Are you entertained? What’s better – Man Utd chaos or Man City control?

Editor F365
Man Utd v Man City
Man Utd v Man City

What do you want – the chaos of Man Utd or the dullness of Man City v Arsenal? Plus, views on Spurs, FFP, penalties and more.

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Do you want chaos or comfort from football?
Over here in the States, basketball fever is everywhere. March Madness is a college basketball tournament that is actually very exciting. I am not usually a basketball watcher, but due to an office bracket (Predictions on who will win), I got into it.

Some games are boring in that one team is far superior to the other, ending in a blowout. The best games have been end-to-end, sometimes with high scores, and sometimes low scoring.

In the world of football, no team exemplifies this style of entertainment more than Man Utd this season. I understand many fans prefer their team to have a more controlled and predictable approach, but for the neutral, I would have assumed chaos would be more preferred.

This weekend made me question that. Man Utd vs Brentford was not a great game to watch as a United fan, but for the neutral, there was plenty of action worth viewing. Conversely, City vs Arsenal was one of the worst games I have had the displeasure of watching, but it seemed people enjoyed it. My car was hit in a hit-and-run a few months ago and reviewing the hours of dash cam footage was a more amusing experience.

City vs Arsenal each had a top class back 4 consisting of four CB’s and world class DM in front of them, so was it a big surprise to see a slow toothless 0-0? Surely Brentford’s big, physical and direct approach were all perfect when trying to overcome this nimble, formless and meandering Man Utd? Both results were predictable, but both results were not equally entertaining – despite each being a draw. People seem annoyed at Brentford’s achievement or Man Utd’s lack thereof (or vice-versa), but reasonably satisfied with the show on offer at the Etihad.

Why is this? Would the PL be more entertaining if everyone played Pep ball or ETH ball? Do we prefer to see chaos or comfort?


Easter bunny
Bit late to the party on this but you’ve all missed the point about the City bore draw.

Arsenal were merely highlighting the importance of spending time with your family at Easter rather than watching a football match.

You’re welcome.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Yellows for tactical fouls please
The PTSD of Jose vs Rafa triggered by the City Arsenal game has passed
. Seriously, I have never seen ten players in a box defending three before by an Arsenal side. The ball was rattling around in the box because the Arsenal players were all standing so close to each other that there was no room for it to be hoofed to no one.

Arsenal’s much (self) vaunted playing the right way has turned into £100m midfielders crowding out the box to play for a nil nil with the odd chance on the break to falls to a striker that needs 5 chances to get one on target. Fair play of course, they wanted the bore draw and got one. They are proud of themselves.

And they should be if it was only them and City in the race and it secured top place, keeping their nearest challengers at arm’s length. But its not. They needed to win to stay top and, for me, they got the balance wrong.

Lots of excited Gooners excusing that performance saying they got four points off Liverpool, scored the most goals etc but they also have lost more Prem games than City and Pool, got knocked out of the FA Cup by Pool, needed pens to see off Porto and due to playing Spurs numbers of games in the cups have won fewer games than City and Liverpool. Stats work both ways.

However, for me the game management by the ref was all wrong. He’s clearly decided to not book anybody for the tactical fouls. The bookings came for Stoke delaying the restart. What this meant was no football could be played. If a game gets to 70 minutes and the ref hasn’t booked anyone for tactical fouls then the chances of goals plummets. The answer to that is that the refs need to book the players early rather than let it go. If that means sending them off then so be it.

Konate should have gone against Everton, Havertz should have gone before each of his goals, Rodri should play no more than 15 mins a game. Then players will stop aiming to foul and start playing football. The ref made that result happen. That. Is. A. Disgrace.

Still a long way to go. All three teams still in it.
Alex, South London

READ: Mikel Arteta has normalised Arsenal as title contenders and that is extraordinary


A ludicrous e-mail
Has Mikel Arteta normalised Arsenal’s title challenge as suggested by Dave Tickner? It’s a bit early to say. Last season Arsenal looked like title contenders for some of the season and achieved a decent haul of 84 points, but until they can consistently get 90 they will remain as also-rans.

