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St Bottlingham’s Day?
Are Arsenal and Spurs trying to out-bottle each other?
Adonis Stevenson, AFC
Arsenal went for bare minimum again; it’s not good enough
So your local rivals and the team just above you in the table have just lost to Southampton half an hour before you kick-off. What a chance for Arsenal to move level on points with them before next week to maybe end the season above them and give the fans something to cheer about. Surely the players would be pumped up and go for the win?
Arsenal then proceeded to put in a shocking start to the game, getting overrun in midfield, pressed in defence and stifled in attack. The way Aguero waltzed past Elneny with ease and fire a shot past the static Koscielny was disgraceful from a defensive point of view. We somehow got back in it but continued to be cut apart by city, Ramsey and Elneny getting bossed by Fernando for goodness sake. Not much changed at the start of the second half as De Bruyne is able to control a difficult bouncing ball and stride unchallenged towards goal before picking out the corner. More awful, awful defending.
Then the tide did begin to change, we got more of a foothold in the game and started to create more. Sanchez then finishes off our best move of the game to get us back on terms. We had survived the periods of City dominance and now were in the driving seat in the game. What a chance to go for the win and put huge pressure on Tottenham to even finish their great season above Arsenal. But what do we do? We bring on a DM and close out the match at 2-2.
Instead of going for broke and trying to win the game, we settled for a point that doesn’t really change much in our race for the coveted CL place. It sums up the mentality of this club. Some may say that being critical of a 2-2 draw at City is deluded but this single result isn’t the issue, it just confounded the weak mentality at the club. Wenger fist pumped at the end as the point pretty much secured Champions League football next season. Instead of pushing to finish as high as we can, we settle for the minimum. Some may say we’d have lost the game if we went to win it, but with Villa next week and only needing one win, a defeat wouldn’t have changed much in terms of the table but if we had won the game, it would’ve made Tottenham’s trip to Newcastle very interesting. Jack Wilshere, who was impressive in midfield when he came on, said the players would be delighted to finish in third. Not to push Spurs for second. Not to finish as high as we can but to end up with the bare minimum for automatic qualification.
Whether it’s the board, the manager or the players something must change or else we’ll be left behind next season.
Some fans say we’re spoilt, were ungrateful, we expect too much. Most fans want a team that challenges, that’ll progresses, that doesn’t settle for the minimum. We’ve seen a side go backwards over the last few years. Time for something to change.
Well that was sh*t
After Leicester’s jubilation, and surprisingly un-hungover performance, what a dire match-up between two early-season title favourites.
I feel sightly blessed that Arsenal limped out of the title race a few weeks ago. Since then I’ve been able to enjoy Leicester’s triumph in an adult fashion. Then yet more evidence that this Arsenal team were gate-crashers to the title race along, belated booted out.
City didn’t have that many good chances, that’s about all I can say for our performance today. And well done Alexis and Giroud for creating two goals out of nothing So disjointed I thought it was my stream jerking. No attackers able to hold onto the ball. Ramsey flitting between awful and invisible. Alexis actively seeking blind alleys to run down. Wilshere making on art form of holding onto the ball too long.
If there’s collective mitigation for the big team, I think it’s no coincidence few star players have had very good seasons. The top drawers, with Alexis a prime example, have been playing 12 months of the year for 3-4 years now. With the Euros and somehow yet another Copa America this summer the madness continues. Seems Asian and African players might be this summer’s sensible buys, allowing for another bloody African nations tournament next winter.
This final point is only half a moan really. Relating back to my first point in the mail, it is fun when unexpected teams do well.
Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes at City
Has one club’s season ever been so dramatically altered due to idiotic mistakes by its own players? Seriously, City’s own players are the only ones to blame for the predicament we find ourselves in, when realistically we should be around Spurs’ spot. Off the top of my head we have:
* Clichy’s dumbf*ck header back to Hart in the Arsenal game just now. Two points dropped.
* Demichelis’ “tackle” on Rashford in the derby. One point dropped, plus United would have two fewer.
* Fernando against PSG, booting the ball against Ibrahimovic. Another day, that goal might have counted for more.
* Missing a long-throw away at West Ham with the score at 1-1.
* Otamendi’s attempt at a tackle away at Southampton last week. Yes we ended up losing by two goals, but that was the first goal of the game, and could have changed how the game panned out.
That last one is a little more tenuous than the others, and of course, presuming these mistakes didn’t happen doesn’t ensure a more positive result. However, it does prove just how important these little mistakes can be.
