FFS, City. Even Germany eased off in a World Cup semi…

Date published: Thursday 10th January 2019 10:03 - Ian Watson

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Not cool, City
Remember when Germany were beating Brazil, in Brazil, 5-0 at half-time, so they agreed to ‘go easy’ in the second half so as not to totally humiliate them?

Imagine if you supported a team who were so devoid of class that, despite being 4-0 up at half-time and having already qualified for the final, to all intents and purposes, went full-throttle in the second half of a match to score another five goals – goals that were utterly without purpose other than to humiliate a team two divisions below them. Imagine supporting a team with less tact and self-awareness than the German national team.

The last 9-0 I can remember, back in 1995, ushered in an era of renewed antipathy towards another Manchester-based team. Maybe this shameless display from the oil barons will finally, deservedly, crown City as the most despised team in the land. ABC has a good ring to it, even if it does mean rooting for Liverpool to finally get their day in the sun, or other paper of their choice.
Dan, (my lumberjack mate got me a clock for Christmas… analogue) Brighton


…That was every bit as embarrassing as Arsenal’s annual hilarity in the European Cup. Can we just can the league cup now? Or limit it to the Champo and below?

I literally don’t have the first idea what the sponsor is trying to flog. It would be apt it was dead horses!
Gregory Whitehead, LFC


The FA killed the cup
Back in the day when LFC were the dominant force in English football there was only one weak string to their bow … their inability to win the FA cup , yes countless league titles and amazingly 4 league cups in a row masked over their inability to win the “big one” and I don’t say that lightly.

I can specifically remember watching and listening to numerous semi final replays ( mostly against Arsenal) which we were doomed to lose. It grated with me that the biggest football day of the year involved a multitude of clubs with particularly Spurs , Everton and Arsenal resplendent in numerous finals. Cup final day in the late 70s and through to the early 90s was the biggest football day of the year. If you were a football fan you had to watch it , the build up started early around 10 am with a grandstand special following both teams form their hotels and culminated in the final itself which was always held on the same day … first Saturday in May at 3pm

Because you were so enveloped in the whole day and experience cup finals became symbolic days of the year , everyone I knew who was a fan could name who won in what particular year , what the score was , who scored the winner etc….

So what’s changed ? My own club playing a weakened team on Monday night was deemed understandable in most quarters… but this never ever happened in the 70s through to the 90s.

Basically the FA have killed a golden goose. No neutral grounds for semi finals ( a great day out ) , killing off of replays which provided fantastic tension , a move to play the game at some time of the day more associated with the Generation Game or Noel’s house party. A sell out of TV rights to a telecoms company which ensures less coverage and viewer numbers , a moving of the time of the draw to a random part of the week… even that back in the day was a big thing to listen to on the radio.

Now I’m not advocating that everything was better in the old days , because it wasn’t but this was one competition that everyone wanted to win and the cup thrived on the traditions around it…. today I couldn’t tell you even who won the last 5 cup finals or who scored the winner last year …or well you get the drift….

So to the FA , give us back our cup…. reinstate a lot of the above and watch people fall in love with it again
DL , LFC , Geneva


…I’ve read and heard untold amounts of solutions to fixing the FA Cup to make it more competitive but one I’ve not seen yet is excluding the bigger teams, say the top 8 in the league, from the League Cup.

This would surely force the larger teams to take the FA cup more seriously by cutting down the amount of domestic awards they can win while also giving the lower half of the league (and Championship, L1 and L2 teams) a genuine chance of winning something and a route into Europe.

If big teams then choose to neglect the FA Cup they are putting all of their eggs into the ‘winning the league’ basket (AKA Liverpool).

Plus think of the fun in watching the team in 8th place going into the last day of the season trying to lose so they can make the FA Cup the following year
Gary – Spurs – in exile in Hartford, CT


…So, erm, after Spurs beat Tranmere 7-0 and City beat Rotherham 7-0 and now Burton 9-0, I can’t wait for the mails moaning Prem clubs are taking these cup competitions too seriously and embarrassing the little clubs.

