Is history repeating itself at Liverpool? What’s going on with PSG and Kylian Mbappe? Plenty of Man United and some hot takes…
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The Liverpool midfield
When Liverpool started to get injuries to their centre backs the season before last I said we would finish nowhere if a solid replacement wasn’t bough and look what happened.
History is repeating itself, but this time in midfield.
We only have 4 fit midfielders in an aging Milner, Henderson, Fabinho and Keita, who now apparently wants to leave anyway.
I think Elliot will be good for us, but he is not a central midfielder.
If we don’t buy a solid midfielder now, I think there’s a good chance we’ll finish outside the top four.
Neil LFC, USA
What if Dele had gone to Liverpool?
When the story broke that Brendan and his transfer committee had turned down the chance to sign a young Dele Ali, I was absolutely fuming. Here was a kid who looked like a proper superstar in the making, one who had apparently grown up as a Liverpool fan no less. We didn’t see the value for money in spending under 5 million on him and we let him go light things up at Spurs for a few years instead.
Every time he did something by outrageous, produced a moment of magic and generally got the entire nation very, very excited about this young English midfielder, I felt a pang of regret that he wasn’t doing it in Liverpool red. Today he might be leaving Everton to try and revive his career in Turkey, something I don’t think anyone predicted 5 years ago. Had we signed him from Dons instead of Spurs, would the same player now be a vital part of Klopps midfield instead? He surely hasn’t lost his talent overnight, and as biased as I am it’s hard to imagine anyone playing in this Liverpool team falling out of love with the game.
It’s probably been a while since this questions been asked in the mailbox so let’s put it out there, which players do you most regret your club missing out on and how do you think it would’ve shaped their career?
Manjo, LFC (last time Gomez regularly partnered Big Virg we won the league, I don’t think it’s Klopps biggest worry)
Gordon, Everton and £50m to spend
Good piece on the “did I miss something” side of this Anthony Gordon bid. As an Everton fan, I’m not quite sure where I stand.
He may well become incredible player one day, but I’m still unconvinced and taking £50m at this point seems a no brainer. But questionable as he is, I also have zero trust in the club to buy anyone remotely near good enough to replace him, even with £50m.
We have form for this.
Will Wymant, EFC
Man United need to get in their lane
Been thinking about this mail for a while. But it’s difficult to phrase without immediately thinking it’s going to trigger Man United, and it’s absolutely not meant to. But here goes anyway.
My thinking is Man Utd are in a bad place now. But are they in as bad a place as Newcastle were when they were taken over? Newcastle appointed Howe and he has turned the clubs fortunes around as a coach. And bought players that have exponentially increased the calibre of the playing team. He may not be there “forever coach” but is a good manager implementing a good system. Same goes for some of the players he has signed. They will eventually be upgraded.
Most people would agree they are on a trajectory similar to Manchester City or PSG and will eventually be challenging for the league. And this is at present sort of “on track” as far as outsiders looking in on a long term plan yet to be established really can.
The comparison is odd because Man Utd weren’t fighting relegation last season, but are perhaps to phrase it gently a fading force. So what’s the difference? There playing squad even now is far better than when Howe took over at Newcastle, so surely ETH would have far less revolution to change the playing side. Some of the players may not need upgrading in the end. But certainly they finished higher in the league than Newcastle last season as a very basic metric.
My conclusion is calibre of transfer targets (this ignores this issue of the boards, except both do seem willing to buy players). Newcastle haven’t gone in for huge names and are not buying players for massive amount of money with lots of targets. I’m suggesting Manchester United would be better consolidating and buying excellent Europa league level targets and proven premier league, but unsexy targets to steady the ship, with those players knowing they may be moved on, or replaced as Man United then look to get back into Europe. Opposed to this Blackburn – Venkys original approach going for seemingly big names and ageing stars (De Jong – expensive and top tier club, Arnautovic – old and never really good enough).
The sad assumption from all this is I can’t be the only person to have thought of this. And it goes back to the incompetence of Manchester United back room set up in order to identify and procure sensible targets.
Feeding the Man United beast
The reams and reams of opinions on Uniteds malaise, from Gary Neville down to the F365 letter writers seem to miss a fundamental point. United as a commercial entity is doing exactly what it is supposed to – delivering profit to its shareholders. Uniteds “mission” is no longer competing for titles – it is producing “football entertainment”.
Every click, every read article indirectly feeds the beast. When you watch the YouTube video of Roy Keane lambasting Fred – you feed the beast. There is a reason (with no disrespect intended) United feature so prominently on F365 and elsewhere. Professional Sport is more than the 90 minutes, the 18 holes, the 12 rounds. It’s all the media frenzy that goes with it.
