Ask Van Gaal, Sherwood etc if FA Cup matters…

Date published: Monday 30th January 2017 5:03 - Sarah Winterburn

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Oh Daniel…
I see you guys are saying we told you so about Sutton and Leeds.

I wouldn’t get too smug since it wasn’t actually in the ten live games to watch section of the Big Weekend. I was following Daniel’s recommendation and watching Juve v Sassuolo at 2pm.

2-0 Juve if you are wondering…
Dave P MUFC Dublin


It was magic
What a weekend to reignite that magic of the FA Cup, we had Sutton, Lincoln, Wolves, Oxford and oh so nearly Wycombe perform some giant killings.

Now some may say “but those big teams didn’t field a full strength XI” well to that I say who cares?

A giant killing was always about a lower-league team knocking out a top-league team, a Liverpool, a Manchester United etc, not about the big name players on the pitch, at the end of the day in the history books it’ll read that Sutton United knocked out Leeds United, a former Champions League team, whilst Lincoln knocked out a team top of the Championship and potentially heading to the Premier League next season.

I’m sure this may cause some debate among fellow readers of the mailbox, but to me it was an amazing weekend and reminded me how important the FA Cup truly is.
Mike Clewer (Nice to see Ivanovic score his most likely last ever goal for the club, never will forget his goals against Napoli and Benfica), CFC


The cups are not important
The reason I say that is of the last nine managers to reach the FA Cup final, only two have managed the same team at the following third round. Just ask yourself would you go full out with that sort of return?

It is quite similar in the League Cup with only Man City in the last six years keeping their winning manager for a further season, and even he couldn’t pull it off twice.


To Liverpool fans: Your manager f***ed it; that is all.
Let’s not avoid the obvious: Liverpool are getting more criticism for playing a weakened team because they lost. If they had made it through then the finger would be pointed elsewhere. Can we please stop the desperation to paint every negative comment as a xenophobic response to a German manager? Liverpool were the highest-profile club to be knocked out, and lost at home against Championship opposition. The team was not full-strength – but, more importantly in my opinion, contained sufficient quality to win. What it lacked was any seeming desire to actually do so. You think that’s not going to create some attention? Not going to bring any heat to the man whose job it is to motivate them? And coming off the back of a hideous run of results – exacerbated by some incredibly poor decisions from God’s gift to dentistry management – it should come as no surprise that people are going to highlight it.

Oli’s rambling defence of Klopp does little more than prove the complaints to be perfectly fair. Trying to imply both Shearer and Lineker’s comments to be xenophobic, seemingly because they both use the word ‘English’, as though uttering such an offensive term occupies spot number one on the ‘Are you a bigot?’ quiz. Ignoring the key part of his tweet: that the lack of European football made the decision particularly odd. Citing the fixture list as the problem, because you’ve got two midweek games either side of the weekend, as though this isn’t something that would usually occur, and certainly doesn’t happen to other clubs. Yet more “If he was English it would be fine” bulls**t, because we all know that LFC just want to be regarded as the same as everyone else, and certainly don’t get super f**king precious when people fail to recognise their self-appointed stature as champions of English football. S**t, did I say English? S**t, did I say it again? That explains it: I must be a racist.

Or maybe we need to look at the structure of English (ah f**k) football. It’s too congested. Too many fixtures. Let’s just get rid of one of the competitions, make it easier for Herr Klopp to do his thang. Maybe change the points structure while we’re at it? One point for a draw, three points for a win, five points for a hug, ten points for gurning like Ermintrude after handful of pills? Otherwise, however will he cope? How can his revolutionary pressing game succeed in England (well that’s it, time for prison and extensive education on integration and race relations) with all these silly games getting in the way? I mean, let’s be clear on this: there are no other teams in this country that play a high-intensity, physically-demanding pressing style. None. Nil. Zero. It’s unique, and quite frankly the FA need to start making changes in order to accommodate him and his approach. Scrap the EFL. Scrap the FA Cup. Maybe just award LFC the three points for every other fixture, so they don’t have to waste time and energy.

