Leicester City shouldn’t panic, treating Man Utd like a frog, Arsenal fans getting carried away and lots more in this afternoon’s Mailbox…
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After the Brentford shambles, I wrote to the Mailbox with a critique of the United starting XI. I thought it only fair I revisit those opinions in victory as well:
The Manager: Forget the game, Ten Hag was extraordinary in his post-match interview, looking and sounding genuinely annoyed to be there. The anti-Ole. It takes a lot to visually out-maniac Keane. Throw in that huge ill-fitting suit jacket that was clearly not his, and the look was complete. Needs to take advice from Casemiro (see below). If Klopp is Heavy Metal, then Ten Hag is our very own David Byrne.
The Keeper: Did what he had to do after last week, kept it simple, although still can’t find a teammate with a long pass. I’ll take at least another 3 months before the next clanger please David.
The Defence: Malacia: In that previous mail I said Malacia was giving off Evra vibes. Lots more of that Monday night. Even Rio agrees with me as per his latest opinions. Maybe he reads the Mailbox? No doubt in the dark, nodding silently but knowingly…
Varane: Looks, plays and defends like a central defender. Organises and generally looks like a captain. Rolls Royce of a man. Give him the armband on and off the pitch please.
Martinez: Tricky one this. Where do you play him? Committed and aggressive to the cause. Could be another Roy Keane if moved to DM, but totally effective at CB against a ground passing team. Maybe the Casemiro signing has answered this?
Dalot: The problem area. Still just not quite good enough. The alternative is AWB. Needs addressing immediately.
Harry Maguire: Played his best ever game for United on Monday night. Finally found his best position and, crucially, was never caught out of that position once…
The Midfield: McTominay: Did quite well as he does from time to time, albeit this time with a 60M Brazillian shadow looming…
Eriksen: Some outrageous passing early on and unlucky not to score. But will he lose out to Fred once Casemiro settles in?
Bruno: Extremely lucky that Martinez is not any shorter. Masterstroke by Ten Hag to make him captain to get his head (almost) right for the night. Not permanent captain material however. A few Luis Suarez-like moments that have been present and building for a while. Needs a mouthguard just in case. Maybe needs to be made “special captain”, kinda like the opening to the Simpsons where Marge is driving the car, but Maggie has her own steering wheel to make her feel important.
The (Better) Attack: Sancho: Outrageous goal, even Ronaldo was impressed, though probably would have demanded (and probably got) Sancho to pass to him had he been on the field.
Elanga: Ran around a lot, fed Sancho well, missed a sitter. Unfortunately that’s the ultimate criteria on which he is judged as a striker.
Rashford: Where’d he come from? Looked genuinely angry after scoring, lifted some of that (self-inflicted) weight, committed GBH on the corner flag. Nasty Marcus! Keep it up!
The Rest: Martial: Brought on to be a game changer. Did it. Took 3 seconds to take that ball down, that second touch and that pass to Rashford. Did more in those 3 seconds that the last 2 years combined. Won the game for United. Will start ahead of Elanga, unless the Antony from Ajax arrives and his head goes again…
Ronaldo: Time’s up, but will the Glazers let their in-contract MVP go?
Fred: Did Fred things, will be interesting to see if he gets the nod ahead of Eriksen when Casemiro starts.
Van De Beek: He’s kicking himself more than a ball these days. It’s Ole all over again Donny.
Casemiro: Wore a suit brilliantly (sorry Erik), gave respect to Roy Keane. Good start.
Stormzy: “I was just passing by and they gave me a mike”. That’s all you need to be on Sky Sports, Stormzy! Was also introduced as “not a footballer”. Cue four middle-aged white men attempting street air hugs. Unintentionally brilliant!
In another Mailbox entry during the week, I highlighted the rumours centering on a Portugese-speaking clique in the United dressing room, led by the ringleader with a capital R. Interestingly, only 2 of those started Monday, and the main man sat. And, all of a sudden, a team played like a team. I’m sure the team sheet didn’t please upper management, but Ten Hag at least seems to have 100% control over the starting XI. Maybe not 100% over the comings and goings.
