Chelsea are not in the title race, Liverpool, Hayden, Covid and…

Editor F365

Is it now a two-horse race in the Premier League? Send your thoughts on Chelsea, Liverpool, Isaac Hayden, Covid and much more to


Chelsea are not in the title race…
When I watch this Chelsea side play I have to give a brutally honest opinion, we are not in a title race, we simply are not at the same level that Manchester City and Liverpool are, tonight we played an injury hit Everton side and we come away with a single point and can point to our possession stat and say “hey look it was 80%”

One final thing, Saul could be one of the worst players we have ever signed which is saying something, every game he features he just looks dreadful, I’d say onto the next game but we can’t say for sure if that will be this weekend or even this year with the current situation with infection rates.

Stay safe out there fellow readers and Mailboxers
The Admin @ At The Bridge Pod

Elite vs good,

Interesting stats from Liverpool and Chelsea’s games tonight. Liverpool 74% possession, Chelsea 80%. Both had 23 shots on goal, Liverpool had 8 shots on target resulting in 3 goals. Chelsea 10 shots on target 1 goal. There’s only 2 teams in the title race and it’s not Chelsea.

PL leagues decision to allow United and Spurs to postpone games while others have to play has completely damaged their product and league. Last night there were 14 first team players missing on the pitch for the Chelsea v Everton match. This completely changed the dynamic of the game with a brilliant backs to the wall result for Everton. But at full strength that changes.

So Spurs and Arsenal get to rest their players and watch as the rest of the league play out a busy Xmas period. The PL has badly let themselves down.
P Didi


Isaac Hayden
Re Liverpool’s first goal: Player welfare is paramount, no one would argue with that. But in the big picture, who actually put player welfare at risk last night? Was it Mike Dean who didn’t stop the game within a few seconds of a confused collision (but probably would have done a couple of seconds later if the ball had been cleared)? Or was it Isaac Hayden, who stayed down after hitting his head on his teammate’s torso and literally 120 seconds later miraculously made a 40 yard sprint to Liverpool’s box in support of ASM, then a 60 yard sprint back to make a great recovery tackle. Or was it Eddie Howe who claimed afterwards that Hayden was ‘dazed for four or five minutes’ and yet left him on the pitch for the remaining 70 minutes? Either Howe is a liar or he and his medical team think it’s ok to leave a potentially concussed player on the pitch. (Head injury assessment??)

Liverpool were lucky in the sense that the play might have been stopped before the goal by another ref in another game. But, like de Gea against Arsenal, Hayden got what he deserved – all the evidence suggests he was trying to fool the ref into stopping the game in a threatening situation when he hasn’t suffered more than a very minor knock to the head. He gambled, he lost – he also made the job harder for refs trying to balance player welfare and letting the game flow and thus ultimately put others’ welfare at risk.


Dear Ed,

I was interested in Eddie Howe’s comments on the Liverpool equaliser last night. He referred to it as ‘unjust’ as Isaac Hayden had been injured in the build-up and the game wasn’t stopped with Hayden subsequently playing Jota onside for the equalising goal. Howe indicated that he was “really disappointed… was clear to me that Isaac went down holding his head immediately.”. Howe also said, “For me, he held his head. He was dazed for four or five minutes. It’s a dangerous moment where we have to think about the players’ safety”.

Couldn’t agree more with Eddie. Player safety comes first, always. So why did Hayden remain on the pitch if he was dazed for four or five minutes? Why didn’t Eddie, concerned for his players’ safety as he was, substitute Hayden either immediately or at half-time when they realised he was still suffering the effects of the injury for so long after it had occurred?

There doesn’t have to be a visible sign of a head injury or concussion of course so the fact that Hayden wasn’t staggering around or vomiting or that he didn’t collapse means anything but the lack of action on anyone’s part means Hayden did not take his safety seriously enough to inform his colleagues. If he did then the Newcastle bench did not take his safety seriously enough to make a change or examine him further, or, and go with me on this, perhaps it was just yet another situation where a footballer goes down holding their head at a set-piece almost certain in the knowledge that play will be stopped and any danger will be averted. Now to be clear I’m not saying that is the case but looking at the replays of the incident it is very difficult to see anyone make any contact with Hayden’s head area.

