Mails: Sturridge is blamed for football’s ills

Date published: Friday 20th May 2016 9:54

Another excellent mailbox. Thank you. We are now all out of Mailbox Guest pieces so if you fancy a pop, then do e-mail us at with a short paragraph about your chosen subject. If you spell things badly, don’t punctuate, don’t capitalise or suggest something we would write ourselves, you will likely be ignored. Send us a mail with ‘Mailbox guest’ in the subject field if you think you have something to offer…


Is Klopp stubborn like Arsene?
When seeing how Liverpool fail to hold up frequently for the duration of a game I wonder if Klopp isn’t becoming a victim of something, I’ll call Wenger-itis. What I mean by this is when a coach is successful and associated strongly with a particular style of play, he becomes too enamored with it and finds it difficult to make the tactical changes needed before and during the game as is called for.

For us Arsenal fans, we are all too familiar with Arsene’s [rpcivity to favor possession and passing and playing a certain way stylistically in lieu of playing a more compact defensive game. When Arsenal beat Manchester City in the previous season one of the most noteworthy things about it was how so un-Wenger like it was, counter-attacking, compact defensively, deep midfield. When Arsenal beat Bayern he exhibited the same ability to move away for what he was known for to what was needed. It took many, many seasons of non-accomplishment for Wenger to learn this lesson, a lesson that he still needs to work on.

Is Klopp suffering from the same thing? We will get a better idea of how successful gegenpressing will be in the Premier League when Klopp is able to have time and the players to really institute his plan. But tactically, can also provide the tactical awareness to realize when certain teams have adapted to the the press, are exploiting the midfield space and his players are tiring.

Opposing teams make halftime adjustments, maybe pull themselves back into the game, handle tthe press better and suddenly it seems Liverpool are floundering around, a step slower to the ball, still leaving space in the midfield and the progress of earlier in the game is lost. There is no doubt Klopp has had tremendous success with gegenpressing and I am not suggesting that he should change that coaching philosophy. The real question is can he recognize when not to use it?
David O, California


Sturridge encapsulated in one game
I can’t help but think that the first half of the Liverpool game proved exactly what fans find so frustrating about Sturridge.

The goal was a great piece of individual skill and showed why he has made it to the top, the disallowed goal however showed exactly why he hasn’t made it at Chelsea or city. There is no chance of him controlling that ball, Lovren had connected sweetly and if he hadn’t stuck a leg out it might have stood. The only reason he went for it was for the selfish thought that he could get the goal himself.

This has been seen time and time again with Sturridge, whilst he is supremely talented he is not a team player by any stretch of the imagination. One can’t help but think that he’s hardly popular in the dressing room as his mindset seems to be score at all costs. Whether that be sacrificing a pass to a player in a better position or a goal for a team mate it doesn’t matter. He probably saw the other night as a success because HE scored. The fact they lost was irrelevant.

He epitomises all that is wrong with English football. From a young age he’s been told he’s amazing, told he’s gona be a star and told that the world revolves around him. The English game no longer produces STAR players because any that have that quality are never team players. Jack Wilshere is another example of this, doesn’t matter what he does he’s bullet proof. Earn a call up? Don’t be silly, Jack doesn’t audition. Be a team player? This team isn’t good enough for mr incredible. Set an example as a model professional? Forget that you’re a STAR!!!!

We need to start putting being a better person ahead of being a better player with these kids, otherwise we’ll have generation after generation putting their own inflated egos before the purpose of the game itself…the team winning.
Anthony, Kilburn


Let’s move Moreno…
So it seems everyone wants shut of Alberto Moreno, but could this be one of those situations where a positional switch could change the trajectory of his career?

He’s very fast, faster than a lot of wingers and full backs in the league and knocks up some great statistics when it comes to creating chances.

