Time to start punishing clubs with low Covid vaccination rates…

Editor F365
A Covid vaccination bus is parked at Newcastle United.

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Covid and managing risk
Ian King’s article on Covid was interesting.

Surely the anger from Rennes can be clearly understood – they flew to London to play a football game that, according to the rules, Spurs are obliged to fulfill. Its a dead rubber and they want to get it out the way or, even better, for it to be treated as a Spurs forfeit so they can avoid playing it. Then they can focus on clawing back PSG’s 11 point lead…

It is an interesting dilemma though.

Given how long this has, and will, be going on, don’t we also need to be taking into account factors like how the club in question has managed Covid risk? Would it be fair, for example, for a club like Liverpool (the only specific example I’m aware of), who’ve done a good job of educating their players so they have very high take up of the vaccines, to be prejudiced by fixtures being rearranged to accomodate a club who hasn’t taken appropriate measures to mitigate and control the risk of an outbreak – whether by vaccines or other measures. I should be very clear that I’m not accusing Tottenham of not dealing with Covid properly or seriously, because I have no idea – its a hypothetical.

Ian makes the point that there’s a difference between muscle injuries and Covid in that Covid is an infectious disease and of course, he’s right. But it also true that we can individually and collectively take steps to control our risk (which won’t always be successful). A person can vaccinated, wear a mask, and try to socially distance – their employer could cancel the Christmas party… its just like avoiding muscle injuries by stretching or whatever. Yes, Vaccines are a personal choice, etc. But if you make that personal choice, you either have to manage that risk another way or suffer the consequences when you don’t – isn’t there a point where that should extend to forfeiting football matches you can’t fulfil?
Andy (MUFC)


…I really hope UEFA come down hard on Spurs for the postponement of their UEFA conference league game.

Someone really needs to be made an example of.

The Lille team are currently in London only to find that the game has been called off the morning of the match.

Also, thousands of fans have probably travelled to watch the game.

The club and all its fans should be reimbursed with a 50% bump for time wasted at Spurs expense.

I don’t know how many of the Spurs team, that have the virus, have been vaccinated but the number of players in the premier league, even compared to the national population is significantly lower.

UEFA, the FA and FIFA should act and make sure that unless a player has been vaccinated, he cannot play in any competition or train with his club until he does and subsequently doesn’t get paid until that happens.

There us no excuse for professional sportsmen to have not had a vaccination.

And Conte blathering on about how he’s worried about their families – guess what there is a solution.

I know the vaccine isn’t 100% effective, but guess what, what vaccines are?

No one complains about smallpox and TB jabs, which are compulsory (Or where when I was at school) so FFS, man up and make the world a safer place.
Neil, LFC USA (Off now for my booster)


…While I don’t wish for any individual to suffer from covid I can’t help but feel ambivalent about players like Joshua Kimmich who have been unvaccinated against covid till now and are now suffering long term effects.
If his career gets ruined it’s his fault. We’ve indulged these antivaxxers for long enough. Let them reap as they have sown.
Ryan B


Winter is here
Now that we are into meat of the December fixture pile up, it’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out. Which teams pre-season training worked best, whether the rotations to date and squad depth are going to kick in or not. How much will injuries
Impact teams?

We are already seeing the impact of players who played and played deeper into the Euros look a bit knacked. The prior season started late with minimal pre-season and minimal summer break with the gap caused in the 2019/20 season pushing everything back. So the top players have been involved almost continuously from the resumed 2019/20 season through to now.

When people are complaining that Fernandes, Jorghino, Kane, etc, are not playing to the levels of before, it isn’t really surprising. Played like Shaw, who while limited, did have a pretty good 20/21 season and Euros but now looks shaded. He was never the fittest of players and it’s telling. In the meantime, players who had been out injured or missed the Euros for whatever reason are chugging along nicely.

