Mails: We all dream of a team of…Harry Kanes?

Date published: Monday 4th April 2016 2:56

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The best managers in football right here?
Would the Premier League have the best set of managers next season? With Antonio Conte, Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, Arsene Wenger, Jurgen Klopp, thats already five very good managers. Then you think who United could appoint, probably Mourinho or someone of that caliber. Then we’d also have Claudio Ranieri, Stefan Bilic, Mark Hughes and even managers like Eddie Howe and Quiqe Florres who are pretty decent tactically. If Rafa Benitez somehow manages to keep Newcastle up? And somehow Tony Pulis strikes me as someone who could drink five pints of vodka and look the exact same way he did before drinking.

So next season would City win the title? or would Chelsea finally get relegated? I actually feel for clubs who would gain promotion to the Premier League in the 2016/2017 season, they have to go straight down, no? Well I think its a big summer for Tottenham because their success is mostly down to Pochettino and if he stays, Harry Kane is more likely to stay. Speaking of spirits and people that are not real, Harry Kane’s next club intrigues me. It would be one of the Manchester clubs wouldn’t it, or he goes abroad (very unlikely). He is definitely not going to Arsenal or Chelsea, so he either stays at Tottenham, or is a replacement for either Aguero or Rooney in a few years.


Next year will be Liverpool’s year…
Are we really at the blame referee bias portion of our program? My goodness Arsenal fans are a whiney lot. Just because your team sh*t the proverbial bed (again) doesn’t mean you should start attacking the integrity of the game.

Anfield is becoming the place where Premier League dreams come to die. I have no problem with the draw this weekend and I don’t think Klopp was arsed about it either judging by his substitutions. We got the point, ruined Spurs dreams of a first Premier League title…job done.

Paul in Brussels from this morning’s mailbox lamented Liverpool’s ninth-place position, but I for one hope we stay right where we are. I highly doubt Mario Gotze’s mind will be swung by whether or not we make Europa League. Not being in Europe’s b**tard competition means we can have a realistic shot at the title next season.

Champions League qualification is not as important this year as previous years because we have Klopp. The man is box office and his reputation will secure the names we need to push on.

If PSG offers anything close to that 45 mil for Sturridge being touted around Liverpool need to bite their hand off.
Brian (a Liverpool fan crowing loudly, NEXT YEAR WILL BE OUR YEAR!) LFC


Clone XIs that would beat a Kante XI
Okay, I understand the hype around Leicester and all, but this is becoming way too much. The first mail in the morning mailbox challenged people to come up with a Clone XI to beat a team of 11 Kantes. First of all, I completely agree that Kante is one of the finer defensive midfielders in Europe at the moment but can we stop talking about him as if he invented tackling and interceptions?? His stats are off the charts but come on people, let’s just stop with the obsession. On Sunday for instance, every time he came up in a direct battle with Wanyama, he lost the ball to the Southampton man. Would he really prosper at Bayern, Real or Barcelona? We all know the answer to that.

As for the Clone XI challenge, I’ll bite. In about 2.4 seconds I had come up with at least six other XIs that would comfortably beat 11 Kantes. First up would be 11 peak Vieiras, as they would physically destroy the Kantes EVERY TIME. The Vieiras would probably win by about five goals. Probably all coming from set-pieces as I just can’t see Kante beating Vieira in any set-piece situation. If the challenge was based solely on current players, there are still plenty of Clone XIs to comfortably beat Kante XI.

1. Harry Kane XI would win because of the ability to score with limited shots and can also play in goal, and Kante would just make a shi*ty keeper.

2. Emre Can XI would win because of the ridiculous versatility and the fact that Can seems comfortable in any position.

3. Riyad Mahrez XI would concede a lot of goals and always tire by the hour mark, but would have already nutmegged Kante XI to death and scored 47 goals by the 60th minute.

