Mails on Man Utd’s resilience, Wolves’ woe, and overrated Tuchel…

Date published: Thursday 21st January 2021 9:01

Keep your mails coming to…


United ticking along
Another potentially tricky away fixture, another come-from-behind win – business as usual for this Man United team. Fulham have been much improved in recent games, so I had a nasty feeling we were likely to drop points, especially after conceding in the first 5 minutes, but I really should know better by now. 17 games unbeaten in the league, away from home, is pretty damn good.

I noticed a comment below the post-match analysis which questioned the fascination with “points gained from a losing position”, and how it was any different than going 2-0 up, but conceding late on. I would argue that it makes a huge psychological difference. In seasons past, United have frequently folded like a cheap suit after conceding first, and often looked nowhere close to getting anything out of the game. A cursory glance at Wikipedia shows that United only won 2 games last season when conceding first (and drew 7), which is 13 points across the whole season. This time around, we’ve gained 21 points (and counting) from losing positions, and I believe all of those have been away from home. At the same time, we’ve only dropped 5 from winning positions (against Spurs and Leicester), so there are positives on that front as well. Basically, this team doesn’t just give up easily, and that mentality is something us fans have been craving for years now. We’re still not the finished article by any means, but this is one hell of a platform to keep building on.

A word on Edinson Cavani as well. I’ll freely admit to having serious doubts when we got him, particularly on the back of the ridiculous Sancho saga. The whole thing was very reminiscent of the Falcao signing in 2014 (prolific, seemingly past-his-prime South American striker with long hair, signed on deadline day). But I couldn’t be happier to have been proven wrong. His movement and work rate up front have been invaluable, and given us a dimension in front of goal that we’ve been crying out for. He’s unlikely to play every game at 33, but it’s clear that when he does get on the pitch, he’s going to give his all, and more likely than not contribute in some way. As things stand, I’d want United to activate the option to extend his contract for the 2nd year, because I still believe he has a big role to play in this squad.

Also, despite Martial and Greenwood having worrying dry spells at the moment (2 of our top 3 scorers from last season), we’re still finding a way to get the results we need. Bruno’s had a slight dip in his output lately too, but Pogba has stepped up and chipped in with goals. All the players seem to be pulling in the same direction, and they’re very clearly fighting for each other, and for the manager. And that can only be a good thing.
DJ, MUFC (Paul Pogba’s goal tho – he must have a foot like a traction engine!) India


Penchester United?
I see so little being said about a stonewall penalty decision going against United. Loftus-Cheek’s challenge on Fred in the box In the first half was as clear as they get. For all the naysayers, decisions generally balance out over the season.


Yes, Man United won but then everyone seems not to ask, why was that not a penalty for the foul on Fred?
Machiavelli (Pogba is back!!!) Gwagwa, Abuja

F365 Says: Maddening Man Utd may reign through moments

Crystal balls out
City fan here but blimey that was harsh on Villa. My first reaction was that the first goal was offside and was waiting for VAR to scrub it. Haven’t really seen or read anything to explain why it wasn’t other than a rather tentative view that Mings’ chesting it down brought Rodrigo back in to play. We’ll see but I’m not surprised as to why Dean Smith lost it as, before that point and after as well, Villa more than gave as good as they got.

Not particularly familiar with the AVFC 1st team other than the more public names but thought that both Martinez and Targett were outstanding whilst Traore, Barkley and Grealish bombing on had me feeling like a 7-year-old watching the daleks for the first time. Horrified and definitely not enjoying it but couldn’t take my eyes off them at the same time. If there was any ‘justice’ in football, then Villa would’ve come away with a point (at least). But we all know there isn’t.

In short, that was the kind of end-to-end full-on football game that you enjoy if you’re a neutral and only on MoTD/replays if you actually managed to win it. Phew.

And on to Man Utd. Pogba scores a worldy, and I say that with not the slightest ounce of sarcasm. Isn’t that why watching him is so infuriating? You know very well he can do it; you just wish he would do so a tad more often. Moreover, I’m not sure what else Utd have to do to convince the doubters that they, on current form, are as likely to be there or thereabouts as Champions as ‘Pool, Leicester or City.
Mark (or, for that matter, West Ham, Chelsea or Everton in this, the most b*tsh*t season ever. No?). MCFC.


