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Settling for Lukaku
DJ, MUFC suggests Lukaku is having a good season, and shouldn’t be getting the stick he does, and whilst he’s entitled to his opinion, I think he’s setting the bar low for what United aim for, and therefore missing why he gets stick.
1 goal every 2 games is generally considered a “good” strike rate, and describes Lukaku down to a tee. Since breaking through at Anderlecht, he’s had a strike rate of 0.4 to 0.66, bar his time spent at Chelsea. Never having an exceptional rate, but consistently doing well for a variety of non-world class teams – Anderlecht (who he left age 17), West Brom, Everton and Belgium.
Incidentally, the 0.66 season was his last at Everton, and probably what convinced United he was worth the money, and importantly, could kick on in a world class team. The fact that he’s regressed from Everton, despite being the most important attacking player in one of the most expensive teams in football, means he hasn’t achieved what they hoped of him.
He’s currently behind Zlatan’s strike rate from last season (0.56 against Zlatan’s 0.61), meaning they’ve spent £75m and are no better off in centre-forwards terms than last year.
Secondly he has to be compared to who else is doing what in the league. Harry Kane (0.95), Mo Salah (0.84), and Aguero (0.8) are all miles ahead of Lukaku, with similar or better support play (subjective).
Other players in Lukaku’s bracket include Sterling (0.57), Firmino (0.58), and Vardy (0.47). He just isn’t good enough to be the primary goal scorer for one of the best teams in the country.
We’ve already seen one expensive striker being relegated to second choice in Lacazette (0.33) after one season, and we may see Morata follow in summer (0.33). These two are by no means bad players, but are just not good enough for what the clubs are aiming for and can afford. Arsenal decided a splurge on a top bracket striker was necessary so got Aubameyang who is currently on 0.79 across two clubs, and there are still other options in Europe within United’s grasp. Lewandowski would be expensive, but his 0.85 is again top bracket. Bas Dost (0.76) is certainly a different style, but can get the job done, whilst the duo of Immobile (0.94), Icardi (0.75) represent top players, affordable for United who are in form.
Maybe the Sánchez signing was meant to bring the required goals, but we’ve seen top sides show you need a key goal scorer, plus goals from around the field too (PSG, Barça, Juve, Real, City, ‘Pool). Not only that, but Sánchez has been poor for 6 months before he moved to United, a move which currently has a bit of a Torres whiff to it.
To sum up an email that’s gotten away from me a little bit, yeah Lukaku’s good, but finishing 5th is good too, but United wouldn’t be happy with that, so why would you settle?
KC (all figures are this season, all competitions)
Arsenal can fall further yet
I am wondering if I’m the only person who finds it odd how the media and pundits are constantly stating as an almost certain fact that Arsenal will fall no further down the league when talking about the team.
Just to open that up a little they currently sit 5 points ahead of Burnley, confidence shattered and players seemingly lost. Yes 5 points is a lot to make up in the 9 remaining games but let’s not forget Arsenal still play Burnley. It may be a home game but in their current form does anyone see it as a banker win?
Now if they do lose that game were talking a 2 point gap and 8 other games. I’d not yet class it as outside of the realms of possibility that Arsenal slide down to 7th place this season.
Simon, from Doncaster.
Alexis Sanchez is basically that ubiquitous player in 5-a-side who, on getting the ball, never passes, meanders down blind allies and tries to dribble past the opposition team by himself.
Obviously talented but an anathema to quick passing and positional discipline, and must be infuriating to play with. After the twentieth time when Alexis doesn’t bother to pass to an overlapping full-back, you’d just stop making the run surely?
As somebody who is due to be in Manchester shortly for a couple of work conferences, does anybody know when the United parade is going to be? I know they can close roads and I dont particularly want to get caught up in the celebrations.
I mean, correct me if I’m wrong here, but I thought that United had just scraped a last minute win against Crystal Palace? I thought that the most expensively assembled squad in the history of football had just managed to squeeze past a team sat 18th in the table and managed by none other than Roy Hodgson?