So while the December fixtures come on fast and furious, I believe it’s going to have an even bigger impact than in previous years. And then we Afcon! Hopefully not like Comicon and we don’t get injuries, Covid infections – more so than Spurs.

Btw, what is up with Spurs ‘suddenly’ getting such a hug outbreak and why so little being said?
Paul McDevitt


A Christmas plea
I come with a festive request for the Manchester United fans in the mailbox. Buy your kids all of the short-term puppies you want but please, for the sake of our collective sanity, stop reacting to every individual game as though it represents five years of football. Your squad has been undercoached for quite some time. The fitness levels will not be high enough to immediately adopt a high-intensity pressing style. The players will need time to learn the patterns and triggers. We saw this with Poch. We saw this with Klopp. These players were being coached by a man who almost certainly would shout ‘press!’ once or twice a game and figured that’s all it took. It’s not an overnight fix. So give it time, and maybe chill the f*ck out in the interim?

On the subject of pressing teams, are Leeds’ issues the result of fatigue? When Poch’s time at Spurs was coming to an end there was a lot of talk around the players being exhausted by the level of intensity. They still supported the manager, but could no longer maintain the required level – something that was exacerbated by the lack of squad turnover. Could the same be true of Leeds? And if so, do they need to make a managerial change before things get any worse? Or just get more of the squad checked for asthma, just in case..


All Maguire’s fault
Mick, Cardiff responded to Dave, Dublin about whether AWB should switch to CB – both of them miss the point. Wan-Bissaka doesn’t have poor positional sense, nor does he “switch off”. And neither does Shaw for that matter. I’ve seen hundreds of mails from Manchester United fans who have the same blinders on. And I say to them, go back and rewatch the matches. Prime example was the RB Leipzig match last year, but there are too many to count. It’s not a lack of concentration or bad positioning that leads to opposing wingers/wing backs scoring goals at the far post.

The team is simply outnumbered because Maguire is a donkey that doesn’t mark any opposing attackers. He drops deep, forcing Lindelof or his other CB partner to cover the striker in the center, leaving Shaw or Wan-Bissaka hung out to dry with two players to cover far post. It sickens me to watch Maguire create a numeric disadvantage for our defense while he marks dead space and shouts, hoping to make a last minute heroic block (he doesn’t), while fans without tactical sense blame it on our pretty darn good fullbacks. Replace Maguire with a decent CB, and I see no reason why Shaw and Wan-Bissaka can’t be our long-term fullback pairing.

I don’t disagree that AWB’s crossing should be better, and he doesn’t drive enough forward, but please don’t blame him for our CB inadequacies. AWB would be a better CB than Maguire, and I would rather see Dalot-AWB-Lindelof-Shaw than AWB-Lindelof-Maguire-Shaw. But that’s because Maguire is terrible, not because AWB has poor positional sense and concentration.

Tim, Philadelphia


Same old United?
Sure Dave, sure. More Ole ball.

We’ll ignore that it was a dead rubber game in a group United had already won, at the start of the traditionally hectic Christmas period where he fielded a side with 11 changes, he’d already spoken openly about managing workloads to avoid muscle injuries as they transition to a pressing style, that he handed out first team debuts to a couple of teenagers, played Matic at centre back despite having several senior options available, didnt put a single “big gun” on the bench, cared so little that he actually swapped the goalkeeper just to give Heaton a few minutes of playing time during a “competitive” fixture.

This game was a glorified friendly for Rangnick where he was having a look at a few fringe and youth players. It wasn’t Ralf-ball, or Ole-ball or anything-in-particular ball. That was obvious to anyone, including you Dave.

Also I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that, notwithstanding all of the above, he actually got a better result than Ole did against the same opponents…

And finally, no, Aaron Wan Bissaka shouldn’t be converted to a centre back. His shortcomings that make him ill-suited have been flagged by others but, ultimately, United have four better senior centre backs. I’d also sooner they gave minutes to Menghi there frankly. AWB needs to focus on improving in his actual position, or be written off as another expensive mistake.
Andy (MUFC)


…Funny mailbox yesterday. Someone (presumably with 100% sarcasm) laying into Ralf for not winning with a team of mostly young players he was trying out in a dead rubber so he could learn. Bizarre, but ok.

