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It could be worse, we could have signed Pedro
The transfer saga surrounding Pedro before his move to Chelsea always had one constant; Man United was the destination. Only the price was unclear. Chelsea was an absolute curveball and when he did(not eventually) move to Chelsea, the mockery on everyone at united that followed was huge. Everyone from Van Gaal to Woodward the wolf, to the team chef was criticised for letting him slip through their fingers.
A couple of months later and hindsight being what it is, I don’t think it was such a c**k up after all. I will admit that when he scored in his first game, I thought that he was going to do a Sanchez on us. But that turned out to be the one hit wonder.
It has gotten so bad that he isn’t even in the starting eleven(Yes I know Chelsea can’t name an automatic eleven). Given and especially because of the way things are going at Chelsea this season his failure is all the more glaring to me. The starting eleven of last season having mysteriously lost any semblance of form at the same time, it’s amazing that Pedro more often than not finds himself on the bench. Remember he was supposed to be the last cog in the united team to help in the title challenge.
I know it can be argued that the mediocrity of Chelsea have brought down his game but I submit that had he been as good he would lift this Chelsea team at their hour of need. Instead he has disappeared into the crowd and even rarely gets mentioned in the match reports.
I think he is a good squad player. The kind you go to if you want to rotate your key players. Definitely not one to carry a team through a season and lift his teammates a la the Rooney of yesteryears, or Sanchez.
Kanyenje, Kenya. (May be Van Gaal is the genius he clearly thinks he is..)
Get your balls out, Louis
I enjoyed Nick Miller’s piece on Hernandez and ultimately it summed up how a lot of United fans are feeling at the moment – confused. We haven’t looked dangerous in the final third for most of the season, which has made our possession mainly sterile. It is not easy to watch, leading to frustration and a poor return from matches which are tight but shouldn’t be. We’re Man Utd FFS, we want to attack! This is compounded by Jurgen Flopp (have that Gregory Whitehead and your Berbaflop nonsense!) coming in and, in a short space of time, making reasonable progress with Liverpool’s attack, particularly in the big games, with mainly inferior players. It feels like, in terms of attacking, we have taken a step back from last year even though we only showed glimmers of decent football then!
But, on the flip side and mainly due to other teams inadequacies, we find ourselves still in the Top 4 and not too far off the top. The defence has been mainly good and the play up until the final third hasn’t been bad at all. Injuries have been an issue and have mitigated some of the pressure on LVG – can you imagine if we were getting the same results with a full team out, he certainly wouldn’t be given the same breathing space. Chelsea in a relegation dogfight has also added some welcome comedy and relief; I often think to myself, ‘it could be worse, you could be Chelsea’.
Although I loved him as a player, I wasn’t overly shocked or disappointed when we got rid of the little Mexican pea; he was great coming off the bench to find a late goal but when given 90 minutes he rarely shone, even when Sir Alex was there. That he is scoring freely now is not surprising but I am not going to use that as a stick to beat LVG with – I understood the decision he made. But as Nick suggests, I will beat him with the stick that is carved with the words ‘WTF didn’t you buy at least one other proven striker?’ as we could all see this coming. Granted, Rooney’s form has been poorer than I expected (I am generally a fan of Wayne’s work) but relying on an unproven striker to lead the line was always asking for trouble (although Martial has exceeded expectations IMO). I wanted Lukaku in the summer and I still want him now. He’s perfect for that system, especially if you need a big Belgian to get on the end of crosses.
So this Saturday at home to Norwich, let’s take the leash off and go for the throat right from the off. Don’t be reverting to two holding MFs as we don’t need it at home to a smaller club (no disrespect intended). Let those big beautiful balls swing free Louis as the crowd will get behind you and we can use this as a springboard for a good xmas period. Time to stand up and be counted.
