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I’ve been a pretty staunch defender of Arteta this season. I think he’s been dealt a rough hand, hasn’t really had support from senior players and suffered injuries to key players at unfortunate times. It’s also clear he does have some real strengths – players and the club buy into him, it’s led to people like Odegaard signing, Saka staying and other good things. His underplaying of Martinelli I have less issue with than most too; it’s clear he’s not ready as the main forward, and he’s coming off a difficult injury. And he’s 19. I don’t believe it’s because Arteta doesn’t fancy him
But. Arteta’s in-game tactics, something he did well last season, are going to derail this season if he doesn’t get over himself. Everyone could see that tonight’s formation wouldn’t work. And within 5 minutes, could see that Xhaka would have been more useful in midfield than at left back.
Managers this season have cottoned on to the value of subs, especially when you have 5. But Arteta seems confused by this concept and allergic to half-time subs. Everyone could see Ceballos wasn’t going to last 90 minutes, and Arteta’s inaction and inability to see him bouncing around midfield leaving boots in left, right and centre (although it wasn’t a second yellow, poor refereeing) ensured it would be an early bath rather than a sensible substitution.
And this is where the sneaking suspicion that Arteta is too much like Wenger, but working with lesser material, and more inexperience creeps in. Pride. A belief that this system he built will work, given enough time, when evidence shows it is lacking will cost him his job at some point. And that will be much sooner than later if he can’t find something next Thursday.
Tom (loved the low-angle camera work in the BT Studio that made Keown a giant next to Ljungberg; in reality there’s only 10cm separating them, but it was like something from Jonathan Swift) Walthamstow
…I thought I would mail in about the arsenal match as I’ve noticed that arsenal fans usually don’t write in to the morning mailbox after a game. Presumably watching us pass it out from the back requires some considerable recovery time or perhaps we have all smashed our respective keyboards watching Partey aim for row Z again.
For starters it was a really great game proper end to end At points and all sorts of incidents. There was a quite hopeless point 2-0 With 10 men where you would have certainly taken the 2-1. But that last minute auba slip/shot could be ultimately be the difference and the night somehow is now tinged with regret. We managed to play our best football when we were a man down and when Capoue was dismissed they suddenly looked alive again. This small patch of decent football could well of come from bringing Martinelli on and giving us more of a focal point; whatever Arteta think we certainly don’t have the ability to play a false 9 like city.
Anyway despite an exciting game I have to mention a VAR incident that someone will surely know the rule on. In the first half a ball goes over the top and hits Pepe on the arm as it goes over his shoulder he carries on his run gets fouled for a penalty. VAR checks sees a handball in the build up and rules the pen out. Certainly a fair outcome BUT surely this is using VAR incorrectly. I thought it was only supposed to be used in the build up to a goal but in this instance nobody has scored yet. If it had been a direct free kick would they have checked? What if that free kick went in? As I say totally the right decision but it is an example of this random application of the technology which is so deeply unsatisfying.
Looking forward to the second leg and hopefully the ref won’t be so liberal with his cards.
Only the 79th minute, but let’s make sure Ole gets some credit for this second half display. No miracle doctors on uniteds staff so must be down to tactic changes.
Anthony (was at the 7-1 14 years ago), Dublin
When I read the mailbox the other day I was convinced Aman has been watching a completely different Pogba than I have. Is he the greatest player in the world? No. Probably not even top 10, but he’s been bloody brilliant and far more impactful than Di Maria ever was for us, though I still think that’s an odd, irrelevant comparison.
Since Pogba’s last return from injury a couple/few months ago I haven’t really been able to see an obvious fault in his game. He has better and worse games, like anyone, but he’s been incredibly solid on the ball, drawing fouls and reaching teammates with great passes, often from 2/3s of the pitch away. I’m still not sure if this Pogba is the one that is here to stay for years to come, but it looks like he’s turned a corner attitude-wise. He looks a lot more mature, routinely laughing off fouls instead of looking like he might have a “red mist” moment. He looks like he finally belongs. I think a lot of people see his price tag and expect him to be a Kevin de Bruyne, but he’s not there to score or assist goals every single game. He’s generally played as a 6 alongside Fred (I suppose so there’s 1 player in that position not hellbent on giving the ball away) or Mctominay. He’s capable of playing further forward and affecting the game’s scoreline more, but Ole likes two #6s and he ain’t gonna put Pogba ahead of Bruno in the pecking order for the solitary #10 position. To me, Pogba is there to bring stability to the game and often be the player who assists the assister.