But I must have missed the bit where Van de Beek was called out for his performance. Yes, that Van de Beek, the fan favourite, the saviour that has been done the dirty by Ole. The one who comes on or even starts and gives the ball away in dangerous positions that cost goals. The one who maybe just maybe isn’t quite as good as people hoped. The one who was bought to replace Pogba (when he was leaving) as an understudy for Bruno so he could occasionally be rested.

Maybe it’s there somewhere. Written in invisible ink.

But anyway, I think we can safely say that he did not do himself any favours. You can say the players around him didn’t help, but McTominay has had to deal with this for the last year and gets dog’s abuse. At least he follows instructions not to be cute around the box.

Nor did Matic help himself; the lad doesn’t have the legs to do it midfield but does not have the rest of what he needs to do it in defence either. On the positive he made Maguire look good. Scratch that, that’s bad news.

Bailly did his usual, AWB will be off to Newcastle, Lingard showed flashes and a willingness to harry and chase back but didn’t really take the chance. Elanga looks tidy. Greenwood is excellent (which we all knew). Shaw can deliver a very nice cross and will likely have moved ahead of Telles simply because his delivery is damn fine.

But yes, sure, have a go at Rangnick lol


…Dave (At least Ole blew the brakes off the opposition, Rangnick can’t win a second half), Somewhere – small point here buddy but Ole lost convincingly to this Young Boys team while playing De Gea, AWB, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, VDB, Fred, Sancho, Fernandes, Pogba and Ronaldo. His strongest XI. He even brought on Varane, Dalot, Matic, Lingard and Martial rather than the teenagers Ralf utilised last night. If you watched the first game you would have seen that Utd were utter garbage even before they had AWB sent off and should have lost by a few goals. It was similar to the recent Watford game that was Ole’s last.

Ralf rested XI players, even subbed on some debutants and got a draw that very easily could have been a win had there been some better passing upfront in crucial moments by some of the teens on display. The tactics were there for all to see and personally I’m excited to see how far Ralf can improve the teams fortunes.

I suspect you’re not a utd fan but rather a “neutral” doing a bit of baiting.
Jon, Cape Town (making our second string look better than our first XI under Ole is quite a turnaround)


…I realise that half baked opinions are like the glue which holds this community together but that Ralf letter from the other Dave is orders of magnitude more brainless than anything I’ve read on here for years. It’s that bad that it doesn’t even bear critiquing, like Tommy Wiseau it’s so awful that it blurs the line between trash and art.

Dave, I don’t know you but you seem like a pretty angry guy, whatever happened or whoever hurt you it wasn’t Ralf Rangnick. I recommend a period of reflection to gain some perspective, or a few weeks without watching United, or a couple of nights in Amsterdam.
Dave, Manchester (two games done, two thumbs up for Ralf, keep up the good work)


Are you Shaw about Telles?
Finally, some realism in the whole Utd fullbacks’ discussion from Jon and Mick.

This myth that signing Telles made Shaw better last year continues to play out. Shaw was good last year because, like Rooney used to, he got a run of games to get fit and then stayed fit. Telles never was or will never be a real threat to his position. During the Villareal games earlier in the season i texted a mate to say that Telles was the worst defender Utd have had since William Prunier (granted he then scored a screamer) but nothing i have seen since has changed that opinion. Granted he can go forward but he’s Brazilian it comes as read. He is poor positionally and isn’t this Roberto Carlos reincarnation some fans seem to think he is

AWB is in real trouble though. Last night again he looked devoid of confidence or even the ability to do the basics. As for moving him to Centre Back well that’s the equivalent to choosing to chop your finger off as opposed to having a paper cut.

