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Can Wenger learn one last lesson?
I am in the Wengerout camp but credit where it is due – 3 of his last 6 signings have been brilliant (Cech, Ozil and Sanchez), 2 has been excellent/above average (Welbeck and Gabriel) and only one a complete waste of money (Chambers). He has learnt from his panic buy mistakes of the past and also learnt from his bargain bin replacement mistakes.
I am just frustrated with the fact that we always seem 1 or 2 players short of really challenging for the title. I fully expect we will go through the January window without getting someone as good as Cech, Ozil or Sanchez and that our challenge will fall short again.
Most frustratingly the one lesson he still needs to learn, which is how not to overplay some players until they are injured. And he has had plenty of practice, I doubt there is a manager in the game more familiar with his medical staff and the treatment room (it seems to be where most of his first team live). He should be better at managing player fatigue by now.
Watching the Olmpiakos game, at the start they were the better team, they looked dangerous every time they came down our right side and had a couple of decent chances. Then, presumably Wenger, switched Campbell to the right and Walcott to the left and Olmpiakos were mostly stopped. It showed he (or someone) can still read a game and make a change to improve it for us. Yet this change received no mention in any report I read, probably because it wasn’t the narrative the press were looking for, I am willing to bet that if Klopp had done something similar that it would have been picked up and run with (still expecting the British football press to improve really is the a Don Quixote tilting at windmills folly). Credit for Wenger and real material for those who want him to stay. Negatively, having seen just how good Campbell is at getting back and helping the defence I really am baffled at why we haven’t seen him come on for the last 10-15 minutes of games we are winning to help shore up the defence (while still bringing speed and a goal threat) and giving valuable rest to one of our wide players.
I have posted before that I am getting sick and tired of injuries picking our team for us, which I perceive as poor management by Wenger. I am really hoping that Wenger can learn one more lesson.
Arsene v Jose
Global Gooner raises a very good point, and one which I have said many times before – whatever their titles, Wenger manages Arsenal Football Club, Mourinho is the first team coach of Chelsea. This means that Wenger has a much broader picture of what is going on and can made far more rounded decisions; Jose has always been a short-term manager who seldom lasts 3 seasons as he burns his players out. His constant ‘them against us’ attitude might create short-term success for the few in the 1st team squad, but it does not build a successful club. I would also argue that the intensity that Mourinho demands from himself and his players leads to burn-out and rapid fatigue – he seldom rotates his squad and uses as few players as possible. Even at his peak, Jose always had a much weaker bench than his rivals, just that he had a much stronger 1st XI.
As James (Nostradamus) pointed out, Chelsea started to fade badly from around Easter onwards last year. Fortunately for them they had done more than enough in the first 2/3 of the season to win the league, but the burn-out is clear – for example, compare the performances of Matic, Fabregas and Costa with this time last year (to name but three).
Wenger, on the other hand, usually seems to have someone who can fill in when the inevitable injury curse strikes and maintain the standards – notwithstanding that the standard seems to be top 4 rather than actually winning the league. That is why Arsenal seem to finish the season much stronger that most clubs, with the usual result of stealing 4th place form Sp*rs on the last day.
So, if you want short-term success hire Jose; if you want to build a successful club hire Arsene.
Jose ‘Biff’ Mourinho
Like most people, I am enjoying the situation at Chelsea immensely. But it has now gotten to the point where their collapse is, if not of more importance, then demanding a similar amount of attention as that of my own team, simply because I find it so, so hilarious.
There is a bit in a Kingsley Amis’ book where he talks about why he has such a fondness for a certain part of the female anatomy: “I knew why I liked them – thanks very much – but why did I like them *so* much?” I feel much the same about Chelsea’s season.
The only point of comparison I have is Man United’s demise under David Moyes – mostly because, like most people, I have a number of smug, Midlands-born twenty-something United fans as friends who simply did not know how to deal with it. It was a surprise. I found it funny. But I never typed ‘Moyes’ into Twitter and then spent half an hour sending the best lines to friends.
