The Mailbox ponders whether Chelsea and Barca are trailblazers or totally f***ed. Also: Luke Shaw; Jurgen Klopp’s standards; and a sorry pile of rubble in Sheffield…
Keep your views coming to firstname.lastname@example.org…
Many positives can be gleaned from a positive first half of the season under Ten Hag, most of which will have been covered in great depth and in a far more coherent manner than I could.
What stood out for me last night and on more than just a few occasions this season was Luke Shaw’s maturity which has more often than not been questioned by most fans.
His last few post match interviews show to me that not only has his footballing and consistency improved under Ten Hag and his thus far faultless coaching but his intelligence, maturity and presence within this incarnation of United has infinitely grown.
He spoke like the Utd player we all wish he would be last night with a maturity that has flourished with every game he plays this season.
He gets credit for the improvement in his game and rightly so, but we should also credit him for his clear and obvious mental improvement which is harder to achieve than the former.
It’s refreshing to see someone mature in the manner he has as a direct result of the improvements on field and the staff around him.
I hope this continues not just with Shaw but the others that will no doubt have noticed the same.
There’s a different Luke about him this season and we Shaw do like it.
Apologies for the cheesy puns!
If I may, I’d like to weigh in on the argument between Watson and Matrix et al in the mailbox about these ridiculous transfer fees etc as I’m running out of popcorn.
The marmite Johnny Nic wrote a good article many years ago about footballs excess, at that time I was feeling pretty detached from the sport I grew up loving as it held a lot of parallels to society itself: Massive disparity from the rich and the poor.
I wrote in to say I agreed with him, and that I no longer buy shirts, or merch, or pay for a football subscription. I don’t spend a dime on football. Not a cent.
My relationship with football exists solely as a “free” escape from reality and has done for a while now.
Bale and Ronaldo were going for 80 odd million and I thought it was insane, but at least they were the best players in the world at the time, so you could make a case (I wouldn’t agree) that their fees should be that high. I didn’t like it then, I like it less now, as the money is just wasted. I could accept it if it found its way back to grass roots to help kids that can’t even afford boots or to go to practice, but it just goes out of the game to agents and groups that take their cut. Clubs do community outreach programs, forgive me for being cynical, but it’s solely to keep the masses happy, they could do much more.
Onto the here and now, the Bale and Ronaldo fees have become normalized. I believe the Neymar fee was a watershed moment (on top of many watershed moments)…that sent fees into hyperdrive.
Fees seem to get more and more insane every year, as do wages. It was only two years ago that the working class were getting laid-off from the clubs they love working for, by billionaire owners, while they furloughed wages (or tried to) because the pandemic hit their coffers hard. Now we’re back to insanity and it’s like we didn’t learn a thing? At what point do we say enough is enough?
What is the % of inflation of transfer fees vs the average working wage over the past 10-20 years? I’m curious as going to game costs an entire weeks wages for most people these days. A reminder, without fans, the game is nothing. Ask Liverpool fans if they really got to enjoy their first title in yonks because they had to stay away…
Finally, its not just football, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple gets 1150 times the salary of the average Apple employee, does he deserve that, or would 100 times the salary be reasonable? Top executive salaries have sky rocketed since the 1980s while the working wage is barely in line with inflation. So in 3-5 years when the transfer fees are 200 million for a Mudryk, and a CEO gets 2000 times a salary, will we do something then?
It’s been posited that society accrues its greatest wealth before collapse, i think we’re close to a tipping point and noone seems to notice.
I’m a capitalist, but a low standard of living for the working class (where everything has gone up in price except peoples wages) isn’t capitalism, it’s just outrageous greed, and that’s what football has become. We aren’t making the world better, but much worse, and the same people that are struggling to make ends meet are also just going “huh” when reading reports of ridiculous fees all across the English game (and PSG etc). Why don’t we stop arguing over who’s articulated the better points and actually do something to focus on the matter in hand? I suggest all fans of all 20 clubs boycott the first game of next season. But I already know the responses I’ll get.
Strevs, AFC, Canada (Wake up)
Interesting defence of Klopp by Gofezo, but while Klopp may have spent £300m less than Pep, he’s also only won the one PL… I mean, Leicester did that and spent a hell of a lot less again. Is that really a defence? Arsenal are on course to do the same with less too.
