Not a classic Mailbox by any means. Make this better, people. Mail email@example.com with your top four predictions.<
Get him on the plane
So where’s Andy Carroll on the World Cup ladder now?
Kev (keeping the faith since 2012), Bedford
England has chosen festive football over the World Cup
I love festive football as much as the next fan. It’s traditional, it’s wonderful, it’s a huge selling point for the Premier League.
But how many injuries were suffered as a result of the jam-packed schedule? How much fatigue is in the players limbs? These winter games were bloody tough this year – it’s never been faster, never been harder.
Thanks to our teams much-improved performances in the Champions League, all of the major clubs will play a serious amount of fixtures this year.
Either competing to get into next season’s UCL and fighting for trophies will mean the vast majority of our players will be looking at 60+ games this year. High intensity , fast-paced , pressure-laden games.
Come the World Cup, they will be knackered *again*. Wonderful though Harry Kane is, for example, he was a shadow of himself at the Euros. It’s not hard to see it happening again. How much can Tottenham ever afford to rest him?
How can any England manager have a chance when the schedule is this brutal?
We’ve looked exhausted so often at the major tournaments, it’s got to be worth trying something different. Scrap the League Cup, put in a winter break, cut the Premiership down by two clubs, give our guys a chance.
Reckon 50+ years of trying this schedule hasn’t worked, let’s give something else a bash.
But England will win the World Cup
In 2010, Spain won the World Cup whilst Pep Guardiola managed in Spain.
In 2014, Germany won the World Cup whilst Guardiola managed in Germany.
In 2018, Guardiola manages in England.
You heard it here first.
George, SWFC (fully expect some people to take this seriously)
Not wanting your club to buy the title
Ross THFC hit a proverbial nail right on the head in yesterdays mailbox and it got me pondering what I value in football.
The wages on offer to players (and top dollar paid to sign them) are entirely out of whack and Spurs (and to a lesser extent my beloved Arsenal) are facing up hill battles to stick to wage structures and chase competitiveness on multiple fronts.
What annoys me about the rhetoric surrounding Arsenal is an extension of this – the assertion that Arsenal have stuck to their disciplined wage structure through the stadium repayment years and now we should be breaking the bank and paying even more obscene money to achieve glory.
But the world we are competing in has changed since 2006 and nobody predicted by 2018 there would be regular transfer fees approaching/over £100m and wages over £250,000 being casually discussed.
Not to get all misty eyed, but when I fell in love with football it was with gritty results forged against the odds, intensely loyal and passionate players facing off, beautiful football ‘done right’ and youngsters come good. Not discussing the money that changes hands for a player, or how much he’s paid.
Too often I find these elements lacking recently.
And so I find myself conflicted – I want the team I have supported for over 30 years to succeed of course, but I genuinely don’t want them to pay their way to success.
Frankly, the level of wages already forked out makes me a bit sick and I’m not sure for how much longer I can turn a blind eye to the excess and waste the sport is party to.
So sure I applaud Tottenham for their over-achievement, their approach to nurturing young talent and their (thus far) steadfastness against the rising tide of wage hyperinflation.
However, It’s disturbing that this is a large part of the conversation around football and even deserving of mention or recognition.
Drew, Oz – Happy New Year from Down Under
A suggestion to level the playing field
It is an inescapable fact that Man. City are where they are today due to their spending power. It goes all the way back to the demonstration given when they bought Robinho on the last day of the window simply because they could.
The best way to get around the financial advantage is to limit other aspects in some way.
How about this for an idea. It’s just an idea so stay with me!
Every Premier League club is allowed a squad of 22 players named in advance of the season starting (the window closes before the seasons starts). Then, and here’s the clever bit, no player can play more than, say, 25 games per season. This limits the advantage of the financial benefits and will ensure more even games and encourage the managers to play the best players in top six matches improving the spectacle yet allowing non-top six teams a better chance. It will also have the same effect on six pointers nearer the bottom.
