Brilliant selection of Mails today. Keep them coming to email@example.com…
Pre-season prediction: United will prove all of you wrong
I see every man and his dog are currently writing Manchester United off and generally having them finishing outside of the top four, amusingly a lot of the same football guru’s have Chelsea under Lampard doing well while lambasting Ole as out of his depth, go figure.
So here is my prediction for the coming season, United will prove you all wrong by having a good season pushing City and Liverpool, they will win the Europa League as well as a domestic cup. Everyone’s darlings Liverpool will win nothing while City will find it harder this season to walk over the smaller teams. My top four are City, United, Liverpool and Wolves now this may spectacularly fail and I will look like a rose tinted spec wearing fool but then again I might just be a footballing mystic, either way let the season commence.
Paul Murphy, Manchester
Litany of poor decisions
Asking my fellow Arsenal fans, which of the following bad decisions do you think are responsible for the current mess we’re in as a club?
- Building the Emirates in an era of Oligarchs
- Giving Wenger a 2 year contract extension after he won an FA cup after 9 years of mediocrity
- Not going for either Pep or Klopp (not that we’d have got them) when they became available
- Not selling players when we could have cashed in
- Selling well below market value
- Strengthening our competitors regularly such as United and City by selling them our players
- Selling the club to Kroenke and not Usmanov or A . N . Other billionaire.
- Giving ridiculous contracts to underperforming players (not just Ozil, this goes back to the days of Song and Bendtner)
- Failing to get back into the CL
Obviously, I believe it is the cumulative effect of all of them, but are there any I am missing, or is one more responsible than another? Just looking at our inability to handle transfer business, along with the underwhelming squad we have (barring Laca and PEA), we approach the new season at best hoping to finish 5/6th, being miles behind our competitors, and our local rivals. Fans should be excited about the impending season, but how can you be as an Arsenal fan? The only thing I am hoping for is game time for Reiss Nelson, Eddie and some of our youth, because the rest of the club is a mess.
John Matrix AFC
So Ian Watson thinks it’s a puzzler why City aren’t in for Alderweireld. In reality there’s noting puzzling about it at all. We replaced Kompany (a foreign player) with Rodri (a foreign player). We don’t have enough room for another in Alderweireld, it’s that simple. Unless Ian Watson is suggesting we lose someone else to accommodate him…
Also, Luke, Dublin, I don’t know what you’re on about when you say Sterling had “three below par seasons”. Last season, in all comps, Sterling scored 25 and assisted 15. The season before that, apparently below par, he scored 23 and assisted 13. Not too shabby if you ask me…
Martin Todoroski, MCFC
Reading your pieces on Toby Alderweireld and the first and second XIs of the top 6 this morning got me thinking. Firstly on Toby, I completely agree that it’s baffling more sides haven’t come in for him at 25m. He would improve every defence in the top 6 (including Liverpool’s) as well as pretty much every big team in Europe. Which got me thinking – are we sure this isn’t b*llocks? Either he doesn’t want to leave (perhaps he thinks he’ll get more money on a free next year) or the clause simply doesn’t exist….
On the spurs teams, like many others you focused on the lack of back up striker (and rumours of Llorente returning abound). I find this odd – as you note Son and Moura can both play as the focal point of attack. The issue last year was when they did this we them didn’t have the depth to replace them in the positions behind. If spurs can sign Lo Celso and keep Eriksen this will be much less of a problem – Kane, Son and Moura could all play as the lone striker or central player in a 4-3-3, and Eriksen, Son, Moura, Alli, Lo Celso and Lamela gives ample cover for the 3 in a 4-2-3-1 or the wingers in a 4-3-3. IF Lo Celso joins and Eriksen stays this will be an outstanding window for Spurs….
Personal factors at play
During transfer silly season it’s important we all remember we’re not playing Fifa or Championship Manager. Without a doubt Man Utd (and indeed Man City as per today’s article) should sign Toby Alderweireld for £25m, and lots of other clubs should have signed Tielemans for £40m, but real life isn’t that straightforward and it’s quite simplistic to criticise Man Utd or others for it.
I find it hard to believe Man Utd have not had some conversation with Spurs, Toby or Toby’s agent over the last year or 2. Maybe he doesn’t want to re-locate. Maybe he’s got lots of mates at Spurs and gets on really well with countryman Jan Vertonghen. Perhaps his wife likes London or their family home they’ve built over the last 5 years. Maybe he likes the manager. Perhaps his family like Italy hence the rumours he may be heading to Rome (arguably a step down at the peak of his career), maybe he has family links there.