In’t football brilliant!
Football is loverly, this is a known, scientificly proven(this is a questionable statement now trump left office) FACT!! 2021 has been phenomenal if you only regard the premier league!! A few points stand out:

-Scott Parker has gone under the radar…not going to lie, the former Chelsea player who’d get the best out of the current Chelsea squad is managing Fulham

-A footballer was on the phone to the prime minister(not in caps for, what I hope, obvious reasons) to try to sort out poverty and hunger in children, only to play a potentially (it wasn’t) season defining match later in the day….2020 made this place uckfing odd

-Still think City have a beating coming from a bottom 5 club

-Vardy found the fountain of youth, and I bet it’s a cocktail involving Red Bull, vodka and…???

-Fulham’s keeper is Areola, and left back is Tete…yes, I am a child, but I accepted that long ago

-I work in a nursing home and knew people that had covid and have seen the ravaging effects it can cause even when your ‘over it’….kudos to Villa’s performance!!! On the subject, Pogba, whilst lambasted at the beginning of the season(I understand he hasn’t consistently produced previously for United like he did for Juve) but he started the season with COVID…it isn’t a joke, I easily believe it was detrimental to his performances for a good spell…I’ve seen things and they aren’t pretty or what I would wish on people

-IT’S FOOTBALL…sod the seriousness of the last one, football SHOULD be escapism, but sometimes it can’t

-I genuinely think that Sheffield United are going to pull something off…if not, PLEASE don’t sack Wilder…if a man can achieve that much and not be given a second shot, what is the point of football?
The Barnesbarian


…This season is not drab, last season was.

Last season, Liverpool were magnificent and would have won most seasons past with that team and the lack of injuries. However, City had probably Peps worst season, Utd were still pretty average and predictable pre-Fernandes, Chelsea had a transfer embargo plus an inexperienced manager, Spurs were busy imploding and Arsenal were continuing their subtle yet steady demise into obscurity. Even these supposed top sides largely rolled over against Liverpool.

This season, the first 5 games of the league doubled up as pre-season for most, providing the random results. Since then Liverpool have been unlucky with injuries and maybe shown to have a thin squad. City seem to have sorted their defence and look ominous even without Aguero. Spurs, Everton, Leicester and Villa have undoubtedly improved. Wolves, Leeds and even Fulham aren’t scared to take points off the big boys. And Arsenal continue towards obscurity….

Maybe the Premier league need to apologise to fans that not all games can end 3-0 to the favourites or 4-3 for all Super Sunday sky sports over the top build ups matching up 2 playmakers who are just going to be nullified for 90 mins. But maybe some of you should realise that a cagey 0-0 and a hard fought 1-0 win over a relegation candidate is what normal title races are made of.

While I still expect the title race to be between 2 or 3 sides (hopefully not just one) come Feb/March, the fact that so many sides are still in it is not a sign of a lack of quality.

I hate to get political but while the BLM take a knee at the start of matches gets shorter and shorter each week, I wonder if tackling depression or alcoholism is more relevant and pressing in the current world we live in which undoubtedly makes footballers lives and performances more difficult as it is for the rest of us.

Stay safe my friends!
Jon, Cape Town (as another mailboxer mentioned, I really appreciate the fact that we still have sport to watch)

What’s wrong with Wolves?
Cards on the table: I am a Spurs fan. But I work with a diehard Wolves fan and am thus kept very well informed on their goings-on. Poor bloke’s having a miserable week since the West Brom game…

So what’s wrong with Wolves? They don’t look like the best of the rest any more. Is it as simple as Jimenez being out? Is it losing Jota in the summer and not adequately replacing him? Is it that Traore is way off form? Is it the tactical switch to a back four? Is it that the new full backs aren’t delivering on anything like the same level as their predecessors?

From what my work mate has told me, yes to all of the above. There is a substantial body of evidence on how losing a teammate to a bad injury can shake a team (Eduardo at Arsenal springs to mind). And Fabio Silva, though he looks a trier, doesn’t have the same presence up top. Diego Costa looked like the answer there but apparently that move is off now.

