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Defending the big fella
So I feel the need to write in and defend our good old friend the ‘BFG‘.
Per Mertesacker is a limited player. He’s not the best in the Premier League all round, but what he does well – he does very well. He looks vulnerable if the ball is played over his head due to apparently being so big he needs to orbit the ball rather than simply turn, when caught out of position he often looks foolish and for a man of his size you aren’t ever really all that confident if anyone gets a run on him.
Where I take issue is people suddenly claiming that one half of what was a very solid defence for the last year is the problem. I think some people – not just Arsenal fans – need to take a step back and remember that football is a team game and Mertesacker makes up part of what is a very good back four. This mis-step is to assume Wenger does not see his failings and assumes Per is the best centre-half of his generation.
I admit when I saw the line-up yesterday I was worried. Not because of injuries (although the bench was far too thin), not because of any contrived criticism of Santi and not even because Joel Campbell started – even if he lacks quality, the boy ran all day. It was the back four.
Per Mertesacker reads the game very well, cuts out balls along the ground well and assuming nobody gets a run on him is a very valuable asset in the air. He’s generally calm on the ball and I can’t think that I’ve seen him give the ball directly to an opposition all that often only for them to score (open to correction is someone has stats that indicate otherwise).
Now let us take a quick look at the players around him on a good day:
(LB) Monreal – Quick enough to track back, defensively minded and has become a very good player over the last season or so. Rightfully keeps Gibbs out of the team, I could make a highlight reel of the times he sprints back to cover a centre-half. I love Nacho.
(LCB) Koscielny – Fast, attacks the ball, good at covering – can be a bit rash.
(RCB) Mertesacker – Slow, cumbersome – but reads the game incredibly well, steps up to interrupt play when possible.
(RB) Bellerin – Young, extremely quick, offensively minded, but odds of you skipping straight down his flank undefended are slim to none – even if beating him isn’t the hardest thing in the world.
The point I’m trying to make is that in our perfect back four, Per performs a valuable role – but I think people fail to realise he is a player that fits our system WHEN he has those other three (plus Coq and arguably Cech) on the field with him. If you offer me any Arsenal back four to start a game it would be those four.
The problem appears when you rob Mertesacker of Bellerin’s recovery ability (if Per commits to a challenge higher up the pitch, Hector can usually get back to a to at least cover) and have an unsettled defence.
I’d like to use two goals scored against us in the last two games as an example – and argue why faulting him for these is disingenuous if you consider his role, style of play and known limitations.
Harry Kane and Lewandowski’s goal followed a similar route. Both were balls played to men who had beaten an offside trap, but more importantly – both players were only played onside by Koscielny and Gabriel respectively. We all know Per’s strengths and weaknesses, but if the match day captain, your two full-backs and your central defensive partner ALL play the opposition offside – then you’ve messed up. Check both Gabriel and Koscielny’s movement on the relevant goals, they both try to step up – which would indicate that they both realise too late that everybody else is playing offside.
I am not blaming either of these two players for the goals, I think both were caught in two minds between marking their man and playing offside – and were punished for not committing fully to either. Neither goal is a case of Mertesacker alone trying to play offside – they are a case when the other centre-half didn’t step up. Mertesacker excels when playing in an organised defence, next to a pacey full-back that can cover and with Nacho on the other side always happy to sweep across to occupy Koscielny’s position if necessary.
For me there were options available to Arsene here, and he chose the wrong one. I didn’t think Mertesacker could play next to the rusty Debuchy, with Joel Campbell in front of them being asked to track back. There were many solutions to this problem, play Gabriel instead, shift Monreal to the right and play Gibbs at LB, hell you can play Gibbsy on the right wing from the start and he’ll be closer to offering what Ramsey does than Campbell will.
I’ve rambled long enough at this stage to not get published, but will end by offering you what I feel is the perfect analogy from the other end of the pitch: Olivier Giroud. He’s not world class, he has obvious limitations – but he has the ability to change HOW we play. Mertesacker, much like Olivier is a TYPE of player we need and there aren’t too many out there with similar styles that are available to us. Giroud probably shouldn’t start every game and I’d be tempted to say the same of Mertesacker – but it all depends on the personnel around them. Giroud needs a certain style of attacking unit around him and Mertesacker needs the same at the other end. Neither are good enough to ‘build a team around’, but both can shine and look immense in the correct conditions – conditions which we can provide with a fully fit squad.
