Liverpool give the feels but Erling Haaland will make Man City less… meh.

Date published: Saturday 14th May 2022 6:00 - Ian Watson

New Man City signing Erling Haaland celebrates

The Mailbox reckons Erling Haaland will tear up the Premier League, which at least will make this Man City more memorable in years to come…

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Haaland will make PL history
United fan here, and I have a couple things to say on Erling Haaland heading over to the neighbour’s house.

I’ve seen so many mailboxers, pundits, and others questioning how well Haaland will do at city. Have any of these people watching him in the last few years? Are the pundits the same ones who said Lukaku would win the golden boot as Chelsea won the league? I have been watching him regularly for 3 years and if I had a fortune I would bet it all on Haaland making the PL his personal playground. Unless the only concern is injury, the kid has almost no fault in his game as a striker.

People everywhere have been working Haaland and Lukaku into the same sentences. What the Haaland are they thinking? Erling has a brilliant first touch, has incredible pace, and isn’t simply a 6-yard box merchant (not that Lukaku is either). He reminds me a lot of RVP except somehow more talented, and more physical. I’m an average sized human and Haaland’s neck is the size of my thighs! I’ve watched him at Molde, at his cameo at RB Salzburg, and watched loads of him at Dortmund. He’s not some German league player destined to melt in the PL, he’s a kid who’s breaking CL records every time he’s on the pitch.

All that said, it makes me both bummed and relieved he’s gone to City. I don’t want my team acting like €40m agent fees are normal, nor continuing to destroy the concept of wage structures which divides teammates. But really, as good as he is, you’d have to be delusional to think he could have turned United’s fortunes anyway. He might be the one that makes City untouchable next year and perhaps that’s the lack of pressure Ten Hag and the start of his era needs. We weren’t expected to compete for the title before and we certainly won’t now. But anything close to competing with everyone else at the top will be a win in his first season.

Keep your eyes on Haaland, as if you have any choice not to. We’re going to watch history be made in front of our eyes with undoubtedly the greatest striker on earth landing in the premier league.
Jamin – Montreal, Canada
P.S. Does Roy Keane have a son we can sign to keep Erling in check?


Leeds are going to need more than Gandhi quotes and fouling to get out of this


Leeds Unothing
I’ll share my thoughts around Jesse Marsch as a lifelong Leeds fan.

I’ll start firstly by saying I don’t think we should have got rid of Bielsa. Yes we got tonked over February and were kn a downward spiral but we were also missing the spine of our team.

Onto Jesse, when I watch Leeds play now, I see nothing. I see no style of attacking play, our defensive play seems to extend to holding our shape and why oh why are we playing Raphina at RWB?

Now tbf to Jesse he is also dealing with the same issues Bielsa did. I will also say that I didn’t expect to gain any points over these last 3 games but it then became imperative we did get points considering the mini revival both Everton and Burnley have gone through.

Jesse wasn’t helped in 2 of those matches by the early red cards we received. I don’t know what possessed Ayling and Dan James to go in how they did and I probably never will. I’m massively disappointed in them both though.

Now here we are 1 point could be enough yo save us, 6 points could be gained and we could still go down.

It’s going to be a grim 2 weeks.
Dale, Nothing


Interesting email on Jesse Marsch. I don’t get all of the criticism but accept he has made a few mistakes.

He’s been left shorthanded with a small, knackered squad, no main striker or holding midfielder, injuries to key players, a lack of investment and stupid decisions made by key players.

Replacing Bielsa was always gonna be tough and it’s shown, especially when you don’t give the new manager any time to buy some more players.

I get he’s a bit cheesy and probably overly positive given our situation but do pundits expect him to start moaning or publicly throwing his squad under the bus?

As has been pointed out to many a leeds fan, we have been found out (which could have been mitigated with squad improvement over the summer) and simply haven’t adapted.

12 games could have been enough to pull clear but kudos to Everton and Burnley for reeling us back in. The damage was done during the summer and January when we could and should have bought new players.

I will always love Bielsa but he’s gone. IF we stay up then he needs backing and time. IF we dont stay up then we back him with money and time and let him get us back up. We have had over 15 years of managerial changes, so let’s not start again.


Remember me
I’ve been reading the Man City and Liverpool dick swinging over who will be remembered in years to come and feel that one of my favourite quotes sums it up well: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” Music is probably a good design for life here, as it teaches us that the “feels” really come out when you move from dissonance to resolution and vica versa.