I’m sure Johnny Nic is furious at those results too.

It’s clearly a fine line between devaluing a cup and taking the piss out of it.

I’m actually gutted Liverpool went out of the FA Cup, but it is what it is. I doubt Klopp expected to be top of the league at this point and if I were an English manager in Germany it’s likely I’d have fielded a weakened team in the cup – the point is, don’t buy the sun.
James (LFC)


Liverpool’s ‘obsession’
Mark doesn’t understand the Liverpool obsession because of two main factors
1. He’s under the impression football started with the premiership which is really just branding
english league football streches back to the 1880″ s if you stopped counting in the year just before the premiership started the list of premiership titles for the current big 6 would be as follows
Liverpool (18) Arsenal (10) Man Utd (7) Man City (2) Spurs (2) Chelsea (1)

2 . Your mixing up Obsession with entitlement . Obsession comes from a desire to have something you haven’t had, either for a long time or never had but have come close to getting only to tragically fail. When you on the flip side when you get that same thing regularly you become expectant/entitled .

It’s why some people who grew up poor become obsessed with becoming rich and some of the offspring of rich people take money for granted and focus on other interests. It also why an actor like Leo Di Caprio chose roles designed to get him an oscar or why the England team and it’s supporters keep focusing on football coming home.

Liverpool actually have the perfect storm of reasons to be obsessed they were at one point the most successful team in terms of English championships and they have got one in a long time , They are the biggest name not to win the premiership and have come close on three or four occasions (The Spice boys era , The battle with Fergie’s team the slip) this makes them want the trophy even more especially as they have no distractions they’ve not had relegation worries and have been near the top of pile throughout .

Chelsea and City should not at this point in time be talking obsession because they are actually in the most successful period in their history, Chelsea had a few years of bubbling under before winning the league just two years after securing a billionaire owner after that they obsessed over the champions league and are currently just expectant/entitled.City are in a similar position they didn’t have many years to obsess over trophies because they were Sh*te but I’m sure they were motivated by that banner at Old Trafford reminding them how long they hadn’t won anything . Arsenal/United fans will start to obsess even more as soon as Liverpool win the title for now they are just trying to challenge consistently.Spurs maybe don’t have as much history of winning but believe me if they stay at this level long enough they will develop the same obsession.

I hope this clarifies things
Timi, MUFC


I assume you will get an absolute barrage of similar emails, but I just couldn’t hold back. I’ve seen a lot of ignorance that you almost hope is merely trolling in my near-decade of reading this estimable Mailbox, but good heavens – Mark MCFC IS probably the most loathsome and moronic of the lot.

If he was indeed being sincere is asking why Liverpool fans are so obsessed with the league, rattling off who’s won the Premier League as proof of why it shouldn’t be such a big deal for us, then I’d be genuinely curious to know how old he is. He fits the classic stereotype of someone who thinks football began in 1992, and while this is by no means my usual experience with the young folk these days, he really does them a disservice with his nonsense.

I’m not even sure how to provide a rebuttal to his point, other than to tell him to educate himself in even the tiniest way possible, on the history of English football, and Liverpool FC. Going 29 years without winning the title, coming second in some fairly agonising seasons, feeling we deserve success even though it’s always out of reach – these are a good starting point.

Failing that, he should apply his logic to his beloved City – they had hardly done anything for 40 years, why were they so concerned about winning the league in 2012? Surely they should have been happy with winning the FA Cup the previous year and finishing second?
Ciarán, Rialto.


…Mark (Not defending City’s squad depth btw. It is what it is). MCFC in your mailbox on Wednesday afternoon suggesting a new way of measuring football; let’s replace, “the premier league era” with “after Man City got their sketchy money”.

