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Jose is gonna Joe Cole Sanchez
I’ve no time for United but I do still love Alexis Sanchez.
Those sorts of players that can take a game by the scruff of its neck regardless of everyone else is doing are few and far between.
Mourinho’s going to destroy him isn’t he and that makes me sad because we’ve seen this before.
When I was at secondary school I only remember us winning the Islington Schools trophy once. And that was the year a legend emerged about a boy who would literally take the ball from one end of the field to another and score goal after goal. That boy would go on to sign for West Ham and become the second old boy from my school to score at a World Cup (Gary Breen was the first).
His name was Joe Cole and it saddens me how Jose took all the joy out of watching him play by turning him into a glorified left back.
I can only hope Jose is fired before he does the same with Alexis.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Planet Sport recommends: The day Paolo Maldini tried his hand at professional tennis.(Tennis365)
Mourinho installed his own ceiling
Naz, in this morning’s mailbox, thinks the current United manager is getting an easy ride, and I’m of a mind to both agree and attempt to rectify that.
First, a disclaimer. Mourinho is obviously a really successful football manager in various leagues across Europe with differing levels of financial might to assist him. He’s almost certainly forgotten more about top-level football than I’ll ever know. But I’m always hearing football is a game of opinions so here’s mine: Unless he shows a willingness to adapt to the club and players he’s managing, rather than vice versa, he’ll always impose a ceiling on his own achievements.
Invoking Ferguson in any managerial comparison feels almost like cheating, but one of the reasons Ferguson was, and crucially remained, so successful throughout his long career was his willingness to discard old, proven dogma and embrace a new way of doing things. This can be seen in the differing ways he approached the celebrity status of initially Beckham and later Ronaldo. Stick (or flying boot) was replaced with carrot, to great effect. He also changed his backroom staff and tactics frequently throughout his time at United.
It’s this latter point that seems most pertinent to the current incarnation of Mourinho. Rui Faria et al have been virtual ever-presents throughout Mourinho’s career. So too, seemingly, his devotion to 4-2-3-1. There’s nothing wrong with 4-2-3-1. Spurs used a version of it to devastating effect last night. It’s only a problem when none of the (very good) players in your team benefit from it’s deployment. Pogba doesn’t have the discipline to play in a double pivot (he really should have, but he doesn’t), there are no natural wingers in the squad, our only natural number 10 is the adorable but incredibly slow and weak Mata (who never plays there anyway), and Lukaku has none of the actual skill set required of a Mourinho lone centre forward (looks like he should be a great hold up player but is actually a quick, intelligent runner who can finish). Yet despite all this, and having natural if limited attacking full backs, we so rarely see a proper 4-3-3 deployed. The last occasion was Everton away where we took a half to get used to it, then dominated the second half, scoring two good goals and, crucially, controlling the game. Doesn’t Mourinho love control?
In this formation, Matic doesn’t get isolated (or quite as obviously knackered hopefully), our defence is better protected, Pogba gets more freedom and no No.10 in his way, Sanchez/Martial/Lingard/Rashford all get closer to Lukaku (and the goal), while Shaw and Valencia can provide the width with options in the middle and still have two midfielders covering.
Recent comments from Mourinho about buying central midfielders this summer and the apparent decision not to pursue Ozil have given me reason to believe this might be the direction of travel for United over the coming months. However, if I’m still having the same moan in a year’s time it will no doubt be in the context of another failed title challenge on the back of yet another chastening defeat to decent opposition.
Adam (I’ll even take 3 at the back, I’m not greedy) MUFC
Having read your damning assessment of Antonio Conte’s struggles in the league , please allow me to shed some light on the matter.
Chelsea have signed nine players in this transfer window you say ? Let’s have a look at them.
Alvaro Morata , excellent footballer , however , untested in the Premier League and taking a major step up from his position at Madrid and Juve where he was very much an understudy
Was doing pretty well up to his case of the yips against Arsenal where he could easily have won the game on his own , however well he’s done or not , he was replacing an unreplaceable Diego Costa so
For all intents and purposes appears to be a down grade.
Tiemour Bakayoko – again new to the league but coming off a career threatening injury to boot and replacing a Nemanja Matic who Conte absolutely did not want to see leave until “the board” got involved .
Had no pre-season and has been played when useless by Conte , in my opinion as a raspberry to the afore mentioned board. Never a Premier League player in a million years and had to deputise for the crocked Kante for the first month of the season. Excellent.