Think about your career, football’s a barmy world so the factors will never be directly comparable, but imagine you were offered a 30% pay rise to work for a bigger firm but you have to move 200 miles (or abroad) to do it. What does that mean for your kids and their schools? Your wife’s job? How often you see your best mates and your family? Your home and lifestyle? I suspect these all have a far bigger impact on whether transfers happen or not than any of us ever give any credit for, and I think the reason Toby is staying at Spurs, and Tielemans ended up at Leicester has far more to do with this, than any financial or tactical discussions of either of the buying/selling clubs.
Top Premier League Enigmas
Whether you call them one season wonders or by some other name, there are players who looked at one point to be at the top of their game only for reality to come crashing down soon after. Here are a few from the top of my head but would be interested in who else others can come up with.
Eric Bailly: In his first season at United, he was a monster and looked like he would be United’s solution for the next decade. He and De Gea had a large part to play in a mean defense that gave away just 28 goals and helped United finish 2nd in the league. Coincidentally their highest finish post Ferguson.While age is on is side, he is now regarded as a backup player only fighting for place with Smalling in the pecking order.
Alexis Sanchez: Where do you start with Sanchez? Having finished the season with 30 goals, he was widely regarded as among the leagues best forwards and the flavor of the season. A tug of war ensued between the Manchester City in which United may have won the battle but not only lost the war but also ended up being subject to a butt-load of jokes since then. As it stands now, the world class forward cannot even find a place in the side that finished 6th in the league or find a buyer at any other club.
Schneiderlin: Schneiderlin’s last season at Southampton was a revelation. Given his superb performances throughout the season, it was inevitable that one of the big clubs would come for him and United may have considered themselves getting a steal upon signing him. Instead he stank the place down eventually forcing an exit to Everton where he remains a backup player at best.
David Luiz: If engima had a face, it would be David Luiz. When PSG signed him for 50 million pounds, a world record for a defender, many eyebrows were raised. More money than sense is what the elitists said of the deal. But his next deal, a return back to Chelsea for 34 million Euros is what sent the gossip pages in a frenzy. They couldn’t decide which of the two clubs were a bigger patsy. What followed was arguably the player’s best season helping his club to another PL title and being featured in the PFA Team of the Year. His reputation has only gone downhill since and one wonders how many starts he will get in the upcoming season.
Danny Dinkwater: If Bailly’s exploits helped United to their best league position since Ferguson, one upping him would be Danny Dinkwater at Leicester that was part of an unlikely title win for the Foxes. Leicester were able to keep him around for another season before Chelsea got away with another scalpel from the title winning side where Danny has remained a peripheral figure since.
Wilifried Bony: Before Guardiola and Txiki, Manchester City’s transfer spending was almost as erratic as their neighbors although City can hardly be blamed for batting eyelids at Bony. Only the most gifted Premier League forwards have been able to mange 20+ goals in a single season (Lukaka perhaps being the sole other exception) so when Bony ended the season with 25 goals to his name, it was no surprise that a top 6 club came for the club’s now prized asset. Having Aguero to compete with for the striker position was always going to be an uphill battle but the 10 goals he cored over 18 months was simply not deemed up to scratch at his new club. He was shipped off to Stoke for another disappointed season before eventually being sold back to Swansea for less than half the price City had bought him for. Swansea were eventually relegated to the Chamionship and Bony could not shine even there among arguably, far inferior competition. His final 2.5 years at the Premier League and Championship resulted in just 6 goals.
Man Utd should offer a Sanchez for Bale swap
There is so much upside for Utd;
• Bale is a top 3 player in Europe when on form;
• He would offer instant impact for the next 3 years while not harming the development prospects of young talent (Greenwood will be 20 when Bale’s contract expires);
• It might be the only option for Real and Utd considering their contracts and if the players do not want to drop down a level (China/US) at 30 years of age;
• His relationship with the Madrid coach, media and fans has fractured to the point where I think Real would do this deal to move on;
• A hungry Bale with a point to prove on a swap deal would I believe in hindsight be seen as the best deal of the past decade or more!
All upside for Utd, and Real might be desperate enough to take it close to deadline day…
Thoughts of all?
Slightly harsh on Fabregas
I appreciate where Graham Simons is coming from, but Viera’s boots were never exactly going to be easily filled and probably never will be. Its hard to compare anyone to someone who is generally regarded as one of, if not the best, midfielders ever in the Premier League.
Fabregas isn’t despised I feel for a number of reasons. He was probably our best player for a decent amount of the time he was with us and carried our hopes that the future was bright despite the stadium move (something something it was all a lie – Stewie Griffin).There are also lots of little moments we loved as fans, such as Battle of Buffet, playing with injuries (Milan) and many more.
Its easy to forget very early on he was one of the best young players in the league (playing at the same time as Ronaldo isn’t a crime). In his first few seasons with us:
-Youngest Champions League Goal Scorer
-Started in Champions League Final
-European Golden Boy
-EUFA Team of the Year
-2007/08 PFA Young player of the year
-PFA Team of the Year
-Regular Arsenal player of the month/season
All the above was by the time he was 21. Admittedly at the beginning he was surrounded by great players but that waned towards the end and he continued to be a consistent top midfielder. Maybe he peaked too early i don’t know.
