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FIVE GAMES IN, PEOPLE
Five. That’s how many games each Premier League team has played this season. Five games out of a total of 38. I swear that not so many years ago newspapers didn’t even bother printing league tables at this embryonic stage of the season, such was their insignificance in mid-September. Yet here we are now, getting in a frenzy crowing Man City as champions, dooming Sunderland et al to relegation, and sharpening the knives for the first managerial cull. It’s a complete nonsense, I recall this time last season everyone decreeing it a two horse title race between Man City and Chelsea, and look how that panned out. Five games people, just calm the f*** down, chill out and enjoy it.
Richard, NCFC (ooh second in the Championship, we’re going up, up I tell you!)
Is there anything more glorious in football than seeing Man United struggle after spending yet more cash in desperation? Well yes, there is. Only a couple of things in the football world could top it: a Liverpool or Spurs relegation, and the final humiliation of Jose Mourinho.
I admit I was not looking forward to this season, mainly due to the marriage of b***ardry that had taken place at the theatre of nightmares. But how things have changed.
He’s already throwing his players under the bus, blaming everyone but himself. I now cannot wait for the next instalment. How many points do they drop before his job is at risk? Would it be funnier for him to see this season through to a seventh-place finish or to be sacked after three months? To be honest, I’d take either. What goes around, very much comes around Jose.
Anyone that is not enjoying this is either a Man United fan, or dead inside.
Come on Leicester!!! (And Northampton)
Tito Villanova’s Eye
Mourinho (and his ego) is the big problem here
Some of the outrage towards the selected players/formation/etc was a bit undue. Three losses in a week is a bad return but this is simply the process by which a team and system is settled upon. Chastising the players (Pogba, Rooney, Bailly, etc) is especially useless as United fans need to start realizing the managers are changing a lot faster than the players nowadays…these aren’t those days anymore when Fergie said ‘you’re out’ and you were, indeed, out.
Mourinho, to me, is the bigger concern. If there’s anything that Van Gaal and Moyes proved, it’s this: in this job, it doesn’t matter what you did for the last 15 years, only what you do now. I sincerely hope Mourinho was not hired based on his spells at Porto, Inter, Chelsea (the first time) and Real Madrid (included just for argument’s sake), but instead on his plan and promise to prevent whatever happened during his last year at Chelsea.
Jose’s gotten, more or less, everything he asked for from United and Woodward. Putting the players together is his job but he’s got to be able to try out all the permutations. Schneiderlin-Pogba-Rooney; Carrick-Fellaini-Herrera; Martial/Memphis-Zlatan/Rashford-Lingard/Mikhy etc etc. And that’s fine, but he’s got to be able to buy time. Except that he didn’t, when given the chance. One-upping LVG was so important to Jose that he announced proudly that United would be gunning for the trophy (something that was said, but really quite impossible, before Pogba was signed) this season. Given how Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal have (or should’ve) strengthened this summer, and Guardiola took over at City, maybe Mourinho should’ve said the stupid ‘little horse big horse’ crap instead. And here’s my problem with the Portugese: he’s not learnt to pipe down after his last stint at Chelsea. If anything, Guardiola is the one downplaying expectations at City.
Jose could have the United job for the next ten years or just the next two. If he’s planning on being here for the foreseeable future, then surely blazing ahead for the title shouldn’t be the priority in season one. so long as good players are signed (check), entertaining football is played and titles are at least contested for, Jose should first get reacclimatized to structuring a winning team while also learning to work with a healthy youth network. But it’s his ego, his need to remind us that he’s the greatest, despite not currently having the record to prove it. There was a time when his teams could do it for him so he’d do something attention seeking like run down the touch line to celebrate. But for the last two years, it’s only his own press conferences that give us evidence of him being the best at his trade.
John Nicholson is right, the glint in his eye is missing and without it, Jose looks less like a charming, devilish genius and more like a p*ssed off d*ck. Mourinho is getting scared and caving into fan/media pressure already (evidenced by his switch to 4-3-3 this week against Watford as well as the start given to Rashford). He needs to rediscover his best self as a coach and get back to the basics of organization and cohesion. At the moment, he’s setting himself up for failure.
Again: the team is merely in the process of settling. It seems only a matter of time before Carrick/Schneiderlin are brought in and Pogba and Rooney figure out how to play their polarizing games in the same space on the field. In the meantime, Jose’s got to be managing the fans’ expectations as opposed to blaming the referees for hampering his title challenge.