Whatever the truth to the situation none of this is good on anyone’s part. If Hayden was feigning a head injury to stop play then that puts other players who suffer a genuine injury at risk of not being believed and slowing their access to medical attention. If Hayden was not feigning injury then there are questions to be asked over Newcastle’s HIA protocols. And in both instances, it is entirely unfair and dangerous to place the onus on deciding if a potential head injury is genuine or not on a referee who out of an abundance of caution must therefore stop the game every time there is such an injury (and this is where Mike Dean is open to criticism in that while he supposedly believed Hayden had hurt his back there was no evidence that he held anything other than his head.).

Lindsay, Dublin


Can we talk about Eddie Howe saying that Hayden was “dazed for four or five minutes after the match” due to a “head knock” in the Jota goal.

He’s saying that play should have stopped as player safety is paramount, but is saying he allowed a concussed player to play the full match after the incident on 21 minutes. He would have seen him at half time and has a medical team to assess players in such situations so there’s no excuse. If he was still dazed after the match he surely was in a bad way.

So he’s either completely negligent and is putting his players health/life at risk, or is talking bollocks.

So what is it Eddie? He should be asked to explain his comments, because if it’s true, it’s a far bigger and more serious issue than the ref not stopping play.
Vinnie B, LFC, Glasgow

I am somewhat amazed at how Eddie Howe and BT Sport handled the post match business. Two Newcastle players jump, neither have any head contact at all and both go down feigning injury. One realises the ref hasn’t bought it and stands up and starts running about and defending whilst the other continues to pretend. Howe rails against the lack of protection and how safety is of the utmost importance. Any good commentator asks the simple question, “so why didn’t you sub him or conduct proper concussion protocol if safety is so key?”

Oh of course. Because you knew he was faking it. As did everyone else who saw the incident except for the BT sport gang.

Player safety is important and both players should be punished for faking a head injury to gain a competitive advantage. Boys who cry wolf eventually find their sheep get eaten and all that.

The only penalty incident in the game worthy of discussion is Lascelles on AOC. He’s behind him and pushes him to the floor. Liverpool are one of the most relentless attacking teams in the league but have only had 2 penalties this season. We don’t get those decisions at Anfield because the refs think they’re being strong by ignoring what 50,000 people can see clearly happened.

Overall a good result without two of our most important defensive figures. Konate is starting to look a bit decent, isn’t he? Bodes well going into a busy festive season.

I suspect our Sunday game gets cancelled as we will surely have more positive tests and it sounds like Spurs won’t have a team to field at this rate. Goodbye football, it’s been lovely.
Minty, LFC


The ‘Rona
I’m a little bit confused at the moment; papers, commentators etc are talking about Covid being rife in clubs’ players and staff so let’s hope that can be curbed (kudos to Thomas Frank’s recommendation btw).

Isn’t the elephant in the room the fact that if matches go ahead you have tens of thousands of people gathered together? Whilst outside for most of the time at the game what about pre match? Half time? Post match? In pubs and concourses.

I love the football feast at Xmas but surely the focus should be on what the health impact is on the general public rather than a select number of people?

Just a thought.
Brian (BRFC)


Arteta and ‘gamesmanship’
There are plenty of things to talk about when it comes to Mikel’s Arsenal. One thing I have noticed though is the increase in ‘cheating’ from Arsenal players. Now, of course every football team does it, there is no denying that, whether it’s going down easily or feigning injury to get the ref to book another player, it happens in every game and is very much part of football. Nevertheless, it’s not something I have massively associated with Arsenal in recent times. In contrast, the accusation has often been that Arsenal are too naive and don’t play the ‘smart’ way, as in, wasting time or diving to get penalties, they always try and walk it in as the old saying goes.

The West Ham game last night was the perfect example of Arsenal’s move to the dark side. I am sure the challenge that led to the penalty hurt Lacazette, but anyone would think he had his leg torn off. Then there was the constant surrounding of the ref whenever a tackle was made, and the Arsenal players screaming at West Ham to put the ball out when a player was down, only to carry on playing themselves when they won it back. The cherry on top though was Arteta pushing Martinelli back on to the pitch when he pulled up with cramp so the game could be stopped.

