Is Lukaku good enough for Man Utd? And more questions…

Date published: Tuesday 11th May 2021 2:50 - Editor F365

We have mails about all sorts of things but mostly Romelu Lukaku, Phil Foden and Manchester United v Leicester. Send your thoughts to theeditor@football365.com

 

Luk who’s still not good enough for Man United
Following on from Sa’ad’s query about Lukaku; I’ve grown increasingly annoyed at the fawning praise he has received since joining Inter and people questioning United/Ole’s decision to sell him.

Firstly, his strike rate at Inter is about 2 in 3, which is very good, but then it’s no better at the peak age of 27 than Ronaldo and Ibra who have a combined aged of 76 and playing in poorer sides (he’s Inter’s pen taker too).

Secondly, Lukaku might very well be Inter’s best player and the best in the league, but Inter have just romped to the title with such luminaries as Ashley Young, Kolorov, and Arturo Vidal in their mid 30s playing key roles alongside United flops Alexis Sanchez and Matteo Darmian. It’s just possible, given that Italy provided exactly one side to the latter stages of both European competitions (and they promptly got humped by United) that the standard in Serie A at the moment is, well, a bit sh*t.

In summary Lukaku is a good Premier League striker but not good enough for a side with aspirations of winning the league. He’s an exceptional Serie A striker because the standard is markedly lower than the Premier League. It’s not that difficult to understand.

Oh, and in reply to Bob, Pepe turns 26 this month which makes his transfer fee even more laughable.
Lewis, Busby Way

 

Foden > Mount
The short answer to ‘Mikey, CFC’ and his ‘was Phil Foden truly better than Mason Mount this season?’ question is ‘yes, yes he was’. Mount may have stood out in a mediocre side earlier in the season and may have stepped up since Tuchel’s arrival, but Foden has also gone up a level in recent months and stands out in an exceptional side. He’s no longer one of the best young players in the league, he’s one of the best players in the league, full stop.

I also note the selective use of statistics to back up the case for Mount. Firstly, ‘3rd in assists from set plays’. Well obviously, Mount takes most of Chelsea’s set pieces whereas Foden does not for City, so you would fully expect Mount to be way ahead on this score. It would be an indictment of him if he wasn’t. Secondly, ‘top 5 in xGA’. This may well have something to do with, as Mikey mentions, Mount having played more minutes than Foden. A fair comparison would be to use the figures per 90, and an even fairer comparison would be to strip out set pieces and only look at open play figures because, as mentioned, Mount takes far more set pieces than Foden does.

A look at actual goals and assists tells a somewhat different story. Foden is averaging a goal or assist every 122 minutes in the league and one every 131 minutes in all competitions. The equivalent figures for Mount are one every 219 minutes and one every 224 minutes respectively (source, Transfermarkt). Mason Mount is an excellent footballer, but he is far from the truly special footballer that Phil Foden is.
Jack, MUFC

 

Why Man United would help Liverpool
I can’t quite understand why Ole would deliberately look to ensure Liverpool end up in the Europa League next season. Surely its not in United best interests, as next season once Liverpool have Van Dijk, Gomez, Matip & Henderson all fit and playing, Liverpool will be able to prioritise the league and rest players for the Europa once again leave United in their dust as they battle with City and Chelsea for the title, whilst also making United’s potential to win a trophy reduce significantly when United they once again bomb out of the group stage of the Champions League and end up in the Europa League where Liverpool will be hot favourites to win.
Simon, Southampton

 

But then…
A Newcastle supporter here breathing an enormous sigh of relief knowing that the last game of the season v Fulham no longer has any jeopardy attached. This had me thinking about other well documented games coming up that have the potential to utterly ruin a season – namely Liverpool’s. If Man U put out a second string (which they will be more than entitled to do given their fixture schedule) and Rodgers manages to get his Foxes’ tails up enough to actually perform, those three points could prove massive. Follow that with Ollie playing a full strength side of players looking to cement a place in the Gdansk final and they could quite reasonably do a job on Liverpool. Now the interesting part.

If Utd can keep Liverpool out of the champions league positions this will have major repercussion regarding who Klopp can sign/keep in the summer. It may well accelerate the Salah saga and see him force his way out the club while he is in his peak years. In doing so you will be exponentially weakening a side who, would otherwise pose a significant threat to the title and a much more keenly fought top four battle.

Add to that, sending them off to the far reaches of Europe on a Thursday night and you could absolutely take out the knees of a team who only last year looked unstoppable.

In a nutshell. Liverpool out of the Champions League + no Salah + no Haaland et al (if they had the pennies) = One less team at the very top. It would be how I would play it, probably why I’m not top class manager and my moral compass would be called into question by Neville and Carragher on MNF.
Ibby (chess not checkers) Newcastle

 

Suarez back at Liverpool?
So I have been reading the recent gossip columns and have noted the interesting stories about Mr L Suarez possibly re-joining Liverpool.

Having watched one of the most lethal attacking players of modern times in the flesh plying his trade for the reds in close to his prime, it is a little hard not to view this rumour through rose-tinted glasses.

….. but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me.

Although passed his electric best, he certainly still knows where the onion bag is and he sports an excellent fitness record meaning that we are looking at a 34 year old who is not staring at the gates of the knackers yard just yet.

