Keep those emails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org…
We’re starting here
I was very sorry to read the sad news that Aaron Lennon has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act following concerns for his safety; the details are disturbing and it seems like he was in a very bad way.
Mental health still exists as a stigma in wider society, and the only way this will change is if situations like this are treated with the care and seriousness necessary and sufferers are not made to feel guilty.
I truly hope Lennon gets the help he needs and makes a good recovery; I certainly hope my fellow football fans will show him all the love and support he needs.
Adrian (Coventry City fan)
…On a day when the mailbox will be probably full of “CR7” (he’s coming back, isn’t he? Oh please say he is, he’s got unfinished business, we still love him etc) can I say that my thoughts and prayers are with Aaron Lennon. The lessons learned through the life of Robert Enke must not be ignored, and football needs to get a hold of how it deals with mental health.
Aidan, EFC, Oxford
…I imagine most of us wish him well, but given he’s an ex-Spurs player it made more than a little sad to see that Aaron Lennon appears to have been found by the side of a busy road in a distressed state, and was subsequently detained under the mental health act.
Everton have released a statement saying that he is being treated for a stress related illness at this time. I suppose the point of this email is to highlight again the fact that these individuals are human, and can fall prey to the same things all of us can. We often see these players as immune to common mental health problems due to their very uncommon lives…if only that was so.
Get well soon Aaron.
Ronaldo: Just f**king ridiculous
I’m sure you’ll be swarmed with more eloquent mails than mine, but here’s a few choice statistics for you: if Cristiano Ronaldo scores two more goals in this seasons Champions League, he will win the Champions League top scorer trophy for the fourth time in five years.
Four times in five years! That’s consistency two years before and two years after the age of 30. And he missed out on the 2015 top scorer trophy because Neymar had played 39 minutes less than him.
Forgive me if my late night tallying is incorrect, but that’s a combined total of 65 goals and counting in the last five years, with 32 (32!) coming in the knockout stages. And it’s now 50 Champions league knockout goals in his entire career, including hat-tricks against Bayern and Atletico, and braces against Bayern, Arsenal, Schalke and Wolfsburg.
Jack, 22, London (that statue still sucks though)
Zidane reminds me of Fergie
With United being dross for the past couple of seasons, I have also taken to watching LaLiga fairly regularly, especially as Zidane was managing Real. And for some reason, Zizou’s management style reminds me of Ferguson’s.
– No rigid, out of the world playing style “philosophies” (aka tika tika, gegenpress etc no matter if you have the team for that or not) , but more of a focus on a style that would get the most out of the existing players (good as they may be for Real)
– Even non-first team regulars playing an important part in the success of the team. Lucas, Asensio, Nacho have all been vital for Real’s success this season. Ferguson’s team management is legendary with players like Ji-Sung, Solskjaer etc. playing pivotal roles in his many successes
– Having some favorites that he wont drop no matter what(Benzema – why no more Morata ! )
Now I am in no way suggesting Zidane will be anywhere as successful a manager as Fergie but i counldn’t help drawing the comparisons. I dont really know the point but I thought I would put it out there in anycase
As as aside, 10 goals in the QFs and SFs by Ronaldo against 2 pre-season favourites – not bad for a flat track bully huh ?
Is he the real deal?
Great result for Real Madrid last night which begs the question, is Zidane the real deal as a manager?
Real won the CL last season in his first season, unless they implode in La Liga they should win take the title and after last nigh’ts result should also be favorites to win the CL this season especially if Ronaldo can keep up his current form.
Of course we’ve been here before, a young coach promoted to the first team to win major honors in his first two seasons. I’m obviously talking about Guardiola, he who was heralded as the world’s best at Barcelona but then appeared to regress a Bayern side (if only slightly) that were record breakers and near invincible the season before he took over.
Zidane has great players at his disposal and true leaders on the pitch like Ronaldo and Ramos who can up their game for the biggest occasions but with no disrespect intended I’d still hardly call this the best Real side I’ve ever seen player wise.