I must say, I am not a fan of this in football, regardless of whether it’s the team I support or not. I like to win, but I like to win as fairly as possible. I didn’t think it was a penalty and was actually sort of glad Fabianski saved it because it seemed like balance was restored. Maybe though this is what Arsenal need, maybe they need to be nastier, maybe they need that win at all costs attitude. It certainly worked for Pep at Barcelona, and perhaps Mikel has learned a few tricks from his old boss. I will grumble about it to myself but if it gets Arsenal back towards the upper echelons of the league then maybe I can be swayed.
Andrew, Barnet


Celebrating Arteta’s longevity is proof of mediocrity
Wow so it has taken just 5 minutes as interim 4th placers , For  Arsenal fans to start prancing about

So I guess we should congratulateEl Gauchos  manager for getting to the top 4 for the first time as manager  after his contemporaries have gone (couldn’t achieve it while the others were still active). In this tallest dwarf contest you have also decided to give him accolades for being the last one sacked even though Ole was hired a full year before him.

I guess he will forever dine out on his one tropheven though based on his league position he would have been sacked by now at either of the other two clubs(See LVG and Sarri) , maybe that is a comment on Arsenal’s descent to mediocrity.

When Ole as you say bumbled into Old Trafford ,you were at least considered the better team, He’s left with United at least becoming a champions league team, can you still remember what the music sounds like,   (Emirates probably has it on VInyl by now),You now  have  claiming now you are celebrating the fact that your young manager got sacked last .

I guess  by El  Gaucho’s logic if winning a trophy and generally being inept at league positions is standard then , Di Matteo is a better Chelsea Manager  than Ranieri, Moyes is better than Ole (he won a community shield ), Juande Ramos is better than Poch and Redknapp (Maybe United should hire him instead. And Maybe Bruce Rioch is the equivalent of Wenger Since he won a  European Competition and Wenger didn’t.

United long term aim , Which you should be striving for is to perfect your team and become regular contenders at the top , Not these petty squabbles over  whose DNA boy is the best Manager .Rangnick and whoever follows him should be tasked with lifting one of the bigger trophies  otherwise what’s the point.

Arteta is still in a job ,because he has been treated with kids gloves , and now that Gerrard is here , he will  have to start showing more consistency.Finishing in anything lower than Europa, should be the End and even that shows the low bar he has to scale.
Roode, MUFC


Got the ball ref
Can anyone please explain how Arsenal got a penalty and Coufal got a yellow for a challenge where it is indisputable that he got the ball? Has the law changed on fouls? It was one challenge, he got the ball and the man. That has always been part of football, and something desirable to a certain point of view. It’s supposed to be a contact sport.

If someone has done something egregious while tackling, like kicking or punching then yeah fair enough, that supersedes the challenge. But if you go for the ball, and you get the ball, then if you take the man out too, that’s just how it goes unless it’s dangerous play isn’t it? Or have I missed something here.

On a separate note, that Ward-Prowse takes a mean free-kick, doesn’t he? Peach. The git.
Rob Duffy

p.s. Everton fans – you’ve set up Benitez to fail, and so of course he will, because you won’t see anything else. Good luck getting someone better.

Vladimir Coufal is shown a red card

Why the hate?
I’d love to know why, after Emile Smith Rowe or Saka do anything, either for England or Arsenal, Chelsea and United fans flood social media saying how they are poor players. It is always those two clubs’ fans.

Why do you hate seeing those young players do well? I get you hate Arsenal, but it is only when those two players do something. Is it because you wished they played for you?

Personally I love our young squad and I hope they continue to grow.
John Matrix AFC


James or TAA?
Again, just before people start comparing, both of these players are absolutely class.
Stu, Southampton


Chelsea academy and history
Dear F365

I agree with Will Ford’s basic point that the extent to which Chelsea have moved from rich man’s vanity project to sustainable business is quite remarkable. But I disagree on one point. Will writes “the quality emerging from the academy is remarkable…and that tap is one that will now run and run.” History suggests otherwise.

Several clubs have had periods of extraordinary productivity in their academies – Man Utd with Scholes, Beckham, Giggs, Neville; Liverpool with Owen, Fowler, Gerard, McManaman, Carragher. And then there’s probably the biggest academy purple patch of them all at Barcelona with Messi, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Puyol, Fabregas, Pique etc.

