Mails: Is Rashford good enough for a top-four side?

Date published: Friday 22nd December 2017 9:40

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16 Predictions for 16 Conclusions
Let’s do a “16 Predictions” before the Arsenal vs. Liverpool match, and see if it matches the “16 Conclusions” after the match:

1) One thing consistent about this Liverpool team is that they are inconsistent. Inconsistent in their performances, inconsistent in their results, and even inconsistent in their starting line-up. Mignolet, Gomez, Lovren, Klavan and Robertson are expected to start the game, but Can-Henderson-Wijnaldum for midfield? Or Henderson-Milner-Coutinho? What about the strike-force? Mane-Salah-Firmino? Or will Solanke get another big game under his belt? Klopp needs the three points as much as Wenger, and I am predicting that he will go for a win here with an attacking line-up because he knows that neither team can defend well and it will be down to which team can score more.
Prediction: Starting XI for Liverpool – Mignolet, Gomez, Lovren, Klavan, Robertson, Coutinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Mane, Salah, Firmino

2) Bar the Manchester United game, which they were unlucky to lose, Arsenal has been a tough nut to crack at the Emirates Stadium. So why should Wenger be afraid to field an attacking team capable of getting a rugby score against Liverpool’s flimsy defence?
Prediction: Starting XI for Arsenal – Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Iwobi, Wilshere, Ozil, Sanchez, Lacazette

3) It is up to anybody’s guess which side is going to concede the first goal. But with Arsenal at home, and no De Gea in between the opposition goalposts, it would take four or five Mignolets to repel this Arsenal attack.
Prediction: Team to score the game’s first goal – Arsenal

4) Any of Iwobi, Ozil, Sanchez or Lacazette is capable of scoring the game’s first goal from a counter attack play. But it has been quite some time (by Liverpool’s standard) since they concede a goal from set pieces. I am going to go with a headed goal from a set piece.
Prediction: Player to score the game’s first goal – Koscielny or Mustafi

5) After scoring the game’s first goal, Liverpool will be desperate to throw players forward to get back into the game. Without Lallana’s quick feet in midfield, Henderson and Wijnaldum will pass sideways until one of them misplaces a pass and Arsenal break forward again to score, this time through a counter-attack.
Prediction: Team to score the game’s second goal – Arsenal

6) Since it is through a counter attack, I am putting my money on one of Arsenal’s attackers to put the ball into the net.
Prediction: Player to score the game’s second goal – Lacazette from a Ozil/Sanchez assist

7) You would suspect that if they do not make a silly mistake, they are not Arsenal. But that is the old Arsenal and what we will see at Emirates Stadium tomorrow is the new Arsenal. No fumbling towards the end of the first half.
Prediction: Half-time score – 2-0 to Arsenal

8) Klopp will be furious with his team not getting into the game. With Wilshere (yes Wilshere) and Xhaka bossing the midfield, and with Henderson and Wijnaldum not getting the ball to Coutinho quick enough to start the attack, a change is imminent for Liverpool to get back into the game. Lallana seems to ideal choice, but even if he is fully fit, since when did you see Klopp (sorry, Lovren, please turn away) make an early change in the game?
Prediction: Half-time substitution – None from both teams

9) The second half will kick off similarly to the first half. Arsenal having much of the ball, and Liverpool not being able to close them down quickly enough. But thankfully for Liverpool, the ball fell to this particular Egyptian and from an incredible angle with almost nothing to shoot at, he managed to slot the ball into the net. Game on.
Prediction: Team and player to score game’s third goal – Liverpool and Mo Salah

10) Suddenly, the Emirates Stadium is nervy again. The comfortable two-goal lead has been halved. Tackles will be flying all over to stop the Red Army from Anfield. Clumsy challenges will be the theme for the next ten minutes.
Prediction: Player to receive the game’s first yellow card – Xhaka, for a clumsy challenge on Coutinho

11) Arsenal do not really have anyone on the bench to call upon, so I am guessing that Klopp will, not that he is used to, roll the dice first. Lallana, Solanke can all be game-changer, but who else to call upon when you need a player who knows the opposition well enough?
Prediction: Team to make first substitution – Liverpool, Oxlade-Chamberlain for Mane

12) The last time Oxlade-Chamberlain played in a Arsenal vs. Liverpool fixture, he was on the losing side with his team losing 0-4 to a rampant Liverpool. He needs to show that he has matured since his Arsenal days and with Klopp developing him into a more complete player (although still far from being complete), he should get his chance, albeit with some lucky.
Prediction: Team and player to score the game’s fourth goal – Liverpool and Firmino, from an Oxlade-Chamberlain deflected shot