A Successful club cantering to the title is fine. Plucky underdog wins against all the odds (Leicester)? Terrific! But fallen giant, prestigious club in chaos? Now that grabs attention. Which means sponsorship, advertising and prime placement on tv for the matches. People tune in in their thousands to see just how bad it can get.
The good news however is that we may be approaching an inflection point. A certain level of status in the game is required to maintain the river of cash. If United destroy another managers reputation, if the right calibre of player simply won’t join, then they will fall down the table. If that results in less advertising and media revenue the Glazers will either consider selling or at least be forced to course correct.
In the meantime however there is little hope that Ten Hag can achieve anything this season other than emerging with his own reputation intact.
Oh and Finbar, a ‘hot take’ is a judgement quickly made without the benefit of significant supporting evidence or extensive analysis. It need be neither controversial or unpopular (though they often are).
Steve, poolside in Ibiza
PSG and Mbappe
Just to change the channel away from United365 for 5 minutes, what is going on with PSG and MBappe?
Many will have heard of his behaviour on and off the pitch. Turning and walking away from an attack because he wasn’t passed to, sulking when Neymar took a penalty and scored after he had missed the first himself, shouldering Messi out of his way in the process. Neymar has played his part too but there is a real sense of MBappe believing he is the king at PSG now by edict alone. Sources say he and his team want Neymar out, he only talks to the french speaking members of the team and has fallen out with Messi for striking up a friendship with Neymar. Neymar in the meantime is in superb form and playing out of his skin.
For some perspective, this very site wrote as recently as 2019 that MBappe was the anti-Neymar, caring not for individual glory but for the team winning trophies. Neymar in contrast was everything wrong with the club.
So recent developments are interesting to say the least. Of course he signed a new contract over the summer after much negotiating. Real were very much taken aback considering they apparently offered the same wages. Around the same time the PSG president started talking about a complete change of philosophy steering clear of the Hollywood signings and aiming towards an entirely parisian-based team. (which makes their pursuit of Rashford, and now Bernardo seem very counterproductive.) All this puts MBappe’s behaviour at the start of this season in a very bad light.
It makes me think that part of his contract agreement with PSG revolved around having a sizable influence over transfer policies and the club’s direction and that they said they would build a team around him and fellow parisians. Was tgat their idea or his? He is the biggest name in world football right now and Real were close to taking him away. He would have had a lot of power in those talks. That would explain his brazen attitude, the excommunication of Neymar and the sulking that the Brazilian with a very long contract not only won’t pack his bags, but is playing a lot better than him at the moment. A very different picture than the “anti-Neymar” of 3 years ago. I’m always suspicious about any player who has a “coterie” around him. Sounds a lot like a group of sycophants pandering to their hero and telling him what he wants to hear. It is the kind of player I am glad City have mostly avoided so far in recent years.
Of course this is more conjecture than anything else but at least it wasn’t about United. Back to De Jong and the dozens of other players United won’t be convincing them to join them this summer? O.K, as you were.
Challenge Accepted, Finbar, here’s some annoying science fiction. I don’t promise I believe anything I say.
1. The United Project would be further along if they’d never fired David Moyes. They would have suffered initially, but eventually he’d have had all his own players who would understand his authority.
2. Klopp will leave before his contract ends, and that’s a good thing. He’s obsessed with building for the future and keeps being convinced to stay. Eventually, he’s going to decide that the only way for him to develop the club is to put someone younger in at the top. Then he’ll point at Pep Ljinders and say “you’re in charge now”.
3. VAR will lead to high-paid referees. The failure of the people to make VAR work when it’s good everywhere else will finally prove that PGMOL is just a cartel, the EPL (as de facto super league) will start hiring the best refs from around the world. This will start a bidding war, pushing refs to have increased salaries. It will probably also lead to a collapse in global ref quality.
4. Gerrard and Lampard will have longer, higher-profile careers, despite never being better than Ole. They’ll keep landing cushy jobs, do the bare minimum, and continue to be bumped along by their pals in the media. Ole will never have a big job again.
5. The Sky ownership period was the best F365 has ever been. Recent editions have felt like they’re trying to be a version of the Football Ramble, just with none of the talent or charm.
6. badwolf, edquoththeraven, Dziggel, Graham Simons and the other mailbox regulars are the reason F365 is still going. Well, maybe not badwolf.
7. United’s players aren’t that bad, but none of them will succeed at United. They’ve all got the established talent to play for title challenging sides. Even McTominay. But they’ve been in a toxic workplace for so long that the habits can only be broken by moving.
8. Eventually, Manchester City will do a 10 in a row. Their football operation just keeps picking up clubs around the globe, allowing them to sign every young star so early, while letting the youngsters develop playing proper games. Any superstars they miss will then support those “free” players. And because they’re only signing occasional superstars, it’ll be relatively cheap.