The difference is Mourinho. The days of hating rival teams is long gone. I’m now old enough to realise how ridiculous it is to get so angry about any opposition, to know that, even if you can argue about the nefarious ownership of certain clubs, the abhorrent players, the racist fans – and I don’t *just* mean Chelsea here – no club is perfect, including mine. But I loathe Mourinho: his arrogance, his nonsense, his spite. And because, until this season, while behaving the same way every time, he used to win.
Unlike in the movies it is rare to see the bully or the braggart get served his own. Which is why it is so glorious, so unexpectedly glorious, to see Jose cast in the role of Biff from Back to the Future, resentfully cleaning Claudio Ranieri’s car.
I’m thinking that, with the strife currently going on at Chelsea, Mr Abramovich may be having doubts with respect to his employment of Special Jose, so I can picture him switching off his yacht and turning to music for some solace.
His choice of song?
Well, being such a sensitive soul I expect he’s running a gauntlet of emotions and would maybe go, on occasion, for the Tammy Wynette anthem, Stand By Your Man. Then, remembering it’s seldom wise to “go back” he’d maybe plump for the Jim Diamond tearjerker, I Shoulda Known Better. But in the end I’m guessing the penny would drop and he’d turn up the volume, crank up his air guitar, and blast out Chubby Brown’s classic, The C*nt.
United’s biggest mistake
When I look back on what so far has been a rubbish season in terms of performances for United, there is one failure which I think has really hampered us. In another summer where Mr.Ed or the Wolf of Old Trafford has thrown cash about the place we failed to buy an established attacker. We bought two extremely promising talents in Martial and Memphis but it is clear for everyone to see so far this season we needed an established attacker/winger. I am still fully supportive of the man with the strange head, although he is pushing it lately with some decision making. I am fully supportive of the team we have, even our captain who cannot seem to play football anymore. But surely Louis would have foreseen that we needed an attacker/winger who would not take a few years to develop. Someone who would slot straight into that team with some sense of ease. We all know the difference in standard from the Dutch league to the Premier League. Clearly seen with a lot of big transfers from the Dutch league in the past by how tough of a transition it is. Martial was in single figures for Monaco last year in terms of goals. Anyone with a calm head (very few United supporters as always) envisaged Martial’s initial goal scoring run not to last and Memphis to struggle for the first while. I know both of these guys are young and hugely promising but maybe we should have sacrificed one piece of youthful talent for a more established attacker. Maybe then we might have actually played a few exciting games in a row like the old days.
Cian, Ireland (John Walters’s for player of the tournament this summer)
Quique Flores holding Watford back
So after a 1-0 win at Sunderland (6 pointer my arse Big Sam) which did little to capture the imagination I would like to look at the man behind the revolution.
At the risk of infuriating the ‘careful what you wish for brigade’ I have a very simple question on Quique Sanchez Flores.
Does he hold teams back?
To the casual observer Watford sit in 7th in the Premier League, a position surely way above anything that could possibly be expected by even the most optimistic if fans and this question is most certainly not being asked with regards to changing the manager.
However a brief stroll through his managerial past and one startling thing stands out, almost every side he has managed has gone onto better things after he leaves. This is regardless of how impressive his achievements at the club were.
He started out at Getafe, a side that had been promoted to La Liga for the first time ever (having risen through the entire Spanish pyramid in around 20 years) and he kept them up (13th) without any great drama before leaving for Valencia. Following his departure they would top the table briefly the next season before securing back to back 9thplace finishes and a defeat in the cup final (qualifying for Europe).
At Valencia the club managed creditable 3rd and 4th place finishes during Flores’ tenure but turmoil of the field (debt and arguments with the footballing director) cut him short, whilst they didn’t improve their league position after his departure they did win the Copa del Rey the following season. (is a cup win better than league position?)