Davide Zappacosta – not bad but not Candreva who Conte was overruled about apparently
Ross Barkley – Ask for Nainggolan and you shall receive Ross Barkley a man with no discernible position in the side and once more coming off an injury with no pre-season whatsoever
Emerson Palmieri – Ask for Sandro and you shall receive not second choiceTelles but an Emerson Palmieri , coming off an injury , are you starting to see a theme here ?
Danny Drinkwater – England Legend , arrived , you guessed it , late in the window and injured ( but of course )
Olivier Giroud – A good player , arrived too late to replace Michy in the starting line-up against Bournemouth when the board following their one in one out policy loaned him to Dortmund , having spent two weeks wooing Edin Dzeko apparently .
Willy Caballero – a safe pair of hands , arguably our safest pair .
I don’t even recall at this moment who the ninth player is in all honesty , they cannot even be at this level of meh-ness.
So all in all , to be still in the Champions League , Still in the Fa Cup , got to the semis of the League Cup and with a chance of a top four finish , I think Conte has done a reasonable job whilst actively being hampered by a board who are literally clueless about the quality of player they are employing .
The vast transfer web
There seems to have been an awful lot of movement of players between seven Premier League clubs (Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, City, United and Southampton) in recent years, with the trend continuing this January.
In the past year United have signed the best striker from Arsenal (Alexis) and Everton (Lukaku). Everton replaced Lukaku with two long-serving former teenage prodigies in Walcott (from Arsenal) and Rooney (from United) – as well as signing Schneiderlin, who had earlier left Southampton for United.
Arsenal sort-of replaced Alexis and Walcott – who they had signed from Southampton – with Mkhitarayan, having set a similar precedent when they let Van Persie go to United (in 2012) before signing Welbeck (in 2014). That same summer, Chelsea finally let Romelu Lukaku leave, only to find themselves in dire need of him three and a half years later. After scouring the world for a striker with similar attributes they eventually found one up the road at Arsenal (Giroud), where he will now play with former Gunners captain (Fabregas), whilst Chelsea’s once magnificent goalkeeper (Cech) struggles to find form on the opposite goalline.
Also leaving Arsenal this year was Oxlade-Chamberlain, who they Walcotted from Southampton in 2011, could not convince to sign da ting in 2017, and so reluctantly sold to Liverpool, who famously love anyone who has ever played for Southampton – The Ox and latterly Van Dijk joining Clyne, Lovren, Mane and probably loads of others I’ve forgotten in their collection of saints. Like United they have also circuitously benefited from Chelsea’s impatience with young forwards – Mo Salah, who scored 2 goals for Chelsea in 2013/14, sits on 26 for Liverpool four years later. And former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho can now call upon Shaw (Southampton), Fellaini (Everton) and Mata (Chelsea) at United.
Meanwhile, with a minimum of fuss, Man City decided they liked De Bruyne (once of Chelsea), Sterling (once of Liverpool) and Stones (once of Everton) and are now sailing away whilst the rest scramble in the waves.
The Southampton Way
We’ve probably passed most people by this season, as we’ve offered almost nothing, but Southampton are well and truly entrenched in the relegation zone. The 31st January summarized our season perfectly.
The culmination of the transfer window ended in disappointed. Despite having sold VVD for £75 even before it started there were still mad attempts on the final day to push through the signing of Quincy Promes. Of course this perfect replacement for Sadio Mane didn’t happen and we’re left with our limited pool of wingers. We did manage to sign Guido Carrillo for our club record (around £19m) and he does look like the Graziano Pelle replacement we’ve needed, but this was after attempts to sign Walcott and Sturridge fell short. I’m not convinced either of these two would have been quite right, but the fact that wages was the stumbling block for us but not for Everton and West Brom speaks volumes about where the club is at.
‘The Southampton Way’ was all about doing it the ‘right way’ with sustainable growth and an economical moneyball angle. It looked like it was the right approach for a while, with a year-on-year improvement in league positions, but following on from an underwhelming 2016/2017 this season has seen ‘The Southampton Way’ to be exposed as an unsuccessful way to run a football club. We can no longer compete against the majority of other premier league clubs economically and the mysterious ‘black box’ of scouting has run dry. The money presumably exists – You don’t sell that many players and garner that much TV revenue – But it isn’t being spent. Is it therefore a surprise we’re in the relegation zone?
On top of this we have a manager who is not working out and a board too proud and stubborn to replace him. His tactics constantly baffle fans. Play well and take the lead, sit back and concede. Draw. We have drawn to Swansea, Newcastle, Huddersfield, Watford and Brighton (away) through this tactic. That is 10 points dropped from games where we were dominating. The players have the talent but they look rudderless on the pitch and devoid of any real leaders from the playing staff.
