Keep your mails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org…
21 is on
I wrote back in May (to some derision in the comments) that Ole’s 5th was better than Jose’s 2nd.
Where Jose wanted to bring in instant 7/10 efficiency from the likes of Willian and Perisic and get rid of young, erratic talent (what use is potential to a short termist like Jose?), Ole was someone who was ok with putting himself in a worse position short term if he knew the club would reap the rewards in the coming seasons. If you want to rebuild a club, you cannot bring in someone whose interview answer to “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” is “somewhere the f*** else”.
As it turned out, we finished 3rd after a phenomenal end of season run. People might scoff at the points total but that’s the nature of a transition season – half the season is spent, in the words of Succession’s Roy Logan, “in the middle of turning a f***ing tanker”. It just so happened that Bruno’s signing was the sound of the engine room kicking into life.
Now, this season’s had its wobbles. The Maguire incident in Greece clearly got to him. The Sancho chase somehow contrived to be the most embarrassing Deal/No Deal bluff attempt in 2020. On the pitch, I knew not to panic when we were 15th in November after 6 games. I knew when people mocked Utd in 9th that actually we were a game in hand off 3rd, and picking up pace. But even I felt dismayed after the Champions League exit, wondering if it was time for Ole to pass the baton.
And yet here we are. Level on points with Liverpool. From a squad that Ole literally won’t rotate in 19/20 to one that can take 5 or 6 changes in its stride. Our very own ‘virus’ was (just) the best free roaming left winger on the pitch on Friday, just as Mourinho is starting to question the ambition of his latest squad. The moment our already brittle defence loses its regular RCB, up steps Eric Bailly to remind everyone that their best centre back is usually fit this time of year.
This year wasn’t meant to be the year, we still have work to do and it can all collapse very quickly when the table is this flat. But we have the most points in the past 11 months. Liverpool have 5 draws in their last 9. City have games in hand but have still scored the fewest goals in the top 10, as many as Brighton in 17th. Those two are both looking so mortal compared to their extraordinary 99 & 100 point finishes.
And mortals can be slain.
WIth Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the issue isn’t just his lack of attacking ability, but it’s his reluctance to do so. This is frequently compounded by his regular brain farts leading to goals. No one doubts his ability to tackle players and make blocks, and this is what has kept the attention mostly off him even when he’s completely left his player unmarked at the back post or has played someone onside.
He should get way more stick for that in my opinion but there’s also his attacking play, which is frankly a very easy stick to beat him with. He’s just as one footed as Antonio Valencia, his crossing is worse and these things could be improved with practice but they’re not. Added to that is his literal reluctance to take the ball up the field. He often receives the ball in loads of space and instead of driving on into the space to create a threat, his instinct is to pass it sideways or backwards. It’s unfortunately not really good enough in the modern game. Frankly I’d like to see Dalot come back and provide some competition, and I think we should give Wan-Bissaka the opportunity to improve. Unfortunately that might require coaching and there’s very little of that going on at Man Utd, especially in defence.
I’ve noticed this narrative that United fans have created in recent years that they’re some sort of plucky underdogs and I find it hilarious. They’ve a very good team and have been backed quite heavily. The same people mocking Lampard for spending 200m ignore the fact that United spent the most in the league last season. Are we going to pretend that AWB, Maguire, Lindelof, Pogba, Telles, Fred, Fernandes, Van de Beek, Martial, James, Matic, Lukaku, Dalot were all free transfers? They’re such a hot and cold team and never fully convince me. It seems to have been forgotten that they bottled the CL. I think they’ll finish between 3rd and 5th. I see a lot of their fans are getting very giddy but the table changes every week. Chelsea and Spurs were great sides a month ago. Arsenal are back on track now until they’re in crisis again. People are just far too fickle. United with the money they have spent should have been challenging for a few titles since Fergie has left but they’ve been so far off and their fans seem to just feel sorry for themselves and make excuses that OGS isnt backed or lazy false excuses like Pep spent 500m on centre backs and they’re stuck with the most expensive CB of all time and one of the most expensive RBs of all time.
Big Sam, Arsenal and Brexit
…For a relegation six-pointer that was very one-sided.
Big Sam is still a moron, but on to matters Arsenal.
I’m very happy the hierarchy kept faith with Mikel Arteta. When the players are publicly backing their coach during a losing run, you have to have patience.
Having said that, results do have to follow. Well, ESR, and the rest of the young guns have been integral to our fresh, new interplay.
One of the things you have to do in football is move the opposition around but we just didn’t do that pre-chelsea/ personnel change.
If you watch the second goal, ESR has quick glances at Saka before he receives the ball. He already knows where he’s going next… movement! He’s also wonderfully two footed, which means he can touch, turn and pass either way. Very difficult for teams to defend.