They only have one true Galactico in Ronaldo (Bale doesn’t count as he seems to be injured 99% of the time and Modric is too modest for such a label) so this side reminds me more of one of Fergie’s CL winning teams, a team with 2-4 exceptional game changers surrounded by a well drilled group of motivated and talented players who have all bought their managers ideology (except James who will be leaving).
This is the first Real side I’ve seen that is not just a collection of superstars that either won things or failed miserably and got their coach fired but a real ‘team’, there is nowhere else you can look but Zidane for making this happen. The only issue I see is that Real, as they always do, will fire him once he doesn’t win everything but if so that will be another club’s gain.
The best player of his generation looks like he could also be the best coach of his generation (without being a d**k about it so far too) and I’m certainly looking forward to it.
The complete performance
So I’ve just watched Real dismissively usher Atletico out of the Champions League with a pretty much flawless performance. Now I haven’t really watched Real this season, and the only thing I can think having finally seen them tonight is wow.
This was against a side drilled by Diego Simeone, one of the best managers out there and Real dominated them and took them apart in a way I didn’t think was possible. The work rate from both sides was stunning. Griezman running 60m to win the ball back in his right back slot. Ronaldo was getting back in position to cover Vazquez. I couldn’t quite believe what I was watching.
There also weren’t all that many histrionics. The odd bit of card waving here or there but nothing of Barca proportions. But what impressed me most of all was the level of technique on show. The first touch, the subtle movements to find space. The willingness of every single player to take the ball in situations where 3 opposition players were pressing. That was a proper football match, the way it should be played.
The Premier League really need to give up the “best League in the world” crap. Even our best sides are nowhere near that level. Fans are deluded if they really think that someone like Toni Kroos would willingly join a Premiership side at this stage. Why would Isco join City, Arsenal or Chelsea when he looks like Modric’s heir in midfield? Hell, Casemiro looks like a donkey by comparison to those two and he’d likely still walk into any top four midfield and look superb. But why would he want to? I hate to say it but if Griezmann has any sense he’ll stay where he is, replace Suarez at Barca or Benzema at Real. And English side would be such a step down compared to those options right now.
I’m still hoping Juve beat Madrid in the final just because I want to see Buffon lift the trophy, but I really can’t see it happening. On that performance Real are the pinnacle in football at the moment, and English sides have never felt further away from the trophy.
Is this the end of Atletico’s cycle?
Last night’s Madrid derby had me thinking, is this the end of the Atletico ‘phase’? It looks to me that some clubs can only go so far for so long before it’s time for a sale of their best players and the manager moving on. Simeone has done a great job he has one hell of a team who have had success but is this as far as they can go.
It reminds me of Dortmund under Klopp they has a great run but ultimately it was time for their best players to move on to bigger things and more chance of success, I think Reus is only still there cause of injury, the manager may have stayed too long. Dortmund look like they are rebuilding again but having noted their knack for picking up absolute gems this may be disrupted by their players leaving sooner than before disturbing any progress.
Back to Atleti, if Simione leaves surely the squad will also get torn apart. If he stays will he be able to take the same group of players further or even further. It might be time to cash in.
Moving to the Premier League, I think the club who might face similar fate is Spurs. If they challenge and fail to win anything again next season would the players not start thinking about moving. The manager may also see it as good as it’s ever going to get.
A long, sensible mail on diving
A few people have asked what can be done to curb the amount of diving in the game. Aside from the obvious solution of sending all them cheating foreigners back where they came from so our sweet, innocent British kids don’t get corrupted by their evil ways (copyright – virtually every member of the British mainstream media), I think it’s a question of risk and reward.
Currently, the potential rewards far outweigh the risks. Dive and, if successful, there is a fair chance you’ll win a penalty for your team. Get caught and the worst punishment is a yellow card followed by a little ridicule on MOTD with maybe a slight damage to reputation to reduce your likely future success rate the next time you fall over like a sack of s***. High reward, low risk.
