Mails on modern football, Allegri and the b*stard child of lazy punditry…

Date published: Friday 14th February 2020 2:23

Max Allegri

If you have anything to add, you know what to do – mail


‘How modern football became broken’
Hi Mailbox,

Medium time reader, first time mailer.

I finally got around to reading the Miguel Delaney piece in the Independent on ‘how modern football became broken’.

The part that stuck with me the most came in the opening paragraph, which referred to a ‘senior figure from the premier league’s big 6 clubs’.

Can anyone shed any light on this? How do 6 competing businesses have one person working on all of their behalf? Who pays them? What do they do? Is there an official big 6? Do different sections of the league also have people like this?

Most importantly, how much has this obvious collusion helped Liverpool?
Rob, Hull


There has been a lot of support for Miguel Delaney’s treatise on the impending destruction of football as we know it. His central argument is that money is concentrated in the few resulting in unprecedented domination.

Well, clever as Mr Delaney is, this just isn’t true is it?

The domination in England is being done by the ‘top six’. For the uninitiated, that ‘top six’ is Manchester City, Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. They are so dominant that no-one else gets a look in and they sweep all before them. However, Spurs haven’t won the league for nearly 60 years and have won 1 league cup in nearly 30 years. Liverpool haven’t won the league in 30 years. Arsenal haven’t won the league in 16 years. Even Manchester United haven’t won the league in 7 years. Doesn’t sound too dominant. Since Liverpool last won the league Manchester City, Manchester United, Blackburn, Leeds, Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester City have all won the league.

And it isn’t just the league, Wigan and Portsmouth have both won the FA Cup more recently than Liverpool or Spurs and Watford, Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Hull City have been in more recent finals.

Maybe I am looking too far back and the domination is now? However, looking at the current league table, Leicester City are 3rd, Sheffield United are 5th, Everton are 7th and Wolves are 9th. All are above Arsenal in 10th. The biggest club in World (kind of) Manchester United are 8th and 11 points off relegation. They are 14 points behind Leicester City. They are 4 points behind Sheffield United.

Doesn’t sound very dominant.

So, not England then. The picture must be different in Europe where the riches of the Champions League have distorted domestic leagues. Miggie D gives us a graphic of 8 leagues currently on the longest sequence of title wins in history. These 8 are Italy, Wales, Germany, Cyprus, Austria, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Romania. Call the cops! The New Saints massive success in Europe has skewed the Welsh Premier League beyond repair! Underneath a picture of Jordan Henderson lifting the Champions League trophy is the line ‘Champions League money keeps super clubs at the top’. Well, Liverpool were in the Champions League once in the 8 seasons before they reached the final in 2018 and they went out in the group stage.

The argument is that what is going on now has never happened before but the fact is that Bayern Munich have only finished outside the top 4 in Germany twice in the last 42 years. They have always been that dominant. Juventus won 9 titles in 14 years between 1972 and 1986. Celtic won 9 titles in a row in the 60s and 70s and then Rangers won 9 in a row in the 80s and 90s. No-one in England has bettered Huddersfield’s 3 titles in a row from the 1920s and only Arsenal have matched Preston North End’s unbeaten season from the 1880s.

The money in the game now means mid-ranked teams can keep hold of their players more. Also the general quality in the game means that all can compete. It takes scouting, coaching and management to succeed. Anyone could have bought Andy Robertson for £8m, Joel Matip for free, James Milner for free, Joe Gomez for £3.5m, Jordan Henderson for £16m etc. Dele Alli was £5m from MK Dons. Bournemouth have a ground that holds 11,000 and yet have spent more than £20m on Nathan Ake and Jefferson Lerma and almost £20m on Dominic Solanke.

People have always said money is ruining football and they have always claimed that this time is worse than before. Arsenal were nicknamed the Bank of England club in the 1920s and there was horror when they paid the first five figure fee for David Jack. Sunderland inherited the nickname in the 1940s and 1950s. Finally Everton got the name in 1970 and they only won the title once.

So, clutch your pearls, ring out your hankies all you like but I ain’t buying it.
Micki (Leicester’s title win is seen as both evidence for and against dominance… weird) Attridge


If the rumours are true…
The rumours about Max Allegri agreeing terms with a leading UK club are interesting,  though CDS are tier 3 on football gossip so you know. Buckets of salt advised.

