Will Paul Pogba be regretting leaving Manchester United now they have a proper coach?

Date published: Tuesday 6th September 2022 6:17 - Editor F365

Paul Pogba arrives in Turin to sign for Juventus.

The Mailbox ponders whether Paul Pogba might be regretting his life choices. Also: tweaking Arsenal; and is no VAR worse than the current version of VAR?

Get your views in to theeditor@football365.com

 

United still going backwards
While it’s not surprising to see so many Utd fans happily surprised with the current 4 wins, given the dross served up last year and the terrible start, isn’t it all just a higher priced version of Ole-ball?

Utd reverted to playing counter-attacking football under Ole, as caretaker manager, following attempts by Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho to change, which got them into a winning streak. Utd couldn’t execute the requirements to play a more ‘modern’ style – ball retention, ability to evade the press, playing out from the back, a coordinated press in the opposition’s half etc – so reverted to the simplest of tactics.

Ten Hag was brought in to change that style and has been given over £200m in transfer spend and yet following losses in the first two games has decided to forego his pre-season planning and ideas. This does not bode well in the longer run. How many more players have to be changed before Utd finally get a modern team?
Paul McDevitt

 

United’s spine
So even before Sunday’s game against Arsenal, I felt that United could definitely get the win after some confidence and form had recovered over the last 3 league games, but it was a different kettle of fish with Arsenal who had won all league games so far this season. And to United’s fortune, Partey was not available for Arsenal and United took big advantage of this with Eriksen, McTominay & Bruno all playing as an incredibly efficient midfield trio, something I haven’t seen from United in a bloody long time!

Given Casemiro hasn’t even started, we actually seem to have options of quality in midfield now. Ever since United signed Matic in summer of 2017, and it was a midfield three of Matic, Pogba & Herrera for around 18 months under Jose, it just seems like for the first time in 3-4 years we have quality central midfielders who are the core of the team and can actually dictate play and provide through balls to the strikers, but also keep the ball quite efficiently possession wise.

Got to give it Ten Haag for being bold and turning this around with 4 straight wins in a row since the 4-0 defeat to Brentford three weeks ago. In hindsight, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise United got thrashed, because it gave him leverage to make the bold decisions, he was probably thinking about but wasn’t 100% sure about and dropped a number of players since that game who seem to now be second fiddle. Dropping Maguire, Shaw & Ronaldo (Fred as well), was bloody good decision making to say the least (Especially Shaw, lazy player imo never rated him and has NO defensive awareness). Also, I am now officially in love with Eriksen, what a baller and intelligent player. To come back the way he has since the horrible incident that took place in the Euros last summer is nothing short of remarkable, I hope he stays fit and healthy and doesn’t suffer any setbacks at all healthwise!

It is only 6 games in, so not getting carried away as there will be another blip or two in there for United this season. However, United look like a team who actually want to play stylish going forward, but also want to defend compactly as a team. Ten Haag probably looked at the spine of the team he picked for the Brentford game and thought to himself I practically need to change this whole spine immediately, with the exception of one or two players (Eriksen & Bruno). When it comes to constructing/fixing a team, you always start from the back in my opinion. Our CB partnership over the last 2-3 years have been Lindelof & Maguire, and its only September and its now obviously going to be Varane & Martinez as the preferred choice going forward. Two goals conceded in four games is remarkably good and they complement each other well. Varane happy to be the sweeper/organiser, whereas Martinez is the shit-stirrer/mad bastard.

Eriksen slotting into CM has done bloody wonders, honestly, he is possibly the best signing for United this summer, just so calm on the ball but also direct as well and playing decently with McTominay as well. Bruno is the linkup between midfield and attack, its clearly his best position and has to play there. Rashford looks to now be the main number 9 and it is about time he plays there for good as his speed is causing carnage. And to top off the spine analysis, got Ronaldo as an emergency number 9 which isn’t a bad option to bring off the bench at all (Ten Haag really deserves credit on how he has dealt with the Ronaldo situation from the club & media, has nipped it in the bud).