I still think the Casemiro signing has one eye on fixing a DM issue, and one eye on keeping Ronaldo in place at least until the end of his contract. Making the best of both worlds with what is available for now, but not Ten Hag’s chosen option given the De Jong situation. In the non-soccer world, Ronaldo is still a name that is recognised, so you use that business asset as long as you can. He’s the MVP. He’s a brand within a brand. “He’s in our plans” says Ten Hag. A diplomatic answer that means when the Glazers call, you can keep him on the bench if you do have 100% control over the starting XI. 5 subs means you can play him sometime, right
However, you remove non-captain, post-match apologetic, big-money “asset” Maguire (who will never have his own Eau De Toilette), and the picture is clearer. And a defence plays like a defence. Albeit still shaky, but including a center back pairing that never played together before, and a backline that have very little playing time together in general. And you do all this against one of the top 5 teams in Europe (yes, not the Liverpool of last April, but still…). And you go and win. Suddenly out of chaos you have some control. More importantly, you show your new upper management and “undroppables” that you have nous, and are learning quickly who your best guys are on the job. Maybe Ten Hag is the Pschyo Killer we needed after all?
Don’t treat United like a frog
First off, hats off to Liverpool supporters in the mailbox being mostly realistic about this result. Minty and the lot had measured remarks. Neither team should get carried away with this result. As a united fan that win meant a lot, but we’re not suddenly the better team, other than on the day.
United isn’t a frog to be dissected at the moment. You can break down every tactic, read into the running stats, etc etc, but to judge this team on these results, or on pretty much any result for the rest of the year is shortsighted. United have taken a big step, but the parade planners need not jump into action, any more than the gravediggers needed to pick up their shovels last week.
This is Ten Hag’s team now. And there will be a LOT of lows and highs before the season is over. If we stick with and support ETH the same way Pep, Klopp, Arteta and others have been backed, then I think we can really start identifying the innards of the frog by the end of next season. That’s not to say we can’t win a cup or something. But it will take a couple years for this team to be consistent and for “ETH” to really be branded on this team’s foreheads.
Jamin, still watching all the frog dissecting on YouTube, Quebec, Canada.
P.S When Salah scored yesterday I texted a friend “finally, a goal where it doesn’t feel like any particular player was at fault for” and he said that line was brilliant and I should write it to the mailbox. So there you are, revel in my prose. I didn’t think it was clever, but I do think it’s true.
Three conclusions on Man Utd vs Liverpool (sorry, I couldn’t think of thirteen more).
1. The first thing that United need to rectify this year is to do something about those ridiculous collared shirts. With the top button done up they look like a group of six year olds at a wedding, and that doesn’t serve to strike fear into the hearts of your opponents. Step one would be for the kit man to snip the buttons off all the shirts before the next match.
2. I’ve never really understood the “Give me the ball”, “No, you can’t have it” silliness that went on between Mo Salah and Bruno Fernandez after the Liverpool goal. I understand wanting to maintain momentum, but if anything that kind of foolishness just slows the game down. My lipreading skills aren’t great, but I’m pretty sure that at one point Bruno said “It’s my ball, and mummy says I have to come in for tea now.” Just run back into position and wait for the kickoff, surely the referee is accounting for any wasted time.
3. Having said that, we don’t actually “know” that he’s accounting for all the wasted time. Jurgen Klopp was going bonkers on the touchline when the added time was announced, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that was at least partly related to time spent on the restart. Why is timekeeping in football such a big secret? I can’t think of another timed sport (I’m sure someone will…) where everyone in the stadium doesn’t know exactly how much time is left and when the clock stops and starts. It’s that way in rugby, in ice hockey, basketball, NFL football. I wouldn’t be surprise if when the FA was established in 1863 the chief qualification for refereeing a game was to own a watch. Just display the time in the stadium so everyone knows where things stand, managers will still moan but at least they’ll have something concrete to complain about.
Andrew – Canada
Not sure what it was like on the UK roads this Tuesday morning but here in Dublin it was absolute chaos on the M50 Northbound and Southbound as Manchester Utd fans clambered to get back on the bandwagon. The thousands who left Old Trafford before halftime last October were also spotted. The W***erjam wasn’t helped by a bloke, believed to be Bruno Fernandes, diving between junctions and stopping to whine every few minutes. Of course it could have been worse, as with Monday night, Liverpool didn’t turn up.
Seán. LFC. Dublin
Can probably put the match to bed now…
United seemingly had their proverbial darkest night against Brentford, let’s see if they remain the phoenix they appeared to be against Liverpool. Amazing what happens when you drop a markedly average defender and replace him with an actual footballer.