4. Alexis Sanchez XI would run all day long and can score all types of goals; something the Kantes can’t do.

5. Dimitri Payet XI would just look for fouls and score each and every one.

That list only consists of people in the EPL, and really should be an indication that Kante ain’t all that.
Greg Tric, Nairobi


…A team of Mousas?

Good questions posed about which players would make a good team if they were cloned 10 times.

I think that a team of 11 Mousa Dembeles (Tottenham version) would give the Kantes a good game.

I think he would also make a better keeper than Kante due to his size.

Any challengers?


Leicester are riding their luck but…
I didn’t write in about the Leicester game as through my Saints rose-tinted glasses I would have come across as pretty annoyed, however I’m glad to see that others shared my opinion!

The Leicester dream is going strong and now the game is over I can once again get fully behind them, but they aren’t half riding their luck on the way. Whether it’s crossbars being hit late on and teams missing easy changes or favourable decisions for and against, everything keeps falling into place for them game after game.

While I wouldn’t have called either penalty shouts ‘stonewall’ you’ve definitely seen them given and if it’s in your team’s favour you’re swearing blue at the TV about it. Funnily enough, it’s exactly that type of marginal penalty decision, like Vardy against Arsenal, which Leicester have got lucky with on several occasions.

To win a title you need to play superbly and have that bit of luck at key moments and I don’t begrudge them it. No single decision defines a match and Leicester have magnificently risen to the occasion game after game. The thunderous home support of the King Power stadium and the momentum of the story surely helps, but at some point these things always balance out.

A bit like the highly dubious red card at West Ham that certainly contributed to two lost points and could be critical in their top four pursuit. It would be tragic if all that ‘bad luck’ came in the next few games. They’ve made hay while the sun shines and built up a good points gap but don’t anyone think it’s over.

I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that a few banana skins await…
Tom Saints (I hate admitting that I have Chelsea-supporting family and yes they are total glory hunters, but it does mean I’ll be at Stamford Bridge on the last day of the season and I would love nothing more than to see a blue ribbon covered trophy!)


On Leicester and penalties
In response to MK, NY and the complaints about Leicester having won ten penalties, let’s consider this. Penalties are awarded for fouls committed in the penalty area, therefore teams who play a direct attacking style are more likely to win more spot-kicks.

Also, let’s not forget that they have been denied some clear penalties too – Scott Dann tearing Robert Huth’s shirt off his back, for example.

Sometimes penalty decisions are given based on a team’s momentum. The best example of this is Christian Benteke against Crystal Palace. Liverpool were in the ascendancy, and a close call went their way – if Palace had been dominating the game, and Benteke and Delaney’s coming together had been the result of an optimistic long ball to almost nothing, that gets waved off and Liverpool are left ruing their bad luck. As it was, Liverpool were pushing for a winner, and the decision went in their favour (correctly) due to their momentum.

While there is no legislating for refereeing decisions, the best chance of stopping Leicester getting any more penalties this season will be for opponents to stop fouling them in the box. That’s your second wilful Captain Obvious moment of this email.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven (I think I’m dumb, maybe just happy)


…To MK, NY, as Swifty would no doubt remind you, ‘haters gonna hate’. We have more penalties than anyone else because our brand of football is all about moving the ball forward quickly with minimum stops, meaning we have people in the box when the opposition has insufficient cover leading to ‘panic’, and hence fouls. Simpson’s was no way a penalty, running motion, would have hit his body etc. and nowhere else on the pitch would it have been a foul. Huth’s was a penalty but the replay shows that the ref couldn’t have seen it, happens all the time to all teams. Sticky with Swifty MK, shake it off, avoid the bad blood and watch us win the whole thing. It really is a fabulous thing for football you know.
Rich (looking forward to seeing the Argentinian Mahrez at KP next season) LCFC, Brighton


…Can’t believe the ‘successful team are awarded too many penalties’ argument is still being trotted out. Referees now have gone from favouring the entrenched ‘big’ sides to favouring the smaller ‘fairytale’ clubs? I don’t buy it. For one, Leicester’s TEN penalty record is less unusual than it sounds – using the surely reputable ‘my football facts’ for reference (, one can see that many league winners have similarly high penalties for and low penalties against.