Liverpool aren’t too successful at winning the league (recently) as you say. Or we are the second most prolific winner of the top league of English football. It’s something we won a lot in the past, it makes sense we might like to recapture a bit of that past glory. Like a 70 year old man marrying a 21 year old I suppose.

It’s sweet that Mark only decided to start following his club 7 years ago; I can only imagine the excitement of buying your first ever shirt with “Robinho, 10” sprayed across the back and wondering on match day if people from behind were really confusing you with the great Brazilian.

Maybe that optimism has been replaced by a bitterness as Mark realises that despite all their dirty money nobody really cares about Man City. If Man Utd/Chelsea or Liverpool are in a title race then every other fan base within the three will all opt for Man City to win the league. The reason is simple; you’re irrelevant to all of us.
Minty, LFC


…Sigh, I really can’t wait for the actual football to start again at the weekend, but in the meantime I’ll bite.

Mark MCFC “I’m not saying Liverpool shouldn’t aspire to the title but at what point, if any, do you finally consider winning something other than top spot as your season’s priority?”. You do realise that under Klopp this is the first time that Liverpool have challenged for the title? In his first 3 seasons in charge Liverpool reached 3 cup finals, okay they didn’t win them, but do you think in those seasons Liverpool were prioritising winning the league over other trophies? They actively gave up in the league in his first season as he thought winning the Europa League was a more realistic target than top 4 for qualifying for the Champions League.

This season Liverpool find themselves entering the new year top of the league by 4 points and through to the knockout stages of the Champions League. They’ve lost one league game all season and dropped points in only 3 more, the last time being at the start of November. Do you not think it’s reasonable that they consider the FA Cup the lesser of their priorities given that situation? No they might not win the league, I personally still think City will, and they almost certainly wont win the Champions League but if last season proved anything it’s that they have as much chance as anyone. However, I sure as hell would take going hell for leather and giving it our best shot in those two competitions over a run in a domestic trophy that hasn’t really mattered in 20 years.

Gary Neville, amongst others this season, called for Liverpool to throw the towel in the Champions League in order to concentrate on winning the league, yet the whole world loses its shit because they play a weak team in the FA Cup? I really must be missing something.
Martin (PS. football didn’t only start in 1992) Warrington


Klopp is a genius
The ultimate bridesmaid?? For crying out loud, Klopp won the Bundesliga for two successive seasons in spite of the financial colossus that Bayern Munich was/is. Oh and he won Germany’s premier knock out cup competition at the same time. Stop being so lazy and try to remember things that happened only a few years ago, people! That man Kloppo is a genius. And I want to have a pint or 11 with him.
MK (LFC) Philppines


No defending Dejan
I have to praise Bench pressing lawyer (PS: first time I have ever emailed in) for defending Dejan Lovren in the afternoon mailbox as I agree he does get a raw deal, despite not helping himself. However, I take massive exception to his claim: ‘In the game against City, Lovren showed Aguero on to his weaker foot and down the line. Correct defending.’

What? I mean what the actual? Shut the front door! Aguero steals in from behind Lovren who is static, waiting for the ball to come to him. Lovren doesn’t show Aguero anything as he has no fricking idea Aguero is there to be shown anything!

I get Lovren is bashed more than he should be, even if his comments don’t help him at times, but let’s not re-write history. That’s like saying that the keeper Pele dummied in the World Cup that time before firing wide, deliberately forced Pele wide and to shoot from a bad angle. It’s like saying Roy Carroll didn’t bother saving Pedro Mendes’ shot at Old Trafford as he knew the referee would disallow it. It is, frankly, utter codswallop.
Jonny (long been a defender of Dejan, but my limit was reached when he went down with a hammy after 2 minutes on Monday – how hard is it to warm up properly, especially when you know you’re one of only two fit defenders at the club?) Dance