We need to go spend 100m on Jude Bellingham this week because this time next season, we will probably be without Ox (contract expired) and Milner (retired). Keita might be sold, Thiago and Henderson will be 32/33. So out of the 7 or 8 midfielders Herr Klopp listed, 5 are on the wane / potentially out of service come next season. Can maybe question Hendo’s desire as well, he has lifted all the trophies after a turbulent start, what has he still got to prove to anyone?
I despise faux manager mails but as tends to happen on this site, after expressing discontent it is acceptable to go against your own reservations.
As a quick fix I’d bring Bobby into midfield (like an improved version of Joelinton), Fabinho remains the constant at DM (I can only think the medical team told Klopp to only give Fab 30 minutes against the old enemy), and then pick whomever as a third midfielder. In keeping with the recent continental manager trend of describing midfielders as numbers, Fab is our 3, Bobby our 8, so rotate the 6. As Hendo wants to play at 8, vary between him and Bobby. I mean Bobby was dropping all the way back to defence mid to pick up the ball against United, he obvs wants to play in midfield.
Milly is a hero but is done for me, to me it looks like he is really resenting losing his pace. So many times against United it appeared like he was running on a treadmill when trying to get to the ball. This frustration boils over in my opinion, leading to him picking fights with teamies. That said Virgil has needed a kick up the arse for a while now. Just way too much space between our centre backs. We made even Rashford appear decent.
Wik, Pretoria (of course Diaz and Nunez are going to take time to learn Sad and Bobby’s pressing game), LFC
Leicester shouldn’t panic
In response to this article, and Leicester should panic, I don‘t agree, well, at least not about players, Forest can spend £180m of players and still not have quality on the pitch Leicester can muster. The manager, on the other hand, a little panic maybe in order, as, for me, it‘s time for the club to show Rodgers the door.
First things first, Leicester have a really good first eleven, OK, ten, the goalkeeper is long-term untested. Leicester have scored 5 goals in 3 games. Not consolation goals, goals that change the context of the match, taking the lead in two games and looking in control. Leicester‘s downfall has been poor in game coaching decisions. Against Brentford, taking off the more defensive Dewsbury-Hall, this ceding momentum to Brentford, when Vardy-Daka was the call. Against Southampton persisting with Amartey. Both Söyüncü and Vestergard fit, and playing against Stockport. Against Arsenal historically any points are nice, still scored two though.
This isn‘t knee jerk reaction to 3 games, Leicester defense was poor last season conceding 50 plus. Scoring isn‘t an issue, as with this season so far. Whether the poor results of Leicester is players or tactics can be debated, then Rodgers opens his mouth.
The wholesale changes comment last season was ill judged to say the least, his player/media management of the Forfana situation just plain dumb, I get the impression Rodgers wants Forfana to go because he wants some money to spend, and the club are saying no.
On little Wes for a minute, Forfana got married this summer, my suggestion is to call a meeting with him and his wife, and a have a parade of single Leicester ladies ask him out, offering him his wildest fantasies, all in front of his new wife. Then, in front of him ask how she feels. Forfana needs to learn loyalty, Rodgers is enabling this lack of loyalty. 5 year contract this calendar year with no release clause, if the Chelsea move happens Mrs Forfana better hope for more loyalty from her new husband.
Back to the Rodgers rant, he was wrong to excuse Forfana for the game of Saturday, but like I say, Brendan appears to be trying to engineer a move to get Brendan some cash to spend on players we probably don‘t need and the club would rather wait for the new head of recruitment to start, because Leicester have good players already. Why no need, no Europe means less players. Realism in the world of football ! Never
Rodgers has taken Leicester as far as he can, the lack of development of Soumare and the regression of Söyüncü has given Leicester this squad depth issue and these just more examples of why it‘s time to say goodbye.
One last point, is financial prudence, if household bills are going up 400% imagine the cost of running a football club. Leicester need to survive first, financially, as well as playing the game and as with every season, for me, the first goal is 40 points. Based on his demeanour, his framing, and his tactical errors, even at this early stage of the season, I am not sure Brendan Rodgers will get Leicester City to that vital threshold, so at what stage do we start panicking?
