Mails: Long live the Premier League!

Date published: Tuesday 22nd December 2015 10:54

Premier League trophy

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Dream appointments, including Rodgers to Everton
With all the recent managerial changes and speculation going on, it has been occurring to me that there are certain potential managerial appointments that could really make our football universe even more incredibly entertaining than it is now.

So here goes, these are the ones I’d really love to see….

1. Pep to Arsenal (& yes, perhaps Man City also)
It’s not just the brilliance of the football and the things he’s won, it’s the fact that, along with the entertainment, a Guardiola side from time to time throws you some tactical curveballs that just seem utterly insane and there are two sides out there who already combine wonderful attacking football with just the right amount of flakiness to make them the perfect fit for Pep’s unique brilliance. I know I’m biased, but when Arsene retires I really cannot think of anyone better suited to succeed him at Arsenal. By the same token there is no club more ideally suited to be managed by Guardiola than my beloved Gooners, and I just pray he thinks the same.

However, I will grudgingly admit that City also match the profile for this. Is there any way we can share him?

2. Brendan Rogers to Everton
Now before you Evertonians go apoplectic, just think about it. He has shown before at Swansea that he can inherit a Martinez-built side that played great football and push them on to new heights whilst still retaining the easy-on-the-eye stuff. Then just think how the red Scousers will react if Rodgers does with you guys what he didn’t manage to do with them. It would drive them absolutely nuts – got to be worth a try surely?

3. Jose to Man. Utd
Simple really – I’ve always hated Man Utd and Jose going there will put them back up on their rightful pedestal of being the club that is truly despised by everyone else. It might mean they win a trophy or two, but that would be a small price to pay. And in any case it seems Jose never lasts more than 3 seasons before it goes pear-shaped again

4. Simeone to Chelsea
Similar to Jose / Man Utd in many ways. When Diego Costa joined Chelsea, it was interesting how being an aggravating, pain-in-the-4rse at Athletico was perceived as plucky underdog Diego sticking it to the arrogant aristocrats of Real and Barca. But as soon as he did the same at Chelsea he became a horrible nasty bullying b4st4rd. I think the same will also apply if Simeone went to Chelsea, and the rest of us can carry on merrily hating them as always.

5. Klopp to Liverpool
Hurray! – This one’s already happened. As long as he’s not TOO successful, I’m really looking forward to see how it all pans out

You know what the best bit about all the above is? It’s that none of them are so far-fetched as to be an impossible dream.
Rob, Bristol Gooner (anyone else got similar suggestions for their teams?)

 

The Premier League is sexy again
I don’t think there could have been a greater contrast on Sunday afternoon and it epitomises exactly why I love our league. New boys Watford played host to Liverpool. Instead of cowering in fear of Liverpool’s history, reputation and financial advantage, Watford were in their faces, husting, harrying, chasing and denying Liverpool any space in which to play their favoured game. Liverpool had no answer and found themselves two down, and then conceded a third in the second half. They were out fought and Watford rose to the challenge imperiously. The atmosphere appeared to be brilliant and the belief was there that they could pull it off against established opposition, and not for the first time this season.

Real Madrid fired 10 (yes, TEN) past Rayo Vallecano. Rayo were reduced to nine men inside the first half an hour. The first challenge was bad, but perhaps would have been met with a yellow in the Premier League, whilst the two bookings for the other chap were a nonsense. Soft decisions were made consistently in favour of a team of expensive superstars on astronomical salaries against a team put together on a shoestring. I can’t name a Rayo player. What annoyed me was just how easy it was for Real and how easily Rayo made it for them by rolling over and have their tummies tickled.

What annoyed me the most, however, was the complete apathy of the fans and players. Goals were expected and the team booed from the beginning when things weren’t going to plan. Rayo scored twice, but there were muted celebrations as they did not expect this to last at all. Futile, almost. Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale don’t even bother to celebrate goals any more. The fans don’t bother to cheer, results are as expected, and thrashings are handed out by Real and Barcelona most weeks. Is it not like playing games on “easy” mode?

If you want “difficult” mode instead, then look no further. This Permier League season has been utterly brilliant so far. Long live Leicester, and I love every week seeing the likes of Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Watford, Norwich, Stoke, West Ham and the Baggies giving everything and coming away with the most surprising results on paper. The big teams now know that the smaller clubs in our league can play and will never just roll over. We ALL believe we can win regardless of opposition and reputation.

