Mails: Wenger should have signed Smalling

Date published: Thursday 1st October 2015 2:01

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but should Arsenal have broken the bank for Chris Smalling? One Mailboxer is dreaming of Pep Guardiola for Arsenal and Wayne Rooney is defended…

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‘Premier League rubbish? I’d say the opposite…’
The central argument raised by Nick Miller that the Premier League is rubbish is an interesting one.

However I would suggest that the opposite is true and plays a large role in why English teams struggle in Europe. The Premier League teams ON AVERAGE are very good (discount Sunderland).

The so called ‘lesser’ teams in the Premier League would beat their Spanish or German counterparts most of the time.

Take for example Leicester (finished 14th) last season, compared to Levante (14th in La Liga) and Stuttgart (14th in Germany), I would back Leicester every time over the other two. This was before the huge TV rights money this season which has seen unprecedented investment and star names such as Shaqiri joining Stoke. This has made the Premier League even more competitive.

The top four cannot afford to rest players even against the relegation threatened teams any more. This leads to an over reliance on a first 11 (Chelsea) or so much abuse for dropping points when you rotate (Arsenal) that managers are forced to play their star players into the ground.

I think this very point was raised in a previous mail box but the authors name escapes me. I’m fairly sure Bayern, Real or Barca can afford to rest players more often than the English teams.

Whilst this doesn’t explain Arsenal losing to Olympiacos, I’m fairly sure they had an easier game last weekend than a 90 minute end to end game vs Leicester.
Craig (Personally loving the unpredictable Premier League), AFC, Vietnam.


English teams need to get a grip in Europe
Was interested to read a couple of comments seemingly dismissing the likelihood of Italy overtaking us in the UEFA rankings and nicking a Champs League Place, thought I’d take a look.

Ranking points are calculated with the following rules (I’ve abbreviated)…
1. Both Champs League and Europa League count.
2. It’s an average score per club from a country
3. 2 points for a win, 1 for a draw, bonus points awarded for Group Stage of Champs League (4), Last 16 of Champs League (5) & a further point in both Leagues for Quarters, Semi & Final.
4. Quali and Play Off rounds score half points.
5. Last 5 years all count equally.

Currently we have a nice 3-point lead over Italy mainly due to Chelsea winning back in 2011/12 and we’re guaranteed 4 CL places next year.

All very good but things are going to get harder to maintain that gap, last season Italy had a great year with 1 CL finalist and 2 Europa Semi Finalists from 6 teams whilst we had a shocker.

Very soon our historical lead will have gone and we need to beat Italy over the next 2 seasons (by about 0.8 points) to stay ahead. Over the next 3 years that stretches to 2.8 points. A tough ask on current form in the Champs League and attitude in the Europa League.

Basically, English teams need to get a grip, start winning games, preferably at the expense of the Italians and take the Europa seriously otherwise the 4th placed trophy will be no more. (Long Live the 3rd Placed Trophy)

On the other hand it would shake up the Premier League and would be hilarious if Spurs got 4th only to be denied a Champs League spot because Arsenal and Chelsea were rubbish in the Champs League.
Matt (.)(.)


Should Wenger have broken the bank for Smalling?
In a week where Wenger has been slammed yet again for not spending money and having too much faith in his current players, do we have another example of a player Wenger should have tried harder to sign?

Over the years Wenger has become infamous for spending money like it is his own. For me the three players Wenger should have signed and was close to signing but refused to pay the fee were:

  • 26 year old Xabi Alonso from Liverpool back in 2008 who Wenger did not think was worth £18m
  • 26 year old Luis Suarez again from Liverpool in 2013 who Wenger famously offered £40,000,001 and not the asking price of £50m plus
  • Chris Smalling who was heavily linked for £12m this summer who surely would have been sold for £20m plus.

Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing but one must think that an Arsenal team with a Smalling, Alonso (even at 33) and Suarez core would be more successful….
Paul, London
PS I am a Wenger in man.


Strange loans
When watching the Chelsea v Porto game on Tuesday night, Porto made a sub late in the game.

The commentator noted that it was Miguel Layun coming on. Who was currently on loan from Watford. From Watford, on loan at Porto!

It struck me as odd. I looked into it and it turns out he is there on loan with the option to buy, so it makes a bit more sense. But I thought that would be time for a mailbox survey. Strangest loans?

I will start. Faubert to Real Madrid.
Nick, CFC, Inverness


Man United and Everton hold same blueprint
I noticed in the various conclusions to the Man Utd game that many fans and pundits were seemingly pleased that Utd went behind early as it forced them to up their tempo which in turn made the passing more incisive and Utd more dangerous.