Ultimately, his defending is probably of the quality of a winger, but at least his pace gets him out of trouble, and could likewise get a real full-back out of trouble too every now and then defensively. His shooting is absolute pants though and he often wastes possession through this, but maybe would get better if he practiced it more often? It didn’t work for defending but maybe could do in attack.

I know fans often just say move rubbish full-backs to the wing when they love attacking (Glen Johnson), but with the crossing and pace of Moreno, along with his terrible defence, this could be one that actually works.

Joe Gomez, Jon Flanagan and a first XI signing (Ricardo Rodriguez? Jonas Hector?), would be plenty of cover on the left, so why ditch a £12m young player with more Spain caps than Nacho Monreal (!) because he might not be in the right position? Maybe he could be great? We’re certainly not blessed with wingers at the moment.
KC (next up, Steven Caulker as a centre forward…)


Carrick will leave no legacy at Man United
I felt I had to write in support of BENAFC and his comments on Michael Carrick. I, too, am lost on how he has such a great reputation. His statistics say his pass accuracy is wonderful, he completes virtually everything he does but he honestly adds nothing to this Man Utd Team and I would go further and say is responsible for the stagnant and slow-paced football currently being offered to fans.

He seems to consistently position himself just at the perfect point to offer nothing other than a sideways or backward pass, the occasional moments he does look up the pitch he inevitably plays it into someone who is surrounded and struggles to keep the ball or play it off somewhere more useful. The problem with this is it always looks like the receiver of the ball’s mistake, Carricks stats go on unaffected whilst whoever he passed to inevitably gets a kicking.

For a midfielder to create so little, score so few and yet still not be a true defensive midfielder who tackles is astonishing. Carrick ‘intercepts the ball’ when it does come near enough but otherwise shepherds opposing attackers along the pitch just long enough for it to be someone else’s issue. I am sure he is a lovely guy but the reality is apart from recycling possession in a meaningless and useless way he offers nothing at all to a team. When you couple this with his lack of pace and almost complete lack of passion for anything that happens on the pitch I feel we have carried a midfielder for far too long.

I promise you that his retirement from Old Trafford will herald the start of less possession but more creative and attacking football without any doubt at all. Watching Carrick go through the motions leaves me and many others cold, his legacy at Old Trafford is that he offered so little he will barely be remembered at all and has a list of special moments equalling somewhere near two!!! For a midfielder who has held that position for as long as he has that says everything.

One last thing, he is clearly Giggsy’s mate and I can only hope that the powers-that-be don’t hand him the keys to the manager’s office as we’d be sure to get a two-year extension for ‘the English Pirlo’ if they did lol.
Jan – nervous about Saturday


Carrick’s number one fan writes…
Ben, AFC dared to pick on Michael Carrick on my watch… so here are my previously promised c*ck slaps for Benny:

1) If Jack Wilshere reached anywhere close to his potential, he’d be more Michael Carrick than you’d imagine. You don’t have to like that I said that, but there is literally no other style of play Wilshere can build himself on (especially at this point in his career) and with his vision, passing range and ability to pull out of a tight area, your (Arsenal’s) only homegrown quality player looks more like a player who’s played for West Ham, Spurs and United than anyone to have played for Arsenal. Sucks to suck.

2) I literally wrote in my mail about the thrashing of Roma (where Carras got himself on the scoresheet) yet you’d be stupid enough to say ‘pick any game of the last ten years…’ Could’ve just YouTube-Ed it, dawg.

3) Scholesy didn’t come back because Carrick was sh*t, he came back because Cleverley and Anderson remained sh*t. You do understand Carrick and Pogba should’ve been United’s CM pairing for the last four years right? Unlike f*cking Coquelin and Arteta…

4) I don’t think many ‘neutrals’ know this but United fans quite love Mickey Silvestre. Not just for his illustrious career with United (joke), but also because he left for the Arse when he was so clearly cr*p.

