Mails on cloning Fabinho and rubbish Man United…

Date published: Thursday 21st January 2021 2:27 - Sarah Winterburn

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Fabinho would win clone wars
The clone team has definitely been debated in the mailbox before, but its fun to have another run at it. However, the analysis and choices in the article are a bit ludicrous. Mostly they are attacking, often flair players. This wouldn’t work. Seriously, put four Manes across the back and see how many goals they ship. What you need is players are comfortable defending, can control a midfield and have goals in them.

The outstanding choice for Liverpool (and perhaps the league) would be Fabinho. He played a good chunk of his career at right back, is a fearsome centre back and a man capable of dominating the centre of the park. He’s also got a heck of a shot on him (although not always accurate).

Play 11 Fabinos against 11 Kanes or De Bruynes and I’d back the Liverpool team any day. I’d say Fabinho scoring against De Bruyne defending is more likely than the other way round. I’m sure the mailbox will come up with others, but I think Fabinho takes some beating.
Mike, LFC, London


But Man United are still not actually any good
Am I missing something that everyone else sees? This United team, ISNT a very good side, admittedly we have changed tactics in recent weeks from Bruno punting it for Rashford to get on to then get brought down and win a penalty, but they aren’t a good side, and dare I say it NOT title contenders.

Struggle to beat sides convincingly (aside from Leeds who lets face it are a 5 aside team, every game could finish 15 all), when they go a goal up they have backs to the wall, clinging on for dear life, they don’t take the game to sides, are still missing three or four players to be contenders – AWB is unbelievable at tackling, but is probably the worst footballer in the league with the ball, Martial for three minutes a season yes he is better than Pele but the rest of the time he’s about as useful as a ham sandwich to a vegan, they don’t have a forward capable of banging in 20 league goals a season and are still poor at the back the majority of the time.

Yet Solskjaer is made out to be some sort of messiah, aside from his history with the club he’s a PE teacher at best, I’m probably a tad over critical as from the age of 12 to 32 we had some great seasons, but we’ve not had a great season in 10 years and won’t be any better this season, flunked out of the UCL and League Cup with a whimper, have done poor against the big six, yes we sit top as I type this but that means nothing this season – three without a win and you could be out the top eight.
Dean Rowland


Understanding Pogba 2.0
As somebody who has been waiting to see the back of Pogba for a while, I found a new insight into him in his post-match comments, which crystallised a hunch I had without being able to put into words. Pogba was very combative in his post-match interview – saying “I’m always happy when we win”. That I think gives us a huge clue about his form for France or even Juventus, vs Man United. Pogba likes the swagger. So he plays better when he’s in a team that’s already good. It makes him come alive and motivates him to turn it on and play much closer to his potential. When he sees shambles around him, he is clearly not the man to drag his team through. It seems to make him completely lose his mojo. Whether or not Solskjaer has worked this out, or Pogba and he have had a candid chat about this, it seems that Ole has been able to bring the best out of Pogba basically by improving the team around him.

This would have been unthinkable three months ago, but it gives Ole the opportunity to rest the clearly exhausted Bruno, by playing a midfield of Fred/McTominay with Pogba in Bruno’s role.
Ved Sen (For a team that supposedly gets too many pens, United are quite appalling at winning fouls), MUFC


Onwards and upwards for Man United
Another night for United where the only thing that truly mattered was the result. United’s form could still nosedive but at least there was no immediate negative aftermath after the Liverpool draw. United just shaded the big chances against Liverpool enough to give them the belief that they could have, or even should have, won that match, and that intangible belief goes a long way.

Spurs were being talked about as title contenders till last month when they parked the bus against Liverpool, and still lost to an injury-time header. They lost 2-0 to Leicester in their next match then drew 1-1 to Wolves in their next PL match, followed by a 3-0 win over Leeds and another 1-1 draw against Fulham. The free-flowing Spurs with Kane and Son leading the charge definitely felt stifled after that Liverpool match. Some of that has be down to the belief that got sapped away from them with that Firmino header.

Mourinho did the same thing at United where the team was in form early in the season but then he set up United to completely park the bus against Liverpool. The confidence of the team looked shot after that.

These intangibles like Confidence and Belief go a long way towards building a Championship winning mentality, having come away against a Liverpool side with our momentum unscathed will go a long way towards our overall performance this season.

Manchester City still look favourites to win the league this year but hopefully United are not far behind. After years of languishing behind, even a title challenge would be enough!
Shehzad Ghias, MUFC, Karachi


Why would a professional club have an unbalanced squad?
After reading an article on Chelsea’s top-heavy squad, it made me think about my own limited football management experience on the old Championship Manager. I know, I know, but hear me out.