Garey Vance, MUFC
Why Leicester won’t win the league
PG, Liverpool in the Wednesday afternoon mailbox mentioned that a lot of people aren’t considering Leicester title/top four challengers yet, despite the fact that we are 16 games through the season (42% of the way, stats boffins). This might sound like a perverse logic, but I think it’s precisely because of City’s strong start that people aren’t taking them so seriously. This sounds like a Hollywood film narrative, but as yet they haven’t faced any adversity, it’s natural to see them as simply on an incredible run of form.
What I mean is, there are questions still to be answered in the season, including (but not limited to):
*What happens when City lose a couple of games?
*What happens when Mahrez and/or Vardy and/or Kante lose form or get injured/suspended?
Basically, City’s title hopes are being played down because their resolve has not been properly tested. They took a bit of a pummelling from The Arsenal, but bounced back straight away. There aren’t many teams who can legitimately claim an upset victory over City, so they haven’t got the humbling test to overcome. Their depth players have not had to fill in too much, because the first choice XI have stayed healthy and stayed on form. It is important to have a settled team, but there need to be backup plans.
Compare this to, say, The Arsenal or Manchester City, both of whom seem better bets for the title because they have both had upset losses and abject performances, plus injuries to key players (at Arsenal? Get out) meaning depth players had to come in, and play at the same high standard. We all have valid opinions over the backup players for those teams, because they have all been pressed into action at some point, for a team aiming to challenge for the title. The Foxes, on the other hand, are in a new situation and generally, people don’t know how good those backup players will be in this environment. Once City have encountered and survived some turbulence, the same way most title-challengers have to, people will start taking them more seriously.
As a fan of a team who are in the same mini-group as City, I would love to see them knock the top (top) six into cocked hats. It would be a victory for the – well, not “little guys” – but medium-sized guys at least.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
I’m sure you’ll get plenty of these but for Mikey P, Cardiff, Greece won at a tournament, not a league. They played 6 games. The Premier League season is 38 games, 6.3x the duration of the Euros. This duration gives a bigger sample size and allows the true quality to rise to the top. If you maintain that the comparison is fair, then think of it this way: that tournament Greece played 6, won 4, drew 1, lost 1. That record extrapolated across 38 games wouldn’t have been enough to win any of the past 5 premier league seasons.
I’m not saying Leicester can’t win it, just that the comparison was an ambitious one. If you wanted an example of “bonkers sporting achievements” from around that time and from a relevant league format, have a look at the team who went unbeaten in their 38 league games in the season just prior to those Euros.
George (crowbarring Invincibles references since 2005) AFC, Wellington, NZ
There is one very strong argument against Leicester winning the league that I haven’t heard talked about yet: they have the toughest remaining schedule. Of the current top four, here is a list of remaining matches against other teams in the top half of the table:
Leicester: 12 games; 4 home, 8 away
Arsenal: 10 games; 4 home, 6 away
City: 11 games; 7 home, 4 away
United: 9 games; 5 home, 4 away
Those remaining matches for Leicester include City twice, and Arsenal, United, Spurs, Crystal Palace, and Watford all away. They are a great story so far, but I think their success is partly due to a kind schedule that will turn nasty after Christmas.
Nick, Boston Gunner
Just wanted to add my thought on Leicester winning the PL. It’s great them beating Chelsea to go back to the top of the league, but can you imagine what pressure will be on them when/if they are in that position with 8 or so games to go. They still have 20 or so games to go, each one increasing with pressure just to stay around at the top, let alone if Man City get their act together and Arsenal go on their new year run and Man U start scoring, well maybe.
Andy (putting Chelsea’s first opponents after Mourinho’s sacking the Losers column now, who ever they are, they’re in for an almighty hammering). Brighton.
The Leicester view
On getting mildly riled at the sudden flood of ‘expert’ articles on Leicester (and Mikey P’s letter yesterday), I thought it best to direct my indignation into voicing my own opinion to the esteemed folk at F365. I recognise our current position inevitably involves heightened scrutiny, but some commentary floating around is truly misguided.
