Mails: Is it already time for some PL predictions?

Date published: Thursday 4th August 2016 9:59

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What a way to mark 12 years…
Nice of Rooney to commemorate his testimonial by again playing like a recent retiree, disrupting team cohesion, and generally contributing to play as much as Albert the Kitman would if he were playing.
Chris MUFC


…There was a moment in Rooney’s testimonial when I should have turned the TV off.

This came during the first half. Ibrahimovic has the ball around 25 yards out in the centre of the pitch with everything ahead of him. Rooney is roughly on the edge of the 18-yard box, what does he do? Make like he’s coming short then peel off his man and run in behind for a ball over the top? Take a step to the left and look for a through ball a la Michael Owen v City? Nope. His head goes down and he sprints like hell back out and takes up a position five yards directly to Zlatan’s right for a little lay-off.

If Rooney, Mourinho, the pundits, F365 and fellow football fans can’t see how bad that is then maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Zlatan comes deep but at least he commits defenders by taking them on. If Rooney would drive through the defence into space like he used to then he still might be effective but he’s basically playing like Carrick only in a no. 10 position. He doesn’t play any clever balls through the defence, it’s always the easiest pass – sideways into space or to the closest forward man.

The worst part? We looked even less threatening after he went off.
Silvio Dante


…What a waste of an entire evening. A testimonial match to ‘honour’ Rooney for his long (extinguished) service to Man United, ha ha. Why didn’t Everton ‘donate’ a goal to Man United in keeping with the spirit of giving to the Wayne Rooney Foundation? Am expecting Guy Shrimpton to defend the indefensible fact that Rooney is past it, and he should be put out to pasture. There’s actually a retirement farm where past-it footballers can be taken to run around in the sun and roll in the hay all day long.
Keg Baridi, Nairobi, Kenya
PS. Loving how Leicester keep shipping in four goals against elite European competition.


…So now Rooney and his agent now want to finish his contract by 2019 and hopefully get an extension after its expiration.

Here’s hoping Jose has the good sense and steel balls to ship him off to China or the MLS before the team suffocate under the burden of carrying him, shoe-horned into diff positions with better players available.

Thanks for the 12 years Wayne, though I believe you were handsomely rewarded even when you stopped deserving it. With other big names coming in, the brand will not be enough to justify his inclusion to the detriment of the team.
Chimere Orji


Swine v Schweini
Why has no one complained about the disrespectful treatment of Schweini by José? Its okay if he’s not in his plans for the squad, and with his injuries, fitness issues and hefty wages, he may have a point. Though some may rightly say, the squad needs his leadership and experience especially with the young players.

I just don’t get the sense of making such a dignified character and icon of the game go through the ignominy of demotion to the reserves when he has done no wrong. Why does Jose feel he has to pick fights with some big names at all his clubs to make a point? You’d think he’d learn some valuable lessons in dressing room management after his disastrous failure at Chelsea last season.

I hope a European club can give Basti some respite from this mess, and that Jose doesn’t confirm the fears of many United fans who never wanted him ‘cos of his messy baggage.
Mere Godled, MUFC, Nigeria


Extensive thoughts on Chelsea
Antonio Conte spoke about himself as a tailor who likes to stick clothes based on the fabrics he has, implying that his formation and team structure will be decided by personnel than philosophy.

– He has been true to his word. Forget 4-4-2, 4-2-4, 3-5-2 or 4-3-3, he has identified the exact problem why Chelsea were 10th last season.

– With the personnel chelsea have, playing an offensive high line is out of the question.

– First reason – our centre-backs. JT is unarguably our best defensive, a scary fact. I have nothing against the legend (the player, not the individual) and I think he must retire here. However, his shortcomings on the pitch, primarily of the fact that he cannot play in a high line (not for lack of pace, which is an idiotic argument, see the case of Carlos Puyol). This doesn’t have to do with the fact that he is technically very good (the best in our defence) and has an unparallelled game intelligence.

– All previous Chelsea managers sought out to get the best out of John Terry hiding his weaknesses at various points. When he was an out-and-out English defender (his technical prowess developed very late, around when he was 29 actually), they paired him with technically and tactically intelligent defenders (Carvalho). Then, when he became that defender, they paired him with an older version of JT – Alex, Cahill etc. (Luiz being the exception).

