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This Villa/Arsenal ‘rivalry’ really needs to be put into context.
Arsenal currently have the worst ownership in our history. Their lack of investment or interest in the club has seen the club fall away like wet cake.
This ownership is so bad that they throw good money after bad and we really wouldn’t be in this position if they followed the example of great Arsenal owners of the past – keeping your cards close to your chest, acting proactively and with forethought and having an actual strategy of where they want to take the club.
And yet, despite our worst season in 25 years, despite the fact we finished eighth for a successive season and despite the fact we have a rookie in charge, we still finished ABOVE Villa last season who have infinitely better owners than we do.
Arsenal are reaching the tipping point. That club can’t exist without its fans and recent polls show the Kroenkes command just 1% of fan support.
Once they’re gone, the club will rise again and any remaining comparisons with Villa will be restricted to our relative positions in alphabetical order.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Football is art
I just wanted to write in and say how much I f*cking love football. This Euros has been one of the best in recent memory, and I mean that in relation to the quality of games, the level of competition (despite us still being in a pandemic), the upsets and of course England turning up for the first time in my 32 years on this blue-but-getting-less-blue-every-day-planet.
What I love the most though, is how even a sport creates such incredible narrative. Regardless of what happens on Sunday, Gareth Southgate’s redemption story is straight out of Hollywood. Don’t be surprised to see a biopic on him in the next 5 years in a similar vein to The Damned United, especially if England win the bloody thing. It’s taken a while, but GS has turned us all (well, most of us) into believers.
The other thing that you couldn’t make up is how Italians have jumped on our ‘It’s coming home’ and morphed it into ‘It’s coming to Rome’. Either way, it’s coming home or Rome and I crack a wry smile at the poetic beauty in that. I’m not sure where I’m going with this anymore, it’s Friday and I think I’m still slightly hungover.
Crossing everything, praying to the old gods and the new for Football to come home on Sunday.
Lee (I do wish Boris the plastic fan would f*ck off though), LFC
I don’t need England to win on Sunday to be happy
I just wanted to echo the thoughts of Sarah Winterburn, in particular that I don’t necessarily need England to win on Sunday to be quite a happy person.
Before everyone jumps down my throat, of course I want England to win, and it would definitely make the day even better. But in a couple of months’ time that would have faded, as we all return to club tribalism, whereas the sheer pride of watching this England team will still be there. I’ve witnessed two consecutive tournaments where England have been good value and progressed, beating the odd good team along the way, while also generally not being massive berks.
While there are clearly still issues around following this team (booing taking the knee from fans being a prime example), it really does feel like things have been improving on all fronts, and I genuinely didn’t think I would be able to say that about England 5 years ago. It’s not that we are suddenly the bestest team ever, it’s just that I actually look forward to international breaks now, and the whole England set up really does deserve credit for that.
Regarding a prediction, I said during the Scotland game to my soon to be father in law that we would lose in the final to Italy… hope I’m wrong, but can say with absolute certainty that losing won’t tarnish how I feel about this team.
Finally, hopefully people can now see the value in Maguire – much like Van Dijk or Dias, he just spreads confidence and improves the players around him. It’s hard to quantify, and I’m not going to make myself look a fool by claiming he was value for money at £80m, but he is a very important player for club and country.
Jack (Is there a chance that none of the players will be scapegoated by the media?) Manchester
Read with interest Sarah Winterburn’s article. I feel much the same in that I am already happy with what England have achieved. I wouldn’t quite go as far as saying I am ‘apathetic’, but somehow it doesn’t feel quite as critical as the Semi vs Denmark.
Yes Italy are on a long streak. It’s impressive, but then analyse who they have played since their last loss: Ukraine, Poland x3, USA, Finland x 2, Liechtenstein x 2, Greece x 2, Bosnia x 4, Armenia x 2, NL x 2, Moldova, Estonia, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Lithuania, San Marino, Czech Republic. Then at the Euros: Turkey, Switzerland, Wales & Austria. Then two games which can actually be deemed a challenge, Belgium and Spain.
It must be said that they’ve had the harder route to the final but it’s marginal. They’re on an impressive run, but realistically, apart from their last two games, who have they played of any real quality?
Italy deserve to be in the Final. I agree with Sarah though, I am nowhere near as nervous for this as I was vs Denmark. The England boys broke that glass ceiling of first beating Germany, then getting through a semi-final. They’re already winners. Yes I hope they can go all the way. Yes I believe they deserve to be there. Italy are a good ‘Team’ but so are England. I think we are equally matched and whilst Italy are on a good run, their list of opponents provides some much needed perspective.