I tried to make a similar point in my half cut conclusions to the West Brom Everton game, in that when we went 2-0 behind we increased our tempo which made some of our more sideways passers take extra risks and get the ball forward along the deck. Both teams have managers whose ‘philosophy’, or simply put, strategy to win a game of football, is to control possession throughout the game in the hope that:

  • Without the ball, the opposition cannot score (unless there’s a brain fart, like on Monday by Funes Mori and Barry
  • With the ball, the team have incisive passers in deep lying midfield roles (Carrick, Schweinsteiger, Herrera, Barry, McCarthy – I know, I know, the United players are better, I’m not making a direct comparison between the players, more the styles of play) to open up the play for the attacking flair players up top.

The issue I see with this style of play is that it generates a slow tempo of build-up play that can be easily stifled by sitting deep and counter attacking (which most teams can do), which in turn reduces the space for the flair players to exploit and thereby negating their impact.
When the team goes behind the midfield have to take more risks and transition to the attacking players quicker, with the big advantage being that there is then more space for someone like Ross Barkley or Juan Mata to do their thing. My belief is that there is still a concern from both managers on the makeup of their defences which makes them go for a defensive style of play (sterile domination as it has been referred to).
I would say for United, with De Gea, Darmian and Smalling that this is not a fair reflection and that the defence is pretty strong and when Everton have Stones and Jagielka playing this is also the case.

So in summary, I would like to see both teams go for it on 17th October and get the ball quickly to Deloufeu, Barkley, Depay and Mata when they have more space to play in by taking those risks – it may harm pass completion statistics and put more pressure on the defence (which as stated are capable of dealing with it), but both teams have shown that it is their most effective method of scoring goals. It’ll be better than 90 minutes of sideways passes 60 yards from goal.

Bonus point: Have to agree with the recent praise for Smalling, in the pub last night we were amazed at his transformation. An England back five of Hart, Clyne, Stones, Smalling and Shaw (best wishes to him) has amazing potential and the possibility of 500+ aggregate of caps.

Given a year ago we had a back four of Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka and Baines lining up at the World Cup (all good pros but all on the decline) the future looks bright at the back for England, or at least until the underwhelming exit in France.
Cheers, Matt, EFC, London


Rooney criticism grossly overstated
Ben Gleeson’s email this morning is typical of how people are prone to exaggeration and myopia when it comes to passing judgement on Wayne Rooney.
Apparently it has been “evident for at least 3 seasons” that Rooney has not been good enough. AT LEAST 3 seasons; that is to say, it could have been going back further than that, then?
Despite the fact that he scored 34 goals during the 11/12 season, and 19 in 40 games during the 13/14 season.

I know that these are stats plucked from the club website, and that stats can be used to argue any point, but this perception that he has been sh!t for 3 or 4 years is absolute complete and utter rubbish. Make your point, by all means, but do not exaggerate in order to enforce it.

Last season, and indeed under Moyes the season before, Rooney was one of only a handful of players to come out of those seasons with any credit at all.

The blood runs cold to imagine where we’d have ended up without his skill and goals Apparently we should have kept Van Persie, people still seemingly starry eyed from his debut season, forgetting that he was actually totally ****ing shite for the following two seasons. And Javier Hernandez, whose likeable personality seems to be more important than the fact that his overall game was basically worse than terrible.

Wayne Rooney has not been having a great time of it just recently, I think we can all see that, but what grinds my gears is the way people are happy to judge him against a different set of criteria to how they assess other players.

What is good for the goose is no longer considered beneficial for the gander, it would seem, especially when it comes our Wayne.

His drop off in goal return in recent seasons has been widely criticised; his deployment in midfield apparently not an acceptable reason, despite a return of a goal every other game, which for a striker is exceptional, never mind a player being deployed out of position in midfield.

His “miskick” for the opening goal was apparently in stark contrast to Mata’s speculative flick for our second, which was sold as “sublime”.

See what I mean? This side is not “carrying” Wayne Rooney. That is a gross overstatement if ever there was one. People need to get a grip, and stop worrying about what rival fans are saying about our captain.
Harry The Manc.


Schweinsteiger influence already evident
A lot of deserved praise for lovely, lovely Juan Mata this morning in Winners and Losers, as well as some richly deserved abuse for awful, awful Wayne Rooney. I used to argue in the mailbox with Silvio Dante about his Rooneyness but sadly Silvio has ultimately been proven right – Rooney is a shadow of the shadow of the player he once was.

