The Mailbox questions the logic – assuming there is some – behind Chelsea’s spending. Also: the dearth of English strikers; tinkering for Ten Hag; and plenty more…
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Where have all the strikers gone?
Following on from your article on Watkins, a player I would love at Spurs but don’t see that happening without bidding somewhere over £70m.
Being of a certain vintage I was fortunate to have been a seventeen in 1996. Summer of the euros in London was incredible. Shearer and Sheringham as England’s strike partners putting the fear into the best nations in Europe (and not doing too badly in the PL).
On the bench were Les Ferdinand and Robbie Fowler. Two contrasting strikers, one was the best in the air and the other was simply a devastating striker, unlike anything the English league had seen before. Ferocious from distance, deadly from six yards.
This meant that Andy Cole, Ian Wright (who remains on par with Fowler for instinctive finishing), Chris Sutton and Peter Beardsley were omitted. Sutton aside, who was a tremendous foil and not a bad goalscorer at all, those three would be in the England squad now without hesitation.
It also got me thinking about the strikers I have loved, and loathed, to see with my own eyes; Didier Drogba always springs to mind due to his incredible ability to score when it matters most of all. Hasslebaink whose power is unequalled. Dzeko, probably one of the least appreciated players, and certainly the make-weight in one of the stupidest transfers ever. Kane, Berbatov, Cantona, van Nistlerooy, Klinsmann, Torres, Suarez, Rooney.
So, something dawned on me; there aren’t really any strikers of this calibre in the Premier League aside from Haaland. All of the players mentioned were unquestionably skilful, an incredible eye for goal, with each capable of scoring pretty much any kind of goal. But each had brute strength which is something which seems, to me, to be not that important anymore.
Not sure why, I suppose the need to hold up play and bring others in is less important as strikers have developed to no longer play as target men, which is another shame – the loss of a strike partnership but that’s for another time.
When I read that Kane’s absence leaves Watkins, Toney and….Welbeck as the great English strikers I shuddered. Get the battering rams back, the backs to goal, all elbows and shoving, please.
No love for Lukaku
As a fan of a club that he played for, I can assure you that Big Rom is indeed an infuriating and unloved presence to have around. Indeed, bar Michael Owen, I’ve never disliked a United player more.
There’s a moment I always recall that sums it up, I know because I was watching the game with a mate and ended up shouting something along the lines of “you see now?! This is what I’m talking about!”
United were defending a set piece against Arsenal. We got the ball and countered, the ball coming to Lukaku in the centre circle for a 3 on 2 with Martial to his left and Lingard to his right. The ball to play, especially for a left footer, was around the corner to Martial. The likes of Berbatov or Cantona would’ve done it first time, someone like Ole or Saha would’ve taken a touch and played it round. It really wasn’t difficult. But this is Big Rom. The ball bounced 2-3 yards off him. He then had to take a touch to control his bad first touch, then he played the ball round the corner.
By the time he’d played it, defenders were getting back, Martial had to check his run to stay onside and the attack petered out. Thing is, in terms of stats, he hadn’t done anything wrong, but his lack of technique had tapped the brakes mid attack. This happened over and over again, match after match. It’s subtle, but actively hinders you.
If you just have him playing on the shoulder, he’s quick and a fairly competent finisher provided it isn’t a high pressure situation. That’s it. That was also true of Darren Bent or Jermaine Defoe, albeit if they’d spent too long in the gym.
He is what he always was, someone good enough to do well at premier league club outside the elite, like Everton, or in a lower standard of league, which Serie A has been for quite a while.
Doesn’t help that he seems like a massive fanny either.
Lewis, Busby Way
Ten Hag’s next move
As the Greenwood debate seems to have moved into its red pill phase I’d like to talk about actual football again if that’s still what we do here?
The game against Forest this week will be an interesting one not least due to the narrative born from United’s starting eleven. With the somewhat poor performances in the first two games (not nearly as bad as they been made out to be, first half against Spurs was actually pretty good) there has been a healthy dose of criticism levelled at all the attackers especially Garnacho and Mount, both of whom its been speculated could be dropped to the bench.
What team Ten Hag might have picked for Saturday we’ll never know but the injury to Mount might box him into a corner selection wise. We know how highly Ten Hag values the pressing aspect of his attack with Mount primarily brought in to strengthen this but with him out then its likely Eriksen in his place. The Dane is far less mobile and energetic in the press meaning the left sided attacker will need to be more disciplined that what Garnacho currently offers. It would then make sense for Rashford to move back to his preferred left position with perhaps Sancho or even Martial (who has been playing in reserve matches) to come in at no9.
If United win, having moved back to last season’s formation and personnel out of necessity, I’m sure there will be column inches along with TalkSport segments railing against Ten Hag’s trust in Garnacho, his decision to go after Mount, and the change in tactics this season. All of which will be of course be forgotten when United struggle using the old system against Arsenal and Brighton in the following fixtures.
