Keep them coming to email@example.com
12 years of Arsenal in a ninety minute nutshell.
Arsenal: Far away so close
In July 2015, my friends and I decided that we will each predict the winner of the Premier League for the forthcoming season. One friend chose Chelsea who had just won the league so no surprises there. The other chose Man City who are always going to be one of the favourites. Good choice. For my prediction, I thought I’d be cheeky and chose Arsenal to win the league (I know). They had signed Petr Cech and were “one good striker away from winning the league” (as they are every year, apparently).
In the end, Leicester won the league with Arsenal in second. In retrospect, I may have come the closest with my prediction in terms of the league table, however, in reality, I was the furthest away.
That sums up Arsenal FC.
Yaseen Moollatjie – Cape Town – MUFC (New year’s just started but I already need a break!)
Arsenal = Wenger – Dein
Watching last night’s game – it occurred to me that Alexis is exactly the kind of player that Wenger used to sign (or keep) when he had a boss (Dein) and who judged him by results. Not afraid to call people out, get involved, take responsibility and prepared to only lose over their dead body. Back then he no doubt tolerated their oafish, uncontrolled and unintellectual behaviour because they brought him glory, legend status and ultimately 8.5 million quid a year and a job for life.
The day that changed modern history at Arsenal was the day they fired Dein. Wenger grabbed the controls and has made the club in his image ever since – nice lads, with above average intelligence for a footballer, quiet, controlled, mostly always within themselves, massively arrogant (with no apparent reason to be so) and happy to come fourth.
I dont understand all the arguing- blaming Wenger/defending Wenger and blaming the players/ blaming Stan – whatever. Its so obvious that the old adage that over time a team will take on the persona of their manager is 100% the case at Arsenal. Be okay with that, don’t be okay with that – your choice. But don’t deny it gooners. You make yourself look as stupid as Giroud after that equalizer.
Would Wenger finishing sixth in his last season (his lowest ever finish) be the modern equivalent of Clough getting Forest relegated in his?
Johnno (burst out laughing at that celebration – what a self-absorbed clown – a contract extension beckons for OG)
Mental strength v mental weakness
I wrote in to dismiss the ‘mentally weak’ line that was thrown at Arsenal after the Everton and City defeats. I find this ‘mentally weak’ criticism of Arsenal an odd stick to beat us with, when a more intelligent observation would provide a wider range of sticks to attack our performances in those two games.
Coming back from 0-3 down away from home to gain a point could be interpreted as ‘mental strength’. However, the biggest example of an Arsenal ‘mental weakness’ across this entire season came not from Goodison or Etihad, but from Giroud at Bournemouth immediately after he scored the equaliser last night.
I love Giroud, but that celebration was plain wrong. Get the ball, restart the game, win the game. If you want to win the league, you don’t celebrate an equaliser at Bournemouth with six minutes of injury time remaining on the clock.
…What did Ollie Giroud do after scoring the equalizer? Did he follow in Sanchez’ footsteps 20 minutes earlier and grab it from the back of the net, sprint to the halfway line and get the game restarted quickly? Maybe that way help his team push on for an unlikely comeback win against a 10-man Bournemouth? Did he f*#k. He ran to the corner flag, pushing away teammates in order to show the world his new goal celebration in honor of his (in any way not fortunate at all) “scorpion” goal. Hmm! What an effing t*t.
Phil Dewhurst, Brooklyn, LFC
Raging at Xhaka, Ramsey, Cech and Iwobi
I will try to keep this mail rant-free and just share some observations from Bournemouth vs Arsenal.
Granit Xhaka is struggling with the pace of this league. A very good passer of the ball with time to look up but his need for a few touches out of his feet means he struggles with the swarm of opposition players around him. And the foul for the penalty was braindead. We do not have many options right now with Santi out, Jack Wilshere on loan and Elneny in Africa so he may have to stay in the team.
Aaron Ramsey is not a good footballer.