5) Yes Mickey Silvestre has won a CL, just like Carrick and just like Jonathon Greening too…Carrick’s also won five Premier League titles (three in a row) one League Cup and one World Club Cup. Don’t assume I’m stupid just because you couldn’t help make a stupid point.

Feel silly yet, Ben AFC? Cause I love Michael Carrick enough to keep going…
Emad MUFC Boston


Let’s end this now…
Oh, it’s the Michael Carrick debate again. Hooray. About three times a season. He’s total sh*te or he’s basically Gabriel Byrne in Miller’s Crossing. Whenever this subject comes up I’m always tempted to write in but I’m not very good at writing about actual serious football so they end up in the bin. An email on headed goals from outside the box tho and I can sneak in (thanks MC). You’d probably be wise to not publish this and kill a truly tedious discussion right now.

But if not…a few months ago (I think, but it could have been the same argument in 2011) a contributor has actually already, erm, contributed, the mail I would want to, errrrrrr, contribute but couldn’t articulate good so not. Basically it goes like this – Micheael Carrick is really good at some things so people rave about how incredible he is. Positioning and game awareness he is great. Watch him tuck in beside a full-back when he sees him having trouble with his defensive duties. He’s also awesome at forward passing, that was total c*ck from Ben, AFC (sorry, you’re probably really nice and I could have said that nicer). I cannot be arassed to find examples but let’s just assume I’m totally right. So in a team that plays fast attacking football he will supply the forwards with the ammunition all day long. But a team that plays slow patient build-up (current United team and a few of Fergie’s later iterations)? He’s rubbish at it. He won’t drive forward with the ball, commit players, make things happen. He is so much of an enabler he’s almost a burden…that makes no sense Paul, quick delete it before you hit send…

In summary, in his pomp he would have been a great signing for Real Madrid, a sh*t one for Barcelona. He’s nowhere near as rounded as Xaviesta (soz), Pirlo etc, or as good at running the game but he’s super if given the right job. If anyone writes in to tell me I’m wrong they can jog on.
Paul…just Paul


Choosing who to support in the Cup Final…
The underdog, obviously. Palace.
But then Pardew will be insufferable. United.
But then van Gaal will be insufferable and take the win as vindication of his tenure. Palace.
But van Gaal is one of the great coaches of his generation, and deserves to go out with a win. United.
But if we’re talking oldies, The Dave Clark Five were better. Palace.
But then Ed may never recover from his three-day bender. United.
But Ed might get a chance to do it in Europe next year. Palace.
But West Ham in Europe might be better for the coefficient. United.

In the end, it’s probably best to play it safe. Come on you Foxes!
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA


Pretty excited about Saturday
Ed’s article was brilliant (again) and has really got me excited about Saturday. I was only three in 1990 but my parents have told me many times about houses and shops being decked out in red and blue, the fact that the streets were empty during the final and the only sound was a roar every time Palace scored.

In recent years there’s been an increasing number of people saying the Cup doesn’t matter. They often seem to me to be fans of the ‘big’ clubs chasing the title and European trophies and presumably consider the FA Cup beneath them, but for clubs like Palace it’s a massive deal. I’ll be staying up late, hoping against hope that we win and that it’s better than the last time I stayed up until the early hours of the morning to watch a football match (England v Algeria in 2010). If we lose or if we put in a performance like England did then I will obviously be upset, and not just because of missed sleep.

Please continue the Mailbox Guest series. There must be plenty more eloquent and insightful contributors with plenty more to say.
James T, Kanazawa, Japan


Football was brutal in 1990
I watched three games from 1990 so now consider myself an expert. Not really, but here are a few things I noticed from those games:

* In the three games I watched, the quality of football was rubbish by today’s standards. There was virtually no pressing, but little in the way of individual skill either. Pass completion rates were minimal – I don’t like watching teams practice sterile domination, but there is something to be said for tidy, patient build-up play as opposed to long balls that are hopeful at best.