Injuries started coming, the teams form started to drop as well as Cescs. There was an accepted inevitability that he would leave for greener pastures for a long time which made his leaving easier to swallow. Compare that to RVP, who left when he had suddenly come to his best form, meaning we missed out on his prime, where Cesc was slowly starting to fade a bit.
Finally, I feel like he seemed like a generally likable bloke and that he cared, maybe even believed in the project the way most fans did. There also wasn’t a lot else to like at the time as an Arsenal which probably helped…
Rob A (he played 138 games for Chelsea, what?!) AFC
In regards to Graham Simons post on Wednesday regarding Cesc Fabregas as the best example of a shirt succession going wrong… absolute balderdash.
First of all, yes, Cesc is no Patrick. I think all Gooners would agree with that. However there were so many false points to this argument.
Firstly, Cesc didn’t do a Cole, Cesc went back to his boyhood club and THEN to Chelsea. Not directly there. Following on from that move to Chelsea where he did get alot of grief from Arsenal fans, things have very much thawed with him because firstly, Arsenal reportedly turned down the chance to sign him back first. Secondly, since moving, Cesc has always spoken with passion and fondness for both Arsenal and Arsene, not like Cashley who has slammed the club that made him at any given opportunity.
On to the actually performance, Cesc led the club at a time when we really were useless. He also helped us get to our first Champions League final, captained the club as virtually a child and finally, in 306 appearances, he scored 59 goals and 92 assists, not bad for a Central Midfielder. Compare that to Gerrard for example who only got 23 more assists in almost double the amount of games at Liverpool.
Personally I still love Cesc for how he speaks about us and what he did for us at that time. Wish he never went to Barca (and Chelski) but he was an absolutely perfect successor to the great Paddy V.
Nick B, Arsenal fan (waiting for signings before buying my season ticket this year)
Greatest shirt lineage
I’m sure there are plenty of examples but one that sticks out for me is Robson (unofficially in the pre-squad number days, but it was his shirt) > Cantona > Beckham > Ronaldo in United’s No. 7. I haven’t been checking really so I can only imagine that since Ronaldo left that shirt has continued to build and build in prestige…
Mike, Burgess Hill
Great idea on the squad number handovers. There’s no other number in the history of a club more (in)famous than Liverpool’s number 7. Here’s a history of the number so you can see the fame and infamy.
Keegan – Daglish – Spackman – Aldo – Beardsley – Speedie – Saunders – Clough – McManaman – Smicer – Kewell – Keane – Suarez – Milner.
Quite the list huh?
Culk The Younger
In response to Sterling/money mail
Hindsight is fantastic isn’t it?
At the time, £49m was a lot of money (the most expensive English player ever at the time) – especially on someone who, to be fair, was far from the finished product. Of course the “outrageous transfer fee” doesn’t seem silly now – he turned out to be successful. At Liverpool, Sterling had the potential to be world class. He delighted and frustrated me in equal measures, dancing past a number of opposition players, before occasionally finding himself running down a blind alley, drawing a soft foul, then falling onto the ball and holding it (thus forcing the ref’s hand to give a free-kick one way or the other), and as a Liverpool fan, at the time, I was more than happy to accept a record £49m for a want-away, potentially-world-class player.
Here comes the 64 million dollar (or £49m) question: Do I still think that Liverpool made the right move in selling him to City?
Yes. He was far from the world-class player we see today at the time – would his development have followed similar trajectories were he to remain at Liverpool? It’s impossible to say for certain, but I’d argue not. Guardiola has been brilliant for Sterling, and a want-away player is no good for team morale (hell, have a look at Man U now).
Was it shrewd business by City? Yes, but it was a gamble that his potential would be fulfilled. Football is littered with young players being signed and labelled as “The Next Big Thing” and for whatever reason it doesn’t work out. L
“N one really bat an eyelid at Ronaldo’s €100m euro move from Real Madrid to Juventus when he was 33.”
Really?!? My eyelids were batting furiously over here!
While I agree with most of the sentiment within the Gay Footballer piece, I believe it is the title which elucidates the main reason I believe that we have yet to know of an openly gay player within the major European Leagues*; because they would be considered the ‘Gay footballer’, rather than a footballer who is gay.
I see a few outcomes if someone, say Harry Kane** came out;
1) He would be undoubtedly supported,by a large part of the population. People who would defend him against the critics and say it doen’t matter.
2) He would be undoubtly villified, whether it is people openly being homophobic during games/online etc, or just the people who “don’t understand it or how they explain it to their kids” and “they’re need to push this agenda” where they will say football and sexualtiy don’t need to co-exist.