Arsenal, I’m not getting carried away just yet…
Watched the Arsenal game again today, watched last week’s game as well. Today’s match against Bournemouth was a bit stale to be honest, a lot of sideways and backwards passing, and not enough penetration.
I have to say that Arsenal currently lack a ruthless desire to kill off and finish games once and for all. Once they score one, two, they sit back and get lost in all their intricate passing and wonderful angles. They’re not yet the mentality monsters of Liverpool, or the ruthless machines that City are.
Wonderful play again by G. Jesus, but he does have a tendency to go missing in games and fluff his chances when well placed to score. The offside was difficult, but he should have buried the next chance. It was the same old story last week as well, could have comfortably bagged at least a hat trick last week. But the movement for the first goal was world class, and that’s what we’ve been missing a lot in years. Just that little something out of nothing. The disallowed dink was really good too, but he shouldn’t be missing so many chances.
A word about Martinelli, great industry and energy again as usual, but boy needs to learn how to patiently pick his spot, shape his body and shoot, like Thierry used to do for the Gunners. Henry never rushed his finishing, but Martinelli does. He could pick a thing or two from the master at opening up your body and finishing with the right foot rather than rushing it with the left.
A word about Odegaard and Saka. They’ve both been off the pace a little over the course of the last two games. The captain scored twice but misplaced a host of passes trying out a new technique he’s been practising since the last match. It didn’t come off once. Great desire to shoot in the box, as compared with other times, but he wasn’t at his best today.
The midfield still looks a little soft, it’s certainly crying out for a destroyer. Someone who absolutely hates the purposeless fancy football the Gunners midfield currently enjoy, and who actively reads the game and seeks to break up attacks, and start them. The offensive players are admirable in this regard, they press relentlessly, but pressing is a little light at the base of midfield. Partey is a wonderful midfielder, an absolute joy to watch, but that steel is still missing from the team, that indomitable will to win.
Zinchenko is a wonderfully elegant player though. He melds great technique with finesse and tenacity. Jury still out on the team. The improvements are obvious, but I’m not getting carried away, not with a midfield as light as they are defensively, and with players who refuse to kill off games.
Yeah, I’m a little critical, but I expect the best. This team is capable of a lot more. See how they toyed with Leicester and crushed them twice immediately after Leicester scored? It was wonderful, but shouldn’t have come to that.
A word about Demarai Gray, absolute peach of a goal. I remember his worldie for Everton against Arsenal last season to win the game. He may not be the most elegant on the pitch, but he embodies a will to win, and a never-say-die attitude. He absolutely thrives with his back against the wall, and drives the team on. Fair play to him.
Iyanu, Lagos, Nigeria
Arsenal fans’ misplaced optimism?
This whole “misplaced” optimism from Arsenal fans thing seems to stem from an F365 article.
The gooners in the mailbox have been pretty measured in their appraisal of where we’re at.
If anything, Arsenal fans are often too pessimistic – see exhibit A – one Stewie Griffin.
We know City are going to win the league. We know we’ll probably screw up in Europe again. We know the wheels are going to come off eventually but we’re enjoying the ride while we can.
Until then, we’ll be enjoying the Saliba chant and the fact we’re getting right up rival fans’ noses.
PS – there’s no great mystery in what happened on Monday night. United successfully channelled Mike Reid to get the kids to runarahnd against a Liverpool team who almost managed to steal a point despite having their longest injury list in years.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Newcastle United vs Man City
A pulsating 3-3 draw wasn’t a great ad for the premier league? Sorry… come again?
I know you have your agenda against the Saudis (fair enough), but lets not distort reality to fit into your narrow view point.
That was a great game, played by 2 decent teams. Exciting and fun to watch. No doubt there is a Johnny Nic article waiting in the wings explaining how the women’s football was for more entertaining than the sports washing derby, but we all know it isn’t true.
No doubt Ian King was hoping for a boring 0-0 draw, where the Saudi owners kicked a kid in a wheelchair in the face, Kevin De Bruyne slipped over all the money that fell out of his pockets and the game was followed by the stoning of a woman. Unfortunately, what Ian got was a great game of football. This didn’t fit the narrative.
And that’s the crux of things these days. Everything must fit the narrative. Reality doesn’t matter. A 3-3 game of football is now a load of bollocks folks. Welcome to journalism in 2022.