– This combination of JT and Cahill (or Alex) means, Chelsea’s back line will always be suspect in a high line (ask AVB for instance). Long story short, we have to set ourselves in a low block, with the backline closer to the goalie.

– Which outlines the second issue – the space between the defense and midfield. Jose Mourinho sought out to find a solution to the issue of playing a pro-active offensive game (laugh all you want) with a deep defense. So, he set out to buy/keep players who could play in the system. The midfield was not as close to the defense, but not as far away to cause trouble. As a result the front four had to run their arse off (hence Willian is still in the team) to make up for lost space/ball.

– This seemed to work till December 2014. But, nature took its toll and the steam was off, meaning everyone barring the back five were tired by Winter 2015. Jose retorted to type and played an absolutely mean defensive strategy to win the title. It wasnt a mystery that we sucked in Europe also because technically, we could not match the big teams due to our weaknesses.

– Last summer, our hilariously failed transfer purchases – Pogba (yes) and John Stones were to be added to a pacy and young Zouma ready for first team mantle. Jose wanted to refresh the Chelsea defense by pairing Stones and Zouma (or JT), add Pogba to muscle in midfield. It didnt happen. And the already tired players were given a longer break (in hindsight a bad move), and they came undercooked after pre-season. Of course, Jose’s management last season was poor, and was another in a complex list of factors that made the season disastrous.

– Back to Conte, he seems to have identified this flaw and has already set up Chelsea to play in a low block. Instead of having a low defense-midfield and high offensive block, all the three lines are closer (the forward line is as close to midfield). The team is now zonal, meaning less individual physical work rate need. As a group, the team is asked to press and harass opponents and score counter-attacking goals.

– The signing of N’Golo Kante is the first step in solving the puzzle, we now have steel in midfield to cover up space. So Conte has the tactical advantage of either playing a two-man midfield (like first half of Milan’s game) or a three-man midfield to press more and score (the second half) by altering the formation and personnel.

All in all, we have a tailor who has identified the holes in the fabric and has begun to stich the required cloth. Dont expect us to win anything, but top four should be a good finish. We can overhaul the defense and seriously challenge in seasons to come (Christensen, Koulibaly should help).
Aravind, Chelsea fan


Summer thoughts
Steve Mandanda will play for Crystal Palace next year. Yohan Cabaye will play for Crystal Palace next year. Steve Mandanda and Yohan Cabaye will both play for Crystal Palace next year. Alan Pardew must make a bloody good crème brûlée.

Koeman is new to Everton and trying to desperately to hold onto his big names but I hope he has targets lined up. Williams would have been tidy but the business so far has been very uninspiring for a side in desperate need of inspiration. Need to move quickly in the next few weeks.

Gaston Ramirez will be asked to supply the majority of the creativity for a Middlesbrough side that has very high hopes. He came to England incredibly highly rated but failed to show much of anything before becoming a man possessed in the back end of last season. Massive x-factor for the Boro.

Watfor’ds transfer business is so hard to make sense of on a year-to-year basis. It seems as if there are so many ins and outs with no real rhyme or reason to any of it. The only annual certainty at Watford is that Troy Deeney will play up front and kick lumps out of the opposition and that I can live with.
Wallace (Stevie Gibson is King)


Batsh*t mental alert
It wasn’t when Paul Pogba was set to become the first £100 million player.
It wasn’t when Jordan Ibe and Brad Smith went to Bournemouth for a combined £21 million.
It wasn’t when Real Madrid bid for Moussa Sissoko.
It wasn’t when the 29 year old Gonzalo Higuan transfered for £75 million.

It was when Roberto Martinez became manager of Belgium that football officially went batsh*t mental.
John (only Wenger signing a striker would blow my mind more) Porter


Why good British managers don’t get top jobs…
A recent email extolling the virtues of Tony Pulis got me thinking about the whole British managers in the EPL situation, especially with the England manager job recently up for grabs.

Then listened to five live with Paul Lambert discussing what might happen at the top of the EPL and went on about visiting top coaches like Guardiola, Schmidt, Hitzfeld etc to study their methods. And waxed on about how great it was.