Happy with United’s improvement overall of course, but it’s a long way to go to become a steady Top Four team and must have two to three different formations & styles of play as options by the start of next season. Countering opposition has gone very well in the last few games, but United cannot make the same mistake as they did under Ole and solely depend on this as the main way of playing. United will need to play possession football as a team against certain oppositions, but that will come in time under Ten Haag I am sure!
Rami, Manchester

 


Man Utd pip Toney to top the winners as Arsenal boss Arteta joins Rodgers as a loser


 

No sympathy for Maguire
A few weeks back, Harry Maguire had some “journalist” write an advertor…article about how his relationship with the other players was good and how he does charity work and how three different managers had now seen fit to trust him with the captaincy. Since then, he’s been dropped to the bench and United have won four in a row while conceding just twice. Also, Antony responded to Bruno on twitter minutes before I wrote this where he included the line (in Portuguese) ‘Thank you, Captain’.

Aha. Ahahaha. Ahahahahahahahahaha.

This chap stuck his fingers in his ears after scoring a goal for England because his *defensive* performances for *Manchester United* were getting rightly castigated. He got wasted on holiday, made a show of himself and instead of putting his head down, went on BBC *news*, not football focus for soccer am or some shit, to cry about being in fear of his life. I’ve seen many people on twitter tall about being blocked by him despite never interacting with him and attributing to it being mildly critical of him in their tweets. So Maguire name searches himself and is so affected by the words of people he didn’t know existed until that second, he takes conscious action to cut them out of his life.

There’s been many lows for the club over the last nine years but having someone with emotional age of a 13 year old as CAPTAIN for so long has to be one of the lowest in the club’s entire history.

In one of Mourinho’s first press conferences as United manager, he said, while dropping in lots of praise for the chap, that Rooney would ‘always be a 9 or 10 and never a 6 or 8’. That was a big change from just the previous season where LVG literally said (I think) Rooney would play every game which manifested as him playing deep in midfield in the second half of the season when he couldn’t do it up front any more. Rooney was clearly untouchable. Jose clearly knew the player needed to move on but he couldn’t drop someone with that stature out of nowhere. He needed phasing out and dropping little lines about him not being a midfielder were setting that up.

Ten Hag has put lots of emphasis on attitude. (It’s not exactly a revelation that attitude and emotional control are the difference between training ground Messis and real ones so why it took so long for a club as big as United to get someone in to emphasise that very basic fact to his players is a mystery but whatever). He’s kept Maguire as official captain but that’s just looking like Jose saying Rooney was too good a forward to play in midfield. The new star boy is publicly addressing someone else as captain.

Loads of people have talked about a lack of passion from the players over the last few years. He’s been captain all that time. The last time Rashford looked like a footballer and not a celebrity who did football on the side was when Zlatan was there. That Swedish lad has got his head up his arse obviously but I can’t see him name-searching himself on twitter. Can barely see him even using twitter. Maguire gets frozen out and Rashford looks like a player again.

Having a proper coach who smashed Madrid in the Bernabéu with Dusan Tadic gives me hope for the future. Beating Liverpool and following it up with two 1-0 wins gives me hope for the future. Lisandro Martinez gives me hope for the future but the phasing out of Harry Maguire gives me real confidence this isn’t another false dawn.

Looking forward to his Patridge-esque autobiography.
Eamonn, Dublin

 

City and Liverpool’s spending
Thanks for your thoughtful and considered contribution to the mailbag. Just a few notes for you to consider.

Over the last 5 years Manchester City’s ffp flouting big spending cheats have a transfer netspend of £112m. If this is 4-5 times more than Liverpool then you’d expect Klopp to be managing on a measly netspend of £30m.

I too was shocked to discover Liverpool’s netspend is closer to £218m. To put this in terms that I, as a supporter of ffp dodging oil club Manchester City, could understand it’s the equivalent of 6 times the ffp allowable expense applied in 2015 for Liverpool’s brilliant new stadium at Stanley Park.

