Masterchef Pep, how America can help fix football, and other mails…

Date published: Friday 27th May 2022 6:39 - Ian Watson

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

The Mailbox explains in chef’s terms why Pep Guardiola is a genius, even if he couldn’t earn a Michelin star for Little Chef. Also: it’s time for a salary cap.

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Chef Pep
I was prompted to write by the contributor who used the Chef analogy recently. Regarding Pep and El Bulli.

As a professional chef I often find myself using similar analogies when talking to one of the lads if, who is also a chef, and an Arsenal fan, about football. It works very well. A team, a hierarchy, intense preparation followed by highly pressured short windows of time in which to perform. It’s easy to draw parallels. As it would be with the army. From which Escoffier drew inspiration for the brigade system. But I digress. (If you’re gonna use it use it properly)

My point is that it’s just not true to suggest that Pep succeeds because he is handed the finest ingredients and the best equipment. The highest quality ingredients handed to a terrible chef will still result in a terrible meal. The skill and refinement required to handle, appreciate and maximise the best of the best produce is beyond most people. It looks easy. But try doing it in the pressure cooker, pun intended, every Friday and Saturday night.

If you can’t cook, it doesn’t matter if you have a pack of frozen fish fingers or 200 quids worth of Scallops.

And then there’s the inevitable second part. If he went to work in Little Chef the food wouldn’t improve. Of course it f**king wouldn’t. It’s Little Chef.

And there’s the other thing. If a guy comes out of college at 17/18 and proves himself capable of working in and performing in a 3 Michelin star kitchen. At the highest level of the industry. Ya know what other chefs never say…
“Well, he’s alight but he’s never worked at Greggs has he”

Anyway. Love to you all. It’s a tough old world we’re in right now. Look after yourselves and each other. It’s just a game with a ball. We all have the same hopes and fears at the end of the day.
Brian Morrissey. Waterford


How to fix football
Money is slowly eroding the game. Has been since the premier League introduction in the early 90s.

Looking at the data there is a strong correlation between wages paid and league position which stretches across almost every league. There are exceptions of course like man utd but they’re an outlier rather than the trend.

Just using the premier League since it’s inception just 8 clubs have finished in the top 3 in 25 years. It’s more competitive than the other leagues but still not really competitive. How can Norwich compete with city Chelsea Liverpool arsenal etc? They can’t. They can’t even keep their young players either because clubs now snap them up in their early teens wooing them with club history and illegal payments.

So how do we fix it? Say what you like about the horrendous stop start nature of US sports but one thing they’re pretty good at is making the sport fair. In the NHL there have been 14 out of 32 different champions since 2000 and of those winners only 5 were multiple champions. NFL it’s 13 of 32. And 13 of 30 for baseball. That’s a very good spread of different winners with many of them being small teams too.

So why does that happen? In short it’s because of three things : trade system, salary caps and draft picks.

Each team has a salary cap which they’re not allowed to exceed at all. Not even for a short time. Punishment is points deductions, loss of draft picks or forfeiture of games while exceeding cap. The cap is calculated by taking players total salary and bonuses and dividing the number by years on contract. Each players value is then totalled and that total must no exceed the stated cap. That cap is a percentage of the leagues overall revenue which is spread equally over all teams. Big club gets same cap as small club and is based on leagues income – not teams income.

Secondly there’s the trade transfer fees. If you want best player in the world you have to swap three or four of your good players in exchange. The theory is nobody gets weaker. Just different.

Finally there’s draft picks. All the best young players and put into a big list and the worst performing clubs from previous season get to pick first. Imagine Messi playing for almeria instead of Barca? Gerrard playing for Norwich instead of Liverpool. And if you want said player you give up enough of your good players to make it worthwhile for the smaller club who have said superstar.

Applying these rules now for example to psg would mean they would have used most of their salary cap on just mbappe and would have to let 4 or 5 first team players go to other clubs. Strengthening the league in general.

It’s not perfect and does need adaptation to footy but it’s definitely more competitive than the current. It also has the side effect of curbing the ridiculous player salaries and transfer fees we see now.


