The Mailbox revels in Arsenal being dumped out of the Carabao Cup. Also: Man Utd is set up for Mauricio Pochettino, and Ousmane Dembele could be a steal.
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That was one of the most satisfying results of the season, up there with the Man U demolition. To see the way arsenal played at anfield, time wasting & celebrating their nil-nil win (here’s to you Ben white) having simply defended for 75 minutes & then go & postpone their london derby, tonight was good. To see arsenal postpone their game on Sunday due to not having enough players & then field such a strong side & bench, knowing they’d manipulated their way to a week off showed their desperation to get to Wembley. Then we had the irony of arsenals fans booing whenever liverpool took too long over a throw in, the typical arsenal sending off because they capitulate under pressure & the stadium pretty much empty at full time, Arsenal really do have no discipline nor class. I’ve always liked arsenal because they’ve played football the right way, managed their finances well & had likeable players, what I’ve seen over these 2 legs goes against that completely… other than saka, think he’d fit in very well at Liverpool. Arteta’s just a sh*t guardiola.
Marcel G, LFC… bring on the trip to Wembley.
…In his pre game press conference Mikel arteta kept stressing that (and i am paraphrasing) ‘this was the only team we could pick’ and ‘the players haven’t had any training sessions’.
Am I missing something?
1) with the absence of aubameyang (who has been ostracised for a number of weeks now) and is at AFCON / has a troubling heart issue / sunning it up in Dubai (delete as applicable), Tomas partey who has just returned from AFCON and granit Xhaka who got a red card in the first leg, that is arsenals first XI
2) why have they not been training? They had the match called off on Sunday but the training ground wasn’t closed?
That performance tonight simply wasn’t good enough. It was against a Liverpool team which had no cohesion, but managed to create 3/4 very good chances and took, mainly due to individual quality, two of them.
During the week Jamie carragher said that Adam Webster was the best English defender in the league playing out from the back with both feet – looking at the comments the main disagreement was that Ben white was better. Watching white tonight he is a long long way down the England order pecking list.
On to the final, let’s hope for a repeat of the game of a couple of weeks ago or the previous meeting in 2005, however I have a sneaky feeling it will be an homage to the 2005-2009 champions league meeting dull feasts.
…Arsenal started off the game so strongly but somehow Liverpool put the ball in the net twice early doors (Matip was obviously offside). Besides the outstanding Lacazette chance I am not sure Arsenal really threatened though. Our defence is still prone to odd mistakes but thankfully today it didn’t matter in terms of chances conceded.
Curtis Jones is a young man but it’s weird how his games oscillate between sublime and anonymous. I think his best days don’t need to get better as long as his worst days improve a bit. Today was one of his better days, he drove forward with the ball and all his little tricks were coming off. He also did a good job of turning up in pockets of space across the front three zone. He was hard to defend and helped make space for dangerous situations all game.
Kaide Gordon will probably lose sleep over that missed chance today. It was interesting at the start of the game because the camera honed in on Klopp shouting at him about how he was trying too hard to be everywhere. Then Klopp literally seemed to say, “You’re a number 10” and held up one hand and drew an oval underneath it with his other hand.
Fabinho has either had a subtle change of role or has decided he’d like to get a few more goal and assist bonuses because in the first half he was literally everywhere.
Pleased to get to the final. Just have to hope that Chelsea are still in their funk when Wembley rolls around. Loved that the commentator referred to Wembley as, “Anfield South” at the end of the game; haven’t heard that in nearly a decade!
Jota the GOAT
Messi and Ronaldo are good, but to hit a shot so badly it confuses everyone and dawdles into the goal off the ankle is next level finishing.
Aidan, Lfc (he created his own deflection)
Poch’s time is coming
Man Utd have had a few poor performances and have now been designated as the current crisis club. This has of course led to waves of mails washing in saying how they need a complete rebuild and how the whole set up of the club needs to be changed before they have any hope of winning anything. Nothing like drawing conclusions based upon 9 games containing 1 loss with a new manager who has had to coach the squad during the busiest portion of the season with covid enforced interruptions.
I get that Man Utd are big news & everyone wants to have their say but do we really need to hear all this reactionary nonsense? If anyone wants to stretch out their memory, they might want to look back 12 months to the 25th January last year when Lampard was sacked by Chelsea and replaced with Tuchel. At that time Chelsea were sitting 9th in the league, 5 points off the top 4. Currently Man Utd are 7th, 4 points off the top with a game in hand on 4th. Chelsea finished that season behind a ‘PE teacher’ managed Man Utd, just like they did the previous season as well.