Can we stop defining a handball by whether or not it’s ‘deliberate?’ Whenever there’s a controversial call, commentators and pundits go back to this useless term, as if more than the occasional Luis Suarez diving save is actually deliberate.
We seem to question the player’s conscious or subconscious intentions. The term “deliberate” seems to confuse everyone and is strangely accusatory. And there’s a much better way to determine whether it’s a handball.
Clearly the more useful term is ‘avoidable’. We always look at whether the player could have moved his arm away in time or if his arm was in an unnatural position. In these cases, the handball is avoidable. If the ball came at him at high speed from point blank range, it’s unavoidable and therefore not a handball. Same if he slips or is looking in the opposite direction.
It’s a pet peeve of mine. Can everyone please just agree with me?
Josh (LFC if it matters) Johannesburg
Ed’s Palace thoughts
Every time I write in I mention how Crystal Palace are single-handedly keeping this season interesting. Well, tonight I’m buzzing as they’ve just taken an important step towards both Premier League survival.
* While analysing Crystal Palace v Manchester City, Leon Osman said on Match of the Day 2 that what the Eagles did well was to get the crowd involved, largely through making a visible and obvious effort with their every action. As such, it was a sluggish and clearly knackered Palace side that made the trip to Southampton.
* The PFM cliches of “putting a shift in” and “having a go” have largely been phased out, they do still apply to the Crystal Palace players who faced Soton, as they worked their backsides off, despite the weather conditions and heavy surface.
* Roy Hodgson raised some eyebrows with his team selection. He reverted to a five-man midfield, and with his team selections. Patrick van Aanholt and Jairo Riedewald, who impressed against Manchester City, both dropped to the bench. Jeffrey Schlupp was preferred at left-back, while Riedewald made way for James McArthur, presumably because Hodgson didn’t feel that Sofiane Boufal or Dusan Tadic merited the kind of man-marking job Riedewald did on Kevin de Bruyne (good to see he was playing tonight, by the way).
While his appointment saw him lumped in with other British managers of similar vintage – the sort who seem to have Palace on their CV anyway – he has shown himself to be more tactically astute than many of his fellow aged Brits, almost to the point where he could start his wife up front and we’d still trust in the plan. Well, sort of.
* It often feels like goal droughts, winless streaks and other unwanted records fall against Palace more often than against other sides. I’m not sure if that’s just because I’m paying closer attention. Anyway, true to form, Shane Long scored his first goal in almost a year to give Soton the lead. It was a well-taken strike, by all accounts, Long showing poise completely at odds with someone who hadn’t scored for ages.
* Palace changed their shape at half-time to a 4-4-2. In a throwback to the Alan Pardew days, the Eagles made a substitution at half-time, bringing on van Aanholt for Yohan Cabaye. He played wide on the left while Wilfried Zaha moved up front in support of Christian Benteke.
The visitors then made a second substitution on 64 minutes. Bakary Sako entered the fray, in place of Schlupp, which moved van Aanholt to left-back while Sako played on the left wing. Five minutes after coming on, he won a free kick wide left. The ball was played in and McArthur, following up a header from Benteke, levelled the game. Obligatory reference to how much I like James McArthur and what he brings to the team, but that was his fifth goal of the season.
* To Soton’s credit, they wanted to win the game. With 15 minutes remaining, they removed Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in favour of Manolo Gabbiadini, and later replaced Tadic with Nathan Redmond. However, this second (well, actually their third) change backfired immediately. As the Eagles moved upfield, Andros Townsend played a one-two with Sako before passing to Luka Milivojevic, who slammed home from the edge of the area.
* After this, Palace held on for the win, a tremendous result against a rival in the relegation battle. If they’d lost, then the draw with Manchester City would have been all for nought. As it is, they now have a trip to Brighton on Monday, for which they have time to recover, and for which Hodgson may decide to rotate the squad. In the past two games the Eagles have used 17 players (starters or subs), and have taken a point from a clean sheet against the runaway leaders and beaten a close rival. Whoever gets the nod to face Albion, it may not be the regular starters, but it cannot be described as a weakened side.