13) Now, with the game at 2-2 and with probably only ten minutes more to play, both managers will get their players to find the elusive winning goal. Both defences will be looking to get the ball up to their attacking players within the shortest possible time. Fresh striking options from both benches will be thrown onto the field.
Prediction: Substitutions – Welbeck for Iwobi; Solanke for Firmino

14) Time runs out eventually before any side could score the winning goal and both teams leave the field with one point each.
Prediction: Full-time score – 2-2

15) Throwing away a 2-0 lead at home is not the best way to start the Christmas fixtures. But will Wenger blame himself or his players?
Prediction: Wenger will blame the referee for missing the push on Sanchez by Lovren in the Liverpool’s penalty box, or the deflection of the ball off Mane’s hand before Firmino’s equaliser

16) Scoring two second half goals and snatching a point from a top-four rival is a good result to have, but Klopp will be kicking himself for not snatching all three points given their superior second-half performance.
Prediction: Klopp to praise his players for the second-half effort, but bemoans the first-half play whereby his players were second best in terms of possession, creativity and effort.
It’s tough but maybe I should get at least half of them right. Merry Christmas (:


United: You’re actually rubbish
Its highly amusing to read many Utd fans losing their collective shit over their defeat to Bristol City.    Many (most/all) are blaming Jose and not just for that defeat, but for the teams general rubbishness (despite being 2nd !). I have a different take on it.

You have so many players who are just not good enough for a top 4 side  : Young, Blind, Smalling, Rojo, Llindloff, Herrara, Fellani, Rashford (the new Walcott), Lingaard, Zlatan, Mykhitaryan. Frankly I am astonished that you’re 2nd in the league and are doing as well as you are.

There is one reason for this.  Jose.   You should be thankful. Despite him being an mardy a*se!, he’s a bloody good manager.
Neil (No, I’m not Duncan Castles….…) back here.


The solution
I think everyone needs to calm down about the loss to Bristol City. Yes, United had a ridiculously good team on and the midfield was not disciplined enough, but the team just have to keep looking forward since its only December, get rid of that slight arrogance in the air and to stop fearing a loss may happen.

There are problems that need addressing though, for example, when Matic does not play and we have Herrera sitting, teams are starting to dominate midfield. I think the club should try and sign another midfielder since Carrick is struggling for fitness unfortunately and Herrera simply is not good enough anymore if the club want to win the league.

Definitely need Bailly back as soon as possible since his tacking is unreal and hopefully Jones can stay fit for a while even though that is probably not going to happen. Without those two in defence it does not look convincing to me. I think Lindelof needs time for sure and hope Shaw gets lots of game time in the cup games at least. First team defence for now should be Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young. For some reason I am just not convinced Smalling is going to improve dramatically in the next few years. I thought he was great under Van Gaal, but only because of the we concentrated on possession.

Think quite a few players need to look at the attitude of players like Valencia and Young especially, both wingers have pretty much become fullbacks and have adjusted into it very quickly. Jose also needs to cheer up on the sidelines too and look a little more enthusiastic and his interviews are pitiful now.

The attack will definitely improve as the season goes on I am sure of that. Martial is improving and can see him finishing with 20 goals alongside with Lukaku. Ibra doesn’t look as mobile as before, but time will tell on how well he recovers and his influence can certainly change some games. Rashford needs to be a little less selfish with the ball, but other than that he is doing his bit.
Rami, London


Defending Jose
I think  those calling mourinho to be sacked are just knee jerk fans who make calls based on a single game. Wednesday night was a poor performance and result no doubt but it could happen to anybody, even City needed Penalties to beat Wolves, a championship club too. I havent forgotten united conceding four against MK Dons in the same competition under LVG.

We all seem to forget what United was like under Moyes, then LVG, i wached every match with very high level of suspense knowing that there is a high chance we can loose or draw even against smaller teams, we rarely scored more than once a game, boring backward passes all the time, hell i get pissed just remembering it.

If you are falling out of love with United after all the goals we are scoring this season then i guess you must have quit united all together during that period. Finally i can watch a utd match expecting us to win, finally a single draw or loss becomes an anomaly and not the norm. Agreed, the tactics against big teams aren’t the most entertaining but we’ve only lost against 2 of the top six and with just a single goal each as opposed to the other top six clubs losing by 3, 4, 5 goals against fellow top six.

This is Mourinho’s trademark second season and if City haven’t been so sodding brilliant you’d see we ain’t doing too bad at all. I could go on and on (Wagner? Dyche? as your better option to manage United? Oh Pplleeaassee!) but I’d leave it here for now. So please lay off the guy, we are still second in the league and topped our Champions league group (If you think we had an easy group remember our Champions league campaign under LVG and how it went).
Emmanuel, (too pissed to do a bracket thingy) MUFC


…and again
I don’t know if its possible for someone to be published twice in the same mailbox as i have already written a mail (actually on still defending mourinho). But this one is about the FA charge against him for his pre-match conference on city using tactical fouls and falling with any little bit of wind. I mean, what the hell is wrong about that statement to warrant being charged by the FA? Its not like its not true, even in the derby we saw that with Gabriel Jesus.