Jota was out of the team at the tail end of last season, but form is fickle and since then Neto, Podence and Traore have all dipped with nobody to replace them – hence recalling Morgan Gibbs-White, who may be more problem than answer. (His attitude is questionable at best – he recently liked tweets about how Wolves have mismanaged him, and seems generally to have bought into his own hype since his breakout performance a couple of years back.)

Semedo, Marcal and Ait-Nouri are all decent full back options, but don’t show the consistency and reliability of Doherty and Jonny. It may be that losing Jonny for the whole season was just as big a blow as Jimenez. And as a Spurs fan myself, I can definitely say that Doherty made the wrong move. He’s a specialist wing back but an average right back. Mourinho is making poor use of him and Wolves need him back. Nobody is winning here, except presumably Doherty’s bank account.

The switch to a back four was always likely to cause problems. Wolves are a carefully assembled team full of specialist players for a controlled 3-4-3/3-5-2. Coady isn’t great in a pair, Saiss isn’t great at left back, none of the regular full backs are convincing defensively, and Moutinho and Neves don’t provide the kind of screening you need for a 4-2-3-1. It seems that by sacrificing a defender to augment the attack, Nuno has compromised the structure of the team and the attackers are so out of form that even an extra man isn’t enough to haul them over the line.

Then again, maybe this is all pointless speculation and next week Traore will dance his way to the touchline and set up Fabio Silva for a hat trick. Nuno has shown himself to be an accomplished tactician and motivator and can maybe pull it together again. But maybe this is as far as he can take them. It occurs to me that Nuno might prove an excellent fit at Chelsea – a team in need of tactical refinement and defensive shape, and a manager with an exploitable link to Mourinho and a more or less steady upward trajectory. I think the next few months will determine a lot for Nuno – turn things around at Wolves and he’s in line for a decent promotion. Hang on and struggle through the rest of the season, another year at Wolves beckons. Whether that appeals as much as it once did is anyone’s guess. But one thing is for sure – Diego Costa would definitely improve the front line there. Get your bloody chequebook out already.
Harry (surrogate Wolves fan), THFC.


What’s wrong with Liverpool?
Lots of theories about what’s going on at Liverpool and lots of silliness too.

Let’s get things clear; great teams don’t get “found out”. Everyone knows Messi is going to drop his shoulder and dribble past you so why do defenders not just find him out and stop it? Everyone knows Man City love running to the byline and cutting back to an on rushing attacker and yet nobody finds them out. Football is about the heat of the moment and sudden changes of direction or bursts of pace. You might know what they’re planning but stopping it is entirely different.

That said I do think players can down tools (like at Chelsea) and I think they can be distracted by things like rumours etc. Liverpool do have issues with Salah fluttering his eyelids at Real Madrid and also Wijnaldum’s contract not being resolved either way. This can’t help the harmony levels overall and might impact performance.

In addition I think fatigue plays a factor. As someone else pointed out, our front 3 have played so much football and Jota’s injury has probably compounded that issue.

Finally, Salah has been our most efficient performer but that doesn’t mean I would be against selling him. His value is at a peak and next year he turns 30. Better to sell him now if we can spend the money on someone who is 23 and awesome (Mbappe?!). If we aren’t shopping in make believe land then his sale could fund a new central defender (that isn’t made of crisps), a centre mid and a striker. The last time we sold someone for big money was Coutinho and the overall impact on the team was fairly positive from what I remember. I would back Edwards and co to pull it off again.

Also we have no centre backs. Tactically speaking this is sub optimal.
Minty, LFC


Adopt a team
In response to Mark MCFC who wrote about endless mind numbing emails from fans of the bigger clubs bleating, giving out, sniping and criticising…well as a fan of one of the big clubs (Liverpool who are the bestest and purest of all i just know and so much better than all the other clubs) well quite frankly Mark, I agree with what you have to say.

I know, bizarre eh?

Every big club have legions of decent sounds fans who have supported their clubs for years and derive enormous pleasure from it without being giant douches about the whole thing, but similarly they all have self entitled, mean spirited, nasty, spiteful fans as well whose sole purpose in life seems to be to moan, complain and antagonise their fellow human beings, scroll down to the comments section underneath this (if published) to see what I mean.