BrixtonGooner (Players need their teammates to play to their strengths, you can’t ask Ollie or Per to be faster than they are – and their teammates shouldn’t play as if they can be)
More defending of the little fellas
16 Conclusions, blah blah, central midfield too weak etc.
Since these two came together in the Man City away match, Arsenal have had the best record in the Premier League. They have beaten City, United x 2, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Chelsea (albeit in the Community Shield).
To write off a team’s title chances because of a ‘weak central midfield’ based on 45 minutes when Cazorla was literally sick (he vomited in the changing room, apparently) is perhaps too much.
Jaimie Kaffash, AFC, north London
…This is really annoying me. Arsenal give a general atrocious performance largely due to being absolutely knackered with Santi being ill to boot. Quite simply having six midfielders injured meant zero rotation in a run of three games in eight days.
And now that’s apparently QED for everyone who thought Arsenal players are too short. This Coqzorla midfield partnership has brought home some major scalps and shown to be useful. Obviously Matic and Ramires are also too small, that’s why they lost to Stoke. Liverpool must be too small if they’re losing to Palace.
Arsenal’s problems yesterday all came form a squad carrying 4-5 very injury-prone players who always seem to get injured at the same time. How on earth this has not been the focus of the reaction to yesterday. Size means nothing when you’ve got the energy to do something with it, I think Le Coq has shown us that for last 10 months of so.
Winty – have a word with Stead
Just had one thing to discuss from 16 conclusions:
‘no team will win the Premier League with that type of footballer (Cazorla) in central midfield. For all his vision and wonderfully quick feet, you cannot dominate a midfield against players who are both combative and skilful without either physicality or pace…’
About two weeks back, from a website not a million miles away:
‘…it is Cazorla who effortlessly bridges the worlds of defence and attack for the Gunners. Having only made the transition into his deep-lying role in the middle of last season, Cazorla can now stake a legitimate claim as the finest central midfielder in the Premier League…’
Winty oughta have a word with Matt.
Girish, AFC, Chennai
(Matt has now withdrawn Cazorla’s right to make a legitimate claim – Ed)
Getting dragged in…
I wasn’t going to email in regarding the Arsenal defeat but the conclusions and emails this morning dragged me in.
There are many points in all the reactions I agree with. My point is thus:
– Arsenal had three first-team starters injured (Walcott, Belerin, Ramsey)
– Arsenal have three bench players injured (Wilshere, Welbeck, Ox)
– Tottenham have Chadli (starter, 9/12 starts and Bentaleb (sub, 4/12 starts) injured.
Both teams played mid-week, one a humbling, tiring defeat to Bayern AWAY and Tottenham won an easy enough home fixture.
I won’t bother with the Cazorla illness or Mert (still good, but slow) however Coquelin is a top DM and we didn’t need to buy a starter DM but we need someone to chip in every now and then or at least give him competition.
Fully deserved point for Tottenham, which I imagine they would have taken before the game. Love what Pochettino is doing with the team. The problem we have is that we at Arsenal do have too many injuries, whether this is because Wenger won’t or can’t buy adequate back-ups to allow rotation is the question we would all like to know the answer to.
Rob A (strikers have off days, that’s life) AFC
Write us off at your peril
I realise you’ve already printed a lot of people whining about 16 conclusions this morning, but I never got my chance to read it due to potty training the little one. Now that I’m at work now and am able to sneak a quick read, I thought I would add another gripe.
Namely, isn’t it a bit early for Sarah Winterburn to be writing off Arsenal’s title chances already? Sure, we weren’t great against Spurs but this is a team had 10 first-team players out injured in midweek and are still equal top of the league.
We may, understandably, not be favourites but to write us off already on the back of a match that we played with an exhausted squad of what looked like zombies is a bit churlish. If Man City or Chelsea had come back to draw a game that they didn’t deserve to, I’m pretty sure it would have been described as a sign of champions by most of the media. It’s almost like the media (with F365 sometimes but not usually included) write the narrative to suit the preconceptions that you have already made.
