Mails: Martinez out, United inertia and…

Date published: Monday 7th March 2016 3:35

Roberto Martinez

If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at theeditor@football365.com

 

Martinez out
To put it simply, it’s not good enough and Martinez has to go.

We have our best squad in the Premier League era, and it’s possibly the worst quality (or the least competitive at the top end) we’ve seen in the PL era and we are nowhere to be seen. I’m enjoying this season, and will be made up if Leicester win the league just for shaking things up, but I am so f****** frustrated that we are not in the top four right now.

Saturday was the most recent in a long line of these slip-ups, and it is no longer coincidence, poor fortune or even individual mistakes. You can lay blame at Mirallas for the silly challenge when already booked, and Lukaku for a poor penalty, but we were still two goals to the good going into the final part of the game.

It’s easy to organise that…two banks of four, stay tight, stop crosses and someone up top to hold it up.

But, Martinez takes off Lennon who was 1) running the show, 2) working ridiculously hard 3) our only player blocking crosses. He’s replaced by a lad who has played about 30 minutes of PL football and looking miles off the pace.

Martinez then takes off Lukaku who is the only one looking likely to get a chance/hold the ball up at the other end of the pitch.

West Ham fans must have been laughing their heads off at that point.

Absolutely baffling substitutions, and it is most definitely not the first time this season from Roberto.

Someone collated the following and posted it on twitter etc, so apologies to whoever I’ve nicked it from:

Bournemouth A. 2-0 up with 10 minutes left (3-2 up with 1 minute left): Drew 3 – 3
Stoke H. 3-2 up with 10 minutes left: Lost 3 – 4
Chelsea A. 2-0 up with 20 minutes left (3-2 up with 1 minute left): Drew 3 – 3
West Ham H. 2-0 up with 12 minutes left: Lost 2 – 3

That’s 10 points dropped.
Add that we lost at home to WBA and Swansea, neither of whom had won away in three months, and we would be third with a game in hand to go second.

There are others too….Norwich A & Swansea A, Palace H to name a few. We were easily the better team in these games and we drew them all.

And also in the cup…effectively 2-0 up in the semi-final second leg with 70 minutes to go. Any manager in the world shuts the doors there…we probably tried to, but we just don’t know how!

There will be plenty of managerial changes in the summer. We should be looking to get one of the big names in world football to come in. Someone proven who we can trust with (the rumoured) £100m war-chest that Evertonians have waited so long for, that we are sure will take one of the better squads in the league and turn them into a team finishing where they are more than capable of. Because it is evident that we are never going to be that under Martinez.
Graeme L, EFC

 

Actually…do you read what you recommend?
Quick one on something that has been bothering me for a while – you provide links to some intelligent, illuminating tactical analysis in your “recommended reading” section and then completely ignore the points made in other pieces. For example, Winners and Losers and elsewhere on the site reprimands Martinez for bringing on ‘a striker for a winger’ and supposedly trying to ‘win the game with a swagger’.

This fits perfectly with the narrative of Martinez being defensively naive peddled by most media and enthusiastically by F365, but as the recommended blog points out the Lukaka penalty miss was much more likely to have been the turning point (which again wouldn’t fit with the F365 narrative about the admittedly excellent Lukaku). I also notice bringing on defensive players to hold onto a lead didn’t work that well for Sunderland and Spurs (O’Shea and Mason). To me replacing a tiring pacy (winger playing the position of) second striker with a fresh, pacy second striker in his natural position would seem a reasonable attempt to provide a better ‘out ball’ to relieve the pressure on the defence and push back West Ham.

You do really great work and raise the bar considerably for mainstream football media, but I’d like to see you try to look past the most obvious conclusions in certain situations – another example being the removal of Campbell recently by Wenger, widely stated to be a ridiculous decision with little appreciation given to Wenger’s explanation that Campbell was “tiring”. I expect managers have a lot more statistics on player fitness, length, frequency and top speeds of sprints etc during games and so may be able to make a better informed decision than casual observers.
Colm, London

 

Winners too soft on Wenger
I think you were too soft on Wenger (and that the sports media in general usually are – the grief van Gaal has gotten this season when he is only a few points off of Wenger’s own team shows how much Wenger has cowed the British media – is it a fear that he’s intellectually superior or are his withering put downs that painful to take!). I’ve thought for a good decade now that his attitude stinks. The man is regularly disrespectful to the opposition in defeat and even more disrespectful to the supporters. When he’s not telling everyone what supporters want to see (here’s a clue Wenger, it’s trophies not a footballing philosophy that people actually want) he’s telling supporters that they’re stupid, don’t understand the game and that’s why he’s the manager. The smug superiority from the man is infuriating even to Arsenal supporters.

