Let’s have your thoughts for the afternoon Mailbox: email@example.com…
If Lukaku was at City or Liverpool
On the unloved Lukaku, I freely admit to being a detractor from the start but there was a seemingly innocuous moment during a match that perfectly demonstrated the criticisms I’d been boring my mate with since kick off. United won the ball back from a corner and launched a counter, the ball went up to Lukaku, who was in the centre circle with Martial to his left and Lingard to his right, both bombing on to create a 3 v 2 situation. The pass that was on was to Martial as the ball arrived at Rom’s feet. A world class striker, like Ibra or RVP, could have played it first time. Most top line strikers would be able to kill it with one touch and then play it. Lukaku, you’ll be shocked to hear, took a heavy touch. He then took another to control his own miscontrol, before finally playing the ball out to Martial.
It might seem incidental to the casual observer; he kept the ball and then got it out to the right player, but in truth, those seconds lost to his poor technique meant Martial had to check his run, defenders had chance to recover and the attack petered out to nothing. Elite level football has incredibly fine margins, where every split second counts and far, far too often, when Lukaku is in the team, you see moves that get slowed down by his touch. He can’t reliably be involved in build up.
Despite being very much in the “Lukaku out” camp, he’s not absolutely bereft of qualities, which is why there’s a split of opinion; he’s quite quick and a decent finisher, but the age of the on-the-shoulder striker is over at the very top of the game. If you put him in most top flight teams, he’d score 15-20 league goals a season, but the overall quality of that side’s play would never match what the likes of City and Liverpool are turning in. As I’ve said before, if he was at Liverpool he’d take the Origi/Sturridge spot on the bench and if he was at City, he’d be transfer listed before he’d completed his first training session.
Bizarrely, Lee Sharpe summed it up “I’ve never seen a centre forward with such a bad touch”
Lewis, Busby Way
After Peter’s mail about selling Aubameyang to raise funds and referring to the £40m transfer budget that’s been widely reported, I wanted to add my own thoughts on this because it’s really starting to grate on me.
As Arsenal fans we’re used to the transfer leaks that usually happen around a) season ticket renewal time or b) after we’ve lost 10-2 on aggregate to Bayern Munich. As we can all say when reading these rumours, they’re thinly veiled PR exercises to stop fans kicking off. Why are we now accepting the £40m as gospel? When clubs can come up from the Championship and drop £150m in a single window, without any of the sponsorship deals a club like Arsenal has, why would Arsenal only have £40m available to spend? Surely this is a reverse of what the club has been doing with claimed ‘war chests’ and big name signings over the years. By that I mean the club is leaking there’s no money available and the only way any proper work can be done in the market is by selling players no one wants to buy (Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Mustafi).
So the question as to why the club might do this is the obvious one – and I think I have the answer. Because no one of any worth wants to join the club.
Arsenal are a club that used to compete at the top end of the Premier League and latter stages of the Champions League, playing some of the most attractive football in Europe and with a legendary manager. Towards the end of the Wenger era it became a team that qualified but never competed for Europe’s premier competition, could play great football at times, but still had the allure of a legendary manager that most professionals would want to play for. Fast forward to the end of the 2019 season and the club will be playing in the Europa League for the third season running while the football has got worse. The man in charge of the first team has publicly isolated the top earner and biggest star of the team, isolated the best midfielder at the club, withdrawing a contract offer that then saw him leave on a free and something which most seem to forget due to their level of performance, messed the two star strikers about to varying degrees throughout the season. That coupled with his well-publicised clashes with players at PSG must leave current transfer targets not all that keen to play under him from the outside looking in.
Coming back round to why the club would state they only have £40m to spend. My bet is that currently the only players interested in signing for Arsenal are has beens and never will bes. With all due respect to Ryan Fraser, when even he’s saying he’s not sure if he fancies a move you know your stock has fallen. It saves face a lot more to say ‘we have no money’ rather than ‘no one wants to sign for us.’ So with that in mind, selling Aubameyang (or as a mate of mine suggested Aubameyang AND Lacazette) is just mental. The two were the difference between the club finishing 5th and probably 8th or 9th last season and will no doubt be the difference between a top 6 and top 10 finish next.