For what it’s worth, I like City, partly because their fans deserve the “most reasonable mails” award in this mailbox, but mainly because they gave me that Aguero moment. For the rest of it, I’m pretty agnostic, look back at the last 5 seasons, and you’ll probably find only about 15 weeks in 250 where City were actually not favourites to win the next title. Already you’ve got a lack of jeopardy, and when they weren’t favourites, they then went on to not win it. Dissonance, tension, but no resolution.

When the team fails to give the feels, another pot of gold is usually from the individual, and here City are hampered, as all of the players play in complete deference to the team with heavily prescribed patterns of play. Aguero, criminally underrated as he was, did exactly what you expected. Silva these days, like Henderson, is exactly the sort of crucial player you want in your team, but they both do largely unremarkable things.

The game the other night was quite a good example of all of this and unusually, a highly watchable game. City went ahead, then Wolves pegged them back with a goal which suggested there could well be something in it for them. Then De Bruyne hit the second and third goal, sliding in from the left and banging it in. Dissonance, and resolution with individual brilliance. The perfect way to get everyone’s blood flowing.

I think this is why I’m happy to be supporting the fairly mighty Pool. This year we are going to be complete bottlejob mugs for the ages, or absolute legends. We regularly overturn deficits and have late winners to decide games. Weirdly, I actually look back on the season of the slip more fondly than when we won the league at a canter. Watching the last truly great maverick to adorn the league, Suarez, along with Sturridge, and Sterling tearing up defences can’t be beaten.

So yeah, trophies are cool I guess….but I’ll always bang on about that night vs Barca, Gerrards goal in the FA cup final, Istanbul, Leicester winning the league, Nayim’s lob, Ronaldinho’s free kick, Ibrahimovic’s over-head kick, Le Tiss, Agueeerrroo, Bayern getting done by two late goals, and Tony Yeboah of course.
Adam, LFC



…Seen some talk regarding whether the current Man City and Liverpool teams will be remembered in the future. There are certain teams that personally I remember their achievements, but not necessarily more than that. The Arsenal Invincibles, Man Utd’s treble winners for example. As a Liverpool supporter, I remember these teams as achieving great things, but is all a bit of a footnote in my memory. Maybe it’s the same for supporters of other teams aswell. I re-call all the great teams and ‘moments’ of Liverpool’s history from the early 80’s to now. The 2001 treble, 2005 Champions League win as examples. I certainly will remember this current team, as the one that delivered a title for the first time in 30 years.

The current Man City team will be remembered, they are sensational. Likely to win a 4th title in 5 years, one of which was the centurion season. If Liverpool deliver a treble this season, that will also add them to the list of great achievements. However, these two fantastic teams stories are not yet done. The next couple of season’s will reveal more on how they feature in a list of ‘great teams’.

Can’t wait for the FA Cup final now. With us not having beaten Chelsea this season (3 draws, and a penalty shootout win) it promises to be a close game. We will be missing Fabinho which is a blow, but Chelsea missing Kovacic is a bigger blow. In games this season, he has been brilliant against us, press resistant and quality on the ball. Here is hoping for a good game and may the best team win.

Kevin (are Arsenal becoming Spursy?)


More PE lessons
Just wanted to follow up on KC’s email since he brought up the topic of private equity. I’m a Newcastle fan and I’ve been in the Middle East for over 10 years working for a sovereign wealth fund. Which is what PIF, the 80% owners of Newcastle, are as well. I’ve certainly seen the takeover as a mixed blessing, but it’s the numbers that are thrown around that I wanted to address. By most media reports Newcastle are the wealthiest club in the world now given they are majority owned by PIF. The problem is, that’s not how these funds work. They have allocations given the different asset classes, and most go to public market instruments such as stocks and bonds. The likelihood is the Newcastle deal will be a private equity deal for PIF, the allocation to which is much smaller. So while PIF might be worth around $350bn or whatever has been quoted, the private equity allocation is likely to be a maximum of $100bn (probably less). And within that team, there will be an approved investment limit because there will be a lot of other investments to manage as well, so based on the numbers guessed at here that would probably put a limit of somewhere around $10bn. Don’t get me wrong that’s an extraordinary amount of money and more than enough to buy/build a successful team and club, but it isn’t limitless.

Furthermore, PIF has a remit – to make a return. This is where it will fundamentally differ to Man City, which is more of a personal plaything for Sheikh Mansour. His priority may not be to make money but to create a brand, which may include the sports washing that has been associated with these countries. Clearly Saudi Arabia are trying something similar, but PIF will unquestionably be looking to make a financial return on its investment as well, so we may well see a different approach that Man City employed.