By the way, in no way am I concluding that City have been unlucky to find ourselves on the verge of missing the top four. The fact we have been an unprecedented level of dogsh*t for 80% of our games has contributed to that.
Sam C (blowing bubbles), Caerdydd
What does Ryan Mason do?
After his miss against Chelsea that would have made the game 3-1, he should have sat for the season. And yet, there he was today. Doing nothing. Watching Davis get his second goal instead of closing down.
He’s out of his depth for a club who will play Champions League football next fall.
Eric Breitman (Frustrated on a Sunday morning) NYC
For the Vardy apologists…
The reason many of us dislike him is that he is the kind of person whose first reaction to scoring a penalty is not to celebrate with his teammates or the crowd but to look the keeper in the eye, grin and wag his finger. Charming.
Fitting end to a ridiculous season
So proud to be a Leicester fan right now.
Saturday was beyond epic. Bocelli’s performance really set the tone for a special day. Glad to see us sign off our season at the KP with a classy win. We have had our critics for the manner in which we have won some games this season, but when we play like we that I think we have been as entertaining as anybody else this season.
The most special thing for me was what was happening around the stadium before and after. My family have been based in Leicester for around 25 years, most of which I have lived there also – I’ve never seen the city buzzing like it was on Saturday. The streets were absolutely packed with people from all backgrounds, different nationalities and religions, old and young – every single person was just overjoyed with what was going on. Drum circles, smoke bombs, hugs and high fives all around with people you’d never met. There was even a convoy of Italians that had driven for 16 hours to be there just to support Ranieri. The whole city was just completely united and bouncing. Quite ridiculous to see the impact that a few guys kicking a ball around can have on an entire city.
Probably one of the best days of my life.
Ben (Bocelli is a blue), LCFC
Apparently it is worth the agony…
As a Manchester United fan, I have been trying to choose between LVG and Champions league for two-three weeks now and couldn’t make up my mind. So there I am watching City vs Arsenal and KDB has outfoxed Cech and put City ahead. I just shrug and say at least we will get rid of LVG but then Sanchez scores Arsenal’s second and I just jump up and scream. My decision was made – I wanted my team to finish above our rivals. I didn’t care about LVG and him playing players out of position week in week out and making weird passive subsitutions which are the reason for me going bald. I didn’t care about that sh*t display at Norwich and many others throughout the season, I just wanted my team to win.
So I believe I have answered Sarah Winterburn’s question, yeah Sarah it’s worth the agony.
What’s the point of us qualifying for Europe?
Monday morning and back at work (otherwise known as trawling through F365) and thought that the short article from Sarah Winterburn really hit the LVG nail squarely on its odd shaped head.
We really are in a state of confusion and suffering from a distinct lack of leadership that is leaving me with a growing sense of dread for what’s about to unfold.
I cannot get excited by finishing top four. The CL always represented a real adventure in the sense that we would go into Europe, mix it with the top teams of the era and have a real crack at winning it. The return of two CL over the Fergie years feels slightly disappointing but we generally went into each year’s competition with a chance and a positive attitude.
What is the point of qualifying for next year? We won’t come close to winning it even if we do manage to qualify from the group stage!
The two main reasons for qualifying are without doubt valid. Number 1, to stop City from qualifying and put an early spanner in the Pep project followed closely by the ability to attract transfer targets.
And that’s it. No chance of winning it and no grand European nights to look forward too, just spiting other people and the opportunity for s**t newspapers to rattle a million Bale, Ronaldo, Greizman…etc,etc rumour nonsenses off between now and the end of August.
I am resigned to LvG staying another season and another season of his football as per Sarah W’s article. LvG is not even the problem. It goes above him and that is why we should be massively concerned. His huge and misshapen head and football philosophy is a perfect shield for the board to hide behind, he gets all the flack and is either too conceited or dumb to notice.
Cheapest option for the board and the Glazers is to keep him another season and then hand it to Giggs whilst they continue to take money out of the club. They have spent a lot of money in the past couple of years and got the grand result of f**k all for their investment. I cant see them chucking a load more money at this just now.
Buckle in now for another season of 1-0 wins!
Plato – MUFC (I do hope I am wrong)
You want to talk miracles?
I know that many people think Leicester winning the league was a pretty big thing and one of the greatest sporting miracles of all time. I have watched United all season and this team getting into the Champions League would beat the Leicester feat hands down, eyes closed.
David Moyes (Giving up on United) MUFC
What does a Jesse Lingard do?
I swear I shall never read the mails section if this is not published.
I have written rants about Lingard but none gets published. I shall rant for the last time (God Forbid) about Lingard.