In May of every season when the transfer window was about to open, I used to look round my squad, think who I was going to keep and then transfer list everyone else. Not all of them would go but I’d always try and get rid of the complete duffers by any means. Then, I’d want four decent centre backs, preferably who were comfortable playing full back too, and a couple of specialists. Then three decent strikers and a promising youngster, because I quite often like to play two up top. Two defensive midfielders and four or five flexible options in front of them. If there were any serious injury problems, then the ones who I hadn’t managed to sell could fill in in an emergency.

Now sometimes I wouldn’t be very successful selling everyone I wanted to, so I’d end up with a big squad with half of them permanently transfer listed until someone was stupid enough to take them off my hands, much like a real club. When searching for a player for a position I needed, I obviously made a shortlist and tried to get my number 1 target, and went down the list until I got one. Sometimes I’d end up with some exotic sounding free transfer Brazilian with amazing stats who was actually rubbish, but such is life. Much like a real club.

What I never ever did, was once I’d managed to get one, still keep going and buy the rest of them anyway, because what’s the point in that? So, after all that rambling, why do all these highly paid football executives not follow the same formula? How do Chelsea manage to get a top-heavy squad? How did Everton manage to buy all the number 10s they could think of? How did Man United have a vast collection of underwhelming centre backs? Do the executives not have squad planning meetings and just buy whoever they want instead? Admittedly buying and selling is more difficult than a computer game makes it look, but surely the basic principles of squad management are the same? Some clubs like Leicester seem to do this very well, but the level of incompetence of people trusted to play around with millions of pounds I just find astonishing.
Andy, Cheshire


Nobody can afford Salah
I’ve been a little mystified by the talk in recent mailboxes of whether Liverpool should or shouldn’t sell Mo Salah. What seems to have escaped people is this; there’s a global pandemic on and all the buyers are skint.

Personally, given how well Liverpool have been run in recent years (and I say that through gritted teeth), I suspect their plan was to cash in on one of Salah or Mane this summer and then reinvest the £100m+ fee into 2 or 3 younger players. Then Covid happened.

If you look around Europe, who still has any money to spend? Barca and Real are skint, no one in Italy has the sort of money it’d take to land someone like Salah, PSG and Bayern maybe have a bit, but it’d be their whole budget, and then you’re looking at Premier League sides, which isn’t going to happen.

The pandemic has decimated clubs’ finances, especially their cash positions (crucial if you understand finance) and it’ll be a season or two before the transfer market recovers to pre-Covid levels. This presents a huge problem for a side like Liverpool who have a raft of players aged 28-30; by the time the market has recovered their peak value will long since have passed which makes funding their replacements that much more challenging. Just goes to show, even the most careful planning can go out of the window.
Lewis, Busby Way


The law is the law
Just a quick one for those aggrieved by the offside decision last night.

If Mings keeps the ball, doesn’t pass it, and runs towards the City goal, at what point is Rodri allowed to try and tackle him? Is there a specified amount of time? Or is it once Mings has it under control? The second option is the only sensible one and that is what happened.

It was a surprise to see it play out the way it did, but upon reflection any other decision would be wrong. Mings simply should have got rid.


…So managers and footballers are highly paid professionals. It’s surely their job to understand the laws of the game in which they ply their trade. How come I know the offside rule and seemingly Dean Smith and the Villa players – Mings especially – don’t?

Nearly two years ago (Feb 2018) Kane won a penalty at Anfield after Agger had sliced a ball into his path, despite Kane being offside from the original through ball, the penalty was given and afterwards there was a lot of debate before someone dug up the law on the incident.

I work in the banking sector – I have to know the rules by which my role is governed or I face the sack and or possible criminal charges. I don’t earn anywhere near what top level professional footballers earn but I am expected to know what the law relating to my role is.

For Dean Smith to say something along the lines of ‘ if that’s the law then it’s a stupid one’ means he does understand that it’s a law of the game and therefore the officials were correct and he should say that he was at fault for not knowing it. Ignorance of the law has never been an excuse in the real world or the football one.
Steve Leeds 51 years and counting (although there are some bits I don’t like to count)


…Man City’s first goal last night really shone a spotlight on how poor/partisan punditry is in the game at the moment. Let’s be absolutely clear, the laws of the game explicitly allow the goal. It’s there in black and white. The moment Mings chests the ball he plays Rodri onside. For pundits to question the decision (not the law itself) is just embarrassing. Equally embarrassing were the pundits who were openly admitting that they didn’t even know the laws. I tell you someone who did know the laws – Rodri. He clearly knew what he was doing and props to him for it. At the uppers echelons of all competitive sports it’s edges like that, that separate the winners from the losers. That edge unlocked a game that had dropped points written all it. Last night felt like a really big win for Citeh in the race for the title.

