The Mailbox urges Romelu Lukaku to get nasty, while speculating over what Man Utd and Liverpool might look like in the future.
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Chelsea need a sh*thouse
Lots being said about value and how well or not so well Lukaku is doing.
I have no idea why but certain clubs suit certain types of players and I think Chelsea over the years have always performed better when they have had the sort of player up front who you only love when they play for you and everyone else hates them. Add to this a little tricky winger or inside forward and over the years this has been a killer combination.
Even before my time.
Cooke and Osgood
When I was a kid
Nevin and Dixon/Speedie
and in more recent years.
Zola/Gudjohnson and Hasslebaink
Robben/Duff and Drogba
Hazard and Drogba
Hazard and Costa
Now whilst Lukaku has the physicality to be a right sh*thouse and he does sometimes look like he is up for the fight there just seems to be no commitment from him to cross over to the dark side. We currently have an abundance of tricksy skilful wingers (not sure what the collective noun is maybe “a frustration”) but our strike force is a bit too goody two shoes where we need them to be a bit more Highway to Hell.
So my suggestion is Chelsea go out there and find the best of the baddest strikers and throw a huge wad of cash at their club. Do this every 5 – 6 years and profit. Or start training the academy kids to play more like Drogba.
Suggestions on the back of a post card M Granovskaia
Paul (MUFC) Dublin raises an interesting point about whether United should go for broke and splash the cash on one player or would it be better to bring in more for the same price. I think to answer it you really need to look at the squad as a whole to see where needs to be strengthened. United have a ridiculously bloated squad. Their website lists 38 first team players (7 of whom are out on loan).
The first thing the new manager, whoever it is, needs to do is start selling players at pretty much any price. They realistically need to get down to a first team squad of around 24/25 players. To allow for a handful of new players that means they need to get rid of around 18 players.
Right off the bat, you can take Grant, Lingard, Mata, and Cavani off the list as they’re out of contract in the summer. Henderson and Van De Beek also need to go for the sake of their careers.
After them I think at least 3 of the 7 centre backs (yes, really!) need to go – for me it would be Tuanzebe, Jones, and Bailly. I can see 1 or 2 of the fullbacks might go too, but who it is will depend on what the new manager wants from his fullbacks. I think Matic, Pereira, and Martial should be out the door too.
That gets you down to a squad of around 24/25. Of those left 12 are between the ages of 17 and 22 so some will go out on loan and others will be training with the first team for experience but playing for the U23s. That leaves you room to bring in around 4/5 players – not all of whom should expect to be starters.
For me four of those players would be:
• Keeper: Illan Meslier. United need a young keeper to take over from De Gea in a couple of seasons. Meslier fits the bill: he’ll be 22 shortly, has PL experience, and will put De Gea under pressure. Of course, Leeds aren’t going to part with him easily.
• Centre back: Edmond Tapsoba. Might not be needed if the coaching team rate Mengi, but Tapsoba would be an excellent signing. He’s tall, strong, fast, a good passer, and plays on the left of defence so would slot in perfectly next to Varane.
• Centre Mid: Declan Rice. The obvious option. He has the right attributes and PL experience, and with all his talk of how great Old Trafford is, seems to want it too.
• Centre Mid: Boubacar Kamara. A young player, with 100 Ligue Un matches under his belt, can cover centre back if needed, and available for half nothing now as his contract is up in the summer.
Added to them, depending on what the manager wants, you could probably add a new fullback as well.
If United sign Kamara in the next few days, and Rice would take up the entirety of the summer transfer window, I don’t think it would be worth it because there are other areas which need strengthening. However, if United can sign Rice as well as a good, young centre back and a good keeper, I think they need to go for it.
Liverpool of the future
Excellent mailbox yesterday PM I thought. Restored my faith after the morning edition.
One of the emails got me thinking about how much a team can change in say 3 years. It seems despite the inordinate amount of time spent speculating on transfers, not that many happen.
I’ve had a go at a potential Liverpool team at start of 2024/2025 – ages at that time in brackets.
TAA (25) Konate (25) VVD (33) Robbo (30)
Jones (22) Bellingham (21)
Salah🙏 (32) Jota (28) Harvey Elliot (21)
I like the look of that team to challenge in 24/25. and there is only 1 new addition. We may even give Newcastle a run for their (oil) money
Mark Robbo, LFC (Origi will still be here, along with his statue for scoring his third champions league final winner. )
Confused by Claudio
Claudio Ranieri has got to be the most puzzling manager in the history of the game.
The guy has been at seemingly every level of top division club, and you can never really tell where he’s best suited at, but whenever he gets a job at a club with title aspirations he is a dead man walking from the second those above want that, case in point when Abramovich took over Chelsea, it was amazing he lasted a full year and got to make transfers, he got his chance but a champs league semi and a distant second and he was out the door, with the decision unmistakably a great one. When he went to Juventus there was just a loud collective NO from everyone associated with the club. He managed Valencia to great success then dampened his legacy with a second wet fsrt reign. I think Fiorentina was probably his best spell. Well, that’s not true, because this is how you’d be talking about Ranieri anyway before the wild card, him coming into little Leicester and inspiring them to a cushy title win in what is considered the miracle to end all miracles. True to form though, he was gone less than a year later, the circumstances around his departure painted everyone in the club to the players and the owners on a bad light, but Ranieri will Ranieri and he Ranieri’d big time that second season. The guy gets employment everywhere, and it’s generally going to range from disaster, to modest, to not at all wanted but seemed to be a punt, and the Leicester victory confused more what was already a confusing career to many a club owner. He did nothing to prevent Fulham getting relegated, he has a talented Watford team and they had a little new manager bounce when he came in, but his time seems to be up, and I don’t think this time you could accuse the Pozzo family of being themselves too much, it feels like he has to go.