Anyway, the main reason I think you were soft on him is Arsenal were very, very lucky to steal a draw from that game. It took Wenger 20 minutes to react in any meaningful sort of way to Coquelin’s sending-off. More than long enough for a 6pt swing in the game – in the end the subs he did make had impact enough to bring the game back level but any competent manager sees his most defensive midfielder leaving the pitch whilst a goal up in a game of this importance and says “right I need to change things!” Personslly I’d have said f*ck this, thrown Flamini on for Özil and maybe even Chambers on for Ramsey and shut up shop – take the sting out of the next 20 minutes and then look for a breakaway chance to snatch a second goal once the everybody has calmed down and the game has slowed back down. Instead he froze and only reacted when the task at hand had changed so massively that there was nothing left to lose. This is why he will never win the Champions League and in all likelihood the Premier League again either. Football at the highest level is about maximising your advantages however slight and minimising your opponents’ – Wenger very rarely attempts either and even less rarely in the changing landscape of a game already in play.

A draw was the worst possible result for Arsenal I think. It keeps us in with a slight shout and drags out the pain of this season ever further before it finally becomes a lost cause. A win and suddenly there’s a slight chance or at least reason to hope. A loss and there’s an inquest and either Wenger or his replacement finally forced to address the weaknesses in the team – instead we have a glimmer of false hope to to be followed up by a summer of talking up Champions League consistency as 20 years at the top, promises of signings then being told Wilshere, the Ox, and Cazorla are like new signings only for two of the three to pick up fresh injuries…

Groundhog Decade!
Elazar (Gooner in the Toon)

 

Coquelin still being underrated…
I see you’re still trotting out the line that Coquelin isn’t good enough to be Arsenal’s defensive midfielder and this time you’re using the stupid red card as evidence. It’s as if no other defensive midfielder has ever gotten stupid double yellows before or been overly rash in the way they play. That’s most top-level defensive midfielders. I’m sure he’ll learn from it.

If anything, the red card should have been seen as example of just how effective he is…before the red card Spurs did not look like creating any meaningful chances and Coquelin’s partnership with Elneny was the major contributing factor. As soon as he’s off, Spurs start creating chances and eventually get two goals. Even for 10 men, that’s not usual. Normally 10 men can stay resolute and hold on for long periods before conceding a goal.

I’m not a Wenger fan and I’m not inclined to defend him but it wasn’t a mistake not signing a defensive midfielder to start ahead Coquelin. The mistake was not buying a credible back-up DM to start ahead of both Flamini and Arteta. Hopefully now Elneny and Coquelin can work together to form a proper double pitot partnership. It seems strange that it’s taken so long for Wenger to revert to playing a double pivot as he’s only ever been successful in the league when he’s played that way – Petit/Vieira, Gilberto/Vieira. Let’s see how long it lasts.
Shaz, N19

 

You always take Lamela with you…
In the aftermath of a thrilling NLD, I had some thoughts about the way the game turned at various points. Naturally, Coquelin’s red card on 55 minutes is the most obvious pivotal moment in the match, but for Tottenham the most influential player at present is Erik Lamela.

Tottenham dominated the first half-hour but Arsenal came back strongly in the final 15 minutes of the first half. The explanation for this is Lamela’s yellow card on 28 minutes. Lamela made five tackles and two interceptions during his 66 minutes on the pitch (whoscored), bettered only by Dembele who played 15 minutes more. I’d be willing to wager that the vast majority of Lamela’s defensive contribution came in those first 28 minutes and prevented Arsenal from having any time on the ball. This gave Spurs the platform to impose their game. Once Lamela is carded, he can’t make the same defensive contribution and has to stay on his feet rather than try to win the ball. This handed the advantage to the visitors and Spurs were lucky to be down by just the one goal at half-time.

Spurs didn’t really threaten in the second half until Coquelin’s dismissal and it’s then that Lamela can start to influence the game again. More time and space in midfield and the damage was done quickly. He was understandably hooked on 66 minutes by Pochettino who (quite rightly) wanted to keep the one man advantage by subbing Lamela off before he could get a second yellow. With Lamela gone, Arsenal once again fought back in midfield. Credit to them here because Spurs were unable to get hold of the game in the last 20-25 minutes, as one would have expected them to.