Sure, he’s also one each cup once too, which is very nice, but if that’s the level of expectation at Liverpool, my how standards have fallen.
As far as United, things are going as smoothly as that beautiful man in charge’s head. And yeah, Sancho in the middle is the future for him I think, just needs a bit of match sharpness. Finally, looking foward to the summer window, knowing that we – at last – seem to have a team with a plan and the willingness to act decisively.
Now just need final shot of the Glazers and it’s happy days!
And now we wait
There are currently two teams in European football experimenting with finances that no one else is.
In Barcelona’s case, plenty can’t see how it doesn’t end in tears. The financial levers do come across as selling tomorrow for an uncertain today. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe the guys in charge of Barcelona are geniuses. And this is a model we could all learn from.
In Chelsea’s case, plenty think that they’re kicking cans down the road and the finances are unsustainable. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe the guys in charge of Chelsea are geniuses and this is a model we could learn from.
But if these were my clubs, I’d worry. True, someone has to be first. And trailblazers look foolish to those around them till they’re proved to be right. But still. It’d give me pause.
Maybe this is me crying more. Maybe this is pure jealousy because I’m vehemently anti-Chelsea or anti-Barcelona and these grapes are so sour. Or maybe this is some risky shit your clubs are pulling, and it might all blow up horrifically. I don’t know. But then neither do their fans. Which is why I’d pause before crowing too much.
Forcing Arsenal’s hand
I think this whole “Arsenal fans can’t complain about Chelsea’s and City’s spending” argument is totally lacking in perspective. Chelsea and City have practically ruined the game competitively and financially with their outrageous spending. Arsenal is a club just trying to keep up. It’s become spend or die because of the actions of financially doped clubs.
We have become forced to spend a lot in order to compete with the likes of Chelsea and City. And we’ve still only spent a fraction of what they have. We can’t afford to just buy a whole new squad the way Chelsea has. On top of this Chelsea and City’s money has come almost entirely from objectively horrifying sources.
Before you mention it, I’m aware that we are sponsored by Emirates which I deeply resent. I hate the fact that our stadium is named after Emirates, in fact I hate all corporate stadium names, and I hope that we’ll drop that name in time and replace it with a local cultural name. Having said this, there are levels of evil and Man City and Chelsea are clearly at another far darker level.
As the old adage goes: I hate Tottenham because I’m an Arsenal fan. I hate Chelsea because I’m a human being.
Vish (AFC), Melbourne, Aus
What a mess Chelsea are. Take Enzo Fernandes. Obviously he’s enormously overpriced, but has anyone considered what he’s actually going to do for Chelsea ?
Chelsea are broadly a 343 team. Three central defenders, two nominal defenders at LM and RM – and two central midfielders. (They will broadly stay like this to accommodate silva’s lack of pace / the inexperienced alternatives etc)
At nine figures, Enzo must be one of these central mids. But he has bad defensive stats. Interceptions, tackles, duels, headers etc are all weak. Too weak to be part of a two in midfield.
I suggest that a bit like West Ham with Pauleta – and to a lesser extent Pogba at Man U – Chelsea just spent big on a specialist CM. That is to say, a specialist central midfielder who really has to play in a 3 to be effective.
Sure, he can sit deep and play like a sort of carrick…but he doesn’t have the attributes.
He’s broadly going to need babysitting just like Silva does.
In a defensively minded team like Chelsea – with park the bus actually in their DNA – he’s going to really struggle.
He basically went on strike to force the move…and now knows that this is an effective strategy. Dimitri Payet did this to force his way both into and out of West Ham.
So – enzo’s not going to be played in the right position often enough for his liking. His form and confidence will dip. Then he’ll go on strike and we’ll see how useful these extra long contracts really are.
Half a billion spent. I see no strikers, a defence built around a 38yr old who can’t run…and what we are told to believe are a number of
young “worldies” – according to a plastic friend of mine.
This isn’t Galactico-era Real. This isn’t even modern Barcelona. This is 2000s era Leeds – with a numpty chairmen pushing the margins on the basis that Champions League money is guaranteed. They are making the Newcastle Saudis look dignified and measured.
I’m calling it now. This is an Alexis Sanchez / Paul Pogba type thing. A one way ticket to squad disharmony and midtable obscurity.
Chelsea now have roughly 35 players. That means multiple big names won’t even get a place on the subs bench for these mid table clashes. They will complain. They will strike. It will get ugly.