Admittedly my source comes with a certain bias but you can check the working out.

If he is wrong by £190m quid then please accept my humble apology and I will stop believing everything I read on the internet.

I also had a quick search and it seems City used 26 players in the league last year. This is exactly -1 more than Liverpool did and City’s squad didn’t contain a single one of the world’s best players in their position.

In fact out of the last 5 the only season where Liverpool didn’t use more players in the league was the year they won it! That season we both used 24 players which just goes to show.
Richard (cheating real good)

 

Pogba the fraud
Ahmed’s email about Fraugba (very clever, we see what you’ve done there) made for hilarious reading. He pointed out “that good players always find a way to play together”, presumably as some kind of zinger.

How ironic, therefore, that when Bruno Fernandes joined and he and Pogba got to play together they usually played pretty well and Pogba’s inclusion usually allowed Fernandes a bit of space to do his thing. I seem to remember the opening fixture of last season when Fernandes scored a hat-trick with 2 assists from Pogba (who got 2 more assists that game). Indeed the 20/21 season, when Man Utd finished 2nd, was when Pogba and Fernandes played the most with each other. The following season 21/22 Pogba made much fewer appearances due to injury and we limped to 6th, and Fernandes most often cut a frustrated figure, constantly overrun and losing possession frequently. It’s also funny how excellent Pogba was at Juventus before, when he played alongside Pirlo and Marchisio, or how he is often excellent for France alongside players like Kante and Mbappe. Perhaps this zinger actually rather confirms that Pogba is a pretty decent player after all.

Or perhaps, it’s bollocks. I think it’s pretty much universally accepted that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were both good players, and they never managed to play well together in an England shirt. Kaka did not perform at Real Madrid and there is no suggestion that he and the other Galacticos of the era were simply not good players because he didn’t work out.

Probably more instructive is that Man Utd now have a manager that is coaching the team, providing instruction, playing players in roles they a) are coached to play in b) playing regularly, and is getting the team to work together. Under Ole (and Mourinho) the quality of our passing often made me wonder if the team had played with each other before. Under every manager since Van Gaal, I’ve wondered if they spent any time at all trying to coach defending. Under Mourinho especially but also Ole I often wondered why they don’t try running into the space behind defenders for through balls to be played, in the way we scored 3 goals yesterday.

I would suggest, if the team is playing ok now, the difference in the team performance is a coach who understands football, has a way of football he wants his teams to play that is effective, and is effective at instructing his players to play in this way. If Eriksen has come into a team, and Bruno is playing well again, it’s very much likely that Eriksen was brought into the team by the manager who had a good idea of how he could fit in and what he could bring to the team. When we lost to Brighton and Brentford, it was not in particular to do with Eriksen (or Fernandes) who started the game but it was a collective failing. Man Utd’s failings or successes now are nothing to do with Pogba or the lack thereof.

That said, it did occur to me that if Pogba was watching (and given he’s a fan I think there’s a chance he may) he might have a bit of regret not staying for Ten Hag; it’s clearly the beginning of the process but the team is playing together, is well coached, is passing better and has players looking to run onto the ball – this would very much suit Pogba’s game rather than the expectation that he would drag Man Utd through games Stevie G style. I’m glad for him that he’s escaped the toxicity of Man Utd fans but I think it’d be a joy to watch him play alongside Eriksen and Casemiro.
Daniel (that McTominay looks like a better player clearly shows that Ten Hag is having an impact) Cambridge

 


Johnny Nic: VAR was sold to us on a lie but don’t be the loser who clings to the sinking ship: we must get rid


 

Is VAR worse than not having it at all?
Is VAR really worse than not having it at all Johnny?

Comparing VAR to Brexit is also the wrong comparison but we know it’s a JN favourite. We should be comparing it to technology like driverless cars – does one driverless car crash out of 1 billion miles of driverless journeys mean we should shelve that tech when currently humans crash every day? Or here’s a thought, maybe we could just compare other sports versions of VAR. VAR works much better in other sports after teething trouble, football just doesn’t seem to have learnt as much from its teething issues.

