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Did this man almost approach you on a train?
I’ve always thought of the F365 readership as being something of a slightly secret cadre. Most of my friends who I’ve shared your articles with have neglected to follow through and get to know the site, and so never understand the ridiculous daily cycle of addiction so many of us are beholden to (Mailbox; Mediawatch; Features; a Planet Football article, if there’s time). In fact the only friend I know who does read it discovered our shared readership when he called me out for plagiarising a fellow mailer’s quotation in a desperate plea for LOLZ on facebook (in quotation marks mind – I’m not an animal).
So this morning while exiting the train from my daily commute my eyes were drawn to the phone screen of a nearby passenger so engrossed in something, he hadn’t even noticed the rest of us scrambling pointlessly towards an early exit (you can probably see where this is going). The chap in question was, of course, reading F365. When I spotted his morning digest, I double took and half stopped to say something.
But then I realised: ‘what the hell was I gonna say?’ – congratulate a perfect stranger on having great taste in footy journalism? And in doing so, effectively congratulate myself by proxy? (Also talk to a stranger, on public transport, in London?) No, I couldn’t do that. So I sort of just hovered there for a moment, ready to shoot a smirking, Mr Bean-esque nod the way of his phone if he did look up.
Thank. God. He didn’t.
So ‘fella reading F365 on the delayed 9.17am Southern arrival into London Bridge’, if you’re reading this, consider yourself reprieved of a moment so acutely awkward it could have ruined both our days; weeks even. You’ll never know how close you came. Unless of course you actually do read this, which – let’s face it – you probably will.
Max (switching to the 9.08am into London Bridge from here on out) London
Pure gold from Goldstein
I can’t tell you how entertaining it was that, after being accused of an anti-Manchester United bias, Peter Goldstein elected to make Phil Jones the first United player in his team of the week.
Top trolling Peter, well done.
Here we go…
Leaving out Valencia from your team of the week? The best right-back in the Premier League???? F**k you.
Late goals are down to squad strength
No-one seems to be able to quite nail down why United keep scoring in the last 10 minutes and pundits skirt close to what I think but never actually articulate it.
It seems obvious to me that one of the biggest reasons is that there is now actually competition in the squad, especially in the attacking positions, and there is the looming presence of Zlatan returning with Santa.
This means that when a player comes on as a substitute he drives forward more, and even if not actually scoring themselves from the bench (a contest Rashford and Martial are taking to interesting places “no, I want to be sub this week!) they keep the team on the front foot, and against tiring players.
It reminds me a little of the 98/99 season when Yorke, Cole, Sheringham and Solskjaer were all worth a place in the team and the level of competition meant they had to perform, whether starting or as a substitute.
Stu (goals are good, whatever the time) Oxford
Tactical thoughts on Man United
Yesterday, I thought Ronald Koeman played a very good system against United. One key to beating this United side at the moment is flooding the midfield. Everton lined up with Gueye and Schneiderlin in the middle. They were also supported by Davies and Rooney (who can sometimes play as a midfielder). Everton also had Martina and Baines come inside at times to choke the midfield. The effect of this was that for an hour, United could not get to the ball. The numbers game is effective when augmented with quality.
United’s response was Matic and Fellaini. When you play with two men in the middle, both have to be ‘Engineering beasts’, as my friend puts it. These beasts have to be capable of offensive and defensive plays. Check Keane/Scholes, Kante/Matic, Pogba/Matic and other two man midfield pairings. The problem with Fellaini is that he is decent at doing one at a time and not both together because he is not a transitional player. Yesterday, he was diligent in defence but offered nothing going forward. His passing does not break lines and he doesn’t have an explosive burst either.
United could have countered this easily with two weapons – aggressive pressing and astute possession keeping. These were done in the first 15 minutes and then abandoned. Mkhitaryan, Mata and Rashford have to do better in this regard, going forward. Mkhitaryan, in particular, has a very laid back attitude to pressing, ball retention and finishing. Overall, there was little pressure on the ball and ball retention when trying to break out was poor.
Credit to Mourinho for fighting his natural instincts and putting out an attacking unit and credit to Koeman for his set up. They didn’t deserve the battering.
Chuck Okudo, MUFC, London
Maybe Rooney really was ‘sensational’…
To me Mediawatch today maybe just highlights modern football and using stats to try and justify an argument.
Rooney twice received the ball just inside his own half back to goal, made two great forward defence splitting passes to get the winger in and then raced into the box to receive the ball back and on both occasions got a shot in which was saved. I guess you have no stat for that so keep with the HE DID NOT SCORE ANY BLOODY GOALS OR CREATE ANY CHANCES. Id rather my forward had a low passing percentage rate if it meant he was trying to open up a defence. Even in Mediawatch you mention the stat that Kane has had 32 shots and only scored twice. Should he stop making attempts at goal and only go wait for the tap ins to get his stats up. Stats can be found to argue anyone’s point generally, and F365 love going for Rooney when his two main stats should get a bit more respect. He played well.