Like marrying a stripper; this is all going to end in tears.
“Cry more”, as they say ?
Tom E13 (shout out to P Didi and his hilarious trolling)
…So Fernandez has joined Chelsea for a record transfer fee. The general consensus seems to be that he is a very talented footballer who will improve Chelsea. One thing that irks me though is when criticism of the fee comes along people use his performances at the World Cup to seemingly justify it. Why is so much emphasis placed on that? Yes he was brilliant, but, so was James Rodriguez in 2014, so was Paul Pogba in 2018, both of them transferred for huge fees and didn’t really live up to the hype. I am not saying Fernandez will fail, but, he might.
International football is such a poor way of judging a players talents. How often do we see international teams pick players who don’t even play regularly for their clubs? England have done it plenty over the years. How often do we see players come to the Premier League of the back of good performances at international tournaments and then completely flop when faced with club football in England?
It’s perfectly fair to point out that Fernandez played less than 30 games for Benfica and is now worth over 100 million. It is madness. He is young and talented, sure, but the price is insane.
Andrew (Mustafi won a World Cup)
Interesting that Chelsea fan P Didi thinks Chelsea have “a new lease of life” under Boehly, to me it looks like they could implode at any moment. I’m an Arsenal fan and I have zero jealousy towards Chelsea right now.
Signing players on long contracts will help spread the transfer fees but surely they’ll still have FFP issues with their wage bill, especially if they don’t qualify for the CL. Sterling is supposedly on £300k+ p/w and is already old news. Koulibaly supposedly £300k p/w and he has already been replaced.
Since sacking one of the most successful managers in their history – despite all of the squad ‘investment’ – results have largely gone backwards.
Meanwhile the new owner has openly said he wants English football to ‘evolve’ to be more like American sports with nonsensical rule changes, North Vs South games added to an already insane football calendar etc. He clearly doesn’t understand what makes the sport great imo.
What do I know, maybe someone who doesn’t know the sport signing tons of big name players on huge wages with no clear strategy will pay off. Chelsea managed several successful rebuilds under Abramovich, maybe this is the latest.
Simon Cochrane (I’m 40 so to me they’ll always be the little West London club with a car park behind one of the goals)
…Re. P Didi’s email in the Thursday morning mailbox:
I’ve never seen something so ridiculous as someone boasting about their club cleverly using the same financial tools as Real, Atletico and, drum roll please… Barcelona!
Sure mate, that’ll end well.
…Ok, I’ll bite ‘P’.
Yep, Chelsea have been spending and a lot of fans (myself included) were hoping Chelsea would go back to their natural state (a lower midtable PL club) after using dirty Russian money to buy trophies for the past 20 years.
I would however in your jubilation, urge to have a look at the details of some of these transfers. How many players do you have now who have 6, 7 or 8 year contracts? It is a hell of a risk. If the player doesn’t work out you are stuck with them for 5 years or more….likewise if Chelsea don’t make the Champions League, which is unlikely this season, then you will also be at financial risk.
Thirdly, everyman and his dog knows that you need to sell players so you wont be getting decent fees for them – all this adds up to a high risk strategy that could go very very wrong.
Tom (Chelsea to do a Leeds 2000), London
…Since being taken over by Abramovich in 2003, Chelsea have lost nearly a million pounds a week.
They have spent nearly a million pounds a week more than they earned, and those losses were made good by Abramovich in the form of personal loans to the club at peppercorn rates, as the point for him was to gain prestige and sportswash not make money.
When Abramovich was politely asked to get in the sea along with many other Russians firmly tied to the regime in Moscow, the total debt owed by Chelsea to him was £1.6 billion.
That was money they didn’t earn that they had spent on player wages, transfers and huge spending on training, stadium and academy infrastructure.
Every single penny of that £1.6 billion was completely wiped off the accounts by Abramovich when Boehly bought the club. Just gone. Forgiven completely, Financially Fair Played.
That’s £1.6 billion of spending that Chelsea.. cheated.
They cheated by how they were able to get the loans, and they cheated when the loans were just deleted.
And now, just as a further Russian “f*ck you” to every other club in football, the American idiot who bought the club was forced as a condition of ownership to spend £1.75 billion on players and infrastructure over the next ten years.
They’re doing it all over AGAIN, and their fans smugly laugh.