Its a sorry state of affairs but I would think not particular to any one club (despite the endless claims of moral purity by each and every club) or indeed football, or indeed sport, or indeed your town, country, skin colour, gender or sexual preference. Giant douches come in all shapes, forms and walks of life, they are the finger print on your family picture, the stain waiting at the bottom of the public lavatory, the age legion, they are vocal and they are growing in number it seems (although maybe not, they were probably always there just easier to ignore before).

So what can be done, we all know what the problem is? and also as Mark points out the endless emails from these fans about their respective clubs appears to drown out the informative, the quirky the interesting, the worldly perspective of hearing about the rest of the football world.

I propose a two birds with one stone solution.

Why dont fans of the bigger clubs, who fill the letters page every day adopt a lesser known club? Just choose a club, someone with few supporters, who never get a mention or an email written about them. Make it your second club, but unlike normal second club please don’t choose the latest hipster obsession (Southampton perhaps) but someone dull, who play limited football, have a limited budget, and an unremarkable strip.

Love this club as best you can, like a stray puppy scraping at the door of your own self obsession/importance and pity. Read up on them, see whats its like to follow this club. Who’s their best player (notice how useless he is compared to your own team’ array of stars who you criticise as soon as one or two results don’t go your way – please note I include myself in all of this – I am no better than you, no different). Look up your clubs website, their fans site, listen to their podcast if they have one.

If something interesting is going on in the world of your second club why not write an email and tell us all about it, you can let us know its your second club if you like.

See how this makes you feel, to walk in another clubs shoes. Do you feel lighter/happier, hopeless/bored/frustrated, it will do you go to see how the rest of the world feels. How does this make you feel about your own club as time goes on, maybe Mo Salah doesn’t seem so useless anymore, or Paul Pogba or whoever plays for arsenal these days who isn’t very good.

Maybe you might start enjoying football a bit more, being less fed up when things dont go your way all the time, maybe you’ll enjoy the victories a bit more for what they are, miraculous joyous occasions (Liverpool just won the league and champions league in the past two seasons – you wouldnt know from the emails and the podcasts the last 2 weeks – again mea culpa).

So come on all you fellow entitled, petty, unappreciative fans of the bigger clubs, lets give the small guys some love, adopt a club today and put a smile back on the face of football.

PS please dont include poorly followed disproportionately successful clubs eg Man City, their 5 active supporters will have to keep up their own letters I’m afraid.
Dave LFC/Burnley


…I couldn’t agree more with Mark MCFC about the absolute tedium of Liverpool/Man Utd emails. I sent in a mail on a similar thing a couple of months ago and found out from another mailboxer that it was good craic. Made me wonder a couple of things-

-has being a fan changed in the last decade? Is this shit now what it means to support a team?

-has the quality of the mailbox dropped along with this? Maybe I am looking at it with rose tinted glasses but I feel like we had more variety in the past. That made the Stewie Griffin’s of the world seem like weird uncles who you loved regardless. It seems like the inmates have slowly taken control of the asylum though.

In terms of the current NUFC situation, I can’t speak for everyone but I have become exhausted with what is going on. In some ways, having Rafa was a bad thing as it gave me hope. To go from that to Steve Bruce’s incompetence has been awful.
Northern Soul NUFC

Five other attributes Chelsea should covet in Lampard successor

What to do about Lampard
As a Chelsea fan the Leicester game was a difficult match to watch. It’s hard not to show allegiance to a man who was intrinsic to most things that the club have achieved. The club needed him to accept a role he knew was way too early in his career, it’s like being the top salesman in Apple’s history only to be ask to come back and replace Tim Cook. Yep he’s studied for a future role but experience can never be found in text books and diplomas. He knows that.

The squad is an embarrassment of riches but fitting the pieces together is going to piss off established and possibly newly signed players. Whilst some would say the inbound transfers were impressive the outgoings were less so leaving a bitter group of Emerson, Jorginho, Alonso, Rudiger, (Kepa). Trying to keep the changing room together has led to disparate use of players and tactics (Chelsea Joint first for most players used and we’re not half way through the season).

Whilst everyone will point the finger at Lampard, the player’s collective effort was shameful. Only Mount walked off the pitch with a belief he’d left nothing on the pitch. That as a professional footballer is unforgivable, the rudiments of being the best is giving everything you can on that field. Whether Roman holds his nerve and gives Lampard time is anyone’s guess. Suppose some would argue he doesn’t deserve it.