Around those times, many journalists made the same mistake as Will Ford now, writing excitedly that this “conveyor belt of talent” (as was then the popular metaphor) would now continue to run indefinitely. But all of those conveyor belts stopped or slowed pretty soon after their respective golden eras. My guess is that the success of an academy is determined to a large extent by luck. The process of taking children and turning them into top class footballers is one which fails, even at the best academies, 99%+ of the time. The academies don’t know why the 99% fail and the 1% succeed – if they did, they’d be able to sift out the 99% much more quickly and efficiently. Sure they do all they can to tilt the probabilities in their favour and doubtless some do that better than others, but luck must still play a huge part.

Chelsea have had a good run of academy success over the past few years, but assuming it will just continue from here is a triumph of hope over experience.
Tom, hoping Chelsea fail because I don’t like them, London


Where next for Steven Gerrard?
So this is probably a bit premature, but I’m hearing a bit of talk about how Stevie G is going about the business of proving himself worthy of the Liverpool job quite well.

In contrast to Ole, Frank and Mikel, who got the dream job too soon in their development, he’s done a fine job with Rangers and is now off to a great start with his promotion to Villa. So assuming his success continues with Villa, where next?

It seems like Klopp is still knocking it out if the park so I don’t see the Liverpool job opening up too soon. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about mid-ish table teams, it’s that no matter how good the manager is there’ll be a slump and you’ll get sacked unless you jump to a better job while still on the ascent.

So are there any clubs between Villa and Liverpool that make sense? Maybe if Newcastle survive this year and kick on they’d be viable as a team on the up. Any other suggestions?
Derek from Dundalk


What’s the saying?

“You’ll never draw any matches with the kids.”

That said, a loss would have been harsh on us but fair play to Everton for scratching out a tough draw with half the our team pulling a Darren Anderton.

Anthony Gordon really coming into his own and those saying Ramsdale should be England’s #1, pipe down.  He’s nowhere close to Pickford.
TX Bill (which Everton will show up against LCFC?) EFC


Reply to Matthew Belfast
In response to you saying Arsenal Football Club used to mean something. Here is what Arsenal mean to me, firstly it’s the FA cup, record 14 time winners. We are also not as good as we used to be but still relatively successful compared to 99% of teams part of which means we both get mocked for being soft or having a weak mentality. While at the same being mocked for being entitled if we complain about not being as good as used to be. I am sure Derby fans would love our kind of decline.

Currently, Arsenal represent trying to compete with the Champagne lifestyle clubs (Man City, PSG and Newcastle) while on a Prosecco budget. We represent putting a rookie manager (Arteta)against managerial genius (Klopp, Guardiola & Dyche). We also represent seeing if the old adage “you can’t win anything with kids” is still true? Can Arsenal be successful before Saka, Smith Roe, Odegaard, Martinelli or Gabriel decide to transfer to a club guaranteed to win trophies? Finally, if nothing else Arsenal represent Gunnersaurus the greatest mascot of them all!

Ps no good Captains since Viera? I give you Laurent Koscielny & Cesc Fabrigas. They led by example and were good captains regardless of how their time at Arsenal ended.
Croydon Gooner

Championship Manager
Dear f365,

Regular reader and first time writer, but I’m compelled to offer an alternative world-view to Tim Colyer’s, who may or may not be trolling. Resisting the temptation to lean on the fact that he’s a Chelsea fan in Singapore, who seems to have swallowed his “marketing basics” course book whole, he also seems to believe that offering serious jeopardy isn’t marketable in football.

The extremely shallow definition of “viable and sustainable” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. In the wake of (to pick an example out of the air) Chelsea’s model changing the finances of the game, we’ve seen Man City and what I thought must be a nadir in PSG, only for Newcastle’s takeover to top it. Is that what big, historic teams with a big stadium have to do to compete? Is that sustainable? I was extremely disturbed to read the article about Championship teams living beyond their means, but it’s hardly a surprise given the horror stories of recent years.

My team (Blackburn) are in the Championship because they deserve to be there. They were relegated from the Premier League and then promoted from League One. I don’t think any sane fan expects to be whisked off their feet and into the big time again without a serious investment and a huge slice of luck. Our place in the pecking order is down to performances ultimately, but looking at the Championship table, it’s hard to feel that Premier League money, and the somersaults clubs do in order to compete, hasn’t distorted competition.

As has been said many times, England still has the deepest football pyramid in the world, with more fans going to lower league games than in many top flights across Europe. While I accept that there are only so many football fans out there, that still implies there’s quite a few, and there might even be more to it than a dick-measuring competition to decide 4th place.