Petr Cech must be dropped now. The inevitability of Fraser’s run towards him ending in a goal shows this. He is the opposite of a striker going through and fans knowing he won’t score. And not to mention he is awful at saving penalties. Ospina in goal from now on please.
Sanchez is doing a bit of Thierry 07 throwing his arms out in frustration at his in inferior teammates. In the build-up to Perez’s fantastic goal he moans at Giroud for a bad pass. He wants out and I don’t blame him one bit.
Iwobi is probably not the player we thought. Something is just not there and don’t mention age please. I can see him playing for a mid-table team in a couple of years. The sad thing is that mid-table team will most likely be Arsenal.
Lucas Perez looks like a tidy player and it’s baffling how he is not getting a look in. Impressive when he comes on. Good technique and good brain.
Lastly, Wenger out.
Sanchez acts like a child
Alexis scored tonight but he was an disgrace for a number of reasons. First, his performance was absolutely shocking. He scored a header from two yards out but besides that he was a joke. Get the ball – cut inside – float a cross in that hits the first man. I swear he repeated that exact sequence about 10 times to no avail. There was nothing wrong with the tactic of crossing to Giroud, i mean that’s how all three goals came about, the problem was that the quality of Alexis’ crosses were so bad.
Problem two, his attitude is dreadful. Complaining after every misplaced pass, every dodgy touch, every bad shot, even complaining when someone decides not to pass to him. Telling Ramsey to f off because his poor cross didn’t reach the Welshman. He did this against Palace as well, reportedly storming straight down the tunnel after the match according to some in attendance. He is acting like a petulant child and it’s not on. Players are allowed to complain if another player messes up, but it’s not okay when they’re complaining about every single bad move and abusing teammates. Publicly sulking on the pitch like he did against City is also pathetic.
A bad performance from Alexis is acceptable, he’s been very good this season and has barely got any rest, what isn’t acceptable is his p***-poor attitude.
Matt, Arsenal fan
No, make him captain
What more does Alexis have to do to get this Arsenal team going? Seriously that first half was so bad I nearly stopped watching. Give him the armband now! (not saying he is blameless, but he pushes us forwards like nobody else).
Bollocks to mental strength, if you start games like that you won’t get 4th place. You don’t deserve to get 4th place.
On a more important note, our team is lacking intelligent football players. Out of the current outfield players, I’d say Alexis, Ozil, Cazorla, Kosc and maybe Mustafi are intelligent footballers. Can read the game, know what to do in difficult situations and keep their cool. Start the game well, build from the back. Not throwing themselves into challenges (Bellerin), making stupid tackles when there is no danger (Xhaka) or trying to hard to be a hero all the time (Ramsey, although there are many examples of it). The invincibles had intelligent players all over the pitch, it makes a huge difference.
We were extremely lucky to get the draw, I’ll take it. Bournemouth are my second team, they are a joy to watch. If Chelsea win tomorrow, title race will be done. Top four looks tasty though…
Rob A (if you don’t play Walcott, maybe its time to let Perez have a go) AFC
I’m a hugely optimistic Arsenal fan, I’ve written in previously on how annoyingly optimistic I am, so I can’t help but think we can still win the title. I also try to be a reasonable man, and if on Monday night I say that Liverpool won’t because they draw against a team they should beat, then I can’t truly believe the opposite for us on Tuesday.
I love Wenger, I’m 35 and have supported Arsenal since my Grandpa took me to my first game at 5 or 6yrs old (miss you Grandpa) so have seen all the best Wenger years and they were the better than brilliant – the optimist in me says he can do it just one more time, but deep down I know he probably won’t and that makes me sad.