In my opinion, we have a chance at the title because everyone else is so sh*t. Yes, Giroud is not the best striker in the world, but he is better than whoever has played for City for the last few weeks. Sure, if Aguero stays fit for the whole season, they should win the title, but who would be willing to bet on that happening?
Adonis Stevenson, AFC
Arsenal have best strikeforce in Premier League
Good Lord, Arsenal fans are a tedious bunch after a non-win result, but then again a lot only repeat the same kneejerk bilge that the likes of Sarah Winterburn and Gary Neville drip feed them week in, week out.
Arsenal will not win the league without a top-class striker: now I’m not saying Arsenal WILL win the league with Olivier Giroud, but what I am saying is that, at this stage of the season only Jamie Vardy, Romelu Lukaku, Riyad Mahrez and Odion Ighalo have scored more PL goals than him. He is tied for third right now, on 6. Alex Sanchez also has 6, and Walcott has 2. Leicester aside (and Vardy’s having a bonkers run right now), I’d actually venture that Arsenal have the best strikeforce in the Premier League right now.
Arsenal will not win the league without a top-class holding midfielder: Francis Coquelin is not a top-class holding midfielder? This time last year we had no top class holding midfielder, now we have one we won’t win anything because we don’t have a back up. It’s laughable.
And I know many people are paid handsomely to come up with increasingly observant, clever reasons for why Arsenal are struggling and looking knackered…but there’s no need. Really there isn’t. Ask the players and they’ll tell you themselves. We have too many injuries right now. The players who are fit cannot get a rest and, yes, they are beginning to show signs of fatigue.
We are currently without Walcott, Wilshere, Welbeck, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bellerin, Rosicky, Ospina, and now it looks like Cazorla is suffering.
The only thing you can point fingers at Arsenal for are the injuries, but we’ve already launched a big enquiry in to that and have employed Shad Forsythe, who is some sports injury expert, so they say.
Plus, y’know, we are second in the league and level on points?
Dale May, Swindon Gooner
How dare you Sarah Winterburn have the temerity to point out (and accurately I might add) exactly what is wrong with Arsenal?
Pranav, I probably wasn’t the only one who saw Dembele waltzing past Coquelin for the 10th time in the 85th minute. The poor lad is/was knackered no doubt but he is not the second coming of Christ. Reference also Thiago et al playing around/through him on Wednesday. Good player but not even in the top 10 defensive midfielders in Europe, let alone one of the best.
Giroud is a good back-up striker, as is Walcott for a team with designs on winning stuff. Neither are the answer as a permanent first choice, even though both have annoying habits of scoring against Spurs. As a Spurs fan, on the evidence of the first nine games of the season it would have been arguable Kane belonged to that category. Now he has a bit of confidence back though..(Blasphemy to doubt him I know, sorry Spurs fans I will say 10 Hail Harrys tonight as penance).
Possibly my favourite was nearly everbody spectacularly missing the point about Özil. Great performance from him in a big game, as acknowledged with a tounge in cheek gag by Winty… -> OUTRAGE! He was a joy to watch, constantly causing Spurs problems, drifting around and finding space and his delivery was truly exceptional.
Not one mail from a Spurs fan? A sign of how disappointed we probably should be to only leave with a point? Couple of good, if routine saves from Cech and a lack of killer instinct at the start of the second half cost us all three points, coupled with the fact we were running on empty at the end due to only making three changes for the Anderlecht game.
Happy with that, another striker in January please and let’s see what happens.
Mark <Top 4? Not saying anything until Sunday 15th May 2016> Germany
…A bit late to the punch with this – but perhaps I would have been drowned out by irate gooners this morning anyway – but I wanted to say well done on a strong 16 conclusions. I found myself agreeing with almost every point, but a couple in particular.
Giroud is obviously not good enough. He needs far too many chances to score, and the fact he gets any goals at all is more down to the likes of Ozil and his other teammates relentlessly creating chances for him. Most of the top half have better striking options than him – I would take any of Kane, Pelle, Lukaku, Benteke over Giroud – even a fit Andy Carroll would test the keeper with a header every now and then! I think someone like Palace or Swansea would be more his level.
