So Tottenham, are you contenders or underdogs?

Date published: Monday 20th November 2017 2:47

The north London derby is still dominating the agenda. Mail us at theeditor@football365.com to move things on…

 

Football opinions are pointless
I hate the general public. There I said it. It’s because they’re a bunch of idiots. I’m an idiot too of course, though I tell myself I am in fact one of the select group of non-idiots, but that isn’t really true, I know because I actually know a non-idiot, my brother, and he often looks at me with the well-meaning but all-to-obvious condescension a parent does to their pre-pubescent child. He’s an Aerospace engineer, knows how to write those long formulae on white boards and enjoys explaining the way the world works to people around him that is only marginally about him showing off how intelligent he is and mostly about educating.

My girlfriend looks at him with the kind of longing a child with a toy iPhone does to their parents actual iPhone. My brother and I look alike, can both make the right kinds of noises but when it comes to functionality my screen is a plastic sticker while his high-def.

And you know what he says when I go on a tirade about how Liverpool can’t defend? He asks how many goals have they conceded? Not in the last match but over the last year or two years. He asks what the average is and how I would judge what is a good return for goals conceded. He logifies (I told you I was an idiot) my argument until the original point is lost and I’m too confused to be annoyed anymore.

What he always asks is this: How can Liverpool be good enough to beat Arsenal 4-0 and bad enough to lose to Man City 5-0? How can a team be both so good and so bad? And if they are capable of such extremes why try and extrapolate conclusions from a single game? And as always, he is right. We should be banned from deducing points or forming opinions from the result of one game or frankly two, three or four games. The infinite variables that go into a game of football mean that if you played a game of football between two sides on consecutive days the likelihood of the same result is extremely unlikely. The variation can actually be extreme, look at Barca vs PSG in the Champs league to see the extreme’s of results two sides can play out with only the variable of home advantage being changed.

Who knows what myriad of circumstantial happenstances resulted in teams arriving at their scores. Not anyone on F365 and not anyone watching. It could have been one of the players listening to the right song on the way to the game, geeing himself up in the right way to have a stormer. It might have been the choice of going long instead of short from kick-off.

My point is this, if Arsenal and Spurs hadn’t played because there was a bomb scare and the match was rearranged to tonight, Spurs would have a fair chance of winning it, and winning it well (As Arsenal would) but if they did win it, the 16 Conclusions from the game would be extremely different. A lot of bold opinions would be formed from the game, and also from the form building up to the game, that would probably deduce far too much from far too little.

I am not saying people shouldn’t have opinions on games or look to those games for a clue on how the rest of the season is going to pan out, I’m just saying it’s stupid, and me, you and the whole of F365 are stupid too.
Ed Ern

 

So Tottenham, are you contenders or underdogs?
Having no dog in the fight I fully intended to let the north London derby go and just enjoy the match and the fall out. However, mails like Annoying Spurs fan this morning have made this very difficult… too difficult it turns out and here I am.

I realise football is a game of opinions but the ‘controversy’ around the first Arsenal goal has really got my badger. Annoying Spurs fan asks for any ‘explanation for the large gap in perception between reality and the interpretation of the referee’ so, here goes. The referee clearly gave the free kick for the hands across the chest immediately after Alexis Sanchez controlled the ball with his head. It was a beautiful cushioned header to put the ball in front of him and Davinson Sanchez reacted by putting his hands across Alexis Sanchez chest to stop him running on to it. Davinson Sanchez then followed up with a lovely defensive tackle/ clearance. Now, the TV showed the lovely defensive tackle/ clearance over and over causing Spurs fans to claim bias, however this was not the incident the foul was given for. In fact, the Davinson Sanchez foul was very similar to the Ozil foul for the disallowed goal. Very consistent refereeing. So, in my opinion either they were both fouls and Arsenal go one-up, or neither were fouls and Arsenal go one-up.
 
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The second thing which has broken my resolve to get involved is the line about being the ‘team with comfortably the smallest wage bill in the top six’. Before the game Spurs had one of the best managers in Europe (the new Ferguson no less) and a squad to rival Real Madrid (why would Kane or Alli leave considering how much talent there is in the squad) and are able to discard domestic cups as they are only after the Premier League or the Champions League. However, after the match Spurs had injuries, a small squad and are punching above their weight. You can’t have it both ways. Either Spurs have overtaken Arsenal and are now in the elite, which means being judged on matches away at top six clubs, or they are a small club with a small club mentality.