…I’m sure the Bench pressing lawyer is great at bench pressing and lawyering, but he’s crap at assessing football players. He points to Lovren’s whoscored.com average as a defense of his performance against City, conveniently ignoring that they rated said performance a 5.59 and that his season average is being dragged way up by a single, goal-scoring showing against Newcastle.
Sure, Lovren was correct in forcing Aguero onto his weak foot but that doesn’t excuse the fact that he failed to either read Aguero’s run from behind or step to a ball he could easily have cut out. Elsewhere in the game he was nutmegged by passes in the box, caught in two minds between onrushing attackers (ultimately covering neither and being spared only by a brilliant save from Alisson), and lost the ball in the box (under no real pressure) to allow Bernardo Silva a clear run on goal.

He’s not the world’s worst defender, and he occasionally puts in a good shift. However, those performances too often tend to come against the likes of Brighton or Newcastle, while he tends to look like s*** against teams that are actually … you know … good.

That said, pretty much every assessment of Liverpool in the wake of the Man City game is overblown. It was a game of incredibly fine margins that hinged on world-class finishes, mutliple goal-line clearances, and refereeing decisions (on both sides) in various shades of gray. Pool are still an excellent team, and the title race should be a lot of fun, regardless of the final outcome.
Andrew English (LFC in LA)

Problems at home
So it seems after weeks of bigging up the grand opening of the new Spurs stadium in January with a glamor match, the stadium has been delayed again for the 4th time already this season.

And in the meantime, they flipped fixtures with Watford to have them play loads of away games in a row at a crucial point of the season, forced them to play in Milton Keynes rather than them being allowed to play at home and now have given barely 3 weeks notice that the venue of the match has been changed. Other teams and their fans continue to be punished for Spurs incompetence and somehow this has become acceptable.

You’d think after 3 successive delay announcements, they’d learn not to overpromise and underdeliver. But it seems they’d rather make a mockery out of FA’s exception of multiple home stadiums in a single season by not properly planning for theirs at all, as long as they retain the leverage to move games around via empty promises. Given that its March, can the FA not simply force Spurs to continue playing at Wembley for the rest of the season so the away fans are not screwed (again) in March when there’s another inevitable delay?
Falooda in NY


…I wanted to have a little rant about the quality of analysis generally being done in football media and how I think big picture/significant stories get ignored because it seems like people are too busy looking at narratives. I’ll give a couple of examples. The first is my own club, Spurs. So, the club is building a shiny new stadium, but are struggling to get it done and communicating it terribly, and failed to do any necessary squad rebuilding over the summer (aka transferring out aging players to get in younger blood). These are probably related, but very few people seem to want to take that context into account. The club was badly distracted trying to build a stadium to a self-imposed impossible deadline. And then as a result, took their eye off the ball on transfers. There may also be an issue of having no money as Brexit made the costs of the stadium double, but that is generally ignored.

Anyway, all of this is normally placed at Daniel Levy’s door, and that is fair, as he is responsible for the running of the club and building of the stadium. I feel though, that given Mauricio Pochettino’s demand for control over transfers, a bit more analysis should probably be given to the fact that he, like Eddie Howe, generally isn’t very good at finding the time to do a good job looking at potential talent and bringing it in, and he probably should be more open to seeking help for that, since he couldn’t find anyone that met his needs in the summer (he said no one Spurs wanted was going to move that summer, which is fair, but means that you needed to broaden your horizons).

The other club I wanted to use as an example of under-examined issues is Chelsea. Now, statistics-oriented journos/websites are very good at this, but the majority of the English press have been pretty poor, I feel, at looking at the problems Chelsea have had. They have one of the 3 best academies in Europe, and produce a truly massive amount of English talent. And plenty of good non-English talent. None of whom have made it into their squad. At this point, a Chelsea which struggles to find a striker or goal-scoring wide forwards, and which spent millions of pounds loaning Mateo Kovacic from Real Madrid has sold Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Mohammad Salah, Nathan Ake, Bertrand Traore, and seems to be unable to find regular use of Michy Batshuayi, Tammy Abraham or Ruben Loftus Cheek. And apparently don’t need Callum Hudson-Odoi. But they did spend something north of 120 million pounds on Danny Drinkwater, Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko, and Ross Barkley.