Finally, one further point about Saudi in general. I’ve never been, but being in proximity within the region the message appears that it is changing and opening up. Obviously there are many practices that people in the west are horrified by (treatment of homosexuals, capital punishment, gender inequality to name a few) and MBS seems like quite a scary fellow to me: just look at how he rounded up his rivals when he first came to power and put them under house arrest. This is a man who has seized and consolidated his power and will brook no threat to his position at all. YET, he seems to be the one who is looking to open up the country, tourists are allowed unaccompanied now, women can drive etc. These are small steps when looked at through a western lens, but they do represent progress for one of the most conservative of regimes in the world. So the question to the mailbox is ultimately this: do the ends justify the means…?
GeordieJC UAE


…Interesting and informative email from KC on how private equities think about their investments. I do want to say though, when it came to the ‘what this means for clubs’ it seemed to be a bit more of a generalised statement which could apply to any portfolio company. And I personally don’t agree that focusing on stadium, academy growth, etc. is going to be only focus of the new owners / PE fund.

Targeting a 20% year on year growth rate in value is incredibly ambitious in football. Also, the meaning of value is a bit ambiguous here – most companies’ value is calculated as a multiple of the profit it generates in a particular year. Since most football clubs aren’t profitable, I’m assuming value will be calculated as a multiple of revenue. In which case, to prove my point, Manchester United are generally considered to be the kings of commercialising their brand and their growth rate between 2016 and 2019 was 6%. If you include 2015 in this (which was an anomaly year having a decline in growth), that growth rate goes up to ~10%.

Looking at how realistically they can achieve their goal, clubs have three main sources of revenue – Matchday, Commercial and Broadcast revenue. Broadcast revenues are largely fixed because they are negotiated by the organizing body themselves i.e. Premier League & UEFA and typically have 3-5 year contracts.

Matchday revenues are primarily from seats & hospitality, food & beverage and store sales (I will include store sales in the commercialization section). Seats & hospitality / food & beverage are typically fixed – fans will accept an increase once every few years but trying to make it an annual source of revenue growth will be a hard sell as no club in world football does this currently and for good reason. Constructing a stadium is typically a 2-5 year undertaking which means that this PE firm is definitely unlikely to see any material change to matchday revenue for the first 3 years.

That leaves us with commercial revenues. This is what KC mentions as ‘maybe more kit launches, and plenty of official partnerships’. However, to refer back to Man United who are the kings of this, their commercial revenue grew from £258M to £352M (~35% growth) between 2015 and 2016 and then remained stagnant for the next 3 years (netting out to 8% over 4 years). This makes sense as commercial contracts as typically multi-year contracts and there is only a certain number of commercial partners you can bring in before you start diluting the brand value of the club. Store sales (this includes online) is a delicate balance – you can’t force people to buy more merchandise, but you can incentivise them through better range & quality or potential deals. You must balance the level of investment required with the potential additional revenue it generates. Either way, I can’t imagine it having more than a 1-2% material impact on total revenue. One could always increase prices but that would have a negative impact on volume sold, the impact of which will be more pronounced every year prices are increased again.

The only truly sustainable way to increase the revenues of a club at the level that KC mentions is by expanding the fan base. This will have a positive impact on all sources of revenue – Matchday revenue will be higher because there will be more higher value fans (one time visitors are more likely to spend more money than season ticket holders), Broadcast revenues and commercial revenues will be higher because more fans means the organiser or the club will be able to negotiate better and more lucrative deals and fans will spend more money on club merchandise.

So how does a club expand its fan base? Well, KC did mention one of the ways (‘pre-season to be further away’) i.e. expanding to newer markets or increasing penetration in existing markets. But the most obvious (but not the easiest) way to gain more fans is by winning. This makes the club more attractive for new football fans getting into the sport, with players at the club becoming household names and harder to miss as a young fan. The better a team performs, the more marketable it is and the more fans it will gain worldwide. How many Chelsea fans do you think there were in India prior to 2004? From my experience, probably under a 100. Today, India has the 5th highest supporter base for Chelsea. The club has done nothing special to attain these fans – they’ve never done a tour of India, there is no official supporters bar or store (Manchester United has several). They’ve just become popular because they were winning when the Premier League became popular in the country.

So, to summarise, the fund could take a bunch of paths to get to their valuation goal by their sale date. But it would be remiss to assume that investing in the squad and focusing on winning is definitely not one of the top priorities.
Reuben, London


City’s spending
When I read Jack’s mail about why he has apathy over City, but not Chelsea, something didn’t seem right. He said that City hadn’t spent nearly the same amount as Chelsea. I thought I’d check out the facts to see if this stood up. For both clubs I’ve looked at the first 10 years of their takeovers and how that compared to their rivals. To be fair about it all, I’ve looked at net spend and gross spend.

