Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and United in seriously great Mailbox

Date published: Wednesday 22nd July 2020 2:49

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Arsenal are back
William Douglas Foster’s obsession with Arsenal and trying to prove his beloved Manchester United and Ole are better/are doing better is the perfect illustration of why Mikel Arteta looks like the real deal, as it shows Arsenal are relevant once more!

With the transfer window coming up and the chance to hopefully replace some deadwood with some exciting talent (including Saliba), there are reasons for optimism. Of course, I do not expect to win the league next year, but I hope and believe we can be more competitive.

Once Mikel has had the chance to spend over £200million as Ole has, including £50million on a full-back (I thought it was only City who did that?), and has an opportunity for a proper pre-season, then maybe you can compare his apparent ‘failures’ to Ole’s. Until then, I will enjoy the fact Mikel has taken Arsenal to a cup final in his first-ever half-season as a manager, whilst William will get to watch it on TV, minus Manchester United, no doubt seething when we score a 90th minute winner with our first shot on target, further enhancing Arteta’s reputation.
Jamie AFC


…This Arsenal team worked their balls off to get to the FA Cup final at the weekend. Villa obviously wanted it more as they need to stay in the league whilst Arsenal try to finish eighth or tenth? I mean who cares, really? It isn’t the first time a team has got to a final then stepped off in the league when there is nothing to play for. No one I know has any time for the Europa League, we can get the money we lose from not being in it by selling Chambers and Sokratis and focus on rebuilding for the future. And to be honest I would rather win a trophy (again) and if we do that, we are in the bloody thing anyway.

Arteta needs time, and anyone with eyes can see that he is looking to undo years of stagnation and complacency at the club. His “non-negotiables” will only really be seen after the summer when we lose players who are not along for the ride. He has brought a poor squad together and performances already against Man Utd, Chelsea, Wolves and Sheffield United have shown intelligence and a plan. We beat Man City and Liverpool within a few days, are in the cup final and actually were pretty unlucky against Leicester and Spurs recently. There will be bumps along the way like last night and we won’t challenge for the title any time soon but if you think Arteta is the problem then you haven’t been paying attention.
John (My boss furloughed me then spent £1 million on fireworks, cool) Foster, Brighton


…I see all those who wanted to jump on Arteta can do so now because he lost a meaningless game (for us) to Villa. A team battling for their lives and against relegation. Our best chance of Europe prior to that game yesterday was the FA Cup, and it still is.

We have a cup final to prepare for…a cup final. Something Spurs do not have, United do not have, currently neither do Liverpool. But sure, tell me how bad Arteta is, having come into an absolute sh*tshow, and got us to a final beating City en route?

I’m embarrassed by the Arsenal fans who are heaping blame on Arteta. This season died months ago, he is trying things out, and has to work with a lot of players who he probably doesn’t rate. Our fitness levels are nowhere near where they need to be, neither is our game management or our technical ability. Added to the fact that we are carrying dead weight like Ozil and Kolasinac and a lot of work is required.

Everyone needs to relax, try and enjoy the last game (Arsenal could relegate Troy Deeney and then we can all laugh about cojones!) But reading some grand narrative into the last four matches is not a good idea. We live in unprecedented times, but even in this situation at least one thing can be counted on, you never know which Arsenal will turn up.
John Matrix AFC


But they don’t have the money…
I’m reading lots about Arsenal being 10th and what is wrong/right with the club and is Arteta brilliant or pants?

From a complete outsider’s perspective, here is my tuppence:

Arteta: He’s clearly a very good coach, or he wouldn’t be working where he is (or at City before). It will take a while to find out if he is upper reaches of Premiership good or not.

Money: I’m just not sure they’ve got the cash to compete for the level of players they need. Kroenke wasn’t mega investing previously, he maybe worked out that Champions League was worth £30mn a year (ish) and finishing fourth was worth £12mn more than 10th (2018/1029 numbers). So, simply put if he has to invest c£40mn per year to get into 4th then it doesn’t make business sense. Does anyone really believe that £40mn would put them 1-4th ? I can’t see him investing until commercial revenues/season ticket holders fall. He is also watching his USA investments v carefully (like Liverpool owners, as reported on this very mail page previously). The deal for Pepe (I’m not questioning his ability here), was reported at the time as a phase payment/add-on deal coming to all the cash. They had been linked with players for midfield and defensively at lesser money but didn’t get them – maybe because those clubs wanted cash on delivery.