Do Liverpool fans now want pragmatism?
We’ve heard a lot of Liverpool fans criticising Mourinho’s ‘ultra-defensive’ bus-parking, tactics over the past year or so.
But now the mailbox betrays something of a change in attitudes, to wishing that the sublime Mr Klopp would employ some defensive pragmatism himself.
So which is it? Do Liverpool fans want to see Mr Klopp continue emulating the notable (lack of) successes of Mr Rodgers, or would they rather see him balance his tactics a little and begin to grind out boring 4-0 wins like Mourinho’s United?
Conte must take some blame
Some late Chelsea thought :
1. I began to get some blood pressure the moment I saw (a) Gary Cahill in a line up against a team expectedly going to press us, forget it, seeing him in line up itself is enough and (b) Cesc Fabregas starting in a two-man midfield in a big game.
2. Antonio Conte is still the best coach in the division, but his stubbornness can sometimes be annoying. There was no need to play Azpilicueta and Alonso for three consecutive games despite the fact that they may have had an illegal human-cyborg surgery to add battery. A back three of Rudiger-Luiz-Christensen would have been far better.
3. I get back to Gary Cahill because I cannot for the love of god understand why he must even be part of a squad aiming for title. I bet my life that none of the top six (and possibly Everton and Southampton) would even want him close. et he starts with an armband. Not my captain.
4. Antonio Conte’s teams are strictly positional, their play depends on many weaving patterns across the pitch rehearsed for ages in training ground. Therefore when you have someone like Cahill who is a football repellent part of the build up play – which is the key to our game, it is trouble. Every time he was on the ball as part of our build up play, there was either a misplaced pass or a silly attempt at something even he wouldn’t understand. It created nervousness to entire back line and the mid-field. Add the lethargy (due to team selection) and there’s a lack of sharpness in the passing game.
5. Add to it Fabregas. A player I like. But if he was tactically capable of being disciplined and can control the tempo of a game (for his talent he should), he’d be the linchpin of Barcelona’s midfield. There’s also too much Arsenal in him which has contributed to the aforementioned two points. I’ve never trusted him in any big game or to do a job. Even in our win at the Etihad last season, take his assist to Costa away he had a poor game. The game virtually runs around him and he’s position-wise a galaxy away. That means Kante looks awful trying to do the job of three midfield players all over the place.
6. Add problems 3-5 and Chelsea’s link up and build up play is effectively ruined. The forwards keep searching for ball everywhere losing their positional reference. And poor Morata has no service!
7. Arsenal are a pathetic excuse for a top team in 2017. It boils down to their manager mainly. We should have had no excuse (including CL game) to not take them apart. That midfield of Xhaka and Ramsey must have been murdered within two minutes with Bakayoko and Kante. However, for strange reasons Conte thought Fabregas could do the job. This is where I sometimes miss Mourinho’s method to dismantle Arsenal Give them a physical game, bully them till they submit. Don’t try to match their football Maybe Conte will reflect again like he did last season!
8. On the other hand, since start of second half (Baka’s arrival) till Luiz’s red, Arsenal had no attempt at our goal. That sums up point 7.
9. Around minute 85, I was thinking the man of the match was either Luiz or Koscielny. Both were bloody brilliant till then. Then Luiz had a brain fart. Make no mistake, I rate Luiz as a world class defender (even in his first spell). But he has an issue. It is not loss of focus actually. When he perceives the rest of the team to have a bad day, he assumes he’s superman and proceeds to solve problems himself. That is when the play station defender (his alter-ego) comes out. The red was needless. He always has a great record vs big teams and big strikers The only good thing is it means the potentially better Christensen will get more games. Therefore, my man of the match is the often under-rated but excellent Kozcielny. A defender I’ve come to like very much with time. Did not put a foot wrong and I’m amazed pep didn’t splash 50m to sign him.
10. If only there was a way Cahill is out of Chelsea’s team, I’d feel much better. Antonio, for the love of god, please drop Cahill and play any combination of the others.
All in all, an extremely disappointing game!
Aravind, Chelsea fan
Blame Koeman for Everton woes
Everton’s problem this season is with the manager. He bought a new team spending over £100m in the summer. From defence to attack he’s made too many changes to this team at once. Against Chelsea, Koeman started all of Rooney, Sandro, Pickford, Keane, Klaasen – (five of eight summer signings) players who are new to each other and it showed all over the pitch. Too many players are unfamiliar with each other. Too many players are unfamiliar with this system (three at the back). The goalie Pickford has been at best average and the defence has been anything but solid.