While this weekend and this season has had some shockers, it has still made the correct call on so many offsides and other events that you have to also weigh up. I’d take one shocker for every 100 correct calls over the lottery of penalty decisions and tight offside calls of the past. It seems to me that this highly subjective game is being misinterpreted because the application of technology is deemed to need to have rules cast in stone. Football does have rules cast in stone but also a referee who applies them within the context of the game and within the context of the whole game and not just a microcosm of it.

Offside decisions have undoubtedly been massively improved by VAR. We’ve gone from 1 or 2 incorrect calls a game to 1 or 2 incredibly tight ones per weekend that you can’t call mistakes – you can’t really say VAR ever got an offside wrong. Offside ‘errors’ where a flag has been raised and whistle blown despite the player being onside are on field errors not VAR errors so with or without VAR that Coutinho goal gets ruled out by on field human error. The issues remaining are all things subjective. Penalties, fouls in build-up play, handballs, cards given. VAR gets it right way more than it gets it wrong but the tiny minority that are wrong justify them all being labelled wrong? I don’t think so.

So no Johnny Nic, I’m not a loser clinging to a sinking ship, you’re just forgetting how many bad calls we used to have that ruined so many tight games. Every Monday used to be filled with office arguments on what would have hapenned if that penalty had been given (and should it have been). Now the conversations are much less about that and more about how tactics and substitutions and individual performances affected the game.

But yes, there is room for improvement. Technology, other than replays from different angles, cannot help football as much as hotspot, snicko and ball tracker helps in cricket. However, using the cricket review system for those 50:50 calls that VAR is asked to look at could definitely work. Give the captain 1 decision review per half and similarly to cricket, if player reviews a foul and VAR finds in the captains favour then they keep their review. Then they get to chose whether to review a card, a goal or a penalty decision or just a bloody throw in call, It’s on them.

Alternatively, look at how rugby uses TMO. There is a conversation between on field ref and off field TMO to come to the right decision. Plus the ref asks for help when he feels he needs it and not for every decision it could be used. This might work much better in football rather than the current system where the referee comes to the pitch side camera as if being summoned to the head master to review his mistake. He knows he’s being summoned for a mistake, he just needs to admit it and move on.

Neither cricket or rugby have problems with players surrounding refs and hurling abuse at them and the refs also seem to have no issue with a decision being overturned. Footballers on the other hand still want to argue with refs even when VAR made the call.

Best of both would be to combine the 2 above making the decision on what to review in the captains hands but the decision a collaborative one.
Jon, Cape Town (but if it is a choice of this VAR or no VAR, I’ll keep it)

 

VAR needs nurturing, not neutering
I found Johnny Nic’s piece on VAR completely off the mark, and felt compelled to write this somewhat lengthy response.

VAR – was not ‘sold to us’ – it was sold to the professional footballers whose livelihoods are impacted by the decisions. And to the clubs and their owners who are financially impacted by them. We are indirect consumers of VAR – based on it being a part of the entertainment package we consume – either at the ground or on TV. While at the ground VAR can create an avoidable delay in proceedings, I’m not sure VAR reduces from the entertainment on TV. It just adds a new dimension to it. Like a challenge in tennis, or a third umpire in cricket. As of now, despite all the cock ups, I’ve not heard a current players, managers, or clubs saying we should scrap VAR. It’s only the pundits and commentators who hark for the good old days of the 90s, who seem to suggest it be discontinued. We should therefore assume that overall it is being seen as a positive step for those who are most impacted.

Any new technology adoption is fraught with risk. There will of course be mistakes and learning. New drugs, new medical procedures, autonomous cars, rocket launches into space – all come with errors and failures on the way to success. We enjoy many benefits of modern technologies because somebody persevered through the mistakes, and kept improving the product. We all received the MRNA Vaccine because Katalin Kariko kept working on MRNA for almost two decades when nobody would support or fund her. All that means is that we should expect VAR to have errors and glitches, but that we should expect it to get better.