On Arsenal’s past, present and future
I’m not trying to have a dig at Arsenal but I think they are suffering from a lack of real quality signings. The fact of the matter is, their three best players (Alexis, Ozil and Cech) were bought as already proven talent who have each done it at the highest level. Where would Arsenal be if they would just sign a few more players of that calibre? In the same time period those 3 have been signed, United signed Di Maria, Schweinsteiger, Falcao, Mata, Pogba, Zlatan, Mkhitaryan and Martial. City signed Sterling, De Bruyne, Gundogan to add to an already stacked squad. Chelsea bought Fabregas, Costa, brought Courtois back, Kante, David Luiz, Filipe Luis. Not all these signings worked out, but at the time of signing, these were huge transfers and statements of real intent. I have included Martial in the list because his fee at the time, his comparisons to Henry and then that debut goal against Liverpool made him one of the most talked about names in the Premier League by mid September to the point where my grandma had actually heard of him.
Similarly, you could also ask where would Arsenal be without Alexis, because it’s not just his goals that are making the difference, but his resilience, his drive, his determination. The hunger he is playing with is miles above any of his teammates, and I think thats a large part of why he’s not too keen on staying at Arsenal. He must surely know that he’d get just as good if not a better contract offer from any other top team, but the difference being he’d be playing for a team matching his own ambition to be the best. And that annoys me greatly. Arsenal simply won’t sell a player of his calibre in his prime to a Premier League club, and if he and/or Ozil moves abroad, the Premier League as a whole loses.
I don’t know what it is but something is just off about the players, the club, the manager and whoever else you wanna mention. It’s been 12 years since Arsenal last won the Premier League, they’ve finished second only twice in that period (incl last year’s sabbatical by all the top clubs), and top three only 3x in the last six years. But the most damning stat is that only twice in that 12-year period have they finished less than 10 points from the winners. The best historic Premier League teams had standout players throughout the team. Arsenal lack that completely and there has just not been enough quality in the team at any one moment in time. That is why their best players have steadily jumped ship (and gone on to win numerous titles elsewhere) and that is why they WILL lose one or both of Ozil and Sanchez in the summer, after all, it’s the Arsenal Way. Neither owe Arsenal anything so why should they spend their primes at a club where a title challenge past April is a shock or a Champions League quarterfinal is a miracle.
No mail about Arsenal is complete without a Wenger mention. Table stats over the last decade dont lie, yet he has remarkably managed to keep them teasing a title challenge year in year out (esp with squads that rarely contain more than one player of world-class calibre) – something Chelsea, Liverpool and post-SAF United havent been able to do. Much like Fergie’s final United squad, Wenger has continuously made Arsenal greater than the sum of its parts, and so it makes you wonder whether they will nosedive as horribly as United did when he finally retires. I suspect it would take huge investment to keep Arsenal where they are once he does retire. Will the club finally join the modern reality of football or will they react too slowly and suffer a similar fall from grace that took four seasons (counting 16/17) and nearly half a billion pounds (not incl sales) for United to recover. Either way though, it promises to be entertaining.
Sari Samman (I guess I did have a dig at Arsenal)
Some thoughts on the title race
If this mail gets published, let me wish all the editors/writers/mailboxers/readers of F365 a happy and peace filled new year 2017.
Now to business, some thoughts on tonight’s game and the league…
1. A lot has been said about how to beat Chelsea, but I want to talk about how to win at WHL (formerly Three-Point Lane, but not anymore)? I recall in Dec 2014 when Jose’s Chelsea beat Spurs 3-0 at the Bridge, and I immediately wrote to the mailbox then to watch out for Pochettino’s Spurs because their performance did not merit the result that day (and they duly thrashed us ruining New Year 2015 for me). I am impressed with Pochettino as a manager. Very similar chap to Conte.. But the thing is they troubled us for a good 30 (and not 44 minutes Spurs fans) minutes at the bridge earlier this season. Conte’s adherence to play out, invite pressure and counter attack is still wobbly at its best. Especially against the likes of Spurs who hound the ball in numbers, we would struggle. My best bet would be to do the ‘Catenacchio’ that we did at St. Marys. Give them the ball, make them feel confident about the possession, be aggressive in our third and suck them on the break. If it doesnt work out, I’d prefer us to play route one football as we clearly have a team to do so. At some stage bring Bats on, play him with Costa (who btw is better than Drogba at same stage and is terrorising defenders), hoof the ball up to Costa, keep Bats and Hazard close by and pressurize Spurs. I see us doing a number on Pochettino if we do this! I am very uncomfortable with Gary Cahill trying to pass the ball, so Conte for the love of God dont give me a heart attack!