Just why is Lingard playing? Worse still, why is Lingard an undisputed starter at the right berth? This is a limited player with no goals in his last God knows how many games, zero assists and zero creativity. How does he get an automatic place ahead of Perreira and Janujaz who are more technically gifted and more skilled? What is this Lingard does in training that he fails to do on match day. Add to his ludicrous goal celebrations and you shall have a player who is a risk factor for cardiac arrhythmias each time I watch a game. My frustrations with this lad is when he gets preferred to Mata at the number 10 position like against Norwich. W** LVG??.
They say LVG has given youngsters a chance but save for the Chelsea and Stoke goals, I am yet to see the role of Lingard in the team. I would choose Memphis over this guy anytym. Doesn’t it occur to all of us that one reason why Memphis plays badly is due to the fact that his number has been taken by a player who is a Championship-level player. We have seen an era of limited wingers like Valencia but this is a player who has one of the highest assists for a winger and enhanced the pace of our game, forced corners and defended astutely. When did Lingard assist last? The most irritating of all is when he misses an easy chance and holds his head like Ronaldo or when he drifts in field like Messi. They talk of managers who favor shi*ty players (Borini/Rodgers and Hiddink/Mikel) but this one should top the list. Don’t get me started on the Rooney and Fellaini favoritism.
Backing Van Gaal over Mourinho…
To my fellow United supporters. Against Norwich yes we were boring to watch again and yes despite his assist for the goal Rooney was sh*te again (as were the other nine United outfield players on the pitch) but we won. We won an important match that gives us half a chance of being able to finish in the top four, not to mention we could yet also win the FA Cup for the first time since 2004. Yes, I know we’ve seen good performances followed by terrible ones for the last two years under Van Gaal, but our highest potential players are still very young at the moment, so we are bound to be inconsistent.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been unbelievably frustrated by Van Gaal at times over his reign as manager, constantly contradicting himself, defending bad performances, playing players out of position, Fellaini, the situation regarding players such as Memphis, Januzai and Di Maria, all being the types of players that would help us no end if they were still here/in form, but we have also played games where we have been fantastic (Liverpool and Spurs last season, first half against Everton in the FA Cup semi final this season to name a few) and if that’s where he’s trying to get us then I say give him his final year to see if he can do it.
There is no way we should be thinking about Mourinho. What do you think will happen to players like Martial and Rashford (not to mention Januzaj and Memphis, who will never get their chance again). In addition to that, what type of football do you think we’d be watching?!
There has also been plenty of stick for the board in the mailbox and on this site in general, some may very well be justified, but in my opinion they are rightly being patient with a long-term view/plan/strategy. Bringing in Mourinho would give us relatively short-term success, but what happens after he’s spent hundreds of millions on experienced players that have maybe only two or three years left at the top level, p**ses off everybody connected to the club then f*cks off after three years. That’s right, as far as the playing squad is concerned we’d back in an identical situation to the one we were left in when Fergie retired and had United fans around the world sobbing into our cornflakes. I think it’s fair to say most people were in agreement that we would be in trouble whenever Fergie decided to call it a day and that it would take a few years of adjustment, so now we are still in that stage of the process and it’s hard to take, but we will come good again.
I guess all I’m trying to say is look at the bigger picture, don’t listen to the freaking media. When they have a narrative they want to run with they try to take everyone along with them. We are currently only one point off City in fourth (typing this before the Arsenal-City game) and not far off Arsenal or even Spurs!
The people at the top of the club know what they are doing, and let’s not forget that both Fergie and Bobby Charlton are both still at the club and I’m sure giving their input.
Wiggsy (Many many brackets) Man Utd
Giggs has to be the next Man United manager
I think it’s quite straightforward really. No matter where we finish we need to applaud Van Gaal for his work in fixing all but one area of the squad and let him start his well-earned retirement. We then need to take the plunge and appoint Giggs as manager.
People will scream from the rooftops about how we’re too big a club to take such a risk but to that I have three comments.
First, look how well it’s gone appointing proven managers either from within the league or on the European stage. And look how badly Jose was doing with a league-winning squad. Why would anyone think that was a better plan?
Second, we prefer to promote our own players, such as Rashford. So why not do the same with a manager? The players are behind him and he knows the club. He also showed his preference for attacking football and that with a very meagre and depressed squad.
Third, do you think Pep or Zidane would have done very well managing a Watford? With the greatest respect, the players there wouldn’t necessarily have the skill to carry out his demands. And without the chance to hone those tactics or know the players at the club like he, Zidane and Giggs do, would they have gotten the job?
