balance the books and reinvest in a substandard player. People often forget, Wenger hasn’t tried to win the league in over 10 years, he’s tried to finish fourth, because that’s what his budget allowed. Of course he came close to winning once or twice, and Arsenal famously implode around March every year. To repeat, he’s built a squad to finish fourth. No wonder they couldn’t get over line, they were could never be expected to. They are players who can finish fourth. He financially could not compete with Chelsea, Man Utd or Man City, and the only way to compete with them is to spend the money they spend, so Wenger – by and large – decided to ignore those three, and targeted finishing fourth. If you finish fourth then you qualify for the Champions League. That generates money. Getting to the knockout stages generates a bit more money. Selling your star player generates a bit more. At the end of that cycle you can pay off a tenth of your stadium debt and then buy a slightly inferior player to the one you’ve just sold. It may now mean that you cannot finish first, but you were only aiming for fourth anyway. Hence the “fourth placed trophy” he was ridiculed for.
If you’re going to lampoon any manager (and to be fair to you F365, you do) then lampoon Kenny Dalglish, Roy Hodgson, Brendan Rodgers, Juande Ramos, Andre Villas Boas, Martin Jol, David Moyes and whoever else was given 6x the Arsenal budget to finish fourth and blew it. Those clubs must be looking at Arsenal’s paid-for stadium, debt-free accounts, gigantic revenue streams, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and wondering firstly how they didn’t finish ahead of Arsenal when we were fielding the likes of Squilachi, Senderos, Silvestre, Eboue, Fabianski, Benayoun, Frimpong and Kim Kallstrom (who signed for us with a broken back), and secondly why they did they wait for Arsenal to get debt-free before deciding to embark on a similar stadium-enlarging exercise of their own. Spurs – for example – are going to have to wait at least eight years before that extra revenue becomes theirs to spend entirely.
The job Arsene Wenger has done at Arsenal has been immense and revolutionary. Not perfect. Very frustrating at times. Stupifying even. But immense. It’s very easy to sit there and take all the plaudits and the job offers from Real Madrid and Barcelona and France the season after you’ve just gone unbeaten with one of the top 5 English club sides ever assembled, but to reject them and stay on, knowing that the best you can hope for is fourth at a scrape whilst selling, over the course of ten years, a collection of players who if he kept them would have probably won the Premier League, is simply staggering. Can you imagine Jose Mourinho doing that? Can you imagine Pep Guardiola doing that? Ancelotti doing that? I can’t. Plenty of managers DO do that of course, but not at Champion’s League level.
So, yeah, to answer the question in the previous mailbox but in a bigger way – yes, Arsene Wenger was indeed right all along. I can’t fault him at all. A giant of the game.
Dale May, Swindon Wengerite
Long like a short-term Toyota
To answer Mr Deshope’s mail Shane Long is a proven hustler who, whilst not prolific, can press well as the lone front-man and creates space for others. He would work as a good back-up to Harry Kane for a season or two and would also give Klopp an option that fits his preferred style.
Dele Alli v Wilshere
Is Alli better than Wilshere? Hard to say since they’re entirely different players, and particularly hard to say because Tenerife Jack loves the treatment table so much. But perhaps a more pertinent question would be: would anyone take (a fit) Wilshere over Dele Alli on current form? I doubt it very much.
Alex G, THFC (I particularly liked “even has two or three goals… you can’t argue with those stats”)
- Simply, I don’t go as much. I used to go to 90% of the home schedule and the rare away day. Now? Probably half as often. I actually enjoy it more when I do go, because it’s a day out and I get to catch up with friends I see less frequently. (NB: this will not be such a big ask if you have a second kid – you’ll be shattered most of the time). Plus, you’ve got a lot of stuff coming up in your non-football life that you are not gonna want to miss, trust me.
- I can’t stress this one enough: except for F365, the Guardian and MOTD, media coverage of English football is almost entirely a dead weight loss. There is an infinite supply of garbage and a lot of it is actually constructed to depress you as a supporter (the clickbait stories about how your club were SPURNED/SNUBBED!! by a player that they never actually bid for are great examples of this). Cut it out of your life as much as you can, especially during the transfer seasons. Stick to just watching the match your club is playing in and MOTD – this step alone made football support a much more enjoyable experience for me over the last year or two.
…To Dom Littleford. You’ve just described every football fan, ever. My team made 11 changes in the FA Cup last and went out 2-1 to League Two Portsmouth, having failed to get beyond round three for the fidth consecutive year. I quit supporting them about 10pm, sank the rest of my pint and traipsed out the pub into the rain, miserable.