2. Dan Levene tweeted last night saying Eddie Howe gave a perfect demonstration to take over Arsenal last night. As hilariously true it was, it was poor from Bournemouth. I like Eddie, he is a class guy and a cut above any English manager plying the trade. But I dont think he’s cut out for a top four job, not yet. At least not until he stops ‘we will only attack and nothing else’ attitude and plug games when they’re to be won. The hallmark of a great manager is to have that attitude that says I hate to concede goals as much as my liking score them.
3. What about Alexis Sanchez? We have two factions in Arsenal. The likes of Ramsey who apparently think they’ve sent a message to Chelsea/Pool about their title credentials about last night <insert your joke here>. And Alexis, throwing his gloves off. I seriously pity him, the man works his arse off and puts in a 3X shift in each game and to see the lack of attitude and balls in his teammates must be frustrating! Imagine Alexis playing for a team managed by one of Conte/Klopp/Poch or even Jose? The possibility is frightening.
4. Last week, some Liverpool fan (as these things are wont to come) asked whether United must be scared of Pool. As of today, I think it must be the other way round. By design or fluke, Jose has sorted his midfield (a solution myself and many mailbox colleagues have said N times since August) which is the biggest fix for a team that is under performing. When a midfield is fixed, it means the defense/GK have less to worry and it rubs on. There is a certain calmness and continuity in the Man United back five now over the past 7-8 games, with the midfield fix. And Zlatan’s scoring ridiculous goals. Take into consideration Pool’s lethargic performance at Sunderland, loss of Mane and the injury to Sturridge. Should it be Klopp who must be worried going to Old Trafford?
5. What is the problem with Swansea? A genuinely well-run club till 12 months back and now their managerial turnover makes Inter Milan look good! Paul Clement is a good coach from his Chelsea days, and should do reasonably okish, but that defense is horror!
6. Finally a note on Pep. Conte made an imperative statement y’day when he said its difficult for coaches than managers here. Wise words. Coaches when they bring their ideas, and sometimes radical ones to the PL, have to be careful as this is a tactically poor league by comparison to Spain or Italy. Unless the said coach adds pragmatism and good man management abilities (like Conte has done, like Koeman did at Southampton), it’s going to be trouble. Just ask AVB. I’m afraid ever since I wrote once saying Pep’s greatest managerial challenge is upon us, he has only regressed fueling the Pep Fraudiola camp. I am still willing to give him benefit of doubt because the City squad had problems with attitude even under Pellegrini. But Pep did have more than six months (like Jose) to identify the problems. His job was to fix them. And after spending north of 140 m pounds over the summer, I’m afraid he will be afforded less mercy from fans, critics and pundits alike. And Conte has made it laughable to talk about bedding in periods. The more I see city, the more I fear they’re likely to finish outside top four, at least as of now.
Aravind, Chelsea fan
Pep neither failing nor in meltdown
After reading some of what has been written about Guardiola’s press conference and the subsequent analysis of how he is doing at City etc., I decided to watch the press conference in full. Funny…
Yes, he seemed rather ‘chippy’, but that is nothing we haven’t seen from him before. Or from other managers from time to time… The ‘I might retire sooner than you think’ comment sounds similar to something said by Klopp earlier this year, though, as usual, from the loveably whacky Jurgen, Klopp said it in better humour. Not that earth shattering really, if a little contextually odd.
It does look a bit like Pep was in a bit of a grump, probably brought on by some refereeing decisions and press coverage that he didn’t like, but I don’t think that this was a total meltdown. Okay, there was a bit of an air of Rafa’s rant about him, but luckily he didn’t go on and on and on…and he hadn’t clearly planned it, written loads of notes about it, and stewed in it for a few days, like some kind of demented knobhead, obviously.