Which brings me to the fact that VAR is probably not being rolled out well. The messaging is wrong for a start. Rather than acknowledge that this is a new and evolving process, it’s being treated as the final version. Perhaps there is a lack of appreciation of the fact that it is, in fact, quite flawed at this stage and there could be a number of ways to improve it. First off, it could stop being faceless. It is currently designed to protect referees, rather than arrive at correct decisions. The VAR referee should verabalise his/her reasoning which can be made available to broadcasters, so people understand the logic, which may be rooted in specific interpretations of evolving football rules, or guidance. They could also for instance have a fan panel comprising of (say) 20 fans from each club who also vote on VAR based on the same footage. This would not so much decide the outcome but would form an excellent way to engage fans. You could then show the difference between fans views and the refs views as a way of elevating the show, rather than detracting from it. Over time, the data would be useful for the VAR team to understand why the fans view is at odds with the refs views. The list of ways to improve how VAR is done is endless, and varied.

What is more obvious, and deplorable, is to equate VAR with brexit – which is just a baseless political analogy, and tantamount to rabble rousing. VAR is not a lie. It is not an evil pox that has befallen football – no matter how much it makes Johny Nic and Alan Shearer froth at the mouth. It’s biggest flaw is that it seems to arrive at incorrect conclusions even with the benefit of super slow-mo and frame by frame replays. And that it is inconsistently applied – even what is referred to VAR is unclear. None of these are reasons to discard VAR. They are all reasons to make it better. It is already acknowledged, that the problem is not the tech, but the people using it. However, it might be worth considering that most technologies get significantly better, faster, and cheaper within a decade, so there’s every chance that the tech will become far better than human referees in our lifetimes. But you can play football for another century and human referees won’t get significantly better. So F365, how about providing an alternative viewpoint to the anti-VAR brigade and create a voice of progress? Or are you really PFMs in disguise?
Ved Sen, MUFC

 

…I rate John Nicholson as a writer and I think his unusual lens on football creates very interesting angles on the game and in general.

But the VAR thing, John.

It works in every other sport! There is genuinely nothing unique about football or football fans, we aren’t sodium to VARter.

We aren’t more stupid or more aggressive or more ADHD than fans of other sports, there are just more of us.

Should VAR be removed from the game?

No, but it doesn’t have to be so opaque.

In rugby the fans see and hear what the VAR ref is looking at and why in real time.

In cricket and tennis players decide when to double check the umpires decision through VAR.

Football decided that the referee has to be mysterious and all powerful, and it just doesn’t work very well even when the call is made correctly.

Give each manager 3 VAR challenges they can use at any point when play has stopped. If they’re right, they keep three challenges, if they’re wrong they lose one.

Takes all the pressure off the referee, makes it part of the skillset of the game.

VAR isn’t the problem. It’s a solution that every other sport has been using for years, successfully.

Not all new things are bad, John.

Truss aside.
Tim Sutton (Mitro 6 – 1 Nunez)

 

What is clear and obvious?
Everyone’s up in arms again about VAR. As is so often the case, we have people bemoaning the change of a decision because in their opinion, it’s not clear and obvious, but this is why their opinion doesn’t hold much credence on this occasion… Your opinion is missing a vital piece of information that will determine “clear and obvious mistakes”, namely – what the Ref actually made his decision based on and what he and the VAR discussed to come to their new conclusion!!! Your making an assumption that the based their original call on 100% fact of what did happen as shown by the TV replay and not an assumption of what they thought had happened.

For example, what if Paul Tierney told VAR on Sunday that he thought Odegaard got a toe to the ball. That would be factually incorrect as shown by the replay, but might have easily been his perception of the incident. Would that change your viewpoint of whether his post VAR call was clear and obvious?? It would mean he had poor original judgement given his positioning, but would surely make the about face 100% logical.