This desire appears to be absent from other European leagues and, in my opinion, contributes heavily to our lack of success in Europe in recent years. Big teams in other leagues have a far easier ride every week, as witnessed this weekend by Real hitting ten (yes, TEN). Instead, give me Selhurt Park, give me the Britannia, give me Vicarage Road! I love our mad league and long may it all continue.
Richard (8 years apiece! Merry Christmas all), Cambridge.

 

Pochettino ain’t all that
In Sunday’s bonus Mailbox, Chris MUFC of Preston feels as if Pochettino would be the answer to all of Man Utd’s problems, and even gives a list of reasons as to why. as a Spurs fan, can I give him the following piece of advice…

Pochettino is really nothing special. to me he’s at the same level as Koeman and Martinez. he’s AVB-lite (without the hype because he hasn’t won anything) and though he’s much more likeable, he’s not really that much different to van Gaal either. As with all other managers devoted to a ‘system’, he only has the one style of play and if it doesn’t work there is no plan B at all.

The reason Tottenham are much better this season is mainly down to the following three things. We signed Vertonghen’s best mate Alderweireld, we have a true defensive midfielder in Dier and Dembele is playing regularly. Yet two of those three were at the club last year and he couldn’t spot it then. Dier was playing out of position at RB most of the campaign and Dembele couldn’t get a game thanks to Poch’s idiotic preference for Bentaleb and Mason.

As far as Tottenham fans go I suspect I may well be in the minority but I’d be more than happy for you to poach Poch in the summer if it meant we ended up with Eddie Howe as our manager. As far as I am concerned he is the real managerial jewel out there and whoever gets him once he leaves Bournemouth will have a sustained period of success over the next ten to fifteen years.
Lloyd Stiles, THFC, Vienna

 

Are Liverpool breaking Klopp already?
After reading Jürgen Klopp’s comments in the papers today about the Liverpool performance against the (Excellent) Watford side and seeing him with his head in his hands, and then the mailbox this morning, in particular Luca James AFC (of course, if you want to come to Arsenal then disregard all of this), I’m starting to feel a little worried about the lovable German that everyone seems to like.

I know it’s very early in his tenure, but the dead cat bounce seems to be wearing off and as Luca James points out, the guy who makes everyone else want to smile when he does, is looking unhappy more, which of course makes everyone else unhappy. Where once the fans were getting giddy, the last few results seem to have an air of reverting back about them and it’s getting to him.

Please don’t break Jürgen Liverpool like you have done with previous managers, characters like him are important to the game. If you DO break him, then people should make sure that you don’t get to have anything nice again for a long time.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool

 

Platini: What a whopper
A few years ago Michel Platini called Arsene Wenger “The Enemy Of Football”. Whatever your feelings about Arsene’s Wenger’s qualities as a manager, this seemed like a very strange and harsh thing to say.

The tables are now turned and it’s Blatter, Platini and their cronies who have been proved to be the enemies of football – something we all knew was true. I know it’s only a start but perhaps there is hope for FIFA after all.
Adonis Stevenson, AFC

 

Civil war: Jose’s parting gift
This has definitely been the strangest week as Chelsea fan I can remember, but at the end of it, it has to be the most positive week of the season so far.

I was pretty shocked when I heard the singing by the fans on Saturday so adamantly supporting Jose and not the players, which shocked me in one way, but it didn’t in another way.

I then realised that is the legacy of Jose wherever he goes…chaos.

I was a huge fan of Jose for a long time, but I had a feeling things were going sour as early as January last season. Our form took a turn for the worse as soon as Andre Schurrle was sold at the end of the window. This was a player who the manager bought in and contributed a larger amount of goals to the team than most since Jose’s return in 2013. From then on, we limped over the line, benefiting from all our opposition being even worse than us. The players must have thought what the hell is this guy doing…

I have been truly amazed for Jose’s ability to sell off players who didn’t fit his “system” and them excelling elsewhere generally in most cases. The fury over seeing Lukaku and De Bruyne turning in to world class players as each week goes past makes me feel absolutely vindicated in being happy to see him lose his job.

Jose had to go, and in my mind it is too late for this decision, it had to be done as soon as he starting waging major wars on our players, staff and fans himself. The thought of losing exceptional talents like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and other of our 750 players currently out on loan was something the owner justifiably couldn’t stand for. I think it is easy to focus on the current shambles of a team (which will hopefully recover now), but I think that the wider issue of the players coming in to the team in the future is the most important reason why Jose had to go right now.

Jose’s legacy will always be trophies, but a sea of chaos at the forefront and getting rid of some of the world’s best footballing talent so they can excel elsewhere (still can’t get over him selling Arjen Robben a month before he was sacked the last time).

