If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Seriously guys…WTF is going on in the football world? Are there any brains left in it? Chelsea are looking to offer 35-40million for John Stones. Let me get this straight, a player that has played one full league campaign (in and out of team by the way) last season for a team that finished 11th. Is the world gone F*ckin nuts…yes he’s a decent player with good potential but again…WTF!
I seem to be constantly shaking my head these days at my bewilderment…getting a sore neck now.
Lee, THFC (Multiple League and Champions League winner Alexis Sanchez was £32m, let that sink in)
Disagreeing On Balotelli…
I read Daniel Storey’s piece on Mario Balotelli this morning with interest. Two points I wanted to bring up.
The first was Storey’s insistence on referring to Balotelli as a ‘maverick’. The assumption here is Storey is being diplomatic with his description of choice, but maverick is not the word I would use to describe a player who is has been a nuisance and a distraction time and again. A manager’s (and his staff’s) job does not begin and end on the pitch. In many cases he is a nanny, a confidante, a therapist and authoritarian, all at the same time. He is expected to do this equally with a squad of 30+ players. He hasn’t the time (or the inclination I presume) to consistently devote more time to any one player over and above another, simply because said player cannot control his natural impulse to be a pr*t. Maverick is also a description I’d reserve for the type of player that can be erratic, but at the same time brilliant from one game to the next. Cantona, Gascoigne, Maradona; these are players that consistently brought something to the game, even though their behaviour off the pitch wasn’t always holier-than-thou. It was always a calculated risk to pick these players and more often than not they delivered. The same cannot always be levelled at Balotelli. His body language on the pitch is atrocious and is one of apathy (or anger depending on the day of the week) and apparent resentment at his predicament; as if he has been forced to become a footballer against his will. How any manager can be asked to cope with that is unbelievable and I commend those that managed to get the best out of him (Mancini and Allegri seemed to make it work and Prandelli at least got one or two good games out of him).
The second was Balotelli’s quote following the report of his loan. It felt false. He states that the arrival of fatherhood and the tragic loss of his own (adoptive) father has made him re-evaluate his life; that he has changed. If he is a man of his word, then good for him and given his past indiscretions it should be applauded. But you have to wonder why it has taken such personal tragedy for him to realise that what has gone before in his career has not been good enough. It’s not like he hasn’t been told a large number of times going back to his time with Inter that his attitude needed to change. Before the arrival of his daughter and the death of his father, he had been through enough problems in his short years that some of us will never experience in our lifetime. Was this not enough struggle to attempt to cope with? From the outside looking in his adoption and the racial intolerance that he had to endure in Italy didn’t seem to create the kind of strength that others in all walks of life have come across, embraced and used to spur them on to achieve greatness. Should coming to England not have been a chance to leave some of the baggage he had at home? He was embraced during his time at Man City, not just by their supporters but supporters of other clubs. Because, hey! Who doesn’t like to see a seemingly crazy loon tearing up defences and lighting their own house on fire?
Some may say that I don’t really know the man enough to judge him fairly and truth is I don’t (and shouldn’t even if I did). But it cannot be left unsaid that chance after chance has gone by for him to really make a mark on the game in the way we think he should have and chance after chance has gone unfulfilled. Why should we expect any different this time? Maybe it’s time to stop hoping for greatness and accept Mario as he is. An extremely flawed footballer. At least that is expected.
James F, BCFC KRO
Are Liverpool That Far Behind?
Just throwing a quick eye over the odds for the Premier League.
The usual top four contenders are priced from United @ 10/1, Arsenal @ 5/1, Chelsea @ 10/3 and Man City @ 17/20. Liverpool are priced @ 22/1.
Man City do currently look a step ahead of the rest, however the other three of the top four haven’t shown any sparkling form as yet.
Given Liverpool’s early and settled summer business (Only business to be done is to hold on to Sakho and Lucas) and reasonable if not outstanding start to the season, are they really that far behind the top four?
Eoghan (Giz a job Degsy!!) LFC
Watching Arsenal With A Critical Eye
Sorry to continue the dialogue regarding the Arsenal v Liverpool match at this late stage, however I believe recent contributors are now closer to the mark on what’s lacking in the Arsenal set-up.
Following on from an earlier contributor, yes, the players do just let a ball drop from the air see where it goes rather than properly challenge for it. When they do challenge they are weak; thank goodness Liverpool’s first touches and follow ups were no better. The current Arsenal side don’t make things happen, they think they will succeed by being patient and letting things click. That must be the coaching mindset and is a self-fulfilling prophecy if their opposition in training – each other – do the same thing.
Unfortunately it comes from the ethos within the club and it seems Arsene hasn’t really noted that his Premier League-winning teams dictated terms in every area (see related comments by Gary Neville). Maybe the last eight years or so have just seen less intelligent players at The Emirates but a lot of it should come as instinctive once instructed correctly.