In the first 10 years of the Abromovich era, Chelsea spent £867m on transfers, with a net spend of £636m. The next highest spenders were actually City, but given that we want to compare them to clubs who didn’t have the same advantages, and given that City weren’t title challengers for most of that period, we’ll compare to the next highest spenders, Liverpool. The reds spent £543m in that time, or to put it another way they spent 63% of what Chelea did. The next highest spenders are Spurs (£505m) and United (£471m). The net spend contrast is more stark. Those 3 teams all had a net spend of around £200m, less than a third of what Chelsea spent.

What about City? In their first 10 years they spent £1.4bn. Clearly a lot more than Chelsea, but this was also a period of rapid price inflation. How does it compare to their nearest rivals? Chelsea and United both spent very similar amounts in this period. About £1bn. Or, 71% of what Man City spent. Net spend gives us a more varied picture. Chelsea’s was about a third of City’s, United’s a bit more than half and Liverpool’s less than a fifth.

So how does that compare? From looking at transfer spending only, Chelsea’s advantage was actually bigger than City’s, whether you look at net spend or gross spend. Of course that doesn’t factor in wages, or the creative accounting that City are suspected of by some.

I think if some people have more apathy or even animosity towards City it’s due to the nature of the club prior to the takeover. Chelsea were, at that time, a big club. They’d won the FA cup twice in the last 6 years, along with the league cup and Cup winners Cup. They hadn’t finished lower than 6th since 95/96. They had already qualified for the Champions League before Abromovich took over. City on the other hand had never finished as high as 6th in the Premier League era. They had been a 3rd tier club within the past 10 years. It seems far more false and unsatisfying. The club that came from nowhere.

The sportswashing element is also a lot more in your face. Abramovich may be unsavory, but you never saw that day to day. Chelsea were not owned by the Russian government. They didn’t play at the Aeroflot stadium. The City deal just seems more shady, which is why no one gets too excited by them.

On top of that City are becoming so dominant they are making the Premier League boring. Despite Liverpool’s best efforts, it looks like 5 titles in 5 years, most of those with 90+ totals./ Chelsesa never did that. Add that to the hoovering up of domestic cups and it’s just not very satisfying.

For me, the latter part is what I don’t like. We had a fantastic period of the premier league where between 08/09 and 2017/18 the title changed hands every year. If City’s dominance continues, and there are no signs it won’t, that isn’t good for the league.
Mike, LFC, London


Pressure and Arsenal
Total capitulation is the only way to describe that first half from Arsenal. The ref didn’t help us with the softest of soft penalties but, to be kind to Paul Tierney, he saw an opportunity to send a message which Tottenham took note of and we didn’t. I’ll get over it.
What I can’t get over is Rob Holding’s response. This guy is one of our most experienced players and proceeds to commit four fouls on Son in the first twenty minutes. Predictably resulting in two yellows and a red.

The sheer lunacy of sticking an elbow out on a yellow, 1-0 nil down, in the first half, away at our biggest rivals in the most important fixture of the last five years beggars belief. But its also a reminder of how far we’ve come as a side.

This kind of idiocy was par for the course when Arteta arrived at Arsenal with the likes of Kolasinac, Mustafi, Luiz making regular demonstrations of ill-discipline and general headlessness. It’s a testament to the ruthless export policy that Arteta’s brought since arriving that we only have one or two of these players left in the side- hangovers from an older era rather than part of a bright future.

Credit to Tottenham as well. We created a few good chances in both halfs but the way they defend they box in transition and drop into a defensive shape so quickly is a remarkable achievement for Conte in such a short space of time. In Son, Kane and Kulevski they have one of the top front threes in the premier league right now, which also helps.

This Arsenal team has existed in a pressure vacuum for the last two years so losing desperately in the first meaningful game for years hurts. That said, my expectations for this season were to be in the race for fourth come May so I’m delighted that we’re in the driving seat with two games remaining Besides, as my Spurs supporting father said this morning, losing the next two will be typical of Tottenham.
Liam Gabriel Hoskins (Not sure Tottenham getting thumped by Leipzig in R16 again is the country’s dream, Barry) AFC

Tottenham players celebrate Harry Kane's goal
Knee-jerk NLD reaction
I don’t know if Barry really meant what he wrote or he was still on cloud nine after the win. While obviously he should be proud of the win, to say that everyone in the country should be hoping Spurs get to CL because Arsenal would waste the spot is simply laughable. You could argue that everyone besides the eventual winners are a waste in CL. That means Spurs have been a waste too. Spurs did so well in Europe this season, not wasting spots at all and handling the pressure so well. Arsenal meanwhile didn’t handle the pressure at all when they won their must win games vs Chelsea and ManUtd. Talk about knee-jerkism of the highest level.