Maybe they will do it this season but it looks unlikely.


Erling Haaland should be under massive scrutiny
I always enjoy the big midweek or weekend feature but I think F365 might be jumping the gun a bit to single out Jurrien Timber as the player to watch in this week’s Big Midweek feature – that is of course unless you want to watch him in the gym.

Timber featuring for Arsenal at all this season would be a huge bonus, Timber featuring at all and not suffering another niggle as is common with ACL come-backs would be another huge bonus, but I suspect Timber is still someway from making his second and proper Arsenal debut. Arsenal are talking about getting him some U21 games this month as a limit.

Might a better ‘player to watch’ be Erling Haaland, rendered ineffective by both Arsenal and Liverpool’s defences and lambasted by Roy Keane for being a League Two player in his all round game.

Whilst 4 goals in 8 games post injury is more than satisfactory for a Premier League striker, Haaland’s 4 goals have come off an xG of 6.35. Haaland hasn’t ever reached Son-like levels of over performing his xG but it is a trend he’d want to reverse in the run in. For context in the 15 games pre-injury Haaland was pretty much on a goal per game and matching his xG. I’m not suggesting Haaland is some kind of weak link in City’s treble run but if you’re going to focus players from the top 3 I’d suggest Timber is the last of the 60 odd players that should have any scrutiny or expectation on him right now.

To spark a new discussion perhaps look at who the three title-chasing teams could really not do without in the run in if an injury to strike them down. City coped okay without Haaland and Liverpool without Salah for example. Rodri is an obvious answer for City, four games missed all season and four defeats. Van Dijk would probably be Liverpool’s biggest miss. For Arsenal it might like last season be Saliba, although Rice would be a decent shout.
Rich, AFC


No delusions of grandeur from this Spurs fan
In response to Mike – Moyes Out. I’m a Spurs fan and as always not losing away at West Ham is the primary result (same for you as well). Both teams looked pretty tired, Understandably I think you went a bit safety first after the Newcastle match and we didn’t have enough vision to work through that. We had loads of the ball and did pretty much nothing with it, your counters were good and I think that got into our minds a bit too much, especially towards the end, as you said, too much respect shown from both teams.

I’ve always seen West Ham and us as teams with a very similar philosophy. The big trophies in recent times (obv the WH WC win in 66 aside) aren’t really associated with either club, but good football, a positive youth setup and the ability to royally f**k up the simplest of tasks is. Hence the Moyes out after a European shiny at top half finish.

I’m not sure what to make of our season if I’m honest. I’ve enjoyed it as a change from the Mourinho and Conte bore-fests, but get frustrated at our one-dimensional approach at times, wish we would change up our attacks and occasionally soak up some pressure, if only to keep the oppo guessing. But maybe we are at the start of the most attack minded dominant style of football that will sweep the world and we need to accept these bumps in the road, it’s what Big Ange said would happen after all. History says we aren’t though.

Personally looking at the players we currently have then I think we are underperforming a little and can be tactically out thought, we’ve played a single game more than the absolute minimum possible this season and struggling intensity wise isn’t really acceptable. I look at the Arsenal squad and don’t see huge differences with the players, but they are really nicely balanced and clearly well coached and I think Arteta deserves plenty of plaudits for making the sum of his parts far greater.

Not sure where I’m going with this other than to remind Mike that not all fans are one eyed and incapable of criticising their own clubs, mine is glorious and shi*t in fairly equal measures and I wouldn’t change it for all the shinies in the world.
Steve (THFC)


Success takes expertise and luck
On Dave’s article and also the Mailbox on Spurs being 2 players away (?) I think something about Arsenal’s rise and Liverpool under Klopp has been clarified for me this season – also, how it’s not just a case of ‘one good window’ or ‘patience in a manager’.

Basically, to get to City’s level and stay there, you need to be equal parts really lucky and good (which is more structural than anything else).

Arsenal are lucky that Arteta is as good (arguably better) than advertised. They are lucky Saka arrived at the same time as Martinelli. That Saliba stayed and formed such a partnership with Gabriel. That Rice has lived up to a £100m transfer. But also, they are good because they fixed their board structure and now have a great track record in signings. That Arteta is shaping up to be a world class manager, who is maximising the team.

