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There was a lot of incredulity yesterday that Brendan Rodgers should own a property empire with 102 houses. That may seem like too many for one person but to be fair, only two of then are any good.
Di Maria? Blame The Weather And Van Gaal
I was in Manchester in April. It was raining and grey and had a chill wind which froze my little bones in their sockets. At one point that weekend, standing outside a pub with more rain falling in front of me than I can remember seeing previously on this island, I took an actual moment to think about how much Angel Di Maria must hate living there.
I never bought the whole ‘Wanted to go to Paris St Germain all along/ Home break-in’ angle. Do you think Mesut Ozil and Sergio Aguero were swinging from the chandeliers when they ended up at Arsenal and Man City? Do you think growing up in Rosario (and working in a Dickensian coal yard with his sisters according to Wikipedia) he was never subject to crime or violence? Personally, I think he just hated the weather and got tired of Van Gaal shouting “Don’t play by instinct!” at him in every training session.
And that’s why it’s Van Gaal’s fault he’s leaving (though I still hope and sort of believe he won’t). After a single season of understandable under-achievement, you don’t give up on one of the best players in the world, one who has also made no public noises about wanting to leave, and – most importantly – who is exactly the type of player United need, fast, experienced and with undefinable magic in his toes. Van Gaal, with seemingly no self-awareness, went on about competing with speed and Neymar the other day, as if he didn’t have Di Maria already in his squad.
Unbelievable. If he can’t get it out of a player who is, by his own admission, exactly what his team requires, then yes, it is all his fault.
Stephen O’S, MUFC
A Long But Worthy Trawl Through Top Five Squads?
Morning mailboxers, with only ten days to go until kick-off I decided to waste some time this morning and do my own version of a season preview. Instead of talking about each team I’ve decided to rank the top five contenders (sorry/not sorry Spurs) in each key playing category. To do this I’ve played manager and picked a starting 11 and subs bench, assuming all teams will play my favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. It’s completely biased and full of assumptions and arbitrary decisions, so feel free to rip it to shreds…here goes:
Goalkeeper: There are four really top keepers in the league that are hard to differentiate between…and then there is Mignolet. De Gea was the best last year so he gets the nod, the rest could be interchanged quite reasonably.
1. De Gea
Back Four: Most teams have an OK starting back four but some leave a lot to be desired. United have spent big but still look light in this area, although Darmian is a great signing. And will Clyne be the missing piece to shore up Liverpool? Chelsea will be solid again, if for nothing other than Jose’s penchant for defensive football, and City and Arsenal both have settled line-ups so should be strong.
1. Chelsea (Terry, Ivanovic, Cahill, Azpilicueta)
2. City (Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy)
3. Arsenal (Koscielny, Mertersacker, Bellerin, Monreal)
4. United (Darmian, Jones, Smalling, Rojo)
5. Liverpool (Clyne, Skrtl, Lovren, Moreno)
Midfield Two: United have an embarrassment of riches here, but will they struggle to find their best combination? City hampered by losing Delph to injury, and how will Liverpool cope without Steeeeevie? Overall I think Chelsea’s power and finesse combo wins the day. Arsenal would be higher but still have doubts over Coquelin’s ability to recreate his best form over a season. Ready to be proven wrong on that.
1. Chelsea (Matic, Fabregas)
2. United (Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin)
3. Arsenal (Coquelin, Ramsey)
4. City (Yaya, Fernandinho)
5. Liverpool (Henderson, Can)
Attacking Three: Most clubs have very exciting attacking line-ups, which when compared to the defences will hopefully mean lots of goals this year! So hard to rank these, but here goes…City have a good balance between speed and skill, Chelsea and Arsenal have proven set-ups from last season. United and Liverpool have very exciting new talent but also have a couple of weaker links in Young and Lallana.