What’s fact is that we are currently experiencing a sustained run of fantastic form. This started at home to West Ham last year, but truly kicked off at the Hawthorns in the next game, with Jamie Vardy racing away to smash in a last minute winner. Amongst the anarchy that ensued in the away fans and subsequent miraculous end to the season, it’s pretty easy to forget that no-one in that crowd truly thought we would get out of trouble. When Craig Gardner put West Brom 2-1 up that day, the “useless c***s” on the pitch took some pretty harsh abuse. Not unusual for a team rock bottom and certain to get relegated, but it’s worth noting that all bar two of our current starting XI were available to us that day and seven of them took part in the game. Therefore, to now think of us as a title challenging / Champions League team simply defies logic. While we weren’t bad enough to merit 20th place last season, we are not good enough to merit 1st this season. (I would note at this point that the two notable additions, being N’Golo Kante and Christian Fuchs, are both very talented footballers who have gelled quicker than could have been expected).
The more documented reasons for why we are going to fall away from here are the fixture list and our squad depth. The first is undeniable – our next 10 fixtures are horrific and since the West Ham win last season, we have only played the traditionally thought of top 7 five times in 25 games, including once losing to and once beating a poor Chelsea side, a very creditable draw against an impotent United, a struggle against Spurs and being outclassed by Arsenal. No shame in that, but it’s not Champions League form. The squad depth argument I don’t really agree with, but it just becomes a subjective assessment of players that most people don’t know much about, so I’ll steer clear of it.
This may all sound a little negative, but that is not reflective of my state of mind at all. I am over the moon, elated, beyond happy at our position, at our positive approach, at our obvious spirit and work ethic, at the returned atmosphere to home games and at the general feel good factor around the club. We have a shot at Europe, which is just phenomenal for a team in their second Premiership campaign with a new manager. We will likely invest in January and it will likely be very astute, given recent evidence and our excellent backroom team. Everything is rosy and I could not be happier about where we are, but Champions League talk is very very premature.
All that’s left to say is that the emotional hedge employed in not selecting Vardy and Mahrez in my Fantasy Team has really screwed me. Let’s hope it continues to do so!
Cheers – happy holidays and all,
Ed (born Leicester, resides London, currently Sri Lanka)
Honestly, all the people disregarding Leicester as contenders is getting kind of annoying. The biggest criticism seems to be that they haven’t beat any of the other contenders and got trounced by Arsenal.
But does that even matter? I mean, they could lose their remaining games against Arsenal/Man City/Man Utd 10-0 and it wouldn’t matter as long as they pick up points against the weaker sides. Arsenal beats Leicester 5-2 but it doesn’t really matter if you managed to lose against relegation candidates like Chelsea. In a league competition, consistency is rewarded. Doesn’t matter if you lose against the top teams if you drop points against West Brom/Norwich (looking at you again Wenger).
Like PG, Liverpool said, the big question is whether Leicester will continue to get results when teams start fearing them and show up with 10 men behind the ball. Vardy’s fairy tale goalscoring run has been due to teams attacking Leicester and leaving space behind for Vardy/Mahrez to exploit on the counter. If I’m not mistaken, Leicester had something 59% pass completion against Mourinho’s men. If people start ceding the ball to them, I’m not really sure they have what it takes to break defenses down
Then again, who wants to be known as the manager that parked the bus against Leicester? Probably would never live that down
The Damned Chelsea
So after reading ‘Dotz’ email regarding Mourinho got me thinking about an interesting point. Mourinho always takes over teams in desperate need of success, and success is the only barometer of his performance. However, this season at Chelsea has provided something different. After cruising to a league title with below-par performances and little success in other areas he needed to do something different this year. Not only win, but win with style.
Now although there are obvious differences with when Clough took over at Leeds and famously failed (namely the fact that this isn’t a new manager) I feel that there are alot of similarities. Having achieved success playing soulless under-handed football maybe the players and the chairman wanted them to be a team that was loved and therefore Mourinho was trying to implement a new style, a style that meant we would want to watch Chelsea on Match of the Day. Now this has obviously failed, much like Clough failed at Leeds. The players have lost their trust in the managers methods and now we are waiting for the inevitable news that Mourinho has been sacked and replaced by a manager who has a proven track record in managing huge clubs.