* Dwight Yorke “playing with a smile on his face” suddenly makes sense – everyone was so angry. Manchester United seemed the worst of the three teams I watched for this, the faces of many of their players permanently gnarled with rage.

That said, there was still the odd comedy moment, such as in the replay, when Andy Gray closed down Les Sealey, and a tense stand-off was broken up by the two laughing and hugging before Sealey punted the ball downfield.

* The games were so physical – Mark Bright and Alan Hansen spent the semi-final kicking each other, while sliding tackles that took man and ball were the norm. It was quite brutal, and in many ways it’s better that the players are more protected now, but at the same time, you have to admire the toughness on show – not in a Terry Butcher head wound kind of way, but the way players would take a bit of roughhousing and just get on with the game is admirable.

* The backpass rule could not come soon enough. Crystal Palace by far the worst offenders for this – every time one of their players won the ball in their half, they would pass it back to Nigel Martyn, who would then kick it long towards Bright. Made for dreadful viewing.

* Teams were only allowed two substitutes, so most sensibly chose an attacker and a defender, or a utility player. However there was still scope for tactical mavericks, such as Kenny Dalglish, who named two full-backs as his replacements – bringing on Steve Staunton for the injured Ian Rush was borne out of necessity (also having John Barnes able to play up front), but replacing Gary Gillespie at half-time with Barry Venison with no injury reported by the commentators has to be the inspiration for Louis van Gaal’s obsession with substituting full-backs.

* The co-commentator on the semi-final was Terry Venables. He and John Motson were clearly enjoying the game, but let’s be grateful he’s not on TV so much anymore.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven (it’s not a character, just a sequence of phonetic sounds that looks good on a t-shirt)


What do Tottenham need?
Before you get into the Spurs’ transfer guide, I’m going to have a bash at it for you.

The first XI is very very good. There are no weak links – the redemption of Erik Lamela is a lovely story of fancy dan foreigner turned into midfield grafter with touches of genius. It’s actually the blueprint that Mourinho asks of his midfielders.

Defensive cover is pretty good. Wimmer and Davies were probably the best players outside of the first X1 and both made important contributions through the season, as did Trippier. That said, the 1 – 0 loss at West Ham and both games against Dortmund featured both reserve full-backs and they didn’t play very much again. Maybe MP isn’t convinced.

Midfield cover ain’t great. Outside the five starters no one did much but Son and N’Jie deserve time. Chadli’s fall from grace is quite sad – he was kept out there playing very poorly when there was stuff going on in his personal life and hasn’t been the same since. But those three as cover for Alli, Eriksen, Lamela kind of works.

It’s in the pivot where the real problems start. Dier and Dembele was just ridiculously good. Some years back Dembele and Sandro were awesome for a short space of time. One of those getting injured or sticking their fingers in a Spaniard’s eye and getting banned for the first four games of next season is troubling. The first necessity is to find someone that can cover him in August. Mason, Bentaleb, Carroll and it seems Pritchard aren’t fit for purpose which is a shame…but some very high standards have been set.

And it might be an idea to provide some back up for Kane. But we’ve been chatting about this for a while.

So there we have it – monster defensive midfielder and back up striker. Everything else is a bonus.

All the best
Andrew, Woodford Green


Winners and losers: A league table
With all the end of season lists and tables floating around, I thought I’d compile a league table that represented the year-long assessments of the Winners and Losers column. I’ve called it…The Winners and Losers table 2015/16. Take a moment to control your excitement.

What’s that, you have a couple of questions for me? Yes, happily, and no, she saw a spreadsheet and thought I was working.