Oh well, the media have their side show
P Didi


…Ok I’m an old man, I was watching Chelsea long before Frank Lampard was born, but change for change sake is impractical I admit to wanting Ancelotti back after Jose departed the second time, again after Conte and again after Sarri but Frank Lampard is probably the only one other than Ancelotti who answered Abromavichs demands for attacking football whilst making good use of the academy at least at the beginning of this very unique season previous managers produced one or the other, some neither.
Sack Frank and club end up in turmoil again, with a new manager comes new tactics and new players but all Chelsea really need is a new leader on the pitch the players now at the club are mostly very good players but there’s no real leader among them yet although Mount and James could be one day.
Anyone else put in as replacement will face the same problem and maybe the answer is Declan Rice.
Talking of West Ham, Mason Mount is being clobbered with the ‘managers pet ‘tag just like Frank at Upton Park the fans couldn’t wait for him to go and we all know how that ended, beware real Chelsea supporters.


Tuchel is overrated
I was reading the top seven managers out of work and available now and was surprised to see Thomas Tuchel at number 2. In my opinion he is one of the most overrated managers to have been given such well-regarded positions.

Looking at his history, he took over Mainz in 09 and finished a very respectable 5th in their second season in the Bundesliga. In subsequent seasons with Mainz, they finished 13th, 13th and 7th before he got his move to Dortmund. None of those are admirable and standard in the Bundesliga outside of the top 2-4 teams each year is poor.

He followed Klopp again when he replaced him as the Dortmund manager. Klopp took Dortmund from finishing 13th under the previous manager to finish 1st on two occasions, 2nd on two occasions as well as some impressive champions league runs and then he left after a disappointing season where they finished 7th in his 7th season with the club. The club needed a change after 7 years with the same manager but still had a very strong squad at that time. In Tuchel’s time with Dortmund, he only managed to win the cup on one occasion. He did not even challenge Bayern in the league, finishing 10 and 18 points behind the eventual champions in his two seasons there.

After two years there, he left for PSG and basically won every domestically. This was after Monaco had sold all of their players following winning the league a couple of seasons prior (as well as an impressive champions league run when they knocked out Tuchel’s Dortmund) and there were no real challengers in France. That PSG team would have won the league with anyone else in charge. In Europe, they finally got to the final last year. Squeaking past an Iličić-less Atalanta in the quarters (scoring twice in extra time to get the win) and beating a Werner-less Leipzig in the semi. What an accomplishment.

What of the above is impressive? Finishing fifth with Mainz or winning the cup with a very strong Dortmund side? His time with PSG is not even worth talking about. I do agree with the tweet from the Chelsea fan however. I would be delighted if he was to go to Chelsea. An overrated manager with an underperforming team and a shockingly poor and entitled fan base. Seems like a perfect match to me.
James Galvin, Sydney


Arsenal’s miscalculations
In 2007 and 2010 Arsenal were (relatively consistently) around the 5th richest football club behind Man U, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich (on income). Maybe not at the pinnacle but definitely close by! What the hell happened?

It’s easy to say that this was down to management taking money out of the club (which I’m sure played a part) or the arrival of petro-dollars. But I think another story here is what income Arsenal prioritized, match-day revenue, and Arsenal’s belief that there was going to be a firesale of players from distressed clubs as a result of the financial crisis. After all, The other top-four clubs are still in the top four.

Revenue prioritization
Back in 2004/2005, Arsenal trailed Manchester United’s income by ~EUR 80M, of which ~EUR 45M was due to the difference in matchday revenue. Highbury was sold off. Emirates was built. Arsenal seemed to be on a road to having a (more) level playing field by 2007.

Except then the broadcasting deals changed everything. For English clubs, matchday revenue went from being ~35% of their revenue, to ~15% (by 2019) (for the top 8 teams). In contrast, broadcasting rights rose from about 37% of revenue to 52%, with commercial revenue making up the difference.

Arsenal financed their stadium, in part, by selling players often to competing premier league teams! This changed the atmosphere of Arsenal – it became a selling club. Perversely, it eroded their place in English football that largely determined their share of football revenue, which has been the fastest growing slice of football revenue – while stadium revenues have remained pretty much static.