At the moment Spurs are coming across a lot like David O’Leary’s Leeds Utd and I am not sure that is a great look.
Micki ‘If you haven’t read Brad Smith’s mail form this morning you really need to’ Attridge

 

…Tactically Incompetent Nice German Man: Two Bundesligas, DFB Pokal, CL finalist
MoPo, saviour of football:…

I think Pochettino is brilliant. He was great for Saints and he’s working wonders with Spurs (and England players!) on a much smaller budget. But please, can we not just slag other managers off because it fits our agendas? I agree with the point of Poch sacking off the ‘lower’ trophies in favour of the ‘big’ ones could be an important glimpse into the psyche of the players. Look at United last year; a trophy’s a trophy and it should be celebrated and can provide a springboard for further success.

Yes, there were poor decisions on Saturday. But again, the split second in which a ball is played and the linesman has to look, judge, make a decision is a miniscule amount of time. Let’s try and actually give some credit for the ones they get right. This isn’t a case of ‘rewarding mediocrity’ or whatever, but the VAR trials in the summer highlighted just how difficult this gig actually is. Ever tried lino-ing at an amateur game? That’s difficult enough. Now multiply the speed at which it happens. Of course it’s frustrating when decisions go against our side (and I do dislike the sentiment ‘it evens out’ as you can’t measure them), but let’s be honest, all of our teams have benefitted from a marginal decision or two at some point.
Stu, Southampton

 

Blindly obvious (on replay)
Hi there. I don’t usually write to the kind editor, but having breezed through the reaction on the derby, I progressively started feeling the need to point out a few things: The freekick. I saw several pundits on TV and later many Spurs fans and neutrals here at F365 amazed over Dean awarding a freekick after that excellent tackle. However, Dean did not blow the whistle because of the tackle itself. He did so because of what happened in the second preceding that tackle. Alexis quite brilliantly brings the ball down with his head while cutting inside Davinson Sanchez during the same move and clearly has a yard on him with his turn and pace. As Alexis cuts inside, Sanchez extends his arm over Alexis’ torso to obstruct his acceleration and illegally takes that yard from Alexis and only then makes an excellent tackle. Dean’s call was absolutely correct; The offside. It looks close but it always looks closer to being offside. So it is offside, but the kind that we desperately need the VAR for.

I thank you for your attention.
Peruzzi, Tallinn

 

And still Spurs fans are complaining…
Catching up on some mailboxes here, and thought I’d offer my thoughts:

– Firstly, 16 Conclusions was written by Arsenalophile Sarah Winterburn , so of course it’s going to be weighted towards the Arsenal positives and Spurs negatives. But, as well as they played, aside from two offside goals we were never really under a great deal of pressure, so I think the eulogising is perhaps a little premature. And surely even Spurs are allowed the occasional off-day. It’s still strange to completely ignore the idea that neither goal was actually a goal, or the fact that it’s actually quite hard to properly mark an offside player; it’s particularly strange to disprove ‘accepted wisdom’ of an irreversible switch, when literally no one has argued that. Who’s job is it to point out when Sarah is talking bollocks?

– Incidentally, it’s hard to blame the Arsenal fans for their perpetual shifts between woe-is-me negativity and we’re-the-best-team-in-the-league positivity; aside from 16 Conclusions, I’ve also read a couple of ‘Arsenal are back’, ‘Arsenal are title-contenders’ pieces as well as the glass nine-tenths full 16 Conclusions. That the evidence of the previous few league campaigns are always ignored when considering their prospects will always be a curious phenomenon, and there is nothing so far to suggest they won’t bottle it when the pressure comes on as usual. No, not like we did last year (yes, like we did the year before).

– Alli and Kane were very poor, and Pochettino erred in the way he set us up. But, given that we’re coming off the back of an exceptional win against Real Madrid which means we’re one win off topping our group, I don’t think there’s much need to overreact. We’re still an excellent but flawed side, and still pulling massively above our weight, but fine: let’s use one result to ignore that.

– Points in top six mini-league since 2015-16:

· Liverpool 37
· Chelsea 34
· Spurs 30
· Man Utd 30
· Man City 27
· Arsenal 24

A final one for David, Gooner. Spurs at WHL last year were significantly better than Arsenal were on Saturday. We finished last season 11 points ahead of you. We are still ahead of you after the apparent six-pointer. We are currently topping a CL group with Real Madrid and Dortmund, whilst you top a Europa League group with Red Star Belgrade and FC Koln. And you’re ‘still the superior team’? Is it any wonder no one takes you lot seriously?
Alex G, THFC

 

A win for the beautiful game…
A lot of thoughts over two particular issues this weekend, namely Mesut Ozil and Tony Pulis.

