Keep those Mails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org…
Alvaro Morata: A downgrade on Costa
Imagine the howls of derision on social media had Lukaku missed the same gift chance that Morata did in the first half? He’d even be condemned for being off-cue from the more difficult chance in the second half, and indeed his snatched shot in injury-time. If the narrative is that Lukaku hasn’t represented value for money in his United career so far, then the exact same opinion could be levelled at Morata. But isn’t.
Bearing in mind that in an alternate universe both players could well be playing for the opposite teams had the summer transfer activity gone along predicted lines, then they are worthy of comparison.
Quite oddly, both have scored the same amount of PL goals (10) and provided the same amount of assists (4), although Lukaku’s haul has come from roughly 400 extra minutes played. But a forensic look at the Spaniard’s tally paints a picture of the ultimate “flat-track bully”- a hat-trick vs. Stoke, one vs each of WBA, Brighton, Newcastle and pre-Allardyce Everton. You know. The very same opposition that has people putting an asterisk beside Lukaku’s record.
Ironically, his finest performance so far was scoring the only goal against United, and while that’s probably a finer moment than anything Lukaku has produced to date, a bit of perspective is needed too. Morata arrived in the door as the Blues’ record signing, having won the Champions League with Real Madrid and Serie A with Juventus.
Of course Chelsea were the defending champions so were clearly at a higher base level than United currently, and less problems to fix too. He also had two of the last three Player’s of the Year to operate with, so theoretically had a sounder environment to acclimatise to.
But as far as I can see he has been a downgrade on Diego Costa overall, yet there is not half the criticism thrown his way. I won’t quite use the race-card, but there is definitely something amiss when it comes to moulding public opinion to suit an argument.
Brian (Bakayoko hasn’t exactly set the world alight either but at least F365 has pointed this out previously), Wexford
FIFA need to take a look at the penalty laws after that
The “Hazard vs Bellerin” incident WAS a foul. But does it deserve to be a penalty offence? It seems to be such a disproportionate reward in relation to a minor infraction from the defender; a feather of a touch, with Hazard facing away from goal and plenty of other “blocking” defenders between him and the goal. Minor.
What I am getting at is I think that the FA/FIFA need to take a serious look at the penalty law. It strikes me as too severe a punishment for defenders in many situations, very similar to the way the the “triple punishment” of red card, penalty and suspension was too harsh.
With that law change, the referees are now obliged to look at four criteria for sending offs: 1) Distance from goal, 2) general direction of play, 3) likelihood of keeping or regaining control of the ball and 4) location and number of defenders.
Why not judge on the same criteria for awarding penalties? If the foul is not deemed to be an offence worthy of a penalty, you could give an IDFK, or even a free kick on the edge of the “D”, etc. Take your pick.
This would redress the balance slightly for the modern defenders in the era of non contact. It would be a far better deterrent to divers than the retrospective panel could ever hope to be.
Rob S, Portsmouth (Could England win a penalty shootout if Cech was in goal?)
(MC – This would surely lead to even more uncertainty surely. It invites controversy not just about the yes or no, but about the ‘grade’ of foul).
Some more conclusions, from an Arsenal fan
*In both the Liverpool and Chelsea games I wish I was a neutral. I am ageing quicker than I should. Yay for exciting games.
*A draw was probably a fair result. Both teams deserved something out of the game and if either had played a mid table with that performance it would have been a comfortable win.
*I’m glad the conclusions picked up on the defence. Ten different pairings is not a stable foundation to build a team on, especially when those players are out of form and/or injured. Why Holding hasn’t been afforded more starts i don’t know because he still seems like a good CB to me.
*Where I don’t agree with conclusions is on Lacazette. All night his service was poor and a lot of the overall chances created were off the back of intelligent movement. I know strikers need to score but if it wasn’t for two excellent saves from Courtois he would have been praised. As I said in another mail, and from this site many times, until he gets more service he won’t be a top striker. Morata was rubbish.
