Mailbox: On the state of football punditry

Date published: Thursday 15th September 2016 2:15 - Daniel Storey

Pleased to actually see Arsenal in the Winners
One thing that has irked me following Arsenal on Tuesday: We were by no means good enough and the are big questions of course about the way we started and set up throughout (Xhaka?) but it’s been drummed in the media that it’s a mark of a good side that when they play badly (and we were awful) they get something from the game.

You’d have thought we were spanked 6-0 by some of the reactions. Nice to see us tentatively in the Winners section.
James (Bendtner is obviously scoring a hat trick against us), North London


Time to stick by Kane, not drop him
He is one of own, until he plays a bit toilet and drop him.

Dave from Winchesters mail annoyed me a little, Harry Kane is one of the main reasons spurs are in the champions league and for a guy who looks low on confidence the answer is to drop him? How about supporting him as his record had earnt him time.

I would be looking at the manager’s continual desire to play him up top on his own with no support. The midfield has no pace so kane is continually the furthest man forward, may work against the poor defences in the premier league but this a step up and the manager doesn’t seem to recognise that.
Big Vern


And further thoughts on Pochettino’s selection
Despite my initial misgivings about the piece, Mr Storey does indeed raise some good points. However, I feel that it wasn’t actually the selection (and being too attacking) that was to blame, but a very laboured opening thirty five minutes in possession. By this point, we were 0-2 down, and you can of course attribute that to poor defending (would need to rewatch to see exactly why such soft goals were conceded), but my serious issue was the utterly pedestrian football that posed no threat to Monaco. They were allowed to stay tight and keep their shape, regain possession and attack (with far more fluency).

Every player was taking at least one touch too many (usually three or four), and there was little by the way of off the ball movement. In the last ten minutes of the first half, we went back to the one and two touch football that made us so dangerous last season: lo and behold, we moved them about, created space, won the corner and then scored. And were very unlucky not to equalise before half time.

Whether it was the players needing to figure out their surroundings, a little rabbit-in-the-headlights due to such a big occasion (for us, at least), or simply poor preparation, that opening 35 killed us. But Dembele on the pitch will always make a massive difference, no matter who he replaces, so fantastic to see him back.

In short, no real concerns: simply one of those days. We’ll doubtless learn for next time that it’s unwise to give your opponents a two-goal head start.
Alex G, THFC (Kane does need a two week lie down though)


…I’d say that going to Wembley for the Spurs match last night I was about excited as I can remember being when looking forward to a match due to it being the Champions League, being at Wembley, making history with that attendance and being the greatest gathering of Spurs fans in history.

Unfortunately the result didn’t live up to the hype and excitement. In terms of the performance, I felt like we “deserved” at least a point, controlled the majority of the match and had plenty of chances, but Monaco were very impressive the way they jinked forwards and created their chances – I feel they took Spurs by surprise.

I’ve read your article about Dembele and agree, we have to play our best players and Alli looks so much better given the freedom to attack. Kane will get there but he’s a bit too selfish at times constantly looking to shoot from any angle when a better option is available.

The atmosphere struggled a bit at times, I think if Spurs had scored first this wouldn’t have been a problem but having gone two goals down it killed the mood somewhat, although it rallied when Toby scored and at the half time whistle the noise was deafening. The usual Spurs songs weren’t really belted out partly because of the dilution of the regular fans – you could hear the songs begin but then peter out.

Ultimately I don’t think Wembley had a negative effect on the performance, I think we were just undone by a couple of opportunistic (and good) goals and our slightly out-of-form attack (Stoke aside) struggled to break down a decent team for 45 minutes (but even then we had chances).

Who am I to disagree with Poch, but I’m not sure that a bigger pitch does suit our style – if we had Bale and Lennon on the flanks then maybe, but our only player with genuine pace to take advantage of the extra space was Kyle Walker who looked exhausted in the second half having run up and down the wing so many times.

I’ve never left a match 5 minutes early and don’t want to, but the amount of time it took me to get home (a much easier journey in theory than WHL) I’ll be tempted at the next match.
Kevin G


Some Manchester City musings
– Wow we look awesome, still early days I know, but the Pep effect is quite magnificent.

– Gladbach were not great at all, however we look unrecognisable from last season, particularly the end.

– I have been most impressed with how every player looks 100 times more confident with the ball, especially when we have the ball in our own half. No messing about or dilly dallying, they just pass their way out of trouble and up the pitch.

– Gundogan, if he can stay fit, will be what Yaya was a few years back, everything will go through him. Very impressive last night, shame he didn’t score.