Benfica beckoned for Quique, where he won the league cup in his only season in charge before agreeing to a mutual termination. Over the next two seasons Benfica defended their league cup title and won the league. Quique Sanchez Flores then moved on to Atletico Madrid where he won the Europa League. A fantastic achievement at the time however since then Atletico have won La Liga and lost the champions League final under Diego Simeone.
Quique’s career then moves to the United Arab Emirates, which I must confess is not a league I follow but it would appear that whilst he won the cup with Al Ahli, they won the league the year after he left. As did Al Ain. Both sides also finished runners up in the Asian Champions League the seasons after Flores left.
So, having watched almost every minute of every Watford game so far this year I have reached a couple of conclusion as to possible reasons for this.
Flores has improved Watford’s defence almost immeasurably, we haven’t looked convincing defensively since the first year under Aidy Boothroyd (a long time ago) yet this year Gomes has the joint second most clean sheets despite us playing at a higher level than the last decade. But it certainly feels like we are playing with the handbrake on at times when going forward and attacking.
Flores is clearly a very good manager and a superb coach, but it looks like the one thing he has never managed to do is let go of the handbrake and really finish of constructing a balanced side. I for one certainly hope he manages to do so with Watford.
Colin, Watford FC (Hope Klopp is celebrating dropping more points next weekend)
The craziest season ever
I wrote in after 12 matches to add fuel to the fire that this season is in fact the craziest season of football ever.
After 16 games it is less so statistically, but, if I agree with the common thought that Leicester is an unsustainable leader and therefore take Arsenal as league leaders it is indeed bonkers. I apologise to Leicester fans as obviously you are top and clearly so, but I’m coming at this from the conventional wisdom where you are a long-way 4th favourite for the title and 5th favourite for a top 4. Sorry!
So based on this slightly altered reality we have 10 teams within 10 points after 16 matches. 0708 had 8, 13/14 had 7, the average over the last 10 years is 3.8. It’s pretty tight and by now a posse of true challengers has clearly emerged.
Tighten it to 5 points and there are 3 teams. In 13/14 there were 4, so it isn’t the tightest in that sense, but 3 teams is almost double the decade average of 1.7.
At the very top Arsenal on 33 points is the lowest tally for a decade. Not surprisingly the other tight year of 13/14 was 35 points. By now the top of the tree usually has 37-38 points but it has been as much as 41.
So what does this mean for the seasons end?
Updating my earlier work, I said 78 points would be enough to win it all and take the chocolates home to mummy, but that has lifted to 79 now. It’s still a long way from the decade average of 87.
Fourth gets a lot more interesting. the average for the last decade has been 72, or a full 15 points behind the champions. that’s quite a spread. The tightness this year has me predicting that to be a lot less at 9 points meaning 4th will need 70. I had earlier said 63. This is a big lift and suggests to me that the cream is starting to rise to the top.
This squabble at the top I think will add to the competitiveness. The January transfer window is looking more and more important with so many of the top bloody 10 needing something to consolidate/maintain/fix/back-up/replace the squad.
I look forward to updating this again in January when I am sick with turkey poisoning.
Dr Oyvind. Earth
Albrighton: No worse than N’Zogbia
Philip, I am no expert on everything Aston Villa but from what I remember Albrighton did look like one of the better players in that Aston Villa team. He was being touted as the next big thing even at once.
86 appearances across 5 seasons you say?
Why include the 2009/10 season where he just made 3 appearances, and when he was 20. Not many 20 year olds are main stays of Premier League teams.
However, in the next season he made 29 appearances and scored 5 goals. 26 appearances in the next season. His progress only stopped by a metetersal fracrure in 2012 keeping him out for two months, followed by a nasty ankle injury keeping him out for the rest of the season. If you write off that season, and his nine appearances that season that gives him 74 appearances across 3 seasons for an average of almost 25 games a season.
Sure he did not live up to his promise but he was being played repeatedly by subsequent managers when fit. To release him after his first full season after a long term injury is short sighted.
If nothing else, he was an essential squad member, the only way it would have made sense to release him was if there was an adequate replacement. The team is much worse without Albrighton.
