Mails: Premier League end-of-season ratings

Date published: Thursday 19th May 2016 2:43

Manchester United

How hyped is everyone for Manchester United’s 1-0 FA Cup final win over Crystal Palace with a 72nd minute Wayne Rooney goal? Let us know at theeditor@football365.com. Then read our latest Mailbox guest, literary Ed, on the 1990 Cup final.

 

Game intelligence
As disappointed as I am about last night’s game, the situation we found ourselves is one that has stalked Liverpool for years. We didn’t lose because of the referee, we didn’t lose because of the formation, we didn’t lose because of Moreno doing an impression of a puppy chasing a plastic bag in the wind. We lost because of a startling lack of game intelligence.

This Liverpool side (and not just this one but I’ll come onto that) has no idea to read where they are in the game and how to get through the next 10 minutes, whenever that 10 minutes occurs within the match. Sometimes you get caught cold at the start of a half. It happens. But after that, if you are facing wave after wave of attacks, the opposition has built up a head of steam and your 35 year old centre half is making last ditch tackles, then you kill the game. For 10 minutes, you make the football match not a football match. You draw fouls, you go down ‘injured’ for a few minutes, you boot the ball towards their corner flag, take ages over throw ins. You basically press the reset button on the flow of the game and you build again. Mourinho is the master of this. Except he does it for 90 minutes instead of 10 but the point is the same. His players know exactly where they are in the game and what to do about it.

This season, we have had Southampton come from 2-0 down to beat us 3-2, Newcastle 2-0 down to draw level, Sunderland the same.. and now this. Even before this season, THAT game in the season that nearly was, Chelsea at Anfield. We didn’t need to blow them away. A draw would have done and the title was practically ours. Instead we forced the issue, made mistakes and were then treated to a second half of Gerrard taking about 48 shots from 30 yards out.

I love this Liverpool side. I love the fact that Klopp has instilled this fighting spirit in them and we have been treated to some dramatic last minute moments this season. Dortmund is the stand out example but also Norwich, Crystal Palace, West Brom. I love Joe Allen grabbing last minute equalisers against Arsenal in the snow at Anfield when Steven Caulker is a striker. I love wave after wave of Liverpool pressure, roared on by a reawakened Kop. But if we want to be a serious team, we need to stop getting ourselves into having to do this. And that starts by having players with the nous to recognise game context. Alberto Moreno is not a player that recognises game context. I also loved Didi Hamman continually drawing fouls by turning around in circles with the ball and taking 2 minutes to get up again after he’s been clipped on the ankle. I also quite like winning games 2-0.

Last night wasn’t our night. There will be more European nights under Klopp at Anfield, I’m sure of it. There will be more finals. I just hope by that point we have a Liverpool team that is intelligent enough to deal with them.
Nick Cooper, LFC (No, Unfortunately I don’t have Euros fever yet)

 

More conclusions – read our 16
* I was at the game last night and count myself as extremely lucky to be there, but the organisation was terrible. The fencing and condoning the police did could not have made anyone any safer to avoid a Stade de France situation, and if anything it was causing minor crushing rather than preventing it. I think this might have been the end product of the last minute fan segregation they had to do after the fighting.

* It is a disgrace that people around the world couldn’t find tickets, while in Geneva (UEFA) and Zurich (FIFA) were able to buy 2 per person for a final in a stadium that size. Not to mention for all the high profile games in previous rounds (United and Dortmund included.) Most Liverpool fans I know around the world couldn’t get tickets, yet most Liverpool fans I know around here could get them if they wanted. Shameful.

* Mike, LFC, Dubai couldn’t be more right about this season being a fun ride. It always hurts to lose a final but I’ve always felt it hurts less to lose a big game in person than on TV (being grateful for being there etc). The same gratitude for the memories of United and Dortmund applies to the season as a whole, not to mention the League Cup run and all the penalty shootouts. I don’t mean this in a tribalistic or inflammatory way, but I wouldn’t trade our season of glorious and entertaining failure for a season of tedious success with Van Gaal, or the Groundhogs Day situation at Arsenal. (2014-15 under Rodgers was worse than LVG this season and any season under Wenger in this regard). Eventually we need to pull off actually winning something, but I have no complaints about this season, it was a great ride indeed.

* The lingering pain at the moment is from not qualifying for the Champions League. The worry that we will sign lesser players and miss the chance to push on weighs heavily. But Klopp seems to be handling the situation well, he will hopefully attract players himself, and if we pull off Götze it could lead to a snowball effect whereby other players end up being convinced to sign.