Couldn’t agree more on your paragraph on ‘geeing up’ the crowd. When I see a player do that after missing a handful of chances it just makes me think he’s using them as a scapegoat. ‘Maybe if you lot showed more encouragement I might have scored by now!’ It wouldn’t wash with me. Try giving them something to cheer about.
The only point I couldn’t agree with was where you expressed surprise at Lamela’s tackling rate and having to be subbed off – as far as I can see he’s been like this for a while! That was his fifth booking so he’s now suspended, plus he clocked up 50 fouls last season in the league alone. For a winger he doesn’t half put himself about – touch of the Paul Scholes about him when it comes to tackling. But when Poch came in I really hoped he would be one to benefit from the high energy approach, and it’s starting to look like that’s been the case.
Last thing I want to add – how good is Dele Alli?? I have to keep reminding myself that he’s only 19, he has no right to be as good as he is. It’s honestly ridiculous.
Olly Cole, THFC (there’s no one I love watching more than an in form Dembele though)
…So clearly these Arsenal fans have got their panties in a twist over 16 conclusions, so I think it’s only fair to defend some of the statements made.
– That Ozil comment…guys…that was sarcasm. F365 consistently praise his performances so that fact that was missed is slightly embarrassing.
– Yes Cazorla has been brilliant this season, yes he had a bad game. This does not change the issue that if he is injured you are left with Arteta/Flamini due to the perma-crocked Wilshere. Obviously he has had a good season so far, but at 30 years old he cannot keep up this tempo and the Christmas fixture run-in along with the cup runs will prove this fact. Stating the need for another midfielder is hardly controversial chaps, there is deadwood that needs to be removed.
– Cazorla was ill? He was dizzy before the match? Well let’s just not risk him and play a decent second choice then… Oh. Okay. No solid back-up. If this does not ring alarm bells that more depth is required I don’t know what will. Surely you would rather Wenger invested in Schneiderlin as well as keeping Cazorla especially considering the ‘annual injury crisis’? Even one addition would’ve been a significant back up knowing Arsenal’s injury record which is what is suggested.
– When a striker misses as many chances as Giroud did, especially in a big match, they will be scrutinised and rightly so considering he regular squanders opportunities. Yes you can praise him for getting into the right positions, but if he doesn’t finish them then you can’t help to think a better finisher would equal a more successful Arsenal.
– It’s not taking anything away from Spurs who were brilliant, their young squad is really impressive. However, it was in fact a game Arsenal did need to win after the hammering by Bayern and to display another dominating display similar to their performance vs Man United. Still long ways to go yet, but it would be nice to see an Arsenal that doesn’t implode in on itself for a change.
…* That mail from Pranav AFC is comedy gold. Apparently, WhoScored tells us Coquelin is the best midfielder in Europe! Take that, Busquets. WhoScored also taught me that Vardy is a better striker than Aguero, Ighalo a better player than Sanchez and that Mahrez is better than David Silva. Phew where would we be without such info!
* I love how Benzema’s predicament is being used as a pathetic excuse for not having signed a superior striker. I’m sure Arsene is a pre-cog, who knew already in summer that Benzema would be in bother. LOL.
Just a reminder: Benzema turned Wenger down, after a summer of embarrassing chasing.
* Giroud: put it this way. Newcastle are 17th in the league and I’d take their striker (Perez) over Giroud. Bleat all you like but Giroud will never be good enough. If he became available tomorrow, not a single top club would want him – not even Liverpool or Spurs would be interested. His hilarious misses allied to his sloth-like movement and lack of pace are obvious to most sane observers.
* Arsenal have £200m in the bank. They have a global scouting network. Yet, there wasn’t a single player out there deemed good enough to improve a “quality” squad that has been w****d on by Zagreb, Olympiakos, West Ham, a struggling Chelski, dominated by Spuds and who could forget the molestation in Munchen? Nah, keep singing that tune AKBs. You can’t admit now that Arsene has mugged you off for the 11th successive year!
* Winty is 100% correct: we all know Arsenal will not win the league. We can say it with certainty because the same inept training methods leading to multiple injuries, the saaaame tactical incompetence bla bla etc, Copy/Paste.