And the captain of the team is a 33 year old on a 5 million a year contract. It doesn’t take hindsight to say Albrighton’s contract should have been extended, especially considering the number of ageing stars Villa have given a final pay day.
He couldnt have been worse than N Zogbia.
Learn the rules
To Bobby Foster-Westgarth, I don’t know what you’re on about. UEFA amended the rules such that a league can now have five (5) teams in the Champions League, so if Leicester finished in the top 4 they will be guaranteed their place in the elite competition, regardless of who wins the Europa or Champions League.
The only probable combination whereby Leicester would be denied a Champions League place is if they finished exactly fourth AND Liverpool and Chelsea both win the Europa and Champions League respectively. That seems very unlikely though, and I actually don’t think it’ll be beyond Leicester to finish third or better, thus sealing their rightful place.
It’ll be damn funny if Spurs finish fourth again in those circumstances though…
Santa Fe of Bogotá just won the secondary intercontinental cup. IE theSouth American version of the Europa League. Predictably, all of the city shrugged its shoulders…oh wait no. They went f***ing mental.. Absolute batsh*t. None of this “Oh, Thurs-Sun” nonsense. Proper, “we’re the first to do this” spirit.
Ambassadors, unlike the crosstown rivals, Millo-ñeros. Santa Fe have played more games, I believe, than anyone else in the world since July. It’s normally a Colombian team. Because, in Colombia, we take all competitions seriously. Even if that means getting up to 80 games in a calendar year.
It’s what irritates me about the likes of Everton getting sniffy about the Europa League. Wind your necks in, thats a cup right there. Go out and win it, or would you prefer the Arsenal 4th place trophy once in a decade?
Also – Colombian football, brilliant! A bit like the championship for unpredictability, but with more fireworks and random madness. Plus, in the cup final Junior featured a keeper with angel wings on his kit.
I am pretty excited but I am pretty sure we will finally see Spurs get their man, after many transfer windows of endless rumours and speculation surely Levy will make his move, putting an end to one of the greatest transfer sagas of our time
Leandro Damiao is a free agent… It is a early Christmas present for Spurs.
Paul, Dublin (MUFC)
Three things we learned
So what we can take from today’s Mediawatch is the following:
– The Sun really are B******s!
– John Cross really is a B*****d!
– Richard Keys, Adrian Durham, they’re all really just a shower of shite-talking B******s!
Thank you F365, for simply making the world a more informed place…
So Thiago Alcantara has discussed a move to Man Utd…. which in journalist speak, surely means that Pep Guardiola is joining to in the summer?
I’m sitting here trying to finish a thesis I don’t care for, and would absolutely love to be a football journalist. What advice would you give? Is it making contacts or producing articles that get noticed on lesser sites? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
MC – Storey’s initiation to get the job involved a dog kennel, a pair of tweezers, a fishing rod and two nights in hospital. That’s all we’re saying.
Great profile on Mia Hamm. The talk about footballers role models reminded me of a bugbear of mine: people writing in to the Mailbox vowing that “their children will never [be allowed to] have footballers as role models.”
The Hamm profile loosely associated children looking up to footballers as part of society’s obsession with celebrity, and this view is common – but I think that’s a very small part of it. In my view that is a recent trend, post-American Idol, wanting to be famous simply for the sake of being famous.
I thought back to my childhood (I was 12 when Mia Hamm won the World Cup) and realized, I’d have definitely described her as a role model, because she was excellent at football, I played football, I was practicing to get better at football and she was therefore an example to follow.
And this is why it is so foolish for anyone with children to believe their own kids won’t take footballers as role models. They will, so long as they play football, and there is nothing you can do to stop them.
It’s a lot harder to take someone as a role model out of context, and a lot easier when they’re good at something you’re trying to accomplish. I suppose, then, the key is to make sure your children take the right footballers as role models, rather than a futile attempt to forbid them from it altogether.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
Wow, I had vaguely heard the name before but that icon piece was tremendous. It’s quickly becoming my second favourite feature (mailbox always wins)