2 more high standard seasons to offer I feel (…but what do I know)

Do Liverpool need him?

Every team benefits from possessing a lethal finisher but certain teams appear to be more in need of that than others and I see Liverpool in that bracket.

The irony is that the person likely to enjoy playing with him the most would be Bobby F, the person whose name is pencilled in some people’s minds as the one that Suarez would replace in the starting eleven ( … my personal view is that Bobby is the oil that allows Liverpool’s attacking cogs to work smoothly together … I would move from the 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 system if Suarez came and have Bobby at the back of the diamond … but that’s one for another day).

Brendan Rodgers and Luis Suarez

FSG know they have some ground to make up in the fans minds and so the perception is that they (and other similarly tainted owners of big clubs) will be dipping a little deeper into their pockets this summer to buy favour.

I am not sure how deep FSG’s pockets are at the minute, particularly in light of the financial challenges they have with the Red Sox etc (their bigger sports ticket from a value perspective).

I sense things are a little tighter than they would hope – this may have been the reason why they made the questionable furlough decision which they quickly reversed … penny pinching – another example of them not fully understanding the qualities that pool fans expect of them … or them not caring ! … I’d like to think the former.

I believe Suarez has a £0 summer time release clause so we are looking at wages.

I think he is on around £15m a year wages (poor bloke …. first in the queue for the food-banks, no doubt) so you could say that you are looking at an all-in cost of £30m to get 2 years of a top striker who you would be confident would produce the goods.

Tick.

Would he want to return?

Although in no way a slam dunk in that regard I think he would be open to it.

He can see that his Uruguayan mate, Cavani, is doing so well at Man U (.. he has been fantastic to watch this year .. what a player ! .. didn’t realise how good he was/is) – this fact may reassure Luis about the logic of a return and smooth the path to some extent.

… but he would only possibly return if we had Champions league football to offer, which makes the next 2 weeks somewhat critical.

That’s why I was cheering Man U’s comeback win against Villa as it meant that Ole can’t pick the kids against Leicester this evening due to its implications for the title.

Cheering them on again this evening …. Jeez … how the worm has turned !

No Champions league football for Liverpool next season would mean that summer spending has to be focussed on younger players who aren’t used to having regular European football – Konate looks like it’s happening / they have to be looking at Raphinha at Leeds / I can see the logic of them going for Rice, particularly if Gini heads off which he will do with no Champions League.
Sparky, LFC
(“Just can’t get enough ?” …. It’s been more like “Enjoy the Silence” for the last year …. nearly out of the woods though !!)

 

The one thing stopping Palace from being a Champions League team
Dear Football365,

On 1 February I wrote to F365 and mentioned that one of the more frustrating things about Crystal Palace is that they don’t play well when they’re on television. They seem to get performance anxiety when everyone is watching them. They would much prefer to be lost in the natural shuffle of several games being played at the same time, featuring some teams with higher profiles, and just quietly go about their business. I’m pleased to say that Tom Dutty has managed to prove this right:

Clearly Palace have had more games at this time than anyone else in which to attempt to win points, but even so, this is an impressive record. It appears to be a symbiotic relationship: Palace are rarely an entertaining prospect for a television audience, and get their best results in the traditional blackout slot; cynics might suggest they have leant into the former in order to secure more of the latter. While there is something pleasingly Against Modern Football about this attitude, it’s worryingly close to the sort of thing that has seen people struggle to adapt to life in the pandemic; instead of exploring the possibilities of doing something differently and it being better, they are just muddling through. For example, when we were given IT equipment and told to work from home, one colleague refused, insisting he goes to the office to do his admin (despite there being restricted access to desks), because that’s how he has always worked.

In football terms, the pandemic has seen lots of games moved for television; if people cannot physically attend games, the television blackout is less applicable, so more games get moved for when there is an audience at home. This is where things get problematic for Palace. Their Saturday 3pm average of 2.1 points per game would get them in the Champions League if sustained for a whole season (and second in the current table). However, in games at other times, the Eagles have taken 20 points from 24 games, equivalent to 31 points over a full season and, most likely, a relegation.

When the pandemic is declared over, it is still incredibly likely that home/remote working will be more prevalent and more encouraged than it was previously. In the same way, football seems likely to continue with a lot of games moved for television, even when supporters are allowed back into grounds in large numbers . For Crystal Palace it means they need to fill their squad with players who can thrive with the additional pressure of a global television audience watching live. It probably also means making sure they have a manager capable of handling the pressure and the players in that environment.
Ed Quoththeraven (statistics also suggest Steve Parish’s favourite football writer is Daniel Gray)

 

Loathe him or…loathe him
Mediawatch reported on Garth Crooks’ assessment of the unfortunate Paul Pogba, and included this line but miserably failed to pick up on a nuance. In his BBC Team Of The Week Crooks wrote of Pogba:

“I feel loathed to select him on this occasion but with a performance like this against Aston Villa what can I do?”

You may feel loathed because you are, Garth, for so many reasons. But in this instance we believe you probably meant “I feel loath”, loath being a word meaning “reluctant” rather than “loathe” which means “feel intense dislike for”.

Even more reason to loathe Garth Crooks.

Cheers,
Andy Nuttall

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