So what do Arsenal need:

They need to move some players on, they need the funding to sign some new players (let’s face it, those centre-backs aren’t top-four players) and they need the time to develop. The longer the funding isn’t there, the longer the younger players they’ve signed/developed need to come through and perform.

Arsenal right now is being run as a business against future cashflow models, they just don’t have the appetite to pump capital into it to make it perform better.




Stop the Arteta love
Interesting article about Arsenal after last night’s loss
. Very reasonable and measured. Tactical improvements can only go so far in covering lack of quality. As we’ve seen with Allison, Van Dijk, Bruno, some problems can only be solved with a change of personnel. Arteta has done reasonably well considering the circumstances and, most importantly, gives Arsenal fans reason for optimism which is something they’ve not always had in years past.

But what is not reasonable is the premature and unhelpful insistence on proclaiming Arteta a genius. First he was among the best five tacticians and now apparently, along with Chris Wilder, is worth considering as an alternative for manager of the year! Some have pointed out, perhaps unfairly, the biased opinions on this site in support of Arteta but even you have got to admit you’re pushing it a bit too far.

And it doesn’t help him. The unnecessary hype brings greater scrutiny and it renders the little improvements made inadequate. After all, cynics may point out that he took over a team in 11th, 9 points below Chelsea in 4th and one behind Burnley after 18 games. 19 games after, he has dragged them all the way up to 10th, 9 points behind Leicester in 4th and – you guessed it – one behind Burnley. Statistically, no steps forward. The only reason they are higher – by one place – is because Newcastle have reverted to their mean and dropped out of the top half. Now, does that tell the full story? Probably not but creating expectations he may never meet is the last thing he needs right now.

It seems even more ridiculous when compared to the reactions to managers in similar situations like Ole and Lampard. Both had far better starts but when the inevitable bad results came, their competence and suitability was immediately questioned. Others have made the point for Ole so I’ll leave that. But Google ‘f365’s early loser: Lampard’ and you will find at least four instances when Lampard’s credentials and tactical acumen have been questioned. We were constantly reminded that he was under-qualified and lacking in experience after every poor game. In Arteta’s case, it’s because of an ‘imbalanced squad with critical shortages’ and never about his ability. Apparently, almost guiding a Championship side to promotion or winning league titles in Norway are irrelevant. Being Guardiola’s assistant is the only qualification anyone needs for a Big Six job. The only other new manager who has largely avoided censure over his team’s poor performances is Ancelotti, and with several European and league titles in his cabinet – unlike Arteta – has earned that right.

Matching Watford’s achievement last season – a mid-table finish and an FA Cup final – and recording Arsenal’s lowest league finish in 25 years is far from spectacular. Give him the time he needs to mold the team and fully implement his ideas (with hopefully reinforcements in the market) before anointing him Guardiola ll™.


Is anybody actually happy other than Liverpool fans?
Four seasons running we’ve now finished above Arsenal. Not that it, especially this season, illustrates itself as a particularly high bar. It just feels like most teams have underachieved somehow. Even the teams that were exceeding expectations are floundering to the finish line. Leicester, Sheff U (Wolves?). Liverpool were brilliant but they seem to only be present in mere physical form as opposed to anything spiritual, not that anyone can blame them.

Take a look at the total points, or possible total, that the CL achieving/chasing teams will attain. It’s not pretty. The best case scenario for my team is a sixth-place finish on 61 points and that would be just three behind Chelsea (if they lose to L’pool and draw with Wolves) and two behind Man U and Leicester (if Man U lose to WHUFC and draw with LCFC). An unlikely set of results, yes, but the point being we have been terrible all season bar the last two weeks and we will still be close to the CL qualifying teams.