All in all, it’s nice to see Paul smiling again, looking like he’s a large part of the team, and if I were in charge I think I’d be ready to take the chance on another Pogba contract. Ole looks set to be manager for at least a couple years to come and as long as he is in charge I think Pogba will thrive.
Jamin (enjoying Roma’s humiliation after they created an anti-Ole slogan by taking his respectful comments and somehow finding a way to be offended by them)
* Half time team talk: Is/has Ole:
-developed into one of the best psychologists in sports(can’t be tactics coz no subs or change of formation)
-the MOST terrifying manager ever? I mean, no whispers from the camp or anything….HE. IS. THAT. BAD!!
-a hush end pharmaceuticals dealer who has access to something that only will test positive for 40 min, so never risks its use in the first half
* That front triumvirate(IF we can keep) will win us the league in 1-2 seasons and possibly the CL…Mason and Edi are a beautiful side story in a match where Pogba, Bruno and Cavani worked so on point in their movement/passes/link up play
* 1st penalty was a joke, I understand the second…ball or no ball, you take out someone’s legs from behind in the penalty area, it’s a pen
* Props to Smalling’s hair do…as a bald man, I thought it looked cool
* I’m still not sure I can feel bad for a team standing in our way, BUT 3 injuries in the first half???? Bless
* Arsenal, Arteta, Emery…’’Nuff said
* Nope…is Aubameyang the worst call for United?? If we cant(GOOD LORD I hope we do) get Cavani to stay, he’d be cheaper than most other options and may be what we need in the center, we have enough for the left wing, thank you very much
* Back to Cavani. We need to keep him if for nothing that Greenwood’s development. Yes, he(Greenwood) didn’t start as well as last season ended. Yes, he’s a teenager and has had an Icelandic scandal. Yes, he had a friend pass away this year(reminder, still a teenager). Yes, he is getting paid stupid money, but MOST IMPORTANTLY, yes he is also still just human and (as stated) a boy…
* I missed hearing the chants of ‘wish we could play you every week’. Ah, the super league dream!
* Fascinating thought experiment…other than Arsenal and Spurs staying in the Championship for another season, if they DID relegate the ‘Stupor League Six” who are the 2 winning automatic promotion, who gets into the playoffs, AND are there any Championship teams that could throw a spanner in the works??
P.s. how long would Spurs and arse take to get promotion??
Savage’s big question
The big question is “has Robbie Savage ever watch a goal go in without asking what the question is?”
The answer is no, he has not.
The question is, was Wan Bissaka offside? Nowhere near…
The question is, was Cavani fouled? Yes, definitely.
The question is, is that rhetorical device successful in creating intrigue? No, no it isn’t.
The question is, is it bloody annoying? Yes, certainly.
Good game so far though!
Interesting read about the 4 semi-finals Ole has lost at Utd. Painful memories too. Losing to City is not something to be too hard on yourself for, the other losses were harder to take.
Also, the team utd had for those first 3 semi-final losses was definitely poorer than it is now and also completely knackered from the post covid restart of 2 to 3 games a week – and I realise the teams we faced had the same conditions but they probably weren’t playing the same XI every game as utd were forced to due to the lack of squad depth. But I’m not here to make excuses, I’m wondering what their chances are of finally going on to win silverware and whether we’ve learnt from these past defeats (other than don’t get drawn against City).
In the cons column, we have the hangover of all those semi-final defeats, probably not a major contributor, yet. We also have just recently failed to break down Leeds in a game we were highly favoured to win. On top of this, thinking about similar games to semi-finals where you have a similar level of opposition, our results against the top 6 has been dismal this season. We’ve had one good win against City and most of the rest have been dire bore draws. On top of that, we haven’t exactly been ruthless in front of goal lately. Those do not bode well.