Hodgson has proved his worth in one respect by working wonders with limited options. However, the next task is to show he can improve the squad with acquisitions, which ideally need to come early in the window to allow maximum time to settle in. Whatever happens, there’s the kind of optimism around the club that only comes from collective spirit of everyone working together and everything paying off, and as a result there is an implicit trust in Hodgson from the supporters.
Why Pardew has to go
Ben The Baggie
Czech predictions revisited
Hello and happy new everything to you all. Seeing as the football has its winter break here in the Czech Republic (it’s three months long, for crying out loud!), I decided to revisit my pre-season predictions to see how I’m doing. I’m sure you all remember them very well, and, more to the point, care deeply about whether I was right or not.
– Zbrojovka should be better off for goals this year, and the defence should have been tightened up.
Well… no. At the start of the season, coach Svatopluk Habanec (who’d had over a year and his choice of players brought in) managed to make Palace look like the ghost of Rinus Michels’ Ajax; Kone worked hard but was totally isolated up front, Fortes showed flashes of promise but no real end product, the defence was leakier than a Welsh picnic (not helped by Tomáš Jablonský’s career-ending injury after 18 minutes of the season), and midfield did a decent impression of those penguins on the Falkland islands watching fighter planes zip endlessly overhead.
Cut to now. Habanec was unceremoniously dragged off with the big hooky stick, and replaced with Roman Pivarnik. With the same group of players (plus Portuguese full-back Chico, who’s become a bit of a cult hero already), the team already looks solid, organised and like it has a plan. Slowly, slowly, we’re scrabbling our way out of trouble.
– After Slavia Prague taking the league last season, Viktoria Plzeň will challenge again with their lovely football and ugly shirts, as will Sparta.
Oh my word, yes. Viktorka are 16 points clear after 16 games, having conceded five goals all season. Ridiculous. As for Sparta? They’re languishing in fifth, after the appointment of former Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni was followed by a rather scattergun transfer policy and general unrest among supporters who just don’t think Stramaccioni understands the club. That’s plus points to him, in my opinion.
– There will be some oddity pushing the top clubs along. I’m backing Slovan Liberec to improve markedly.
Give that man a glass of syrup. Liberec sit snugly in fourth. Not the most scintillating side to watch, they’re just quietly doing their thing. However…
– For the drop? Jihlava can’t sustain their level of cliff-hangery much longer. Sigma Olomouc, despite winning the 2.Liga, I think will struggle due to an inability to attract fresh blood.
One place above Liberec in third, are Sigma. Last season’s 2. Liga champions continue to pull trousers down around the country on their return to the top flight. Jihlava, though, are stark, stinking bottom. I fear this might be the year they go, which will rob Brno of a decent derby up in the mountains there. They’re joined in the two relegation places by Baník Ostrava, who brought their particular brand of fascistic destruction to Brno on the opening day of the season, sparking a massive to-do between home fans and the away end, ending with the destruction of a perfectly innocent beer tent, and many arrests. Since then, they’ve done little of note on the pitch, and the sooner we see the back of them, the better.
So there you have it. We now have the second half of the season to look forward to, beginning, for us, with a trip to Bohemians Prague (best away day of the season) the day after my birthday. Lovely.
David (Coventry City & Zbrojovka Brno) Szmidt, Brno, Czech Rep.
Why the hate?
Yet again the comments section is filled with people who seem to disagree/hate every article & writer on the site. Honestly, why do you bother? Why do you repeatedly read and then take the time to comment on something that you don’t like? It can’t be healthy.
Why do something several times a day that makes you angry? If you don’t like the views, stop reading them. Start a blog, start your own site, do something better yourself. I know not every piece here is a good piece but there’s a cabal of commenters that never have a positive contribution to make. It’s a pity all the would-be, future award winning football writers are just hanging out in comment sections all day.
Lee (dons tin hat)