Of course, if Leicester claim CL that is an outstanding result and if Villa stay up they’d have done pretty well too. Liverpool have the long-awaited title win. Outside of that is everyone else disappointed with their team’s finish? And I am not talking about the whole ‘oh, I’d have taken that at the beginning of the season’ nonsense. Expectations change as circumstances dictate, that is life. Sheff U would be a great example of that. Yes, objectively speaking – great result. Subjectively, not so much right?

So, apart from the still pissed L’pool supporters, is anyone happy with their lot or am I just being a miserable dick?
Glen, Stratford Spur


In defence of Dier
Following Alan’s letter, I’m going to defend Eric Dier, because I feel someone should do.

Eric has been at Spurs for six years now, joining at the age of 20, and it’s been quite a ride. He was originally signed as a defender but emerged as a midfield enforcer in his second season. After a famous 4-1 victory over Manchester City, he gave a quite impassioned post-match interview about ‘not liking what people say about Tottenham’. The sense of a committed Spurs man began to grow. This would be evidenced further with something of an ‘old fashioned’ display in the late season 2-2 draw with Chelsea. A little reckless maybe, but gritty at least and here was a player who would fight tooth and nail for the club. A long-term bout of appendicitis de-railed his progress more than was originally understood.

Through fluctuating form, he could never be accused of not caring. His technical ability is not up there with the very best but we should all know that is not everything in football. Recent reports of crowdless lockdown football testify that along with Lloris, Dier is the most vocal presence in the Spurs team, which for me confirms good leadership qualities. Mourinho, who tried to sign him for Manchester United, evidently sees this commitment and values it. Every top squad needs players like this – maybe not in the team every week but the odd John O’Shea or Phil Neville certainly helped United get over the line in title campaigns. The criticism of Eric Dier on the site from writers and readers is over the top for a player who only ever shows positive effort and is hardly objectionable in anything he does off the pitch.

In the interest of showing a bit of perspective about life in general, isn’t it a nicer thing to do to maybe cut the guy some slack? That should be a default approach to so many footballers who are torn to shreds on here for the crime of not being ‘world class’.


Next season’s great entertainers?
I know predictions are a fool’s game, but with Liverpool’s season done and dusted, I’m beginning to cast curious glances at next year and who might challenge us and City.

Something I’ve been thinking for a while, is that I think Chelsea will be next season’s ‘great entertainers’. You’ve got Werner and Ziyech coming in, Pulisic settling nicely and if they get Havertz then that’s a tasty Midfield/Attack. However, looking at their defence and keeping situation, it reminds of our 13/14 season under Rodgers. Scoring for fun, with Suarez, Sterling, Sturridge but a defence leakier than a broken tap and a keeper with chocolate fingers. Unless Chelsea sign a new goalkepa, they will fall short of winning the league. Reece James is emerging as a solid deputy/understudy for Dave, but can Alonso keep up next season? Whilst he’s not quite Alberto Moreno, he’s certainly not a great LB (imo).

You could also say the same about Utd. De Gea is done, and all those who cannot see it I sympathise. This is not a ‘bad patch’ of form, this has been going on for two years. Again, you ain’t winning the league with Dave who doesn’t save and Maguire aka Lovren 2.0. You will score goals for fun, mind. Again, another contender for next season’s great entertainers.

For balance, I’ll say it now. I don’t think Liverpool will win the league next year. I think there’s an incredible amount of effort, both physical and emotional that has gone into the last two amazing seasons, and I can’t see us replicating that next season. City with their two First XIs will come back stronger. And you know what? I’m okay with that. I just hope it’s not another 30 years until the next one.

Finally, I can’t wait to watch Leeds on the regular next season. My dad’s a Leeds fan (for reasons to this day I’m not sure why – I think he might have been a glory hunter) so I’m made up for him, and will give me something else to talk to him about on our weekly catch ups.

Oh and one last thing – there is no conspiracy, no ABU365 – F365 is the most balanced, honest, insightful football commentary website there is and if you can’t see that, maybe take a five-minute time-out to reflect before you write those angry emails from under your tin foil hat.
Lee (anyone checked on Smiddy lately?), LFC


Everybody Havertz…sometimes
Chelsea celebrating the end of their transfer ban and the end of any need to fake pretence toward financial fair play by signing everyone in the world is fun.