What’s interesting is that a good penalties record doesn’t always correspond to league success or referee ‘favouritism’ (are referees really keen to award Stoke and Watford pens this year?) indicating, I suspect, that it has more to do with playing style, and how often they put teams in ‘desperate’ positions. That could be done by having a lot of the ball, making more chances (why league winners are generally high). In Leicester’s case I suspect it’s by playing on the counter, causing teams to chase and make less controlled challenges – notice how they have far more penalties awarded away than at home, when they’re even more likely to play on the back foot.

Penalties not awarded is more difficult to quantify, and I do agree that referees are probably unwittingly motivated by circumstance at times (hence ‘home field advantage’), but I think confirmation bias plays a bigger part. There are many penalties not given that benefit lesser sides in matches of lesser import that are equally blatant. Similarly, Huth’s shirt was essentially removed last week with nothing given, but as Leicester won the match anyway it wasn’t considered too important. Jamie Gooner even mentions how ‘when Arsenal’s ropey patch happened the officials seems determined to dig the knife in further.’ Coincidence?

You don’t have to like Leicester (or Manchester United, or Barcelona…), but I think accusations of referee bias hold little water, particularly for a team that have fought against incredible odds to get to where they are.
Mark, Warwickshire


…I did wonder what the next excuse was going to be for us being top of the league. Of course it was going to be refereeing decisions! Ranieri, to his absolute credit, never moans about these when they go against us (i.e. Simpson red card, Gestede hanball, Aguero offside goal, etc). Therefore, papers don’t make a big deal of it.

Pace wins penalties. Vardy running quickly past a defender is more likely to make the defender make a mistake and take him down. He’s very good at this. Defenders are getting wise to it now and not diving in. I can’t think of any of our penalties that were actually contentious.

I remember feeling lucky that Palace didn’t get a penalty earlier in the season against us. However, this was evened up by us not getting one against them with Dann undressing Huth in the box.

The Huth hanball I don’t believe was a pen, as he couldn’t really get out the way. The Simpson one, I think probably was, though borderline as it doesn’t look like he is deliverately trying to handle it. But, I’d be furious if say Fonte had done it and we hadn’t been given the penalty. However, this is evened up by Van Dijk’s offside goal against us earlier in the season and Wanyama could have easily been sent off for taking out Vardy yesterday.

Still though, at the end of the day, Arsenal have lost seven times, Man city have lost nine times, Man United eight times. Maybe have a look at your own teams failings? It isn’t our fault you keep losing.
Toby (top of the league…still!) Mitchell


Leicester give us all hope
They haven’t even won the thing yet but already people are looking for reasons to play down Leicester’s season. From ‘their players are not really that likeable after all’ to ‘It’s a weak league this year anyway’ to ‘The referees love them,’ the reasons/excuses for this being a one off are being churned out, more often than not by a fan of one of the ‘big’ clubs.

But the reason that so many people are willing Leicester on is not that they think that Vardy and co are turning up for £50 a week and being everyone’s best mate. It’s not because they’ve played breathtaking football. It’s because if Leicester can do it, why can’t anybody else? I remember a piece on Football 365, I think towards the end of last season, where it was suggested that fans of Championship clubs should consider winning most weeks in the Championship better than losing most weeks in the Premiership. But Leicester have blown that notion out of the water. Suddenly, fans from all over the country can again dream that one year they might just ‘do a Leicester’. They are the dreams that most people have given up on by the time they leave school, but now they are creeping back.