Calling Arsenal and Arteta average is such an absurd view when they have quite clearly gotten better over the season. Add in the fact that the team is the youngest in the league and that means they’ll get better and better. Take out the 2 class players Kane and Son from the current Spurs team and what do you get? An average team that would be nowhere near CL places. Who’s to say that injuries to them won’t happen next season? Or that Conte won’t leave in the summer when Levy won’t hand him a transfer kitty or when a real powerhouse of a team wants him.

Arsenal currently sadly is very much reliant on individuals aswell as was so clearly visible on Thursday. 3 very important pieces of their first team in Partey, Tierney and White were missing. All 3 add calmness and stability to their gameplan and backline which Arsenal obviously lacked in the game. It’s no coincidence that the trouble came from 2 replacements in Cedric and Holding. Arsenal trimmed their team in the winter with an eye on summer where they would bring in more quality to make the team bigger again. One can assume they’d not get into the team next year with Saliba coming back and a new fullback on the agenda aswell. Plus Arsenal will probably have a real striker next season too. So their reliance on certain players should ease up quite a bit as their squad gets bigger and more quality players will come in.

Speaking of the NLD itself then it could’ve gone very differently too had a more competent referee been in charge of the game. Son could’ve easily been off for an elbow on Holding when they both were on the ground. That happened quite a bit before he got a penalty for a “foul” that happens in every dead ball situation (if that was a foul then fine but give it consistently on every dead ball situation). Holding got dismissed for being stupid after that and with the red the game was pretty much done. Arteta was smart for not bringing on White and moving Tomiyasu to CB. Better to have him for the last 2 games than him aggravating his injury in a game that was already an uphill battle. Win the last 2 and the objective of top4 is still accomplished regardless of the NLD result.

Those last 2 games will be fun/nerve wrecking for all at least. Title, top4 and relegation – all still up in the air.


Points mean prizes
Whoever ends up getting the most points deserves to qualify for the Champions League – it’s that simple.

There’s an argument it should be Spurs because it’s good for England as Harry Kane plays for them and they’re good at taking points off the top two. But then Arsenal have in recent weeks beaten the Champions of Europe and the World at their place and have more of England’s burgeoning talent than Spurs do who would benefit more than Harry Kane would by playing in Europe’s premier competition. There’s also the fact the tournament is called the Champions League and Spurs haven’t been the champions of anything in 60 years.

But again – ultimately these arguments are both nonsense because if you get the points then you deserve to qualify and that’s it. And at either side of the Seven Sisters road you will be laughed out of the pub if you try and argue anything different when all is said and done on Sunday week.

Well done Spurs – they deserved the win – I can only hope that that loss has the desired effect of redoubling our efforts to win the final two games.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Bring on the Champions Leaguue reform
Within Barry Fox’s email actually exists a pretty good point. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not one actually made by him but one I will make shortly. Quickly, first, I’d like to eradicate this notion that Spurs are more deserving of the last Champions League place.

Barry, while I may live in America, I can assure you that no one on the continent gives a sh*t about Spurs other than your small pocket of North London and the added star power of Kane and Son isn’t enough to trump that fact. Secondly, you were struggling to get out of the EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE (for crying out loud) and are struggling to overtake an Arsenal side that is playing with the youngest average starting lineup in the league. And spare me your anecdotes about points you took off the top two this year – the performances against the other 90% of the league are more indicative of any team’s quality.

Also, don’t forget what happened in the reverse fixture. You won 3-0 at home, we won 3-1 at home…so logically that means we’d all rather see Spurs in the CL? Sure, Arsenal lost their heads under the pressure, but the idea that it is indicative that we cannot step up to the plate and Tottenham can…well, there’s a reason why, as a culture, we have words like “Spursy” and phrases like “the history of the Tottenham”. What about the billions of times you guys folded under pressure? I know recency bias is a thing but sheesh, brother, don’t make it so obvious.

Anyway, back to the original point of this email.The point that actually exists within Barry’s mail (though, again, he failed to point it out because like most people in the mailbox he favors tribalism over nuance) is that, given how well the Prem has performed in the Europe this year plus the fact that these same teams are returning to Europe next year (albeit in a different order), really both Spurs and Arsenal should be awarded places in next year’s tournament. In other words, those new UCL qualification changes can’t come soon enough.
MAW, LA Gooner

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