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Did people expect Walcott to be Ronaldo?
That he never reached his potential is a stick Theo Walcott is so often beaten with, and this morning Barry LFC is the latest to state this.
Having joined Arsenal as a kid and being thrown straight into the England squad for the World Cup without having played a game, the pressure was always going to be on this boy. I’m curious to know what actually was the level people expected of him? Was it to be the next Pele or Ronaldo, or was it to have a perfectly serviceable Premier League career, which included near on 50 England caps and goals in major cup finals?
Probably because he was hyped up so young, it was actually to be Ronaldo, but I for one think he’s maligned far more than he deserves to be.
Theo Walcott sits comfortably inside the top 20 Arsenal goalscorers of all time, with 12 fewer goals than Dennis Bergkamp and seven less than Alan Smith. He scored the opening goal in two cup finals and, at his peak in 2012/13, he had 37 goals and assists in 43 games. His partnership with Van Persie the season before that was pretty phenomenal too.
And then, yet again (from 2008-2017 there wasn’t a season where he didn’t miss time), Walcott suffered a really major injury. In January 14, having already missed a couple of months of the season, he did his ACL against Spurs in the FA Cup third round, leading to a missed year and (again) no World Cup. He was never the same really thereafter.
Unfortunately though, for some reason, his bad luck with injuries seems to be overlooked when discussing his career. That and recency bias because he’s really not playing well anymore now.
But for a time, he was a really really good player, scoring goals consistently and performing often in the biggest games.
He burst on the scene at the same time as Aaron Lennon and, ever the comparers, Spurs were desperate for their man to be better. He wasn’t and Lennon, as well as many other English bright young things down the years, would give anything to have had the career Walcott has.
Joe, AFC, East Sussex
Ole Ole Ole
So I watch on at Man U as an interested spectator. I wrote in at the start of the season that I thought their recruitment strategy seemed much more sensible and would likely lead to a better outcome. This would then improve on pitch performance. I am not sure that’s played out as predicted, certainly not the on-pitch performance, though I do feel Maguire, Wan Bissaka and James have been more of a success than previous transfer windows.
I also predicted Spurs would win the league which would rival any of F365’s worst ever pre-season predictions…
So with that ringing endorsement let me opine on Utd’s next major issue; Ole. First off I think it is important to state I am not a Utd fan, I in fact support Liverpool, but I am not one of those feral supporters who craves catastrophe for United, I instead am happy to see them pootle along with general mediocrity for a few decades as Liverpool did for most of the 90’s, 00’s and whatever the 2010’s are called. I would not even begrudge them an FA Cup over that period…
Anyway, emotional detachment usually makes for a better analysis, so here goes. Firstly I think United need to be realistic in terms of what their major aims are. Ultimately, it’s fine to say they want to win the European Cup and Premiership but jumping from non-qualification and a patchy squad to champions of Europe is highly unlikely, instead there should be sensible, attainable goals for annual improvement and a long term plan.
Too many supporters/pundits/owners are under the misguided impression that a new coach can perform miracles and revolutionise teams from under performing to over achievers in a matter of months. Unless you have a clown in charge who is doing a with the current squad, incremental improvement as improved coaching kicks in should be the sensible, realistic hope. Also, all teams go through good and bad periods of form. Judging teams on 4/5 game periods is largely pointless, realistically 6 month sections should be used to analyse performance, and hopefully chart improvements. Also, there is more than just on-pitch issues with any football club, some have problem players, wage structures, academy issues or supporter unrest, dealing with various issues within a club should be taken into account when analysing a management structure. And that’s what Ole is, pert of the management structure, how powerful a voice he is will ultimately be proportional to his success or failure. If he makes Utd successful then the owners and executives will become subservient, if he doesn’t his position weakens until they cut him loose.
So lets look at Utd. They have various issues. 1. The squad is not good enough for their aspirational goals. 2. They have huge expenditure on wages. 3. They have spent heavily over the last few years trying to improve the squad. 4. They have some issues with players they want rid of (Rojo, Jones, Matic, Young) or who are causing issues for the club (Pogba). 5. The fans are not happy with the owners and club performance. 6. Poor performance on the pitch. You could perhaps add in the stadium is in need of renovation but perhaps that is less pressing than the others.
