Send more of your wonderful mails on why Man Utd are screwed or anything else to email@example.com…
It’s the hope that kills you
While everyone overreacts to one game in a new season, I just wanted to drop a line to say that after years of stagnation under Wenger, and the false dawn under Emery, it is just great to have a manager in Arteta who seems to get it. It is a long road, and I am sure we shall suffer defeats and ignominy but it is just so darn great that we can be excited, as Arsenal fans, for the season. I don’t expect us to compete at the very top, but I think top 4 is very doable, and I think many others will underestimate us.
I also want to hold my hands up and say I was very surprised by the Willian signing, I thought it was a mistake. What I should have learned by now is that Arteta, much like Wenger, knows. I trust him as our manager completely, look at what he has managed to achieve with Xhaka, and Mustafi, and our young players, and Elneny and….you get the gist.
And just finally, I wish Emi Martinez the best of luck. He was a diligent back up keeper, you never heard him complain ever, after a decade in the wings he got to step up, smash it out of the park, and then earn himself a big move to another PL club. Villa have got themselves an excellent keeper, and hopefully some of that money can be spent on our midfield.
John Matrix AFC
Bale > Sancho? Hmm…
Graeme, Glasgow: I can’t tell if that was trolling or not, so I’m going to assume it was serious. So, if I’ve got this right, the reasons we should sign Bale over Sancho are:
- He’s old and injury prone so he won’t get in the way of Greenwood
- He’s the same nationality as James
- Bale himself needs to play
- His current team are also in the Champions League
On that basis, we might as well go and sign Giggs, right? I mean, he’s old and probably not that fit, he’s the same nationality as James, he hasn’t played a game for ages, and his team qualified for the Euros next year.
Let me be as clear as I can: Gareth Bale is a disastrous proposition. Once, there was an excellent player in there, but that player has been missing for many years now. We have only just managed to shift Alexis Sanchez – a player with whom you can draw direct parallels to Bale – so the idea would be to replace him with an even more expensive flop? Genius.
I’ll admit, I’ve been back and forth on the idea of signing Sancho because £108m in the current market does seem excessive. But when you look at who else is out there for that position and you’re talking about £50m(!) for David Brooks, you can see why Sancho would be an excellent signing. I would have been a lot happier to see us sign someone else if we had got it done early (not Costa, Perisic, or Bale, mind you), a genuinely similar profile player would have been fine because we would have had time to integrate them into the squad and also strengthen other areas too.
But at this point there can be no alternative to Sancho – it simply has to be him. Woodward has backed himself into a corner by delaying and delaying and delaying, and he cannot fail to deliver him now. Any player that we signed as an alternative would be a huge disappointment and the clearest indication yet that we are completely screwed as long as that man is at the helm.
Sancho is a unique proposition for us because he perfectly fits the profile of player United are looking to recruit: he’s pacey, strong and posts fantastic numbers; his technical ability is unparalleled in his age group; and we have the means and opportunity (though, admittedly, that last one is fading) to sign him. What we should absolutely not doing is looking for short-term options in any position. We are supposedly trying to build something that is going to last, so going and signing Bale, who is unquestionably miles past his best, would be ludicrous.
While we’re on the subject of transfers: how have we managed to shift just one player? And arguably the most difficult one to shift, at that! Smalling, Jones, Rojo, Pereira, Romero, Dalot have all been (supposedly) on the cusp of leaving all summer, yet here they all are – taking up valuable resources and squad places, while also not taking part in that pre-season friendly (though Jones is injured, obviously). I would really love to know what the hell Woodward has been doing all this time. If he hasn’t been working on signings and sales, what the f*ck has he been working on?! Jesus wept, we are so screwed and the season hasn’t even started for us yet.
My first Prem weekend in 16 years
As a Leeds fan, I had a few new-old experiences at the weekend.
Sure, the chaos was familiar – I’ve seen that 4 or 5 times in the last two years, when our defence has been out of sorts. At least there was a valid reason this time: our two CBs had a combined experience of 1 match in that position in a Leeds shirt prior to kick-off, and they were facing Salah, Mané and Firmino.
What I’m talking about is experiencing the media coverage of The Greatest League in the World (TM). I haven’t watched Match of the Day in probably 15 years, and I certainly haven’t seen Leeds be subject to every ‘expert’ opinion under the s*n, Talk Radio, Sky, BBC etc. etc. MOTD was as ever: the KFC of watching football. Slick, tempting on the eye, yet leaving you feeling slightly undernourished. Despite the presenters’ obvious knowledge, the highlights gave no feeling for the shape of the game.