Well, looks like Paul in Brussels’ fears have been realised. Jeremy Doku is now Manchester City’s new number 11.
Yes, yes, I know. We all get a little giddy about new signings and only a minority ever actually hit the ground running in the PL but, when the likes of Theirry Henry, KDB and Mbappe rave about the kid, it’s hard not to have that warm fuzzy feeling of genuine anticipation of what the player, dubbed the ‘Belgian Flash’, could do.
Oh, and he cost £55 million.
From the club that signed Julian Alvarez (and I did warn you about him long before the WC) and the Striking Viking for around £70 mill combined. How many other players have been bought by PL clubs for more money in this transfer window? Just asking.
Mark (Oh, come on. If the roles were reversed, you couldn’t have resisted either!). MCFC.
Seriously, what is going on at Chelsea? Getting rid of pretty much every player who won the CL a couple of years ago, only to replace them with signing upon signing of unproven and very expensive ‘talent’. Close to a billion spent (although not net spend to be fair), but can you say that the starting XI is more likely to push for major honours than the one of 18 months ago? Reduced the squad average age, but surely they can’t expect to develop 20 young signings simultaneously? Mudryk already looking like an insanely well paid squad player on an 8 year contract, and why spend £50m on Lavia when you’ve literally just spent 2 x £100m fees on the players you expect to keep him out of the team? And selling academy grown proven PL performers like Mount just to finance the madness! What happens when £400m worth of talented young players fail to kick on because you can’t possibly expect to give 35 players enough game time to do just that? All well and good spreading the fees over 8 years to circumvent FFP right now, but handcuffed for the next 8 years paying for a group of players that are almost guaranteed to be a mixed bag – some will prove to be good punts, some bad, and some will simply never get the chance to prove themselves due to lack of game time. It’s like Brewster’s Millions, spending for spending’s sake. Does Todd think he’s cracked the code, just outspend everyone and we’ll win it all? It just doesn’t make sense to me, he can’t be that stupid, surely. This isn’t investing to improve a squad, something is going on behind the scenes here ….
Simon, Bristol LFC
Player to watch
If you guys are doing a big weekend feature, make sure to include Arsenal’s left back.
First game of the season, new signing and impressively talented Timber is lost about 1 hour into the game due to an injury, following a warning sign (hobbling around a bit before the break). A freak incident, unprecedented and could not be foreseen.
Second game of the season, “like a new signing” (after injuries) and impressively talented Tomiyasu is lost about 1 hour into the game, due to the silliest of red cards, following a warning prior (a bisarre yellow card). A freak incident, unprecedented and therefore could not be foreseen.
So whoever starts the third game at left back must watch out for any signs, or he will not last 70 minutes, I am telling you all. I am looking at Tierney, who is also like a new signing at this point, impressively talented AND his name starts with a “T” as well!
Mikel, if you are reading this, play Zinky at left back! He is also like a new signing after his latest injury, but his name does not start with a “T”, his injury record would NOT make his sudden departure after about an hour into the game a freak incident, and that would definitely NOT be unprecedented and admittedly rather foreseeable. Thus, the curse would be lifted and we could play anybody at left back thereafter!
Also, if Zinky starts now, it will definitely not be because he is our first choice anyway, but rather you will have irrefutable proof that Arteta reads the Mailbox and takes it very seriously indeed.
András (seeing patterns where there are none), Sweden
Saudi sweeteners for Newcastle
It’s long been clear that a number of very rich people in Saudi Arabia have decided to compete with the EPL and La Liga, in what might be an attempt to simply bypass Ligue Un, Serie A, and the Bundesliga, not to mention the “lesser” European leagues. Taken as a whole, Matt Stead’s seemingly comprehensive survey of the SPL’s transfer activity is practically forensic proof of that. The first thing it made me wonder is, what is the Saudis’ goal? (I don’t say the SPL here, because the SPL consists in a group of investors. I couldn’t tell you who they are, but it doesn’t take Hercule Poirot to suspect that they’re mostly bin Saud relatives, quite possibly with a healthy number of jumped-up hangers-on who can be set up to swallow any losses.)
If disruption of the financial hierarchy in world football were their aim, well, they’ve already achieved it, but they’re continuing to move. I just find it difficult to understand what marketing position they’re investing in. There are only so many Americans that watch the EPL, just as there are few Englishmen who watch Ligue Un every weekend, or Spaniards basking in Serie A. They’re making an implicit play for the Asian market, I suppose, looking for those Korean and Japanese kids who want to watch their heroes play with the big boys. The Chinese league was evidently having its problems already, and this could be the death knell for them. But when you’re gaining your prestige by drawing from Europe and South America, I feel like supporters are led back to the sources. The NASL did more for European football in America than it ever did for American soccer. Perhaps they’re banking on fans following stars, not clubs? Social media could make that an easy misjudgment. But in a broader sense, if what the Saudis blow their cash on is football, that’s not nearly as bad as it could be.