We cannot determine what is a clear and obvious mistake if we don’t know the context behind why the first decision was made other than our own guesswork/supposition.

This is why my solution isn’t to ditch VAR wholesale as the likes of JNich would, but to open up the web of secrecy and allow us to hear, either for the television broadcasters after the event, or for the whole ground in real time, what the Refs are discussing. After the event is less logical, but does allow for the redaction of any obscene language from players, fans and managers potentially picked up in the background…

This way, pretty quickly, we’ll get a much better sense of whether a change in decision was clear and obvious or whether it’s just nit-picking and the re-reffing of borderline calls.

If we’re seeing lots of the latter, then I’m open to a discussion of what more can be done to improve a flawed system, and that may be to say the experiment has failed – sometimes cultures just aren’t able to accept better processes – for example, US car manufacturers were unable to implement the Japanese system of any employee being able to halt the production line for a fault, not because too many people pulled it as management feared would happen to get an easy life, but because staff were too scared of the consequences of what would happen if they did pull it!!!
Paul (Spurs), T.Wells

 

Shoot the VAR messenger
I don’t really understand the fuss about VAR. VAR is just a tool that allows referees to see what happened in real-time and slow motion, and make a judgement based on their interpretation. VAR not working would literally be the technology is broken. But it’s not.

Yesterday we saw that in the build up to Martinelli’s disallowed goal Odegaard clatter into the back of Eriksen, make no contact with the ball, and bundle him over, not too dissimilar from McTominay on Martinelli minutes earlier (which was correctly given as a foul). The technology allowed the referee to see what happened and the referee then interpreted it as a foul. Blame the refs all you like but complaining that VAR is ruining football is really the equivalent of standing on your scales and blaming the scales for your weight.

VAR is a tool and it does exactly what it was intended to do. If you don’t like how decisions are made, or are unhappy that goals for your team are (rightly) chalked off or that offside goals are now looked at properly, then you don’t really want sport and fair competition, you want drama – and that’s cool. Some people watch Love Island for that shit but not you. Other fans want referees to have all the tools at their disposal to ensure that refereeing decisions are as informed as they can be and football is as fair as it’s possible to make it with human arbitrators.
Daniel (when I step on the scales I see there’s a problem and it’s not with the scales) Cambridge

 

VAR and Brexit
I’m in agreement with John that VAR needs to go. For me its pretty simple, you can no longer properly celebrate a goal once scored. End of. Any little errors will even themselves out over the season/years. VAR has ruined the absolute best part of football.

As for the labored Brexit analogy…. Christ… where to begin. John wants to put both Brexit and VAR in the bin. John wants to reverse a democratic vote because his side didn’t win. Welcome to leftwing journalism folks. You cretins, you unwashed gammon plebs who voted Brexit. Get in the bin where you belong. You were all lied to you see you idiots, just ignore the lies the Remain side pushed(1)immediate recession with Brexit (2) huge tax rises (3) mass unemployment (4)mass exodus of financial institutions from London etc etc… It was only the dumb Brexit voters who were lied to, not the progressive tolerant Remainers, just ignore all the remain sides imaginary doomsday scenarios that never happened on Brexit day. Next time just vote as you are told by the elite you clowns!!!!

Ironically, the Brexit voters would probably agree with John, in that they tend to be older and would no doubt prefer the traditions of the game kept in tact. This might not suit John’s strrrrrrrrrrrrretch of an analogy however

Next week from John :

How Sam Allardyce’s Bolton tactics were deeply rooted in Conservative Politics.
Was Maggie Thatcher responsible for all of Darren Andertons injuries
Why wont poor working class white English people just stop watching football and stop voting for stuff?

For the record, I think both Brexit and VAR are bad ideas. However I’m a believer in democracy. So perhaps have some sort of fan led decision on VAR?

Mad thought ay? Having a vote for something and then actually trying to deliver the will of the people who bothered to vote.
Shz

Arteta speaks on Arsenal

Arsenal tweaks
Long time since I last mailed in but desperate to make some minor comments/tweaks for this Arsenal side, if I may.