The fact is the club is rotten to the core and while Emery has done a good enough job in making sure the club doesn’t plummet like United did post-Ferguson, he’s not in my mind the sort of innovative or exciting manager that club, fans and players and prospective players can get behind. With that in mind getting rid of any player that does afford the club goodwill and more importantly good performances would be akin to Arsenal just chucking it all in and ending up like an Aston Villa or Leeds United.
This is a time where we’ve seen Chelsea already lose their best player and match winner, Tottenham be at risk of losing some of their better players and United potentially losing their record signing, talisman and supposed future captain. Losing your best players especially with all those around you losing theirs too would be a disaster. This and possible the next two transfer windows are massive for Arsenal. Not just with who they bring in but keeping their best players and keeping them happy. Fail to do that and we’ll see Arsenal competing towards the mid-table bracket of clubs for players rather than the top end. And without a manager or board that have a clearly defined philosophy in place it will get a whole lot worse before it gets better.
Still, at least the kits for the new season are something to get excited about!
Different shapes and sizes
I think it’s a bit harsh on De Bruyne to say he didn’t suit the Mourinho system after he was given 3 games or so. His departure was more likely to be emblematic of Chelsea’s transfer policy of buying young and selling on at inflated prices or of Mourinho’s frequent dismissal of precocious talents for short-term gains. While KDB developed his trade elsewhere, he most certainly would have improved any Mourinho team had he been given sufficient playing time, as part of any system. Meanwhile, Victor Moses didn’t become a world beater because the system changed, he simply fared well as part of a strong team and could ‘do a job’. Common denominator shared with Pogs by the way, N’Golo Kante.
Speaking of systems, I’m wondering which system United haven’t played over the three Pogba seasons. He unquestionably has talent, but most players have talent. I remember my coach telling me as a child that players are on the ball for around two to three minutes per game (the game has evolved since then so without stats at hand I would expect slightly more now for a midfielder) and, while Pogba may be effective in fleeting moments of possession, his discipline, positioning and ability to follow systematic instructions off the ball are certainly debatable. Take away the scaffolding of your Kantes, Pirlos, Marchisios, Vidals, etc., then you have an inconsistent player who at times is a liability. One good game out four.
Often when a player becomes a newsworthy celebrity, it seems that the perception of their ability to influence games can be extremely exaggerated in the minds of many. I’d take a Kante over a Pogba in the same way I’d take a Hazard over a Neymar. Less fuss, more consistent output.
Another job to take from refs
Anyone who has watched football for more than 5 minutes understands that the rules of the game in the eyes of the players are somewhat fungible. Whether it is diving, tugging a shirt, leaving the line before the penalty is struck and any other number of little cheats (Dave Brailsford and his marginal gains eh….we did it first).
Now I recognise that this site is mainly targeting EPL (as the rest of the world calls it) fans, but the events of Scotland v Argentina in the Women’s World Cup last night are really relevant. It is hard to argue with any of the VAR outcomes and if that happened to England I would be gutted but would have to suck it up. The technique of goalkeepers on penalties will have to change, as it did with the back pass rule, but this game begs another question – if we are taking decisions out of referees hands (or getting them to review) in instances like this, why are we not taking control of the clock away from the referee? Apart from last night’s clear oversight (the ref didn’t add time on after spending 3 minutes on a penalty in already added time), what about all of the occasions when players waste time during a game – TAA taking 30 seconds every corner to get from right back to the left hand corner quadrant during a UCL final being an example, or Burnley players pretending to take a throw in then after an age handing the ball to a colleague and don’t get me started on Ben Foster and goal kicks.
The biggest challenge to this is the idea that TV scheduling may be messed up if games take materially longer than 90 minutes (was that a consideration last night conspiracy theorists?) and I am not sure what the appetite is for an NFL style three hour game with multiple stoppages. I am sure other mailboxes or those very clever people in football officialdom can come up with a solution and as long as it doesn’t lead to TV timeouts I am all in favour of hearing them.
I am not sure if I love or hate the idea of less cheating in the game (love obviously) and we will have to see how this all plays out, but if we are taking discretion and judgement out of the hands of referees, then we should take it a little further and ensure that time wasting is stamped out – the challenge will obviously be where do we stop, (the answer is that we never will) but this email is already too long.
And a final point for the Premier League, I know the clubs voted against it a couple of years ago, but please bring in the ‘multi-ball’ rule that they use in UEFA and FIFA competitions, it takes some of the advantage away from teams who kick the ball out fo play and keeps momentum in favour of the attacking team. Now that is a good change to the rules.