* Alberto Moreno is absolutely not good enough for Liverpool, and people need to stop defending him. As for Gregory Whitehead suggesting that Moreno is Klopps pet and cites Klopp continuing to pick him, but if Flanagan wasn’t injured and was a reliable option (and not excluded from the Europa squad) he would surely be getting picked ahead of him. Any time something goes wrong in defense you can be certain it involved Moreno, and more often than not it is entirely his own fault, like the first goal they scored.

* That second goal they scored was sick. That’s another thing that helps make the result sting less.

* The belief was sucked out of Liverpool as much by the linesman flag confusion as by the third goal itself. The hope it would be ruled out and then being confirmed was crushing. You could feel it in the stadium, it was not like Dortmund. This isn’t a valid excuse for the players not responding better, but I do think they let it get to them.

* Chris Heyes can eff off with his criticism of Sturridge celebrating a goal.

* On Sturridge, yet another world class finish, yet another evening of under appreciation from Liverpool fans. I’m afraid he will be off, and I will be devastated. I just hope he signs for a club that I don’t strongly dislike. Unfortunately I don’t think Pep is going to have him on his shortlist at City.

* If anyone offered us 60m or something (“silly money”) for Coutinho, I’d bite their hand off. Great player but not as consistent or as “enabling” as he should be. We would be better off with choosing from Götze, Firmino, Lallana + backup options.

* Congratulations to Sevilla. Three in a row is a crazy achievement.
Mailbox (Anonymous this time due to ticket criticisms) Regular, Geneva Switzerland

 

First of all credit to Sevilla on a monumental achievement of three Europa League triumphs on the spin, they deserved to win the match.

But how poor was that second half ‘performance’ from Liverpool, it says a lot that the ageing Toure was our best player last night (sign him up for another year Jürgen).

My main gripe is with the left hand side of the pitch with Moreno the main culprit. The guy is a walking liability in this team, time and time again he’s caught out of position and it’s not even as if he’s so great going forward that it papers over the cracks elsewhere in his game. The other was the totally anonymous Coutinho who once again went missing when needed the most. He really needs a rocket up his arse as he plays as if he is untouchable in this team (how he scooped so many club awards this year is beyond me) whereas the reality is that his one trick of cutting in and shooting (much like Andros Townsend) fools no-one.

If you had offered me two finals within 8 months of Klopp arriving I would’ve been delighted so I can’t grumble too much, perhaps whilst missing out is hard to stomach at least some of those players not good enough will not get a stay of execution which is a crumb of comfort.

I’ll settle for watching England in the Euro’s with no expectations, it’s the hope that kills you.
Amit (seriously even Djimi Traore was a better LB), London

 

Come on Matt Stead. Really? Blaming UEFA for the fighting?

Again, when there’s trouble, the authorities are immediately blamed for not segregating fans. Why is it impossible for fans of different clubs to co-exist without fights? Or, alternatively, why does the media refuse to blame those who actually fought, and instead choose to blame UEFA for the lack of tickets?

Football fans always take great pains to show that they don’t live up to hooligan stereotypes that we in the States automatically draw upon when we think of football (and, admittedly, this is very sensitive to Liverpool supporters, just ask Steve Cohen). However, when fans are given the excuse of “UEFA made us sit with supporters from the other side, so fighting was inevitable” the violent element essentially admit to needing “special attention” or they will get violent. How about, “if you go into the ground, don’t brawl”? Why is the blame for this violence shifted away from those who perpetrate it?

No doubt the stadium was too small for a final of this size. That should not distract from the fact that individuals could not control themselves.

I’ve never understood the way that football fan behavior is blamed on those other than those who caused the problems.
Eric Breitman (still recovering from the Spurs collapse), NYC

 

Bring back Rene
United’s attack this season (as has been well documented) has been utter utter pish. This has been by far the worst season to witness in my 20 years at OT, and I have never seen as much disdain from the Old Trafford faithful as I have this season. ‘ATTACK. ATTACK. ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK’ the Stretford End yell, only to be rewarded with about as much attacking prowess as your nan’s dog dragging it’s itchy arse around her living room carpet.

When Moyes arrived he made the foolish decision to bring in his own coaching setup and replace our existing thoroughly successful and experienced coaching setup – which I hasten to add would have given him a far better chance of surviving his 1st year in the Old Trafford hot seat. In doing this out went Rene Meulensteen, the man seen to be responsible for our attacking coaching though the years in which we produced some of the best football I’ve ever seen us play.