Weirdly I think both sum up the paradox that is modern day football and I thought the mail from S.Ellis explains exactly why we should all be grateful for players like Ozil and honestly indifferent to managers like Pulis who place results above all else.

There have been a number of demonstrations re ticket prices at football recently mainly at Liverpool but what’s interesting is that even when offered a free ticket to WBA it was turned down. This as explained was due to the virtual guarantee of negative football and therefore why would anybody bother going.

This is the essence of what football is about , it’s a release , a form of entertainment , it brings joy and indeed pain sometimes but most importantly it brings hope. Hope you may see a wonder goal, hope for a majestic piece of skill , hope that your team plays well and in my opinion lastly hope that your team wins. The latter is a consequence of the former, if you play well you generally win , your player scores a worldly you generally win. I guarantee one way you won’t win is zero shots on target ala Pulis .

Let’s enjoy the talents like an Ozil, Mahrez, Coutinho etc and appreciate the managers who try and make the beautiful game even more so, Wenger, Pep and Eddie Howe.
DL, LFC, Geneva (I fear for West Ham , Moyes really!!!!)

 

Is Sturridge actually any good?
I’m confused. If the news that Daniel Sturridge wants a January move is correct, then it would seem he has failed to make his mark at three of the top six sides – Chelsea, Man City and now Liverpool. This doesn’t greatly surprise me because I’ve never thought he’s particularly good. More of a flashy, five-a-side type player who’ll score a beauty when you’re already 3-0 up but lacks the nous, mindset or sheer bloody brilliance to take a game by the scruff of the neck. So why is everyone, F365 included, forever bashing on about how good he is and why he’s such a cert to go to the World Cup if only he can get a decent run of games etc etc…I don’t understand. Some of the world’s most successful managers have decided Daniel’s a bit average. Why does no-one apart from me seem to agree with them?
Matt Pitt

 

Saints so mediocre
IK sums his mail up nicely with his final line, ‘be careful what you wish for’, and he’s right. He, like many other Saints fans, called for the head of Claude Puel last season. Turns out our problems are more structural than can be resolved by simply changing the manager.

Daniel Storey has unpicked our struggles of late, crap in both penalty areas, and it makes for grim reading. To my mind, this is as a consequence of our own relative success and subsequent asset stripping of the team by the big boys. This year potentially marks the tipping point of our own business model. The replacements have been mediocre, too few in number and unfortunately haven’t strengthened weak positions. While I rate Lemina and Hoedt, Bednarek is battling Gardos for the title of “Fifth Choice Eastern European Centre Back” and we failed to adequately address the lack of goals scored by our forwards AND midifelders. In short, we stagnated in the transfer market this summer while other teams have improved. Perhaps we’re simply conceding more and are useless in front of goal because the quality of our team just isn’t there?

Our mediocrity is summed up by a few musings, to my mind:

1) Shane Long’s selection in the team. I admit he works a back four with his willingness to run the channels, but he’s more likely to put the ball in the back of the stand than the back of the net.

2) Fraser Forster’s existence in the team. Afraid of the football coming towards him for fear of making a mistake, twinned with in the inability to make a save. Rewarded for an awful season last year with a new deal, rumored to be our highest paid player. Bit of a head scratcher that.

3) Lack of form of Nathan Redmond. After his first cap last season and talk of Redmond overtaking the uninspiring Lingard in the pecking order for England, Saints fans have had to endure abject performances from our ‘tricky’ winger who far too often cuts inside to a busy final third before making a simple (and often backwards) pass. While I admit he has never been prolific, gone are the edge of seat moments and a return of two assists so far is disappointing. Half-baked replacement for Sadio Mane.

4) Furthermore, in contrast to recent seasons, we have been unable to make use of academy prospects to contribute positively to the first team (or at least put pressure on established players to perform well or face being replaced). For evidence of this being the case, scan through the squads of the successful U-17, U-19, U-21 teams and note the absence of Southampton players.

With that being said, if we just calm down with the hyperbole a bit and stop being hysterical (‘firmly in the mix for relegation by Xmas’ – not while other teams are employing David Moyes LOL), let’s take stock in the New Year when Pellegrino has managed more than 12 league games!!!

Anyway, back to mailbox voyeurism I go.
Town Planner Tom

 

No sympathy for Pulis
There’s been a lot already said about Tony Pulis, his style of play and the ‘be careful what you wish for’ threat thrown at fans. That threat however only really holds any weight if the players at your disposal are poor and I don’t think that sticks with the squad at West Brom. Antonio Conte said in his post-match interview that West Brom were tactically strong and well organised, everything you’d expect from a Tony Pulis side. What he didn’t have to say was just how easy West Brom made it for Chelsea. There was no fight, no intensity, no marking!