The first 4 issues are all linked. To improve your squad you either need academy players coming through that are better than existing squad players or you need to buy better players in the transfer windows. As wealthy as United are, they are not a bottomless pit. Also as United continue their mediocrity, their lifeblood of commercial growth will be adversely affected. So the first few years of the post Ferguson era United had plenty of cash to spend, and plenty of commercial growth forecast. They spent it, their wage budget ballooned but the ultimate quality of the squad stagnated. This more than any other factor has led to the subsequent relative failure. No matter your coach, the squad quality will largely dictate your success. What Ole has done since his arrival is put a transfer plan in place. A good one, designed to stop the club haemorrhaging money for little benefit. He prioritised only getting players in the areas most desperately in need of improvement and to stop taking expensive punts. Last season that was defence. Heavy investment followed on specific targets and there has been a statistical improvement in that area. Perhaps not as much as they would like, certainly not for the substantial sums paid, but as stated, the period of analysis is short and the second half of the season might show increased levels of improvement that more thoroughly justify the summer expense. Ole also identified a need for a British core with good attitudes and application. He saw there were some big egos and perhaps a lack of professionalism. If this was the case it needed to be rectified. It is pretty universally accepted that the best teams have the right mental fortitude to drive success. Getting the dressing room under control was of dire importance. Maguire and Wan Bissaka are great pro’s, Maguire in particular is there to set the example and get the dressing room in order. Getting rid of the dead wood to generate funds and capacity in the wage structure is largely outside of Ole’s hands. He wont do the negotiating so he will have to rely on others to get that done, though their success will affect his budget.
I think Ole’s simple plan is going to have a significant impact on Utd’s ongoing fortunes. In fact I would argue Ole is doing the job he was originally employed for. He is overseeing the renovation of the squad, he’s the caretaker while the building work is in process. He wants young, hardworking and talented players. He wants to change the culture. I think he could do that. United are still one of the biggest clubs in the world. Their brand is top 3 in the world. If focused and harnessed their financial might can bridge the gap, they just need the conviction to see it through.
As for the teams performance, its probably about where the squads collective quality should be. There might be some who say they should be top 4 but its pretty subjective. Ole has certainly shown some tactical nous against Klopp and Pep this year so he is no mug, but perhaps he has not done enough overall to show he can push this time to the heights wanted by the fans and win the biggest tournaments. I think let Ole get the squad up to scratch, give him a chance to take the team forward, but if as predicted he lacks the top level managerial skills then identify the right manager to make the final step and bring him in, he will certainly be better off with having a disciplined, competent squad than by having serial issues to address.
Liverpool v Everton
Dear Esteemed MC,
I noticed lots of chat from Liverpool fans in the mailbox this morning but no response from the blues (much like last night) so thought I’d take up the mantle.
In all honesty, though, there isn’t much to add as we were absolutely shocking. We’ve put up some terrible performances at Anfield over the years but I don’t recall us just giving up quite like that before.
Morgan Schneiderlin, in particular, deserves to be fired. I don’t mean sold. I don’t mean loaned out. I don’t mean “left to rot” in the reserves as that would be disrespectful to the reserves many of whom, I am led to believe, are reasonably professional. I mean fired as in “here’s your P45, get out”. If that sounds hyperbolic then I would suggest watching this video and considering if this is the behaviour of an elite athlete who is being paid 125k per week to shield our defence: https://twitter.com/KiieranFiitz/status/1213941768456196096/video/1
If there is one good thing to have come from last night it is that the scale of Don Carlo’s task was laid before him – and he must be wondering what on earth he has got himself into. I suspect his drawing board probably looks something like this today:
1. Should never play again
2. Replace urgently
3. Replace soon (brackets = approaching retirement)
*to be honest, though, even a few of these would ideally be squad players.
Sidibe – Mixed performances but he’s still settling in. On loan so might not want to hang around anyway.
Kean – Who even knows at this point? We may have broken him forever.
Gomes – I like him a lot but he might never be the same again after that injury.
Gbamin – Could be like a new signing!
Good grief, what a shit-show – and to think of the money we’ve spent to assemble it too. It’s almost as though Steve Walsh, Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce were on some sort of Brewster’s Millions challenge.
If Mino Raiola can get Jesse Lingard a move out of Old Trafford, then he is welcome to do what he likes with Paul Pogba.
Maybe some type of buy one get one free deal.
FA Cup Winners & Losers
Rochdale – An exciting replay earned at St James’ Park. I believe I heard that this fixture had never been played before, now twice this month!
Burnley – Scoring four in a competitive match for the first time since 22/09/18 against Bournemouth.