However I am a bit unsure about why they are apparently signing Havertz, and very unsure about why he is apparently so keen to go there.

Having watched a lot of German football this season it’s pretty clear that as a midfield player – even one who plays advanced – he is distinctly average. Where he is outstanding is as a wide right forward or as a central striker.

And Chelsea have already signed Ziyech to play as a wide right forward, and Werner to play as a central striker. Werner is a better option than Havertz up front, and I think Ziyech will do a title winning Riyad Mahrez next season.

So the likelihood is that Havertz will either be on the bench more often than not, or played in a position that doesn’t suit him.

He is only 21, but does he want to go and sit on the sidelines when he could be first choice at almost any other club?

And despite Man City comprehensively proving its fine to be found guilty of financial doping so long as legally you had your fingers crossed behind your back, do Chelsea seriously want to spend 80 million plus on a squad player when in goal and in defence and in defensive midfield they need help?

Kante seems tragically broken, Jorginho is off to Italy, Gilmour is potential only currently.

Personally I think that Chelsea will struggle to break the top four next season without significant reinforcement at the back and in the center. Havertz is the extra layer of gold paint on the engineless Bentley.

If anyone is free this evening by the way, the Championship denouement is absolutely brilliant.

One of West Brom, Brentford and Fulham could all win promotion, the playoffs are an absolute dogfight and the relegation battle is sensational, with the potential for it all to be flip turned upside down after the fact if Wigan are docked 12 points.

Watch it or listen to it instead of to Solskjaer flattering to deceive once again.
Tim Sutton


…Maybe it’s something in my personality which makes me struggle to get over my ex in the same way that I struggle to get over bad football results. But the Chelsea fans talking optimistically about next season seem to have already forgotten some recent performances and results, not least the thrashing at Sheffield United and the utter demolition handed out by Bayern Munich. I still cringe at the way you were made to look like a Conference team by Bayern, and with a potentially humiliating second leg to come it could get even worse.

I know fans of every team always look for a silver lining, but Chelsea are miles off challenging for the league or in Europe next year.

And please don’t remind me of Cheltenham’s second leg capitulation in the playoffs, it has been giving me nightmares ever since…..
Jamie Bedwell, Cheltenhamshire


Up the Villa
Since there were no mails from Villa fans this morning, I thought I should chip in with something. Since Project Restart, I have been firmly in the “meh” camp, and had happily made peace with the fact we were going down. Honestly, I didn’t even care, and football really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

However, the wife has gone to see the in-laws, so I finished work and as was custom prior to covid, I sat down with a beer and stuck the footy on. Watford V City is always good for goals, should be fun…

By full time I was entertained, but still didn’t think it would matter as no way would we beat Arsenal.

Then Sky started hyping our game up, Micah Richards jinxed us by saying we would win and by kickoff I was a nervous wreck. (The beers didn’t help)

What followed was an insanely tense tactical display from Villa, something we have struggled to maintain this season, full of workrate, energy, concentration and a little luck. Every one of them fought for each other and the club and were a credit to the shirt.

In short, f**k you football. F**k you Sky. I thought I was out and you’ve pulled me back in.

God I love this game.
Nik (VTID, apparently)


If Villa survive…
Well done Villa but remember if you do stay up, you owe a large beer to whichever fool was in charge of Hawkeye when the Blades had their legitimate goal disallowed during the first game after start-up. I wonder if Watford’s lawyers are already gearing up to sue or appeal in a Blades style Tevez affair. We all know how that ended with a 12-year slide down the divisions before getting back, a £5.5m fine for West Ham, and a settlement six years later of a paltry £10m payable over a five-year period.

I think our disallowed goal would be worth a lot more than that to Watford.
Bladey Mick
(Football – it’s just wrong isn’t it…)


A Liverpool fan liking Neville talk
Gary Neville’s comments about Liverpool were really nice to read – that is not the start of a sarcastic attempt to prove him wrong. It was a genuinely good assessment of Liverpool highlighting their relative lack of investment and still managed to play up to his United buddies by saying he was not fearful of Liverpool in the long term. It was insightful and showed very sound reasoning and I’d have to agree with him although in the current climate this team coming from this club now deserves to be called ‘great’ after two Champions League finals, a league and a league runners up spot, against the riches of United, Chelsea, City, Barca, Real, PSG etc.