In short it looks more a case of Pulis losing the squad rather than them being incapable of winning. Alan Shearer said on Match of the Day that if Pulis weren’t in charge then West Brom would be looking to him to get them out of this mess. He’s absolutely right, West Brom did that two years ago, they were fourth from bottom on 18 points at that stage of the season. In a month’s time you can envisage them still being there.

The difference is however, that West Brom haven’t moved on in that time. The style of play is exactly the same as the relegation dog fight mentality that Pulis uses to save these clubs. It’s just that after a while that stagnates along with the will of the players.
Nick – Nottingham

…What a wonderful start to the week! After arriving at work at 10:30 with a hangover and feeling of depression after a rather ‘eventful’ weekend my phone and e-mail started buzzing with messages from friends and well wishers with the news that Pulis has finally gone. All of a sudden I feel on top of the world!

Saturday’s game against Chelsea was always going to be the end. Of course it was a match I expected us to lose, Chelsea are a quality team. But it was the manner of the defeat which showed that the players just weren’t going to do it for him anymore. We were never in the game, never looked like scoring and were torn apart by Chelsea. The Pulis ‘style’ has always been about grinding out results and keeping clean sheets. That isn’t happening anymore. Some of our best attacking players like Chadli and Brunt seem to be frozen out now by Pulis and we have a side that looks completely toothless going forward.

From quickly browsing the BBC comments section I note there are the usual comments of ‘who do WBA think they are?’, ‘they deserve to go down’ and ‘be careful what you wish for’. Anyone making such comments has clearly not seen any Albion games in 2017. Going to matches is now a chore. The Huddersfield defeat a couple of weeks ago was the first Albion match I purposely didn’t bother watching in about 10 years. Whether we stay up or go down I want to enjoy watching my club. I want going to the Hawthorns to be something I look forward to doing. Under Pulis so far this season we looked like a team heading for relegation. I know he’s never been relegated but there’s always a first time for everything.

I’ve no idea who we should go for as a replacement. Personally I’d like Chris Wilder but I have a feeling we may look abroad. I just hope whoever comes in can get the best out of this squad which is probably the best we’ve had in my 36 years on this planet. With the personnel we have we should be comfortable in mid-table. It’ll be an interesting time ahead.
George, Birmingham

 

Give Moyes a chance
Let me start by saying I love F365. I have done for many years. You might already know this from the fact that I’ve been reading and writing in, occasionally being published, for what must be a couple of decades now (or maybe you haven’t – I’m certainly not as prolific as Peter G or as mouthy as Stewie Griffin).

Anyway, I have to say that I thought the article on David Moyes making excuses was really bad form.

The use of ‘poisoned chalice’ in inverted comments suggested he used that expression and I can find no record of him doing that (a google search brings up your article and then other people describing various jobs he’s held in the same way). In fact, there are no actual quotes in the article at all which is weird as the article isn’t billed as being about the game but the things said by David Moyes afterwards.

‘The excuses, as they were with Manchester United, with Real Sociedad and Sunderland, have already been prepared.’ Have they? What were they then?

‘This is an unbalanced squad and a fractured club full of mercenaries and led by clueless owners…’ Where did he say any of that?

Come on guys, this is exactly the sort of thing that Mediawatch (quite rightly) tears apart on a daily basis.

So what did David Moyes say? Handily, you’ve posted the interview via a different link. Unless I’ve missed something (and I’m happy to be corrected if that’s the case), he spent almost the entire interview acknowledging that they didn’t play well enough and deserved not to get anything from the game. There was nothing about the referee, the pitch, the ball, the weather, the fixture computer or anything resembling a poisoned chalice – just a note that it could have been a different result if they’d taken their chances, which you seem to agree with. In fact, he didn’t even acknowledge the hostile crowd (which could legitimately be claimed to be a factor in their underperformance) until asked about it.

I can only assume your writer took the mention that they’d been equally bad before his appointment as being an excuse but that seems really harsh given the rest of the interview. I saw it as more ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ than ‘two points from 8 games’ (I guess time will tell if it becomes his own Redknapp-esque mantra). He’s right to be defensive too, though, as people seem to be looking to hold him to surprisingly high standards. Your own writer, for example, said that ‘a clean sheet was surely a necessity’. If only it were that simple, eh? Except that if it was, you probably wouldn’t be reading this now as goalless draws would be so prevalent that I wouldn’t bother following football as it would be boring as hell (and you probably wouldn’t be running a successful website either).