Tom Eaves – The Scouser scored a hat-trick including a late winner, before sleeping with the match ball and dreaming of a 4th Round tie against his boyhood team, Liverpool
Sheffield Wednesday – Called upon the spirit of ’93 to upset (a much-changed) Brighton at the Amex.
Adam Idah – Just days after his Premier League debut, Idah has an FA Cup fat-trick to go with it after Norwich’s 4-2 victory at Deepdale.
Smallbone & Vokins – The two 19 year-old Southampton Academy graduates were both making their full debuts, and both scored to put Southampton through.
Oxford United – Showing strong cup form to match their league form this season. A club seemingly on the up.
Tranmere – To come back from 3-0 down away at Premier League Watford shows some real cojones!
QPR – As mentioned in 16 conclusions, they are suddenly full of goals!
Northampton Town – A strong performance and four goals away at Burton.
Wayne Rooney – Influential in Derby’s upset at Palace. I’d quite forgotten that he was still playing!
Jurgen Klopp – As a Liverpool fan, I was expecting a probable defeat when I saw the two lineups, but the players who came in seemed to replicate many of the qualities of the first team. That is a huge tick against the coaching that Klopp has put in place. After being fortunate to get to half time level, the second half was complete control from the men/boys in Red.
Curtis Jones – What. A. Goal!
Mourinho – Put out a full strength team but will now need to face a replay. You just know he would love to win a trophy, and this is by far his best chance.
Man Utd – No shots on target in a domestic game for the first time since 2015, and another match to squeeze in during an already busy January. Wolves have become United’s bogey team.
Woves – They really didn’t need another game either did they?
Milivojevic – Sent off after Michael Oliver consulted the pitch-side monitor, the first time this has happened. It certainly appeared the correct decision though, and as pointed out by Ed, the subsequent ban is the last thing Palace needed at the moment.
Crystal Palace – A cup run could have provided some added drama for fans of a team who look like they will be ensconced safely in mid-table.
The Magic of the Cup TM – Only put this one in here for Jonny Nic really!
Everton – No trophy since 1995. No win at Anfield since 1999. As mentioned above, Everton actually started fairly well, carving out several decent chances. The finishing wasn’t quite there though. and Adrian was equal to their efforts. What happened after the break though? Everton were barely in a game that was being controlled by youngsters and bit-part players. Where do Everton go from here? Ancelotti was certainly the most decorated manager available to them, and seems quite the coup. Is he the right man though? Only time will tell, but there does not appear to be an overriding plan at Everton, in stark contrast to their Red neighbours.
Vinny (LFC) Colchester
The temptations to replace an injured player
Can someone please explain to me why top class substitutes tend not to have their shirts or boots on ready to come on just in case of a sudden injury.
At the Liverpool and Everton game I saw the ever professional James Milner slow his injury departure from the pitch allowing his replacement to get his gear together in order to come on
If a professional coach or ex footballer could explain that would be great
Tony Laforce, Hackney, London
Ole vs young Alex CVs
Yaru from Malaysia really doesn’t provide a fair comparison between Ole and Ferguson’s records before getting the Utd job.
Solskjaer’s early domestic success at Molde could probably be compared to Ferguson’s with Aberdeen, but it was followed by total failure at Cardiff and then a return to Molde where he won nothing in next 3 years.
OTOH, in addition to domestic success with Aberdeen, Ferguson won 2 European trophies. Aberdeen went unbeaten in the Cup Winner’s Cup – beating Bayern Munich in quarters and then Real Madrid in the final – and then went on to beat European Champions Hamburg to win the Super Cup.
Ferguson also took Scotland to the ’86 World Cup in very challenging circumstances, having to take over after legendary manager Jock Stein died during the final qualifying game.
Solskjaer had a few years of purely domestic success, followed by 4 years of failure or mediocrity before getting Utd job simply because he was an ex-player.
Ferguson had 8 years of domestic success, combined with European success, and national team/World Cup experience to boot, and had been pursued for years by the biggest British clubs as one of the best managers around.
There’s nothing on Solskjaer’s resume to suggest an ability to manage at highest level, while Ferguson had already managed (and won trophies) at highest level for years when he got the Utd job.
Stop getting Aberdeen wrong
As someone born and bred in Aberdeen, who grew up supporting the Dons alongside the Reds, it infuriates me when someone links Ferguson at Aberdeen to Solskjaer at United as Yaru did this morning.