Most suggestions in the famous mailbox have proposed a solution that attempts to tackle the “risk” side, by increasing the potential punishments for divers – Straight red-cards; post-match trial by video with significant bans and suchlike. Such ideas are doomed to failure; just look at the twice-a-season attempts to bring in a hard line on dissent. The harsher the punishments; the less likely they are to be enforced.
If a fall that is deemed to be a dive is punishable with a red card, then referees won’t penalise the dive at all; they’ll do that wavy hands thing (like the “dead-ball” gesture, for fans of cricket umpiring signals) to indicate that they think any fall is accidental and therefore something they don’t have to make any decision on. In this case, the enforcement becomes reliant on retrospective video evidence and we all know how perfectly conclusive that is – especially for something like diving that is, by its nature, a question of intent.
How many tumbles have you ever seen that were indisputably, unquestionably deliberate dives, which couldn’t be explained away with some PFM cliches like “Michael’s got a right to go to ground”, “Jamie’s bought a penalty”, “Wayne’s avoided the contact”? (reserved obviously for our brave British lads, who would never consider cheating). Realistically, nothing will change. Such actions may even reduce the number of individuals punished.
And let’s be a little grown up for a second and recognise that grunting rude words at the referee or flopping to the ground in an embarrassing attempt to con an official is really a lot less worthy of punishment than serious, potentially leg-breaking tackles, which rarely earn more than a couple of games suspension. Draconian punishment is not the right solution.
So, can we address this from the “reward” side? I’ve occasionally theorised that some of the diving in the game could be reduced by decreasing the size of the penalty area. Think about it: Why does it need to be an 18 yard box, anyway?
The furthest corner of said box is over 25 yards from the goal (thanks, Pythagoras) so why does a foul on that spot translate into an unobstructed free shot on goal from 12 yards? Any misdemeanour in almost any position in the defensive quarter of the pitch is penalised with a circa 75% likelihood of a goal being conceded, no matter what the actual threat to the goal at that point. That has never seemed like proper justice.
Based on little more than gut feel and common sense, i would suggest that the majority of “dives” occur more than 12 yards from goal and usually in these far flung corners of the penalty box, because that is where the players have most to gain. Fewer players dive when they just 10 yards out because they are far more likely to be in a strong goalscoring position. If they’re throwing themselves to ground in preference to taking a close-range shot on target then, even if they blag a spot-kick, you’d expect the ultimate reward would be an appointment in their manager’s office involving a blowtorch and some rusty pliers.
Therefore, shrinking the penalty box gives a potential diver far less reward for their unethical behaviour. 18 yard box could remain if people want the keeper’s game to remain the same. It’s not like there are too many lines on the football pitch. The new penalty area could be a 10 yard semi-circle or even a basketball-key-shaped area (revealing that I have blatantly stolen this idea from the basketball notion where “free-throws” are only awarded when a foul is committed on a player in the act of shooting) extending outwards from just outside of the width of each post. I don’t think it ruins or unduly changes the nature of the game.
And I’ll bet it reduces diving.
Chris Bridgeman, Kingston upon Thames
Love (deserved?) for Steady
European player – Benedikt Howedes (Schalke)
Schalke’s clash with Bayer Leverkusen last Friday saw a meeting between two of Germany’s once bright lights, both of which have dimmed in recent years. They are stranded in mid-table obscurity, with Champions League football a pipedream. But Schalke would claim a comfortable 4-1 victory at the BayArena, with Howedes making ten interceptions and scoring in a complete individual performance. Like the rest of his teammates, he has been scrutinised for a tepid season, but the criticism only eggs Benedikt on.
That last bit from Matt Stead is brilliant. As my mates and I always say: “It is Howedes”.
Keep up the good work.
Dominic, LFC, Singapore