I’ve watched Lamela play a lot in the past 2/3 seasons and his contribution to our current success increases with each game in my opinion. He wasn’t bought for his defensive talents but his work-rate, tackling and quick transitions have become essential to the way Pochettino wants Spurs to play. It’s Kane, Eriksen and Alli who mostly get the plaudits but Lamela is quickly becoming our key man. He’s not a £30million player yet but he’s not far off.
Japstarr, THFC, Hackney

 

Lloris not immune to criticism…
I wanted to add to what ‘Dave (probably a bit harsh but so be it), Winchester’ wrote in the NLD Mailbox re: Hugo Lloris. I agree that he should be picked out just like all the other players. Sure, he’s a great shot-stopper but my word, his distribution of the ball is beyond awful. This isn’t just based on the game at the weekend – this is an unfortunate fact. If he can get his goal kicks and throws sorted, we could do some much more with the ball, keep possession etc.

Similarly, I’ve lost count (and starting to lose interest) in how many free-kicks and corners we win and subsequently waste in one match. Again, this has been happening for years. Okay, we scored our equalizer from a corner on Saturday but if we could convert even a quarter of our set-pieces we would be dominating against every team and be more than 2-1 up with 10 minutes to go. Arsenal were very average on Saturday – they should have been dead and buried and we all know it.

So this begs the question: what do our players do all day in training? Why can’t they (consistently) clear the first man in corners and free-kicks? If the Allardyce teams (Bolton, West Ham, Newcastle) could do it and beat the better teams, why can’t we? We’ve had so many players go in and out of the club and yet we have the same problem over and over again.
Theo (still recovering and slightly grumpy after the weekend, but of course COYS!), Enfield

 

Watford ARE losers but…
Daniel Storey rightly puts Watford into the Losers section this weekend. However, I must disagree with his reason.

Since Christmas Watford have lost to Spurs twice, Swansea, Southampton, Leicester and Man Utd, they have drawn with Chelsea twice and Bournemouth and they have beaten Newcastle and Palace. Of the results listed above the defeat away at Swansea and the home draw with Bournemouth are the only games were I think we should be disappointed with the result. If you are going to throw in bad performances then the display away at Southampton was also very disappointing.

When the fixture list came out the run from the Saturday before Christmas to the first weekend in April looked like it was going to be very tough, thus far it has proved to be true. The bright side of all of this is we are more or less safe already, are in the quarter finals of the FA Cup and finish with West Brom, Norwich, Villa, Liverpool, Sunderland.

Watford were not losers this weekend because we haven’t got many points from a tough run of games. They deserve the place in the losers column simply for the lack of goals they have scored in the last month. For example Ighalo has scored one of his last 29 shots.
Colin (everything crossed that Hull can beat Arsenal tomorrow) Watford FC

 

Inertia at United
The sound of the full-time whistle called to an end another joy-sapping Man United display. The cherry on the sh*t-cake was the fact it was two incidents involving fan favourite Juan Mata and well-respected former player; Darren Fletcher that turned the match, complete with a textbook display straight out of the Mike Dean ‘LOOK AT ME!!’ school of refereeing. The most frustrating thing is Dean actually did a pretty good job of reffing the match and you can’t fault the decision.

I finished the match two glasses of cheap shiraz deep, muttering expletives to myself like a paranoid shopper, shuffling round Tescos whilst closely inspecting multi-packs of custard creams in a high-vis jacket.

Unfortunately I end a lot of Man United games in a similar manner, the only thing that varies is booze quantity and tone of accompanying expletives. Same rubbish, different match – we pass it around a bit, lose our heads, concede and never look like scoring afterwards before cantering to a miserable defeat. Van Gaal gets asked about his job after the game, looks furious, says something weird and we get a week of speculation about Mourinho or Giggs taking over.

Rinse, dry, repeat.

The inertia at board level is frightening and the club’s policy of neither denying or confirming any sort of rumour means that fans are left in complete limbo as to what is going on. The complete lack of any sort of movement or communication makes the situation feel like the club is drifting directionless, as if no-one there is really bothered what happens now and Woodward is content to play ball-in-a-cup until the Summer when he can appoint Giggs and keep Bobby Charlton and Alex Ferguson happy.

The most frustrating aspect of this is, much like Moyes, the club will wait until we are truly f**ked with no chance of Champions League or silverware before taking action. Even if there is a cost to an early axe, surely it has to be a risk worth taking considering all the money we spaff on players that continue to not be good enough? The sad truth is that it is probably already too late, the club should have acted before January when there was still a chance of righting the ship.
Smyth, MUFC

 

Withdrawing a flounce
Wow, I think I need to redact my earlier email following Adam’s flounce this morning. Here’s my (brief) timeline:

– Gets to desk on Monday morning with a need to air my views about how certain aspects of the media (NOT F365 I may hasten to add) are coming out with some total guff.