I almost don’t want Auoar now. He’d block the progress of a youth player that has the touch, technique and physical attributes to succeed in the top echelons. For a young player he’s also good at not holding on to it too long (something a Guendouzi, Wilshire, Ramsey and Iwobi were guilty of). Hes good at tracking players, tackling and he eats up the ground, suffice to say, im smitten.
Our bigger issue now is in central midfield. Arteta is not blind to our flaws, Kolasinac is gone. Mustafi and Ozil are done and Xhaka will be soon (Partey has only played two games, both of which Xhaka was benched).
In my opinion, the money we save from the attacking mid would be better spent for a Partey partner…
A minute before our first goal West Brom got a huge chance off Phillips. Xhaka is arguably fouled high up the pitch but then instead of blocking the only runner (Phillips), he let’s him run through… could have been 1-0 down with confidence fragile.
We are playing “better” football without a competent central midfield. Imagine what we’ll be like with a fit Partey and his sidekick.
Finally, its the 52nd minute and Steve McManaman says “if your Arsenal now, just play the ball into the corner flag”… never change, Steve.
Strevs, Afc, Canada
…I am sure there is not much many football fans enjoy than seeing Big Sam with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp, now granted that is his face most of the time but I’m talking about a particularly sour wasp after a pair of heavy defeats coming soon after Sam was lording it over everyone after a most fortunate draw at Anfield. Big Sam is straight out of the Mourinho playbook in taking all the credit himself when things go well but shifting the blame squarely on to the players when they don’t.
As an Arsenal fan there is even bigger delight in handing out a thrashing to Big Sam yet again, hes now lost to Arsenal with 8 separate premier league clubs. Big Sam likes to continually put out the notion that he has had Arsenal’s number on many occasions which couldn’t be further from the truth. In 35 attempts Big Sam has only won 6 against Arsenal and lost 21. It is time this untruth was corrected.
It seems like quite some time since Big Sam was licking his lips and suggesting Arsenal were ‘absolutely’ in a relegation battle with his West Brom. I for one am absolutely loving that Big Sam is back! haha
I just wanted to stop by to highlight how delicious it is that prominent Brexit supporting football manager and so called part time fireman Sam Allardyce is complaining about Brexit preventing West Brom from signing players. I wish no ill will on West Brom and to be honest football aesthetics and all around opinions aside I respect Big Sam’s track record of leading teams to safety. Now obviously his tactics played a big part in this success. However I have an unsubstantiated suspicion that another key factor was being able to source foreign players on the cheap to come in and do a job.
It makes you wonder if this ever entered his thinking when he was rightly or wrongly promoting Brexit as a means to give British players and managers more chances on these shores. It wouldn’t be the first time in history that someone has been successful without fully appreciating the things that helped them achieve it. Hell maybe the guy knew all along that Brexit would indeed jeopardise his ability to maintain the record he has to afford others greater opportunity…..I mean, he’s always shown himself to be truly selfless and for the people right?
Now of course there is plenty of time for West Brom to find deals that work and maybe even bring in British talents who could drive them to safety. Regardless of your political opinions you must admit it’s a fine piece of schadenfreude to fall upon a perennial bluetooth headset wearing gobs***e. However if you can’t I don’t care I’m still going to enjoy this juicy steak of a situation.
Jay (Sorry not sorry for bringing Brexit up) Selva
When I saw the team sheets of both sides I was filled with hope, Hakim Ziyech was finally back and Timo was being played as a striker, the idea of a front three of those two plus Christian Pulisic along with that depleted City line up gave me strong reason to be excited about the next 90 minutes.
The opening 10 minutes we dominated and played some good football, then we conceded the first goal, our heads dropped and within three minutes we are two down and looking quite dreadful, but for me the worst part was how we conceded that third goal, it was almost like we decided to pay tribute to Manchester United against Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League, there are no words for that sort of defending, especially against the pace of Raheem Sterling and how City break on the counter attack, many laughed at United for such a way to set up, I would nod in agreement that the same be done at Chelsea.
We are 17 games into this season and the run of form is worrying, now appointing a club legend as manager does come with a risk, you often as a fan don’t wish to be critical of them, but we have an incredible squad full of talent and yet Frank can’t seem to find the right way to get a tune out of them, tactically there are many questions, so far this season I am not impressed at all.
This is not a knee jerk reaction what so ever, but with each game that comes and passes us by, the question that starts to enter my mind is the one of “is Frank Lampard the right manager for this squad and will he win the club silverware with it?”
…I’m sure this is far from new ground but with all the chat about Lampard being under pressure, I thought I’d take a quick look at managers’ life expectancy under Roman.
Ignoring the names who departed trophyless, there is a clear separation in life expectancy between managers who win the league, and managers who “only” win in Europe.