Thanks Jose, but please, never again. It doesn’t matter who the manager is, the fans need to support the team. This is Jose’s parting gift.
Simon – CFC, London (awaiting A4 banners against me next week!)

 

Blaming the players is always illogical
One of the most surprising and frustrating “narratives” (a word that is obligatory to use these days) to emerge from the Chelsea saga is that of the fault being squarely with the players and not the manager. The fact that they were not motivated for Mourinho but played well on Saturday was branded as disgraceful by certain pundits. There was the implication from some that the players were deliberately playing badly to get the manager sacked. This accusation was repeated in the mailbox this morning by a United fan claiming the same thing about Van Gaal.

This is utter nonsense. The Chelsea players were not trying to lose. They were not booting the ball into their own net or missing tackles or purpose. They just clearly hated playing for their manager. I had to laugh after a recent mailbox entry praised the loyalty of Chelsea fans only then to see them boo their own players. Stay classy Chelsea.

People forget that footballers are people and they are doing a job. And just like the rest of us, in order to do that job properly, they need to be content. I work as a teacher and have worked in a school where the environment was toxic. The headteacher was a truly horrible human being who was hyper critical, bullied staff and forced them out the door. The staff were miserable and could not do their job to the best of their ability. You could easily say “oh, you should be doing it for the children” (the equivalent or doing it for the fans) but it’s a fact of life that humans do not operate well if they are not happy or motivated. Say what you like, that’s human nature.

Millions of pounds are spent each year by business on management and motivational training, because they know that happy, motivated employees are good employees. Like it or not, football is a business and footballers are employees. Mourinho clearly made the experience of working there unbearable and there is only person to blame for that.

Jose Mourinho is an absolutely odious human being who will throw anyone under his bus to make it seem like the blame does not lie at his feet. When things are going well he uses that siege mentality and builds team spirit. When things go badly he turns on his players and destroys it.

Chelsea fans, if you were really thinking clearly you’d be getting your little bedsheets and pieces of A4 and you would be writing “thanks Jose but time to go” and let that be the end of it. One player with bad attitude, blame he player. A whole squad? Not a coincidence.
Mike, LFC, Dubai

 

Walking, Memphis
We have to talk about Memphis Depay. For Norwich’s first goal, he turned away from a throw-in and slowly walked back towards the halfway line. The throw went pretty much over his shoulder to a Norwich player approximately two metres away, and he made absolutely zero effort to contribute anything to defending that situation. One pass later, and United are 0-1 down and on their way to defeat. Now, I am rather enjoying United’s malaise (particularly having just hopped over them in the league), but that absolutely disgusted me. It does kind of sum up what’s happening up at Old Trafford right now.
Alex G, THFC

 

King Eric: It would at least be interesting
I for one would love Eric to become United’s new Manager. It probably would be totally and utterly barking but what the hell, anything has to be better than the death by a thousand cuts we are currently being subjected to.

The football would be more attacking, the fans have a hero to buy into, the press conferences alone would be pure Hollywood come on it’s bound to work what could go wrong? All manner of Shearer and Newcastle replies will be met with fingers in ears and a loud la la la la la until you go away.
Paul Murphy, Manchester

 

United need foundations first
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

So it begins. Cantona (the Man United version of Kevin Keegan), Giggs (Man United’s John Carver) or Fergie (Man United’s Mourinho) have all been suggested to come in and replace LvG. And how, exactly, would that help? The flapping needs to cease and common sense must prevail.

It was always going to get worse after Fergie – not only were we replacing arguably the greatest manager of all time, but the cult of personality that came with him as well. And if we are all being honest with ourselves, Fergie didn’t leave us in the best state. Yes, we had a title winning team but there was no long term youth products to speak of, and his ability to get by on the cheap (not paying transfer fees while claiming there was no value in the market) has left us with a deficit that has taken a while to correct. We now have the base of a team that with a couple of genuine quality difference makers, could actually achieve something.

Quite frankly, United need to look at how the other super clubs are run (Bayern Munich spring to mind) and begin to put those foundations in place regarding transfer policy, youth set up and so on, and I think LvG is the man to help in that regard. Changing the manager now may mean we score a couple more goals in the short term, but there are much bigger problems at Manchester United than getting beat by Norwich.
Conrad Wiacek (I didn’t feel this passive at 5:45 on Saturday…) MUFC

 

More Liverpool thoughts
After watching Liverpool at Newcastle last week, I thought it was just about the worst performance of the season. Then, Watford happened. My thoughts:

– You know what you are going to get with Deeney and Ighalo. In Skrtel and Sakho, we should have enough to deal with the physical threat. Sakho is also quick enough to deal with the threat of them getting in behind. With Clyne and Moreno at full back, it’s one of the quickest defences in the league. Why then, did they look like an utter, utter shambles?