Stewie Griffin (WhoScored also taught me that Pat Butcher has better stats than Jessica Alba)
…Well done ‘Pranav AFC’ for pissily writing ‘Ms.’ every time you wrote Winterburn. It wasn’t innocent it was pointed, patronising douchebaggery.
And Aaron Singaporean Gooner – if you lack the ability to spot the irony in Winterburn’s last point, keep quiet about it, don’t parade that stupidity around for all to see.
…‘Seven of Arsenal’s ten chances were created by Mesut Ozil. It’s just a shame he never does it in big games.’
From the reaction in this morning’s mailbox I think we need a ’16 Conclusions’ to explain why so many Arsenal fans have no concept of irony.
…Was I the only one feeling like the world has gone mad to read the complaints about the ‘criticism’ of Ozil in the 16 conclusions?? Perhaps you need to be a deranged Arsenal fan to read into that as anything but a compliment. He created seven chances, it was a north London derby, hence he can do it in the big games, hence the ironic comment…jeebus, calm down people.
The Peng, FFC, SW6
Are Spurs really all that?
Am I the only one thinking people (mainly the London-centric media) are getting a little bit carried away with Spurs?
Honestly, aside from their out-of-nowhere win over City back in September (where they really ought to have been 2-0 down and buried before they scored) I don’t think any of their results have been so spectacular. Their league campaign:
L Man Utd (a) 0-1
D Stoke (h) 2-2
D Leicester (a) 1-1
D Everton (h) 0-0
W Sunderland (a) 0-1
W Crystal Palace (h) 1-0
W Man City (h) 4-1
D Swansea (a) 2-2
D Liverpool (h) 0-0
W Bournemouth (h) 5-1
W Aston Villa (h) 3-1
D Arsenal (a) 1-1
Five wins, three of which were against the worst three sides in the division so far. Another of which was against a Palace side who’ve struggled with no strikers.
Now I’m not saying that they aren’t performing impressively right now, and they played well against a mostly poor Arsenal side yesterday. But too many fans, journalists and pundits are trotting out the ‘best Spurs team in decades’ line and calling them ‘the real deal’, when aside from the aforementioned Man City game, they haven’t really beaten anyone they wouldn’t have expected to beat anyway.
Pochettino conditions the players so that they’re unbelievably fit from the start of the season, but the physical demands he places on the team with his pressing can cause dips in the second half of the campaign, which happened to both his Southampton side and spurs last season. Before we go too crazy over this team, maybe let’s see if they can win a few more big games and then check where they are in April, eh?
On that awful Anfield atmosphere
As a South African Liverpool fan for my whole life, I must say that I do agree with the mails from fellow fans regarding the atmosphere inside Anfield. The singing of YNWA before the game is excellent and really shows the passion that fans have for the club. However, as the game starts, the atmosphere drops off alarmingly, to a point where the tension seems to be transferred to players if the team has not scored or are behind. This puts additional pressure on players and every misplaced pass is met with groans from the crowd. Is that not likely to lead to a player taking the safe option regarding a pass rather than trying something extravagant that could lead to a goal.
I do not understand why the atmosphere that is generated for a knock-out European game cannot be replicated for a league game. The noise levels at those games are much higher, and opposition teams are whistled when they are in possession, leading them on many occasions to give the ball away. Would those fans that left early yesterday leave early if this was a knockout game with the score at 1-2 with eight minutes plus added on time to go. I don’t think so.
I have been to Anfield once in my life and I am not sure when the next opportunity will come. Those that are privileged enough to be there for every game should really ensure that they make the most of the opportunity and SUPPORT the team, through the good and bad times.
…Liverpool v Crystal Palace is slowly turning into a fixture I look for first when the schedule is released. This game never fails to entertain, though hopefully in the future the result’s will start to fall Liverpool’s way.
Yesterday’s match was end-to-end fun, especially in the second half. Both teams had more than a decent chance to win with the Beneteke header still flashing in my mind. Ibe had a very good game and it makes you realize, in retrospect of course, how silly a decision it was to let Markovic go out on loan. Liverpool’s injury problems are slowing starting to develop into a crisis. Liverpool will have to spend in January if they want to make top four.