1. City (Sterling, Silva, Nasri)
2. Arsenal (Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez)
3. Chelsea (Hazard, Oscar, Willian)
4. United (Depay, Mata, Young)
5. Liverpool (Firmino, Coutinho, Lallana)
Strikers: Again, really strong across the board, but you can’t look past that beautiful man Sergio. I think Benteke will flourish at Anfield and Rooney will relish being the first-choice striker again. Would love to see all of them having a good old-fashioned Golden Boot race, but can’t see Giroud coming to the party as he’s more of a team foil than a goal plunderer, so he loses out here.
Subs bench: United have really strengthened in midfield but are too light up top. Same worry for Chelsea. Liverpool have a strong bench with potential but not much proven quality apart from Milner and Sturridge (if/when he comes back). City and Chelsea packed with experience but not many game changers, unless Falcao 2015 becomes Falcao 2013 again… And look at all that English talent on Arsenal’s bench! Think they have the most potential to bring on game changers, as Wilshere, Walcott, Welbeck and Chamberlain all offer great pace and talent off the bench.
1. Arsenal (Ospina, Gibbs, Chambers, Walcott, Wilshere, Welbeck, Chamberlain)
2. Chelsea (Begovic, Zouma, Ramires, Mikel, Loftus-Cheek, Falcao, Remy)
3. City (Caballero, Mangala, Sagna, Kolarov, Fernando, Navas, Dzeko)
4. Liverpool (Bogdan, Sakho, Milner, Allen, Markovic, Sturridge, Origi)
5. United (Romero, Blind, Herrera, Fellaini, Valencia, Januzaj, Carrick)
So overall what does this mean? Not a lot, but it was fun.
Xander, CFC, London
What About Saints And Spurs?
How is it that Spurs and Southampton are not being talked about as potential challengers for the league/top four, yet Liverpool are?
Tottenham finished above Liverpool in May last time I checked, and Southampton finished two points behind – yet both seem to have been discounted in talk of Champions League places and potential title challenges, with their transfer dealings largely missing from comment while Liverpool fans excitedly mess themselves over Danny Ings and James Milner.
For a start Spurs and Southampton both have better managers than Liverpool, Spurs have got rid of the deadwood from two years ago and have tweaked their squad with the superb Toby Alderweireld and the excellent Kieran Trippier – Southampton have made some excellent signings, including Feyenoord’s 24-year-old captain Jordy Clasie to replace Schneiderlin. Koeman has seemingly stuck with the Dutch league for signing some unknown quantities, but that didn’t serve him too badly last season after Rodgers decimated his squad.
Liverpool have lost their iconic captain and their best player in Sterling (their two top scorers last season) and have replaced them with James Milner and the unproven Firmino, while also spending £32.5million on a striker who scored one goal in 16 games last season before the last 13 games (can Rodgers do what Sherwood did with him?) and is not used to their style of play. I think Liverpool better hope Coutinho stops flattering to deceive and improves on his five assists from last season, because it’s hard to see any Champions League or title-challenging quality in their side, or maybe Liverpool can re-think their expectations and settle for a top-six finish. Either way, Rodgers won’t see Christmas.
Why Nobody Talks About Jose Failures…
When talking about Di Maria, Van Gaal and how it hasn’t worked out, I think it’s interesting that very little has been made of the failed £45m South American experiment in west London. Filipe Luis has just returned to Madrid after a thoroughly underwhelming season, at a percentage loss comparable to Di Maria, whilst Juan Cuadrado is being heavily linked with a move away having been the wrong side of god-awful since his January arrival. The difference in situation is simply of one success. No one cares as much that they’ve flopped so badly (quite possibly for the same reasons; settling in the culture, different style of play etc.) because Chelsea bossed the league last season. Similarly, if United went on to win the title this season but Schweinsteiger only played a small role due to injuries, no one would really care. If he only plays a small part in scraping fourth again, the knives will be out for Louis and people will be decrying him for spending so much on an injury-prone/over-the-hill/never-that-good-anyway player (delete as applicable)
The point is, collective success masks individual flaws.
Lewis, Busby Way
Who Did Jose Bring Through?