One pundit on a national radio station had the temerity to say that decisions like that could cost Champion League places or cause relegation. I could not disagree more. Understanding the laws of any game, whether you like them or not (that’s a separate discussion) and playing within those laws to your advantage in order to win is what sport at the highest level is all about. In what other sport or industry for that matter, other than american wrestling, would you get a professional responding to such an intelligent and match winning play in such a fashion? One thing is clear though, every player in the league will know that law now and let’s not be naive enough to know that they will be trying to use it to their advantage at the earliest of opportunities.
Rosie Poppins


…The situation last night between MCFC and AVFC reminds me of a sort of similar one in a World Cup game, admittedly many years ago, where ‘everyone’, commentators, pundits, players and managers thought they knew the rules. I cannot remember who was playing who but this was the situation. A ball was played through to a legitimately on-side player on the wing who cut in for a one-on-one with the keeper only to be stopped by a fine, legal, sliding tackle by a defender whose momentum then took him over the goal-line. The ball went back to another forward who played it to the original man, standing alone in the box, who scored. Cue outrage, the lino is blind, you don’t know what you’re doing. The goal stood, no-one understood why, all the years of playing the game and commentating on it and ‘knowing’ the rules left them astounded. Until it was explained that the sliding defender, even though he was off the pitch, was there by his own volition and in fact was counted to be on the line, thus playing him onside, as opposed, for example, to the ref knowing he was off the pitch for treatment.

I don’t know if this is still applicable, I’m sure there are some refs reading this who can put me straight, but it illustrates that perhaps the officials do actually know the rules.
Ian, New Brighton


Adopt a team
Fantastic suggestion from Dave LFC/Burnley this morning about adopting a team, now I am a Chelsea fan, no shocks there you all know me well enough by now, but I currently live in the Midlands area of the UK, I have been to a few Wolves games in the past but they are Premier League currently so I cannot adopt them, due to my Scottish roots I also have admiration for Rangers, but again far to popular and big of a team in their country to probably count toward Dave’s suggestion for adoption, however I think we all have our own soft spots for a certain club and mine has always been Portsmouth, mainly as I was a fan of Niko Kranjcar, so when he was playing for Portsmouth for those 3 and a bit seasons back in the late 00’s they had my attention a fair bit, his second season resulting in an FA Cup triumph alongside the likes of David James, Glen Johnson, Sol Campbell, Lass Diarra, Pedro Mendes, Muntari, Kanu, Baros and all led by Harry Redknapp, some true 00’s nostalgia for you there.

Nowadays they are sat in League One trying to gain promotion back to the Championship, currently sat in third with a game in hand over leaders Hull City who they do play this coming Saturday which should be an entertaining game indeed, they may not have the stellar names that they had 10 years or so ago but I do enjoy watching them when they have a game on the TV, would happily put a mini section within my mails about Portsmouth from time to time to mix it up a bit in the Mailbox, so keep an eye out for that in the future, or perhaps when Chelsea have a dry/slow news day which is never.
Mikey, CFC (PFC could become the added bracket in the future, you never do know)


And in Norn Iron…
Northern Ireland is attempting another restart of football this weekend, following the latest “pause”.  The Premiership didn’t start until October and they scheduled a 38-game season but few people think the teams will be able to play all the games.  At least, they’ve come up with a way of deciding the title and European positions, if the season ends early so at least we won’t have last season’s fiasco when nobody knew what was happening.  However, everything below the Premiership hasn’t started at all because it hasn’t been designated as “elite sport”.  The Irish Cup has been reduced to 32 teams but the start of the competition has been put off.  The League Cup hasn’t been scheduled at all.  I think a financial disaster is looming for the NI Football pyramid.

The first game back is Crusaders (my team) taking on Larne, live on Sky Sports on Saturday at 12.30pm (with no fans around they can stick the games on at stupid o’clock  🙄 ).  It’s at Seaview (Crues home ground) which gives us a good chance of getting a good result – our home form is great, our away form is terrible.  The Crues are third on 25 points.  Larne (full-time pros boosted by investment) are second on 26 points.  Linfield, last season’s champions, lead the way with 28 points.  So there’s a good title race developing, in theory anyway.  Yet the whole thing feels eerie. The Irish League has always been something you go and watch at the grounds, not on TV (until this season, live coverage has been rare).  With fans not around to see these games, is this season really happening?  🤔  If a tree falls in the woods…
Matthew, Belfast
PS: Am I the only one bored with the persecution complex from PL managers – Klopp (fixtures, injuries, Man Utd’s penalties), Parker (fixtures), Smith (refereeing decisions – his own ignorance btw)?  Get over yourselves.  😴


Dear Stuart…
That’s a long old letter and yet I am still slightly uncertain as to your points. I can see you are ever so keen to defend people who genuinely don’t care if you live or die, which is nice. I think. I’d put Stuart’s absolutely terrible opinions down to the kind of charming naivety that my mother demonstrates, but the charmingly naive don’t open with Whitesnake lyrics, and my mother isn’t this gullible.