League winners: average tenure was 905 days.
European winners (CL, Europa): average tenure was 262 days.
For ref, trophyless managers were on their bike on average after 239 days so one could argue winning a European trophy doesn’t buy a manager much time at Chelsea.
Back to Frank. His current tenure is 550 days. If one discounts his first year due to the transfer ban (debatable but let’s do it) then we get to 185 days. If the last 17 and a half years is anything to go by – and Roman has been fairly consistent in implementing this model, Lampard seems to have another 54 days in the job. The averages cited above include some absolute managerial (as opposed to playing) all time greats.
Welcome back, Pep
That has got to be the best Man City performance I have seen since that Real Madrid away win before Covid. It was reminiscent of their peak in 2018/ 2019. The crisp, smooth passage of play, the quick transition, it was football at it’s best. Chelsea were to me, the better team until that beautiful first goal by Gundogan. It’s a worrying sign that after the goal, Chelsea players collectively went into their shells and stopped attacking.
Chelsea players dropped their heads and it almost felt like they chose to “stop the leak”. You don’t play to stop the leak after 1 goal, you do that after 3. I felt that the second goal Chelsea conceded was actually brought on by their collective fear of what they had just experienced. Man City’s first goal was slick, but I don’t think they can consistently produce that. This version of City cannot consistently produce it, unless you let them do it, and I think Chelsea, let them do it. If Chelsea kept their heads up, Man City don’t get that second. The game was over as a contest for me atleast after that second goal.
Chelsea had the better starting 11, on paper, they had the better opening minutes, and conceding a goal should not mean the team should forget the principles and abandon the strategy. Another worrying sign is how much Lampard’s team is getting blown away by his contemporaries. I know he is English, but he is not doing a good job with the tools he has been given.
Dave(Give the job to John Terry, let’s see how LLC does it, imagine a manager with the full kit on), Somewhere
The Famous Mailbox has seen a lot of crap published over the decade plus that I have read it (you only publish what you get… Etc etc).
Honestly, it’s quite possible that the stupidest thing I have ever read was some guy recently who said something like “Kevin de Bruyne is overrated”. I actually blacked out while reading his mail so I don’t know (or care) if he was making any kind of more nuanced point, because he was basically saying that the only player comparable (technically, positionally, skill-level, intelligence, elligance on the ball) to Zinedine Zidane, since the retirement of the great man, belongs in the same sentence as the word “over-rated”.
Watching the best player on the pitch gallop the length of the pitch, after clearing the free kick toward his goal, to finish a quarter of a chance from a deflection, with a terribly awkward bounce is why everyone reading this watches football.
Ian, LFC Hartford, CT USA
…Frank Lampard has to do better. Kevin De Bruyne was as average as he has been the entire year. Lampard now thinks he lost because of KDB, no Lampard, Pep Guardiola outcoached your team. KDB missed 2 opportunities when the game was on the line, but scored when it really didn’t matter. When it was 0-0, he didn’t deliver. When it got easier though, KDB got his shine. I maybe KDB’s biggest hater, but I constantly watch him and think, he isn’t quite the best, even in the EPL. He is no Henry, he is no Ronaldo, He is no Suarez, He is no Gerard, He is no Fernandes. And I think I could name 20 more that were better.
Dave (Fake news),Somewhere
Cavani and Suarez
What nonsense is Heavy-D, Cape Town (LFC) on about? You even have the guts to accuse someone of selective morality, really???
While I don’t think Cavani actually did anything wrong – as a black man myself, my friends and I jovially call each other names that would otherwise be seen as racially offensive – as per the current FA rules, I understand why he was punished. Fair enough.
But to then equate it with the Suarez incident is mind-bogglingly daft and unhelpful. Cavani was appreciating a friend who congratulated him after a brilliant performance in a language known to both of them. Not exactly the kind of situation where you can prove malicious intent, is it?
But Suarez? I don’t know the man, if he’s actually racist or not but his actions on that occasion, in that moment, were definitely discriminatory. Perhaps he used the same word as Cavani but context is everything. Suarez can’t claim to have used it affectionately. As far as I know, they weren’t and aren’t friends and he didn’t say it in a toast while dropping a present off at Evra’s wedding. No. He said it (to an opposing player for Liverpool’s fiercest rivals) after a bad tackle during one of the most high-tension, high-stakes derbies in English football.
Quoting bleacherreport.com: ‘According to the FA report, Evra asked Suarez why he kicked him after a tackle, to which the striker responded “because you are black.” Suarez then said “I don’t speak to blacks” and used the word “negro” on seven occasions, according to the investigation.’ Hell even Carragher apologized and regretted the ‘massive mistake’ the Liverpool squad made by wearing t-shirts in solidarity with Suarez. Likewise Tom Werner, the Liverpool chairman, has since reportedly apologized to Evra because everyone recognized that both the action and intent of Suarez were definitely malicious.
