Basic maths: Tuchel’s Chelsea have no chance of top four…

Date published: Wednesday 27th January 2021 2:25 - Joe Williams

Mateo Kovacic Reece James Chelsea

Send your mails to…


What does special mean?
Saka is undoubtedly a superb player, but there is something special about him. Some people say it is his attitude, that he is humble and willing to work hard. Others say it is his natural talent, even though he isn’t flashy in how he does it. Some say it is because he has an old head on young shoulders, 38 yr old player in a 19 year olds body. I could go on, but I think we can all agree that in Saka, and some of his peers at clubs around the league and the world, we have another potential golden generation inbound. Many of them work under some of the best managers in the world.

It would be a bigger waste, IMO, than the previous golden generation who were hyped to the rafters but failed to win anything. WC 2026 should be a belter.
John Matrix AFC


It feels good!
I’ve got a confession – I’m an Arsenal fan and I like watching the team. I like that our best player is a teenager we got for free. I like that our wingbacks tuck their shirts in. I like that our coach talks clearly. I’m sad that Mesut Ozil is gone, but I’m happy he gets to play again. I enjoy seeing how happy Lacazette is when he scores. I like that we’re competitive again. I’m not Arteta-out, Edu-out… I’m not even Mustafi-out. I don’t care that Willian is on a dumb deal that will get dumber by the year, or that Aubameyang is gone, or that we’re cancelling contracts because we can’t sell a player, and still have an unbalanced squad.

We’re midtable (4 points from Liverpool! But 5 behind WHam and 2 behind Everton with 3 games in hand), so have achieved precisely nothing – this isn’t a celebratory we’ve won some games email…I think that has something to do with not listening to Martin Keown, or that there’s so much going on in the Premier League that no one cares about baiting annoying Arsenal fans, or that there are no fans in the ground to whinge.

I’m assuming West Ham, Everton and Villa fans are feeling the same way? Leicester folk must be a bit used to it at this point, but same? Leeds too i guess?

Feels good..
Simon, Formerly of London


Another Arsenal victory
Here are some Arsenal thoughts after another hard-fought victory:

  • Whatever people may think about Arteta, a clear improvement that he has brought is our defensive solidity. Our biggest struggle has been creating chances and scoring goals, but it is refreshing to see how solid we are defensively, especially since this is essentially the same defence as under Emery.
  • Part of that defensive solidity is how much we’ve improved on set pieces, This was only the third goal we’ve conceded from dead ball situations. Maybe the signing of the season was really Andreas Georgson, the new set piece coach we hired over the summer. The other reason remains Leno. People can argue about our decision to sell Martinez, but Leno is undeniably one of the very best goalkeepers in the premier league.
  • We conceded early, and it was interesting to see how we responded. We started really well and should have been one nil up with that lacazette chance. But after the goal, we continued putting pressure and playing well and deservedly equalized. That is a massive credit to the team, especially our front 4 who continued to put pressure and try and create something. This was the first time in that 6 game run that we went behind, so it was important to see if we could come back for the rest of the season.
  • It seems many on Twitter wanted Saka at left back because they feared Cedric would not be able to handle playing that position as a right-footed player and considering how excellent Saka was there last year. However, Saka is arguably our most important offensive player, and bringing him down at left back would have negated his impact. However, Cedric has been excellent for Arsenal this season as a back up. Solid defensively, but also a great crosser of the ball. We spend a lot of time blasting poor arsenal transfers (Pepe, Willian, Luiz, etc), but it is time we also acknowledge the good ones. 6M for a solid back-up is shrewd business.
  • Another player who has been excellent in the last month or so has been Lacazette. For all the justified praise the ESR and Saka receive, some needs to be reserved for the frenchman. He works hard, runs like hell and links up excellently with all three players behind him. ESR discussed his importance last week as the player who has guided him the most.
  • Saka and ESR are already established as first team players. Martinelli is not far behind. We have a very good young crop of players coming up. I just pray we can actually surround them with quality players. More Partey, less Willian please.
  • 16 points out of 18 is an excellent return. But it means nothing if we don’t build on this run. We will not win every game, we will lose some and draw some. But it is important to quickly bounce back. This year, the table is very open, and to finish in the european places will require more consistency. However, beyond the 16 points, it is the 14 goals for and 2 goals against that are inspiring.