The extended comment about what is not considered a foul in England, in terms of challenges on keepers in the six-yard box, and what would be a foul in other countries was a bit ranty, to be fair. Maybe that gave a bit of an insight into what had tipped him over the edge yesterday…
I did enjoy the wavering voices from the press boys and the attemps they made to pick their words to avoid a bollocking. Pep was looking a bit scary yesterday, and reacted to some pretty soft questions as if he was being questioned about his extreme religious views by Louis Theroux. So their fear was understandable.
None of that worries me as a City fan. It is good to see one of our managers caring that much about how we play, and winning matches; and giving the press boys a hard time. Whatever he was up to – just pissed off/trying to create a ‘seige mentality’/trying to deflect media attention from the players/all three – it has probably worked in the team’s favour. I doubt our next performance will be harmed by Guardiola’s behavior.
On now, to how City are doing then…
Chelsea and Liverpool are not playing in Europe, so they have it easy this year and should, with their managers and squads, be one and two. Finish any lower than third, and they will have failed badly, in my opinion.
Compare City to Man Utd, Arsenal and Spurs – we are doing very well thanks.
Spurs have less money to spend and so spent less in the summer. City finished below them last year but did better in Europe; and are now out-performing them on both fronts. Mission accomplished, as would be expected based on investment.
Arsenal spent a bit less, and finished above us last year, but we out performed them in the CL. This year, we are about on par at the moment. Again, I’d say this is meeting expectations, and I fancy us to finish above them in the league, and go further in Europe.
Man Utd and City finished pretty much equal in the League last year, but City were on the next level in Europe. This year, we are outperforming them on both fronts, for now…Utd are looking like they are transforming into something a bit special however, and anyone but Chelsea will do very well to finish above them this season. So, again, I’d say we are meeting expectations but that there is a cataclysm to come…hashtag tasty.
Worth considering here also that City’s squad, at the end of last season, was coming to the end of its cycle. Excluding the teams without Eurpoean football to contend with, only Jose at Utd has had a similar task to Pep in terms of moulding a new spine for the team, and instilling a new way to play. I’d say that both managers are doing very well at this.
On the whole, I’m very happy with Guardiola. I expect City in the next 12, 24 months to be a better footballing team in both the league and Europe than we have ever been before. The way we outplayed Barca in three of the four halves of football we contended this year has been an early sign of this. We were also unlucky not to unlock the scousers in the second half last week. Next time we meet them, we will win, and win well. Liverpool nicked that game – it won’t happen again.
This was hailed as Guardiola’s biggest challenge, and he is meeting it with creativity, determination and an aggressive, competetive edge. I can confidently speak for most City fans here, and say that we are happy with him.
I fully expect that next season, Man City and Man Utd will be the two best teams in both European and English competition. As specified.
So is Pep failing/in meltdown? No.
Ben, MCFC, Manchester
On Bournemouth’s Christmas..
Boxing Day, Chelsea away. Bit of a free roll of the dice this one because a) we won there last year and b) Chelsea in top form. Eddie Howe went to three at the back but more often it was a flat back five. Desperately missed Daniels’ width on the left – Brad Smith is solid defensively but has a long way to go to fit into Bournemouth’s style going forward. Surman was back from injury – 6.5/10 as usual, his range of passing had definitely been missed. But in all honesty it didn’t matter how well Bournemouth played, or that Ake was ineligible, Chelsea playing like this won’t lose to anyone except the best.
I couldn’t remember any mistakes from Chelsea players – no falling over the ball, or giving it away, or even just conceding a cheap throw-in. Really solid right through the team. Hazard was a different player compared to last year, it was interesting to contrast him with Wilshere because while Wilshere is just as good on the ball, Hazard blends the control with pace and direct running – good to watch. Result was fair, I will comment on Bournemouth fans though because there was a lot of bickering about stand up/sit down away spectators. I stand, but my view is that if you want to sit you’ve paid for the seat and have the right to sit in it without being told where to get off by people supporting the same team as you. Cherries have a lot of older and young supporters who necessarily prefer to sit down. I don’t think there’s any requirement for stewards to staff this, but I understand it is a sore point with many fans. If I were asked to sit by someone behind me, I would do so, and if I now couldn’t see I would ask the person in front to do so as well. Even if you’ve been in the pub for three hours getting ‘ready’ for the game, a bit of politeness shouldn’t be too much to ask. I’d be interested to know if other away supports have the same issues.
