Let’s have some variation over the last couple of days of the summer, and welcome back the Premier League with a bang. Send your mails to firstname.lastname@example.org
A long (and good) mail on potential Premier League winners
Having learned nothing from Leicester’s borderline miraculous title win last year, i’m going to wade in and say that only one of three teams have the capability of winning the league next year. Here are my very long winded thoughts on the situation.
First of all Man United. For me, their title challenge rests at the feet of one man. Without him, they wont be good enough, but if he’s as good as he should be then United are title favourites. That man is Paul Pogba and i’ll start by disagreeing with Matt Stead and saying that I don’t think he will be the game changer that United fans hope he will be. Evidently, Paul Pogba has the potential to be one of the greatest players on the planet. Anyone with a pair of eyes can see that. But in my opinion, he is nowhere near the finished article. I don’t know if I have just been unlucky but every time I have watched him live he has been nowhere near as effective as he should be.
Don’t get me wrong I have seen many a moment of wonderful technique but i’m going to throw this out there to the mailbox, has anyone ever seen him put in a great man of the match performance? Not a game where he scores an outrageous goal and gets the headlines but one where he has dominated the game for 90 minutes and been head and shoulders above everyone else. Because I must have seen Pogba play 20 times and I have never seen a single one. I’ve seen quality goals, quality passes, wonderful examples of exemplary technique, but never a performance of such quality that it puts him near the top bracket of midfield players. I don’t expect that to change next year although i’d happily stick a tenner on him for goal of the season.
I also see a potential problem with him and Mourinho. I am fortunate enough to have had a fair few conversations with guys that have played under Mourinho and they all say that his insistence on a specific defensive discipline from his midfield players is sometimes damaging to certain players. Pogba would thrive under a Wenger or Guardiola type. Managers that obviously take care of defensive shape but like their midfield players to expose themselves occasionally as well, as you have to if they want to get on the ball and get on the front foot.
The midfield players that have thrived under Mourinho, Lampard, Essien, Makelele, Matic, were not technicians. They were defensively disciplined first and foremost. Even Lampard was unbelievably defensively and tactically astute. The ball could never move through him like it did with Xavi, Vieira, Iniesta etc. but Mourinho doesn’t want that from his midfielders. Lampard kept it tight and timed his runs to perfection. But that shouldn’t be Pogba’s game and I think that he needs to be given opportunity to move the ball and dictate the tempo. Under Mourinho that will never happen, I think we’ll see him sit back and break quickly and it will be a huge waste of his technical ability and talent. However, if I am wrong and Pogba turns out to be the best midfield player in the league, then they will probably win the title.
City’s success depends on two things. First, are their centre halves and deep lying midfield player technically capable of playing the way Guardiola demands them to? And secondly, how will their injury situation hold up? The two questions are kind of tied in together because if their key players stay fit, then they should be good enough to make it work. However, three of their most important five players, Aguero, Kompany, Gundogan, are hugely injury prone. The other two are De Bruyne (what a player he will be next year) and Silva and if they can keep those five fit for most of the season then I think they will be impossible to stop. The John Stones signing is also a brilliant one for them. He fits perfectly into Guardiola’s idea of a centre back and I think he might reach that top level next season and therefore quickly become one of City’s most important players.
Finally Arsenal. And for them, a lot depends on how the other two get on. Both of the other sides have more potential but I think there is a solid chance that Wenger might just have created a side good enough to sneak it.
Now assuming they bring in a good centre half, which they undoubtably will because they have to, the issue for Wenger will be finding the right balance in midfield. People are talking about them needing a striker and goals but I believe that Arsenal might be able to get those from the current midfield players they already have in the squad. Granit Xhaka looks like the right type of midfield player that will grant his partner license to get forward. If he is good enough to knit the midfield together from that deep lying position then Aaron Ramsey for example, will benefit hugely and will provide a much bigger goal threat going forwards. The same can be said of Jack Wilshere and if Wenger can get that second central midfield player offering more in the final third, I think that the wide players will also find themselves in more space and with greater opportunities to score goals.
This will make a huge difference to Arsenal and I think they will be a really good side next year. Their midfield options are impressive in Xhaka, Ramsey, Cazorla, Elneny, Wilshere and Coquelin and if Wenger can utilise them correctly then coupled with a bit of Sanchez and Ozil stardust they should be in with a very good chance.
Could this Manchester United become ‘Invincibles’?
United could go on to become “The Invincibles” MK II in the next three years, here’s why.
Mou is a ruthless manager who rarely loses more than five a season, I don’t have the statistics but I’m pretty sure it’s more close to three games per season, and if anyone mentions last year, well it’s not the only miracle that have happened and believe me it won’t happen again.