Guillaume, Ottawa


Re: Lee “Frank the Caretaker”
I’ll grant this is the only situation that the hiring and subsequent firing of Lampard makes sense.  You hire a rookie, see how he is hamstrung by both a ban and the current COVID restrictions (which even experienced managers are struggling with it) ask him to integrate 6/7 new first team players into a squad of academy prospects (whilst selling or releasing our 3 of our most influential attacking players) then fire him the moment results turn. Unless as you are saying waiting for the right manager to come along the entire arc of that story is patently ridiculous. After all Lampard is the MOST palatable option to sell to the fans as interim and I get that logic. The two issues I have with this notion are that:

1.) There are plenty of managers who would fit that bill who aren’t complete rookies or someone whose relationship with the fans is that strong.  I can think of a dozen managers who could have been available at the same time who had significantly more experience and would have been seen as good options. They have misjudged the sacrifice fans would have made in terms of results for Frank.  The strength of feeling most fans I know have for Lampard is stronger than the desire to see immediate results. I have heard no commentator say they don’t believe that Frank will go on to have a solid managerial career, but the job was too early for him. I agree, but I was willing to give him that time because that is the direction the club seemed willing to take alongside a young batch of players coming through; short term pain for long term gain.

2.) If the answer to “who is the right long term manager at Chelsea” is “Thomas Tuchel with an 18 month contract.”  I question the board even more.  After serious disagreements between the board and Conte, Mourinho and Lampard over transfer policy, you choose Tuchel who fell out with DoF’s Leonardo and Sven Mislintat over the exact same issue in his last two jobs.  It seems like a none starter.  What’s more is we’ve only offered him an 18 month contract, this hardly screams of a club who trust their own judgement and have a long term plan of hiring an interim waiting for the right man to become available only to then not back their own decision on his replacement. It was well publicised that we wanted Nagelsmann who wouldn’t move until the summer and offered Ragnick the job as interim. So is Tuchel another caretaker? If so why would he even consider risking his reputation for no long term benefit (to himself) by developing our youth players when he’s not going to be here in a year’s time?

Either one of hiring or firing Lampard should be a sackable offence for our board.  Either he wasn’t good enough at all so we should never have hired him or he was is enough but they got cold feet at the clubs current form so fired him. So why should we trust their decision making in either scenarios?
Aston Taylor CFC


Basic maths…
Dear MC,

In recent days we have seen some Lampard apologists point out that he left them “only” 5 points off the Top4, and also reports that Tuchel is expected to now mount a title challenge this season. Both of these (the reports could be a load of bollocks, ofc) betray a lack of ability to grasp basic maths. Let me explain why…

We are more-or-less halfway through the season, and the table tells us that around 69-70 points will be required to have a good chance of making the Top4 (and this is based not solely on the form of one team, but of three or four). Meanwhile Chelsea sit on 29 points. So to have a good chance of getting Top4, Chelsea would have to accrue around 40 points in the second half of the season. This is the same number that United and City have managed in the first half of the season, leading them to sit at the top of the table. There is no chance in hell that Chelsea under Lampard would’ve got 40points in the rest of the season, and even if there is a new manager bounce it is extremely unlikely that Tuchel can manage Top4 this season, let alone this supposedly-demanded “title challenge”.

I don’t really have a conclusion, except to say: So there!
Lauro, KFC


Dear F365

It seems like some of your readers have still not fully appreciated Peppy G’s approach to winning football games despite gracing our league for several years now.  In many respects its similar to how high stakes poker sharks play texas holdem when they adopt a low variance strategy over a large number of hands.  The first point that everyone should recognise is that Pep likes possession.  If the opposition don’t have the ball they cannot score.  In addition to this, he creates chances.  Loads of them.  Until recently Citeh haven’t been scoring lots of goals but they have still been creating lots of opportunities.  Advancing Gundogan seems to have unlocked this issue and Foden has continued with his rich vein of form.  Against this background, the whole team (strikers included) defend resolutely from the front.  The chances they concede are few and far between.  The season they won the league with 100 points the large majority of league games saw them allow their opponents 2 reasonable scoring opportunities at best.  As such, Citeh’s variance is very low over a large number of football games.  They create large numbers of chances and allow their opponents very few.  Over the course of the season this strategy gives a ROI of a lot of points.  Referring decisions become almost meaningless as teams are swept away by a monsoon of attacking play.  If penalties are awarded against citeh they shouldn’t matter as citeh should be scoring 2, 3 4 or more goals in most games.  The best poker players take this line so when they are “coolered” they dust themselves down for the next hand/game.

This strategy was plain to see last night.  The only difference was that in some peoples’ eyes the referring decision went for citeh rather than against them, despite the goal being completely legitimate (no need for the powers of be to change the law this time).  To highlight this as being the reason they “may” win the league is at best disingenuous; at worst downright stupid given they scored 3 more goals in that half alone.  In any event, everyone knows that referring decisions even themselves out over the course of the season (unless you’re a northern team that plays in red) but for citeh they are largely irrelevant (with the exception of one on one cup games).  In the league you really shouldn’t be hearing citeh fans complain too much about referring decisions.  If citeh do lose it’s generally because the players haven’t implemented Pep’s strategy properly or he’s adopted a bohemian approach that has backfired.  In some circumstances its because teams have taken the few chances they have been allowed and defended resolutely.  Props to those teams that have done that over the years.  Vardy and Leicester spring to mind as they counter very well.  The game in April could turn out to be a title decider at this rate.
Rosie Poppins



