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The Sanchosen One?
I am quite surprised at the general level of non-negotiable hype that surrounds the Jadon Sancho signing. I think Manchester United are signing a player for an incredibly inflated fee (the usual British premium) and, at least from my standpoint, it seems to be a massive gamble. It would appear quite obvious that, while his potential may have a high ceiling, his ability to succeed in the Premier League should be analysed in depth. For a start, their domestically all-conquering local rivals let him depart in Paul Pogba-esque circumstances, which surely must be factored into any initial appraisals of this transaction. Manchester City haven’t made a habit of being wrong in recent years, the latter stages of the Champions League aside.
Similar in many ways to Pogba and the current prime example of a player failing to reach his potential, Neymar, Sancho looks like a highly capable individual when given time and space. Like the majority of us, I have watched his YouTube highlights and, yes, they are impressive. As impressive as Timo Werner’s YouTube highlights and, to a lesser extent, those of Sebastian Haller and Joelinton. Similar to the majority of Premier League fans, I haven’t seen Sancho play more than a handful of games so I am not particularly well-placed give an accurate first-hand assessment. That said, my research tells me that his poor defensive contributions have been highlighted in scouting reports and cited as the reason Gareth Southgate was not inclined to select him in the Euros. Perhaps Raphael Varane’s imminent partnership with Harry Maguire will give Sancho and his teammates the springboard to attack in a carefree manner, but the successful teams of recent years have all defended well from the front.
Another cause for trepidation is that recent much-vaunted imports from the Bundesliga such as Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz and Naby Keita have all failed to find suitable levels of consistency, and the aforementioned Timo Werner has gone from 28 goals and 8 assists in his final Leipzig campaign to a mere 6 goals and 8 assists last season for Chelsea. A notable statistic that his seasonal output of 4 goals and 2 assists in Europe has continued. This may suggest that Werner’s drop off is not so much a loss of confidence but a clear marker of the Premier League being a far more difficult league with more organised defences, less open play and less time and space.
Of course, Sancho’s statistics in the Bundesliga are fantastic at face-value. In reverse order, his goals and assists of 8 and 11, 17 and 16 and 12 and 14 respectively are impressive numbers and his key passes per game statistic is equally superb. A more detailed observation, however, is that Sancho is fifth in the Bundesliga for instances of bad control per game and, of all the players who played over 2000 minutes, 12th for being dispossessed. Another interesting factor is that the Bundesliga has generally been a far more open league where the average goals per game have been 2.79, 3.18 and 3.21 in the three seasons prior to the last one. In comparison, the Premier League’s respective 2.68, 2.82 and 2.72. It must be noted that during this last season the Bundesliga had 3.03 goals per game, while the Premier League had what can only be considered as an outlier figure of 3.79 after the crazy start to the season and several other contributing factors such as empty stadiums.
Jadon Sancho could well be a very good signing for Manchester United and there is little doubt that he will be among the goals and assists this season as he provides some useful width. As Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood would expect around 16 league goal involvements each, it is likely that he will be able to do the same. Though, given one of them will make way for his presence in the team, it will be interesting to assess the added value he brings. As noted in the Mailbox this morning and as I have said for quite some time, Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester is still the transformative player that United require, especially after the excellent Varane signing. Signing Sancho does, at least initially, seem like another example of decorative indulgence before the foundations are complete.
All of that said, it would be great to see another young English player have a successful season in the Premier League and I wish him well in his return to our domestic competition.
AC in Milan
During the football doldrums the newspapers will publish any old rubbish, to gain a few clicks and probably to keep the ‘journalists’ employed. Given that 90% of the rumours are either journalist created, agent created or, in a few cases, selling club created, it’s hard sometimes to determine the wheat from the chaff. It’s actually funnier when one newspaper cites another as being respectable, in a circular back-patting attempt at adding gravitas to their rumour.