Did Chelsea need a complete rebuild of their infrastructure, was their club rotten to the core and did all their expensive recruitment the previous summer need thrown out? Of course not, they hired a top manager who led them to Champions League glory. Tuchel isn’t at the level of Guardiola to keep up with him in the league this year but that’s fine, no manager they could hire could keep with Guardiola’s current iteration of City, so its sensible for them to concentrate on the cups for now.
Will Rangnick lead Man Utd to the Champions League & a top 4 spot? Thats very unlikely on the first instance but the second is very achievable. What happens after is the real question, the thing that the board looks like doing is waiting for Pochettino to be sacked after not winning the Champions League & then hiring him in the summer.
Man Utd have some young talent coming through, just like Spurs did when he took over there, they could be a very good match as the aging players/deadwood should mostly leave within the next 18 months. Pochettino’s best season as Spurs was his second, reaching 86 points. By the time his second would have came round at United Guardiola’s City will need a rebuild, Klopp will have completed 7 seasons at Liverpool which is the point he left both Dortmund & Mainz, Roman’s trigger happiness will most likely have stuck at Chelsea, Conte wont hang round at Spurs and God knows what will happen at Arsenal. No teams remain in the same state for any more than a couple of years.
This is hypothetical but not outlandish. Of course, Woodward may just decide to never leave his job, hire Steve Bruce and continue signing high profile players he can market like Ronaldo, Pele & Usain Bolt. If that happens then the hard reset of the whole club suggested should actually be looked at.
The Ralf effect
Despite what Jon says I saw the Brentford game as forward progress but more and more I find myself holding a minority opinion when it comes to United. I believe there is an expectation from a large number of United fans and media that the team should just be excellent, always, and anytime that’s not the case it’s a disaster. Given the last however many years of form I don’t understand how that is still expected. Don’t get me wrong the first half against Brentford was awful, up there with the 5 worst performances of the season and that’s not an easy thing to achieve, but the reasons for that first half performance are all chronic.
The structural problems with the squad especially in midfield are well worn and known to anyone who pays even the slightest bit of attention. Along with that this United team have been soft for years, they are weak under sustained pressure which is amplified when that pressure comes from a team lower down the league. Its an attitude problem and one that will take time to change and probably a certain amount of player turnover, it isn’t just suddenly going to be better. If you know these things surely you see that first half performance coming, surely you can be disappointed and even upset without railing about what this team should be. Perspective and context are all too easily discarded.
The second half showed what good coaching can achieve. The tweak in system from Rangnick was minor, McTominay moved back and more centrally playing as a traditional 6 and Fred went further forward and right more like an 8. The difference more came from simple instructions like ‘be more aggressive’. Suddenly all players were quicker into a challenge, not just standing off shepherding Brentford players, they got stuck in instead and denied them space. McTominay was hitting every tackle harder, far more combative, and when he won the ball he drove forward. This bred a little confidence and allowed a modicum of control, then the attacking patterns started showing through and we were the ones with space and new impetus to attack. Importantly, it didn’t take much to go from awful first half to pretty good second half, to me that’s promising and shows Rangnick is having a positive impact.
In defence of Pep
Dear Jon, Cape Town. I wasn’t going to bite but that’s two digs at Pep and his ‘squad cheat’ in as many days so here goes. Firstly, one of the daftest things (IMHO) we football supporters do is to try and compare players or managers from one era to another. It just doesn’t follow. Different teams, competitions, science, analytics, technology, laws of the game and even the days and times they kick off at. Your doing so with Guardiola and Ferguson is, respectfully, no different. SAF was undoubtedly the best manager of the PL in his time. But, as the saying goes, that was then, and this is now. As for your view that ‘Fergie rarely had the best squad or the best first XI’ I’m just going to leave that right there. No further comment M’Lud.
You assert that City’s second Xl ‘would secure top four whilst ‘most others would get relegated’ and add that ‘any manager could win the title with the squad, finances and infrastructure City have built.’
Hmm. So, if I’ve got this right, you’re upset that, over the past 14 years, City’s CEO and Board have built a squad of such depth that they are able to compete strongly in all three domestic trophies as well as the CL? By identifying and buying (mostly, but not always) the right players in the right positions to do this whilst ruthlessly clearing out those that cannot do what the manager demands?
Isn’t that precisely what Fergie repeatedly did?
As for ‘any manager’ would OGS win trophies with this squad? No, nor do I!
Which brings me neatly to the tired and very lazy trope of Guardiola being a ‘chequebook manager.’ If simply throwing hundreds of millions of pounds at players with no real thought of either their suitability for your team, work ethic or of anything resembling a football tactical plan from the manager, then Manchester United would’ve won a shed load of trophies in the past six years, wouldn’t they?