Pepe will score in the box from the left…
Been saying for a while now that Pepe should play on the left- and there he goes and scores the type of goal we all want him to get. Powerful run, uses his pace, instinctive finish. He is almost criminally one-footed, so when he plays on the right defenders know he will slow down to cut inside. Once he has done this his poor decision making lets him down and the defence easily counters him. On the left he doesn’t have to stop and think as the ball is on his stronger foot already, so he can cross or shoot straight away. Simple this football lark, innit.
Dave, Brighton


Pepe booking
I’m always interested to see obscure instances in football and none more so than when it involves the incompetence of one of our highly skilled Premier League referees. In last nights Saints v Arsenal game Pepe was booked by the ref for not leaving the field of play quickly enough when he was substituted…..except he didn’t actually get substituted.  He was due to be substituted then Smith-Rowe went down with an injury so Arsenal changed the sub to bring Smith-Rowe off.  Even if Pepe was the man to go off there was an injury and a stop in play for a couple of minutes so you can’t book Pepe in that instance either.  I found it an utterly bizarre decision, and of course as we know with the wonderful FA you can’t appeal yellow cards even in such painfully incorrect circumstances.

Good to see Arsenal keeping up the momentum, away win at Southampton is difficult, 5 wins and a draw in 6, only 2 goals conceded in that period, the most exciting teenage talent in the league in Saka, another youngster blossoming in Smith-Rowe and just as crucially some less fashionable players like Holding and Cedric being improved under Arteta’s guidance.

Finally, considering there is little money to be spent and very little business done in January Arsenal are having a very good transfer window managing to get rid of Ozil, Kolasinac and Sokratis, (and maybe Mustafi) and bringing in Ryan and Odegaard on loan.  It might not be flashy business but it is evidently sensible and with a clear strategy, something Arsenal have lacked for a number of years in the market.
Rich (AFC)


Virtual reality refereeing
The decision to allow the Man City “goal” is nothing short of a VARce. What we have now is VRR, Virtual Reality Refereeing. The mind boggles.
Keg Breezy


Why change it?
Ok, so the new offside rule suggested by Greg, Tampa, USA, (or by Saby, actually) doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me. So in order to avoid sending the ball from one end of the pitch to the other, you can instead punt the ball to a player standing just on the halfway line, who can then kick it to a goal-hanger.

Brilliant.Passive-aggressiveness aside, am I wrong in thinking this might actually result in fewer goals? I mean, if teams could so easily get hammered by some neat passing and quick CMs, it would only really make sense to play all out attack or all out defence.

Right now, the offside rule allows for more tactical variety (with the new rule, the high line/offside trap becomes pretty useless), promotes better runs from attackers and smarter build-up play from midfielders or, god forbid, attacking full backs. It’s far from perfect but I doubt drastic changes like these need to occur.
Andrew, Melbourne


Flagging for offside
Let’s get it out of the way first, you should always play to the whistle, everybody knows that.

Now, that being said, how often does the ref actually ignore the Assistant Ref’s flag? Yes, if they flag for a foul the ref may play advantage, but they signal/shout that and so the players know that the ref isn’t going to stop the match. It’s different to the ref ignoring an offside call.

The Premier League’s rule, for lack of a better word, is that the AR’s should not flag for an offside decision if there is an immediate goalscoring opportunity. It is at this point that there may be some confusion, as they say two things which kind of contradict each other:

1.     The AR will keep their flag down until the passage of play is completed; and
2.     The AR will raise their flag if a goal has been scored or the chance is gone.

I’m going to go out on a limb and presume that the Premier League refs and ARs have been given more information than is contained in the three lines on this on the Premier League website and so know when to judge between a passage of play being completed and the goal scoring opportunity ending.

If we take it that once the immediate goalscoring opportunity is gone, the AR should raise their flag, then what Massey did was correct. When the ball was played, with 21:44 on the clock, there was an immediate goalscoring chance. However, that disappeared after the first two touches by the City player, so she raised her flag, with 21:50 on the clock. She waited six seconds, City lost the immediate goalscoring opportunity, so she flagged for the offside. To me, she appears to have done everything correctly.

If you believe she should have waited until the end of the passage of play, my question is, when does the passage of play end? How long should City have been allowed to pass the ball around the West Brom box before the passage of play ends? Or let’s say by some miracle West Brom intercepted a pass and broke at pace, looking like they might catch City on the break (it’s easier to do if you imagine another team in that situation). Should West Brom be called back for the free, allowing City to get their players back? It essentially comes down to whether offsides should only be given if there is a shot on goal, or if they should be given in every situation.

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