In defence, The goalie Pickford has been average at best and the defence has been anything but solid. Ashley Williams and Jagielka are two ageing centre backs that need replacing and Keane is still new to the team.
In attack he has gone out to replace 26-goal Lukaku with Rooney and Sandro. Two players who are so similar in style and are not blessed with pace. Although the youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin offers a different option as a sort of target man but he is still too raw to be relied upon. At this time, Everton have so many options in midfield but so little quality in attack to finish off the chances they will create. Although this team have had to play four of last season’s top six teams in four of their five league matches. So all this might just be nonsense. I expect as the season progresses that the team gels.
In unrelated news, in Spain Alaves have sacked new manager after four games with four defeats and no goals scored.
…So Ronald Koeman thinks his eight signings need 12 months in the Premier League to bed in just like Mkhitaryan , I’m sorry Ronnie old chap but I think Mrs Rooney, Sigurdsson, Pickford and Keane already knew a bit about the League unlike said Mr Mkhitaryan. What Jose eluded too was Everton should be kicking on and challenging for a top-four place something I think Everton fans thought could be possible after last season and the acquisitions brought in. Koeman is striking out at the wrong person he should really take a long hard look at himself and the way he has set up the team rather than railing at Jose for pointing out what everyone thought.
PS: Watching Valencia’s thunder-ba**ard I can’t help but add Alan Partridge commentating to it “TWAT!!! Eat my goal”
Paul Murphy, Manchester
They should have bought Martial
Everton missed a massive trick by not asking for Martial to be included in the Lukaku deal. Whilst people may dismiss the possibility of Martial wanting to join Everton I think he could have been sold the ‘project’. Add to the mix that it’s ‘World Cup year’ and the fact he’d be an automatic starter then they could have pulled it off. Just imagine for a minute Martial leading that line yesterday. United could have been toast!
Ed’s weekend thoughts
Spent my weekend hanging out with some Zweigen Kanazawa fans. They were jubilant about their team’s 3-1 win over Nayoga Grampus. Well, one of them was, the other was pre-occupied with only being six months old.
* According to Sporting Intelligence on Twitter, in the entire history of the English league’s top flight, no team has ever ended up with zero points and zero goals after five games. Since 1888, no one has ever started as atrociously as Crystal Palace. We are in uncharted territory here.
Stewart Lee has a routine, during which he confesses that even he’s not sure if it’s actually meant to be funny. Likewise, with Palace, it’s getting hard to tell whether or not they’re playing that badly on purpose. In some ways it cannot possibly get any worse than it already had, but by the same token, because it’s Palace, this makes it all the more likely that it will.
* Roy Hodgson’s first game saw a return to a more familiar 4-4-1-1, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek at ten. He and Tim Fosu-Mensah, at centre-back instead of right-back (or right wing-back), were Palace’s best players. That means in recent weeks the application and ability of some of the supposed leaders in the team have been shown up by someone more than ten years their senior, and by someone ten years their junior. This is pretty much the only aspect of the squad that is balanced.
* There is an element of the Crystal Palace fanbase that has it in for Jason Puncheon. To them it feels like his status as captain is keeping him in the side despite his apparent lack of form. Some Manchester United fans (not you, Guy) may recognise this as a cover of one of their recent big hits. Puncheon and Jeffrey Schlupp collectively failed to track Dusan Tadic down the right, which led to the opening goal, and Soton directed most of their attacks that way.
It was noted there were boos around the ground when Loftus-Cheek was withdrawn in favour of Bakary Sako. Plenty of fans would have preferred to see Puncheon taken off, even if the ensuing cheers would have been ironic. At times, it’s hard to see where Puncheon fits easily into the Eagles’ best XI, other than as captain. He’s the third or fourth best wide player, and the fifth best central midfielder.
* Couldn’t help noticing that Martin Kelly was an unused substitute, while Damien Delaney didn’t even make it on to the bench. Presumably while I’m writing this they’re lining up to tell tales to Mr Parish.
* Perhaps the only player who draws more frustration from Palace fans than Puncheon is Wayne Hennessey. While the Soton goal came about from a failure to track, and then a failure of midfielders to react to a rebound, a shot that could have been held was instead palmed straight to an attacker.
In the past I’ve been critical of goalkeepers and had responses, and now I’d like another one: when a player shoots from the sort of angle Tadic did, where are goalkeepers taught to push the ball? In other words, did Hennessey do what he did because of the limitations of his reactions, or because that is what he would have been coached to do.
* The main thing the club needs to do between now and the end of the season, is win back the goodwill of the fans. Relegation doesn’t matter – no one’s been demoted from the Premier League more times than we have, and historically we’ve spent more seasons in the second tier than any other. However, there is still plenty of time to turn this around, provided the players are prepared to put in the requisite effort. I realise this is close to glib’ ‘pashun’ territory but the talent of certain players is not in question – their application is.