Jose came into United with a retribution story on the cards. Seven games is far too early to be making a judgement on the job he’s done/is doing but unfortunately, the problem is not a new one. Granted, there is no overt sexism against his staff nor any eye-gouging just as yet, but surely the most obvious place to start was to prove himself as the best based on the merit of his work.
Let the football talk, not the voice in your head, Jose.
Is he just mardy?
I’m not a fan of Chelsea , Man UTD , or even a team in the Premiership. I’ve not followed his career particularly closely.
So, I could be way off target, but, most of his big success, probably with Porto and his original stint at Chelsea, he obviously wasn’t the same age as all his players, but he was relatively young.
He now seems like a mardy old so and so. Could it possibly be that in his age he’s lost touch with the younger squad members, not changed his style and the results are reflecting that? Possibly similar to Wenger?
Luke (just a suggestion) Chengdu
Don’t pick on Fellaini
I understand some of the flak Fellaini receives but at what point do people realize that he does what his coaches want. He gives the ball away instantly as his job isn’t to be a creative player, it’s to pass it to someone who is better than him with the ball. His job is clearly to win the ball back and that he has been doing at a ridiculous rate. He doesn’t pass it forward often but United’s best pass of the night was his cross to Zlatan where Xlatan was wasteful. Him not passing it forward all the time when that’s not one of his strengths as a player isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s players that constantly try using a skill they don’t have (Rooney passing, Pogba trying 50 yard shots) that kills a team.
Saying he’s bad at headers is just a little silly. The reason he stands still instead of doing a run-up or jumping is because most of the time he does a run up or jump he gets a yellow card. The other times it’s usually that the defender is wrapped around him with two arms where he physically can’t jump (at least twice a game this happens but has never been called). Besides watch any corner or free-kick and see if anyone else besides Fellaini ever wins a defensive header. He’s not amazing at offensive headers on goal but defensively he wins almost all of them in the box when we have no CBs that can. He’s not a perfect player but he’s the only player on United that seems to give a sh*t about the games right now and until we have CBs that can head the ball out of the box on set plays we need him.
Kyle, MUFC (Blind or Carrick next to him and pPgba in Rooney’s spot would be nice)
Was Jose setting up Rooney for a fall?
Following up on the excellent article by John Nicholson on Mourinho ‘getting hard’ (matron), I thought I’d add that I sort of expected this to happen as soon as I saw Rooney’s name on the first team sheets of the season.
Anyone with even a passing interest in top-level European football would never expect Rooney to be prioritised over the likes of Pogba and Mkjkhjkhitaryan. Jose is no fool – he best play was to establish that he was going to play Rooney in what the media consider to be his best position (no 10). He couldn’t just start the season without Rooney in the team as the media storm would have been too distracting.
So Jose put Rooney in his team and knew that if it doesn’t work out then he can finally drop him and build a new team around the stars he has just bought. If somehow it worked with Rooney in the team, then great, winning is winning.
Now that the results have been terrible though, he can drop Rooney and put others in his place with relative impunity. Anyone standing up and questioning leaving out Rooney at this stage is surely going to sound mental…right?
Also, Guo wrote in asking how Liverpool fans feel about Milner at left-back. Who else could we get that is better for a reasonable price? Moreno cost £15-odd million two years ago before the new TV deal…I’d love us to sign the likes of Aaron Cresswell (assuming he’d want to sign and that he makes a full recovery from his current injury) but I don’t see why West Ham would sell for less than £25 million, which is obviously a mental amount of money for a bloke called ‘Cresswell’.
At Dortmund, Klopp converted a functional midfielder Grosskreutz to a solid full-back, rather than go out and sign another. He likes to coach the players he has. Milner is a class above that and from what I’ve seen, he is a fine left-back whom I trust a great deal more than Moreno. It’s early days, but I’d be happy with Milner at left back for a couple of years, certainly. As long as he still has the engine and a bit of pace, why not. He is still, somehow, massively underrated by almost all.
So where would you play Rooney?
Here’s a question for all the ‘he’s got a clause in his contract’ undroppable-Rooney conspiracy theorists – if you had the keys to the car, where would you make Rooney sit?
While you ponder that thought, kudos to the mailbox, especially Jeremy Aves’ précis of the Man U. special box (“Summary: Everyone is rubbish except Dave in nets, and should be dropped. Man U need to play a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 with Blind in both defence and midfield”) and Joe, LFC Dublin, who is putting his money where his mouth is and starting a four-year journalism class. I hope your professors have as much passion for the subject that you do. Just – please don’t start signing off as “The literary Joe quoth Leopold Bloom” on your mails. Thank you and good luck.