But it is interesting to think about the different styles of clubs or how that changes over time. For example, Liverpool, who recently would be considered outside the big spenders and able to pick up an under-rated bargain, is now in a situation where it is harder to get those players over the line. With a fairly consistent front three getting most of the minutes, enticing a young, up and comer, is now more difficult when they can go to a ‘selling’ club to get ‘minutes.’ Is this a result of self same players being more aware these days, agents being a little cleverer or both.
The question is whether clubs like Spurs, Dortmund, etc, will ever be able to similarly break the cycle as Liverpool have done. Granted, Liverpol did splash the cash to make the final jump with Van Dyke and Allison in particular. In the case of Dortmund, you would think they could make the jump as almost guaranteed CL money every year, a top 4 Bundesliga finish, massive support that should entice sponsorship, especially as they get some great and exciting young talent on board each year. Just not sure why it doesn’t happen. Perhaps when they sell Haaland they will have enough in the bank to do just that.
Spurs, well it is Spurs. After a couple of good seasons under Poch, they seem to have squandered their ‘generational’ years. Huge and beautiful stadium – but it is going to need feeding. Perhaps banked too much on American Football and other events (pre-covid, so who would know) so it may just be awful timing. But if I were a Spurs fan, would be awfully p*ssed that we never seem to win anything.
At least clubs in Portugal and the Netherlands can look forward to regular league wins and CL football. So strange that a club with significantly more financial advantage can’t make that jump. So could be an attraction for younger, more interesting talent but often seems to end up with journeymen types instead.
It’s a given that United, Chelsea and City will get their players across the line being able to pay the fees (especially the agent fees – see Abramovich personally underwrites them), meet player’s wage demands or can offer the chance of success (latter two at least), so its more interesting to see how it works out for those in the middle. Especially how it might impact my Fantasy Football team.
I just read the article about Grealish and I kind of disagree. I think an important factor with Shearer and Gerrard is when they gave their full commitment to their respective hometown clubs. Shearer won a Premier League early on, so after that he could afford to dream with Newcastle knowing that whatever happened, he still had that medal. Likewise, Gerrard committed to Liverpool after winning the Champions League (had also won the FA Cup and League Cup), so he knew he’d always at least have those even if he didn’t win the league. I don’t mean to diminish their loyalty to their respective clubs, just to say that it was an easier choice.
Grealish is looking at a potential Harry Kane situation when he signed a big new contract with Spurs, and it is something you repeatedly keep pointing out when the transfer gets brought up: Kane signed the contract, so he placed himself in this situation, and yet now you’re saying Grealish should just commit on the hopes that Villa will be a top six club in the next 5-10 years? Spurs will attest that those assumptions don’t just work out. The fact is Grealish is 25, almost 26, if he signs this contract then he’s most likely looking at his prime years not playing in the Champions League or competing for major honours. And if he was to sign, and Villa slipped down the table towards relegation again and wanted to leave, you’d be saying “then you should’ve left and not signed”. Kane drank the Kool-aid with Spurs, and is now looking at being the best player to never win a single thing. Grealish has given a lot to Villa, and he’s loved by them but similar to the Kane situation, he doesn’t owe them loyalty. The fact is they are both incredible footballers, and they’ve only be shown loyalty and offered big contracts by their clubs because they are good at football; if their levels diminished, they’d be shown the door.
I can see how being remembered is important, but in your Matt Damon example, maybe it would be like him getting the chance to star in a Hollywood blockbuster and saying no, he only wants to do theatre. He doesn’t, he wants to be rewarded for his talents and work with the best directors and other actors out there. Likewise it should be no way bad if Grealish wanted to work with one of the best coaches and play with some of the best other footballers.
He should ask Kane for advice.
Stop comparing Klopp and Ole
Just stop judging OGS with Klopp granted they both took over two teams who play in red from the NW that is where it stops.
One took a team in 6th the other in 10th, who previously had finished 2nd and 6th with 81 to 62 points. One squad had 6 EPL winners the other 3.
One took over the worlds most valuable team the other the 8th.
One has spent more money than any manager not to win a major trophy, he should only be compared to Pep nobody else.
Gary in Germany
Gomez as England’s best?