– Writes email, probably reads like a moan, which isn’t what was intended as I am far too happy to really care about what section of the media think, but sends in nonetheless cos repeat mails on how much man-love one feels for N’golo Kante will not necessarily get published.

– Reads morning mailbox 10 mins later with horror as I realise my email is a little similar to Adam’s and, thus, will either be edited to make it look like all Leicester fans are ungrateful swines in the afternoon mailbox (curse you F365!!!) or is just regurgitating an earlier viewpoint and won’t get published at all (curse you F365!!!)

– Writes this email in hope that I can at least distance myself from the ravings of a madman. I can see what Adam is saying, but I think he is barking at the wrong tree in all honesty.
Rob (all emails to the Ed will be totally and utterly cringe-worthy positive from here on in), Leicester

 

We really shouldn’t be moaning, Leicester fans
I don’t know where all that hate came from this morning towards Football365. It must be because everything is going so well at Leicester, we are struggling to find things to moan about! I have enjoyed the Leicester coverage this season and do not mind the comments about Vardy. He was racist, that is a fact and is not ok. No matter how many goals he scores, it is not ok.

There have been more positive articles about Leicester than any other club this season. Read the comments below the articles as well, the vast majority are very supportive of us. You’ll always get some negative comments, but that is the internet. We also can’t expect our title rivals to be pleased for us!

Now, please Adam, just concentrate on enjoying this season. It will probably never be this good again. We are challenging for the Premier League title. This time last year, we were bottom about eight points from safety, we are now eight points clear of Arsenal. Enjoy it!

On another note, just to boost my ego, can you put a link to the mailbox of 23rd July 2015. I mailed in response to a Villa fan saying that there was only one spot left for relegation as Watford and Leicester were certainties. I predicted a top-half finish, seems I was way off! (I also predicted Kramaric to get 15 goals…less said about that the better).
Toby (Nostradamus) Mitchell

 

Is that what a title race does?
Thank you for publishing that amazing mail this morning from Adam; LCFC.

The lesson to be drawn from Adam is, if supporting a club that everyone wishes well like Leicester can turn you into a ranting paranoid Primadonna as a result of a single title race, it’s no wonder it happens to so many Arsenal, Liverpool, United etc fans.

Fans of other clubs be warned. You’re a title race away from being Adam.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva, Switzerland

 

Is the Champo more entertaining than the Premier League?
Having watched football in the top three divisions over the last 5-6 years with Southampton. A lot of the positive comments being made about the unpredictability and excitement of this season will be all too familiar to those who follow league football. Sure money plays an important role in who will be chasing promotion, but every season there’s always at least a couple of teams who buck the pre-season expectations and go on a run.

Add in more games a season and games that are generally more open with the excitement of the play-offs and the fact that scraping sixth can lead to promotion (in comparison to the chase for top six and Europe). Then you’ve arguably got more excitement with results unpredictable.

While the calibre of player is less, it’s all a matter of scale. I work with an ex League One/Championship player and he always says the biggest difference between the leagues is time. The lower the league, the more time a player has and therefore certain players who aren’t quite at the very top level, can none the less be made to look very good by using that split second extra.

Perhaps it is damning of the standard of the Premier league that the current crop of ‘traditional’ title competitors are struggling against a Championship style run of form from a team greater than the sum of their parts. Indeed Sarah wrote an article with words to that effect recently.

But do ‘we’ (as fans of any team who plays in the Premier League) really want a return to the status quo where pre-season you have a very good idea where your team is likely to finish?
Tom Saints (Wanting English European football success is the clear counter, but how relevant is that for the 13-15 teams each year that aren’t competing?)

 

Benteke: An asset
People can criticize Benteke if they like, but he’s been a real asset for us this season. His purchase makes a lot of sense if you consider him as an upgrade on Balotelli rather than a like-for-like replacement for Sturridge. Origi is closer to the latter, though he’s still got a long way to go.

Someone else can do the maths, but I know Benteke has won Liverpool at least six league points this season. For a player who isn’t picked much and some say doesn’t suit Liverpool’s style, that’s still impressive. I even wondered why the big Belgian wasn’t brought on in the League Cup final when it seemed like Liverpool were trying to ping a few crosses into the box – it seemed tailor-made for him.
Paul in Brussels (hi to all the other Pauls who write in to the mailbox)

 

No sympathy for Delaney and Palace
Pardew would do well to look at his own team rather than at Benteke for yesterday’s events. Damien Delaney should never go to ground in that situation, Benteke isn’t quick enough to go past the defenders in that position and the ball would have gone harmlessly out if the defender stands his ground.