So going back to the Rooney Clause – let’s say that there really is a contract stipulation, let’s say that the marquee players have to play – if you, the Manchester United faithful had to pick the team within those parameters – Rooney starts, Zlatan starts, The World’s Most Expensive Footballer has to play – what line-up would you put on the field to make the most of the situation? ‘Dave in Nets’ clearly is untouchable, those other three have to play, you’ve got another seven to start around them. Who would it be? You’re all very vocal about what’s wrong, but how would you make it right?
Steve (Diego is awesome), Los Angeles
Remember…the managers know better
I really really have to say something about the number of mails that come in and say Mourinho/Wenger/Conte/Hughes and so on should do so and so to make the performances better.
To clear things up, I have nothing against fans wanting better performances from their teams and being entertained.
I’m pretty sure that if a normal fan can make out that Player X needs to be pushed further up the pitch, a manager, who has actually done his coaching badges would know that too. And on top of that he would know a ton of other stuff that the normal fan wouldn’t.
During the post-match show after Manchester City v/s Bournemouth, Phil Neville was discussing about De Bruyne’s free-kick which slid under the wall. Neville highlighted that at Everton, Moyes always instructed the players in the wall to jump just four inches above the ground, just so that the ball doesn’t roll under them. My point being, coaches take care of the minutest details that armchair fans like us can never pay attention to and appreciate.
It would be just so much better if the fans can educate themselves a bit better about tactics and comment after that. For starters, there’s the lovely zonalmarking.net.
And for the more evolved readers, I would highly recommend arsenalcolumn.wordpress.com. Especially, I recommend the latter to all Arsenal fans who question Arsene Wenger’s tactical abilities.
Long Storey (see what I did there *wink*wink*) short, the managers pay a lot of attention to detail. Some are better than others without a doubt. But even the underperforming ones are infinitely better than your average armchair sucker.
Sid (Wenger In/Out – I don’t know)
Developing thoughts on Liverpool
It’s probably getting on a bit for Friday night football mails but here goes anyway.
It’s pretty annoying seeing the snap reactions to football performances these days and no team seems to bring the doomsayers or the hyperbolic enthusiasts out quite like Klopp’s Liverpool. A combination of Klopp expectancy, past history and recent history all combine for a narrative that can be spun any which way.
My measured approach to Liverpool’s start to the season is that of very cautious optimism. The opening fixtures have undoubtedly been tough and Liverpool have navigated them with what must be seen as success. A fair deal of attacking flair, tempered with the usual defensive frailties, but showing the semblance of a team.
Take the Burnley game out of there and I would be rather less cautious in my optimism (yet still very early days for any longer term projections). But, the manner of the Burnley defeat still plays on my mind a fair bit. Burnley opted for a simple plan that worked all too effectively, and has proven to work repeatedly against Liverpool. The reason it worries me so much is that it is so easy to replicate. It might not always be successful but pretty much any team can employ the tactics and seem capable of getting a result.
And here’s why teams will set up that way as often as possible – if you can frustrate Liverpool’s attack then you can be fairly confident of a clusterf**k defensive lapse to guarantee at least one clear-cut chance.
We have been very clusterf**k heavy in the opening five games already. I think this is happening because of a combination of two factors.
Firstly, Klopp’s system is clearly about a collective approach to defending. He doesn’t rely on the centre-backs and a defensive midfielder or two to take control of that aspect of the game plan. Obviously other managers take this approach too but Klopp seems to push that idea to its limit to avoid compromise in flexibility. Perhaps the players are still adapting to this approach and will inevitably make mistakes due to the need for maximum concentration and high intensity in both attack and defence. Even in the Chelsea game, perhaps our most solid defensive performance of the season, three of our best players on the day (Lallana, Henderson & Matip) were collectively at fault for conceding the goal.
Secondly, despite Klopp’s assertions that he has all the players he wants, it is clear that the midfield trio could be made up of better players, and training Milner for a left-back role is not the ideal scenario. However, Klopp is all too aware that Liverpool can’t just pick out the best players from around the world. Liverpool has never really had the financial power for that and no longer even has the pull it once had. These are flawed players and Klopp is trying to get the best he can out of them. There are going to be off days.
But here’s where the optimism comes in. Klopp’s belief in training over transfers is not just a media front. He is adept at working with the set of players to ensure they improve under his system of play. When it goes wrong people complain about him playing players out of position but look at the improvement in Henderson and Milner in their new roles. It might not be perfect but he is astute enough to know who is best to fill the gaps and how to train them to do so. There is a definite improvement and perhaps this will eventually see an end to defensive lapses.
