Mails: The Ox can emulate Bale (hopefully)

Date published: Thursday 15th October 2015 9:51

Plus, more on ‘Moneyball’, Ancelotti, philosophies, expensive pies and a rundown of the top 10 moments of the season so far…

If you have anything to add on any subject, you know what to do – mail


On The Ox
At Arsenal supporters HQ we’re waiting too. There’s a blogger who repeatedly alludes to him having a breakthrough a la Gareth Bale, I don’t think that’s an exaggerated hope.

Re critique laid down in the article: “there are also questions (which may be unfair) about his appetite to work back and defend” – not so much appetite to work back, but its his savvy when he has tracked back. Following the wrong man not quite tightly enough, winning the ball deep and passing to an opposition attacker etc. I think his issues going forward might be similar, he seems to lose his head when he needs to ice the cake with a cut-back or shot.

It would be fully freakish for him not to play much this season, what with our usual injury travails. I hope that for some easier games we can rest Alexis, leaving the ox the freedoms of taking that exact roll on: get the ball deep, run forward hell for leather, treat us to some thunderbastards. Unfortunately for him, as well as being jack of all trades, his styles are pretty effective from the bench too.
James Gooner


The last thing on football ‘Moneyball’
I have been loving the articles featuring in Mediawatch re proper football men vs statisticians. As well as Mediawatch in general recently, it’s been ‘ace’ (sorry).

I read Moneyball and watched the film and as a bit of a maths nerd and general sports fanatic the story really grabbed me. However I think the point of it all has been missed somewhat by the public, even if not by the management of Brentford and FC Midtjylland. Applying Moneyball principles specifically to football management would mean the following;

1) It is ‘an unfair game’ as suggested in the book, in that the richest teams are almost invariably the most successful
2) Despite this, clubs seem to have ‘an imperfect understanding of what wins matches’ and consequently waste their money (for example the fixation on a striker to keep you in the top division when all evidence points to having a solid defence being more important)
3) Poorer teams could achieve better results (but not necessarily win titles) if they just spend their money more efficiently.
4) A lot of players are hugely undervalued and/or rejected by richer clubs, for reasons that are quite trivial and not all that relevant to their on-field ability.

Obviously comparing football to baseball is like comparing chess to noughts and crosses but some of the points still apply.

In the context of 2, rubbish players like Danny Graham, Borini, Carlton Cole, Fraizer Campbell etc keep getting contracts because of a misguided belief that they are saviours despite stats conclusively proving they are useless. Clubs would be better bringing through academy players or finding guys who actually getting shots on target and getting goals in the lower leagues rather than these ‘experienced’ failures.

In the context of 4, someone like Ben Arfa, van der Vaart, Mitrovic, Distin (to Bournemouth or Everton), Gestede, McAuley, Darren Fletcher, Hangeland (to Crystal Palace) Michu, Balotelli or even Luis Suarez (23 million pounds only!) can be regarded as Moneyball signings. Obviously not all have turned out to be great successes but that’s where football is not baseball and is gloriously unpredictable. For various reasons such as being fat, old, slow, prone to red cards, injuries or mood swings and in the case of Suarez, the shocking record of previous signings from Dutch teams (Afonso Alves anyone?) meant that these players are or were grossly undervalued, in terms of what they were capable of producing at least.

My opinion is that the Wenger/Klopp way of finding young talent and nurturing them a la Coquelin is the best way forward but poorer teams can still pick up a bargain if they are willing to look at Moneyball principles, to ignore personal factors that might not be relevant to football and just look at the data.
Gavan, THFC, Sydney


Of course Liverpool approached Ancelotti
I just thought I’d mail in to try and clear up some confusion. Now I don’t work in HR but I have been involved in the process of recruiting people for my company and generally this is how it works. You advertise a position, you filter those who apply to a manageable number, you interview/test them and pick the one you like the most. It’s a little bit different in football when looking for a new manager at a high profile club as a) advertising sort of takes care of itself when you sack the previous incumbent, and b) you know of potential candidates so approach them yourselves.

This is a slightly long-winded way of saying that what you don’t do is pick your favourite beforehand, go through the whole process with them and if it doesn’t work out you move onto the next guy. Of course Liverpool approached Ancelotti, I would have been quite miffed if they hadn’t. He is a high-class manager with knowledge of the English game and currently out of work. They may well have approached more managers other than Klopp as well, and rightly so. It was important to appoint another manager soon after Rodgers left and the more irons you have in the fire gives you the best opportunity to do this. Who was approached by Liverpool means precisely zilch, the only relevant thing was who was actually offered the job and that I’m aware of this was only Jurgen Klopp.
Jim, Norwich


Football is about enjoyment
A letter from Dave (I truly stand by this, Barca were Arsenalite) Somewhere stood out somewhat in the mailbox.

“West Ham fans should be reminded that Barca were Barcelona before Messi, and won very little.” I’ll let someone else give him the history lesson on that one but I do remember 2 European cup finals before the emergence of Messi in which Barca weren’t ‘winning very little’.

I think what Dave fails to grasp though is that people don’t want to watch a team just try and survive every season. Yes Alladici took up West Ham and kept them there but they could be really dire to watch. Sometimes you just want to see your team attack.