And unlike Cavani, Suarez did not apologize and even played the victim by refusing to shake hands with Evra when they next met. So they were two totally different incidents which warrants different punishments. So you may want to clean your red sh*t-tinted glasses once in a while, Heavy-D.
As an aside, I think the FA isn’t taking the necessary steps to help things. They seem to be punishment oriented to score some cheap media points rather than being proactive to prevent future incidents. Remember the Bernardo Silva case? Educating incoming foreigners or at least making it compulsory for clubs to do so will be a nice start. But….
Leeds and everyone else
Following on a bit from my last mail about football punditry, I just read ‘Prick of the Week No. 15’ – regarding the Twitter furore sparked by Leeds’ Social Media person and their response to Karen Carney’s comment on Leeds supposedly being promoted ‘because of COVID.’
I had heard a snippet about this on TalkSport on my way to McDonalds the other day, but the story didn’t really register with me and I hadn’t since bothered looking in to it.
Firstly, I have to say that I agree with Karen’s overall point. From memory of punditry long prior to his appointment at Leeds, I seem to recall Bielsa being renowned for a very specific style of play, and very specific training methods, which almost always lead to his teams’ form dropping-off in the latter stages of a season. Sometimes it it worse than others, depending on his squad, transfers and the overall competitiveness of the league he is playing in. However, this, to my memory was, in the past, often cited as the reason that he has not been passed the reigns at more ‘big’ clubs during his career.
Stating the above was NEVER in the past, to my memory, considered a faux-pas of any sort.
Now, Carney may have been a little inelegant in her expression of a notion that, for her, is more notable in it’s mundanity than anything else, however, the point still stands and is largely correct. If it is not correct, it is certainly an observation so often recycled with respect to Bielsa, that it relies more on received wisdom than any genuine insight on her part.
God forbid that a football pundit express their ideas with any suggestion of lack of eloquence, sensitivity or elegance. Her effort pales in comparison to anything seen on Soccer Saturday, that’s for damn sure e.g. Phil Thompson lol.
Semantics aside, I agree with Carney’s point. Indeed, it is so achingly mundane, that it is a point that I myself have been making recently. Although, I did not have the wherewithal to link Leeds success to the COVID break at the back end of last season, I probably would have done if I’d thought of it.
I had been using this tendency of Bielsa’s teams as a sort of co-example to go with my observation that Liverpool may be in for a difficult second half of the season, due to their own manager’s style of play. While Bielsa’s methods are so intensive that his sides seem to ‘pay the price’ in the second half of any given season, Klopp has been accused in the past of wearing players down over the course of a few seasons. This issue, being one of the causes of his Borussia Dortmund side’s decline towards the end of his reign at the club.
You might look to the careers of Christoph Metzelder and Mario Gotze after they left Dortmund as examples of how this expresses itself in his core players.
I appreciate that this ‘accusation’ regarding Klopp, and the thereby derived potential for Liverpool to struggle in the second half of this season, is largely without evidence, other than Liverpool’s slight injury issues this season. I appreciate that, especially in light of them being top of the Premier League after what has been a uniquely tough few months, such a notion may seem a little ridiculous.
However, it is a point that I would like to make, none-the-less. To boot, after watching City tear Chelsea a new ‘one’ last night, I fully expect a really close title race this year, unlike last year’s procession by Klopp’s admittedly fantastic side.
Do I expect Man United to be part of that? Not really. I expect Man United to end up with a points total closer to Leicester, Spurs and Chelsea than to City or Liverpool. I hope that United can keep it up, but am not that confident about it…
I expect United and Chelsea, both, to exhibit similar peaks and troughs to each other as the season goes on. Currently, United are at a peak and Chelsea a trough, but I guarantee that it will all change about in a few weeks.
Whether this is due to the inexperience of their managers, the ineptitude of their managers, the inexperience of their players, or the ineptitude of their players, I hesitate to say. Personally, I lean more towards the ‘inexperience’ argument in all cases, and would council patience with managers and players accordingly.
In summary, I am saying:
1) Leeds did indeed get promoted because of COVID;
2) Klopp’s style of play will cause Liverpool to have injury problems and hence falter in the second half of the season;
3) Man City will win the league;
4) Solskjaer should not be sacked, despite what will be seen as a season of treading water, with no serious title challenge;
5) Lampard should not be sacked, despite spending the GDP of a small South American country in the summer and yet still failing to win anything;
6) Spurs will come fifth.
I look forward to your kindly expressed, elegant and eloquent responses. Please consider, before you press ‘Send’, what the Leeds Social Media manager would think of your language and sentiment, lest you run the risk of upsetting anyone.
DD, MUFC, Liverpool