Giggs may fail, but least he can call on the support of the players, the fans and his former manager as well as old teammates. Jose hasn’t earned a go, and neither did Calamity Moyes. Blanc is managing in the easiest league with a blank chequebook. Only Simeone is a better option but if Giggs did fail, few managers would turn the job down so there’s no rush to go to him now.
Come on Woody, give one of our own a go. It wouldn’t be the worst decision you’ll have made.
Defence of the tree
I’m getting tired of having to defend Marouane Fellaini because I don’t rate him as more than a squad player (and that too only for his physicality). I know he’s an easy target but some people need to relax…others need to stfu.
Jamie Carragher is one of those who needs to pipe down. Jamie Carragher, of Liverpool FC: the club that defended (I’d say celebrated) a racist to the point that he’s not apologized or expressed remorse for his actions since. Surely this incident in isolation means everyone and everything associated with Liverpool FC needs to take a back seat when contributing to debates of morality and ethics. On Fellaini’s elbow on Huth, Carragher had some tough words. He’s right to point out the sheer frequency of Fellaini’s use of his limbs and had he made his argument on that basis alone, I’d let it be. But, his pity for Huth is as misplaced as his (sheer) hatred for Fellaini.
Let’s not gloss over the little tug of Fellaini’s ‘fro from Robert Huth. There is literally no sport in the world where pulling hair is okay (even WWF had the ref step in when hair’s being pulled). An equal ban for both the elbow and the hair-pull is the correct verdict absolutely. Had there been a broken jaw/nose/skull, a more severe punishment would be in order. But please, don’t also pretend like Robert Huth needs the refs or the FA to protect himself.
Pulling the hair falls into the same category as, say, biting an opponent on the field. Not okay, not sportsmanlike, verging on not man-like. There are certain things that, irrespective of the damage caused, are simply not okay to do on a field. Hair-pulling, biting, racism, jerking another player off; it’s all the same: no. Each should be examined on a case by case basis but each should be punished swiftly and strongly in order to wipe out of the game. Likewise with blatant elbows, and I do think the Tree spends a fair amount of time suspended.
I know he’s a sh*t player, but that doesn’t mean he should be punished any more harshly. His being a sh*t player also doesn’t allow Jamie Carragher, as an important TV-guy, to start hounding him out of the league. Nothing of the sort (disappointingly) said when Suarez bit an opponent the first, second or third time. Jamie Vardy gets mercilessly attributed to his racism; Felli to his elbows; but Suarez is a god amongst men who descended just to wow us for a few years. If Carragher’s stance is based on the quality of player, well then that’s not justice now is it? Even then, Mr. Carragher, are you forgetting you’re referring to the man keeping Adnan Januzaj out of club and country sides? Or maybe Carragher’s just bitter about the fact that Fellaini has played longer in the Champions League for United than Suarez would ever have for Liverpool.
Emad MUFC Boston
PS. Had Fellaini turned around and punched Huth in the face, gotten sent off then sold this summer, I think his two-year stint at United would go down as ‘that was quite fun’.
Sympathy for the devil
I never thought I’d say this, but I feel sorry for John Terry. If you’d told me the scenario a few weeks ago that he’d get sent off and miss his last two games playing for Chelsea, I’d probably have found the idea highly amusing. However, now it has become reality I genuinely feel some sympathy for him. Like him or loathe him (and I’m firmly in the latter camp) he’s a Chelsea and Premier League legend. He deserves a proper send-off and it’s a shame he won’t be able to get it.
Sorry, just had to get that off my chest. I do feel all dirty now though.
Mike, LFC, Dubai
Weekend thoughts from Peter G
* My one-man pro-Allardyce Mailbox crusade marches on. With his team desperately short of goals, Big Sam tore up the script and went for the kill, against Chelsea no less. And when it wasn’t enough, he threw on another attacker and went 4-4-2. It was tightrope football, but they got to the other side.
* Which brings us to Rafa Benitez. Like Alllardyce, his strengths are inseparable from his weaknesses. So trusting to his innate conservatism, he got this one badly wrong. There was no reason on earth to play it tight against Aston Villa, not even for a minute. Newcastle looked edgy and timid from the start, and never found their attacking rhythm. (But a salute to man of the match Idrissa Gana, who’s been Villa’s steadiest performer this year.)