In the Championship you get Don Goodman, still seeking revenge for having been released by Leeds as a schoolboy. But he’s relatively easy to blank out; especially as in the post-lockdown part of last season, every game was televised on Leeds’s own channel with the excellent Bryn Law and Tony Dorigo covering most of the matches.
Now it’s different. Suddenly everyone has heard of Marcelo/Marchelo/Marco/that Italian bloke, and they’re all experts. Leeds can’t defend apparently. They clearly didn’t watch any match last season, including the 1-0 defeat by Arsenal in the FA Cup, where our ‘non-defending’ started in Arsenal’s penalty area.
From here, I got the international feed, which meant Jim Beglin was the co-commentator: a man who is passionate and knowledgeable about both clubs. He, quite rightly, felt it necessary to explain what Bielsa’s Leeds had been like over the past couple of years. I’d heard it all before of course, but I realised I wasn’t the target audience.
Graeme Souness was full of praise for Leeds, yet added the caveat that they wouldn’t be able to maintain those fitness levels for a whole 38 matches. Well Graeme, if you’d have done 5 minutes’ research you would have seen that we did it for 46 games last season, and scored 14 goals in the last 15 minutes of matches. That may be at a different level, but if you can score on a 15-second breakaway, 89 minutes into a turgid clog-athon at Reading, you’ve got some physical and mental resilience.
This is nothing new of course. The poor quality of football coverage was what brought about the fanzine culture in the late 1980s. It’s just interesting to see that, having had a 16-year break from the Premier League, not much has changed. It’s just a bit louder.
As with many clubs, one thing that has grown in those years is the variety of podcasts and publications by fans, each with their own approach: journalistic, statistical analysis, a bunch of lads chatting in a pub: seemingly a second fanzine revolution. After this week’s experience, I think I’ll continue with them. One-sided though they may be, at least they’re knowledgeable.
Simon Harrow, Leeds fan, Hong Kong
By my calculation, the six outfield players on Tottenham’s bench against Everton cost a combined total of £198 million. The starting XI cost around £125 million.
Since they were in their prime under Poch around 2015-18, they have failed to adequately replace or upgrade a single position. They are still reliant on players from that era whose form has declined: Lloris, Alderweireld, Dier, Alli, Kane.
They have had money to spend, but it has been largely wasted.
Solskjaer v Lampard and more thoughts…
I have quite a lot of work to do today so naturally, I thought I’d distract myself by talking about my football thoughts from the past few days.
Leeds/Liverpool – Hell of a game. Lovely stuff. But there’s something that I don’t think has been talked about enough in the commentary. Leeds weren’t particularly good.
By which I mean, by their own standards, last year, they looked about a yard off the pace. Which is to say, this team are going to improve. I can’t wait to watch them.
No doubt Liverpool will too, but it doesn’t bod well for them that a recently promoted side playing at 80% ran them so close. Nor indeed that they couldn’t get past a central defensive partnership, that had played 0 minutes together before kickoff, during open play. A wins a win though.
Solskjaer vs lampard – this has raised its head again in the last few days. It’s silly. The reality is that both of these managers wouldn’t have got near their respective jobs were it not for footballing nepotism. However, I do not understand the number of people I hear writing Solkjaer off while giving frank ‘the benefit of the doubt’.
On Solskjaer – So there’s the before Fernandes team and the before lockdown team to consider here. Broadly though, Solkjaer played most of the season before lockdown without any 4 of Fernandes, Pogba, Rashford, Shaw, Matic and Greenwood, who are all first-team players. That’s a spurs-style injury list. When they were (mostly, sorry Luke) all together, Utd looked impressive. Their defence has undoubtedly improved year on year and post lockdown with all those creative/forward players back they had one of the best attacks in the league.
Now, obviously, the squad isn’t deep enough. and Utd wont challenge because Solskjaer cant/wont trust his backups and his chairman cant/wont bring in the players he needs. It’s a fair criticism to say that Solskjaer should be better at finding ways to win those games without his first 11 though.
He’s obviously not a brilliant tactician – but he’s not a dunce either – his system goes beyond just counter-attacking. With him I get the feeling that, he might be a bit of a Chris Coleman.