I’ll be cheering like crazy for England on Sunday, but whatever the outcome, I can live with it…
England are efficient, not heroic
Yes,getting to the first final since ‘66 is a wonderful achievement, but one of the tournament favourites beating underdogs, with every match bar one (against the mighty Ukraine) being played at home, doesn’t sound overly heroic.
Efficient yes, but you can’t paint them as brave, heroes. Especially after beating a side in the semis, with a VERY soft penalty, who had one of their best players actually almost die in the first match.
The heroes of the Euros have been Denmark and Hungary. It’s not bitter to say that no England fan could really have hand-picked an easier route to the final.
This is not anti-England, it’s just maybe a bit more balanced.
Good luck to both sides on Sunday.
(Don’t even get me started on how you’d think England are the only nation affected by a GLOBAL pandemic!)
Why Southgate’s team outperforms the Golden Generation
It would be hard to argue that on an individual level this England team is any better than the so-called Golden Generation of Beckham, Lampard, Ferdinand, Terry, and Rooney et al. Yet in just two tournaments they have out-achieved their predecessors by some considerable distance. Why?
For me it’s all about ego and self opinion. The Golden Generation took football from an age where only the most talented players finished their careers as multi-millionaires to an age where fringe players like Shane Long and Divock Origi can earn £75k a week and retire with in excess of £10m in the bank. I’ve just learned that Manchester United’s Brandon Williams, who has never been a regular first teamer, is on £80k a week at just 20 years of age!
When Beckham and his band of merry mercenaries were signing contracts worth anything between £100k and £300k a week they were breaking barriers – and they could not believe their good fortune. They were the first generation of footballers to break into the mega-rich category. The outgoing stars of yesteryear – Shearer, Gascoigne, Adams, Ince, Sheringham, etc – never earned anywhere near that kind of money from football alone. Indeed, it was well known that the better paid English players of that time would taunt opponents (English and foreign) on the pitch, during games, about how much they earned.
The Golden Generation signed those big contracts and thought they had made it before the ink dried, simply because their contracts made them the richest footballers in the history of the game. They bought flash cars and mock Tudor houses. They holidayed in Dubai and gave their WAGS gold credit cards. They rehoused their parents, often moving them from grotty estates to multi-million pound mansions. They got tattoos and stupid haircuts. They spent their money like it was going out of fashion as they lauded their obscene wealth over a nation of football fan paupers and mistook it for success.
One obvious downside of this was the effect it had on their international careers. Called up for England duty, they reluctantly left the adulation and safety of club football for the cauldron of the international game, shit scared of making an error and terrified of being crucified by the national press, who would sneer at what they earned whenever they lost. They refused to gel as a team, instead sticking to their club cliques, only mixing with other players when they needed to tap them up to get them to sign for Liverpool. They even sneered at teammates from smaller clubs on lesser wages. Ego became the confirmed enemy of football.
Fast forward to today and today’s England team. Like their predecessors, they are all on stupid money. The difference now, though, is they are not the first players to be in such a position. Yes, they have the cars, the houses and the gold credit cards but they know they can have so much more. The bank balances and asset sheets, eye-watering as they are, are now nothing new. If you are on £200k a week why not give it your all to see if you can get someone to pay you £300k a week? Or more. Bale got £600k a week at Madrid. There’s always something better to aim for now. Why strut around as if you’ve made it simply because you’re on more money than some of your colleagues?
Obscene wages are no longer a novelty. They now come with the territory. If you are a regular, full England international playing the in the Premier League the least you can expect is a £5m basic salary. That kind of money no longer makes you stand out. Ergo, it no longer diminishes professional hunger and desire. Anyone can earn £100k a week. It doesn’t make you special anymore. You still need to concentrate on your career.
The Golden Generation paved the way for modern football wages. But these wages no longer dazzle players: Unlike the Golden Generation who could not believe their luck, modern players now know what kind of earnings they can expect. Likewise the media have got used to what footballers earn and, in the main (as long as they’re white), no longer draw so much attention to it.
Consequently, since the normalisation of Premier League wages, instead of feeling they’ve made it as soon as they have a few million quid in the bank, modern players are hungry to see just how far they can take their careers. The money must be nice, of course, but it is no longer the be all and end all, or even a distraction. It is simply expected as part of the package of being a top level footballer. The real glory in the modern game comes from adulation. And rather than being adored by a single set of club fans today’s players have recognised that national heroism will make their lives even better and their wallets even fatter.