They play Birmingham away on Saturday. I can’t wait.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
…I sent a mail in a few weeks ago about exactly the same thing as Dom.
Except my life circumstance had pulled me away from the game emotionally & rather than spending my weekends or weeknight annoyed by my clubs results, I now have far more important things to worry about.
Watching football for me now is vastly more enjoyable. I am watching it for what it is, rather than the emotional highs / lows it gives me.
Football isn’t important, the clubs don’t care about you, the players don’t care about you. You’re just a consumer. So why invest so much of yourself to something that doesn’t care about you?
That banner at Old Trafford that reads ‘Utd, Kids, Wife in that order’ is perhaps the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen at a football ground. Including the rafa out A4 posters. Anyone who would put their affiliation with a football club before that of their family needs to seriously consider their priorities.
…Dom Littleford’s email this morning was the perfect example of what I love about the mailbox. Interesting, well written and a good starting point for a discussion.
The hold that football can have over your life is quite startling. It is capable of giving you some absolutely dizzying highs and also some crushing lows. For me, the peak of football’s hold over me occurred in the 2013/14 season where Liverpool has their completely unexpected charge for the title. Suarez was producing performances the like of which I had never seen before and every game was exciting. I enjoyed this happily, until around February where I really started to believe we could win the league. Football took a hold over me in a way it had never done before. I wouldn’t make plans if Liverpool were playing, I watched every match that Liverpool played. My work was affected as I spent my time reading every article on the internet about the Liverpool team instead of doing what I was being paid for.
Then the Chelsea game came. Rarely, if ever, have I felt so low after a sporting event. After the game (which was an earlyish kickoff I seem to remember) I just went to bed and lay there for the rest of the day. I was miserable for a week after and didn’t even watch the Palace game as by that point it made no difference at all (I knew City wouldn’t slip up.)
Having said all that, the experience seemed to be some sort of turning point in my love affair with football. The more I thought about the season, the more I was able to enjoy it for the amazing games I had watched. It didn’t really bother me that we didn’t win, I’d had such a great time during the run in. I still support Liverpool and I’m still happy if they win. But it is not the be all and end all. If they lose, I’ll shake it off and go and do something else but most importantly I just want to enjoy the game. Honestly, I’d rather watch a pulsating 3-3 draw than a drab 1-0 win.
I still love football just as much, but I’ve come to realise just how little it matters. I very much doubt any advice I give Dom would help. Maybe you’ll have a similar moment too, when you realise that as beautiful, uniting and joyful football can be, it’s just not worth letting what 22 men do with a ball affect your day to day life.
Mike, LFC, Dubai
…Unlike Dom Littleford, I fear a may not be a pragmatic man. The reason is that I really did not like his mail, and yet could not stop reading it. I don’t know whether it’s his constant humblebragging (“I’ve got a wife that’s way out of my league”, “I have met several of the current Liverpool squad…”, “I spend thousands a year in support” etc etc); the constant sense of entitlement running through his mail or just his choice of words, but surely I can’t be alone when I say you can take your fantastic life and f*** off.
Loving the new Degsy articles, although… are you giving him extra work because you worry about him? Also, I’ve always wondered if Degsy and John Nicholson have even been on the piss together? This would make for some epic buffoonery! Christmas party perhaps – can you enlighten me please?
Ben (cracking article on Roberto Carlos – Storey takes some stick, but the guy can write & knows his football – 365’s MVW!) Howarth
Zanetti > Roberto Carlos
I thought it was an interesting choice by Daniel Storey to plump for Bobby Carlos in his (excellent) Profile of an Icon series. It’s very easy to label a player with ‘iconic’ status. Someone we idolised as a kid, usually, and I’ve been pleased to find that Dan’s choices largely reflect the players I stared at with wide-eyed wonder in my youth. I never got that with Roberto Carlos, yet he is still quite clearly an icon, but for different reasons in my eyes.
Why? Well, he made full backs sexy. I would say that Figo’s assessment of him was an accurate one. With his physical attributes and a certain amount of hard work, he was always going to be a great player. He got himself noticed. Here was a full back that not only defended, but got forward, scored silly free-kicks (oh the wasted hours trying to copy that), that was full of back heels and tricks normally associated with a forward or an attacking midfielder. A generation after his emergence, he is the player that modern full backs aspire to. The prototype of the modern full back in many ways.
The problem I always had with Carlos is that I thought his self-indulgence took away from the team. He wasn’t actually a free-kick specialist, yet he took an inordinate amount of free kicks on the back of getting it spectacularly right a couple of times – why is he taking free kicks off Figo, Zidane, Beckham and Raul? His ridiculous goal against Tenerife from near the corner flag surely got everyone up off their chair, but why in God’s name was he shooting? If indeed he was.