Watching the match on Monday night from a seat at about player head height (as opposed to high in the stand where it’s easier to criticise when you can’t see the ‘players’ view), there were basic faults which repeated themselves and should be eliminated by coaching. A Vieira-like figure would be an improvement but not such a necessity if they acted to prevent these much repeated faults.
For example, why so many times in a match does more than one player chase after possession when only one should do so and the other wait cover until needed, or better still think about marking an opposition player close by? Too often three or four players are dragged/run headlong to a sector of the pitch, so when the ball is moved away by the opposition there are suddenly gaping holes elsewhere. Suddenly we’re back-pedalling from what should have been a harmless situation.
It’s a panicky mentality which is more akin to an Under 7s team. I believe this is in Coquelin’s mind when he finds he’s the only midfielder covering the defence (and keeps getting told how crucial this is) leading him to make last-ditch late tackles from time to time, witness the Palace game. He should have confidence in his defenders being able to cover if a player gets past him.
Panic leads to more cautiousness. An example of that is defending corners. Just about the only time where there’s will to challenge for the ball but in a number of recent tight matches why the bloody hell do we see all 11 Arsenal players in the box? At home, for gawd’s sake. On Monday four Liverpool players outside the box for their corner and we haven’t got the balls to leave even Walcott up the field ready to chase a punt out of defence, let alone someone else waiting for a clearance on the edge of the area. I don’t think that 11 in the area for a corner should happen regardless of the score or time left on the clock. Give the keeper some space to claim the ball for goodness sake.
Once the corner comes in and is cleared, then brains into gear and push out quickly to any player the ball is heading towards. It’s as though something that basic isn’t programmed in to their logic circuits. No urgency, at least none without panic.
That’s why we want 11 Sanchez’s on the field. It’s not just his ability, it’s his attitude in any position on the pitch.
That desire and intuition makes things happen, it speeds up the game puts the opposition on the back foot more quickly and we will find ourselves being able to use the players’ natural talent more often; the quick breaks and interplay we loved when Henry, Pires, Bergkamp and hell, even Parlour, were in full pomp. We know Ozil, Sanchez, Cazorla, Ramsey are capable of that. Then it’s not so bad if one or two have an off day when that attitude constantly permeates through the team.
So sod the usual ‘good spirit’ you think we show Arsene and start again on the basics regardless of each player’s reputation and price tag. Get a good right-hand man in on the training field that demands results or be stronger yourself. That will win us games.
If not then the ‘Wenger Out’ brigade get more vociferous and the pressure grows. And pressure can lead to panic…
Ty A, Suffolk
Perspective On United’s Summer
I feel the need to write in responding to Chris the sheep’s email regarding Ferguson/Gill never missing out on transfers.
Arjen Robben, came on a tour of the ground, met Fergie etc and then joined Chelsea. I chose this one because with Ronaldinho who wouldn’t want to live in Barcelona rather than Manchester. This is not a new thing, in fact when talent players become available multiple clubs will try and sign them, someone is going to have to lose out, so I don’t think United’s image has been damaged.
Remember in June/July when Woodward was great for his signings, I don’t think that’s true but I also don’t think missing out on Pedro makes him the worst either and a little perspective would be nice.
Nobody Wants English Move
Has anyone noticed that when a Europe-based player wants to move, their options are usually Barca/Real, then Bayern/PSG, then any other big club in the league they play, then when all other options fail, England. Pogba would rather sit at Juve and wait for Barca next year, even though Chelsea is begging. Kevin de Bruyne is hoping for a bid from Bayern, even though City is waiting. Di Maria would rather have a Man Utd coloured stain on his reputation and run to PSG. Best league, we say.
Tj (Still wont forgive LVG for Pedro), Lagos
It’s Opium For The Masses
Chris the Sheep said this morning that United are damaging their reputation via their current transfer policy.
Putting aside we don’t know actually know whether United show any genuine interest (whisper it, but it might just be agents looking contract leverage, clubs looking to generate market interest, papers looking to sell papers, and websites looking for clicks), Chris fails to recognise one thing: being linked with the best in the world is a sign of strength by association, regardless of whether we actually sign them.
Yes, people may laugh at the ridiculousness of those players wanting to leave their current situations (first-team football at Barca/Real) but no-one doubts whether we couldn’t actually afford them or offer an attractive global platform, and in that sense, we are one of the few clubs in the world who can. Each story reaffirms that, generates clicks and distracts the armies of reds out there, much like how Marx described religion as opium for the masses. And every time Bale’s head is crudely photo-shopped on to a Manchester United shirt, it feeds the machine without spending any money, generating more interest and (more importantly for some) increasing the share price.