Can your readers help?
For all Mourinho’s mind games about spending, I would like to know the last time he brought through and nurtured a player that went on to be a mainstay of one of his teams? Because I cannot think of one.
Where Wenger was able to call on Bellerin and Coquelin last season with injury problems I cannot remember Mourinho ever not spending his way out of trouble. Not while at Chelsea, nor Real Madrid nor at Inter Milan
I have been told the following:
Zouma – not really played too much, bought for £12mil and when came to Club last season went straight into the first-team squad.
Balotelli – made his debut before Mourinho’s arrived at Inter.
Jese – made debut under Ancelotti.
Raphael Varane – again like Zouma bought for a lot of money and straight into Real squad.
McDonald Mariga – brought in from Parma for five million and was 23 when he made his debut
Is it really back to players like Carvalho, Boswinga, etc back in his Porto days?
There must be somebody that Mourinho has brought into a team that he has not paid big money for but I am scratching my head.
Predictions From A Favourite Mailer
I hope there’s a place for this among the arguing over average ages of squads and net spend (didn’t we used to laugh at Liverpool fans for going on about that?), but in the aim of lightening – or, indeed, lowering – the tone of the Mailbox, here are my predictions for the new season:
* The 12th anniversary of the competition re-adopting the name Premier League will be marked by at least one person referring to it as ‘the Premiership’ every single week of the season.
* People will continue to accuse F365 of SEO clickbait big club bias, and then complain when they omit a big club’s player/story from a Topical Top Ten.
* Nigel Pearson and Sam Allardyce come to blows while arguing over which man would be better for the first managerial vacancy of the season. On Goals on Sunday.
* Louis van Gaal reveals his surprise striker signing is Mario Balotelli.
* Everton sell John Stones to Chelsea for £30m. Fans then start saying this means they effectively signed Romelu Lukaku for -£2m, before laughing knowingly and uncontrollably.
* Following the success of the NHL’s model, the FA announce their chief disciplinarian will be an ex-player. Graeme Souness is duly appointed, with Duncan Ferguson as his deputy.
* Liverpool become the first club to enforce a social media code of conduct for fans. Banning orders are issued for infringements such as being able to take a joke.
* Newcastle United fans will finally realise that not everyone from south of Sheffield is either a cockney or posho.
* Jimmy Bullard sets a new record for most TV appearances by an ex-footballer without once appearing on a football programme. He still seems quite chipper.
* Southampton, Tottenham and West Ham all make worse starts to the season than last year. All of a sudden, Harry Redknapp is on TV a lot.
* Adrian Durham’s MailOnline account gets hacked – telltale signs include cogent arguments, opinions that an intelligent person might also have, and being nice about Mesut Ozil.
* Phil Neville’s role as Valencia coach enables him to take the #50 spot on Spain’s Euro Ladder.
* John Nicholson and Alan Tyers go on a night out with Peter Reid and the boys.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven, CPFC the Glaziers, Notts
Never Give Money To A Teenager
Sampdoria claiming seven million is too steep highlights the fall from grace for Super Mario. At one point he was one of the most promising strikers in Europe, now the thought of him commanding a double-figure figure is laughable. For me the main reason, combined with factors such as a turbulent childhood, race issues and a attitude problem (probably stemming from the first two issues), is that all too common problem of modern football, being given far too much far too young.
When I was a teenager I worked at Legoland and the highlight of my career was serving Nick Knowles a hot dog. I was only on £5.20 an hour but even this measly amount made me feel a bit of a billy big bollocks. I remember how cocky I felt that I could by Pro Evo with my own money rather than having to wait for it for Christmas, and ostentatiously buying myself a packet of Percy Pigs every day.
When Mario Balotelli was a teenager he was earning 60k a week! He must have felt what I felt from my Legoland wage amplified by a million. Think of how many Percy pigs he could afford with that. He could probably just buy M&S if he wanted. He probably met bigger celebrities (if there are any) than Nick Knowles.