Liverpool were lucky. Lucky Barcelona decided to buy Coutinho for nonsense money. Lucky that in Mane and Salah, they spent £60m and got two players who never got injured and contributed 300+ goals in 8 seasons. Lucky that Alisson, VVD and Fabinho were worth their respective record purchases. But they are good because Klopp is a world class manager, they had an incredible recruitment team and great youth backing it up.

City don’t need luck because they can always spend more, and they secured ‘good’ with Pep.

Spurs had ‘good’ in 2017, but didn’t have luck and then didn’t spend to keep that good around. United don’t know what ‘good’ looks like because the structure above manager is so abysmal. Chelsea had City’s position, but have poisoned their chalice and are having a fatal (/hilarious) run of bad luck and terrible judgement simultaneously.

But in truth you can only create one and hope for the other – one establishes the floor, the other raises your ceiling. And no one window or patience with a manager can achieve that, so really fans should push for competence first in their club and then pray to whatever god, because these things only come around once in a while (for Arsenal it has been 20+ years to be good and lucky simultaneously).
Tom, Walthamstow


Just let the clubs go bankrupt…
If you read enough fan opinions they tend to converge around two things when it comes to the Big Six and those two things are either – the league is better without them or the FFP is keeping them on the upside of the glass ceiling.

Both of these two things are wrong.

Firstly a Premier League without the Big Six is attracting about the same level of sponsor and TV money as the Championship, like it or not most of the money is here because of the success and prestige of those teams. If they left (which nobody ever suggested by the way) so would all the money and attention.

Secondly what do you think would happen if they did disappear? Suddenly it would be financial even footing? As though Villa, Fulham and Everton have the same budgets as Luton? No of course not, you’d have a new big six outspending everyone else to success. The gap between the top six and the middle six is probably proportionate to the gap between middle six and bottom six. It’s why they’re in the middle six and not the bottom six.

The other thing is about FFP keeping the other clubs out, no it doesn’t. The goal of PSR is in its name – profit and sustainability rules. It’s a collection of rules designed to stop bad actors from putting clubs out of business. And there’s lots of examples for why we need those rules. PSR is designed to protect clubs from bankruptcy. FFP is designed to protect the competition. And PSR doesn’t keep certain clubs above a glass ceiling. It’s to stop everyone falling through the floor.

You might laugh and say why shouldn’t a wealthy owner be allowed to pump money in? What could go wrong there? See Abramovich at Chelsea . Just because someone is obscenely wealthy doesn’t mean that something outside of football can’t intervene. Imagine for example next year fossil fuels are declared illegal, suddenly City look quite f**ked. Or imagine a war breaks out and politics forces an owner out saddling the club with all those costs and no way to pay it. Lazio very famously had to firesale most of their talented players because their wealthy owner didn’t pay taxes for 20 years.

And in point of fact nobody wants fairness anyway, you know how I know? Because nobody is arguing on behalf of the weakest teams in the league, they arguing on behalf of their own.. in reality if you want financial parity then everyone should have a budget which is equal to the least profitable team in the league. That way nobody can outspend anyone and it would be financially fair.

I see people suggesting that everyone should just be given a flat sum as the yearly limit – let’s say 300m for example. But then how does that help anyone ? You think Luton can raise 300m to spend at the same level as City? Never going to happen. So that way doesn’t create a level playing field either. But again, nobody cares about that. I imagine it the Everton and Forrest fans moaning were told their team would be let off but the others won’t they’d be perfectly happy with that.

How do you fix it while stopping clubs from making dumb decisions and going bust….you don’t. I say allow it. If they want to take out 500m in loans to buy mercenaries who bankrupt the club then allow it. Another club will take their place.

Having been close to Liverpool not existing anymore I’m perfectly happy with the club operating as they do and spending what they earn. I don’t mind that when Klopp won a Champions League the next year he was given a £20m transfer budget (and still won the league) Klopp has always operated under the spend what you earn model. Owners don’t pump anything in but whatever prize money or sales money is earned us what he can spend and that means that I feel safe in the knowledge we won’t ever be 10 hours from bankruptcy again.