You and I might think we come across like a guy in a club trying to pull after the lights come on, but the rest of the world sees it as a guy not denying rumours he’s bedded various supermodels, and watching his media profile rise as a result. That’s why United never deny. Unless he signs for Chelsea instead, of course.
David P, Manchester
Don’t Ever Write Them Off…
Ever since SAF left United I’ve noticed that every now and again you get an email from a Liverpool fan (normally) saying something along the lines of ‘back in the early 90s we all thought we’d remain the bestest etc’.
I’d love for that to be true and United turn into Liverpool and fight for 6-7th year after year. The problem is it won’t happen. Van Gaal is a turd strangler of humungous proportions but he ain’t bigger than United. That was made clear when the latest ‘financial report’ came out from someone today wanting a bit of PR. It said that United are valued at nearly £2bn. With the popularity of Premier League football nowadays we are in a very different environment. Globalisation has meant that there are tribal followings of clubs around the world that there’s never been before.
Beyond the ‘top four’ clubs there won’t be much else apart from the odd romantic run by small clubs such as Soton or Spurs that may gather the odd fan. It’s also only going to get worse.
So I’m afraid that Liverpool fans can make themselves feel better about United all they want but once United realise that Van Gaal is a plonker and won’t win them the League, they’ll get Klopp in and will dominate once more for a further ten years.
Looking For Insights
Glad Doug, Glasgow appreciated the insight (true or not) as much as I did. If supporters cared more about this sort of thing instead of Neymar’s next contract, then maybe journalists would push more tactical questions onto managers. Maybe they do but nobody would buy the papers if it was published.
Anyway, my slight insider knowledge came from a friend who worked on Sunderland’s sport science team for a period when O’Neill was there. Basically, he didn’t rotate the squad enough so outside of the starting 11, his squads weren’t match fit. Which is why his teams seemed to tail off at the end of the season (Aston Villa). Maybe not that groundbreaking but nice to hear a genuine reason why a team performed well/struggled.
CulturedPeg (lacking match practice)
…To add to Doug’s little tidbits of tactical knowledge I got one from the most unlikely of sources – Alan Hansen on MOTD. I know, I was shocked myself.
Basically, when the back four play offside they go flat, when they don’t the centre-back on the far side of the ball drops behind to cover. Not rocket science maybe but it was in the context of inactive and active offsides where a striker was in an offside position strolling back with his hands up, but a runner from deep moved onto the ball beating the first centre-back. The second centre-back wasn’t in a covering position so he could play the striker offside and the runner goes onto score. Hansen argued that the striker must have been active as the defence had to change their shape to deal with him.
This means that when Tony Pulis moans he can’t coach the offside rule – he’s right!! No one can.
Alex (It’s the only actual tactics I know), London
…To Doug (also go for 6 seconds) Glasgow, I’m not sure if you’re a Liverpool fan and even if you’re not, the book ‘Champions League Dreams’ by Rafa Benitez is brilliant.
It totally changed the way I watch football. It shows the preparation that goes into each match and also shows the game plan behind some of Liverpool’s greatest ever victories in the competition.
It also gives some backing to the idea of an assistant manager showing a substitute 10 pages of laminated diagrams, rather than just throwing them on a la Tactics Tim.
Jimmy (Maybe Rodgers read it before Monday night?) Spain
…Just a little bit more on ‘triggers’ as mentioned in this morning’s mailbox. I’m no coach but have hung around pubs enough to listen to some pretty decent ones, and happened to have an informative chat with a pretty knowledgeable manager on the subject.
The idea is to ‘squeeze’ teams into playing the ball into a certain position which would then be used a trigger. The examples he gave was: say the opposing side had an obvious centre half (ie. a clogger) playing at right full-back, the left full-back and both centre-halves would be marked and given a light press until the ball inevitably made its way out to the right full. As soon as the pass was made towards him the team would force a heavy, quick press. He explained that this is why mobile but robust players like Walters or Kuyt would be used on the wing, so as to be effective at winning the ball back high up the pitch once there was a press triggered.
Another example he gave was if the opposition had a dithering or non-ball-playing holding midfielder. Play would be encouraged through the middle and when the aforementioned defensive mid received the ball with his back to goal, the press would be triggered, cutting off his options for an easy pasa to a full-back and hopefully forcing him into a dangerous square ball.
Oh and I see you’ve all fallen asleep. Well I thought it was interesting.
Jamie (Usually my girlfriend has to listen to this crap) R, Dublin
…Following Gough and Doug’s email’s about things to look out for tactically I thought I’d share mine. I know it sounds w*nky but it is interesting – sometimes I don’t look at the ball during a game and just focus on the team without the ball – watching their shape and how it moves around and changes in relation to where the attackers are and how they are moving with the ball. It’s proper interesting (for about 10 seconds)