My point is, although people of every age can be reckless and idiotic with money, teenagers specialise in it. You give someone whose not fully emotionally developed and matured a f**k tonne of money of course they’re going to do stupid sh*t with it, stupid sh*t that will hinder their development and make them lose focus.
You could argue that young players that make it to the first team should be thankful and buckle down to keep the place thousands of other young players would kill for, but that’s not the reality. Clubs give young players wages out of this world but expect them to stay down to earth. I’m honestly suprised more young players don’t go mental with their money and lose touch with reality. If I was paid 60k a week I think I’d be dead after a month, either an OD or STI.
Mario may be a muppet and personify everything wrong with the modern footballer but he is a product of his environment. My proposition would be to make a rule that no player under-20 can be paid more than 15k a week (still a ridiculous amount), no matter how good they are. This would mean even if they are just in it for the money rather than the glory they’d still work hard as once they turned 20, provided they were still in the first team, then they could have access to the even sillier amounts.
The Most Depressing Prediction Of The Season
So, I watched Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth’s pre-season visit to the mighty Yeovil Town yesterday, and a fun evening was had by all.
Yeovil are trying to avoid a third consecutive relegation, but look no closer to figuring out how to score goals than they were in the previous two seasons. Bournemouth, meanwhile, were magnificent. It was their second-choice midfield and attack, but, throughout the game, they upped and upped and upped the tempo, and it was quite exhilarating. They never put the ball in the air, and never stopped running. Distin looked silky smooth at the back next to Mings. The only player who looked out of place was Christian Atsu, who limped off in the first half – Chelsea may have bought a dud there.
But watching this Bournemouth team, you could see the clear articulation of Howe’s vision of what successful football looks like. Dynamic, exciting, creative, and maximising athletic potential.
However, like all promoted teams, the chances are, Bournemouth will go down. Maybe Callum Wilson scores enough goals to keep them up, but more likely he doesn’t. Harry Arter may have starred in the Championship, but more likely he gets bogged down at Premier League level. Either way, Bournemouth are going to be in a fight to avoid the drop zone, and at some stage of the season will flirt with the relegation zone.
Enter the most depressing and predictable event that will happen this season. The Bournemouth ownership become concerned that they may go down, missing out on another £50 million in TV money and being stuck with some expensive Premier League contracts. The Proper Football Men get on TV and say, while they admire Eddie Howe, he lacks experience at this level. And in the background, one ‘Arry Redknapp emerges from his home in Sandbanks, addresses the TV cameras, and says he knee feels terrific. “Eddie’s done a brilliant job,” says ‘Arry, before noting that he’s managed in the Premier League for 20 years and never been relegated. Eddie Howe feels the pressure, the team tightens up, the dynamic football suffers, the results get worse, and enter ‘Arry as Bournemouth’s saviour.
Please Bournemouth, show you are better than most Premier League clubs, and stick with Eddie Howe through thick and thin this season. No manager could have done more with your club to get it to the Premier League, and there is no one better equipped to keep you in the league. Not even ‘Arry.
Charlie, THFC, Somerset
A Perfect Moment Watching Football
As I embark on my holidays I remember a great moment that I want to share with people. I was on holiday in Turkey and with the time zone the Saturday evening Liverpool game was being played at 7.30pm local time.
I’d had a great day scuba diving and agreed to meet a pretty lady in a bar later that night.
I watched the match in a pub called ‘The Temple Bar’ which is in the town of Gumbet on the Aegean Sea. Anyone who has been to Gumbet will know it as its an ‘Irish’ bar that also shown the Galic games. But I digress.
They showed the game in the rooftop bar. The reason I remember it so well is because at about 8.15pm just to the right of the TV I could see the sun setting behind the hills, the sky had turned a stunning orange, Liverpool were winning by a few goals and I had an pint of Effes in front of me in a frozen glass.
In football watching terms it was an almost perfect moment.
Can anyone top this?