Anyhow, his comments do tap into the idea that the whole ‘new dynasty’ thing could be exceptionally difficult to maintain once Jurgen Klopp is gone. Do Liverpool try to find a boot room solution, finding someone steeped in the current culture? This would be a stretch as there is nobody in Liverpool (maybe nobody in England) with Klopp’s charismatic energy. Or do they go for a ‘new kid on the block’ to provide a new direction? This also seems fraught with difficulties and Gary’s assumption that Liverpool are currently punching well above their weight may be worryingly accurate. Too many analysts don’t talk much about investment and Gary is bang on in his assessment, much as it pains us Liverpool fans to accept. This team has overachieved for three years now. Thanks Gary!
Michael, Ireland


And a Man United fan liking Liverpool fans’ talk
It appears that being called Mark (or Marc) actually gives you a wisdom beyond your peers. This morning’s mailbox contained two balanced, well thought out and perfectly reasonable emails about Manchester United. The surprising thing is that these emails were from Liverpool fans.

Much as I try to find holes in the arguments of LFC fans and thoroughly enjoy doing so, on this occasion, (with the exception (what a shame) of Mark Jones’ suggestion that Rashford was no better than Danny Wellbeck) I couldn’t. I agreed with just about every word.

I have quite a few LFC-supporting friends and family. The best footballing debates I get into are with them. There is a hatred between the cubs yes, but there is also an acknowledgement that these are the two greatest clubs in England. No other club is close. These are two football clubs where on-pitch performance doesn’t truly impact the historical enormity of them as sporting institutions. It is also the biggest rivalry in English football by some way. Debates can therefore be nasty and vitriolic, but they are generally based upon an underlying scenario of knowing your enemy. This rarely brings a meeting of minds, but on this occasion, Marc and Mark have hit the nail very squarely, on the head.

Still can’t bring myself to congratulate their club on the PL Title, though funnily enough, I really wish them well against Chelsea tonight…Chris Wilkinson


Evaluating Ole
I know football is tribal, and therefore reasonable opinions are rare, but let’s have a think about Ole for a moment, and if he is actually doing a good job.

Firstly, let’s get out of the way some of the most ridiculous comments (strangely mostly coming from Merseyside): Ole has not spent X hundreds of millions of pounds. You cannot blame Ole for not getting the best out of (deep breath): Schneiderlein, Blind, Di Maria, Falcao, Darmian, Mhiktaryan, Sanchez and even Lukaku – because well yeah, don’t be an idiot. Ed and Manchester United overall are terrible at this game – no denying – but that is nothing to do with Ole.

Secondly – the players matter. Big Virgil is a pretty good example. So United were kind of rubbish when forced to have Lingard, Perrira and (old) Mata in the same team. And United are significantly better with Pogba and Fernandes in the team. Wow, I mean shocking. United have only been able to field Martial, Rashford, Pogba and Fernandes for about one third of this season. And during that third, United are very good.

Finally, a manager should be judged on both the team he builds but also the performances he gets of the individuals. Rashford, Martial, Shaw, Fred (pre break) and even Lindelof have been much better this year, under Ole. So that’s good. Development of Greenwood and Williams (wait for Laird, he’s coming) has also been excellent.

So in conclusion, United’s squad is a mess, but that’s not on Ole. If fit, the team Ole wants to play is very good, but losing your best players with a thin squad means Lingard. And key individuals are in the form of their respective careers (Martial, Rashford). So, I’d give him a solid B. A good summer will mean a first XI AND a few squad players of his choosing, then we truly judge him.
Ryan, Bermuda


Henderson and United talk
The most common argument I’ve heard against giving Dean Henderson a shot at being ManU’s No 1 next season is that the pressure and scrutiny might be too great given he’s coming from Sheffield United. Gary Neville has spouted this a number of times on Sky Sports and Rio Ferdinand and Jermaine Jenas have done the same on BT referring to the ‘weight of the jersey’.