Oli, I suggest you take a step back and actually think about what you have written. Because you’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole that you’ve ended up covered in faeces. You talk of open xenophobia, yet actual open xenophobia towards Klopp – or other overseas managers – is actually not all that prevalent, despite F365’s insistence that everything is racist. Part of the problem seems to be that LFC supporters got far too used to having their metaphorical d**k sucked by the press. Neutrals favourite, everyone loves them, blah blah blah. When most of us really can’t f**king stand you.

You were media darlings, as was your manager. But he f**ked up. And then he did it again. And again. Whining about fixture congestion when you still believe you’re only a whisker away from winning titles is genuinely pathetic. Claiming a persecution narrative is even worse. Don’t f**king diminish the genuine problems facing the world, don’t forcibly co-opt the struggle of millions of innocent people, and don’t try and mangle reality to suit your own agenda. You want to cite the influence of Trump? Yeah, I see it. I see it every time someone ignores the glaring facts of reality in favour of a vision that suits their own sense of prejudice and entitlement. It is actually disgusting to see how many football supporters are prepared to turn serious issues into whimsy, simply because they cannot accept that their boy done f**ked it. Players, managers, owners, whatever. If you cannot comprehend that criticism can come from somewhere other than prejudice, I fear for your ability to live in the real world.


Stop losing your sh*t about the FA Cup
Is it just me or do people in mainstream media completely lose their heads with the FA Cup?

Unlike the league, there’s absolutely no way any team should lose to another team lower than them in the same league, or league/s below. The element of chance is completely removed. Anything less than a win and the manager has ‘chucked it’ or ‘doesn’t care about the cup’. After the third round, there were prominent BBC people slagging off Everton, West Brom and Bournemouth for treating the Cup with disrespect. The former two played full-strength teams but lost. It’s football, it happens. Sometimes, players just play rubbish. Spurs last year lost to Palace at home and Pochettino was criticised. Look at the team line-ups though and the side was amply good enough to beat Palace, who went on to be the worst form team in the country that year.

If a player is left out, journalists/commentators/pundits ignore all context and believe they don’t need to know or understand why the player is left out. They automatically revert back to ‘manager doesn’t care about the competition’. The player could be injured, tired, carrying a knock from previous match. Doesn’t matter. Straight on the soap box. This is completely ignoring the fact that in all competitions, the manager tends to pick a team he thinks is good enough to win that particular match. Managers have very different views of their players than supporters do. Managers tend to follow fact rather than narrative for starters.

Players like Shearer mock managers for resting players, particularly against lower-league opposition, but then bemoan England’s poor show at tournaments because of tiredness. Shearer particularly annoyed me this weekend with this, despite the fact he retired from international football in his prime in order to curb tiredness, and has advised Rooney to do the same. So you can jog England on, but don’t you dare do it with the cup!

Clubs are pilloried for not living within their means yet people are surprised the likes of Watford don’t chase a £1.8m prize when it can cost them £100m if they end up going down. The FA have let money be pumped into the PL and have made no attempt to tart up the Cup. Offer CL for the winners or a significantly improved financial reward. We can sit here and say the game is about glory but fat load of good winning the FA Cup did for Wigan Athletic. They’re screwed now and in danger of slipping into League 1. Does the FA have the argument that teams are complacent in the Cup when they’ve been complacent with their own competition?

Like with a lot of punditry and sports media/churnalism these days, context is dead and narrative is king. This weekend should have been a triumph for lovers of the Cup and the magic it could bring, but they were too busy harping on about the past in a high-pitched voice.
Ross, THFC


…Ah yes, FA Cup weekend. This means lots of references to the romance, the magic, the giant killing (a League Two side beating a Championship side’s second team isn’t all that big of a giant killing in reality). It also means Alan Shearer, Harry Redknapp and Paul Merson lambasting foreign managers who don’t “get our values” and “don’t respect the traditions of the cup”. Disregarding of course that 11 of the last 17 teams left in this year’s cup don’t have English managers and that there’s been only two English managers that have won it in the last 25 years. They go on about how growing up the cup final day was the biggest day of the year and how they grew up dreaming of playing in the competition. Newsflash lads, it’s a whole different world out there now.