*Jack, Ozil and Maitland-Niles all had great games as did Alonso, Hazard and Courtois. It’s nice to see players on top of their game. I can see why people are still unsure about Jack to Russia. Honestly, if he continues this form until 10 games more, I don’t see how we can’t. He still needs to prove it again against top opposition mind you.
*If you had told me at the beginning of the season we would take two points against Chelsea I would have been ok. Three from Tottenham was great. We might be finally improving vs the top 6 but it’s too little, too late unfortunately
*Wenger has a massive dilemma now and I don’t envy him. We are off the pace because we can’t beat teams who sit back and defend. This means we need to bring someone fresh to the team with a different skill set (we know the tactics won’t change). We can’t bring anyone in until we know what’s happening with Ozil and Sanchez. Without additions we won’t get top four. Nightmare scenario.
*All in all I feel like a loss would have been too much for our fragile team to take at the moment. We need the full nine from Bournemouth, Swansea and Palace. Do that and top four is back on. Anything but and we had better prepare for no Champions League, Ozil or Sanchez.
Rob A (Maitland is a breath of fresh air, would love to see him in CM with Ramsey and Wilshere) AFC
Can’t blame Wenger on selective vision
There are valid reasons to be critical of Wenger but to accuse him of becoming a parody when he is bang on point about falling refereeing standards in the country is laughable. The irony of accusing Wenger of having selective vision when Conte literally said this about the contentious penalty: “I must be honest, I didn’t see the penalty” is delicious. I see selective vision is not limited to just Wenger then (maybe the tin hat comes with glasses).
(DS – To clarify, the parody bit with Wenger was that he brought up the penalty incident without being asked about it, then said he hadn’t seen the other incident, then said referees “get away with it” and then said he would prefer to talk about football than referees, having just spoken about referees unprovoked).
All managers will tend to speak up when they are on the wrong side of these decisions and ignore them when they benefit from them (as all teams do). Conte himself is an example of this (conveniently ignored in the point about Wenger). But Wenger is right calling for refereeing standards in the country to improve along with the introduction of VAR.
The media, including this site, is dismissive of such progressive measures with how easily such decisions are swept under the carpet as part of whatever the ongoing narrative is. Spurs, as an example, have indeed benefited from offside goals and missed red cards to the tune of nine points. Such poor standards do indeed, thus, have ramifications and consequences. The notion of bad decisions evening themselves out over a season is nonsense and we must do better.
It is okay to see the Hazard incident as a penalty (I agree that it was) without missing the broader point Wenger is making. As one of the commenters on the 16 Conclusions noted, there are genuine criticisms to be made of Wenger like their concentration lapses after scoring or general defensive ineptitude and his failure to remedy that.
Or how him asking Xhaka (the slowest player on the pitch with a propensity for rash tackles) to press up the pitch, which only allowed Fabregas more space to create. Surely such actual conclusions can be made from the game without accusing a manager, increasingly at the end of poor decisions, of selective myopia, when the broader media is no better.
Falooda in NY (looking forward to the FA Cup – and VAR)
Maitland-Niles: A Wenger success story
Having watched Ainsley Maitland-Niles performing at left back over the last few games and being quietly impressed, culmulating in last nights arguable man of the match performance, I’ve started thinking about the situation.
Wenger obviously sees potential in Niles as a player and in order to further his development as a midfielder, is playing him in an area of the pitch where he has less space on the ball, and has to adapt as such. Wenger did similar with both Ramsey and Wilshere on the wing.
Anyway my point is Wenger, who is under immense pressure and who is nearing his last chance to save his legacy, is currently playing a youngster (who understandably will make some mistakes and be less solid than an established left back)out of position in order to further his development as a player. This current act probably will be at Wenger’s expense and his successor’s gain.
Whatever people say about Wenger, you can’t say he doesn’t stick to his principles of developing young players. Is this to be commended? Or is this a fool’s errand? Considering most other managers will leave youth development to others and play their strongest team at all times (eg. Mourinho.)
We missed out how bad Moses was
He cost us the game today but I think played ok. Apart from finishing he was other wise 7/10. In his defense as Conte also suggested he is still getting used to winter schedule. Also after this abysmal performance the only path he can take is upwards.