Why United fans were cheering for City
Okay, I will try to explain from a United perspective why City winning the league is preferable to Liverpool.
Liverpool are a proper football club, well run, passionate (sometimes mental) fans and a fantastic footballing history, City on the other hand for all the fantastic football are an artificial construct, they are a Rich Arabs toy, a means to an end for a dubious regime using football as a deflector. Now obviously I would love for United to suddenly remember they are an actual football club and not a circus and start winning things again but in a race between teams our rivals and our cross town neighbours, the neighbours win every time because in the grand scheme of things they don’t matter, they are for all the dodgy cash an irrelevance, Liverpool winning on the other hand would be catastrophic, because they actually mean something, they are a big club who are neck and neck with my club in the race for biggest and best, my club at the moment are a comedic nightmare so Liverpool being thwarted is a relief, the fact they have been thwarted by a Championship Manager cheat code makes it more palatable.
Now this all may come across as sour grapes but being from Manchester and having family members who are City fans I know a lot of them secretly know their titles are tainted, some may even long for the Georgie Kinkladze era of fleeting highs while supporting a team who on their day can put four past United but perversely can be spanked by 6 or 7 a week later. The embarrassing footage of City’s title parade shows how big they are in the grand scheme of things, Harry Styles had a bigger crowd to cheer him on.
Anyway here’s to the Eric Ten Hag era and hopefully an end to Woodward’s dick waving look who I signed players and on to a team filled with professionals who want to play for the club.
Paul Murphy, Manchester


Battle of the ages
My opinion is that the best teams of an era are a product of the rules/spirit of the game played at the time.

For the sake of argument, in the 70’s and 80’s, there wasn’t a lot of protection for the skilful players, and football was generally a tough sport, with hard tackling, for tough men. The teams which did really well, generally, in this period are Leeds and Liverpool. Skilled teams, don’t get me wrong, but some very tough men all the same. Incidentally, the skilful players of the time are revered today, like Maradona, Cruyff, Best.

When the offside rule came in, teams with wingers and pace came to the fore. Man Utd, Blackburn, Newcastle and Arsenal. There was also, in the Premier League era, an effort made to clamp down on the rough tackling and make it much easier to get a yellow card. This effectively gave the likes of Ginola, Kanchelskis, Giggs, Overmars, Wilcox and Beckham a bit more time and comfort to deliver a pin point pass or cross, or to dribble.

Then came a period where money talked, and the two Manchesters and Chelsea won pretty much everything, as they had the best squads. The best and deepest squads allowed for substitutions where the standard of player didn’t drop when you made them.

Today, getting a yellow card has never been easier, and referees are wising up to rotational fouling, tactical fouling, and shirt pulling. Coupled with that, diving is no longer as frowned upon as it once was. It’s not cheating any more, but gamesmanship.

So the focus on strategy today is on where you are LEAST likely to receive a yellow card. Foul someone around your own box you are very likely to get booked. Do the same foul around your opponent’s box and you are less likely to get booked. The same foul is punished less if you don’t commit that foul in your own half.

Well, the logical progression to this is pressing the opposition in their own half, rather than your own half, as you are likely to commit the same amount of fouls, but receive fewer yellow cards. This is basically Gegenpressing. It’s no surprise to see the two best sides in the Premier League, Liverpool and Man City, play like this.

My point is, the Arsenal Invincibles vs Klopp’s Liverpool. If that game is played in 2004 then I think Arsenal win. If that game is played today then Liverpool win.

The treble-winning Man Utd side of 1999 vs Pep’s City of today? Same again. Man Utd win in 1999 but would lose the same match, with the same players, with these fussy rules and VAR.
Dale May, Swindon Wengerite


Lost youth
I actually had the same issues with these Arsenal assumptions as Louis had. The idea that your team, full of potential, will turn into a great old team is deeply familiar. It’s something that I, as a Liverpool fan, had been telling myself since about 1994.

It never did. For a thousand different reasons. Sometimes the players never got better (see: Baros, Milan). Often they did, but injuries limited their ceiling (see: Lucas or God). Sometimes bright young talent actually regresses: (see: Carroll, Andy or Alli, Dele). But more often than not, they were never as good as you imagined (see: Flanagan, Jon). Or maybe they shine when alongside talented senior pros, but when they have to carry the game themselves, they just don’t have the ability (see: Spearing, Jay). Hells, maybe they really are that good, but they don’t have the patience to wait for everyone else to reach their level, when there are trophies out there to be won (see, Owen, Michael).