Next up, New Year’s Eve, Swansea away. Must-win after losing two on the spin. Contrast with Chelsea couldn’t be starker. They were really bad, perhaps even worse than Hull in defence. Llorente actually looked more of a threat on the ground than aerially, but when he went off they did improve marginally. Sigurdsson almost completely invisible, I thought he looked like a player leaving in January. Against lesser players, Bournemouth were able to press and play, Wilshere looked majestic because Swansea allowed him to, but his role in both first-half goals was key. Nice to see Afobe score; he’s at his best when instinctive as with this goal, not when given time as with the second-half chance he put in the stand. Fraser’s goal came at exactly the right time and meant the (excellent) half-time Chicken Balti pie tasted much better. Pie of the year so far.
Second-half Swansea were a bit better, but Afobe and Stanislas should have put them out of sight. Arter, who’d been a bit quiet lately, perhaps because another yellow meant a suspension, was better and successfully avoided one here, meaning his slate is now clean. Third goal was nice because King has looked a bit short of confidence at time and also because it was right in front of us. Much less moaning amongst the traveling support at this one, perhaps because of the result but also because the view is better at the Liberty, and we didn’t fill the away section anyway. First time I’d been to the ground, nice stadium, friendly locals, good facilities, easy departure. Ropy-looking pubs, mind.
Finally last night, Arsenal home. Walked up in three coats fully prepared for 2-0 defeat, but expectant nonetheless. Offer me a draw there and then and I’d have taken it. Two hours later and although it wasn’t a win, the first 65 minutes were the best we’ve played all season – assisted by Arsenal being very average, as you’ll doubtless get lots of mails on. I felt the game turned on the substitutions, King and Fraser had run out of legs and were replaced by more defensive-minded players. But more importantly, when Perez came on Giroud had licence to wander and for the first time since they started to play together Cook and Ake looked disorganised. Neither knew when to stick with him and he had a hand in all three goals. After the first went in we suspected Arsenal would be too streetwise for Bournemouth and so it proved, we couldn’t keep the ball without our pacy forward/wide players and this just invited them on to us. They managed the game, the Bournemouth players, even the referee and fans really well from this point – Giroud in particular was a master at this – and so a draw was inevitable. Last word on Arsenal – what does Ramsey actually do? Apart from standing yards offside for Perez’ goal, I can’t recall him doing anything of note. He doesn’t run, he can’t pass and his tackling is shocking. The Arsenal fans were on his back from quite early on.
Four points from nine isn’t bad, really should have been six based on the score at 9 o’clock last night but while I don’t think Howe’s substitutions were great he won’t be judged too much on that. Every team has to ‘endure’ a fightback at some point and better against a top team than a direct rival. After the FA Cup it is Hull, Watford and Palace and those games will be much more a barometer of the season.
Andy J, Bournemouth
Monday/Tuesday thoughts from Peter G
* Claudio Ranieri has gone rogue. Obviously drunk with the success of his 4-2-3-1 at home on Saturday, he went to Middlesbrough and played a diamond with Shinji Okazaki at the point and Riyad Mahrez at striker. Not a single scoring chance of note, and since it wasn’t working, he put in a low block that held Boro off with ease. A dreadful match, but Leicester have been rotten in what the late Bob Bradley would have called ‘road games,’ and a point is a point. Side note: Fabio, who has looked good at left-back with a dominant left foot, played right back effortlessly with a dominant right foot. Manchester United fans, can Rafael do that too?