Fair enough. I wonder is there an example of a young, inexperienced goalkeeper coming into the United side in recent times and what their trajectory has been? Ah yes, David De Gea. When spouting this argument, which has merit but is by no means flawless, none of the proponents seem to mention that when De Gea joined the club he was 19 with zero English football game time! In comparison to Henderson’s 23 years and 3 seasons worth! The point is that the talent is there for all to see, and the hunger, and the confidence of youth. De Gea did suffer with the scrutiny and it took time to find his feet, but, once he did he became the best keeper in the league for about 5 years. Who’s to say what Dean Henderson might become? The talent is there and critically for this United side, his form is way above that of Big Dave.

And on the current iteration of Big Dave, there’s no guarantee that he will return to his former self. Contrarily, watching his sad decline over the last two years, it’s more logical to conclude that his level of horrific form will continue or worsen. The sport is littered with goalies who were excellent but lose something and don’t get it back. Christ in the last 10 PL years alone it’s been Cech, Hart, Robinson, James, Wright, Kirkland, Carson, Green. I can’t think of anyone (help me out?) who has been great, then crap, then returned to greatness in that position. So given the levels of decline visible here, the cost is too great to keep DDG in the team into next season. Heck! Even at the minute it may prove too costly. I wouldn’t be that surprised to see Romero come in tonight. Sure dropping him will devalue De Gea but think about a howler or two tonight or at Leicester on Sunday that costs United CL football. That would dwarf the cost of his contract or paying some of his wages to go on loan back to Spain next year for example. It’s just such a huge risk to have him between the sheets at the moment (thanks for that one Ekoku).

Lastly, with the goal difference equal and ManU bringing any advantage from tonight to the Walkers Stadium on Sunday, we essentially have a two-legged tie against Leicester as a CL play off, with the first leg at Old Trafford against West Ham who have nothing to play for. If we can’t progress through this round we don’t deserve to be in the draw for next year. Simples.

I have the big game buzz today – way above Sunday.


Love for Seb
I think Seb Stafford-Bloor is cursed with one of the most horrible monikers of all time.

That said, and all respects to the award-winning Daniel Storey, who’s work I also tremendously admire, there isn’t another football writer who writes pieces that make me scroll down to the end about one third of the way through, just to check I was right about the author. FourFourTwo tell you at the start, which removes half the fun.

Seb seems to really love and understand football, at all levels and without prejudice.
(Teary-eyed Villa Fan)


The managers
Admit it, Dave Tickner is just trying to wind up William Douglas Foster, Stretford, isn’t he?

Top marks for the fishing Dave, hope you catch something!
Mark Danger Endicott, MUFC


Don’t forget Brendan
Lampard takes perennially well funded big club who finished 3rd last year…to (best case) 3rd this year…scoring roughly the same number of goals while conceding 10 more…

Arteta takes (slightly less) well funded big club who finished 5th last year…to 5th this year (if table only existed since he joined).

Rogers takes mid-table sensibly-funded (but not big spenders) who finished 9th last year…to probably 5th…possibly 4th this year…while scoring 15+ more goals and conceding 10 less…

We all enjoy a wry smile at some of Brendan’s self infatuation sometimes, but credit where it’s due. Leicester are a far smaller club and just because the timing of their stumbling form has come in the second half of the season (rather than the other way around) that doesn’t diminish the Foxes achievement. We may talk more about Arsenal and Chelsea because more of us are fans of those clubs (giving them more air time) but….Brendan for manager of the year!
Ben Rodgers
(Tongue in cheek troll time: Klopp, +1 position, scoring less goals, similar points. Par! Brendan to Liverpool)


Sorry for being arsey
I read my email that was published yesterday and I just wanted to apologize to everyone who read it. It was too harsh and I apologize for it.

And you are right Ed. Manchester United went into the FA Cup tie with barely 66 hours between games (not 48 hours) but the point still stands. The PL is already too hectic and squeezing a FA Cup in between was a poor decision. We all know how much whining we would have heard from Mourinho or Pep or even Klopp if they had been in place of Ole.

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