During his 5 years as the 1st team coach responsible for our attacking coaching we won 3 Premier League titles, 1 Champions League title (and reached 2 additional CL finals), as well as various other honours. Yes at the time we obviously had Sir Alex in charge as well as an absolutely brilliant team, but this was some of the best attacking football I’ve seen us play and I can’t help but think that Rene Meulensteen had a massive hand in this.

With our current lacklustre, eye gougingly boring, thoroughly unsuccessful and inefficient attacking performances, Woodward could do far far worse than to beg Meulensteen to re-join to the coaching set up. I’m also sure that luring him back to the coaching setup would be very much achievable and would be well received by the board and the likes of Giggsy et al. What’s to lose?
Al (2nd stab in the dark with this rascal as I firmly believe in it) Williams

 

Mickey C
Emad MUFC Boston – very good points and very well made regarding Michael Carrick.

I wholeheartedly agree with you on your assessment. He will be missed and mark my words, his absence will hammer home to fans how effective and ‘classy’ he was as a player when we have Schwarzenegger and Shrek causing a mess in midfield. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Growing up watching him in his pomp my cousin and I used to refer to him as an ‘enigma’ – we just weren’t sure what he was doing – but full credit to him, he carried out his work to such a high standard it’s a shame he doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath as his sexier sounding counterparts in Europe.

I don’t think England will have another player like him anytime soon but if there is, I hope he’s recognised as the benchmark (a la Makalele) and finally gets the credit he fully deserves.

p.s. ‘slap you with my c*ck’ sure did make me giggle.
AA7 MUFC GLA

 

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO

Michael Carrick is perhaps the most overrated footballer of his generation, and this desire to crown him the English Pirlo / Xavi is one of the most ludicrous things to have come out of the whole tiki-taka debate. An ability to collect the ball and pass it to the right back does not make you a cultured midfielder. It makes you a shirker of responsibility. Watch a 90 minute game (pick any one from the last – ooh, 10 years? It won’t matter which) and what you’ll see is an unerring inability to pass the ball forward without either giving it away or putting the receiver into immediate pressure.

What made Xavi, Pirlo, Iniesta etc so brilliant is their ability to genuinely boss a game, constantly show for the pass, see balls that no-one sees, make sure the receiver is in space. Michael Carrick can certainly keep play ticking over, of that there’s no doubt- but he’s never been anything more. As for Emad’s suggestion that “Carrick is also the sole reason Paul Scholes was allowed to have played for as long as he did.” I think there can be no greater indictment of Carrick’s ability than the fact that Scholes had to be persuaded out of retirement to make him look semi-competent.
Ben, AFC.
(Yes he’s got a Champions League medal, well so has Mickael Silvestre)

 

Why won’t the media report about Liverpool fans?
Last week, West Ham United and their fans were dragged through the mud by pretty much every media organisation over about 30 fans within a crowd of about 8000 throwing bottles at the Manchester United bus. Last night, thousands of ticketless fans turned up in Basel (on the instruction of Liverpool’s manager) for the Europa League Final. Unsurprisingly, fighting broke out in the stadium, with Liverpool and Sevilla fans clashing and riot police called in before the game kicked off.

In the aftermath of the ‘War zone’, ‘shameful’ and ‘apocalyptic’ (just some of the headlines from last Wednesday morning) scenes outside the Boleyn last week, one person has been arrested and just four are being sought by police. I fully expected to wake up to see a full scale condemnation of the behaviour of Liverpool fans from our neutral media. But not one paper ran with it on its back page and its barely mentioned on any website despite clear video and photo coverage of actual fighting, rather than a few bottles thrown at a coach, the press seem to have completely ignored it. Those in the very small minority that have mentioned it have blamed UEFA and the policing.

Even on this usually excellent site, last week the site ran with the story of the incident outside the ground, and West Ham fans were typecast in the mailbox as ‘cretins’ and ‘scum’. Just a reminder, over a week later and there still has only been one arrest, and just four people are being ‘hunted’ by the Metropolitan Police. There was no fighting, no punch ups or clashes with police, just a handful of idiots throwing bottles from a distance. I did send an email last week with an account of the incident at West Ham having actually been there but this was not printed.

I am not naïve to think West Ham don’t have some idiots amongst their support, and those who thought it was a good idea to throw bottles at the United coach last week should be deservedly punished, but for the media to call basically a poorly policed party a ‘war zone’ and yet barely mention actual hooliganism and proper fighting from the Liverpool fans last night leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

Then I remembered that Liverpool haven’t been given a ‘free’ stadium (we tried to buy it outright on three occasions and just by moving in we have saved it from becoming a white elephant, but let’s not open that can of worms again) and that there may just be a bit of an agenda against West Ham United.
Mike (cheering on Man Utd on Saturday to secure our European place and already feeling dirty about it) WHUFC, Upminster

 

End-of-season ratings
Now that the Europa League is out of the way (and the FA Cup final is a foregone conclusion) I thought I would try to order my thoughts (two thoughts in one sentence, that’s not good) on how each of the Premier League teams performed this season. I am well aware the league table does this relatively efficiently but there are cups and differing expectations as well.