Last night, vs Brighton this game played out slightly differently in that it was Brighton who took the lead. But despite dominating possession and getting an equalizer we simply didn’t have the class to capitalize and dropped yet another two points. The atmosphere was toxic. Fans have had enough and sadly this is creeping into the players. It doesn’t help that Pellegrino once again started with our most expensive signings and best loved players on the bench (Boufal, Lemina, Gabbiadini and Carrillo).
We’re in the relegation battle. We hope something will click. Players such as Lemina, Bertrand, Cedric, Romeu and Hoybjerg (who has been excellent) are ‘too good to go down’. The problem is that we’ve seen that before in the Premier League. Nobody is too good to go down. And if it happens we’ll have to look at the Southampton Way and say it well and truly failed and goodbye to Les Reed and Ralph Krueger and their failed business plan.
Jon Tucker, Southampton
After the most recent round of matches and a quietening down period after the January sales, I am now salivating at the prospect of the up coming knock out round in the Champions league.
I am definitely giving Sevilla a shout against this current United defensive mess, whereas before I wouldn´t have. Sevilla have been slowly improving amongst a few blips, this could be the shock of the round. (I´m not travelling to the Sanchez Pizjuan as the ticket prices are so high).
By the same token I now see Tottenham even closer to what would be another shock, when comparing experience in the competition, Juve will be a tough nut to crack, and are leading their league again – they´ll be great games to watch.
More inevitable now are Barca cruising past a disinterested Chelsea, City cruising too and Liverpool drawing twice with Porto, I hope Liverpool go through on the away goals rule though.
To finish I´d say Real Madrid are now getting closer to not being eliminated, Ronanldo has found some form and loves playing in europe, also Mr Emery has a poor record against Madrid.
How i´d love to see Tottenham take on Barcelona in the quarter finals.
Peter, (Athletic Bilbao had the best transfer dealings). Andalucia.
Leave Leicester alone
I just wanted to defend Leicester over the Mahrez situation in light of some of the comments I’ve read. First off, comparing the £95m price tag put on Mahrez to the £30m received for Kante and £20m that Arsenal would have paid for Vardy is irrelevant. The Kante and Vardy prices were both directly related to release clauses in their contracts. If Mahrez is keen to leave Leicester then, with hindsight, he should have had a release clause included within the contract he signed 18 months ago.
Comparing his price to the £35m received for Drinkwater also isn’t quite comparing like-for-like. The market has moved significantly in the short time since then with the Coutinho and Van Dijk transfers. Leicester quite probably would have accepted £50m for Mahrez in the summer, let alone £65m. The fact that Roma offered only £32m for Mahrez just five months ago is indicative of how the market has moved.
So what would have been a fair price? Well I think Leicester’s £95m valuation is closer to reality than Man City’s £65m, especially when you compare to the £142m paid for Coutinho. It should also be taken into account that the bid was made so late in the window, and so with no time for Leicester to find a replacement you would expect to pay a premium price. When Mahrez does eventually move, probably this summer, I won’t begrudge him. He’s been a fantastic servant for the club and I believe the vast majority of fans will wish him well when he leaves. I’d like to think the club themselves hold a similar viewpoint but, at the end of the day, they are right to retain his services until a fair offer is made.
Why doesn’t he get a shot? ‘Cos he’s a massive radgee (classic NE term for a needlessly aggressive individual)! Put simply the man has issues, which usually result in him taking an early bath. Even on the rare occasions when he’s scored a goal he’s not happy until he’s unleashed some unprovoked and unsubtle violence and destruction to an opposition player’s knee, ankle or face.
So much effort does he put into inflicting pain on others he then knackers himself out after 5 minutes and blows out his arse for the remainder of the match – unable to press, run the channels or even perform basic hold-up play. It’s not just opposition players at risk of injury either – during goal celebrations (we used to score a lot in the Championship, honest) his exuberance is quite likely to snap the neck of a teammate via a bear-hug. He makes Ketsbia look calm and collected.
Worst of all he has a faithful cult following amongst a decent proportion of supporters mistaking his ‘radgee-ness’ for effort, blinded to the fact he’s a complete liability for us (and now for Fulham). Rafa ain’t daft.
Cut the mustard
Can I just say how lovely it was to see Seamus Coleman start for us last night. Always great to see a player come back from such a serious injury but such a wonderful person coming back from it made me feel all warm inside.
Aidan, EFC, Rome