* If ever a game encapsulated a season, it was Norwich City’s loss to Manchester United. Only one good chance created, and that missed, plus a defensive blunder leading to the losing goal. That the culprits were Cameron Jerome and Sebastien Bassong only made it more fitting. Norwich were unlucky to lose Timm Klose to injury, but that they had to rely on Championship-level players at both ends of the pitch is down to management. There wasn’t enough investment in the squad. With margins so small at the bottom of the table, another manager might have kept them up, but then another manager might have sank them closer to Aston Villa. Stats: Norwich have scored in only four of their last 13 matches, and in that time have kept only two clean sheets.
* Stoke’s post-Butland collapse continues apace. Giannelli Imbula is an impressive sight when powering forward, but if they want him to attack from deep, they’ll need an upgrade on Glenn Whelan. I stick by my prediction that Mark Hughes will not complete two more years as manager.
* On the opening day of the season, Cuco Martina put in a promising 45 minutes at right-back for Southampton, then largely vanished from sight, popping up briefly to score one of the goals of the season. But in recent weeks he’s very quietly taken over the starting spot, and looks like a solid regular, potentially a star.
* If Leicester City were a mere 5,000-1 to win the title this year, can you imagine what the odds would have been on their being TEN points clear with a week to go?
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
Weekend thoughts from Ed
Today, I am a ray of sunshine. One of those rays of sunshine that creeps under the sun visor when you’re driving east early in the morning.
* A weekend where everything seemed to go right – Franchise FC were relegated and then further embarrassed by losing to Nottingham Forest, Brighton & Hove Albion missed out on automatic promotion, and Crystal Palace finally took their tally of league wins in 2016 to the dizzy heights of two.
* Cometh the spring, cometh Dwight Gayle. He has been injured for part of the season, but his lack of opportunities when the other Palace strikers haven’t been scoring is baffling.
At the risk of sounding like Garth Crooks, I’m pleased he had such a good game, because I’ve been suggesting in the mailbox all season that Gayle could be a viable option in the absence of Yannick Bolasie/Jason Puncheon/Wilf Zaha. While he lacks the skill of any of those, he does provide pace and direct running, along with a goalscoring touch. Playing Gayle in the wide left role can make the team either narrow or lop-sided, but it can also bring goals.
* Imagine if Gayle hadn’t fallen over taking that free-kick.
* Daniel Taylor’s Observer column yesterday made for interesting reading, highlighting the extreme managerial turnover in the Championship. Taylor wrote that there were 20 managerial changes in that division, with little discernible difference and even less positive impact in most cases. He also points out that the more ‘sensible’ sides (e.g. the top three) reaped the reward of keeping the faith in a manager even if things got a bit rocky.
With this in mind, it’s worth pointing out that the Evening Standard is reporting that Alan Pardew is trying to negotiate himself a new contract. That takes some cojones. I’m not saying that he doesn’t deserve it, just mentioning that plenty of managers have been sacked before being allowed to oversee such a rancid run of form.
* Mark Hughes thought the decision to award a free-kick for a foul on Gayle by Ryan Shawcross was “a poor decision”, despite the big City skipper being second best to Palace’s striker many times. See also, Phil Bardsley punching Bolasie late in the game.
Blaming the officials is the go-to option for managers struggling to explain – and refusing to take responsibility for – a poor run of form. You may remember Pardew doing it a few times this season.
* What’s happened to Stephen Ireland? Has it really been seven years since he was a mainstay of a Manchester City side on an upward trajectory? You won’t have seen it on Match of the Day but Saturday saw the second time he got away with a challenge that might, on another day, have resulted in a red card.
* Leicester City’s season keeps on making the impossible possible. Perhaps their greatest achievement of all, someone flew an aeroplane over the ground with an amusing banner attached to it.
* Quick question: why did Jamie Vardy point and gloat at Joel Robles when he scored the penalty? Had they been having a running battle through the game? If not, it seems like a needlessly tw@ttish thing to do, although this isn’t the first time the phrase “needlessly tw@ttish” could be applied to something Vardy has done.
* City are apparently looking to bolster their squad with Bolasie and Troy Deeney. Proper big club behaviour that, preventing the clubs who you used to be like from becoming like you now by signing their best players.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
Hating the unfair play-offs…
Is there anything in football more pointless than the play-offs? The saying you finish where you deserve to be, doesn’t necessarily apply. With the advent of the new TV deal, promotion to the Premiership means roughly £200m even if promotion and immediate relegation follow. It would be a bitter pill for Brighton who are 15 points clear of sixth place Sheffield Wednesday, and six points ahead of Hull.
If the play-offs are a good thing, could you imagine the sh*t storm if the same was applied to relegation?
There is a team in Finland called FC Santa Claus.
That is all.
Alex Stokoe, Newcastle upon Tyne