I for one never thought that I would see the day that a team outside the select few biggest spenders would become champions. And yet here we are, on the verge of it. If you are a fan of a ‘big’ club, console yourself that it’s a one-off, you let them win it. But if you have grown up supporting your local club through thick and thin, allow yourself to dream. It can be done!
Anthony, MFC


Arsenal sign relative unknowns
I’m going to bite on James MUFC’s poorly researched assertion that the big clubs don’t sign ‘relative unknowns’ and haven’t done so since Javier Hernandez reared his adorable little pea-head at Old Trafford.

I’m assuming, therefore, that James watches a lot of Swiss football and was in the know about Mohammed Elneny? He must also travel frequently to Costa Rica which of course is where he discovered the world superstar Joel Campbell years before Arsene splurged a mighty £900,000 to prise him from Deportivo Saprissa.

And going back a couple of years, newly promoted Lorient’s Laurent Koscielny, with a grand total of one year of Ligue 1 football under his belt, was unequivocally a household name to those ‘in the know’.

I accept that there are lots of reasons to have a pop at Arsene, but not trusting in relative unknowns is categorically not one of them. To be fair, he hasn’t really had much of a choice what with Arsenal not being quite as rich as the other big clubs.
Clock End John


Why Man United don’t sign players like Kante…
In response to James, MUFC in this morning’s mailbox…

I think you are making a few leaps in your thought process, namely:

* When United, or City, come asking for a player, the price is normally jacked up a bit, because the selling club knows the buyer has money to burn. At £5m (I think?) Kante was worth the gamble, especially to Leicester whose pre-season aims probably went no higher than mid table. However, with LvG stating that he wanted to win the title, and a minimum aim of Top Four, would Kante have been worth the gamble at £10-£12m? I’m not sure what Caen would have asked for if United had enquired, but I suspect it would have been more than Leicester ended up paying. As an aside, will all Premier League clubs begin experiencing this with the wealth of the league far ahead of competitors (if it hasn’t already?).

* The average football fan’s knowledge of players around the globe (or at least desire to sound knowledgeable, but that’s another email entirely), as with clubs, has increased massively in the last 10-15 years. So, while there are unknown players out there, generally they are less well known because they are a bit pants. I’d assume that the majority of clubs were aware of Kante, but didn’t think he was worth the risk (this is just a judgement call that could go either way, so hard to blame clubs too much for this). So while it is nice to pluck a gem from nowhere, I’d guess it is much more difficult than it was a few years ago. The example of Kante fits here – he was making the most tackles/interceptions in Europe’s top five leagues last season, so I’m fairly sure clubs knew who he was but didn’t take the plunge.

* Some ‘unknown’ players might prefer to move to a smaller club, where they are guaranteed game time vs. sitting on the bench and seeing their career stagnate. If a smaller club can offer you a starting role and a big salary, as the majority of Premier League clubs probably can, then why sit on the bench? Especially if…

* …for all the tiresome talk of the Premier League being the best/most competitive/prettiest league around, it is a different challenge to that presented by other major leagues (as in fairness are all of Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga). Big clubs, due to higher aims, need players to hit the ground running (in most instances), and the patience of the fans is increasingly small (look at Memphis for an example). So, while bigger clubs might have been interested in Kante, they (rightly or wrongly) assume that he can move to a club lower down the league, see if he performs, then cherry pick those that do. This would also allow the player/agent to get multiple contracts/bonuses etc., and the selling club will see their transfer policy as a success. Again, this could be about to change with the greater distribution of wealth across the league (Everton refusing to sell John Stones springs to mind).

Fans are generally quite accepting of any new signing, and the United fans that I know (obviously a small sample size) aren’t crying out for a superstar signing, indeed we are getting pi**ed off that we keep wasting time chasing unrealistic targets. If Wenger actually changed his mind because of supposed fan reaction then that is truly mental, but it is only one example. I think fans would be happy to give them a chance, but maybe the clubs aren’t?
Jack (Cheers Sir Bobby!) Manchester


Lambert in hindsight
Question for Villa fans:- Given what came before, and since – was Paul Lambert really that bad?
Jeremy (Colchester bias – he was great for us before Norwich nicked him) Aves

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