It would only be one of the Manchester clubs if it were true as Chelsea will keep Lampard for another season, likewise Arsenal with Arteta, and Mourinho has only skipped to season 2 of his rapid decline at Spurs.

Klopp.. hmm.


You know.. it could be.

It really could.

Klopp wants to manage Bayern, then the German national team. He’ll have spent 6 years at Liverpool at the end of this season, and will have won everything.

Earlier in the week we had the stories around about his repatriation clause.

Bayern have said Flick will be in charge until the end of the season.

Woodward is incapable of making the right decision for United.

Guardiola won’t want to leave on a season like this.

Ok I’m calling it. Klopp has decided to leave Liverpool at the end of the season to take over at Bayern, and Allegri is his replacement.

If the rumours are true.

Which they aren’t.
Tim Sutton


VAR – the bastard child of lazy punditry
I’ve recently come to the conclusion that VAR is the bastard child of lazy punditry. For years on MOTD etc pundits, instead of using the benefit of their experience to provide us with their insight into tactics etc., have just lazily rehashed controversial refereeing decisions made in real time without the benefit of multi angle slo-mo replay. The resulting hysteria on mistakes and the unfairness of it all led inevitably to VAR.

I was at the Liverpool Southampton game recently – I brought my Liverpool supporting son over for his 12th birthday. That Saturday night we settled in to watch MOTD and I was eager to see if the analysis would confirm some of my objective (I’m an Arsenal fan) opinions – the importance of Fabinho how he always seems to be available for an easy out ball when Liverpool are pressed, the joy Southampton found behind Trent Alexander-Arnold towards the end of the first half (could have gone into the break ahead), how when Liverpool took the lead and Southampton had to come out Alexander-Arnold and Salah seemed to morph into a Quarterback and Wide Receiver (it was Superbowl weekend after all) with Alexander-Arnold spraying long passes over the top for Salah to run on to with devastating effect etc. etc.

What did we get instead? Debate on the two non penalty VAR calls and whether or not VAR had got it right (I was sitting level with that penalty area – both correct in my real time opinion). It’s almost as if pundits don’t want VAR to work so they can continue just turning up and criticising decisions instead of having to do some actual intelligent analysis. Jesus lads, up your game.
Conor Malone, Donegal.

PS – Did the stadium tour on the Sunday. Have to say, grudgingly, Liverpool – a class act both on and off the pitch.


Nearly goals
Thoroughly agree with Calum’s nomination of Gary Neville’s Cantona impression, having come across highlights of that game while stuck in a YouTube spiral the other day. Ryan Giggs’ second goal is a forgotten gem.

Not sure if it’s already been suggested, but the goal which Nani denied Ronaldo v. Spain is an obvious one, but my two I always think of are Pele’s glorious feint v Uruguay, and Zidane’s pirouette and scuff v Valladolid.



More FUT
Apologies for yet another mail on FUT but I think there is an important point that hasn’t really been raised sufficiently. There seems to be a strand of thinking in the comments section and mailbox that we are all big boys, we should take responsibility for our actions and control ourselves. There is nothing wrong with a company wants to make a profit so why not include gambling in their game if people are stupid enough to fall for it? More fool them.

Now in isolation this all sounds quite reasonable (putting aside the fact that there are many vulnerable adults out there), until you remember that this game is specifically marketed to children. The game can be bought by anyone from the age of 3 and though many adults play FUT, kids comprise the lion’s share of Fifa‘s consumer base.

Fifa is brilliantly advertised and for many people has completely taken over from PES as the definitive football simulator. You want play virtual football? Chances are you will play FIFA. Due to the incredible success of FUT and its microtransactions the game has been specifically engineered to make you want to spend your money on virtual currency. Progress is incredibly and intentionally slow, providing you with that incentive to pay money to enhance your team and stick it to the trolls that have been banging 3 past you in 10 minutes with individual players worth 10x the value of your entire team, to then wind you up with messages and dabbing celebrations to add insult to injury.

This is frustrating for an adult. Can you imagine what that is like for a child?

There is an interesting presentation you can find online given by a gaming executive in which he extols the virtues of using manipulative practices to coerce people into spending money on micro-transactions. All great things like online peer pressure to keep up, trolling and the infamous grind are employed to part people from their money.