– However I think the biggest surprise of all is the reborn Kolarov! At the end of last season, many City fans were ready for him to leave. It was rumoured all summer he would leave. He looked like he didn’t want to be there anymore and just wasn’t good enough. He will never be the best defender, but he has clearly listened to Pep and is currently looking pretty good in his new role as a Centre back/Left back/Centre Mid.

– Also very happy with Sterling, I was not convinced when we bought him, and last season he looked shocking at times, despite his goal return. This season however he looks like he has got his mojo back. He still has a long way to go, but he is definitely on the right path. Hopefully he will just keep his head down and keep working hard. Maybe just maybe we may see and English player reach his potential for once.

– Kompany has got a fight on his hands to get back in the team, Stones and Otamendi are really starting to gel.

– Nolito looks a classy addition and Iheanacho is progressing nicely.

– KDB is the best player we have and Aguero the most important. If (a massive big fat IF) those two can stay fit, we will be in with a shout for winning a few tings this year.


The state of punditry and management
I am aware that it has been covered before, and Mediawatch makes an industry of it, but someone needs to do something about the shocking state of football punditry in this country. Just a few examples over the last two days show just how lamentable it is;

I dropped the kids off for school today and had the misfortune to listen to bit of Alan Brazil’s Sport’s Breakfast on TalkysportyI listened for around six minutes and got a few gems. They were talking to Dwight Yorke about Aston Villa and how the fans were excited when Roberto di Matteo was appointed. Good stuff. However, after the poorish start Big Al questioned whether Roberto would actually know the Championship (to which Ray Houghton replied ‘well does Rafa?’). I take it the Roberto I Matteo they are talking about was the one who lead West Brom to automatic promotion behind Newcastle from the Championship? The same di Matteo who lead MK Dons to third in League One?

This was followed by a mini-rant on players not wanting to play when injured. Big Al stated that he just wanted to play, that in the past players would be worried about losing their place in the team if they missed a game. Now, fitness types tell them they are on the edge of an injury and they duck out. Ray chipped in at this point with ‘three games a week, bring it on’. I take it this is the same Alan Brazil who saw his own playing career effectively over at 26 due to recurrent injuries?

There was also support for Dwight with mention that he ‘loved the Villa’ and had wanted the manager’s job. This is a recurrent theme with pundits that players who know/ love the club should be made manager (hmmm, Giggsy, isn’t it). Gerrard opined this recently with regard to England. Basically players like him and Frank Lampard should be fast-tracked as players would love to see them in the dressing room. Really? ‘Welcome to England, here are some people who failed previously, please learn from them’.

There is a constant disregard for coaching badges as shown by the support for Tim Sherwood who had burnt through Spurs and been appointed at Villa without his UEFA Pro Licence. He was on the course with Gary Monk, who was already Swansea boss. Neither worked out but this is seldom mentioned. Reading ‘Living on the Volcano’ shows the work that goes into football management. They absolutely live it, 24/7. Our pundits would have you believe that the fact of being an ex-pro at the top end of the game makes this work irrelevant.

Indeed Alan Shearer had this to say on his potential involvement in the England set up post-Euro 2016 – “Let’s be honest I haven’t got a cat in hell’s chance of getting it because I don’t fit the FA’s remit, I haven’t got the experience, which I don’t believe is right, I haven’t got the coaching badges, which I don’t believe is right and that is my honest opinion”. A man who’s only managerial experience was to relegate Newcastle 8 years ago genuinely believes that it is just the faceless bureaucrats and their ‘remit’ that kept him out! No experience? No worries. No badges? No problem.

I also caught Roy Keane on the Champions League highlights show saying Celtic should be aiming higher in the competition after their defeat in Barcelona. They are in a group with Barcelona, Man City and Borussia Mönchengladbach. They gave it everything they had. The gulf between the Scottish League and Barcelona is broadly similar to that between the Earth and Mars. This is a team who beat their closest (maybe) domestic rivals 5-1 on the weekend. I would assume that Keane wants them to rediscovery the dizzy heights of when he played for them and they lost to Clyde in the Scottish Cup.

This is all on the back of a culture when it seems acceptable to say you have never heard of a given player (usually from abroad, and that usually makes them a no-mark signing) rather than doing some research and finding out. I watch a lot of cycling and I have never heard a commentator or summariser say they haven’t heard of a given cyclist. This is their job, they are paid to inform us. Who can put their hand on their heart and honestly say the last time any of the following pointed something out in a match, or about football in general, that meant they were better informed – Savage, Nicholas, Le Tissier, Merson, Owen, Henry, Shearer… etc etc etc.
Micki Attridge


Kudos to the mailbox compiler on that Terence and Phillip reference.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London

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