It’s proving a really interesting process to watch. It can be frustrating when it doesn’t quite work but overall I’d prefer to see a manager working to get the best out of our players than constantly make costly errors in the transfer market and abandon any sense of individual player development.
Will it ever be enough to mount a title challenge? Who knows. There are a lot of talented teams and good managers in the Premier League these days so we’re very much up against the odds. It is the only gig in town for Liverpool, though, and I think we have the right manager to make the most of it.
And who knows, maybe next summer we’ll buy a proper left-back to boot.
Leave Wenger alone…it’s going okay
Arsenal fans (me included) have been getting slightly carried away with criticism of Wenger’s team selection. Undoubtedly tactics would play a part in team selection but what Wenger has tried so far has not worked out that badly! Wait for it…
AFC should have done the transfer business early and had a starting 11 identified from the outset. We have suffered the consequence of this with the Liverpool result and the sluggish performance at Leicester, but we have an abundance of options in our squad to pick from. We also got lucky vs PSG and Southampton too!
It is clear that Wenger is preserving Xhaka and Perez and is rightly giving them the time they need to settle in. This could also help us in the months that we have not played well in historically. November, January and February!
The way things are going, we do not need to throw Xhaka and Perez into a high-pressure environment, like we have had to do with Mustafi! Coquelin and Santi was our best central midfield partnership last season and it is working well this season. This will ease the pressure on Xhaka. We are desperately lacking that focal point up front but somehow we have scored 12 goals in five games. When Perez played he was not playing like an out-and-out centre-forward when he should have been. Between him and Sanchez they need to deliver in this position! Giroud and Welbeck did not play well enough in the past seasons! The key is that the players who are selected are ready and can perform when they do get the nod! Players like Walcott, Chamberlain and other squad players need to be consistently better when called upon. With Welbeck and Ramsey to come back there are plenty of games for everyone to play in!
Certain players will be expected to play week in week out but this strength in depth is something we have not had for a long time! Hopefully this will improve our dreadful injury record and increase the competition between players within the squad.
A temporarily composed Arsenal Fan – COYG
Roman should target Emanalo, not Conte
Seems the papers are full of the ‘Crisis’ meeting of Abramovich and his team. Papers speculation about Conte under pressure is far from the mark. Yes, it was disappointing that Chelsea didn’t come to the game on Friday. Pretty much everyone knows Liverpool’s game play as a straight jacket on the oppo in their half. Therefore you have to meet fire with fire, run as hard as them and fight as hard. As we all know that didn’t happen.
Personally I think the journos are missing the story. Far from it being about Conte, it appears to be about his board and their complete failure to bring in the players the manager wanted to build a new defence. Abject failure in the last two years has seen Emanalo miss out on major defensive targets.
Emanalo must be under pressure, under his watch he has overseen the recruitment and departure of Lukaku and De Bryune with no buy-back clauses. Has singularly failed (as of yet) to create a pathway and capitalise on the best academy set up in the last 10 years. Players like Chalobah, Aina, Loftus-Cheek, Baker, Abraham, Solanke and Christensen are queuing up. It will be wholly typical of the man if this group of players are lost to us. Hopefully at last Roman is forced to see that he cannot take the job to the next level.
Glad to have Gueye
In response to David (the #noble4england brigade have quietened down a bit) Burzio who asks where all the good defensive midfielders are, can I point you in the direction of Idrissa Gueye. Last season he ranked second for tackles and interceptions in the league behind N’Golo Kante, this season he has been a revelation at Everton. He’s topping the tackling chart and is calm on the ball in possession. If a 35-year-old Gareth Barry (remember how slow he was six years ago vs Ozil in South Africa) is able to play so well this season then he must be doing something pretty impressive next to him!
Best ever assist from David Silva
Reading your piece about best over-30s players and hearing another piece wax lyrical about David Silva reminded me of my favourite assist from the little man.
Him assisting Dzeko in the famous Manchester derby encapsulated his intelligence and vision, one of the passes people don’t make in real life, but scream for at the TV, it’s like Silva watches the game on a big screen and sees the whole pitch at once.
Despite being a Liverpool fan this is probably my favourite bit of skill as I know no matter how hard I practice I’m not getting it right. I could train to do curved passes, or long balls with perfect back spin, but how do you teach yourself to know what’s happening where you cannot see?
So question for rest of the mailbox is what bit of skill have you seen that’s stopped you and properly amazed you?
KC (maybe it’d be Suarez’ pass this weekend if Neymar had scored though, phwoar)