Much like Clough could bring success to clubs who were desperate for it but could not teach the old dog of Leeds new tricks, Mourinho is now incapable of bringing Chelsea back to their former glory of last season and the only thing that will help now is change. However, (much like Clough), Mourinho will come back to another club desperate for success and achieve it again.
Jordan (Predicting that Mourinho will win the Champions League with PSG next season) Johnson
The Prem needs Jose more than Jose needs the Prem
In a startling moment of clarity, I raised my head up from my tear-soaked pint and realised the truth. This season was NOT a horrible nightmare after indulging in a late night drunken fry-up but the season we had to have, and has been a long time coming.
We deserve to be where we are for a number of reasons, chief of which are some players attitude, lack of quality/depth in the squad for rotation (something that is required for Mourinho’s high tempo defensive whole team blockade/ midfield-forwards expected to run several marathons the entire length of the pitch tactics). The players are knackered and not enjoying their football. Investment is needed in January to avoid relegation (there, I said it)and to add competition to the existing players.
But what would happen if the league lost Mourinho? How much tedious, boring waffle out of Pelegrini’s gob can we take? Or Wenger’s blandness? Louis’s ‘Dutchness’?
Ranieri might provide an occasional smile or talking point but none like Mourinho, who plays the media like a violin, with washed up journo’s like Storey baffled at what is going on at Chelsea despite being handed the teamsheet 24 hours before a game.
Chelsea and the Premier League need Mourinho, more than he needs us.
Give him some proper transfer cash and avoid the drop Roman!
Golden age for No 10s
It appears the Premier League is entering a golden age for No.10’s.
Ozil is confirming his position as one of the pre-eminent No.10’s world-wide. Just below him a trio of youngsters – Eriksen, Coutinho, and De Bruyne – are already borderline world class. Obviously, England expects great things of young Ross Barkley. Meanwhile, Payet, Tadic, and Shaqiri have all lit up the league this season.
When you add in Silva and Mahrez (technically wingers), and Ogahlo and Bolassie (strikers) – you get a full suite of genuinely exciting and creative players.
Even the bus parkers at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford are in on the act. They might not use them properly, but both Oscar and Mata are genuine “world class” No.10’s.
I wonder what Fat Sam thinks of this development ?
If Delph is the answer…
Pranav in the mailbox tries to exonerate Wenger for not buying a defensive midfielder on account of availability. Two words: Fabian Delph. World beater? No. More useful than Flamini & Arteta? Yes. Also a good age, wouldn’t need to settle, moved for a very modest fee and clearly happy to accept a squad role with City. No availability? You could’ve just looked to the next team alphabetically last summer…
So there are other Watford fans who read f365, I was beginning to think I was the only one. Jimbles how have you enjoyed the start to the season?
Jimbles makes some great points with regards to settling in the new faces and the exceptional team spirit (something which the Pozzo Family clearly see is important). I would also like to point out that I did say in my mail that I was more than delighted with Flores.
The work he is doing as absolutely essential, for any small(er) club to challenge at the highest level they have to be able to shut a game down once in front, this can only reasonably be done with a solid back 5 and players all over the pitch who will chase down lost causes for 90+ minutes. The cost to this is that for large periods of games Ighalo and Deeney are left to try and fashion openings between them as other players are either too tired or reluctant to leave their position.
It may not have come across in my mail but I was trying to suggest that Flores starts a great job everywhere he goes, however, he is either not able to or not given the chance to see the completion of the side.
Finally, I hope that he at least gets that chance at Watford. Even if he eventually leaves after only winning us the league cup and/or Europa League. (I’m not greedy)
Colin, Watford FC (get to 40 points then let that handbrake off)
What fitting timing with Mia Hamm’s profile of an icon as Abby Wambach plays her last game for USWNT. Here’s to hoping Abby gets on the iconic board eventually and seeing who takes over the reigns from Abby in the same way Abby more or less took the reigns from Mia.