Lambert’s teams played absolute turgid, horrid football. So not sure what all that going to watch other top coaches is all about if it doesn’t translate into something worthwhile. Pulis teams are not much better. Might not get the drop, but what is it all about when the football is so bad?

So then you look at who gets the non-foreign management roles in the EPL and it seems to me they fall into two camps. The first camp is the ‘I am not going to get relegated at any cost’, so they bring in the Pulis and Allardyce type manager. The other camp are in the ‘I have no idea what I want, but it can’t be turgid football’ so they plump for a recognized ex-player with no management experience whatsoever.

This leaves rising star managers like Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche, out in the cold. Unless they can bring a club up from the Championship they are not going to get an EPL job.

The very best jobs go foreign. The next tier go recognized relegation fighter or inexperienced ex-player, which results in everyone saying how terrible British managers are and hence plump for a foreign one.

Finally, it is interesting that the foreign manages that people like Lambert go to visit, all seem to have created their own vision and coaching style. The only British manager in recent memory who talked about having a style and a plan was Rodgers. It did, at least, get him a job a the top table, but also increased the expectations. Of course, he never ended up sticking to it once he got caught up in the title challenge. But perhaps Rodgers had it right after all, having a formal, documented style of play. Hopefully Eddie and Sean have one.
Paul McDevitt


On the Big Top Ten
I was going to save this mail until just before the big kick off, but Dom, London’s email from the afternoon mailbox with his predictions for the season spurred me to write in a tad earlier.

What I am finding most fascinating about this season is two-fold (well three-fold actually, but I will tickle the reader’s fancy with my missives on Leicester’s season another day).

Firstly there is the undisputed fact (sorry, FACT) that there are six teams who MUST get into the Champions League this season (Man U, Man C, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs). That might be a bit harsh on Spurs or Liverpool, but I can see Poch or Klopp being shown the door with a Europa position such are the demands of the PL these days. Obviously six into four won’t go, and I believe Arsenal and Liverpool will miss out this year from that sextet.

But what I find even more intriguing is who is going to break into the top half at the expense of the ‘Big Top Ten’ (I am trademarking this BTW). There is the six above who are all clearly going to finish in the top half, even if one does go into a Chelsea-style meltdown early on. Then there are the current Premier League champions, Leicester City (good God how did that happen?), where, the loss of Kante aside, we should be ok for a top half placing, looking stronger in every other department. West Ham is surely another side with the strength to compete for Europe rather than look over their shoulder. This leaves Everton and Southampton to make up the Big Top TenTM. Both are in a state of flux, but both should have the ability and expectation of a top half placing (good scouting and strong backroom – S’ton, tons of cash when it starts to go a bit wonky – Everton).

So where does that leave everyone else? There must surely be one or two who will challenge this assumption, not least with all the money and talent (I use the term loosely in relation to some teams, obvs) swilling about in the lower reaches these days. For my money, I can see Stoke continuing to flirt with the top half and may well replace Everton unless the latter get some serious investment in the squad. For a ‘wild card’ pick I can see Crystal Palace shaking things up with their pace and I echo Dom’s comments about the intriguing Middlesbrough additions potentially enabling them to spring a surprise.

What does everyone else think?
Rob (Going to the Community Shield on Sunday) Leicester


Predictions Time
1. Chelsea
2. Man Utd
3. Man City
4. Liverpool
5. Arsenal
6. Spurs
7. WHam
8. Everton
9. Leicester
10. Soton
11. Stoke
12. Palace
13. Boro
14. Watford
15. Bournemouth
16. Swansea
17. Sunderland
18. WBA
19. Hull
20. Burnley

Notable points:

For what will be such an exciting season I think such a boring team will win it. The Conte/Kante revolution will give us a title winner that will be the team that concedes the fewest rather than scores the most. I can’t see Chelsea conceding many at all, and with no European football, a rejuvenated Hazard with Batshuayi and Costa/Lukaku will be enough to win them enough games 1-0 to win the title.

I can’t see Pep hitting the ground running. Too many new faces in attacking positions and not enough new faces in defence, especially full-back.

United will go close, as will Liverpool…however, like City, they have too many defensive frailties.

In a world where Jordon Ibe is going to Bournemouth for £15m, the transfer policies of Hull and Burnley are suicidal. Both nailed on for relegation.