3) He would be idolised, seen as a champion for the LGBT community, an icon for young boys and girls everywhere as a role model and future figure to help with the normalisation and destigmatisation of homosexuality within our society. He would become the most advertised player around the globe, and become a celebrity in his own right.
4) The tabloid media would have a field day, and depending on how many players followed, he would be constanlty hounded as the gay footballer, his lifestyle would be constantly scrutanised and stereotyped. There would be questions about players he celebrated with, hung out with, rumours and all sorts. Essentially clickbait to the extreme.
In the current cultural landscape we find ourselves in, I am certain all of the above would happen, on top of the modern pressures of being a professional footballer at the top of the game. Mental health and suicide, which is heavly linked with remaining in the closet, is only now becoming less of a taboo subject, whereas we seem to be going backwards with regards to racism. They would be at the centre of a social shitstorm, which is a lot to ask of someone, when it is already difficult enough for non famous people to feel comfortable to come out.
Any player who chooses to come out will need a tonne of support, both publically and privately to deal with the aftermath. And unfortunately, the longer we wait, the harder I believe it will be.
*forgive me if there is one, but I refer to someone in the mainstream footballing world that are considered ‘icons’ and role models’
** I picked Harry Kane at random, after I thought Cristiano Ronaldo wouldn’t work, because I have no idea what ripples a player of his stardom would create
David Mooney’s piece this morning on @FootballerGay did a good job of covering the situation with the account and the broader issue of homophobia in football, however it did skirt around one thing.
A hypothetical gay footballer has been talked about for years as a way to end homophobia in football, the idea being once fans see a gay player on the pitch it becomes harder to be homophobic. One particularly mental moment saw Martin Samuel write in the Mail that Joey Barton should come out as gay.
The problem with this is that it shifts the responsibility of fixing homophobia to closeted gay men inside football. Homophobia is a straight problem, caused and perpetuated by the straight majority of fans, players, coaches etc. The responsibility of fixing this lies with straight majority.
These ideas of an out gay footballer fixing homophobia puts more pressure on the people who need it the least. Heterosexual players need to be focusing on outreach to gay fan groups, being vocal and visible in their support of LGBTQ people, hetero fans need to be calling out minor examples of homophobia wherever they see it. Everyone needs to stop using gay slurs to describe players they don’t like or see as weak.
How many young men are we losing as fans and players as they reach a point where they feel the need to choose between football or their sexuality?
Best pre-season goal
In response to the question in the mails, “best pre-season goal you ve ever seen”. I was in Boston U.S.A at the time and watched it on live tv. Manchester United vs Juventus in the summer of 2003, Ruud Van Nistlerooy! He took an exquisite chipped pass with the outside of the boot from Veron, took it on his chest and buried it in the top corner. To this day its the only pre-season goal that ever got me out of my seat in celebration. Special mention to Thierry Henrys first goal vs Weiz of Austria in a 5 nil win in the summer of 04.
In response to Mikey about the best preseason goal, Drogba scored a worldie against AC Milan in one of this last few years at Chelsea (by that I mean roughly 2010-2012, not the 2015 comeback). It was a cracker from memory, and should be easily found on youtube.
A question for statisticians
In total, the finalists in last season’s “Champions” League had gone an impressive 87 years since last winning their domestic leagues. Is there a less successful combination of potential finalists available in next season’s competition?
I don’t think Richard has seen much of Real Madrid and Wales lately. To think Bale has been a big part of Real Madrid’s success is rather insulting to their success. Players like Casemiro, Modric, Ramos, Varane, Ronaldo, Benzema and more played a much more integral part than Bale. To measure his success by trophies only is the equivalent of saying David May is a better footballer than Gerrard since he won the Premier League twice.
While stats may not tell the whole story, they can be a good barometer of success, especially for a forward. And it shows that Bale just has not been reliable. He averages less games than his other BBC teammates. 38.5 games a season played compared to 51 for Ronaldo in his last 6 years and 45 for Benzema.
But the most egregious part of his email was his claim that Bale’s greatest achievement happened in Euro 2016. He surely must be talking about the free kick against England, because Bale was at best ineffective in the knockout rounds. Wales’ success can be attributed as strong team effort and hard work. In fact, two welsh players made the team of the tournament, Allen and Ramsey.
The reality is that Madrid spent a world-record fee at the time for a World Class player, but got their version of Walcott, his former Southampton teammate. A player who had one great season early on and has been average ever since. 2 great goals in the UCL Final is all he has done since then. Since his first season, he’s averaged 2 goals a season in the UCL. Hardly inspiring for 100 Million Euros.
Guillaume (Should we not wait until the transfer window is over before predicting what happens this season) Ottawa