On a more positive note, it’s early days but Schweinsteiger is fast becoming our most important central midfielder. It was noticeable how much control United had with him on the pitch and then how much they lost once he left it, not for the first time this season. I imagine Van Gaal had half an eye on the Arsenal match because the last 20 minutes of a Champions League match when you are 2-1 up against tricky opposition is exactly when you want Schweinsteiger to play. He’s a man for the big occasion and his influence on United is already noticeable – Van Gaal recently told the press that Schweinsteiger has a big influence off the pitch as well as on it and has been accepted by the other players as a leader. Something United were in dire need of.

There are legitimate concerns about his long-term fitness but he has been the most consistent fixture in the base of United’s midfield since the start of the season. Not quite the washed-up, injured has-been many fans gleefully informed us he would be and not bad for the £6.5 million United paid for his services. Considering we spunked £7 million on former hobo; Bebe a few years ago, £6.5 million for Schweinsteiger is a frigging steal, even if he is 31.

So far, he’s done exactly what I hoped he would do and has fully embraced being a United player after spending nearly all his career at Bayern. Funnily enough I remember a few years back he was quoted saying that he would like to join United at some point, apparently his brother is a fan (from personal experience, Germany is one of the few countries outside of Asia where United are strangely quite popular). I am more than happy that he got his wish.
Smyth, MUFC (I like him almost as much as Marco Reus. Almost)


City’s Euro approach needs to change
City just about did enough to get past a mediocre BMG on Wednesday night, but the performance filled me with little confidence the team can get much further than the round of 16.

The problem is not the individual talent within the squad, it is the approach towards Champions League games.

In the Premier League most teams can be overwhelmed by City attacking from all angles, but at the top end of the game it just doesn’t work like that.  City went on the offensive in Barcelona (albeit with a 4-4-2) last season in the round of 16 and but for Joe Hart could have been on the end of a hiding.  The 4-2-3-1 system adopted by City is highly vulnerable to elite teams, heck it even got dismantled by Spurs!

The system is hard to get right. Mourinho uses the system and will no doubt testify to that.  It is contingent on the three players behind the striker working hard defensively.  That is probably why Jose let Juan Mata go, it wasn’t his lack of creative or goalscoring prowess, he just couldn’t play the defensive part of the role.  Equally that is why Mourihno gets frustrated with Hazard, who as is the desire of a top end attacker, is not so keen on the mundane aspects of defensive tracking.  The system can also leave full-backs horribly exposed, Exhibit A, Ivanovic.

At City the system has the benefit of fitting in all four main attacking players. However, when City used the 4-2-3-1 system at the tail end of last season, it was players like Milner and Navas who adapted well to the dual attacking/defensive requirement which the playing in the three behind the striker role demands.  A failure of the three to work defensively leaves all kinds of spaces in and around the full-backs.  The problem at City is exacerbated when the full-backs have a tendency to bomb forwards at every opportunity, and the holding two midfielders go walkabouts (that’s you Yaya).

I thought Barcelona were taking liberties playing a 4-3-3, with none of the stellar front three doing much in the way of defensive work.  But Barca attackers were so good they got away with it. As for City, it is quite possible that with a good draw the team could progress to around the quarter-final point, but at some point an elite team will come into view and the failure to defend as a team and close a game down will bite once more.
Paul, Lymm


Dreaming of Guardiola at Arsenal
James (.)(.) Boobs Barkstriker ponders what the worst thing would be if Arsene was let go. Well I thought of every possible tragedy from the FA expulsion from FIFA to World War III to Queen Elizabeth finally dying, but not once did I  imagine Arsenal relegated or going into administration, two of the worst things that could ever happen to Arsenal.

Something tells me James’ fears are seeing Arsenal finish in, say 7th position and/or not qualifying for Champions League after so many years in it. But wait… that sounds familiar. I know of a team who were in the same situation but are now top of the log, have won their 2 games in the CL group!

Back to my point now, I don’t give a sh** what could be the worst thing, because I believe the best thing will in actuality happen IF Wenger goes. Imagine this: we get Pep Guardiola in *and we must do absolutely everything in our power*, we finally get the players we’ve always wanted by bursting that kitty open and play the most scintillating football the world have ever seen. We win the quadruple and we go into delirium!

Do I hear some yawns and rumblings? Seriously though it is possible, okay maybe not the quadruple but the others very much so. Pep Guadiola is one of the best managers in the world. Why would he come to Arsenal? 1) Because they have the money (capability) to pay him, 2) He would love the challenge to manage in England and show the world the massive potential lying at Colney Road 3) Arsenal is similar in many ways to both Bayern and Barcelona in the playing philosophy and the foundation is there already.

Arsenal are a big club, we have the potential and the funds to progress further. With a Guardiola at the helm who knows what lofty heights we can reach!
Posab, ( Relax your titties man) Botswana
PS: this is better wet dream than Neville’s!

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