Other managers say worse things without being punished, Arsene Wenger is a prime example, clearly calling Sterling a diver and saying referees lack courage and are naive but he wasn’t even cautioned by the FA. But any
smallest thing mourinho says he is charged. I know in this case he was cleared but he was warned against further public comment about ‘match officials’, how the hell is that statement abovet  about match officials, it just goes to show what am saying.

When mourinho complains to the press about being punished differently to other managers people say its a siege mentality but it is actually true. People should just lay off him a little.
Emmanuel (still too pissed to do a bracket thingy) MUFC


Big Weekend‘s little brother
Stoke City – West Bromwich Albion. The game of the round. We all know what’s going on in the Potteries, and things need to start looking up in Pardewland as well. Not to make excuses for Chunky, but West Brom haven’t been scoring largely because their three best attacking players, James Morrison, Nacer Chadli, and Matt Phillips, have been injured. The latter two will travel to Stoke this weekend, possibly limited to sub duty. Pardew has spoken of shuffling his pack by rearranging positions, and the likeliest move is to push Kieran Gibbs farther up the pitch, maybe in a wingback spot. Mark Hughes? Nothing’s working at the moment—only one win in eight, and that vs Swansea. I’d say get Max Choupo-Moting back in the lineup, play 4-2-3-1 with him and Mame Biram Diouf on the wings and Xherdan Shaqiri in the middle. Use Peter Crouch as a fulcrum, not just a target. And keep your Rolodex handy.

Stat: West Brom won their first two games of the season, against Bournemouth and Burnley, with 28.7% and 32.2% possession respectively. They have yet to win in the league since.

West Ham United – Newcastle United. Old Merseyside foes meet in the capital. Maybe this Moyes bloke knows something about managing—you could have got long odds that the Hammers would have managed three straight clean sheets before Christmas. And how about putting Marko Arnautovic at striker? Plus Arthur Masuaku seems a much more confident player in the new regime, and now offers both attack and defence on the wing. The center is still a bit soft, though, and although Rafa Benitez seems to play Joselu whenever he’s available (good target man), it might be wise to go with a rested Dwight Gayle and five midfielders.  At least Mikel Merino and Jamaal Lascelles are back in harness, both looking good against Arsenal last weekend. I’d like to see Newcastle press a bit more: Pedro Obiang isn’t the surest in possession, and Manuel Lanzini, West Ham’s best actor nominee, is suspended.

Stat: West Ham are 19th in the league for shots on target at home, ahead only of Watford.

Southampton – Huddersfield Town. The first time these teams met, the Terriers’ press overwhelmed the Saints, who were most fortunate to get out of John Smith’s Stadium with a 0-0 draw. With a home match against Stoke only three days later, David Wagner may choose to moderate things a bit this time around. Rajiv van la Parra and Collin Quaner are classic straight-ahead wingers, and Southampton are facing a full-back shortage: Cédric out, ever-present and in-form Ryan Bertrand a doubt. Charlie Austin has looked by far the best Southampton striker lately, so he should start up front. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s placed mostly against Zanka, who is weaker in the air and the less consistent marker (although he’s improving) than Christopher Schindler. At the other end, Laurent Depoitre will presumably try to avoid Virgil van Dijk, unless Mauricio Pellegrino has already done the job for him.

Stat: Southampton are ninth in the league in shots, 17th in shots on target.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA


Credit to FSG
A Manchester United fan recently wrote in about his dissatisfaction with Jose after witnessing the incompetence of Moyes and the boredom of Van Gaal.  He went on to make a point I found interesting: Jose will eventually go and the team will have to play a relatively similar style based on the current signings and style of play.  The team won’t immediately be able to start playing like Pep’s Man City.  That made me think about my team, Liverpool, and the managerial transitions we’ve endured.  Given how frequently Fenway Sports Group are chastised for thinking soccer is just like baseball with Moneyball analytics, I do give them credit for picking the right manager after Brendan to evolve the playing style instead of changing it entirely.  From a possession-based, death-by-football team, FSG rightly saw that the players that system required could succeed under Klopp.

My point is this though.  If I were a Manchester United fan, I would be worried about what comes next because it’s either going to be a continuation of Jose or a decade in the wilderness as a new style returning you to your historic exciting football with wingers and pace is embedded with patience needed for the manager similar to Sir Alex.  I think the continuation is most likely so I wonder what Manchester United fans think of that.  And also Arsenal fans, what does a continuation of Wenger look like for you?  Can it be done well or does it bode badly for your team?