9. Speaking of sports washing, you’re going to watch the world cup. Please stop pretending you’re not. No-one believes you, and you seem like an asshole claiming otherwise.
10. Teams like Bury going out of a business is a good thing. There are already too many professional teams in England, paying way too much money for players who will never amount to anything. A big pyramid is fine, but the amateur sides, without huge overhead costs, should start much sooner.
11. Coutinho will be playing in Spain by August 2023. And not because he’s been a success at Villa. Once the world cup is over, he’s going to hit the beach and never try again.
There you have it. Making up hot takes is easy. No, that’s a lie. This was hard work and I feel dirty inside. I’m never doing it again. But I expect scores out of 11, for each, from Finbar.
Andrew M, Streatham.
Combined Man United, Liverpool XI
As is traditional before a big match between the old rivals, let’s make a combined 11 from both teams to see which one has the upper hand. Here we go!
GK – Alisson vs De Gea
Playing out from the back is in vogue now, and quite effective too. De Gea is a good shot stopper but since he failed in shot stopping just last week, advantage Alisson here.
CB1 – Van Dijk vs Maguire
Two big defenders coming in on similar transfer fees, seems to be an even match up until we consider their real impact on the pitch. One was never dribbled past for a season, and the other cant stop being dribbled past. We go with Van Dijk.
CB2 – Joe Gomez vs Martinez
Not a strong showing from Martinez this past weekend (to put it mildly). Maybe Varane could be a better match up here, but can we really be sure? Advantage Gomez.
Fullbacks – TAA/Robertson vs Dalot/Shaw
Both are a set of attacking fullbacks with the idea to create overloads on the attacking half of the pitch. But somehow the only Man United attacking overload I see usually comes from the opposition teams. The Liverpool pair win out here.
Midfield – Fabinho/Henderson vs McFred
Similar ideas with both teams here to mix a bit of Samba magic with the famous Brit/Scot passion. Results seem to indicate that the liverpool midfield has lead them to multiple CL finals, a PL title, some cups and multiple seasons with 90+ points. McFred on the other hand went to the Europa final and got 2nd that time with Ole. I think we can say Fabinho/Henderson as the better one.
Midfield contd. – Alcantara vs Fernandes (or Eriksen)
Not the most straightforward comparison as they play slightly different roles. Alcantara is a midfield metronome with high passing accuracy while the other takes more riskier passes to create chances. Peak-Fernandes could have very well been the winner here, but recent form suggest Alcantara would have the edge (a big one probably).
Hmm, I’m starting to sense a pattern here. Onwards to the forwards
RWF – Salah vs Sancho
Sancho has potential, but Salah is the winner here no question.
LWF – Diaz vs Rashford
Rashford scored 4 goals and 2 assists in PL last season while Diaz had 4 and 3… despite joining in January. Plus he scored one last week when Liverpool were trailing. I would have to take Diaz here.
CF – Ronaldo vs Nunez
Similar approach again from both teams with an athletic forward who played in Portugal but this one should be simple. One is a 5 time CL and 5 time Ballon d’Or winner while the other is just getting started in his career. Also Nunez is red carded and the replacement *checks notes* another Portuguese forward Diogo Jota is also injured so we might see Firmino in action. Ronaldo looks better on paper but would other mailboxers really judge me if I say I prefer Firmino right now?
All right then, so we have a score of 11-0 in favour of Liverpool. Really hoping that is not the case Monday night, but can I really be sure.. nope.
Gaurav MUFC, Amsterdam (On the other hand, if we win we go above Liverpool woohoo!!)
Arteta or Nothing
Things I loved from Arsenal’s All or Nothing:
1. Arteta swearing every other word. He’s satisfyingly cathartic in his f-bombing.
2. Saka having ice cream with that kid who wrote to him after the Euros (I nearly cried). So wholesome.
Simon, Norf London Gooner
London tag teams
An all London tag team fight you say? For my money no-one’s getting past the Arsenal/Palace tag team of Arteta and Vieira. Their signature move would be LOD’s doomsday device where Mikel would swoop down with a flying clothesline from Patrick’s shoulders. Their attire would be red and blue and they would be rolled to the ring on a golden cannon while dressed as eagles.
My other tag teams would be Moyes and Conte and Tuchel and Silva with Frank acting as their manager.
It would be a round robin affair – why is this not being broadcast already?
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
As headbutting has been in the news I was thinking if there’s a way to avoid giving out a three match ban just for a moment of madness.My idea is that they can play but they have to wear their team’s mascot outfit. The big foamy head would ensure they can’t nut someone else.