It’s also about time Pulis and West Brom went down. That would be refreshing.

Final prediction is that I reckon this season will have one of the biggest point gaps between two teams in the history of the Premier League. I think there’s a huge divide between teams with European aspiration and teams fighting relegation. I can see a 15-point gap arising between Stoke and Palace in 11th and 12th. The fact that there are around eight teams that could go down, and seven teams that could win it makes this season potentially the best ever.
Andrei (I just want the football to start), Newcastle


Mo money, mo problems for Hull
Just wanted to say, I’ve lost a lot of respect for Diame – his move to Newcastle makes no sense. He’s just worked his socks off to get out of the Championship, and is immediately dropping back down. He could have stayed with Hull for this season, get a year of Premier League football, then next summer make the move. Newcastle will inevitably get promoted this season, so he’d still be in the Prem. Makes no sense to me, other than he wants some money.

Bye Mo, thanks for all your hard work, good luck next season. W****r.
Rob (sold more players yesterday than we’ve bought all summer) Leeds
Five minutes later
Following up on my last mail, just read this quote from Diame: “Everybody close to me knows how desperate I am to play in the Premier League again.”

Clearly not that desperate Mo. T**t.
Rob, Leeds


It’s sunny in Newcastle…
And so the crazy summer continues. It’s been one of change for many teams, but also fans as (like me) some fans find their teams in different leagues. With Newcastle going down, I’ve been doing my best to familiarize myself with other teams and their transfer dealings, with quite a few signings going under the radar at times. With that said, Newcastle have been doing some brilliant business and I think that the difference in ‘getting deals over the line’ has got to be having Rafa at the helm. Yes we have spent some reasonable sums, but I still think it’s Benitez that is proving the biggest pull.

Look at the players we’ve been able to bring in (with deals being done very quickly):

Ciaran Clarke
Mohamed Diame
Jesus Gamez
Mats Selz
Dwight Gale
Isaac Hayden
Grant Hanley
Matt Ritchie

I can’t imagine getting these players if Schteve was still in charge which is why I was so chuffed and amazed that Benitez decided to stick with us. Not only have we managed to get in some decent players, but we’ve also managed to clear a bit of deadwood (with all due respect to Colo). We’ve done well to recoup money for Townsend (13 mill), make a big stinkin profit on Wijnaldum (sold for 25 mill), and palm Cisse (reportedly for 5 mill) off on the Chinese Super League. If Sissoko goes, and we get anywhere near the fee being touted, all of a sudden we have only players remaining that want to be at the club and will fight for promotion. AND the money spent on transfers will largely have been recouped, again IF we get a decent fee for Sissoko.

Looking around the Championship, I’m very confident our squad have enough about em to win promotion at the first time of asking, and I’m incredibly excited now!!! That said, this is Newcastle we’re talking about, and normally when things seem rosy and all is right with the world, Ashley finds a way to piss on my cereal.

Any other mailboxers want to suggest a promotion-chasing rival?
Jon (Enough of the Pogshit), NUFC, Guangzhou


A focus on Bolton
So Bolton wanderers start their first season in the third tier for the first time in 19 years. I moved to Bolton from Ireland at the age of seven so I’d already started supporting United and couldn’t change my club, but my first live football was the the old Burnden Park in what was at the time Divison 1, or the second tier so I have always wanted them to do well so do did this quite sad.

Looking at their prospects for next season it’s not great either. They have young Zach Clough, who definitely has Premier League potential and in their new manager, Parkinson, they have experience at the lower levels. However after the is where it starts to go down hill.

They’ve lost Rob Holding, who at £2m is cheap, especially when you think Stones is going for £50m because I don’t think he is 25X better. Also Feeney, who was out on loan has been sold.

New owners took over last year and saved the club from administration and having issued their financial results finally they are allowed to buy players but it seems the new owners aren’t the saviours everyone hoped they would be. Judging by reports in the local paper and rumors around town the new owners are going to be using the stadium for concerts and events, which is probably the only way to make money, so fair play. If i was a betting man, I’d look into the odds for Bolton to be relegated again.

On the plus side I’ve said to some of my mates who are Bolton fans I’ll be happy to go on a few away days which should be a good laugh.
Bernard MUFC (10 sleeps till the Premier League is back)

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