As a Wales fan I was vehemently against Coleman for years. After we lost Gary Speed, who had, for the first time in a long time, given us hope. The football and the results tailed off dramatically – a friend of mine actually wrote the WFA chairman in protest, the response, was a vaguely non-committal “i’m sorry but its not my fault”, not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Over time, it changed, his relationship to the players, to his country and to the late Speed galvanised the squad into producing Wales’ finest moments. He’s was and still is a BANG average manager. But he was the right person at the right time.
Solkjaer might be that for Utd you know? He obviously won’t deliver Manchester United’s finest moment, but I can see him winning a league title or two provided his given the time/backing from the chairman.
On Lampard – I mean. He can coach an attack. Lovely stuff. Good goals. Those young lads seem to like him a lot but… He can’t organise a defence.
At Derby and at Chelsea he took on defences with a decent record the previous year and made them worse.
Like, don’t get me wrong, the players needed improving upon but that Chelsea backline should never have been conceding 54 goals.
He’s been a manager for two years and still has the same basic issues as he had on day one. His team this year will play lovely attacking football, score lots of lovely goals and basically finish on the same amount of points – because it doesn’t matter which defenders you have, if you can’t organise them they’ll get rinsed.
When I think about Frank it’s hard not to think about Graham Potter. Who I think is one of the finest young British managers in football. The job he did at a gutted Swansea was incredible.
They’ll play each other later today, Chelsea should win. But for every non-Chelsea die-hard out there… would you be surprised if they lost by a couple of goals? Me neither.
In the same summer, Frank got his promotion to Chelsea and Graham went to Brighton. Had they swapped clubs, Chelsea would have comfortably finished 3rd. Brighton would have been relegated.
I understand the fans defending him but.. the media? I can only think it’s because he’s related to ‘Arry.
Anyway, my final musing on the last few days. Great win for Swansea (christ we’ve got a record for finding good young managers), I’m a little surprised to see us touted as challengers in some quarters.
For three summers now we’ve had more out than in to a squad that was already threadbare. Financially, we were buggered before the pandemic.
With 46 games (and cup ties) condensed into an even shorter period of time, I can’t see us holding up. If we do, Steve Cooper should immediately take over from Pep at Man City (i assume Poch will be at Chelsea by then) cos he’ll be a miracle worker.
Cooper wants more players, needs them, but I won’t hold my breath.
It’s great being in the Championship…
First mail in as a Championship supporter for a few years. And I’m going to be honest, it was great.
The most obvious sign that you’re not a PL club any more is that the army of tv trucks that used to be parked up outside the stadium 48 hours before any home game is now one van (more on that later). I walked past the ground about 1130 on Saturday morning and you would have had little idea the game was going to be on.
Beyond that, a lot of change at Bournemouth. Obviously names have gone from both pitch and bench so there’s an awful lot of ‘prove it’ chances now. Especially Lewis Cook in midfield, and Solanke up front. Danjuma finally looks fit and already looks our best player, and Kelly showed at the end of last season that he has the potential to fill Ake’s position.
We took advantage of the club’s streaming service and it was largely pretty good.
As for the game, Blackburn were good. Especially when they replaced Brereton with Dolan, really looked the more likely team. Holtby had a goal disallowed after a flag; the players just got on with it. I thought he was probably onside, but (because of the lack of tv vans) there was no conclusive view and not stopping for VAR felt enormously refreshing. Doubtless similar decisions will go against is later in the year, but the game undoubtedly flowed better than the vast majority of our matches last season. Danjuma won it at the end with a bit of individual quality, and I suspect the game will be Bournemouth’s season in microcosm: score a few concede a few, flirt with relegation for a bit, flirt with the playoffs for a bit, then finish somewhere in the middle. Next week it is Boro away, shame as I was looking forward to going there.
Andy J, Bournemouth
With Tokushima Vortis versus Zweigen Kanazawa at 11am, Grantham Town v Bradford Park Avenue at 1pm, and Crystal Palace v Southampton at 3pm, I was expecting a long and miserable Saturday. As it turned out, the Grantham game was cancelled on Friday evening, Zweigen had a creditable draw away at the team third in the league, and Palace made a winning start.
*I was one of 915 people watching the Zweigen game on Youtube, though the only one to do so while on Zoom with F365’s man in Japan. It was one of those games that was absorbing without a lot really happening, which had lots of half chances and not a huge amount of golden scoring opportunities. Zweigen have had a packed schedule recently but this 1-1 draw extended their unbeaten run to five game.