For the pros. The first XI is much stronger than a year ago, the squad is much stronger to the point where we actually do have people on the bench that can change a game. We are also on a much better run that this time last year and not looking anywhere near as knackered. And by a better run, I don’t just mean results wise, we are also controlling games better and not looking like conceeding as much whereas last season we rode our luck way more.
All in alll, the cons outweigh the pros. However, Roma, 7th in Serie A, surely offers a great chance to reach a final where utd should also be favourites whoever they face.
For Ole and Utd, this may be their best chance of silverware and a failure to go all the way might be difficult to recover from. I feel Cavani could be the key player should he be selected. Get him on the pitch from the start and I think it not only increases our chances of winning but also increases our chances of getting him to stay on another year. He’s been warming the bench too often already so it is no wonder he’s looking around.
Jon, Cape Town (How about these fat footballers Wayne who-ate-all-the-pies Shaw and Darrel the Barrel)
…I don’t know why I am arguing this but is it really right to cliticise Ole for his team failing to qualify from the CL group stage?
Let’s rewind, man utd were placed in the so-called group of death comprised of previous season finalists PSG, previous season semi-finalists Leipzig and Turkish champions Basaksehir.
Man utd finished with 9 points admirably beating psg and leipzig in their first two games, but allowing basaksehir to claim a deserved famous victory in turkey, blame this on anyone, I don’t care. Was it Ole? I don’t know, but I know Arteta or Lampard even if they wouldn’t have beaten psg or leipzig or both would have definitely reduced basaksehir to dust. Was it just a case of poor performance which can happen to any team as they showed by comfortably putting basaksehir in their place in the return fixture? I don’t buy that. Was it a case of the defense not doing what they were supposed to do? Nonsense. What we know is they lost a game they shouldn’t have lost and it cost them dearly but they had chances to make amends, psg visits old trafford next, a draw is all you need; they were reminded; they lost. As usual after united lose a match or concede a goal, someone has to be blamed, this is not their fault, Arsenal, Liverpool and particularly Chelsea share the same fate, so who is to blame this time, they stick the blame on Ole, he should have substituted Fred they said, this is not entirely wrong, but let me remind you that psg where already 2-1 up by the time Fred was sent off, so answer honestly and in truth, even if they still had 11 men and with 20 minutes left to play how many teams realistically equalize against a psg side whose coach Thomas Tuchel had learnt a thing or two from the capitulation against liverpool? So my blame falls on Martial for passing up three big chances to score a goal. But no problem, there is still a chance left, you visit Germany, you do not need to win, just qualify, they were reminded; they lost. Who is to blame, well, this time it is Ole, why change formations? Why play the not so mobile Matic against the supremely aggressive leipzig, it was clear that whatever the plan was, it had backfired, but no problem, even the best coaches sometimes have their plan backfire badly, pep vs Madrid, Lyon, Monaco, Tuchel vs united, klopp vs bayern, ancelotti vs Liverpool, he realised that no matter how slim the chances of coming back where, he needed to change, so he reverted to the custom formation and dealt with leipzig’s troublesome switches, it worked, United attacked with will and purpose and it seemed a matter of time before they scored a goal, but Maguire and De gea switched off for a second and at that level you get punished. United are out.