Liverpool existed in this never ending cycle of telling ourselves that we’ve got one of the youngest teams in the league, and when they all come good, it’ll be great. Next year is our year, and all that. And while we won trophies (turning points!) and had seasons where we imagined we were just one key signing from challenging for the title, that was a constant mirage.

Heck, the other poster boy of this phenomenon (I remember, because they were always the other ‘youngest team’) was post invincibles Arsenal, when Wenger ditched the old hands and started only buying youth.

Alan Hansen was right. He just needed to phrase it better. You won’t win anything with just kids. You need the old hands too. You need the team leaders, the Cantonas, Stams and Keanes (or for today’s audience, the KdBs, Mahrezes, Fernandinhos and Walkers) to take responsibility and pressure off them.
Andrew M, Once a Youth But No Longer


Spin, spin sugar
Got to love Marc’s email on Thursday morning. One sure way of showing the difficult run for Liverpool is to list all the oppositions achievements across two seasons whilst ignoring the same logic for City and Madrid. No, what we’ll do for them is lost the worst metric across the two seasons. So, we get AC Milan listed as “Champions” and PSG and Madrid listed as “2nd”. Sporting are listed as “third” despite actually finishing 2nd this season and champions the previous season. Naturally Villareal are listed as Europa League Winners rather than 7th as you know, that wouldn’t sound quite as difficult.

With this work Marc you might get a job at the Liverpool Echo.

What they need this summer, and how likely they are to get it… Man Utd | Arsenal | Spurs | Chelsea


The point of Spurs
First of all, nice of Larry to read so much regarding Tottenham. Personally I don’t read a great deal concerning Arsenal, and nowhere near enough to warrant writing about it.

Tottenham, who I do read a lot about, are often said to have failed to reward the successes of improvement with tangible pots on the shelf. In fact our best players have often left, or attempted to leave, and have found success elsewhere.

The point of Tottenham in general though might well be seen in the fact that despite these barren years we’re still the sixth most successful club in England, only recently having been overtaken by City and Chelsea (wonder how that could have happened?). First English club to win in Europe, too – and with three European trophies are more successful in that area than Arsenal despite however many more attempts at it your lot has had (losing how many finals in Europe, remind me…?).

So, yes, we’ve been frustratingly and despairingly short getting over the line, something known only all too well by the supporters.

The reason Arsenal were being judged differently is because they were plummeting to the current, relative depths, of recent years. When a team is on the rise they’re judged on that merit, when one is on the wane they are also judged accordingly.

Finally; what is the point of Arsenal? A fanbase (of some) who continue to make mocking them like shooting fish in a barrel. A club of the establishment, and a team of invertebrates.

In the meantime, perhaps try reading a book instead of about Spurs so often.

Lots of love.


…As an Arsenal season ticket holder whose support goes back generations from a family based in N5, I just wanted to stand up and applaud Jim French’s email. Brilliantly put.
John (Plane tickets booked for Budapest in May 2023) Foster.


The Arsenal project
Yes Mr. Graham Simmons, sack the damn manager!

I come from a time when 1 manager lasted 25+ years at my club, yet I agree with every sacking after that because they were not good enough for the club, or helped the club. Just because you make a bad decision, doesn’t mean you stick by it till the end. The smart move is to stop the rot and start anew. If Liverpool never sacked “2nd in the league” Brenden, they would never win the league. Same with Chelsea with AVB, Chelsea with Lampard, Spurs with Nuno etc. The list can go on, but of course “the arsenal way” is to make sure you don’t hurt Arteta’s feelings by firing him, rather reward him for being useless so he doesnt feel bad, cause thats more important right?

Arsenal is a “project” is the same way me building 6 pack abs is a “project”, always in planning, clueless denial, and never going to happen.

Today, Arsenal could throw a stone in the top 5 leagues and find a better manager than Arteta, and Arsenal would be better off for it. There are 20 EFL championship managers who would all improve Arsenal more than Arteta, but Arsenal fans are the joke that keep on giving. Here is to hoping Arteta stays another decade, and the “Arsenal project” goes on for another century.

Man y’all talk like you have the spirit of Vieira in you, but in reality Arsenal fans are more Kalstorm in nature, happy to just be there. Vieira wouldn’t put up with this crap.


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