There’s a few things you have to consider. Firstly, the Scottish First division then was far, far superior to the Norweigen league now. It’s easy to forget, but Scottish football used to be good. Both Celtic and Rangers made the quarter finals of the European cup in that period, so for Ferguson to smash the Old Firm duopoly was quite impressive.
But more importantly, Ferguson’s greatest achievement was not just winning the league for Aberdeen. He won the European Cup Winners Cup. With Aberdeen. Now, I hear you ask, who did he beat along the way? Well, Bayern Munich in the quarter finals and Real Madrid in the final. Yup, that Real Madrid. With Aberdeen. He also won the Super Cup the next season.
So before saying Solskjaer has a similar track record to Ferguson, check the history first.
Mike, LFC, London
I’m no lover of Fergie but Yaru in his comparision of Fergie to Ole ” some guy winning leagues in Scotland “Fergie also won multiple cups in that League which at the time was a far stronger league than the Norwegian one Ole won.(see Dundee United reaching the European cup semi in the same era. Winning in Camp Nou! Imagine that now!)
Fergie also won 2 European trophies with Aberdeen. The first one beating Bayern Munich in the semi before then beating the mighty Real Madrid in the final! And had turned down Arsenal the season before. Lets keep it real.
When Ole inevitably gets sacked he will not get another gig in the Premiership!
When Alex Ferguson joined United he had won the Scottish league three times, the cup for times and a European trophy. With Aberdeen! That’s slightly more impressive than winning the Norwegian League (and a lot better than being relegated with Cardiff).
What other traits could Ole adopt from Fergie?
Quite liked Yaru, Malaysia’s email on Ole. It made me think that if Ole sticks to Fergie’s policy on never singling-out a player in the media… what other traits could/should he adopt?
Remember the times Fergie would get asked a ridiculous question? He’d mutter something aggressive, glare at the journalist, whisper something to that woman sat next to him then the journo would disappear for a few years.
The two highlights of Ole’s press conferences were “I’m going to be successful here, some of these players are not” and his little bite at Van Persie (not that Robin was wrong that the smiling can grate…), but more of this please.
Sign a shitload of cheap players
Dan James has been a success, as was Chicharito, Evra, Vidic, Ronaldo, Nani. Bebe, Anderson, Owen, Obertan, Bellion were not successes. The scattergun approach works. Signing Harry Maguire for £80m looks worse business than Matic (we did get 6 f***ing good months out of him before he went into sem-retirement), but a couple of cheap gems can make up for the flops. Waiting for every player to mature may have worked 10 years ago – before maturity cost at least £50m for a 21 year old right back.
Who wouldn’t love it if Ole kicked a boot into Pogba’s eye before selling him to that mob in summer?
Just sell the fat ****
Suppose the key thing is to drop the nice guy approach. It’s not us.
It’s probably not about the money?
Having read John Nicholson’s take on the ‘dying’ FA Cup, I think he’s wrong, very wrong.
This is about the players.
Today’s players are highly tuned professional athletes. This isn’t the 1980s (and even the 90s) anymore. Players don’t win a game then go out on the p**s.
Players every step is monitored. Their diet meticulously prepared. Each club has an army of medical professionals, each a specialist in their given field, who’s job is to keep the players fit and healthy.
Now, in the 3rd round, there are six knockout games you would have to play to win… With, obviously, no guarantee you will do that.
So what do managers do? They take the opportunity to rest players. (Note the difference from the QF onwards)
Prize money (in total) for winning the FA Cup is actually £6.8m… Or 3 Premier League places. So the financial argument is null and void in my opinion.
It’s a competition most have little chance of actually winning, so why risk your top players? Especially against lower league opposition and Everton.
Obviously the FA cup’s magic is gone/back/still there and the premier league teams can’t be arsed with it/rotate/play the kids. Johnny Nic suggests that, if agreeable, there isn’t a replay and the game goes to pens. Now I love pens, especially after extra time, but I don’t think that’s the way to go. Here’s my pennies worth on alternatives:
- The team lower in the league at ko has a half a goal bonus. No replays then.
- In the event of a draw a team can forfeit their place and the money they would have earned on average attendance goes to the other side.
- League appearance limit that increases with each roun
- Golden goal from the first minute
- Every 15 minutes the value of a goal goes up by one. Much less likely to be a draw
- Award every actual foul in the box as a penalty, including holding at corners and swearing the ref
- Billion pound teams who actually don’t want an extra game to shut up and play more risk taking football that avoids a draw
- Don’t play Arsenal or Everton when trying to get knocked out of the cup
Pretty sure one of them will do it.
Alex, South London