And let’s open it up to other teams with this question because it’s the holidays and we should be positive.  What’s something your owner/board has gotten spot on over the years and how has it shaped your team and made you a more loyal fan?
Niall (I can’t explain the Carroll/Benteke big man obsession)


Understand my 2 cents digresses from the Man Utd fans’ league cup loss outrage taking hold of the mailbox, but the tired narrative on clubs like Chelsea, Man City and PSG buying success in football has been annoying me for a while. I have a different take on this.

In economic terms, football is exactly an oligarchy – a closed group of competitors who hold the biggest market share (fan bases and no. of trophies in football terms) and barriers to entry to this group is high (countless analysis show that teams with highest wage bills and transfers dominate). Thus, realistically, the only way to smash this oligarchy is to cross the barriers to entry – splash the cash – which Chelsea, Man City and PSG decided to do. But this p**ses off the established elite because:-

They need to work harder now- Money talks; it buys good players and imortantly the best coaches/managers. All of a sudden, that guaranteed league title/ top 4 finish is no longer in the bag – elite clubs need to work harder in all aspects – transfers, academy, commercials to win on and off the pitch.

Spend more on transfers & wages- No longer the lure of playing for the most prestigious club is enough when competitors can offer better wages or higher transfer fees. The Fabregas & potential Coutinho transfer to Barca is the best example. Arsenal sold Fabregas for 33mn, well below their valuation but Liverpool need not compromise on the transfer fee for Coutinho. Clubs are thus, less susceptible to bullying into selling their players to elite super clubs.

Face greater competition due to increasing revenues- When there are six clubs vying to win the title instead of 4, goes without saying the product is more exciting and generates more revenues. This money, in part, also helps Liverpool take a tough stand against Coutinho’s sale.

Demands for more equitable distribution of TV money- The success of the PL in genrating exponential TV revenues has been attributed to an exciting product, widespread popularity in Asia and equitable distribution of TV money. To keep pace with the PL, other leagues may have no choice but to boost their competitveness a la the PL model.

FFP has backfired- FFP is in some ways, a guise to prevent moneyed clubs overtaking elite clubs by spending more than them. Although weak in implementation, Man City and  PSG have been penalised by it. But it has also backfired as a former elite club like AC Milan is falling foul of the FFP for exactly the kind of cash injection their elite peers didn’t want allowed. Thus, if an elite club loses their way, they may not be able to get back to their previous levels easily!

These are the reasons why i believe the most vociferous opponents of buying success in football seem to be the elite, European super clubs. If they can convince football fans like us that clubs with no history or background succeeding using shortcuts is more disturbing than a bunch of elite super clubs maintaining their domination of their respective leagues, TV rights and continental club competitons, they have succeeded.

Sure, being challenged by moneyed upstarts pleases no one (in any walk of life) but for all their misgivings, clubs like Chelsea, Man City and  PSG have spurred innovation in football, given us new competitors and smashed the glass ceiling of elite clubs – in effect, taking on elites of football. Whether we like it or not, begrudging them for this only helps maintain the status quo.

Kay, CFC


Flat-track bully Shearer?
Alex from Ayr wanted to know how many goals Alan ‘flat track bully’ Shearer scored against the top sides in 1995. For some reason I actually went and counted, and against the best of the rest, which was then Man Utd, Nottingham Forest, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle, he netted a grand total of four.

Celebrated big game hunter Chris Sutton also scored four, and unlike Shearer he didn’t have to rely on half of those being gifted to him by his sixth-placed beloved home town club.

Interestingly (or not), if we look at the goals those two scored against the dross who would go on to become the top dogs of 2017 (i.e. the current top 6 minus Burnley, who were then non-league), Sutton only got three while Shearer bagged seven, proving he was truly a big game player ahead of his time.
Martin, BRFC


Clatt’s life
Like most people I was rather surprised that Clattenburg has piped up regarding his refereeing career in England. I thought he would be far to busy with his actual job but there you go.

But am I the only one who thinks the problem with what he said wasn’t that he didn’t referee as per the rules of the game but that he did so conscious of the abuse he would get if he did.

This is just weeks after a journalist received death threats for joking that arsenal players aren’t that good. Is it therefore so hard to believe that Mark would have received similar or worse if he had sent off Tottenham players in that game?

On a similar theme yesterday on Twitter Gary Linekar made the point numerous times that he constantly gets accused of bias for coverage on MOTD by fans, often both sets if fans during the same game.

The problem is abuse by fans.


Dennis the menace
In light of Dennis Bergkamp being sacked by Ajax, for Christmas please could I have a moratorium on people using “he knows the club” as evidence of someone’s qualifications for a managerial and/or coaching post?
Ed Quoththeraven

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