– Goalkeeper. Bogdan was poor, but is that really so much of a surprise? Before crucifying him, let’s not forget that Mignolet essentially throws one into his own net once a month. It’s Klopp’s number one priority as far as I’m concerned. Our (supposed) rivals all have two keepers that are better than our first choice.

– I actually thought 95% of what Sakho did was pretty good. He won the majority of his aerial battles (or at least appeared to), and he made several important tackles, and quite frankly, he looked like the only player in a red shirt that was up for it. However, the remaining 5% was really, really bad. Some of that is due to rustiness, but trying to play in the manner he did on a difficult pitch against a pair of pressing centre forwards is nothing short of brainless.

– I’ve written in before to suggest that Skrtel was a bigger problem than Lovren. Yesterday reminded me of the match where we lost to Oldham in the FA Cup a few years back, that prompted Rodgers to suggest Skrtel was a bit soft. Awful, awful defending for the second goal that he was 75-25 favourite to win. It’s past time he was phased out.

– Klopp got his team selection wrong. A physical presence was needed up front, as the pitch just wasn’t conducive to a passing game. That said, Benteke has done nothing of late to suggest he deserves his place. Football isn’t all about ‘running about a bit,’ but Benteke is a player that doesn’t have the genius to be laconic.

– Coutinho and Firmino, to my mind, had a day off, and most of my ire is reserved for them. Bad pitch, physical team, not much time on the ball. They really didn’t fancy it, did they? At what point do we need to start suggesting that Firmino needs to start pulling his finger out? I was as excited as the next guy when he signed, but let’s not suggest he’s been any better than perennial hate target Adam Lallana.

– I’ll go one further with regard to Coutinho. He’s the reincarnation of Joe Cole. He’s eye-catching, has a great trick, and is capable of moments of genius. However, he is where fast-flowing football goes to die. He doesn’t move the ball quickly enough because he just HAS to do something with it (as does Lallana, incidentally). You could argue that he doesn’t have the same movement in front of him, but what happened to the guy that was picking passes that no-one else could see? That’s what he was about when he joined. Yet here I am agreeing with Lawro: he’s a one trick pony. Cut inside, try to curl one into the top corner, with a desperately low success rate.

– I thought Winners and Losers was a little harsh on Henderson. He passed the ball more than 15 yards on several occasions, which should preclude him from all comparisons with Joe Allen, for a start. I’d be more inclined to cite his lack of options, causing him to try to force the issue, than to lay the blame solely at his feet. It’s not like you’d play the safe option and roll the ball back into defence yesterday either, is it? Pass completion stats masking other issues there, for me.

– Lucas was made redundant by Watford’s 4-4-2. With no-one playing in the hole, he had no-one to try to shackle. Watford went over him, they went round him, but they never tried to go through him. Worryingly, he looked a lot more assured at centre back than Skrtel, and for most of the second half, Sakho.

– Are we now seeing the negative effects of what Klopp is trying to do? The statisitics are there before us – he wants his players to run more. To do that, you need to be fitter. But you also get more tired as you climb the curve. After an initial upturn in fortunes, have the Liverpool squad hit a bit of a plateau? A bad time to be knackered, with so many games coming up, but I think it’s probably inevitable. There has been a real sluggishness about their play in the last two games. I’m sure they will push through it and hit the next level, physically, but it might get worse before it gets better.
Andy, London

 

Deeney love
My favorite player of the half season is Troy Deeney. He looks like your basic bull-in-a-china-shop number 9, but he’s so much more.

Both Daniel Storey and John Nicholson praised Watford’s strike partnership this morning, but Watford don’t play an orthodox 4-4-2, as you would think from their articles. It’s closer to a 4-2-3-1, with Deeney in a central withdrawn role. H

is deeper position allows him to cover a much larger area, breaking up play and starting attacks. According to WhoScored.com, he has more tackles than any other player listed primarily as a forward. No one in the league works harder or more selflessly. He’s just a pleasure to watch, and long may Watford’s good run continue.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
(MC – It is worth pointing out that Deeney’s average position this season is almost exactly level with Ighalo’s. Both are prepared to drop deep and let the other lead the line. That’s what makes them so effective.)

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