But let me emphasise again, they got nine points, Liverpool won the cl having amassed only 9 points from the group stages as well, notably losing all their away matches including against red star Belgrade (again, Arteta or Lampard would have destroyed this team, gosh, what is wrong with these coaches!), Tottenham reached the cl finals by qualifying with 8 points. So their points total is not exactly that bad, but unlike united, these two teams started poorly but when they were told there is still a way, they took it. So is this a mail to serve as excuse for united, yes and no, I have no reason to put forward excuses for them, just so I may ask you, will Chelsea have qualified from that group? As they are the ones who seem to use it as banter the most; well, yes, Chelsea right now would have qualified but the one that started the group stage, I am not so sure. So why did united fail, in a way it is just what it is, PSG started the season poorly and then-manager Thomas Tuchel was particularly unhappy about the fixtures saying, ‘they are killing the players’. Perhaps that explains why they lost the first tie against a team they outplayed just some few months prior. Had they won, United would have qualified as they had a 7-3 head to head advantage against Leipzig, turns out the lack of pre-season affected PSG as well, as Ole likes to say, it is fine margins. Then again, is it Ole’s fault, as it is hard to imagine the greatest managers not qualifying when they only need one point from two games no matter who the opponent might be, but as I have said before, it is fine margins. Ajax and Arsenal have failed to qualify in the past when it looked sure they were going to despite having very good coaches. So is it the clubs fault for failing to purchase the required players, again this is subjective, who was to know how Martial’s season would turn out, or that the defense was going to start the season like that after a positive season prior or that de gea was going to keep up his wretched form. The same applies to their semi-final loses, Is it really a crime to lose to a Leicester side who have had a week off while you where toiling on thursday? Or to lose to Chelsea under similar circumstances? Is losing twice to the team who are ‘miles ahead of everyone else’ in the semis of the carling cup really a crime? Is playing well and creating a million chances but taking only one against a solid Sevilla side but conceding 2 really the coach’s fault? In many ways, the answer to these questions await them against Roma.
Sa’ad (as for the CL semis, lightening does not strike twice, PSG may have dispatched of a weakened Bayern but they have arrived their bus stop, so have Real Madrid, that’s how I see it anyway)
Into ’em, Reds
I am definitely being overly optimistic here but surely this is the first top 6 battle involving united that could actually be a humdinger?
United are on form, have nothing to fear, 2nd place almost in the bag with Champions league secure and a good chance of Europa final team places to play for. Liverpool may be a little wary of utd but will have to go for the win for any chance of top 4. To avoid utd being the ones to burst that bubble will definitely be added motivation.
Ole should be going out to do one over the reds, he might not get a better chance given contrasting form and injuries status. Then again, if he sees Liverpool coming at us, maybe he’ll look to play the counter attacking system which would probably work pretty well against a team with defenders only renowned for their attacking ability. Cavani might need a breather after last night with Greenwood and Rashford perfect for the counter. That could also make it end to end but I don’t think Liverpool are good enough right now to attack in too many numbers and too high up the pitch.
Looking forward to this one whatever although, if I’m honest, I’d rather united be testing themselves against a stronger Liverpool with actual central defenders and their midfield back where they should be playing. I’d just be less optimistic in a good result.
Jon, Cape Town (I told you Cavani was key to last night, if only we’d had him fit from the start of the season, maybe we’d be getting knocked out of the champs league semis about now and be only pipped to the title instead of trailing by how ever many it is now)
Thursday’s Mailbox: Is everything ok now? We need to punish the ‘slimy’ ESL 12
I was kind of confused at the reaction of fans on ESL. So here are a few questions to the mailbox:
1. What do you expect billionaire owners to do? They have invested billions into their ‘business’ and would like to maximize their profits. That’s what made them billionaire in the first place.
2. Has anyone made any investment in their life where they do not want any return or growth but are happy to keep investing?
3. Do the fans of clubs at bottom of the league really think that their clubs will be able to buy 30 million players every year without big clubs bringing in the money into the league?
4. Club football is no longer a sport but a global spectacle. And fans in China, India, America, Japan would love to see more matches between big clubs as that us what has attracted them to European football, not a match between Wimbledon and Nottingham Forest (no offense please).
ESL may not be good for football as a sport but it is an excellent business idea. UEFA and the owners of the clubs will not let it go so easily. No matter how disappointed I and others are.
Dushyant Jamwal, LFC
Can’t believe Jan Molby wasn’t one of the players scoffing at the tubby tag…it was clearly all muscle.
Aidan, Lfc (saw him play a legends game against Utd in the 00’s. Not the fastest but could still ping a pass and score a winning peno like a legend)