Storey cheekily points that Alonso maybe a better finisher than Morata. I am inclined to agree with him save Morata is better with his head. Infact I initially thought the second goal was scored by Morata. Impressed with timing, run and finishing by Alonso.
One thing that was missed from the 16 conclusion was how awful Moses was. Every dummy was dummied and attempted cross was blocked by the first defender. Thankfully Conte noticed the same and brought on Zappacosta which got us the leading goal and final shot which left the goal shaking.
In all a wonderful game of football giving Conte more reasons to pursue a striker this window. I also think we will need a much better wing-back than Moses if we are to get anywhere this season and next.
Because he has never saved one for Arsenal
Question to all Arsenal fans: What is the obsession with Cech and his penalty saving record?
Typically penalties are synonymous with an easy goal, so why is he often lambasted for not saving one? There are loads of goalkeepers who have not saved one this season. Would genuinely like to know.
Wesley (saved one against CR7 in the UCL final didn’t he?)
The corner flag would stand a better chance of saving a penalty than Petr Cech. Its becoming ridiculous now and I don’t even think he’s ever even gone the right way either.
I really am fed up of a lot of things at Arsenal but right now I’m becoming severely fed up knowing that whenever the opposition get a penalty it guarantees a goal. In fact I’d even go as far to say that Christian Benteke could score a penalty against us.
Some extended thoughts on Bakayoko
Just wanted to pick up on a point in 16 Conclusions about Bakayoko. As much as I understand the criticism of his performances I think there is a tactical issue at play here that is being missed. Monaco played a narrow 4-4-2 counter attacking style for most of last season with Bakayoko in a midfield two.
In this formation Bakayoko’s job was to be a box to box midfielder; using his power and pace to break the lines, play wide and then arrive late to affect the play. This is a completely different role than he’s being asked to play for Chelsea this year.
Playing as part of a midfield three should require less discipline than playing in a two but this depends on what’s happening behind and to the sides of you. When the width is coming from advanced full backs the wide players tuck in and help to pick up the midfield runners out of possession. It’s actually far easier to know where you are in transition in this scenario, you either cover your full back or stick with the most advanced midfielder in the middle.
I guess this is a long winded way of trying to say it’s going to take time for him to learn how to play a position he isn’t perfectly suited for (yet). The role he is being asked to play is far more suited to Drinkwater. Right now he looks like a poor Kante but I think if you swapped him with Xhaka in the Arsenal team he’d look like a world beater. I feel like I’ll be writing the exact same post about Naby Keita come next season.
The Premier League is still excellent
This holiday season i watched some games I wouldn’t otherwise watch, coz you know I’m an adult, have a family and have things to do. Generally i just watch a Spurs game plus some highlights or a top 6 game, but this week i had nothing much to do while wallowing at home and watched Brighton vs Bournemouth. I have to say, what a great advertisement it was for the Premier League.
Here we have two relatively poor, unfancied sides, recently promoted, and yet they played some exciting balls-out football. They did not hold back, pursue a defense-first strategy. They just went for it and tried to win. In the end it was a draw but I would dare anyone to say it wasn’t a fun experience.
That’s what makes English football the most popular in the world. It’s not the fact that we have the absolute best players (although we do have some of the best players for sure), it’s not that we have the biggest clubs (although that can be argued), it’s about the way the game is played. Every team has a chance to play in some kind of derby, play some local rival and we don’t expect it to be a tactical battle but an attempt to win, simple as that.
I know managers like Mourinho have been gradually degrading and cynicizing our game for the past decade or so, but there’s so much joy in this type of English football. It’s not about tactics or which club is bigger, it’s purely about the entertainment value of football. And I have to thank Brighton and Bournemouth for giving us a treat.
These clubs are doing quite well on relatively reasonable budgets while the ManU manager complains about hundreds of millions of pounds not being enough to create a decent team. Never mind a decent team, get a decent manager.