The one issue I have with game yesterday was mentioned in this morning’s mailbox by DarkDanerousMan. For the self claimed ‘best fans in the world’ the support for the team this season at home has been shocking. The minute a pass is misplaced that is an audible groan from the Anfield ‘faithful’. The fragility of the team psyche is well documented so why this continues to happen is beyond me. For all this bitching about ticket prices and rights to fly flags really comes to nothing if you are not supporting the team.
Klopp came here because he loved the atmosphere at Anfield. Since he has been in charge he has felt that energy only once, away to Chelsea. That is pathetic.
Brian (I would like to heap special praise on Yannick Bolasie. What.a.player. I would have him in my team any day) LFC
…I took my seven-year-old son to Anfield for his first ever game on Sunday. It was a present which had been organised so it was the nearest game to his birthday so, as it was Palace, I was obviously nervous when making the arrangements as it was early in the season and Rodgers was still in charge. As the season progressed I thought the Palace “hoodoo” wouldn’t be an issue thanks to the new German. I was obviously wrong but this isn’t why I’m writing in as I think it was a fair result – again. Why I am writing is to confirm the allegations made about the crowd in the morning’s mailbox. The amount of silence was really disturbing. I’ve been to plenty of games over the last twenty-odd years and it has become progressively quiet. My son didn’t know any better but it was embarrassing. It got to the point where when my son was shouting and cheering he was being stared at by grown men as if he was disturbing their nap. What made it worse was that we were sat directly above the faultlessly amazing Glaziers/Eagles fans. As has been said previously this needs to change but I am under no illusion that it will.
Carl (the Palace fans reminding us that ‘there’s only one minute’s silence’ was genius) the Welsh
I leave early…so what?
Following John Nic’s piece on fans leaving early, my 2p is that I’m quite happy to do one before full time. I should say I’m a Villa fan, so this is probably not a surprise; but an extra ten minutes of feeling like rubbish at the end of a game, versus getting home an hour earlier or getting a seat in the boozer is not a difficult choice. I’ve f***ed off at half time before!
If someone wants to lecture me about how going for a chillout, cigarette and drink, instead of staying to watch us concede our 5th, 6th, 7th, etc. goals in a pasting before standing in queues for half an hour, means that I care less than those who stay at the ground, then fine, whatever. I’d counter that by saying, if you want to stick around and feel more miserable, you’re an idiot.
Leaving early when you’re winning, or at least happy with the result, seems like the more strange course of action to me. What exactly did you come to watch? Even at Old Trafford, if the traffic is so much of a pain in the arse that you can’t spare the full two hours in the ground then don’t bother going at all.
And spare me the Braveheart stuff about supporting your side to the end!!! Through the rain and the snow!!! Etc!!! The players and the club couldn’t give two f***s about what you do once you’ve bought the ticket; otherwise, the £50 to get in would be the optional part of the deal, not the supporting.
Walk out and you might miss something
John Nicholson’s article on the right of supporters to leave games early was certainly thought-provoking. If football is considered like any other form of entertainment, then the right to walk out of a game is perfectly valid: if you weren’t enjoying a film, you wouldn’t necessarily stay to the end; if you go to a concert and the band are atrocious, then you would walk out. Football is different, though – fans are held to a higher account for their loyalty, their willingness to suffer for the cause.
People who walk out do leave themselves open to accusations of disloyalty, and to moments of schadenfreude. Here are a few examples that spring to mind, and not just from football:
* The Nottingham Forest fan who, during a frustrating season, decided they’d had enough of a drab game the Tricky Trees were losing to Luton and walked out. They missed the only goal of Des Walker’s professional career.
* My grandad, who watched 3½ days of Surrey v Leicestershire at The Oval earlier this year, only to come away at lunchtime on the final day with no prospect of a result. Once Surrey got the visitors all out, they chased down 218 runs in under 22 overs, at a scoring rate that would put some of the best T20 players to shame.
* The Invicta Dynamos ice hockey fans who left a game away in Solihull after the second period, with the Dynamos trailing 7-1. The game finished 8-8 and the momentum of the whole season shifted – Invicta went on to win the league while Solihull imploded.
* The Manchester City fans who, on the last day of the 2011-12 season, walked out of their team’s game against QPR with Rangers leading, only to miss the most dramatic end to a football season in living memory.