You know, if there isn’t any other angle to discuss, its ok to just report on the game itself.
PhilT (still love you but come on – give the guy a chance)

 

Moyes mucks it up again
I work in communications – have done for a long time – and I think that David Moyes is the best at being the worst communicator I have had to listen to, ever. At United he said we should try and play like City. He praised Liverpool (a crime of unimaginable scale to United fans). At Sunderland he managed to blame everyone except himself. Arrives at West Ham to tell everyone that they have got a good manager, implying they should be delighted. He then blames the team after the first match, then shows he knows nothing about the team and the recent politics. He doesn’t realise that he has to win over the supporters, which is going to make it hard to win over the supporters. He is an idiot.
Tim McKane

 

…Way back in his Everton days Moyes seemed a humble manager on a restricted budget. A man fighting valiantly with both hands tied behind his back. The football was dour but this, it seemed, was part and parcel of being at a club like Everton.

The words ‘great job at Everton’ have almost become a suffix to David Moyes’ name which hides the increasingly obvious reality: that there’s a poor manager behind this abhorrent ‘tough guy’ persona.

His most recent comments have really irked me. After a frankly abysmal tactical performance, which amounted to sticking Carroll on the RB and sending him hopeful crosses from deep, he has the temerity to suggest the players aren’t living up to their reputations.

What ‘big reputations’ are we talking about exactly? Andy Carroll, Mark Noble, Oviedo?

The hypocrisy of Moyes is that his own reputation far outweighs his record. His football has always been eye-gouging and his league finishes have been consistently below expectations for at least five years. His tactics are about decade past their sell-by date and he’s proven himself incapable, or unwilling, to learn new approaches (see Real Sociedad, Man Utd).

You can bet the predictable tactics on display in this game are his blueprint for the rest of the season. If West Ham do stay up the media will paint it as some kind of heroic redemption but the reality is that he, and consequently West Ham, are light-years behind the nuanced, varied approach of their opposite number, Marco Silva and Watford.

There’s a ongoing debate about giving British managers/players/ bulldogs a chance and I, for one, want to see it. But why does it always have to be these British managers. The ones who have already had their chance.
Liam Gabriel Hoskins (Moyes did bring us Yakubu though, every cloud…) AFC

 

..I’ve never emailed to you before but now have the rage after I just read the article about Mr Moyes and read his quote ‘I came back and made a poor choice in the club I chose’.

Can I just say when Sam Allardyce quit us for the England job the club was on a massive high, we had lost 3 games in 19 when big Sam took over, he had bought in players like Khazri, Kirchoff and Kone all of which were a big success, he had everyone playing for the team. the game we beat Chelsea was one of the best games I have been to (not hard being a SAFC supporter I know) but it was the never say day spirit we had coming from behind twice to win the game and the noise and atmosphere was unreal.

So in comes Moyes, he comes out before a ball is kicked and says that we are in a ‘relegation fight for sure’ us as Sunderland fans were like WTF ?? who would say something like that when you’ve just come in ? Then he spends something like £27 million on players such as Papy Dilladodgy, Paddy McNair and Donald Love, Steven Pienaar and record signing Didier Ndong for £13.6 million alone, don’t get me wrong Didier is a decent player but £13.6 million ??? All Sunderland fans wanted M’Villa back as he was outstanding the season before for us, he even came to England the final day of the transfer window wanting to come but we didn’t sign him and he was available for around £8-9 Million, we wanted Yedlin too and didn’t sign him either.

Moyes tried to change the squad to put his stamp on it and it was terrible from the get go, he brought in Adnan Januzaj who was one of the laziest players ever to wear any football strip never mind a Sunderland kit, then Jolean Lesscott ffs, I don’t even think he kicked a ball that season and was picking up thousands of pounds a week. His press conferences were like watching a family funeral live and beamed onto your TV, he just has no charisma whatsoever so can you imagine his team talks, everyone will have been asleep.

Moyes says he made a poor choice of club, us as Sunderland fans couldn’t agree more, he killed us when he should have kept Big Sams squad together and added a bit more quality and strength in depth rather than dismantle what Sam had done, I’m betting he does the same at West Ham and I feel sorry for them getting this idiot in as a manager.
Michael Green

 

At least Crooks is consistent
Garth Crooks’ note about conversations in the Dog and Duck instantly sent me back to my meeting with the man himself in an actual pub (The Sun, Barnes, 2013) where he rinsed Arsenal – and their centre backs in particular, saying they wouldn’t make it into the then Spurs team – at great length.

So if nothing else, you have to hand it to the man, he does offer a consistent take on things, unlike other journalists.

Shame it’s all nonsense.
Tom, (I *may* have shared this anecdote with F365 before) Not West Hampstead


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