To me, he is the Dave Bassett of full backs. Why say three words when three hundred will do? Why pass this ball five yards with my instep when I can back heel it? Utterly pointless, and often wasteful. If Zidane was the conductor of that team, Carlos, to me, was always the idiot at the back trying to squeeze in an impromptu saxophone solo.
He was the ultimate individual within a team, to my eyes. Seeking personal recognition above that of the team. Perhaps the first ‘look at me!’ player that I can recall. Which is a shame, because there was quite obviously a very good player there.
I may well be doing him a disservice here, and that his personality is very different to how I’ve portrayed him. It was what came across in his style of play though. It is, of course, personal taste, but give me the understated brilliance of Javier Zanetti any day.
Grounds for concern
In response to Vincent, who thinks Tottenham’s new stadium could take them out of sight of Klopp’s Liverpool… I believe the argument has a few flaws:
- Big stadiums do not guarantee success, see Newcastle 2000-present. Increased revenue does allow greater transfer and wage budgets however financial mismanagement means this does not always translate into better league performances. Recent seasons have given us plenty of big money ‘flops’ and luxury buys due to increased spending pressure, inflated price tags and poor market value.
- New stadiums do not ensure increased revenue, see Arsenal 2006-2013. I’m not sure exactly how Tottenham are financing this new ground however its well documented that Mr Wenger was operating with a limited budget from the construction of the Emirates stadium. It was 7 years later before we saw Arsenal’s new financial might with a regular large net spend.
- TV money is beginning to eclipse match day revenue and the big broadcasting bucks show no sign of diminishing. The shift has been evident with smaller clubs spending tens of millions of pounds every window creating a fiercely competitive league. This is in stark contrast to a decade ago when a club could essentially buy the title.
- The Albert Dock closed in 1972, if Liverpool’s metaphorical ship had already set sail it would probably have left from the Seaforth Dock
Nik NUFC (brackets not parenthesis) Liverpool
..Vincent makes a good point but I think it was unintentional.
His good point is that making sweeping judgements about the future based on perceived actions by one club without considering the (positive and negative) action taken my others is a fools errand and likely to just end up making you look like a numpty.
Computer game corner
Before the computer game discussion completely dries up, I feel honour-bound to give a shout out for a little game on the Amstrad CPC 464 called ‘Striker’. Basically, you signed for a team, and then watched 90 seconds (read: minutes) tick by on the screen before you “are through on goal with a chance!” Cue: the little stick man (you) being drawn on the screen with some incredibly acute angle and a rapidly moving needle for you to try and score. There aren’t many games since where I’ve felt such pressure, or experienced such annoyance at missing., Especially when you then get left out for the next twenty games but STILL HAVE TO WATCH THE MATCHES. Wayne Rooney – you’ve no idea how lucky you are that life doesn’t imitate art here.
…Another terrible football game
You’re probably bored of football videogame memories and moved on, but just in case you haven’t, can I remind the very few people who played it of the abomination that was Microsoft Soccer, circa 1996.
FIFA had just introduced motion-captured players, but Microsoft Soccer was back to FIFA 94 ‘isometric’ diagonal pitches. The crowd was always entirely grey. When you committed a foul, the message on screen was “Violation: tripping”.
I reviewed it for PC Gamer Magazine, and gave it 16%, almost entirely because it was the first football game you could play with friends over a PC network. Not that you’d want to be friends with anyone else who bought it.
PS, I used to play full 90 minute matches on Emlyn Hughes International Soccer on the Commodore 64.
…As we’re all getting nostalgic about football games, I thought I’d add in my own personal reminiscence, and three things immediately sprang to mind;
1. Nobody has mentioned the fact that you could ‘create’ your own team on FIFA-RTWC’98; how many other people out there must have recreated their own Sunday league team as I did so that they could take on the best in the world. In all the FIFA-RTWC’98 praise I haven’t seen that mentioned.
2. Actua Soccer- a great game I haven’t seen mentioned. A game commentated on excellently by Barrie Davis. A game where, if you dribbled into the box and spun round a full 360 degree circle, the keeper would run out off his line then just run off in the opposite direction to which you were turning, thus presenting you with an open goal; and the game where I once played a real time 90 minute match just to see what would happen. I think I got into treble figures by half time then stopped before I went mad.
And 3. ISS Pro ’98, a fantastic game, made all the better by being able to rename the non-licensed players to your hearts content. So much so that thinking John Harley was going to be the next big thing, I put him in the England side. More fool me….
Jerome Cross, Bristolian Spur