Firstly, we now have an extra CB in Ben White as the Gabriel/Saliba partnership is clearly the plan. If he can play as a RB then surely breaking up play as a DM would be ideal for him?

Martinelli. Awesome as he is/can be, really needs to cross the ball more. Once he has exhausted his trick of taking to the flag and then cutting in off the full back, he looks limited.

Jesus needs to be rotated with Nketiah as much as possible. Perhaps your Bourmouths or your Leicesters would be better having him up front to start and then vice versa for the bigger games. I don’t want us to become over reliant on one player. He is ace but overloaded with responsibility.

Vieira came on and did some sick moves and a wonderfully cute pass. I am looking forward to him coming in.

Stewie Griffin is not an Arsenal fan. At least not a happy one. Whenever I read his mails I think to myself ‘you ok hun’?

Overall I feel positive as we did look good, just a painful lesson (hopefully learned) by Arteta. Why is it we always seem to play Man Utd when they get good again? One day. One day.

With kind regards,
JazGooner (VAR is doggy doo doo)

 

…As a neutral, I really enjoyed the Man Utd v Arsenal game. Was very enjoyable, watching two styles clash and produce an end to end game that should have had more goals.

For Man Utd – Credit where it’s due. ETH may be playing his team like he is Ole Mk 2 at the moment, but I’m sure in time when the new players have settled, and the squad get more used to his style they will get better. It was a need’s must performance, and was well executed. After their start, it seems obvious, and many fans have said it, dropping Harry Maquire has made a big difference. They would have lost if he had started. When he came on he looked like an accident waiting to happen. Four straight wins though is a fantastic turnaround.

Arsenal – Always looked like they would start well with their kind fixture list. Credit where it’s due, they took advantage of it to build up confidence and get points on the board. My question mark over Arsenal is that their squad isn’t big enough. Last season they notably struggled playing two games a week towards the end of the season. Now we are at the stage where European games come in, they will have to for the next few weeks, play more than once a week. First time this season they have had to do it, and they lose one. Can’t have any excuses about midfield injuries, it’s not allowed.

Been a good start to the season, feels like the table won’t settle down for a few games yet. I mean, relegation ‘certainties’ Bournemouth have the same points as European contenders Newcastle. The pre-season narratives aren’t quite lining up yet.

Looking forward to some European action this week.

Regards
Kevin

Potter for England, Ange for Brighton
What a game week this was as a Manchester United and Brighton (my lower league second team since 2003 but now very much not a lower league team!) supporter. It’s a fantastic thing, watching both teams playing with a confidence that is very heavily influenced be each of their managers. Potter has been showing his class and ability for a while now with Brighton getting better and better and Ten Hag looks to finally be the proper modern coach United has lacked for so long. This mail though is about Brighton’s coaching future.

With each passing week with Potter working his magic and the World Cup getting that much closer the talk of him taking over England post Southgate will only get louder I imagine. While I very much hope he stays with Brighton to see just how far he can push this team, I wouldn’t begrudge him should he choose to leave and take over the England job if he gets the tap on the shoulder.

In terms of how Brighton might come close to replacing him I think I have an early shout for as close to a like for like replacement who would be able to continue with and try to build on the amazing team Potter has created. My early shout is Ange Postecoglou, the Australian currently managing Celtic. As an Aussie I admit I am a bit biased but I’ve watched a lot of Ange Postecoglou’s work and seeing how well he was ingrained his style of play at Celtic, I can’t help but get a sneaky feeling he would be the perfect coach to take over should Potter head elsewhere. While not exactly alike, they both share some similar traits and styles with progressive and forward thinking possession with a healthy pose of pressing and wanting their players to be playing out from the back with a fluid structure.