Mort Snort, Saints
Delayed England-Denmark thoughts
So, I watched the match about 18 hours late (I live in Singapore where it was 3-5am on a school night), and despite my best intentions I knew the score before it started. Which gives an interesting perspective because all the emotion of not knowing was gone. What I thought was startling was:
– England were clearly technically superior to Denmark, as they have been in against all their opponents in this tournament
– England were also tactically superior – all the players knew what they were doing and were in positions they could play, they were playing to a system, when Denmark changed Southgate saw it and knew how to react
– This was a comfortable victory by a team that was much superior to the opposition. The defence hardly ever looked troubled and has so far only conceded to a brilliant free kick that you can’t prevent; the midfield has been on top for the majority of every game; the attack looks varied and consistently threatening. Denmark had a couple of decent 10 minute spells, but nothing more
– The strength in depth is massive – Henderson, Trippier, Foden, Sancho, Grealish, Rashford is some serious depth, and we have CL-winning fullbacks who can’t make it on to the bench
– This seems to be partly the result of a grassroots up FA effort at developing talent, instilling technique and changing coaching methods. And partly the result of an understatedly brilliant English coach
– And the team is likeable for both England fans and neutrals (no need for a Jimmy Bullard led non-c***s fantasy side)
All of which, as an England supporter of 25 years, are astonishing things to write – you’d only need to re-read the mailboxes after any of our other tournaments to find post-mortems that accurately state the polar opposite of all these statements. Regardless of what happens in the final, Bravo to all involved.
Tim Colyer, England and Chelsea fan, Singapore
PS. Please keep separating the miserablists into their own dedicated Mailbox, so the rest of it can swerve it entirely J
Requesting some analysis
Yes, we’re all giddy with anticipation, Gareth knighthood, etc…but please could we get some actual analysis beyond basic fanboy.
Specifically, how we match up to Italy – do we, for instance, match the Spanish blueprint and hassle Jorginho out of the game. Is 3-4-3 a matchwinner or a massive come-on for Italy? Defensive counter-attack vs a team that does it incredibly successfully?
As part of this, the Danish game pivoted around the 60th minute with their subs and Grealish coming on – I’d love to hear some expert views on this and any possible implications?
Pickford kept smashing it long and giving the ball away, Walker crossed the halfway line after halftime with great effect, Phillips looked headless (and is it, therefore, time for Hendo?). Sancho for Saka?
Guys – I’d love some actual analysis to go with my blind jingoism.
Enjoy the dream
My team got to their first cup final when I was 17. It was 26 years before we got to another one. In both we were winning but then went on to lose, but in those moments it was an incredible feeling to know that my team, after all this time might actually win the whole thing. As a supporter of a club that’s never won a major trophy it is quite a feeling. The lead up to the day was full of excitement.
This is where we are now with England. 1966 was so long ago that very few of us remember it. This, for us, is the first time it has happened. And right now, until 10 or 11 pm on Sunday, there is the incredible possibility of winning. This team has got us there, filled us with pride while doing so by being an antidote to the last 18 months, full of decent people, some of whom are responsible role models and a manager who seems to have the right approach to well, everything.
This time is to be enjoyed, savoured and relished. It is fleeting. We can dream each day of what might happen, who will do it and how great it will be. How we got here doesn’t matter; in our polarised society there will always be conflict and football is all about opinions, which as we know are like arseholes and often spouted by them. We are there. It is a joyous thing.
And even better, you don’t have to watch it on ITV, which surely should have its right to cover international football at least suspended if not banned altogether. The commentary was unbelievable, with so many ‘did he really just say that??’ moments, and the ‘punditry’ descended into something akin to a drunken fan’s podcast. These people are paid to be professional and most of them failed abysmally. In any other job that would be gross incompetence and would have you booted through a door marked ‘do one’.
So there is everything to look forward to and a wonderful, dreaming weekend ahead. Enjoy it.
Rob Duffy, CPFC
I won’t be supporting England on Sunday. But I won’t be rooting against them either. And as a proud Scot, that says a lot of how likeable this England team is. I used to loathe the England football team. It was easy to. John Terry, Gary Neville, Ashely Cole, Wayne Rooney. Not a particularly likeable bunch. Rioting fans and blatant xenophobia made it very easy to want them to lose.