I know many teams have fallen from grace over the years. Everton were a huge side in the 80s, Arsenals slow decline under Wenger after he took them to such heights has been well documented, and of course Liverpool havent won a title in almost three decades. But United have almost eclipsed them all, and there are still plenty of years to go yet before they ever win anything meaningful again. I cant help but think that most football fans are finding it absolutely delicious watching it unfold.
Some of the reactions to last nights result have been incredible. The United writers from the Manchester Evening News (and I would advise anyone to follow them for some of the most laughably biased journalism and opinion around), compared it to the Fergie era. Now, as far as I remember, the comebacks that Fergie used to mastermind were things like beating Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. Once again, this was a win against 18th placed Crystal Palace, meaning United are now *only* 16 points behind Man City rather than 19 points. I also read that, although “issues remain” with Mourinho’s team, they “fade into insignificance” after last nights result in the “game of the season”. I’m genuinely not making this up.
I remember not so long ago that Liverpool had a similar result aganst a similar team, winning 5-4 at Norwich with a last minute goal and getting roundly panned for their celebrations, mostly by United fans. They should never have needed a last minute winner against a team like that you see, and celebrating wildly was just a sign of how far they had fallen as a club. Funny how things change isnt it?
Cant wait for Saturday
*A Crystal Palace fan collapsed outside the ground and subsequently passed away last night. There are times when football doesn’t matter in the slightest.
*As for the game, it’s the hope that gets you. Andros Townsend scoring a heavily deflected opener, the Palace goal leading a charmed life, and Manchester United’s star players becoming increasingly frustrated with each other, that the evening might end with Jose Mourinho being sent to the stands to compound the misery of a humiliating defeat for his team. Well, it was either that or the Eagles would be puffing out of their backsides by about the 65th minute and allow the visitors back into the game. In fact, the only thing preventing it from being a vintage Manchester United performance is that none of the goals came via a soft and controversial penalty, although this is mainly because Palace couldn’t get close enough to make a challenge.
*Roy Hodgson lined his team up in a thunder-and-thunder 4-4-2. The return of Jeffrey Schlupp on the left of midfield gave the team a balance that had been otherwise missing. However, nothing sums up your team’s problems quite like being relieved that Martin Kelly will be starting at centre-back,
*The BBC site gave their man of the match award to Aaron Wan-Bissaka. He’s played two Premier League games, against Hotspur and Manchester United, and has not looked out of place in the top flight. The Palace blog Hopkin Looking To Curl One likened him to Nathaniel Clyne at the same age, which may not mean a lot to fans only familiar with Clyne’s time at Liverpool, but for a few years he was an incredibly highly-rated prospect.
As I said last week, injury crises aren’t always avoidable, but the silver lining is that an academy player has been given an opportunity to step up and so far proven himself to be more than capable. Hodgson deserves credit for this, because several of his predecessors were so reluctant to trust younger players – I think you have to go back to Jonny Williams in 2011 for the last time an academy graduate appeared regularly for the first team (Wilfried Zaha’s debut was 2009).
*On the other hand, Whoscored gave their highest rating to Christian Benteke, whose play in the build-up to Townsend’s goal was superb. His lack of goals has been a huge part of his side’s issues this season, but he is finding other ways to contribute. The return of Zaha in a few weeks will require a big call from Hodgson over which of his strikers to leave out. As things stand, it may be the Belgian who sits on the bench and watches Alexander Sorløth start in his place.
*Post-match Twitter (through a Palace prism) was full of reports of Manchester United fans being odious on public transport. I was confused as none of the trains mentioned appeared to be heading back to Manchester.
*In the overall picture of the season, a one-goal loss to Manchester United will not make a scrap of difference to Palace. Similarly, the Eagles’ trip to Chelsea at the weekend will not be one the club will expect to get anything from. However, after that it means we’ll have just 8 games left in which to get the 10-12 points that will guarantee survival. Huddersfield away on 17 March already looks immense.
Top 10 Asian PL players
Disappointed to not see Junichi Inamoto appearing on this list. He was great for Fulham and I’ll always remember his goal to give them a 3-1 win over United.