Well, that was a bit of an odd email from Alex, South London (although they are an odd bunch down there…)
First of all, absolute fair one that we pay big wages and naturally that helps us to attract players. Not going to argue with that – there are clearly other factors as to why players sign for us, but a massive wedge of cash certainly doesn’t hurt.
However, it then goes a bit odd – Joe Gomez is the best English CB around? Really?! I think if we are listing trophies as the measure, then Stones wins hands down, while F365 recently said that the debate around Maguire being an elite defender had been settled – he really is. Not a mix of Moore and Baresi, but a seriously good CB. Gomez, despite now being 24, remains a player of potential rather than actual quality, having played only 145 games plus another 11 for England.
There is then this weird accusation that seems to be thrown at United quite a lot, we are rubbish and all our players are crap, but also if we don’t win the league then we are failures. It can’t just be me that this feels a bit oxymoronic? As you also say, we would have to beat Citeh to the title, and very few managers have ever managed to beat Pep. There is also the underlying tones that United, due to our history, have to be winning the league, but we also get criticised for referencing our history as it doesn’t mean anything now? As I say, all seems a bit contradictory to me.
I don’t think, even with two very good additions, we will win the league next year. We are still a top class DM away from the best sides, while I reckon we also need a top class CF. That being said, we look, on paper, to be an exciting side and one that could enjoy some luck one of the cups (insert obligatory dig about Ole being a bottle job here). I’m very much looking forward to the season, something which wasn’t the case for a good few years!
Jack (Honestly, Gomez… wind your neck in) Manchester
Rashford and TAA
JB, my recollection was not the media going mad calling for Alexander Arnold to be dropped. My recollection was (i) Alexander Arnold being dropped; (ii) the media going mad at the decision to drop him; and (iii) the push back being so intense that Southgate selected four right backs for the England squad, even though TAA was going to be fourth choice and even though the third choice right back rarely actually made it into the match day squad…
I’m not saying United don’t get special and/or skewed media interest. They do. I can only think of one other team that gets a similarly heightened and skewed level of coverage and, here’s a hint for you, the man who is paradoxically the best ever right back in the world whilst also, inexplicably, currently fourth choice for his country plays for them. Seriously, I imagine any neutral will laugh themselves hoarse at the suggestion that Liverpool get a raw deal from the press (other than that one paper we don’t talk about, which I acknowledge is a different kettle of fish).
Also, if Marcus Rashford enjoys particular good will from the press, I’d say that Dr. Rashford MBE has sodding well earned it.
For Christ’s sake, let it go about Alexander Arnold. He’s not the bloody messiah, he has rightly dropped in the pecking order behind three better right backs.
Rashford’s form has also (rightly) seen him drop down the pecking order, which is why he was a benchwarmer behind Saka… Its not a slight on Alexander Arnold though. He just had more intense competition for the right back slot than Rashford did.
Finally, I daresay United would pay for the very best surgeons, but they are surgeons, not bloody magicians. Again, it is not the case that any injury can just be dealt with by sending someone to an even more expensive surgeon. That’s why, you know, even rich people don’t live forever…
Personally, the solution to Rashford’s issue is obvious. He needs to get down the M62 so Trent can lay on his healing hands. You know, on account of how he’s the second coming of our Lord and saviour…
…In the space of two mails, JB has established himself as the mailbox king of Confidently Stated Bullshit. First off, TAA didn’t just have a few bad games, he went right off the deep end after Christmas. This continued until mid April with that clanger against Real. It was a rough period, and he looked totally all over the place at times. Rashford had more of an up and down season, punctuated by injuries. These things are not the same. Saying they are stridently will not make it so.
He also seems to have no appreciation of the fact that footballers play through niggling injuries all the fucking time. He cannot seem to grasp the concept that there is a chance of surgery going awry – particularly in the shoulder area – even if you do have the best surgeons about.