When they were growing up watching cup ties in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s it wasn’t unrealistic to think that your team might actually have a shot at winning the thing. League form didn’t really dictate who could eventually be the cup winners and the glory was spread around. Well I’m afraid that just doesn’t happen anymore. Gary Lineker can cream himself tweeting about Sutton United all he wants. John Motson can tell us that Lincoln City are dreaming of Wembley but in reality we all know that eventually, when it’s all said and done, either United, City, Arsenal or Chelsea are going to win this thing. Like every other F’N year. Add Liverpool to that group and that’s been the monopoly on the cup for the past 20 years. Only Wigan and Portsmouth outside of that group have won it in modern times and look what happened to them as a result. Relegation and near extinction.

If you’re outside of the elite group, your squad simply can’t cope with a long run and risking everything to go for it has proved to be catastrophic. A club pushing for promotion or fighting off relegation, has bigger priorities and in reality know they have no hope of ever winning it anyway. It is far more important for them to stabilise a club and protect people’s jobs then to go on a run and eventually just lose to the big boys anyway. The three lads mentioned earlier have advocated going hell for leather to win the cup at all costs. “Cos when it’s all said and done a player wants to look back on the medals he won”. Well, while Nwankwo Kanu is shining up his winner’s medal, Portsmouth fans are watching their team lose to Exeter in League Two. ‘Money is ruining football’, the same money that has made these three bell-ends rich and continues to pay them for their bitter and pointless punditry.
David V (if Merson was a horse, you’d shoot him)


Having the ball is risky
In the Sunday mailbox, CB, Washington DC bemoaned how Liverpool found themselves camped on the edge of the opposition box passing sideways, without any penetration and waiting for the inevitable counterattack.

Welcome to the club! Roll back one year and Pellegrini’s team were doing the same thing. At United, LVG had been mastering the art all season. It’s painful to watch because you know your team could do it for hours and get few shots on target, and yet the opposition can score with a single misplaced pass.

My point is that surely this possession-hogging tactic (is it Tika Taka?) is outdated. It works well at the start of a season when teams are less organised (or, of course, when you are winning) but as the season goes on, more and more opposition managers realise how effective the deep counter-attacking style is against it. At this point you are playing a high-risk, low-reward strategy.

I have gained respect for Mourinho because his philosophy is that the longer you have the ball, the more likely you are to make a critical mistake. As far as I understand Gegenpressing (I might be wrong) it revolves around hounding the opposition when they are on the ball, and countering quickly. If the opposition don’t get a sniff of the ball other than to boot it up the pitch then it doesn’t work.

Surely the solution is to not camp the entire team in the opposition half creating a siege-like situation, but rather draw the opposition out by taking more chances in possession and not being afraid of losing the ball. Mixing some long balls in to the game would get the opposition defence to face towards their own goal a bit more. This is what happened when we faced Tottenham last week. Balls over the top, balls down the channels. And the best chances came when Spurs were caught on the ball. Having the ball was less important than routing the other team. Defenders panic and gift opportunities. I suppose it is the equivalent of flanking or ambushing in a battle.

What do other people think?
Nic, Lancaster


John Nicholson: PFM
I see John Nicholson has let Harry Redknapp ghost write his latest column regard how men used to be men, playing a man’s game all manly like. Modern players…weak.

Where to start is difficult. I think it was ‘It was once possible for most of a squad to play over 50 or 60, even 70 games a season. It was just strong, fit young men who did that, not super-humans’ that jumped out at me. Most of a squad, MOST of a squad. In the piece John mentioned Mark Lawrenson playing every game and not training in between. In his entire career Lawrenson played more than 50 games in a season four times. He also left Liverpool aged 30, to basic retirement.

Most of the squad played 50 or 60, even 70 games a season? That’s 46 league games, in old money. Seven games to win the FA Cup makes 53. Chuck in a decent run in the League Cup – six games, makes 59. European competition used to be knock out so to win the European Cup used to take nine games and that makes 68. 68 games for a club to win the European Cup, win the FA Cup, have a run in the League Cup and every League game. Most of the squad did that, every year. At most clubs. No one ever made their debut because the first team played every game, every year, forever.

‘Sports Science hadn’t been invented but being strong, fit and resolute had’ Wow. Alan Brazil basically retired at 27, Harry Redknapp at 29, Gary Lineker went to Japan at 31… the list could go on and on. There were not many players playing regularly after 32 back in the good old days when men were men. Now? Frank Lampard is as fit as a badger aged 38, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is awesome at 35, Gerrard could run a double marathon tomorrow at 36, John Terry is 106, the whole WBA squad are 90+, again the list goes on.