You defend Abramovich and his ownership of Chelsea. Why? “Oh just let him have his fun”. Why? He’s not here because he loves football, he’s here because you can only steal so much from the state before you either get out or get got. His wealth stands in direct contrast to the widespread poverty in his home. Poverty he experienced himself. And his response is to steal and run. He is an odious individual and his wealth should be stripped from him and used for actual good means, not giving a bunch of animalistic racists a trophy or two. Stop defending billionaires for being greedy, immoral, soulless cunts. They aren’t going to reward you. Stop idolising these almost-people. As I have said before, if one can believe that they deserve or need billions at a time when children starve to death every few seconds, they are not human. And therefore eating them is entirely fine (unless the diner is a vegan/vegetarian).

What is really weird is the dismissal of nepotism and plutocracy. That’s a joke, right? Surely? I do understand the mental resistance to the knowledge that our nation, as with most others, is corrupt. Our government does not act in the best interests of the people. Our government steals from us. Many do not want to see it. They will happily acknowledge these practices in Russia, but not here. Good old Blighty is too good for that. Just as many Brits will criticise America’s slave history, while pretending that we were the heroic saviours. It is bordering on an insane level of delusion. If you don’t accept the Harding (an affinity with Conservative politics through marriage – Stu, are you on crack) example, what about Ashcroft? What about the myriad examples of the past 6 months?

Still not enough? Okay, what about climate change? You don’t accept that the most environmentally-damaging companies have been aware of the impact they have, and have therefore pumped fortunes into false information so that they can continue killing ALL LIFE ON EARTH to increase a wealth that was already unspendable? You don’t accept that our governments turn a blind eye to this? You think the subsidies we give to oil companies are a necessity, because however will those small struggling businesses survive without government support?

This country has been plutocratic for centuries. The occasional vote means nothing. If you enjoy football, you should probably love English politics, because it’s just a game to them. They openly laugh at situations that are destroying people, they ban each other from calling out their lies, they steal every penny they can from the public purse, they privatise (by stealth) the most important national service we have. Then they tell us the people to blame for all of this, for all of the financial shortfalls, are the poor. And people like you, Stuart, absolutely lap it up. Because you are so achingly desperate to be one of them. Stuart, you never will be. But by God, it’s essential to them that you don’t realise that.

The strangest part of Stuart and his Tory gang-bang (and we all know who is receiving in this scenario) is his support of Liverpool. I tell you what Stu, please – PLEASE – get yourself onto RAWK and express your love for those fair and lovely Conservatives. Make sure you reiterate your feelings about Tory conspiracy just not being a thing. It’s just life, right?

I don’t know if I am sad for you, or sad that I don’t think like you. A level of selfishness and ignorance so deep must make for a lovely blanket against the pain and horror of this world. Stay cosy in your bullshit bubble Stu. The rest of us will continue trying not to crumble in the face of governance that finds our existence annoying and inconvenient, that is trying to kill off those financially draining disabled and elderly, that has spent decades diminishing education so its citizens keep believing the endless and overt lies (which clearly worked on Stuart).

The thing is Stu, defending them won’t make you any safer. It’ll just make it sting more when you finally realise.


…I think Johnny may have got under Stuart’s skin somewhat. From my viewpoint I see a select group of individuals who hold positions of significant power and influence, who have attained these positions without prior excellence or record of achievement or significant expertise, who mostly socialise in the same circles, who have partners or relatives that have worked together or golfed together, who have never contributed anything original or industrious to their profession, who despite failing in other high profile positions are always granted another chance at power and influence, and wealth come to think of it.

Now Stuart are the individuals I’m speaking about Conservative politicians, FTSE 100 CEO’s, journalists & broadcasters, or football managers & pundits of the PFM variety? Whilst pondering this let me ask you this, how does being a director of a supermarket chain provide suitable expertise and preparation for creating a massive government program to contact and track millions of citizens with a potentially fatal virus? One more, please elaborate as to the benefits of employing a former graduate of your lauded McKinsey Global Management Consultancy when said graduate proceeds to spend almost £1 million of our money every single day on, wait for it… Management Consultants.

Really, if you can’t see Johnny’s point then you’re reading with your eyes shut.
Dave, Manchester (much love to Minty for using the term ‘sub optimal’, love it, I’m off to read the Bobiverse books again)

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