As it was, Delaney goes to ground and clearly clips Benteke’s left foot with his knee. Penalty all day.
Paul M (I would have much rather seen Moreno’s impression of Jon Arne Riise fly in though) LFC

 

…I see that Damien Delaney has backed up the point made my his manager, Monsieur Perdieu, that only challenges of a certain level warrant a penalty in injury time.

“I can honestly say I didn’t make contact with Benteke today (well, you did and anyone watching the match could see that you did) and IF there was slight contact (oh, so there was contact, I thought you ‘honestly’ didn’t touch him) I didn’t impede him and certainly didn’t feel there was enough to award a penalty in the 96th min…if a penalty is awarded that late it has to be unequivocal.” And here we come to the point. Would it have been a penalty in the 15th minute? What about the 80th minute? How brutal do tackles need to be to get a penalty late in the second half? What about extra time in a cup game?

This also falls into the category of ‘yes it was a foul but he was heading away from goal/he had already lost control of the ball’. A foul in the area is a penalty. Damien Delaney slid into a tackle in the dying embers of the game on the only Liverpool player in the box, caught him and deservedly gave away a pen. It is fine to be disappointed but there is only one place that look and at himself.

Palace were one up, at home, against ten men and they gave away two goals. They can have a little whine and a moan about the ref but he didn’t present the ball to Firmino and he didn’t slide into Beneteke. Maybe that’s why they haven’t won yet this year.
Micki Attridge

 

…What an awful weekend for stupidity and stupidly defending the criminally stupid.

Whether you believe Benteke could/should have stayed on his feet or not the defence from Delaney and Pardew has been embarrassing and they weren’t alone.

“I can honestly say I didn’t make contact with Benteke today” – eh no you really did Damien.

Oh eh…”if I did make slight contact I didn’t impede him” – again you kind of did big fella.

Well I “certainly didn’t feel there was enough to award a penalty in the 96th min. If a penalty is awarded that late it has to be unequivocal” – WTF? What does the time matter? Why does it need to be more unequivocal the later it happens? Is this the same as you can’t send someone off early? Is there a window of opportunity in which referees can only make big decisions? – 40-70 minutes perhaps?

“Andre Marriner didn’t think it was a penalty” – no, but his assistant who was in a better position to see your knee take out Benteke’s foot did.

“He’s pulling out of it and it’s harsh.” – well Alan like many an accidental pregnancy he pulled out too late and maybe you should man up and deal with the consequences.

For other scandalous defences of the terminally stupid this weekend see Martinez and van Gaal.

“Why should we book a player because we feel it’s not a free kick?” – well Roberto there was no contact at all, he threw himself to the ground and appealed so he knew what he was doing. Not quite it wasn’t a free-kick so let’s just play on.

“You want a referee who takes the back seat” – Do you? Do you really? Or do you just want a referee who lets your player’s stupidity slide Roberto? He’s there to apply the laws not tag along for the ride.

“The referee has to know the character of the players and that is why an experienced referee is better because he knows the players and the game” – no Louis he doesn’t.

Again he needs to apply the laws not apply them only to the players he thinks are nasty no matter how loveable little Juan is.

I’d happily advocate for each of the players to be fined for crass stupidity and losing their team the game and the managers likewise for defending the indefensible. Impossible to have sympathy with football managers when they are so one-eyed.

Regards,
Lindsay, Dublin

 

The stupidest red? Mata wins
Interesting article
on the red cards this weekend, and good question RE: which one was stupidest.

Milner seemed to do his to make up for having lost the ball. His form was poor, we were one nil down and he tried to make amends. I was furious with him because he’s supposed to be the last one in our team to lose his head, but objectively I would forgive a player for that mistake.

I think I know why Miralles and Mata did their stupid tackles for second yellows – I don’t think it had really ‘clicked’ that they were already booked. They aren’t players who get many bookings for tackles so they aren’t used to thinking about that, and their first offenses were for minor non-tackle infractions.

But to answer your question, Mata’s was clearly the stupidest of the weekend, because:

1. The cards were three minutes apart.

2. It happened with 60+ minutes to play.

3. He had the benefit of playing last and seeing reminders of what not to do all weekend, including a particularly timely reminder from Milner a few hours earlier.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva, Switzerland

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