At the same time the deterioration in Arsenal’s competitiveness (and atmosphere) impacted their commercial revenue. In 2005, Arsenal trailed Manchester United’s commercial revenue of EUR 82M by only 30%, or about EUR 25M. Fast-forward to today, Manchester United generate EUR 317M of commercial revenue to Arsenal’s EUR 126M.

Financial crisis contagion (or lack thereof)
Arsenal also expected the financial crisis to impact football teams more severely than it did. I think their belief was that football clubs would become cash negative as people couldn’t attend matches etc., banks were constrained in lending money, so the clubs would be forced to sell players in a firesale across Europe (especially Spain and Italy) to balance their books. Arsenal would benefit from picking up the cream of European talent at bargain prices, and also benefit from having not invested in the run-up to the collapse (having overpaid for “assets” – i.e. players) so have a stronger balance sheet.

A different universe
In another universe, competition authorities would have prevented the price gouging of football viewers on the box, and the financial crisis would have brought an unparalleled opportunity for clubs who kept their powder dry… and we would all be remarking on the genius of Arsenal. Instead Arsenal appear to be wandering into obscurity.


Dear John
Here I go again on my own
Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone
An’ I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time

Some time back I implied that John Nicholson’s oeuvre was best described by the lyrics of Psycho Killer, viz talking a lot without saying anything. I wish to withdraw that view and replace it with the words of Mr Coverdale, fellow north country lad, who clearly penned the 1982 classic as an early homage to the self-proclaimed “star columnist of Football 365”. Football’s a team game John BTW – to misquote Sir Humphrey, “there is no perpendicular pronoun in team”.

What has Johnny Nic done this time; you ask ? Pretty much the same as last time. Thus proving me the greater fool here – as I will take the time to write a fresh note, with a new choice of song lyrics, on my own coin, while JN secures a few more pence per word for his regurgitative musings !

His article on F*t Frank, nepotism & plutocracy was just another piece into which JN shoehorned his now-achingly-familiar, “eat the rich” whinge. Chelsea is Abramovich’s toy. He’s written off a lot of loans for the privilege to run it in the style of a 21st century sun king. Like Phil Foden with his Edmund Blackadder (S1) haircut, or Ederson’s quite painful looking neck tattoo – it’s his property, let him enjoy it. Let him appoint whomever he wants to enter his lions’ den – providing they pass relevant fit & proper tests – I mean he has arguably delivered the most successful English side in a generation – isn’t he allowed a self-indulgent brainfart ?! That Frank appears to lack the tactical nous to balance defence & attack – and that this leads to outcomes which cause his mask to slip as per his laughable outburst at Anfield last year is surely enriching colour to an otherwise depressed time ?

But is it really evidence of the apparent “toxic mix of plutocracy and nepotism” which JN sees as prevalent in the world ? Come on John – even David Icke isn’t swallowing that one !

And what example does he use to illustrate his cast-iron truism ?!!!! Dido Harding’s leadership of Track & Trace ?!! Erm….well yes, that clearly is a busted-flush….along with frankly a lot of what has been put forward by authorities in this extraordinary time. But look at the facts John. On merit, is La Harding a complete Gary Neville @ Valencia SNAFU – or just one who kinda gets under your skin ? Serially successful executive, Harvard schooled, McKinsey finished (I’ve paid their bills, they ain’t cheap – but they are good), Kingfisher, Tesco, Sainsbury’s (under 3 of the best business retailers the UK has ever produced) – this CV bears little comparison to Frank and his A* in Latin ! The only similarity I can see is that they share an affinity with Conservative politics – her through marriage and Frank through mulling standing in Kensington in 2015.

John. Listen. The world is in a bad enough place as it is, I can’t beg a f*cking haircut until March, Mane/Salah & Firmino have conspired to suddenly resemble Three Blind Mice & I haven’t seen the sun in 3 months. But it isn’t a big conspiracy of the wealthy/plutocrats. It’s just life; and I for one will allow anyone to call themselves Dido without censure; just as you can claim you are the Grand Wizard of Football365 and go under your own nom-de-plume of “Johnny Nic” if you like. Live & let Live fella – open a nice bottle of wine, have a w*nk – just get it out of your system.

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