That’s why they as a club are seen as soiled, along with the long and unpleasant history of players and managers and fans who are shitbags.
Chelsea are an unpleasant mid tier London club who have earned none of their success. They suckled blood money from Abramovich and now they continue to suckle from Abramovich’s unfortunate American patsy.
No one likes you, Chelsea. Because you cheat.
Tim Sutton (Greenwood should be a Chelsea player)
The Plough, opposite the world’s oldest football ground – Hallam FC in Sheffield – is now a pile of rubble. It is generally believed to be the pub where the rules of the modern game were drawn up in the 1860’s but has now been reduced to a pile of rubble.
The pub had been in decline for years following mismanagement by the owners and their desire to sell the site to a supermarket chain which was continually blocked. Eventually, they managed to get rid of it to a developer for a song, who immediately put in a planning application to knock it down and build houses.
A local campaign group was set up to save this community asset and funds were raised to buy the pub back from the developer. In fairness, Sheffield City Council (SCC) blocked every planning application and there were over 200 objections lodged. It was classed as a community asset by SCC in an attempt to protect the site from the vultures. However, the developer began destroying the pub from the inside and turned the car park into a rubbish dump. The campaign raised over £430,000 to buy the pub back, but the developer had his eye on the main prize.
I contacted the BBC, the FA and even tried to engage local “celebrity” Dan Walker who was fronting Football Focus at the time, to try to generate national media publicity for what was going on. The BBC and Walker had the good grace to just ignore me, whilst the FA, true to their money-grubbing ethos, said it was nothing to do with them whilst they tried to sell me hospitality packages to Wembley or tours of St Georges. Nobody was interested other than the local rag.
Eventually, the developer went around SCC to the Secretary of State, who received another pile of objections but who waved through the application and ordered Sheffield Council to pay compo to the developer for delaying his plans, totally ignoring any arguments regarding the historical worth of the pub or the retention of the heritage asset.
The site is now on the market for £2.2m with planning permission for 8 houses. The Secretary of State must be so proud at this fine example of professional vandalism resulting in a huge profit for the developer. Such a very Tory result.
I appreciate that this is not much to do with the current zeitgeist of blinkered tribalism, but without The Plough we might not be where we are today. So, the next time you hear Lineker and his pals or the Football Association talking up the history and heritage of the FA Cup, just remember this pile of rubble and see the BBC and the FA for the useless charlatans that they are. But they won’t care. Unfortunately, responsibility and shame seems to have disappeared from our national persona replaced by apathy and greed.
George Graham > Arsene Wenger
Should have been clearer – I regard Anfield ’89 as the greatest moment in Arsenal’s history.
That’s just my opinion. I also preferred George as manager to Arsene – for one specific reason – when George was manager I feared no-one. When Arsene was manager, there was always a limit to what we could achieve.
This is no better exemplified than with the two manager’s European finals. In 1994 I always thought we could get a result – even though Parma were much the better team, while in Wenger’s European finals, I always feared we were going to lose – yes, even in 2000 against Galatasaray.
On a separate point – is someone going to tell P Didi that Chelsea are in 10th?
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Afternoon people, I see Gobby the Media Whore has been laying into yet another United player on Talksport, Fergie really did a number on him mentally didn’t he? So Mr 13 goals best ever season at Villa thinks Anthony 11 games in and 3 goals coming in from a different league and adapting is pony yet £100m Jack my mate Grealish has been excellent this season, that’s a player who knows the league and has scored a whopping 2 goals this season in more games.
What is it with Talksport and their pundits? Souness on Casemiro, He was playing with great players. He’s not a great player. He has never been a great player.
I see him as a steady Eddie who will help United be more solid in midfield. I don’t think he has got a great range of passing. I don’t think he is going help other people play, or how about Simon Jordon on Ten Hag I saw a small man in a suit that doesn’t fit him, I looked at Ten Hag and thought that this job is going to be too big for him. There are other examples daily from them it’s just a weird litany of bullshit thrown at United by people purporting to be knowledgable about the game.
Just a quick one on last nights game, I know the result wasn’t effected but in what universe is that not a penalty on Weghorst? I thought the ref was poor booking Casemiro for losing his footing and Fred for a player pretending he got his foot stood on. Anyway enough of that I blame Klopp.
Paul Murphy, Manchester