That’s an awful lot of money spent on a lot of chaff which arguably had no purpose since players as good or better were already on the books or in their Academy and just not getting played. Yes, they’ve won two titles, but also had two pretty epic meltdowns from the ends of Mourinho and Conte, and seem unable to stop staggering from expensive sackings and tranfers as they have to adjust to another new manager who won’t play their academy kids, but wants all of “their” guys instead. And then there seems to be this weird fetish with aging, over-the-hill strikers. Giroud last year, purely as a back-up made a kind of sense. But this year, Higuain, clearly in decline as he is well past his peak years (scoring has halved ever year for the last 3 years), and not wanted in Milan? He was great in Napoli for Sarri. 3 years ago. This is the solution instead of Tammy Abraham?

I should be clear here. As a Spurs fan, I desperately want Chelsea to be this stupid. Paying big money for a guy who clearly isn’t the player he was is exactly the kind of mistake Sun-Tzu suggests we let our enemies make. But the fact that football media are unable to see how bad this idea is, and cannot do any kind of analysis that takes basic concepts like player aging and squad churn into account is pretty sad.

Now I shall go back to crying over Spurs inability to sign a warm body to stand in midfield.
Duncan in Ottawa


For different reasons, a number of Mailboxers might want to look back at Liverpool’s game against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup in September. Liverpool’s starting XI contained eight of the players that started in the FA Cup against Wolves, with two of the changes being injured (Matip) or now at another club (Clyne). Liverpool weren’t great (but weren’t terrible), hit the woodwork and lost 2-1 to a world class winner. There didn’t seem to be too many complaints at the time about negativity or a losing mentality. Certainly not once the relatively rested first team continued its unbeaten league run for another three months). Chelsea fans, on the other hand, might like to recall the arguably offside, VAR-awarded equaliser in that game. After Tuesday night, perhaps they should conclude that – even with technology – ‘these things even themselves out over the season’.


Video nasty
I’d just like to add my voice to the complaints about Sky seemingly showing anything but the action they’re purporting to show live. It’s not just football where viewers miss the live action because of replays, or where the camera constantly cuts to the managers. Sky also does it incessantly for rugby league, and they seem to have their favourites, presumably the coaches they think will give the most dramatic reactions to whatever’s just happened. This reached its nadir in an important late-season game featuring Castleford. The game was played in the rain and Castleford’s coach, Daryl Powell, was inside, watching the game out of a tinted window that didn’t open much. Sky’s producer was so desperate to catch a glimpse of Powell that we were treated to numerous close ups of a slightly ajar window instead of the actual rugby league, which was a) a game of some consequence and b) actually quite exciting. Certainly more exciting than looking at a window

Perhaps it’s a Sky directive to show the managers’ reactions to make everything more dramatic? Perhaps Sky producers are more interested in close ups of middle aged men than live sport? Perhaps Sky producers actually hate the sport they’re covering and are attempting to sabotage it by mini protests in which they try to get away with showing as little of the actual sport as possible? It’s probably the first one.

James T, Ishikawa, Japan


Improving VAR
Been mulling this over for a while and I thought I’d share it. Sorry to bore everyone but it’s about VAR.

Regarding the Chelsea v Spurs game. Why on earth are we debating which camera angle, which frame it was paused on etc.. Surely this is an amazingly slapdash approach to measuring this. For a multimillion pound business? It’s nuts.

Then there’s reference to the linesman raising his flag. Was that to indicate offside or that he thought it should be reviewed. Is there a linesman signal for he wasn’t offside in my opinion but it should be reviewed?