* No one does disgust and exasperation quite like Walter Mazzarri, and he’s had a lot of opportunity lately. It’s now four points in eight games for Watford, and following a pasting at home to Spurs they were brushed aside at the Potteries by a Stoke side nowhere near their best. The Pozzos are not exactly sentimentalists, and he’s a good bet to walk the plank before the end of the season.
* And speaking of the Potteries, the big news is Peter Crouch, back with toothy grins and timely goals. He’s got good touch for a big man, so I’m told, and he’s scored twice with neat get-to-the-right-spot-and-put-it-in-the-right-place finishes. And if you Google ‘Peter Crouch’ plus ‘He’s more than just a big man,’ you find a quote from Harry Redknapp himself, so it MUST BE TRUE.
* Next time you hear one of the managers of a top club complain about fixture congestion in the festive period, send them to this link, which shows that as a rule the top clubs do better during the festive period than during the rest of the season. Squad depth is the likely explanation – even if you’re Arsenal.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA (loved Nik NUFC’s goal ratings)
Ed’s Palace thoughts
Happy New Year, everyone.
*On 27 September last year, I sent in the following mail:
Does this mean Sam Allardyce is allegedly England’s finest manager since Terry Venables?
So I suppose my question for today is:
Does this mean Sam Allardyce is allegedly Crystal Palace’s finest manager since Terry Venables?
* Well done to Swansea City for their win, taking a big step towards survival in the Premier League against the team most likely to replace them in the bottom three come the end of the season. As for Crystal Palace, they are f###ed. That was one of the worst performances in recent memory.
* The main problem the Eagles have had this season is an inability to defend, and Sam Allardyce identified that the team were short of fitness. This raises two questions: firstly, what on earth were they doing in training all season, and secondly, why did only Alan Pardew carry the can?
No one expects Allardyce to have improved the players’ stamina in only a couple of weeks, in which they’ve played twice in three days, but for someone who prides himself on being a straight-talking, blunt communicator, something about his defensive instructions aren’t getting through. I’d imagine this week’s training will be a deeply uncomfortable experience for a few players.
* Palace brought Damien Delaney, who had missed the Arsenal game through suspension, back in for Scott Dann. Dann was an important player for the Eagles last season, and was made captain for this year. A lot of people are putting two and two together and deciding this is the main reason the team appears to lack leadership, although the sale of Mile Jedinak is a factor too. In fairness to Dann, he was rushed back from an injury before he was properly ready, because of there was not adequate cover in defence to allow him to recover at his own pace.
* That said, central defence is not the only area of the team where there is inadequate cover, in terms of quantity or quality. Palace’s bench last night was Julian Speroni, Mathieu Flamini, Fraizer Campbell, Lee Chung-yong, Jordon Mutch, Bakary Sako, and Michael Phillips. Speroni is part of the furniture, and Phillips is only 17 years old, so we’ll leave them to one side. The others are, collectively and individually, not good enough for a side that either wants to be midtable or needs to avoid relegation.
Allardyce did a fantastic job sourcing the right players at Sunderland last season, and his magic touch is desperately required at Selhurst Park.
* Allardyce has now got a dilemma ahead of next weekend’s trip to his former club, Bolton Wanderers – should he sacrifice the FA Cup and save his best players for the next Premier League game, against another old employer, West Ham United, or should he play his strongest side in the hope of securing a morale-boosting win?
* How he handles this is arguably as important as the results for Allardyce, as there is a small but strongly-felt pocket of resistance to him. There was an incident reported of stewards removing a banner that mentioned ‘corruption’. A lot of fans are willing to have him in the short-term, because of his reputation of keeping teams up, but whether they’re willing to stick with him long-term is an entirely different question. It might be nice to break the sequence of managers who attract schadenfreude by the tonne (Holloway, Pulis, Warnock, Pardew, Allardyce), that I’m fairly certain cannot be matched by any other Premier League team.