Remembering some excellent, nameless referees
To Chris, Croydon “Raging at Mike Dean” (1/1 am), I sympathise with you because you are hardly the first fan to be irritated by the sour antics of Mike Dean and I doubt you will be the last. Dean is an annoying, charmless man who succeeds at the almost impossible: leaving the fans of both teams’ supporters feeling they have been cheated. Quite the effort, don’t you think?
Compare him to a referee in a Manchester United game decades back where George Best was playing. It’s impossible for me to recall the ref’s name but I do remember an incident where Best did something quite bad that brought him to the ref’s attention. As I remember it, the ref didn’t book Best or maybe he didn’t send him off but, I learned later, that the next time play stopped, he walked up to George and said something like “my small son has posters of two footballers on his bedroom wall. Tonight, he’ll be taking yours down.” Job done, because that surely would have brought it home to Best how far he had cheapened himself in that ref’s eyes than all the stern faces and finger-pointing from Mike Dean?
And whilst I am talking about excellent referees who didn’t just rely on their whistle and much arm waving, there was another charismatic man where, once more, I’m afraid my memory has failed me. I can picture him quite clearly in that he was of modest height, bald on top, and with a cheeky grin and very outgoing personality. All I’ve got is Kirkpatrick or Fitzpatrick but I can’t find him through Google under those names. But this guy was a gem, he really was. A quiet word here, a smile there and the game went on without too many players feeling they were hard done by. He was probably my favourite referee of all time except for the imperial Italian, Collina.
I know I’ve done a disservice to those two referees whose names I can’t recall but too many years have passed. If this mail gets included, I’m sure someone will provide the answers.
Standout achievements by English managers
One line in your new year’s winners and losers caught my eye, that being the description of Roy Hodgson taking Fulham to the Europa League final as the stand out achievement of an English manager this century. Being a natural contrarian I immediately started thinking of achievements to rival this and tried to come up with the top ten. Then realised there’d be far too many heroic escapes from relegation so plumped for the top 4;
4) Big Sam’s Bolton. I’m not sure which point constitutes the zenith of Allardyce’s time at Bolton (I’d argue relegating West Ham on 41 points just because of the sheer hilarity of it), but taking a yo yo club in an unfashionable part of the country and consolidating them in the Premier League. It’s just a shame they didn’t have power point at the FA headquarters back in 2006 eh?
3) Sir Bobby Robson finishing 3rd in 2003 with Newcastle. A giant dollop of bias here, but Bobby took charge of a Newcastle side which was barely recognisable from the Keegan side of the mid 90’s after Ruud Gullit and Kenny Dalglish had botched recruitment so poorly it felt like sabotage and focused on talented young players and pushed them not just back into the top 4, but up to 3rd the next year as well as reaching the 2nd group stage in the Champions League.
2) Hodgson taking Fulham to the Europa League final in 2010. Hodgson did such a spectacular job of firefighting at Fulham that he didn’t just put out the blaze, he also refurbished the house, fitted a new kitchen and built an extension afterwards (I do love a tortured metaphor).
1) McClaren reaching the UEFA cup final with Middlesbrough in 2006. A similar achievement to Hodgson in 2010, but with a couple of key differences. McClaren had spent 5 years building the team, had won a trophy to qualify rather than finishing 7th and despite putting themselves in each mess in the first place the frequent improbable comebacks just made it seem like a stunning achievement.
Honourable mentions to: Pardew’s 9th/FA Cup final with West Ham in 2006, Redknapp’s Champions League quarter final in 2011, John Carver’s 15% win percentage in 2015
Kev (worst performances by an English manager this century would have been a slightly longer list), Bedford
Not much surprises me these days, but today I did feel a wave of despair for the state of football when I read about the nameless streak of p*ss abusing Jake Livermore over the death of his infant son. What is it about football that makes people come out with such foul and despicable behaviour?
I love football, but it is, and always will be just a game and it should never ever be used as an excuse to come out with sh*t like that.
Degenerate scumbags like this should be named and shamed, and banned from every stadium for life. Might seem like I’m on my soapbox a bit here but filth like this make my blood boil. Let’s hope the authorities make an example of him and a healthy dose of karma catches up with him too.
Marc, Bolton (MCFC)