I once had the ‘pleasure’ of watching Senor Alladici’s Newcastle team. It was at the City of Manchester Stadium in the days when us United fans could call it the council house. Some toon fan mates were down in town to watch the game so me and my mate got seats in the city end then went out with the Geordies after the game. Newcastle lost 3-0 that day and were completely outplayed.

At the time both clubs had new managers who didn’t begin the following season in charge of their respective clubs. City’s then manager was Sven and despite ultimately losing his job Svenis is a very well liked man amongst City fans, Big Sam with Newcastle fans? Not so much.

So why? Well I think the answer lies in the fact that whilst both managers spent a good amount of money that summer, Sven bought a bit of flair and joy in players like Petrov and Elano (as well as bringing through the excellent Michael Johnson, remember him?) whereas Sam went for seasoned premiership workhorses like Alan Smith, Joey Barton and Geremi (70k a week!).

Ultimately I think its nothing to do with big terms like ‘philosophy’ its more memories. If Sam had seen out the season he may even have finished above City who ran out of steam fast around Christmas time but it would’ve been turgid hard fought 1-0’s, 2-1’s from scrappy goals and set plays where as City fans always had days like that 3-0 thrashing and the excellence of Elano to remember from the Sven era.
Rob, Lazy ESL teacher, Guangzhou.


‘Philosophies’? Pah.
Dave (I truly stand by this, Barca were Arsenalite) Somewhere I have to say I agree with you! The only 2 clubs I would say have a philosophy (there could be other’s I don’t know about) and they are Ajax and Barca. And that stems largely from the way the academies are set up and the way the clubs try appoint ex players as managers whenever they can. That helps maintain the style. Arsenal have it to an extent but as Dave said that’s just because Wenger has been there so long.

One thing I always wonder about, is why United are still associated with brilliant wing play and it being their keystone to success. It’s true that United had some great wingers under Fergie (Giggs, Sharpe, Beckham, Kanchelskis) but in my opinion that died out a long time ago. Maybe even as far back as Beckham leaving. The only top quality winger Utd have had in recent years is Ronaldo. And what he did was play wide left and cut inside all the time. The others wingers they have had lately are Valencia, Nani (both decent for short spells), Park, Rooney (on occasion), Young, Welbeck etc.

I accept Fergie always played with wide players but the most influential players of recent times (say last 7 years or so) are Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez, RvP, Ferdinand, Evra, Vidic, Carrick, Van der Sar. None of these are traditional wingers.

I always thought Fergie’s greatest strength was that he was never tied to a footballing ideal (philosophy), he would just put out 11 players that would win the game anyway they could. Even if that meant playing Rooney wide and Ronaldo through the middle or playing Park/Phil Neville in CM just to man mark somebody out of a game. He tried to play entertaining football but was never afraid to instruct the team to go direct or to shut up shop and defend.
Dan, Ireland MUFC


Top 10 moments of the season so far
‎This season have produced several memorable moments already. Here is my Top 10 Moments Of The Season So Far:

10) Benteke’s overhead kick goal against United. Touted to be contender for Goal Of The Season. Top stuff from a Big man.

9) Diego Costa dividing opinions after repeatedly wiping Koscielny’s face and somehow managing to stay on the field.

8) Kun Aguero scoring 5 goals in 20 minutes thereby breaking several EPL records. If only he could stay fit all season. Poor Sergio.

7) Arsenal destroying United by scoring 3 goals in the 1st 22 minutes. Who coulda predicted that? For The 1st 30 minutes, every Arsenal attack seemed to unsettle United’s backline of SMALLing, BLIND, Darmian and YOUNG. ‎(See what I did there)

6) Aston Villa Manager ‘Tactics’ Tim Sherwood showing that indeed he is a manager terribly out of his depth. After the win against Birmingham, he claimed that he had deliberately setup his team to play in a way to give the Blues a false sense of hope. Oh yeah.

5) Jose Mourinho calling out his physios for attending to Hazard after he was hacked down against Swansea on the 1st day of the season. The drama that have since ensued has been one of the highlights of the season so far.

4) Jurgen Klopp taking over the reins at Liverpool. And everyone getting excited even before he’s been in the Anfield dugout.

3) Brendan Rodgers getting the sack despite stating in his press conference ‎hours before that he felt secure. Ah Good riddance.

2) English clubs getting their collective asses handed to them on the European stage. Arsenal has been the worst culprit. Losing two matches on the bounce against supposedly lesser teams. With Bayern looming over two legs, Arsenal may be facing a group stage exit from the competition.

1) F365 changing the site overview and layout. At first it felt like getting home to find out that someone has moved the furniture. It hasn’t been easy adjusting to the changes so far. Thumbs up F365 for the good work. You guys spice up my day.


£4.50 for a pie? Christ…
Ah the BBC Price of Football data is revealed again.

Expect a mailbox of general misinformation, about how Arsenal are too expensive and pies are too expensive everywhere.
Rob A (read between the lines people) AFC


Constructive criticism
I don’t lie your new website if I were you I would go back to the old style much more new about all the UK leagues.
K Maguire

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