1. Leicester City- obviously. To win the Premier League by 10 points is a suberb achievement and would be enough to put anyone as team of the season but for a team outside of the traditional elite it is astonishing. Minor points off for performance in the cups but that is just being picky.

2. Manchester City- breakthrough season in the Champions League, 1-0 on aggregate in the semi-final (to a deflected goal). Won the League Cup and the fourth place trophy (only 5 points off second). Woeful in some league games (4-1 to both Liverpool and Spurs) but got over the line when it mattered.

3. Arsenal- highest league finish for a decade, last 16 of the Champions League and quarters of the FA Cup all without signing a single outfield player in the summer.

4. Spurs- some wonderful highs in the league (3-0 against Utd, 4-1 against City), the golden boot for Kane and best young player for Alli but the over-riding feeling could be of opportunity missed. Battered in the Europa by Dortmund, home exits in both the cups and two points from the last four games mean momentum for next season could be tricky.

5. Southampton- sixth in the league. The Premier League. Without Leicester that would seem remarkable. Lost Nathaniel Clyne, Morgan Schniederlin and Toby Alderweireld before the season (although Alderweireld seemed slightly self-inflicted) but hardly noticed. Had a dip with a run of one win in eight but that one win was 4-0 over Arsenal.

6. Liverpool- if they had won last night would have been substantially higher, but they didn’t. The positives- two cup finals, some sparkling football (hame and away against City and away to Chelsea) and some magical nights (Dortmund and Utd in the Europa). The negatives- eighth in the league, some terrible football (away at Watford, home to Palace) and some awful players (everyone is looking at you Alberto Moreno).

7. West Ham- be careful what you wish for Hammers fans, unless what are wishing for is exciting players, exciting football and a sense of hope. Seventh in the League, should have made more of the chance in the FA Cup.

8. Watford- never, ever in danger. If you had told a Hornets fan at the start of the season they would finish thirteen they would have probably have expected a struggle and some end of season form to lift them to that position. Not a bit of it. Destroyed Liverpool, reached the FA cup semi and still booted the manager. Its an odd world.

9. Manchester United- if they win the FA Cup, it is a cup. If they don’t the season will be remembered for some abject football. Since Fergie left it is seventh, fouth and fifth. In that time Liverpool, Leicester, Tottenham, City, Arsenal and Chelsea have all finished third or higher, Utd haven’t. When does a blip become the new reality? Oh, and they managed to be poor in two European competitions.

10. Bournemouth- only their sixth season outside the bottom two divisions. You felt they would have a chance if they could keep Callum Wilson fit, and Tyrone Mings fit… or Tommy Elphick. Oh. Did some great business in January and won back to back against Manchester Utd and Chelsea. Also stopped Leicester City scoring.

11. Crystal Palace- in the cup final but no-one thinks they will win. Lovely in the first half of the season but nose-dived in 2016.

12. Stoke City- in danger of becoming the new Charlton Athletic. Need something to kick them on the new level. Fans should be very pleased with where they are but with Southampton, West Ham and Leicester above them there is a feeling they could do more.

13. Swansea- season of two halves and with the better half being more recent there is more cause for optimism.

14. West Brom- finished fourteenth.

15. Everton- all that talent, genuine talent. Stones, Galloway, Lukaku, Mirallas, Deulofeu, Coleman, Baines, Jagielka, McCarthy, Lennon and Ross Barkley to name but a boat load. Amazingly got to the semis of both domestic cups but that was thin paper over huge cracks. Terrible in the derby, battered by Utd and awful at home all season.

16. Sunderland- woeful for most of the season. This was not ‘the great escape’ although they did finish with only one defeat in eleven. Duff in the cups which makes the league form more worrying.

17. Chelsea- terrible, but because they were so terrible a while ago people seem to have forgotten. Lost as many as they won, including at home to Bournemouth, Southampton and Palace. Nothing in the cups and sketchy in Europe. Gutless until the second half of the Spurs game. Nice to see Hazard in form in time for the Euros though.

18. Newcastle- spent the money, backed the (wrong) manager but never at the (Blaydon) races. Unbeaten in the last six but too little too late. Did beat Spurs 5-1 with ten men though.