Ultimate wildcard, it will either bomb, be modest, be good, or out of the blue he might win the big one.
Dave (his next clubs will be Rennes, Sevilla, West Brom, Lokomotiv Moscow, Auxeere, Everton and Barcelona by the end of 2024), Dublin
…Surely we’re not too far away from a press conference where Keith, 46, Edgware tells the media while he’s the next Watford coach, he’s only taken the role as the Job Centre has told him he has to and that it’s only likely to a very temporary role.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Folks, I want to offer you some feedback. I’ve been reading this site for about 20 years now but this is not one of those “you used to be good” or “you are biased against my team” mails. I’ve been reading for 20 years because of the quality; the cogent, grounded, well-researched pieces and the generally decent humour. As the game and coverage got colder, angrier and more divisive, this site offers a break from the tribalistic bile and hyperbole that has taken over the game.
But I take issue with the weekly “worst XI”. I understand what you are trying to do. The tone is generally right, mild chiding, mixed with mitigation and a level of sympathy. The aim, I am guessing, is to show where the real problems are e.g. “player x may have scored a 30 yard screamer consolation goal but he lost the ball 12 times” to give a fuller view of a performance that could be missed in a highlights show/social video. I also think it’s not the right time for a weekly piece like this.
Football fans do not need any excuse to abuse their supposed idols these days and, in a very tiny way, this piece is only adding to that environment. While you have pitched the tone right, the overall idea behind the piece is negative, shining a light of flaws. No player is going to get less abuse because the stats show his teammate was technically worse than him on the day. Maybe I’m getting old but it feels like football is getting more hostile and unwelcoming and less enjoyable. So I think if we can some of the negativity out, we should.
Kev (it’s a minor gripe, the rest of the stuff is excellent)
VAR and bias
To the Liverpool fans complaining about the media coverage for their VAR and Klopp-based incidents, turn that frown upside down. It’s because you’re relevant as a club again, you’re worth the clicks.
As for the big club bias, we all know it’s a thing, some grounds are scarier than others. If a decision goes the wrong way the fanbase kicks off, the manager kicks off, referees and so on get abused (now with added social media), and simply the size of the ground with the number of people baying for blood… let alone if you’re an “assistant ref” standing mere feet away… it would probably take a sociopath not to be swayed at all.
If VAR has done nothing else (and it pretty much hasn’t thanks to the brilliant way they use it) it stops the referee getting the grief online as much, since they shirk the big decisions now so everyone just blames the inanimate computer (not even the unnamed arsehole manning it – can we start to see them named? “Today’s VAR, sponsored by <insert optician company name here>”).
As a United fan, I miss the referee bias we used to have, and seeing hordes of rabid players swarm the referee to get decisions corrected. Jon Nic-style rose-tinted-glasses missing it.
Big calls for big players?
While we’re talking about refereeing conspiracies, thought I’d write in with something that crosses my mind all the time: does the decision depend on the players involved?
A lot has been made over the years of City players not getting booked for professional fouls around the halfway line. Could this be because the ref, seeing Ryan Fraser getting hauled down at halfway by Rodri thinks ‘Oh Ruben Dias is pretty decent and will be across to cover that’ or ‘He’ll never beat Ederson anyway’.
So he doesn’t book Rodri.
Five minutes later, Foden / Sterling / Mahrez skins Jonjo Shelvey and all set to bear down on Dubravka with only Lascelles to stop him. Shelvey takes him out in the same fashion as Rodri on Fraser.
Ref backs Foden / Sterling / Mahrez versus Lascelles and books Shelvey.
And I’m not saying Kevin Friend has the awareness to compute all this in real time, but he definitely knows that on balance City are much better in every aspect of the game than Newcastle.
Little by little, could this account for big club bias that is undeniable and unpalatable but understandable?
Definitely agree with Rich, spending heaps on a player rarely results in an unmitigated success. If you look at a list of the 10 most expensive signings of all time, Mbappé to PSG is probably the only one I think any of the owners would do again if they had a Time Machine.
However when looking at the list, you realise how most of the transfers were as much about owner dick swinging as football. Many of these owners weren’t only buying proven, top players (or not in the case of Dembélé), but also glittering press coverage.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where the biggest clubs are the play toys of anti democratic nations states and oil barrons. So this tomfoolery is unlikely to stop soon. Nevertheless, I will enjoy a wry smile every time Abramovich spunks £100 down the drain on a frivolous striker who doesn’t fit his team’s system.
After Blackburn vs Middlesbrough tonight, does anyone want to talk about the massive increase in reported instances of fans having heart related medical emergencies at football grounds this season? I can hardly recall any matches prior to this season where play had to be stopped while a fan received emergency treatment, often from the teams own doctors. Nowadays however it seems as though every time I turn on Sky Sports News, their match reports mention a fan having a medical emergency with alarming frequency. Surely this can’t simply be a case of increased coverage and awareness since Eriksen’s collapse last summer. I feel as though, as well as the increased reporting of it, perhaps more needs to be discussed as to why it is now seemingly happening with increased regularity? I’m glad that these people were able to receive fast treatment and hope all have fully recovered (which isn’t reported as much), however it’s both worrying and bizarre how “normal” it has suddenly become.