Surely VAR has to be more process driven and support the ‘soft’ decision on the field.

In cricket the ‘soft’ decision is key. There is an area of indecision where less than half the ball is in the contact area. In cricket this is deemed insufficient to overrule the ‘soft’ decision. Surely we need this level of accuracy and more importantly support for the officials.

The approach should be that a clear line across the pitch is drawn using the match organisers own TV feed (EPL, EFL etc.), not an arbitrary broadcaster’s. Then a measurement is taken on the distance between the part of the body that can legally play the ball nearest the goal for both the second defensive player (normally the last defender) and the attacking player.

A distance of indecision should then be specified, say 10 or 15cm.

The result should be green (clearly onside), red (clearly offside and past the limit of indecision) or amber (in the limits of indecision so the officials stick with the onfield or ‘soft’ decision.).

At the moment we could have VAR ruling offside by the length of a nose which might be good for judging the winner of a horse race but ridiculous in the context of two footballers who could conceivably be on opposite sides of the pitch.

The technology is clearly there, in use in other sports and works, why are we using this crappy system?
Rob, Gravesend


Postcard from the Asian Cup
The Asian Cup is underway, much to the apparent disdain of Chris Sutton and presumably some other people. (I found out about that from a David Squires cartoon and now I’ve resolved to get all my football news exclusively from that source.) There are four groups of four and each team has now played its first game, and there have been a few interesting things.

In Group A, Thailand’s FA reacted badly to a 4-1 loss to India by sacking the manager, while two former England managers in Group C had contrasting starts to the tournament. Sven Goran Eriksson’s Philippines lost 1-0 to South Korea, while Fabio Capello’s China were indebted to Kyrgyzstan’s goalkeeper, whose attempt to push a cross over the bar merely saw him pat the ball into his own net to give China an equaliser in a game they’d go on to win 2-1.

There was a big shock in Group B as reigning champions Australia lost 1-0 to Jordan. Australia looked fairly comfortable early on but couldn’t find a breakthrough, then Jordan scored a header from a corner after half an hour. Australia had far more possession and territory in the second half but couldn’t make it count, with one goal disallowed for offside and their only other clear chance thwarted by a very good double save right at the end. Australia are bottom of the group, below Syria and Palestine, who drew 0-0.

Finally, Japan played quite poorly against Turkmenistan last night but managed to come away with a 3-2 win. Japan were without Shoya Nakajima due to injury, so Takashi Inui – perhaps Japan’s best player at the World Cup – was called into the squad but didn’t feature in the match. Hajime Moriyasu kept mostly the same side that had attacked so impressively and defended so shakily in friendlies during 2018. Turkmenistan took the lead after a fairly even opening 25 minutes, with a long range shot that swerved enough in the air to beat Shuichi Gonda in goal. Japan pressed for the rest of the first half but their best chance, a Yuya Osako shot from about 10 yards, went wide. Japan controlled the second half almost from start to finish, and were basically just camped out on the edge of the Turkmenistan area. To their credit, Turkmenistan defended well for the most part but Japan got two goals in quick succession, both from Osako, then a third from Ritsu Doan with about 20 minutes left. Turkmenistan didn’t give up and made it a tight finish after Gonda conceded a penalty, then got their first sustained pressure of the second half in stoppage time. Gonda also made a good save from a Maya Yoshida attempted headed backpass.

Japan held on and should make it out of the group, but they’ll need to panic less when things aren’t going their way in attack – there were too many poor first touches or misplaced passes – and get organised in defence, which is something that’s been evident for the last six months. I like the look of this young squad though, as it has plenty of players who were unfortunate to be ignored by Akira Nishino’s unimaginative World Cup selections.

James T, Ishikawa, Japan


Bring Brazil to Nigeria
Just saw mediawatch and can’t help but think talkSport is so much fun. Can I get it in Nigeria? Thanks.
Ehis(LFC) North Bank, Nigeria.

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