19. Norwich- briefly looked like they might do it but fell apart. Battered at home by Sunderland and lost to Aston Villa. No-one likes to see that.

20. Aston Villa- who would have thought removing the spine of a team that was already struggling (Vlaar, Benteke, Cleverley, Delph) and replacing them with photocopies of players from a six year old Panini sticker album would turn out so bad?
Micki Attridge

 

Scousehampton
Liverpool

2013-2014 | 2nd place | 84 points | Champions League
(welcome Lallana, Lovren, Lambert)
2014-2015 | 6th place | 62 points | Europa League
(welcome Clyne)
2015-2016 | 8th place | 60 points | nothing

This is a team going backwards – good job! Oh and thanks for the £61.5 million. We put it to good use.
James SFC

 

Ode to Randy Lerner
I knew we were gonna go down
Six years of nothing but s***e
Shouldn’t have sold Gary Cahill
I should have, said no to Sidwell and Knight

I couldn’t keep spending forever
Should have, kept O’Neill on a leash
I promised Villa the stars, but I
Gave them Alex McLeish

From the Bluuuuuues
Ahhhhhhh ahh ahhhhh
Ahhh ah ahh ahhhh ahhhhh
Ahhh ahhhh ahhhh

So goodbye Trinity Road
Where my ten years were nothing like great
You won’t see me in the Dick’s box
I’m going back to the States

Back with my memories of Hutton, Harewood,
Lescott, Richards, and I’ll know, that I

Should have decided a long time ago
I wasn’t fit for the Trinity Road
Neil Raines AVFC

 

Ask a perfectly reasonable question
Champions League winning boss for Villa, you ask? Why yes, indeed. If he is appointed Di Matteo will actually be the 3rd Villa manager in the past six years that won Europe’s top prize either as a player or manager, the other two being Martin O’ Neill and Paul Lambert, of course. Impressive, eh!?

What’s that? It isn’t, really?

Oh.
Kevin Walsh, Luimneach

 

Adrian Doherty
Recently stumbled upon the tragic tale of Adrian Doherty for the first time in my life and found it immensely interesting, although extremely sad.

A forgotten member of the Class of ’92 and a really heartbreaking “what if” story. Google his name and you’ll find quotes from Ferguson introducing him as “greased lightening” and saying he had “the most amazing football skill,” Gary Neville saying “he was out of this world,” Giggs saying “he could go past people at will” as well as mentioning that it seemed as if Doherty could see everything in slow motion when he played. Brendan Rodgers, a friend of his, said that the Nevilles, Scholes and Giggs would all describe him as “the best they’ve ever played with at that level.” The media even claimed he was a “teenage sensation capable of making the kind of impact not seen since George Best was given his chance.” Granted, the media often over exaggerate the ability of youngsters, but everywhere you read you’ll find people saying this kid was a genius.

Despite the clear admiration for his ability in football, every article I’ve read about him makes a point to mention his shy attitude, not one for the limelight, obsessed with poetry, books and music. A quiet, poetic, footballing genius – the perfect protagonist for the fairy tale that was the the Class of ’92.

Unfortunately, before his career even truly began, it was ended by injury. A cruciate knee ligament injury that he never properly recovered from and ended with him being released from his contract. As you’ll read all over the internet; in 2000, instead of playing for one of the best United sides of all time, he was working in a furniture factory.
Before the age of 27, Doherty slipped into a canal on his way to work which ultimately resulted in the death of a genius the world will never get to see.

Many people, including members of his family, seem to be of the opinion that United did not do enough to help Doherty overcome his injury, and it seems that he was a victim of football clubs being a business, looking to cut their losses on an investment which all of a sudden became a lot more high risk. I find it strange that I’ve never even heard of his name until now – not even in the Class of ’92 movie – and that’s only because a book is being released about him this month (maybe it’s just ’cause I’m not from England). I obviously don’t know much about this player, but I would love to learn more about him. Maybe modern technology and medical staff being a lot more equipped to deal with injuries could have allowed us to see the man they dubbed better than Giggs on the world stage. Alas, as most things in life, football can be tragic.

Despite this, after reading quotes online from his family, it seems that the general consensus that football ruined Doherty’s life is deeply flawed and he spent some of the best and happiest years of his life being an ordinary person working an ordinary job. There’s no real point to this mail other than to see if it provokes a response from people who might’ve seen him play or known him, and I’d love to read something about him from someone who has actual insight into the situation and who he was.
Gaaavie, Cape Town.

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