Nobody has won back to back titles in a long time, I’ll eat my hat if Leicester will win it again this year. Moreover, I wouldn’t start naming names but when you look across the board they have at least two quality players in each position whatever the formation, now that’s “Invincibles quality”. I must say that the big difference in circumstances is that during the Invincibles era there weren’t so many good teams around so he probably would lose at least once.
If and when when Mourinho accomplishes that feat, Wenger will finally have to admit defeat and resign let us move forward with the times or even worse come to terms with reality, change with the times and adjust his philosophy/vision.
Mourinho’s mind games have started too early
So, since Jose Mourinho arrived at United he has been on a mission to stamp his authority on the club, he’s ensured that United are not forgot about (if they could be) in the global football scheme of things, by making high profile signings and generally being as decisive as any manager could be in terms of how he’s getting things done.
There is no doubting his status as one of the biggest management names in world football and he deserves that for his achievements to date. However, in my humble opinion he is now taking the biggest risk of his career to, and even United fans must be slightly worried by his sometimes bitter or paranoid statements.
Arrogance is fairly common for all managers at that level and I must admit to being a fan of his version of it for about 5-6 years. However, these last few seasons he is fixated with picking fights rather than giving discreet digs at those who have something to say about his clubs. Wenger and Klopp were both asked directly about the fees being paid in football, in particular the £100 million (at the time) that was being touted for Pogba.
I don’t think they were disrespectful off United in their comments and merely said that the fees were getting crazier, madness etc. and that they preferred to take a more developmental approach to buying players.
Mourinho of old I think would have said something like “we have Zlatan, Pogba, Miki and Bailly…. Im not too sad etc. I hope they are as happy with their own squad” however, he now takes the approach of saying that they lack ethics (his 1st response) and then the proceeds again last night (his 2nd response) referencing the managers who spoke about him stating, probably quite correctly that United are one of the only clubs able to purchase in this manner.
It’s crass and smug and doesn’t endear him to anyone but United fans. And why is one response to their statements not enough? Fergie would start his “mind games” in the second half of the season and then only if he needed to, but Mourinho is heaping the pressure on the players, fans and himself by acting the way he is.
I understand he wants people to recognise that United are a massive club globally but if he HAS to do it by acting like some pompous rich kid the knives will be out sooner than later and he clearly has a bit off an inferiority complex about it.
United fans who say they don’t care who likes him or the club apart from the fans, you all know that under Fergie he had created something that everyone disliked but respected, with Mourinho you are going to get dislike and disrespect equally. The pressure is well and truly on and he is showing already his weakness in that he will fight even when he doesn’t have too.
Christy M (Klopp is just being too nice right now)
Donald Trump and Jose Mourinho: Peas in the same pod
Seems like we’ve been watching José Mourinho’s shtick forever. But it’s only recently, here in the USA at least, that it’s become clear who deep down he really is: Donald Trump. Obsessed with winning, always having to strike back, making everything personal, constantly playing alpha male games.
Here are 10 quotes culled from the Internet: which are Mourinho’s and which are Trump’s?
“I have a winning temperament. We’re going to win, we’re going to start winning again. But I’ve won. My whole life has been about winning. I win.”
“I have a problem, which is I’m getting better at everything.”
“If you have a Ferrari and I have a small car, to beat you in a race I have to break your wheel or put sugar in your tank.”
“When I think I’m right, nothing bothers me.”
“We’re totally predictable. And predictable is bad.”
“I am prepared. The more pressure there is, the stronger I am.”
“The point is, you can never be too greedy.”
“My IQ is one of the highest, and you all know it.”
“What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate.”
“[God] has helped me out so much that He must have a very high opinion of me.”
Has anyone ever seen the two together?
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
Transfer fees: Who is to blame?
There’s a lot been written lately about the “madness” of recent transfer fees and wages, and there’s been a strange debate about who is to blame for all of this. A few mails have pointed out that transfer fees and wages as a percentage of turnover are no more, and in many cases considerably less, than in times gone by; it’s also been noted that Premier League clubs are mostly profitable at present, which is very unusual by historical standards.
It seems to me that the inflation in transfer fees and wages in recent years is not a case of chairmen, managers, transfer committees etc losing their collective grip on sanity, but instead is the only logical result of a game that is generating significantly more revenue.
Where has all this horrible, game-ruining revenue come from? Not the match-going fans; Arsenal are the only club in the league to likely generate over 15% of revenue from matchday income in the coming season, and the one thing they’re never accused of is inflating fees in the transfer market. TV money accounts for 50 – 90% of revenue for most Premier League clubs, and can be fingered as the main culprit.