Leicester need Premier League experience
With just work permit left to be sorted, it seems that we have signed another player for £15m with no top league (English, German, Spanish, Italian) experience. This means that we have spent approximately £80m on Slimani, Musa, Mendy, Kaputska and Ndidi. We also bought Zieler and Hernandez from relegation-threatened top league teams. Number of Premier League games in total prior to their purchase: 0.
This just screams of no real transfer strategy and shows how important Premier League experience is.
Now you might say that the likes of Kante and Mahrez show that Premier League experience is not required prior to a move. However, Mahrez always looked quality but took two years in England to show this consistently and adapt. Kante is an exception as he is the best combative midfielder in the world.
One of our most important signings has been Huth, who was so influential in the great escape and has transformed Morgan from an average Championship centre-back prone to brain farts to an established Premier League defensive rock. His previous Premier League experience was vital.
I obviously love Claudio and he has a job for life as far as I’m concerned. We were spoilt last season, and are now back to where we historically should be, albeit with over £100m worth of talent. But please buy some Premier League experience to get us to that 40-point mark.
Toby (Champions) Mitchell
A Hull of a mess
Little bit late sending this, but I’m just letting the news sink in – Mike Phelan has been sacked. Why? Because results are poor. Why are they poor? Because the team is bloody terrible. Against West Brom, 10 of the players who started were regular starters in the Championship last season. The one who wasn’t? Mbokani – he of 0 goals, and basically 0 contribution, so far this season.
Most of the time, when a club gets a new manager in, they have a honeymoon period (see Swansea last night, massive result for them) – I can’t see that happening for us. Our squad is so poor, so sub-par, that Fergie or Clough in their prime would struggle to finish 18th or 19th – we belong at the bottom, and I’m convinced that’s where we’ll end the season.
The rumours are Gary Rowett is coming in – he of the great job and unfair firing at Birmingham. Excellent manager, one for the future for sure, but all that’s going to happen this season is he’ll tarnish his reputation. A mate of mine, a Leeds fan (they’re getting awfully smug again these days) said he’d be great for a run at promotion in the Championship next season. Whilst I agree with him – if we’re planning for next season why not keep Phelan? The guy did little to nothing wrong, he just didn’t have the resources available at his disposal.
As usual, this all comes down to those who must not be named – the Allams. They remind me of my self-esteem – just when I think it’s hit rock bottom, there are new and exciting depths to explore. They’re scum, pure and simple. And more than that they’re idiots. They want to sell the club because they can’t have their precious name change – well I’m no business man, but I don’t see how destroying your asset is a good way of selling it. We’ve gone from an attractive looking team in a big-ish city, to a mess. Who in their right mind would spend money on this junk of a club? You’d be better off chucking your money down a well. The Allams are idiotic scum, and have to go. Does anyone know how the fit and proper persons test the FA use is run? In my mind it goes something like this;
Describe yourself in 2 words;
What do you think of the fans?
What’s your strategy for running the club?
“Do whatever the f**k I want based on whatever the f**k whim I have that day, and see what happens”
Congratulations, you’ve passed!
Apparently not too long ago there was an agreement in place with a Chinese consortium, but they failed the fit and proper persons test so the deal fell through. What could they have possibly done? S**t on the floor in their interview? Kill the interviewer? Based on how this club is run, not to mention others (Cellino, Birmingham), I don’t see how you could even fail that test. It’s ludicrous.
Anyway that’s my rant – got a bit carried away there. I love my football club dearly, and I’m watching it be destroyed in front of my very eyes. I was reading in the mailbox recently (I think) about people falling out of love with football, and I have to say I’m right there. I gain no enjoyment from the sport – at best it’s a chore, at worst, well, I don’t want to think about it.
When I was a kid, first going to Hull games with my dad, I used to put my pocket money in buckets before games – these buckets were collections for the club to ensure we wouldn’t be locked out of our ground, which had happened not too long before. We played terrible Division Three football in a terrible stadium against other terrible teams, and were lucky if we finished in the top half. Oh how I miss those days.
Rob (2017 is going well so far…) Leeds