*Despite the fanfare of their recent signings, Crystal Palace’s starting lineup was rather familiar: Michy Batshuayi and Eberechi Eze started on the bench as Palace lined up in a 4-3-3, with Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha either side of Jordan Ayew. Chiekhou Kouyate started at centre-back alongside Scott Dann, with Tyrick Mitchell at left-back.
*Townsend came in for criticism last season for a lack of productivity, and lost his place in the starting XI. Add into the mix the arrival of Eze, and it’s easy to argue that Townsend’s time at Selhurst Park would be coming to an end. However, it’s to his credit that he responded to this adversity with a superb performance – he earned a Whoscored rating of 7.62 (his average for all of last season was 6.56), and matching last season’s assist tally with a superb cross to Zaha.
For the Ivorian’s part, every goal or assist will be viewed as playing his way towards a transfer; every game without troubling the scores will be seen as an expression of his unhappiness at Selhurst Park. It’s something that both Zaha and the club need to learn to live with, as there isn’t an easy resolution. Based on absolutely nothing, a dazzling first half of the season could persuade a Serie A club with more money than sense (Inter, maybe) to take a chance on him, but even that’s unlikely.
*At the other end of the field, the star man once again for Palace was Vicente Guaita, whose vital saves secured a clean sheet for the Eagles. His chance may have gone with the national team, but since the start of last season he has been the best Spanish goalkeeper in the Premier League.
Elsewhere, the standout players were those who quietly go about their business, such as James McArthur and Scott Dann, who made contributions at both ends of the field, and Tyrick Mitchell:
Tyrick Mitchell's game by numbers ranked amongst Palace players:
14 completed passes (2nd)
14 good crosses/passes (=1st)
59 touches (1st)
0 fouls conceded (=1st)
6 tackles (1st)
7 times regained possession (=3rd)
2 clearances (=3rd).
— CPFC Analytics (@CPFCAnalytics) September 12, 2020
*The foul by Kyle Walker-Peters was definitely in “orange card” territory, so it’s totally understandable why the referee saw it as he did, and why he changed his mind. Walker-Peters’ foot was high as he slid in, and there was potential for serious injury when he made contact; if the contact was with Mitchell’s leg, I think it would have stayed as a red card, but as it was only with the foot, downgrading it to a yellow card was understandable. This was actually a decision in favour of Palace, who are notoriously dreadful against ten men.
*Next up for Palace, it’s a chance to give the new signings some decent playing time as they face Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup, although that isn’t necessarily a chance that will be taken. Their next league game sees them travel to – gulp – Old Trafford on Saturday. For that game, the Eagles will be sweating on the fitness of a key defender with a track record of being a big part in Palace wins: Harry Maguire.
*Liverpool versus Leeds United was absolutely ridiculous, perhaps best personified by Jack Harrison making Trent Alexander-Arnold look more like an England defender than a Liverpool one. It was also interesting to see Patrick Bamford, a player who gets a hell of a lot of stick from fans and pundits alike, repay his manager’s faith with a very good performance.
Sorry for the fans
Obviously it’s a pity we can’t get back yet watching our teams. Leeds fans would have helped with a wonderful atmosphere so am sorry for them.
But have just seen this week’s fixtures and my heart bleeds for the fans of one club and their dream night.
Europa league 2nd qualifying round. Shamrock Rovers v … AC Milan!!! Can you imagine how gutted their fans must be? And no San Siro trip.
Mike Woolrich, LFC (Connah’s Quay v Dinamo Tbilisi as well.)
Clubs and spending…
Why is Klopp complaining about about spending considering he has built his squad and is reluctant to change too much and Lampard is just putting his image on the chelsea squad as it was only Pulisic and Kovacic that cane in even though they had been completed in the past and I think sometimes we should just focus on the football and let the clubs play Fifa Career behind the scene. Sometimes Klopp acts like he didn’t buy players for record fees. I don’t think any of the top four teams should complain about spending as City and Chelsea spend lots of money on different players and teams like Man U buy players for large amounts. And one question to do readers of the mailbox consider the fees paid for Ferdinand and Keane to be higher than Rodri’s as they set records in the transfer market and that type of money hadn’t been paid before anyone in the past. Keane(english record) Ferdinand (defenders record)
DRS City (why doest salah want to go to a team that conceded 8 goals in the ucl)