But where does this come from? I estimate 75% of the PL TV money next year will come from domestic revenue, which works out at c.£105m per club in the top 6; those in the Champions League can expect a further £15m or so of domestic TV money, further pushing up the TV money contribution as a percentage of total revenue. Commercial revenue (sponsorship etc) makes up the rest of revenue, but I won’t go into that now (this mail is long enough!).
I don’t have the figures but I imagine the cost of watching every televised live game (i.e. currently paying for both Sky and BT subscriptions) has risen dramatically in recent years – I would argue domestic British fans with one or both subscriptions are the single biggest culprits for the amount of money in today’s games. However the amount of football shown, quality of the product and level of monetisation (through sponsorship, advertising etc) have all significantly increased; if the quality and quantity is not considered good enough and subscription costs rise too fast, fans will “cut the cord” and cancel their subscriptions (as has been happening to ESPN in the US in recent months).
There is a risk the growing global appeal of the game and rising revenue from overseas will continue to push revenues higher even if the prices paid for domestic TV rights stop rising, but that is only relevant in the longer-term.
Juventus: A great team, dismantled
Has a Champions League Finalist team ever been broken up quicker than Juventus 2015?
In barely 14 months since that final, they’ve lost the midfield trio of Vidal, Pirlo and Pogba, and their goal scorer in the final and their top scorer of that season; Morata and Tevez, respectively. Llorente and Coman, the forwards who were subbed on in the attempt for an equaliser, have also moved on.
Even though they have signed Higuain, Pjanić and Alves, I don’t see them going further in Europe than they did this last season (Round of 16).
Andrew M, AFC (They’ll still go further than both Arsenal and Spurs, though), Australia
Stones vs Irwin
John Stones cost Manchester City £47.5 million.
Denis Irwin cost £625,000 in transfer fees over his entire career.
This means one John Stones transfer is equal to 76 Denis Irwin careers.
Inflation eh? It’s a funny old game.
Why Chelsea must play 4-3-3
There has been a lot of talk about the formation Chelsea want to play. Conte is seen as a 4-2-4 guy who likes wingers and lots of energy all over the field. However, the system didn’t quite fit at Juventus before he switched it to 3-5-2, giving Pirlo more protection by surrounding him with energy with any two of Vidal/Pogba/Marchisio, thus allowing him to dictate play from deep.
Chelsea have a central midfield dilemma. We have a deep lying playmaker who can’t defend in Fabregas and an inconsistent player who works his ass off and is quite creative in Oscar, along with Kante, Matic, Mikel, RLC and Chalobah. How does he justify playing one of Fabregas and Oscar along with one of those defensive midfielders (RLC should be a box to-box player; he should forget being a striker)? If he really wants to play a 4-2-4 full time then we probably have to play Kante with Matic or MIkel in order not to leave our defence exposed, meaning either one of Fabregas or Oscar plays less. This also puts a lot of pressure on Willian and Hazard, who have to track back, lead counter attacks and be our most creative players. While I don’t put that beyond them, that’s a lot of work.
For us to successfully play 4-2-4 in the PL we have to imitate Atletico Madrid – where the lines of defence, midfield and forward are so close to each other defensively and quick, direct counter attacks, but this team can do better than that.
Hence my theory of 4-3-3. With a 4-3-3 we can play one of Oscar and Fabregas with 2 strong midfielders instead of one. This has a positive effect on our defense by protecting it better and not getting opened up in the middle easily like last season, and it allows Hazard and Willian less defensive responsibility. We also get one of the creative central midfielders the chance to join the attack and combine with the forward players more. Oscar has the work rate to run up to create chances and make runs in to the box, and also form a midfield 5 when we’re trying to park the bus.
While 4-2-4 is a good option, I feel we don’t have the players to play well with it. Our midfield will get exposed a lot if we lose the ball and are open for a counter attack on our feeble backline, my only concern in the team right now (if we get Lukaku that would be nice, but we need to spend on defence first. A CB and LB would be nice).
Either way, I’m optimistic Conte will figure it out.
Middlesbrough could be the new QPR
Upon reading #10 on the top ten, I got that sinking feeling that their squad is shaping up to be similar to the washed up, European frankenstein’s that QPR resembled during their time up.
I’m genuinely excited by de Roon and Fischer, but why drop the likes of Downing and Rhodes when they could probably play a serviceable role in keeping this team up and beyond?
So is it going to be a disaster or a surprisingly delightful team? I don’t think it’ll be anything in the middle.
Thom, MCFC, Cincinnati
It’s the issue that’s been eating away at us all
A question has been bugging me intermittently for a while now: Why do football players high-five during substitutions?
I’ve tried Google and didn’t get any answers, hence any reply would be well appreciated.
(MC – We reckon it’s because they are teammates and perhaps even actual friends, Kester. Keep ’em coming)