He then slips into full Tucker Carlson territory with those stupid questions about United fans rioting and Rashford’s social media presence. If I keep asking wildly hyperbolic questions, will you nod in agreement eventually? Will you be hypnotised by my wordsmithery, even if I’m not really making much sense? He even says Rashford got into the squad in an area where England were well-stocked, seemingly forgetting that TAA was at least in a broadly similar position, given that there’s five right-backs who could have made the cut. Has he forgotten that TAA actually made the cut in the end, so what he’s essentially whining about is… Journalists wrote about a player being left out of the squad in March due to poor form…. and debated whether he’d make the squad a bit? Back here in the real world, doesn’t sound like much of a big deal to me.
Pablo, MUFC, Dublin
Handshakes all round
A random thought just popped into my head, thank the lord for WFH so I can quickly send an email to the esteemed editor.
How ridiculous are the handshakes in modern football now?
Players slap hands and hug in the tunnel. Then we get the 5-minute ritual of the teams lining up for a procession of handshakes, including with the officials. Then the captains do the coin toss and shake hands with each other again as well as the ref and two linespersons (don’t want to offend twitter).
Then after the game the camera spends another 5 minutes following the entire matchday squads and backroom staff as they hug and shake hands again.
And they all get in on it too. Unused substitutes, physios, water bottle boys, the stadium announcer.
Why do it?
Forget the sanitary perspective for a moment (it’s a disgusting germ-fest).
Considering there is absolutely no fair play in modern football anymore, with everyone out to scam each other at the slightest bit of contact, or hardened Keane/Vieira battles where you respect the foe you just stood toe-to-toe with.
It’s a meaningless gesture. Just get on with it and stop posing for the cameras.
Silvio (no amount of data will convince me Fernandes’ hop skip jump penalty does anything but look ridiculous) Dante
Can people please stop using a club’s spend on transfer fees or wages to justify or set requirements on a manager? It’s just not logical. Similar to using net spend (yuck) to determine if a manager has been successful or not.
Transfer fees and wages are at the broadest sense determined by market forces (supply and demand). At a granular level, for example, a club with better negotiation skill or bargaining power may have purchased Harry Maguire for $50M instead of $80M. Does that difference in fee paid change the managers expectations? That’s illogical.
The manager has absolutely no bearing on the transfer fee paid or wages negotiated unless they’re in the meeting negotiating themselves. How can you expect to measure them by saying “Club X have spent XYZ and therefore the manager should deliver 48 trophies next season or else he’s shit”? What if the manager didn’t want Maguire? What if they wanted another centre back that cost half that? How would the average outsider know this? There’s so many variables involved that boiling it down to transfer fees and wages paid is way too simplistic.
Summary – There’s many many other metrics to judge a manager’s performance, transfer fees or wages paid is definitely not one of them- thats for CFO’s/Directors of Finance etc.
Future of Football Cup
In response to Kiarian (YouTube Football), thanks for highlighting this Future of Football Cup with the new rules – I only heard about it after reading your mail.
I do disagree with you though, as I think the clock stoppage is the only way to go. One of the single most annoying things in football is time wasting, especially when accompanied by some theatrical rolling about. Furthermore, the ridiculously inconsistent calculations on added time are similarly frustrating. Having a clock which just stops and starts makes the most sense and has been shown to work perfectly well in rugby.
Sin bin is also an idea worth keeping. It was introduced to Gaelic football here in Ireland in recent years and is an effective deterrent against cynical play (although nobody outside of England would ever want Chiellini to have been published for his masterclass in bastardry that you referenced).
Shorter half lengths, kick-ins instead of throws are both grand ideas too. Unlimited subs, I’m not such a fan of – gives an unfair advantage immediately to bigger/richer clubs.
One thing I would absolutely love to see trialled is for all referees to have microphones and/or body cams which would broadcast to the world the abuse they get from players. I’m not a big rugby fan, but the one thing I most admire is the respect the players show the referee – who is always by some distance the scrawniest man on the field, but is shown almost reverence by the giants he is officiating. No whingeing or b*tching is tolerated and they just get on with it and respect his decision. Contrast that to the childish protestations of the average footballer, not to mention the crowding and hassling of the referee. Picking it all up on mic and allowing the world to hear it would surely act as both a deterrent and enable punishments to be handed out for the worst offenders.
Luke M, Connemara