Next up it’s Huddersfield Town in the Carabao Cup. Hodgson has said that Mamadou Sakho and Pape Souare will feature, which is one way to bring the supporters back onside, and also a perfect chance to show how far we’ve come (or fallen) since the first game of the season.
More nice guys
A couple of weeks back when the mailbox was doing their ‘Favourite Nice Guys of the Premier League’ there were a few omissions that I was really surprised about. I forgot to mail in at the time but Son’s recent interview about Kevin Wimmer jogged my memory:
“I’m a bit sad because he was and is still my best friend,” he said.
“Sometimes I miss him already but if he’s your best friend you have to be happy. If he’s happy at Stoke then I am as well.
“I text him maybe every two days and he’s very happy. He’s played two games already and I’m looking forward to seeing him. Everyone’s my best friend here now – but not like Kevin!”
What a bloody sweetheart. Probably the only Spurs player that makes me happy every time he scores. Also surprised no-one went for Kante, who grins his way through every interview like he’s an enthusiastic amateur who’s won a prize to play Premier League football for the day, Pablo Zabaleta who is just a hero and (was) so fun to watch, and the absolute king, Shinji Okazaki, who would be a cult hero wherever he went.
Ollie, Chelsea (surprised so many people went for Silva, he’s stunning to watch but a cynical fouly bugger)
Good riddance, Harry
Right, I’ve had enough. I can’t take the hysteria and outrage surrounding the sacking of Harry Redknapp because, frankly, I don’t buy any of it. I think this is a good decision that shows courage.
One statistic suggested that it was our worst start to a league season for something like nineteen years. I haven’t checked the numbers but I have a feeling that I heard that before the defeat to Preston. Another suggested this was Harry’s worst run ever as a manager. Again, I haven’t checked the numbers myself but I’m fairly content that there’s a high probability they’re right before being broadcast on national TV. Perhaps someone will correct me.
Without further context, these stats would be enough to raise alarm bells and you’d expect the manager to be under pressure. With context? Well, it could go either way, so let’s have a go at providing some.
Harry saved the club from almost certain relegation. He promised that if he was backed in the market he’d do what he did with Portsmouth and get us promoted. He was backed to overhaul the squad with fourteen new players, but many of them came later than he wanted and he didn’t get a full pre-season with them. How could he be expected to turn it around just three games into the New Era? Don’t this lot know that it takes time to build a team?
Well, they probably do. But I find it hard to believe he was sacked because of the last three results.
Harry Redknapp is undeniably brilliant at one thing: managing his own reputation. If he doesn’t save us from relegation, he won’t take a penny guv. Sing the club song, take a few pops at the Villa and promise great things ahead. It was a masterstroke in winning over the fanbase. It worked and it gave the place a good lift after a torrid season. Brilliant.
We made a couple of good early signings, but everyone got nervous as the news went quiet and results were poor. Then we saw the real Harry.
Everyone had to know whose fault it was. And it was never his.
The argument goes that he was only given three games with ‘his’ team, and should have been given more time. The fact of the matter is that out of our first few squads of the season you could have picked a Rowett team, a team that proved to be reasonably effective under the man himself. Redknapp was responsible for most of the newer faces – improvements – and had had most of a pre-season to bed them in: you’d think a decent manager could have got something out of them. He needs to take responsibility for more than just three matches.
When he had nothing to lose and his only option was to throw motivation at the problem, he was excellent. His partnership with Steve Cotterill proved brilliant at creating what we needed to stay up. But as soon as he had to deliver against expectations, there was pressure. And he couldn’t handle it. Some of his comments were toxic.
We bought the results and some accepted the public disparaging of the squad because we’d bought into Harry and his vision. I can only guess that the board saw through it.
Building a team does take time that you could argue he wasn’t given, but it also requires leadership. Redknapp did not show himself capable of being that leader.
Recommend a football documentary, anyone?
For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, would greatly recommend ‘Les Bleus’. Watched it last night and it’s a really well crafted documentary outlining the major highs and lows of the French national team in the last 20 years and the symbolic and tangible impact these have had on French society, particularly racial divides and anti-immigration sentiment. Very worth a look, many big names (Pires, Cantona, Wenger etc.) make appearances and I was greatly impressed at the awareness and insight of the French players. Lilian Thuram in particular covers himself in glory.
On this note, I’m almost certain this has been covered in the mailbox before but why not go through it again, anyone else have any football related documentaries they’d recommend? I’ve seen the excellent Jack to a King and of course Zidane – 21st Century Portrait, but always looking for others as I’m sure many of the other readers are as well.