Rob (too many brackets in this mail already)
…I’m going to assume the vast majority of people who read this site didn’t watch Scotland v Argentina last night, with those that are following the tournament probably having chosen to watch England v Japan. With that in mind, here’s a short summary of the farcical end to the game.
In the 86th minute, with Scotland leading 3-2, a Scottish player slides in and bring an Argentinian player down. It looks like a clear penalty. It’s not given. VAR is consulted. Every pundit and I assume every fan, says it should be a penalty. The referee listens to her earpiece for about 2 minutes before finally signalling she is going to check the replay. Its one of the most clear cut penalties you will ever see, but she probably watches it 12-13 times before awarding the penalty.
The penalty is then taken, and saved by the Scottish keeper. VAR is consulted again and finds that the Scottish keeper was off her line by a matter of centimeteres. The penalty is taken again and scored. The official timing for that goal was the 94th minute. Now, given that nothing had happened in between the first VAR check and the goal (86th-9th minute), how much added on time would you expect? A further 7 or 8 minutes? No.
The referee blew for full time a minute after the penalty. It was a farce. All the players looked at each other confused. The commentators actually asked “Is that the end of the game?” All players were furious because they all wanted to win the game as a draw sent them both out. Another VAR joke.
There are several talking points from the game. The new penalty enforcement on keepers is going to make a lot of headlines. Twice in this tournament already we have seen keepers penalised. What is the need? do keepers really need a further disadvantage when they are having the ball blasted at them from 12 yards? FIFA: masters of solving problems that don’t exist.
Secondly, the time it took to award the penalty. If we assume VAR is here for life, this has to get better. Here’s what should have happened: VAR check is called, clip is put on big screen, referee watches it twice and awards the penalty. It should have taken under a minute. Sometimes its not so clear cut but this was so obvious it just didn’t need that long to check it.
Finally added on time. VAR has massive added on time implications. The players were basically robbed of around 5 minutes of a match where both teams have to score. I don’t know whether the rule needs changed or the referee didn’t enforce it correctly but if that had been an England game in the men’s World Cup, it would have made the front pages (with the referee probably getting death threats).
VAR has the potential to be of benefit but right now its like FIFA want us to hate it.
Mike, LFC, London
…Let me start by saying I can’t claim to have been Scotland women’s teams biggest follower in the past but I thought it’s great to see a Scottish team in a world cup again so decided to tune in last night to cheer my country on. Thoroughly enjoyed the game, was totally impressed with Scotland for the first 70 minutes as they were fighting for everything and not giving Argentina room to breathe, even at 2-0 and 3-0 up when it would’ve been understandable to batten down the hatches and invite them onto us. Unfortunately its really difficult to sustain that level of pressing for 90 minutes and I think fitness possibly played a part in Argentina getting back in the game.
That’s not why I wanted to write in though. I can’t believe there is a single person who would’ve watched the end of the game last night and not thought that was total sh*te. Before anyone starts, I’m not disputing the penalty call, for me it was the correct decision even if it took the referee about 5 minutes to decide. This new directive to give a retake and book the keeper for coming off the line is sheer lunacy though. I mean, did anyone think that this part of the game was a big problem before VAR came in to police it? I can’t remember ever watching my team get a penalty and think ‘well the keeper will probably save this by stepping a foot off the line you know’. If this is how its going to be from now on then the game’s going to suffer. Between this and the amount of accidental handballs that are getting penalised now, I can’t see why any team would try and score from open play any more, just keep pinging it around the box and you’re bound to get a penalty at some point, at which point you can probably keep getting retakes until you score. To top it off last night, the foul happened on 87 mins, it was 94 minutes by the time the ball was in the net, so by my reckoning there should’ve been at least 6 minutes of football left for Scotland to try and find a winner (3 mins remaining of normal time and 3 mins injury time that would’ve been played had the penalty incident not occurred). Instead we get one further minute then a whistle that neither team can quite believe is for full time.
Implementing a video ref system should not be this hard. Rugby have been doing it for years – just copy what they do for chrissakes! Its so bad I can’t quite believe its not being botched deliberately, perhaps so they can hold their hands up and say the experiment failed, then go back to the old ways when match fixing was easier.