If only we could get Denis Irwin back….even in his 50’s!
King Ralph (not the Rangnick version)

Boring, boring Arsenal
What has happened to Arsenal? From the 2003-04 season through the 2018-19 season we averaged 2.04 goals per game. Since the beginning of the 2019-20 season we have averaged only 1.40 goals per game. It is depressing to watch the team pass the ball back and forth, back and forth, with few attempts to score. Something is rotten and I think it is the coaching. I like all of our players (with a few exceptions, such as Xhaka), and I think they could do a lot more with the right coaching. It seems that Arteta is teaching the players to do everything but score. If we finish eighth again then I think this must be his last season with us. Let’s hire someone with a proven record of coaching winners.
Ron Jeremias, Virginia, USA


VAR implementation
I’m only writing in about this because a friend of mine and I were talking about the two Richarlison goals that were ruled offside vs. Arsenal. One of the comments he made to me was that VAR was initially designed to correct CLEAR and OBVIOUS errors. It got me to thinking about how Major League Baseball has implemented video review.

A baseball team can quickly look at a monitor in their dugout and if they think it’s a clear and obvious mistake by the umpire, then they can challenge. It they win the challenge, the play is overturned, and they maintain their challenge for a later part of the game. If they lose it, the play stands and they have no more challenges available. This is important simply because a manager may not want to challenge a minor call (like a trapped vs. caught ball, a play at first base, etc…) in the event they lose it only to have a “more obvious” call to challenge later that they can’t (such as a play at home plate, or if a batted ball crossed the home run line, something more important). I’ve seen several replays where the manager chose not to challenge because he and his bench coaches felt there just wasn’t enough to overturn the call on the field even though I felt they had a case to challenge.

I believe this methodology would be better implemented in the Premier League. As of right now, the referees on the pitch aren’t making the calls, the VAR referees are. BOTH of Richarlison’s goals (with my blue tinted specs on) were not CLEAR and OBVIOUS errors, especially the second one. Mike Dean would have allowed the goals to stand as the linesman didn’t raise his flag. He was only notified to go look at it from VAR.

So under MLB rules, Arteta and his staff could have challenged the first goal and either the goal gets over turned, and they keep their challenge (which they possibly would have used on Richarlison’s second goal) or VAR doesn’t have enough overwhelming evidence to overturn the call and they lose the challenge, whereby they couldn’t challenge the second goal and the goal stands. VAR wouldn’t have intervened on either of the two unless a challenge was launched by Arsenal. Arteta and his staff may have looked at the first one and said “it’s close but we can’t afford to potentially lose the challenge.” Likewise, had Mike Dean (or the linesman) initially ruled Richarlison offside, Benitez and his staff could have quickly look at their monitor replay, and decided to challenge or not. It goes for both teams. If Benitez lost the challenge, the Richarlison would have been considered offside, and Everton would have had no more challenges, which they certainly would have wanted for their second ruled out goal.

Yes, I understand I’m not addressing the offside rule and it’s current problems (the player’s pinky toe is just one cm past the left thumb of the last defensive player) as I don’t believe the offside rule, in the way it was originally written, was designed to be interpreted the way it is today.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that VAR has become the referee on the pitch and that’s not what was intended. It was intended to fix CLEAR and OBVIOUS errors and it hasn’t been successful at that either. Neither of Richarlison’s goals were CLEAR and OBVIOUS (when we’re having to used drawn lines on TV, then it’s not CLEAR and OBVIOUS for those of you at the back) and I’m sure that could be said for dozens of calls throughout the Premier League this season. Is VAR broken? In my opinion yes, but for me, it’s broken due to how it’s implemented. The Premier League would do well to look at how MLB uses video replay to correct CLEAR and OBVIOUS errors and learn from that system. I think VAR has a place in the league, but not how it’s run right now.
TX Bill (well I was wrong about getting points from Arsenal, hopefully I’m wrong about Palace as well) EFC