Clearly there are several spin-offs of the film Sliding Doors (imagine if, instead of Sliding Doors, they’d commissioned something else) that could be written with these examples, about how different the world becomes.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
It’s Jose v Roman
It is pointless saying “will he, won’t he” as the situation is clear in my mind. Jose Mourinho is spent at Chelsea, his methods tire players out mentally as he gets them to perform way above their actual levels using the ‘siege mentality’. We all know this, this is nothing new.
What I would like to postulate though is that Roman will not stand for it this time. He will not pay 30-odd million to get rid of someone who no longer wants the job. It is now simply a game of brinkmanship of which I think there will be only one winner, Abramovich.
Roman is simply hanging Jose out to dry and the longer it goes on, Jose’s reputation gets worse. There’s only one way for Jose to save him own name and that’s resign. But we all know, he will forfeit the lovely pay-off he thinks he deserves.
Fat Man Scouse (isn’t it funny how after big events + managerial changes, the next game is always live on TV? Maybe that’s what Roman’s waiting for) EFC
Rodgers to Chelsea
I was just driving in my motor car when I heard David Ormstein say on my radio ‘Brendan Rodgers is currently not being considered as a replacement for Jose Mourinho’. Having never considered it before I am now left extremely disappointed by this fact. It is a bit like hearing that Rachel McAdam was in my neighbourhood looking for tall bald men for no string attached relations but has decided that she doesn’t like men whose names start with a ‘J’.
JazGooner (the second may or may not have been true)
First Garded thoughts
As a worried Villa fan, exhausted at the promise of new dawns, it was with trepidation I met the latest one. Not because it was a bleeding foreigner, coming over here, taking our jobs, just that since O’Neill there have been quite a few. The optimism is there somewhere, just I’m a little more pessimistic after what has been an atrocious start to the season. I’m happy with the Garde appointment in the grand scheme of things though, he seems intelligent, methodical and calm, three things that perhaps you wouldn’t have attributed to the last manager we saw in the dugout at Villa Park.
Anyway, on to the game itself against City. Yes, it was pleasing from a Villa point of view, we started brightly and although we didn’t exactly cut City open at any point, it was pleasing to see some composure and decent football on show in the first half, Carles Gil showing anyone watching why Villa fans have wanted him in the side from day one. At the back, Richards and Clark played like defenders with a purpose and Amavi showed energy and intent to get forward, although some defensive frailties were there to see (he won’t be playing against someone with Navas’ pace every week, mind.) I’d like to see someone who isn’t Alan Hutton at right-back som etime soon, however.
I’m unlikely to say that this is the beginning of a great escape, I distinctly remember Sherwood’s Villa playing brilliantly at the Etihad last season, being the first team in a number of years to have more possession than the hosts, so caution is advised. The difference appears to be though, whereas Sherwood’s Villa valiantly lost 3-2 in a blaze of glory, Garde’s organised no thrills effort ended with a point and a clean sheet, and therein lies what I hope the difference will be.
Mike (AVFC), London
A rare Watford mail
Another creditable performance from Watford only undone by a shocker from Gomes followed by a moment of madness in giving away a penalty.
To the Spurs fan, I find it hard to believe someone could hold such bitterness towards Gomes. I said when Watford signed him, he will win us plenty of points and the price to pay is that he will occasionally cost us a game. It is the life of a goalkeeper, if you make a mistake it almost always results in a goal. Whilst incredibly frustrating as a fan but he wasn’t the only player to make a mistake on Saturday. In fact I think Ben Watson ‘cleared’ the ball about five yards straight to an attacker, Gomes should (and does 99% of the time) make the save, this was the time it slips through his hands.
We went away to a team in third place and put in a decent performance, limiting them to a handful of chances, unfortunately we didn’t look anywhere near as sharp on the ball as we have the last few weeks and at 2-1 down didn’t create a single chance. But it is not games against Leicester that will determine where we end up this year. Man united next up then three very important games against struggling sides.
Finally is it time to look at an alternative to the penalty kick? Both Leicester and Watford got one this weekend and neither incident was anywhere close to being a goalscoring opportunity. Gomes clipped Vardy on the corner of the box with the ball heading towards the corner flag and Kante caught Parades on the edge of the box with the ball going nowhere near the goal and most likely the keeper would have made it across to smother it before he could get to it anyway. Yet both result in a free shot from 12 yards with only a keeper to beat. But what could be the alternative?