If you want your club to bet the farm and risk bankruptcy, I’d allow it. And when it goes badly like Portsmouth, Leeds, Rangers and even recently Chelsea there will be little sympathy.

READ: What the FFP is going on? Forest appeal, Man City ‘expulsion’, Chelsea wait, Everton PSR fight and Leicester?

A long e-mail about penalty decisions that we had to publish because otherwise he had wasted a shed-load of time
​I know we’ve been here before but I did a bit of that thing we get away with calling research these days. Perhaps the most on point opinion on this topic was the one put forward a few weeks ago; that short of an independent panel of experts to analyse every game there’s no way to tell if there’s any big club bias.

That said, could there be one of those human quirks – entirely unintentional – where success and size causes a sense of awe and obligation; think of the way celebrities are treated. Or is it just that big teams attack more and have quick, tricksy forwards more likely to draw a pen?

I wanted to find out and was particularly drawn to the assertion put forward by one contributor that “..over the last 10 years the visiting team is almost twice as likely to get a penalty at Anfield, Stamford Bridge.. and 3 times more…at Old Trafford.”

This triggered my internal pedant, so I spent a fun ‘hour’ going through transfermarkt (penalties: missed/ scored) and if you’ll indulge me, dear friend, here’s what I found.

Looking at penalties awarded – both for the teams and at the grounds – of Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea, and also Tottenham and Leicester – as two teams who attack and score a lot but may not receive any theoretical big club advantage. The sample is the nine seasons prior to this one. (14-23)
I make it 883 pens in total over this period so an average of 4.9/team (and ground)/year.

Total pens awarded per team (annual average){home/away}
Leicester 62(6.9) {29/33}
Man Utd. 60(6.7) {37/23}
Chelsea. 50(5.6) {33/17}
Liverpool 48(5.3) {27/21}
Tottenham 47(5.2) {20/27}

Grounds – total pens/home team pens(% home)

Stamford bridge – 39/33 (84.6%)
Old Trafford. – 49/37 (75%)
Anfield – 39/27 (69.3%)
King Power. – 46/29 (63%)
White Hart lane – 36/20 (55.6%)

(Almost the complete opposite of what the original mail said – re. grounds – which makes me wonder if he made a simple transposition error; the numbers get switched, it happens?)

Based on this I’d say there’s no evidence of any big club advantage, especially for Liverpool. That said the big teams seem to get the shout at home more often which may be more noticeable/memorable and leads to the idea of big club bias around penalties. Which I can’t deny I thought was a thing. Tott. and Leic. got more away from home.

It’s not enough data to draw real conclusions and aggregate figures only tell us so much, but I noticed something in the detail.

Take Man Utd for example: they managed 3-5 pens a year during the reigns of LVG and Jose which leaps to 12,14 and 11 during the Ole years then back to the mean.

Might playing style and manager likability (?) be a much bigger factor than anything else?

Chelsea also had 3-5 pens/pa. except under FL/TT when it rose to 7,9 and 9. In 6 of 9 seasons there were zero away pens given at SB!

Tottenham show a fairly consistent picture except 16-17 (9 pens) when there was a freak flurry of home pens in the second half of the season – which was the last at the old WHL. Also Kane returned from an ankle injury?

Leicester got 7 and 8 away pens [!] – and stand out 12’s in total – in the seasons they won the league and FAC, out of interest. And in general a lot of away pens. Once again playing style and, er, Jamie Vardy?

Liverpool home pens go from 1-5 and total per season pens from 2-8 which is a wider range than the rest. The only stand out figure is this season where all seven pens at Anfield have gone to the home team, so far.

In conclusion, and only in regard to penalties, factors like playing style and who’s your striker (and this season not being Spurs) might have a noticeable effect but I can see no obvious big club bias other than a tendency to get more home calls for whatever reason.
Hartley MCFC Somerset (if we don’t beat Villa we’re out of it)