Way to early for this type of talk really but I’d been on thought this for a while and after watching Celtic and then Brighton put on great displays (at a reasonable hour to watch here in Aus) I couldn’t help but want to put it out there as an early shout and see what others think.
Alex (Brackets something something brackets)

 

Postcard from the Palace
*Crystal Palace got away with one there. According to Understat.com, their expected goals was 0.92 versus Newcastle United’s 2.91, and according to everyone, they should have conceded several goals.

*This was possibly Vicente Guaita’s best game for Crystal Palace. He is a reliable goalkeeper, not prone to errors but he also isn’t the sort of keeper who regularly rescues games for the Eagles through strings of stunning saves. Here, though, he was on spectacular form.

*Going into the match, United presented a curious problem; Palace had a good record against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, but Nick Pope has always played well against Palace. Like Guaita, he was also on top form on Saturday, and a more mortal goalkeeper would have conceded to Jean-Philippe Mateta or Odsonne Edouard.

*United believed they had scored a goal only to see VAR rule it out. As the ball is headed back across goal, Tyrick Mitchell and Joe Willock come together, then Willock absolutely clatters Guaita.

There is no way out of that situation that doesn’t upset someone. Ignore the contact between attacker and goalkeeper and it will set a precedent for charging a goalkeeper as a legitimate tactic. However, United are understandably aggrieved about the goal being disallowed because there is an argument that Mitchell pushes Willock into Guaita. Having seen the replay, I think Mitchell does enough to put Willock off, but not enough to concede a penalty if he were to land on the turf.

*Most of us, at one time or another, have worked with someone who never gets asked to take on extra duties while the rest of the office is swamped. This is usually because their response to being asked to pitch in was to do a terrible job with the sole purpose of not getting asked to help out ever again. If you don’t recognise this among your colleagues, then it’s you. Anyway, this is what VAR reminds me of.

The only plausible theory left is that they are using it incredibly unhelpfully so that calls come from the very people who wanted VAR introduced for it to be scrapped. As ways to stick two fingers up at the elite clubs, it’s imaginative, but not without its consequences.

*Unfortunately, the only way that VAR can be withdrawn from service is if players, managers, supporters and the media all agree to not criticise officials if a decision goes against them. At high speed, at distance, with players trying to con each other and sometimes the officials, it’s possible that some decisions might be wrong, but in most cases, these have less of an impact on the game than the striker who misses an open goal, or the defender who keeps fouling people, or the midfielder who can’t find a teammate with a simple pass, or the manager who gets his tactics wrong. Take a zero tolerance approach: the slightest hint of dissent about a decision from anyone and that team gets VAR reintroduced for their next game.

*In the meantime, perhaps the rules could be changed so that if a manager is sent off, someone else from the club addresses the media. You don’t have to be an expert lip reader to see why Jesse Marsch was shown a red card, and yet he was able to go on television after the match and talk about how *he* was the one disrespected by the officials. Preston North End’s Ryan Lowe was shown a red card after the final whistle for his remonstrations and was then given an interview in which he could justify himself. He also seemed surprised that a referee who cautioned him last season would take this course of action.
Ed Quoththeraven

 

A city obsessed
Anyone else find it curious that so many Liverpool fans feel the need to reference City when they write in about something that has nothing to do with us?

I put it down to the fact that Liverpool (as a city) is obsessed with Manchester (as a city). People may say that I’m now writing in about that city but I’m not, I’m only responding to the numerous whataboutery statements that Liverpool fans choose to lob around, with gay abandon.

My point is further proved by the Liverpool Echo and its’ reporting on 4 clubs. Liverpool, Everton, Tranmere and Manchester City. They have to be reporting on us because barely a day goes by without an article covering City, in some fashion. The Manchester Evening News (for all its’ faults) doesn’t report on the scouse clubs, it doesn’t really care about the scouse clubs. They are rarely mentioned outside match reports.

Mancunians don’t want to read about the Merseyside clubs because we don’t really care about them whereas the opposite appears to be true. The Echo is just feeding the green eyed monster, I suppose.

So, Liverpool fans, please stop defining your club against ours, you’ll feel better about yourselves.

Just trying to help
Levenshulme Blue, M19

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