‘Different days, I know. But really not that different’, do me a lemon. When was the last time you watched a game from 35 years ago? The pace was snail-like, the athleticism amateur. The pace of the modern game is extraordinary. Players didn’t routinely play 70+ games a season back in the day but even if they did the comparison is not valid. Sure, have players play every minute of every game and watch the quality drop like a stone.

Klopp picked a team he thought could beat Wolves, they couldn’t. It’s the magic of the cup not the pinnacle of the downfall of society.
Micki Attridge


Oh and Lineker…
Funny Gary Lineker should say that he doesn’t understand players being tired, given that he spent the majority of his career in the opposition six-yard box…
James, Brighton


Being ‘tired’ is not a fantasy
All this backlash against players being too tired and that somehow being ridiculous is laughable. If you regularly play football, or any sport like it on a regular basis at even a completely amateur level you probably know damn well that you’re in better shape a week after playing then you are a few days after playing. Especially as you get to 30 and beyond; your body takes time to heal. You pick up knocks, your joints hurt, and you still feel it at least a couple of days after.

The players that have to cover the most ground with the most hard-running are the most vulnerable; for any keen observer it’s been clear that for Liverpool, Can, Wijnaldum, Clyne and Milner in particular have been clearly exhausted since the end of December and playing well below the levels they reached earlier in the season.

From Liverpool’s perspective, they’re facing Chelsea on Tuesday. Against Brentford, they completely rested their wing-backs and midfielders (Alonso, Moses, Matic and Kante) and restricted their two best players (Costa and Hazard) to 15 mins between them. What is Klopp supposed to do – play his strongest team against Wolves and then expect Milner to chase a fully rested Moses up and down the flank for 90 minutes? Make a knackered Can scamper after Kante the whole match?

Sure, if you want to please hugely successful managers like Souness, Lawrenson and the like, yeah, throw them all in for two games in a row.

In the real world though, managers like Klopp have to be pragmatic and try to give their team the best chance of winning the most important matches, which in this series is Chelsea at home in the league. It’s what Conte did on Saturday and obviously no-one is criticising him because his team won. Doesn’t matter though, does it? He doesn’t know his team will win when he picks it.

The biggest mistake Liverpool made was not resting more players for Sunderland right at the start of the year, two days after the City match. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the players themselves question that decision, and perhaps some faith in the manager was lost inside the dressing room.

At other times in the season Liverpool and Chelsea have reaped the benefits of not playing in Europe, and that benefit in my view was chiefly being able to focus on single games for a whole week of training and preparation. Over January though, it’s been more about simply rotating players to keep them as fresh as possible, and that’s been Klopp’s failing. The Wolves match highlighted a lack of squad depth for Liverpool compared to the likes of Chelsea; nothing more. Liverpool don’t have the luxury of keeping players of the quality of Batshuayi or Fabregas in reserve.
Simon Allen


Thank you Branislav
Nothing much to say, just a massive big up to my man Branislav Ivanovic, who may have scored his last goal, possibly even played his last game for Chelsea at the weekend, in which case there’s no better send-off.

Yes he was absolute dog sh*te last season, and nowhere near the starting eleven this season, but the guy has been an absolute monster for Chelsea. A proper unit in defence and a scorer of important goals, from seemingly coming out of nowhere to score 2 headers against Liverpool in a Champions League quarter-final, to scoring a last-minute winner against Benfica to win the Europa league, one year after missing out on that night in Munich due to suspension. Plus, one of three people to be bitten by Suarez! A future pub quiz question perhaps?

It’s a shame (but understandable) to see him relegated to the bench, and I don’t think any Chelsea fan would begrudge him a move to see him playing more regularly, whether that’s in the next couple of days or at the end of the season.

Thank you Big Bran, you’re a Chelsea legend and all the best for the future!

Oh and the FA Cup was brilliant this weekend.


On your quiz
Started typing in every country name I could think of, assume that’s how most people did it…

Then got pi**ed off and started looking at Google maps…

Thanks for keeping my mind off work…
T, CFC, London

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