Liverpool has a plan, the manager to implement it and are a very well-run club and, consequently, have won silverware because of it. Chelsea likewise but in the uniquely batsh*t way they like to work.
You nailed the REAL issue in your last sentence in your Wednesday mail when you wrote:
“City have raised the bar as Fergie did, Wenger did and Mourinho did. Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool and whoever else want to challenge them will need to up their game too.”
Couldn’t agree more mate. So, instead of snarky digs at either Pep or MCFC, perhaps you should be calling out your own CEO and board and have them explain, amongst other things, where the last £500 million they’ve spent has got Manchester United? Because the last time I looked it was in seventh place and a whole 21 points (Twenty-one!) behind the PL leaders.
Mark (Utd playing in blue is like putting ketchup on a Holland’s meat and potato pie. Just wrong!). MCFC
Dembele worth a deal
As a Barcelona fan, I am sad to see Dembele leave like this. There is a lot to say about Dembele but I will keep this short. There is some player underneath the glass. Some fans will show stats that his assists and goals against the number of appearances are bad, well, given his injury history, if you count the number of minutes he has played for Barcelona, he has contributed a goal or assists every 1.5 (Average) games of actual field time. In that time, he has been played as a wingback by Koeman and other positions. I cannot help but feel he has been terribly been mismanaged at Barcelona and we will regret getting rid of him. Imagine what he would do, coached by Pep or Klopp, managers that are able to improve players.
If I managed a top team, bar the wage demands I would try to sign him. Wherever he does end up, please bookmark this mail, Josiah told you so.
Can some knowledgeable Mailboxer explain to me the purpose of the Carabao Cup when the FA Cup already exists? Is one simply a lesser version of the other where the concept is that all the domestic divisions can play one another? If so, doesn’t the Carabao Cup need an angle to justify its survival as the big clubs work to degrade it? I’m honestly curious if this idea would work. What about all teams below the top 10 in the top division compete in the Carabao Cup with the winner being promoted to the Premier League and the runner-up being promoted to the Championship. Imagine Bolton winning the thing and being automatically shot back to the Premier League. Sure you’ll screw over someone in the Playoffs in the Championship, but it won’t happen that often and provides the chance for big dramatic stories, which is surely the point of football compared to its inferior American cousin where all risk is removed to make the reward feel a bit blah. Maybe I just just would have loved Liverpool’s win in Istanbul a little bit more had it screwed over Everton.
Niall, Bethany Beach
– Man City will drop points, probably a draw. Redmond will score. Pep will sign him before the deadline day and finally make him attack. Hasenhüttl fanbase will be unbearable linking him to Man Utd, Liverpool etc.
– Watford will batter Norwich just to ram home how bad Everton really are
– Big Dunc will beat Villa by the slightest of margins and prove beyond any doubt that he is definitely better than Rafa “The Spanish Waiter” Benitez. Media will dig deep to find excuses for Steven Gerrard
– Brentford will win the xG battle and hearts, Wolves will win the game in the ugliest of manners.
– Leeds will lose to Newcastle in controversial manner and everyone will keep pretending Marcelo Bielsa can do no wrong.
– Cristiano Ronaldo will channel his frustration and will score a hat trick after setting a record of taking all the shots by his team in a game. West Ham will probably score one or two as well and bravely lose. David Moyes will look haunted.
– Burnley will win the postponement derby unless it starts to snow even mildly and they file for postponement, of course. Arsenal will do okay but lose. It’s not like their full strength midfield pulls trees over the course of a season anyway.
– Liverpool will smash Crystal Palace and Jurgen Klopp will keep pretending that a title race is not on as that’s just the way he likes it. Jota gets a hat trick, get him in your FPL teams now! Pretty football lovers (practically all the English media/ fans these days) will praise Viera for essentially getting battered.
(The title race will be way closer than what everyone expects)
– Leicester, after recovering from the traumatic late defeat to Tottenham, will go super defensive and Brighton, the stalemate specialists they’re, will end up in a scoring draw, likely a one sided 1-1. Brighton and Potter will get the xG trophy, obviously.
– Chelsea, as always, will tank Tottenham. After his heroics, Bergwijn will remind us all why he doesn’t start much anyway by having an absolute stinker and will be sold to Ajax before the transfer window ends. Lukaku will prove his doubters wrong by scoring a hat trick and will celebrate by shushing Tuchel, who will go bananas like Sarri did when Kepa refused to come off.
– Yep, I predicted three hatricks this game week so get Ronaldo, Lukaku and Jota in your team.