Also, you don’t just “choose” your football team, FFS.
Tom, Woking


Wow. Tim Colyer, Chelsea fan, Singapore, that was the most condescending and myopic bit of opinion I’ve read for a while.

“Would we be willing to trade off quality and international competitiveness of the Premiership for more fluidity of clubs going up and down the divisions?”

Well, yeah? It’s a sport? Level playing field and all that? 11 men against 11? Surely teams moving up and down the leagues is a good thing in the main, you know, sporting like? I couldn’t care less about ‘international competitiveness’ whatever that means… probably something to do with money.

“If the real point of the Championship is to provide enough jeopardy to keep the Premier league interesting, then it’s doing that well,”

You think that is the real point of the Championship? I thought, you know, there are lots of towns and cities with football teams and they’d like to play in a league.. you know, like sport. Surely sport is the point. Or is it about money again?

“there’s simply not enough market demand for a vast sprawling domestic structure”

Oh! So it is about money.

“if you choose to support a lower league club”

What an ignorant thing to state. For most people, it is not a choice. It is a deeply held emotional bond forged through familial links, shared experiences, and an unbridled love of the game. It is not the result of a cost/benefit analysis factoring in financial and practical variables.

The football pyramid is not there to prop up the premier league or the top 6. Not there to provide jeopardy for the premier league so more people watch it and more advertising can be sold. Any club should expect to be rewarded for sporting achievement, irrespective of the money it makes for already ultra-rich top 6 clubs.
Funstar Andy (AVFC)


An astounding level of arrogance from Tim in Singapore this morning. “If the real point of the Championship is to provide enough jeopardy to keep the Premier league interesting…”

What!!! Are you serious? You think the purpose of the 24 clubs in England’s second tier (and by proxy leagues 1 and 2) is to provide suspense for the Premier League? That’s 24 clubs with their own fans, their own history, their own unique story. They might not matter to you, in fact they clearly don’t, but they matter just as much to their own supporters as Chelsea does for you, perhaps even more when as you say they aren’t on TV or have international quality, both of which are bullshit by the way. You talk about market forces but the English game has been ravaged by market forces for 30 years yet all these clubs remain, is this not testament to their viability and even more reason to try and level the playing field?

The entire English football pyramid is one big competition, one big league only split into divisions for administrative and logistical purposes. The clubs in lower divisions are not there to prop up the top! They are there to compete for themselves, to rise and fall and win and lose just like Premier League clubs. It should be a meritocracy, it should be the best run clubs playing the most effective football that rises and those that aren’t should be the ones to fall. Anything which restricts this is anti-competition. Ensuring vast financial disparity between clubs in the same division is anti-competition

Your argument is akin to medieval nobility lobbying for feudalism. Its arguments like this and fans like you which let them believe they could break away to the super league.
Dave, Manchester

I wish Tim Colyer’s wonderful email to the inbox had been written back in 2004. That was when I first bought a season ticket for my home team Swansea City. It was the last season at the old Vetch Field and having been only an occasional matchday fan over the previous years, I thought I should go to every game in the old stadium’s final season.

If only I’d known that I was only supposed to go to be a part of the local community and because the games were relatively cheap. I could have saved the money I spent over the following years watching my team rise through the divisions, play some fantastic ‘international quality football’, hold their own in the Premier League for a number of years, win a major trophy for the first time ever (spanking Tim’s Chelsea on the way, which doesn’t make sense really. After all a little club like mine should be bowing at the feet of a godlike club like Chelsea) and enjoy a great season in European competition. I’m not sure how we managed to bloody the nose of all those Big 6 clubs during those years, it’s against Tim’s natural order after all.

I appreciate that Tim acknowledged he was biased as a fan as Big 6 team, but it was unnecessary. Anyone reading his mail would be well aware of that smug privileged position well before reaching the end.
Neil, Swansea


Patrick Vieira
So according to F365 Crystal Palace’s best moment of 2021 was hiring Patrick Viera and he’s done a ‘magnificent’ job.

How is taking Palace from 14th last season to 11th now ‘magnificent’? He’s obviously made Palace a more interesting watch, but isn’t ‘magnificent’ a wild exaggeration? Jurgen Klopp has done a magnificent job, for example, and so has David Moyes – not Viera.

I get that it’s natural to have some biases, but F365 is taking the Viera hyperbole way too far.
Thomas Ewens