This team is different. There’s not a single player I take against, and many that I really admire. In Southgate you have a really decent bloke in charge. Even the fans seem better. Yes, the odd minority booed a protest against racism (sorry, booed a Marxist plot to take over the world), but the vast majority cheered and drowned out the boos.
I bet on Italy at the start of the tournament so for purely financial reasons I should want Italy to win. But if they don’t, I really won’t be that bothered because a very deserving, likeably team would have won it.
Mike, LFC, London
It’s churlish to do anything other than give credit to Southgate; But that being said there is a lot that’s happened that’s akin to him being a ‘lucky general’ – which is not a bad thing.
take the squad harmony. what he’s managed is more than any other england manager has done in recent memory; perhaps since Robson – though i was only very young at the time.
But it should also be noted Southgate inherited players from LFC and Man Utd squads with no Scousers & the main Manc being Saint Rashford. So none of the inerrant bitterness or cliques there, nor the lingering mindset of Fergie/Neville. No Chelsea players schooled under Jose. the ‘nice boys’ from Arsenal and Spurs rather than anything inherently vicious. Does anyone care enough about City players to hate them? Had they ever even met Bellingham or Sancho? Its far easier to build bonds and trust between players that don’t already want to work against eachother.
as a comparator, Klopp got a great deal of credit for building an amazing team spirit. But Rodgers did have something of a hospital pass, inheriting a team where Carragher and Gerrard needed phasing out. Where other senior players like Reina and Agger were actively disruptive and playing nowhere near the level they should be, or at a level that supported their self perceived importance. Where as the senior members of the squad Klopp inherited were James Milner, Henderson, Lallana, Lucas, Joe Allen, Lovren.
basically, if Mourinho or someone of his ilk takes over at a top 6 club again, and needs to foster an us / them attitude, it may not take much for this england squad harmony to take a few backwards steps.
Not saying this to undermine what Gareth has built. What I’m suggesting is this window of the whole squad being just utterly likable may not be a forever kind of thing, so we should doubly, triply be enjoying it. There but for the grace of god go we, but we could soon be akin to the French team of this tournament. I’m certainly hoping this carries on, until ‘arry Kane spear-tackles someone again, or we find Rashford’s school meals are in fact some Soylent Green style horror 🙂
OK, so nothing original here, but I’ve compiled a combined England/Italy XI. Set out in a 4231, although it can shift to a 433 at short notice:
GK – Donnarumma – Pickford has had a good tournament and has exceeded expectations, but I’d take Donnarumma every day. He’s made people forget that Buffon used to be there, which is a big old ask!
LB – Shaw – Spinazzola was having a great competition but I think Shaw is stronger defensively. Marginal call but probably not a contentious one. Emerson is a genuine weak spot for England to attack on Sunday
CB – Chiellini – Captain, Leader, Legend. Also not a massive c*nt which plays in his favour
CB – Maguire – OK I’ll concede this isn’t exactly a pacey partnership, but this pair would be strong in the air, vocal, organised and resolute. Both Stones and Bonucci are unlucky to miss out – if you want to sub in either here I would disagree but not throw my toys out of the pram
RB – Walker – his recovery pace has been mentioned on a site not a million miles from here, as have his mistakes, but I think in general he has been a solid performer. Arguably the weakest spot in the team
DM – Jorginho – I mean talk about him winning the Ballon D’Or is daft, but he has had a great tournament and I don’t think people will argue with his inclusion
DM – Rice – toss up between him and Phillips, I’ve gone with Rice mainly just to annoy Irish people (FYI, my dad is Irish but I speak with a Mancunian accent – listen to Rice and tell me he is Irish! If he wasn’t good at football you’d all be giggling if he mentioned his Irish heritage – trust me, I’ve experienced it)
AM – Sterling – no brainer, arguably the player of the tournament. Definitely in the team of the tournament. Also, yes, it was clearly a dive but I promise you I don’t care
AM – Mount – I’m a long way from his biggest fan, but if Mount can win the battle with Jorginho then I think England stand a chance
AM – Chiesa – another player who has really helped to define the tournament, and his goal vs. Spain was absolutely lovely. Also, just looks Italian which scores you bonus points
FW – Kane – Immobile is a very good player, but I don’t think this is a controversial pick
I’ve ended up with a side dominated by England despite me thinking that Italy are favourites, so to echo the point in the morning mailbox, armchair fans know nothing!
Jack (Probably missed a few really obvious picks, but think this is a pretty decent side) Manchester