Because the article is reactive to the events of the weekend, the table isn’t designed as a prediction analysis (like a Lawro vs. table might be), but more as a sort of perception chart for how your club was seen to have done this year. You could say it acts as a ‘football narrative’ table for the year, but we’re all sick of the word narrative, so let’s not. The weekly W&L is an interesting column, because it’s not simply about who played well, and who didn’t. It takes into account good luck, and bad, how a club is run, and how its support reacts to how it’s run. It’s not a pure reflection of how a team ended up, but more broadly how did they get to where they did, and how will they do in the future. At this point, I’m obliged to say that it’s not my intention to rehash a tiresome ‘who had the best season debate’, so apologies in advance.

The scoring premise was fairly simple, each team would achieve point rating each week based on their W&L assessments. Without going into too much detail, a point was given per individual paragraph of text devoted to an aspect of the club (including players, managers, owners, supporters etc.) in the Winners section, and a point was taken away for a paragraph in the losers section; an aggregate score for the team was taken for that week. For example if Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial were in the winners column (with an individual paragraph devoted to each), but LVG was in the losers column, United’s score for that week would be +1. And so on.

I also decided to add in a bonus feature which rewarded extreme scoring. Scores of +3 or above got a bonus point, and scores of -3 or below got a further negative point. If there were a lot of positives or negatives about a club, on a given week (enough to warrant lots of different talking points), it was duly reflected in the score.

Here’s how things panned out:

1 Leicester City 51
2 Tottenham Hotspur 41
3 West Ham United 23
4 Swansea City 16
5 AFC Bournemouth 14
6 Southampton 13
7 Watford 8
8 Liverpool 5
9 Manchester City 5
10 Stoke City 5
11 Crystal Palace 2
12 Newcastle United 1
13 Chelsea 0
14 Everton -2
15 Arsenal -4
16 West Bromwich Albion -4
17 Sunderland -7
18 Manchester United -9
19 Norwich City -10
20 Aston Villa -19

So, as you might expect, Leicester top the table, and Villa anchor things at the other end. Here are some interesting points from looking back at a year’s worth of analysis:

– Leicester and Tottenham are the positivity kings with seven bonus points awarded to each. Man United, somehow come third, with four bonus points. Which is quickly discounted by…

– a league leading eight negative ‘bonus’ points for United, as well. Arsenal sit comfortably in second with a -6, at the special losers table, with Chelsea and Man City sitting at the kiddies losers table with -3 each.

– Did you not see your team mentioned on a given week? Well you might not have if you support Watford, West Brom, Stoke, or Swansea (in that order).

– Who were you most likely to be reading about? Take a guess. Man United easily top the list, with Liverpool, Newcastle, and Spurs, just behind them.

– Relative to actual league position, Leicester, Southampton, Liverpool, Sunderland, Norwich and Villa finish in their real life spots. Bournemouth and Swansea are the biggest overachievers (steady, but unflashy positives throughout the season), while Arsenal and Man United sink the lowest.

– Everton and Man United both experience the greatest turbulence over the season, both achieving (unadjusted) scores of +5, and -4 on separate occasions.

– Managers take a kicking throughout the year. In fact, there is a three bedroom flat in Losers Tower, with Martinez, Wenger, and Van Gaal sitting around arguing about whose turn it is to do the washing up.

– These managers were partially redeemed (in a points manner) by healthy doses of love for Lukaku, Ozil, and Martial/Rashford. Maybe it’s fair to say ‘unhealthy’ doses of love, in the case of Lukaku.

What was wonderful in going back through the column, was just how much it resembled a fan’s take on the game. There was some clinical analysis, to be sure, but more than that there were 1960s-sized doses of hope and positivity, washed out the next week by waves of disbelief and despair. Youth was approached with optimism, and patience, while old hands were given short shrift if their footballing ambitions went stale. There were reactionary diatribes, dismissing a subject with contempt, shoulder to shoulder with nuanced analysis of pass completion ratios, and possession statistics.

It’s a testament to the turbulence of this season, that so much of the week by week analysis could seem thoughtful and reasoned, only to be turned on its head a few weeks later, and then back again the week after. Who’d be a football writer, eh?
Richard Hell

More Related Articles