I’m not sure if this VAR penalty review on keepers leaving their lines is part of the full implementation next season but it will have a huge impact on penalty shoot outs.
Firstly they will potentially go on for ever, as each penalty is checked and secondly you run the risk of keepers being sent off if they stray from their line more than once. What happens then?
It’s a crazy situation and means that the odds are even more in favour of the attacking team.
Finally poor Scotland, they don’t get much luck do they. Another jinxed World Cup finals for them.
Ahh Scotland! Such a progressive country. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female- your propensity as professional footballers to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and cause your nation anguish is gender-blind and truly in the national psyche. And to the Scotland Coach Shelley Kerr I say: the referee made mistakes but the most appalling thing of all was the quality of your team’s defending in the last 20 mins and inability to change tactics when Argentina changed theirs (and their personnel). The same happened in the your other two games so put your chin up and learn the lessons. No one likes a sore loser. It is scant consolation but for spectators the game was fantastic so thank you.
Mata of fact
So sorry for the Scottish ladies but if you give up a 3 goal lead…
I might have been drinking, or dreamed it. But did Mata get a two year extension? I can’t find the words. Of course Woodward knows what he’s doing. Unless they’re paying him two Bob a week then they’ve cocked up again.
I’m available, my name isn’t so long that it costs to print it on the back of a shirt. I have questionable 3d vision, the wrong side of forty and I might look ok but I’m definitely not fit enough to last 90 minutes. However I can kick a ball with my left foot and I’m a nice guy. Apart from being ten years too old I’m exactly what United are looking for. Well, and ability, and lots of other things… Still anyone can get a contract at United. Shall we start the bidding at 10k per week? I could get by on that.
Well the rumour and agenda seems to have been that ladies WC is ok, not great but really the keepers are rubbish and that spoils it..
Did any one see the games last night..?
Within 10mins Karen Bardsley had made a silly save,
Free kick 20+ yrds out
Japan player takes a wonderfully accurate free kick that had top corner postage stamp all over it (If it goes in its one of those that the commentators say “you could have had 2 keepers in and not stopped that”
Now.. may be it was because it was accurate and maybe not super powerful but KB gets BOTH hands to it and makes a great save. Really good.
The Japanese keeper made 2 or 3 superb saves during the game aswell, Bardsley herself made another 2 or 3 wonderful saves 1 on 1 going the wrong way and still saved with her feet was brilliant.
As for the poor Scottish keeper.. Maybe the 2nd Argentine goal was a reflection of the keepers not being tall enough but the penalty save was superb (and yeah she was 6 inches of her line but for petes sake.. There really is not grey area with VAR is there..!)
While I havent watched lots of the ladies I thought last night was a a great advert to be fair.
Well done Lionesses! Well done the keepers!!
Al LFC (Well done Ellen White, 2 cracking finishes)
Copa load of this
Not seeing much love for the Copa America, maybe because this is the third in five years with the next in 2020. That’s maybe not as daft as having Qatar and Japan in the tournament, but Conmebol is small. Seb talked about UEFA the other day: the next Copa is Colombia/ Argentina. Everyone in Colombia is treating it as being for the country, not in any way legitimising our shower if a government.
From Colombia, we’re over the moon right now. Argentina were dreadful on Saturday and dispatched 2-0, before Qatar held out for 85 mins before falling. Everton fans, relax. That lad Yerry is the real deal and he’s back in form. A threat in the box, he’s also a calm defender. Falcao though, he’s finished.
Elsewhere in the squad, Davinson Sanchez continues to iron out the errors of youth, Cuadrado remains brain-dead and James is an enigma. Quiet against the Argentinians, he set up Zapata’s winner against Qatar with an outrageous flick, but missed a second-minute sitter. Is he still capable of hitting the heights of 2014? That Zapata has notched two goals in a shade over 90m, by the way. Send him to Watford and let Deeney form him into a proper target man.
Annoyingly, Argentina will likely still qualify in third place. They can still stack it though: a loss or draw against Qatar plus a result for Paraguay against group winners Colombia sees them out.
VAR has been painful, but there’s been little complaint. Wait till it’s used on faking injury…
It’s been topical so far, and there’s plenty more to go: will Brazil crumble at home again? Will Leo storm out of Argentina? Can Chile grab a third penalty victory?