EA are determined to ensure that this game continues to be sold to children, so determined in fact that they have resisted every effort to let people know that the game even contains microtransactions. It went so far as when, last year, they were put in front of a panel in the UK to be questioned by ministers about their practices (which gave birth to the now infamous meme ‘Surprise Mechanics’) which ultimately came to nothing. This is because they have used a legal loophole that allows micro-transactions to not be technically classified as gambling (even though they very much are in a practical sense) as the law is slow and takes years to change, and so hasn’t caught up with technological advancements.

EA blame the parents. Their argument was that the parents should be putting controls and restrictions on consoles. Now, although many on this site are familiar with console games and how micro-transactions work, most parents are completely ignorant of this (something these companies rely on). If you bought your son or daughter a football game that says it is suitable for anyone aged over 3, would you really think ‘Hmm, I bet this game contains predatory gambling mechanics’. Of course you wouldn’t because you would assume anything suitable for kids 3 and above would not. The parents should take responsibility argument doesn‘t really stack up in light of the lack of awareness and education about these practices, and the loophole these companies take advantage of.

In short, these companies know what they are doing and it is a very shady business practice, though clearly very profitable. To absolve them of blame and shift it onto individuals/parents is part of the problem.
Smyth, MUFC


I’m a keen gamer but not a fan of FIFA. I prefer to play real football while I like my games to be an about things I can’t do in real life. However, there are many games that include a loot box style system like FIFA and they absolutely constitute gambling. So much so that various countries’ have investigated whether this is the case; Ireland, Belgium, Australia to name a few.

While many people may never spend a penny and some like myself will spend maybe 5-10 euros a month to support a game they really enjoy, others like Anon spend thousands. In the gaming industry these people are called “whales” and their spend makes up the majority of income that game companies make from micro transactions and this runs into millions and millions of pounds / dollars. They are the golden geese for game companies, especially with games like FIFA that can be updated annually with little effort and released with much fanfare to suck vulnerable people into a new spending cycle. Activistion, who publish Call of Duty have literally tried to charge people additional money for a red dot used to aim your gun at enemies. These types of system are predatory and dangerous. EA who publish FIFA are amongst the worst in the industry for this. They last year released Star Wars Battlefront 2 that was so over laden with micro transactions that fan backlash resulted in a complete overhaul of the game. Another example is the latest NBA game that literally has NBA players playing casino style mini games within the actual game in its adverts. When you consider that parents usually have credit card details on these systems it’s astonishingly easy for kids to rack up thousands. With mobile games like Candy Crush etc it’s even easier. Jim Sterling, a prominent YouTube game journalist has made numerous videos about this, including one about a young boy who inadvertently spend several thousand pounds on a mobile game because he thought he was just spending golden coins or some such.

So adults, parents or anyone reading this be wary. Micro transactions are a real problem, just as much as normal football gambling or any other potentially addicting activity. Anon, I hope you get through this brother. Seek help.
Alan, Córdoba.


Hendo v DDG ding ding gloves off
This is such a difficult one to call, in regards to Manchester United and the tale of two goalkeepers, on one hand David De Gea is their four time Player of the Season, who has kept them competitive to a point over the post-Fergie years and without him I truly doubt they would have finished as highly as they did, whoever the manager was, he has made key saves time and time again, last season he certainly did have a wobble but seems to have come back better this season, there is a reason after all that Real Madrid courted him for so long.

But on the other, you have Dean Henderson, a keeper young than De Gea, a keeper who has worked hard to get to where he currently is and has such strong ambition and determination to be a success, but before I get carried away we have to also remember that this is his first season in the top flight, sometimes you can have a great break out campaign in the top league only to then tail off in the following seasons, United certainly do have a difficult problem on their hands as whoever does get the nod to be number one, the other will surely look to leave as they are far to talented to sit on the bench, the likelihood is that De Gea will get the nod, but with the talk that teams like my own Chelsea, as well as Spurs and now PSG are looking at Henderson as a long term number one for their sides, it could end up where United choosing to sell the young English keeper ends up being a mistake they truly regret.

It may be slightly different, but Chelsea had a similar issue when Thibaut Courtois came back from his loan spell at Atletico, we had to choose between the young keeper who could make the step up, or stick by the legend Petr Cech who was part of multiple trophy winning Chelsea sides, it was a tough call, but the right call at the time to choose Courtois, even though you could argue that Petr Cech was 2 years older than De Gea is right now, but goalkeepers often peak during their early 30’s, either way I am sure Dean Henderson will have a fantastic career.
Mikey, CFC

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