…Another great goal scored against Palace. A second loss in a week in the last few minutes to a top 4 side. I was fully expecting a loss last night, we never beat United after all, but the hope in between is the kicker. A broken down train and a walk home in the rain when you’ve left your umbrella at work seemed quite an apt way to complete the evening.
We started off quite nicely, showing energy that would fool anyone in to thinking this wasn’t a team with 10 injuries to the first team squad, 2 others returning straight in to the first team and a 20 year old making his second senior appearance. United were terrible in the first half, Pogba was almost our best player the amount of times he gifted us possession. It appears to me, based on last night as I don’t watch United much, that Sanchez and Pogba are not compatible. After we scored Sanchez came off the left flank completely, trying to get more involved and make something happen. The issue I could see with that was that he ended up quite often 5 or 10 yards in front of Pogba and occupying the space he would drive in to. I think some of Pogba’s hesitation and misplaced diagonals can be attributed to this. I can’t see Mourinho getting a tune out of both these players at the same time without one adapting to a different position.
The first half for us was positive and bar some baffling goalkeeping from Hennessy we felt pretty good value for our lead. The second half was only ever going to be an exercise of defensive resilience, despite increasing our lead early on. It didn’t feel inevitable that United would score 2 or even 3 goals but when you consider the lack of any fresh legs on the pitch or even the bench I guess a wise man probably would have put money on the comeback. There was a stat doing the rounds a couple of weeks ago that compared subs made over the previous 5 games, this ranged from 15 for a number of teams down to 10 made in that time by Man City. Palace were basically in their own category having made just 3 subs in 5 games. Last night saw us make just one, to allow a player returning straight from injury a rest at about 80 minutes. Our squad is puddle deep at the moment.
A real positive was the performance of a lad who has come in because of our injury problems. Wan-Bissaka at right back was excellent and dealt encouragingly well with both Sanchez and Rashford who offered up a lot more energy and intent when he came on. Following the game Mourinho told Sky “This stadium and these fans here are absolutely beautiful”, continuing a trend started when he was Chelsea manager of praising our support. Maybe one day Jose. A quick word for Roy as well, not many managers after experiencing that crushing defeat would be able to conduct an interview coherently but Roy managed to do that in French, he is just a class act.
Final word is one of perspective. Last night while queuing for a programme a Palace supporter collapsed and died, his wife with him at the game. My thoughts are with his family and friends, and similar to the tragic Astori news, serves as a stark reminder that life is short. Last minute defeats, relegation and anything else football throws our way isn’t really important.
…As an Indian born and bred in Africa thoroughly enjoying the 10 best Asian players in the Premier League article today, something struck a chord.
How the heck does FIFA still award an equal five places to each of Asia/Oceania and Africa at the World Cup?
With all due respect to the nice list of Asian players in the list, think of the quality of a comparative list of African players that the brilliant F365 could compile? I know Australia falls under “Asia/Oceania” for FIFA. I also know there is enough and more debate over which is the best league in the world (EPL wins hands down in my unimportant and irrelevant opinion). But still.
What a load of absolute sh*t, FIFA! (My birth country of Zambia would have qualified at least once if it was an Asian country. Just saying).
Qatar 2022 anyone? Bollocks.
MK (LFC) Philippines
Regardless of the discussion of whether statistics prove cynical fouling is more prevalent for team A or B, it is pretty much accepted that this type of foul takes place as a tactical necessity. Its known, its even recognised by referees who issue the yellow mid run and the said fouler just walks off knowing they are getting a card for the foul but don’t care – they took one for the team.
A solution to act as a minor deterrent would be to allow the offended team to move the ball ten yards nearer the goal area from where the foul took place whenever the ref either a) issues a yellow card or b) perceives it to be cynical (either or both a possible solution). Might make the cynical foul from 35 yards out a little less appealing if it affords a 25 yard direct free kick and a yellow card.
Holes? Potentially. Time to think of them? Not right now.
Michael, Dublin (working as effectively as an Arsenal first teamer today)
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