Colin, Watford FC
Newcastle: Winners and losers
Daniel Storey’s Winners and Losers was excellent as usual, but I’d like to add one more name: Newcastle. To both sides.
Winners because they won, obviously, in a game where they were second best from the opening kick-off. But losers too, because they traveled south for what had been billed as the season’s first crucial six-pointer — and barely turned up at all. Everyone has bad days, but to be played off the park by Bournemouth suggests some serious motivational and managerial deficiencies. They won’t get relegated, but so far Steve McClaren doesn’t look like the man to get them into the top half of the table any time soon.
Also a note on Norwich City’s 1-0 win, praised by Storey in his column. They got it because Alex Neil radically altered his tactics, sitting back and figuring Swansea couldn’t break them down. He was right: the Swans had exactly zero shots on target. You wonder whether Eddie Howe has that kind of flexibility, because it seems likely he’ll need it if Bournemouth are to stay up.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
So what if there are no decent English managers?
Daniel Storey’s listing of the English managers was interesting, but reading through it and his subsequent argument, I couldn’t help but ask a very simple question: Does it matter?
Having good young English players matters to English fans, as we want a competitive team that we can be proud of when they represent us. But personally, I don’t care if they are managed by a Swede, Italian, Englishman or whatever.
Giant personalities likes Brian Clough, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho have tricked us into thinking that the managers themselves matter to fans, but really they don’t. We care about the players, the performances, and the results. I don’t care if the manager is interesting in press conferences, is a nutter on the training field or spends his half-time hanging off the crossbar like a bat instead of giving a team talk. What they achieve matters, but not who they are while the achieve it or how they achieve it. I’m a Spurs fan – do I give a damn that Pochettino is Argentine? No. Do Southampton fans care that Koeman is a Dutch legend not an English one? Do West Ham fans have less love for Slaven Bilic because he is a Serb, rather than an East End lad?
But, of course that is my view, and there are many fans who I am sure do care about nationality of managers, particularly for the England national team. What I’d add about English managers is that, this current crop are hardly helping the nation’s reputation, are they?
Harry Redknapp was given his dream job at Tottenham Hotspur, but he consistently caused friction with Daniel Levy and other directors through his open discussion of transfers and leaks to the media. While Spurs were playing at their absolute peak, a 12-game unbeaten run featuring magnificent attacking football, instead of knuckling down and building on the success, Redknapp began promoting himself for the England job. One of his proteges, Tim Sherwood, was given an incredible opportunity to take on the club when AVB went, but he became a laughing stock due to his poor tactics, weird selection and unfounded arrogance.
Elsewhere, probably the outstanding current English manager, Alan Pardew (your age 50 cut-off line feels arbitrary to me), had repeatedly blotted his copy book through boorish touchline antics such as headbutting an opposing player. Being very rude to Manuel Pellegrini, hardly the Premier League’s Mr Antagonism, raised questions about his temperament if he was given a high-pressure job like a Top four team, or had to represent England as national team manager. Big Sam, meanwhile, undermines himself through boring and direct football (watch MOTD this week if you disagree with this), as well as allegations of slightly dubious pushing of players to his preferred agent (this was in The Observer, so hardly a disreputable rumour). Nigel Pearson, who did outstanding work at Leicester, throttled an opposition player and started calling journalists ostriches.
Even Garry Monk, who I thought was doing excellent work at Swansea until a few games ago, has been idiotic or arrogant if he has refused a clearly massive hint from his chairman about getting more experience in his coaching staff or risk losing his job.
I don’t think this is a big issue, but even if it was, there are some fine young managers on your list – Howe, Dyche, Clement and Rowett – and I’d rather have a few good English ones than a whole phalanx of flawed and average English ones.
Charlie, THFC, Somerset
It would have been cheap
After seeing Matt Stead’s name in the Winners section, it took great character (copyright Brendan Rodgers) to not put his now fiancée in the Losers section. Well done Daniel Storey.
Shane Tallon, ManYoo Fan, Dublin