After I got done thinking about that, I noted how happy it made me that Newcastle United were only glancingly mentioned. We sold Saint Maximin for 27m euro (anybody that thinks that was above market value is nuts, btw), and that was it. No unsettling bids, no poaching cheap treasures like Schar. Then, grudgingly, I wondered why that might be. For the moment, at least, NUFC is the jewel in PIF’s crown, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the SPL didn’t have a hands-off-unless-they’re-secretly-willing policy regarding Newcastle United. If that makes fellow supporters angry: well, sorry. You gotta look some gift horses in the mouth. All that said, I don’t think it’s going to be overt; we could use 15m for Jeff Hendrick or Ryan Fraser. An SPL team might come in with a 25m euro January bid for Jacob Murphy, or a good deal more in the summer for Almiron, if he has a good season. I don’t think you’ll see crazy transfer fees, but you might see a certain convenience for Newcastle, if you know what I mean. And maybe in coming years, a sweetheart deal or two for a player who can’t settle in Saudi.
Chris C, Toon Army DC (Trying to settle into the role of a guy who roots for the bad guys.)
Laporte’s transfer got me thinking about how many of the players moving to Saudi this summer might have been signed by England’s elite. Let’s say Man City, Arsenal and Man Utd on the basis that these three could potentially afford them, they’re all in the CL this year and they’re an attractive proposition right now. My view:
Mahrez (but would be his last contract at this level)
Laporte (but would be his last contract at this level)
Mane (but would be his last contract at this level)
Benzema (36 soon)
Neymar (apparently offered to all of Europe’s elite clubs. I wouldn’t want him at Arsenal)
Kante (injury prone, past peak)
Obviously clubs below the top 3 would be more likely to take these players on if they could afford them but they sign players from a much bigger pool so should be able to find alternatives. To me it doesn’t look like much of a talent drain at all. Next summer should be interesting, if the league rules don’t change Saudi clubs will still only be allowed 8 foreign players. So if they want to escalate they’ll be looking to replace largely old or average players with minimal resale value. The amount of money they’d have to spend (already ludicrous) would surely not make sense at all.
The person who thinks the Mason Greenwood story is actually about sportswashing in some way needs to log off the internet as their brain has clearly been broken. Get a grip for f*ck’s sake.
There was a couple of replies to my mail from a couple of days ago about F365 being just a tad too anti men in my opinion and I would like the right to a reply. First, I did not say ‘all men’, that was f365 putting the title. I titled the mail ‘men and f365′.
Graham Simons says that he has been reading this site for 20 years and that Sarah and her team have done a marvelous job. I have been reading this site for just as long Graham, and I agree, that is why I am still here, and why I sent that mail. If I thought the site was sh*t, I would move on. Just like everything there is room for improvement though, and I feel like sh*t-talking men every time there is talk of womens’ football is a big downside for this site. Guess what, I am a white male, in my mid 30’s and I have never discouraged a woman from any sports. I understand that there are many men that have tried to keep women down, and still are. Different conversations. I would say that the comments on my mail and the one other reply I got (I did not even finish reading it, too stupid. Also, that’s what I mean when I say I would not read this site if I thought it was not good) are showing what I am saying. Ridicule, because I am a man so I need to shut up. Obviously I am better off since I’m male, and now that these people know that I am white and close to middle-aged they will probably be shocked that I wasn’t too busy beating my wife and kids instead of writing that mail. It’s ok people, don’t worry, no wife, no kids. Everyone is safe.
May be its partly me overreacting to something anti men that F365 wrote yet again (definitely is that) but again, all the comments prove me right in my opinion. They all seem to sum up to ‘toughen up’ and that I am being oh so precious. How many Delle Allis need to happen. Being white, or male doesn’t toughen me up, and anyone with the idiotic opinion that any of those characteristics make a person tougher or weaker should take a long hard look in the mirror.
I congratulate womens football and celebrate it. It’s a lot better than watching a mens world cup in Qatar (I still can’t get over it) or the Saudi league. I just don’t want to read in every article about womens football that men are sh*t. Like I said in my original mail. F365 had the audience and opportunity to write about womens football for years. Make a difference. Instead, every article they wrote about it was based on the inequality with the mens game or something along the lines, as long as men are shat on. May be they didn’t believe in the womens game, so they thought it was a waste of time, but either way. I would just appreciate it if they got off their high horse because when the womens game needed coverage F365 wasn’t there. Now they get lots of it, so here F365 is, front and center.