The Mailbox brings you a reason for each Premier League club to be optimistic this season. Plus, a Man Utd conundrum, bonus injury time, Women’s World Cup Fever, Stoke rejects and more.
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Reasons for optimism at every PL club
It’s my own fault for spending far too much time on Twitter, but there just seems to be far too much negativity around football these days. Which is a shame, because it’s supposed to be an enjoyable, entertaining experience after all.
So with the season around the corner, I thought I’d take a stab at reasons for optimism at every PL club. It’s a bit of a lengthy mail, so please bear with me (or feel free to skip this one entirely!):
Arsenal: Will expect to build on a strong title challenge with a young group of players that should only get better, along with some very good additions to the squad in the summer.
Aston Villa: They’ve made a couple of shrewd summer signings in Torres and Tielemans, and they’re playing in the Europa League with a manager who is a master of the tournament.
Bournemouth: Still in the Premier League after a great end to last season, and they’ll expect to push further up the table this time around.
Brentford: Improved their league finish by 4 places last season and will no doubt be hoping to fight for a European spot in 2023/24.
Brighton: Playing in the Europa League will be an incredible experience for the whole club, especially the fans, and I’d back De Zerbi to guide them to the Round of 16 at the very least.
Burnley: Back in the big time at the first time of asking, and will be a pesky side to face, not just for the traditional “bigger” teams. Can see them doing well this season.
Chelsea: An excellent manager in Poch, who can mould a very young squad the way he wants. No pressure for an immediate title challenge, and they will likely be very fun to watch.
Crystal Palace: Even with Wilf Zaha departing, they should have enough about them to comfortably stay up. Plus the vibes seem to be great ever since Uncle Woy came back.
Everton: Sean Dyche gets a full summer to work with the players, which will be hugely beneficial. They will surely be a lot tougher to beat this season.
Fulham: After an outstanding first campaign back in the top flight, they just need to consolidate, and should be able to do that quite easily.
Liverpool: Made some exciting signings, finally have Diaz back at full strength, Nunez seems to be hitting his stride, and most importantly, they still have Mo Salah and Jurgen Klopp.
Luton Town: A first season in the Premier League since the format change in 1992. An incredible story and experience for the whole club. Just enjoy the ride!
Man City: They still have the best manager in the world, and will likely canter to the title again. The only downside? Anything other than a second treble might be seen as a let-down.
Man United: A new, more progressive/aggressive style of play with the addition of Onana, and hopefully further improvement under Ten Hag. Plus Champions League again!
Newcastle United: Champions League for the first time in ages, and an opportunity to consolidate their position in the New Top 4/5/6. Lots to look forward to.
Nottingham Forest: Significantly less squad turnover in the summer which will make for a more stable season. Plus an exciting young player in Gibbs-White, who should develop further.
Sheffield United: Last time they were promoted, they stayed up and played some great football too. Will be hoping for more of the same, or even just avoiding relegation at the very least.
Tottenham: An intriguing, progressive new coach, and if they reinvest the Kane money wisely, probably a more well-rounded squad. Enough and more to build on.
West Ham: Despite losing their captain, they have another European campaign to look forward to, plus the opportunity to bolster the squad with the Rice money. Just need to get a move on.
Wolves: Still have a lot of young talent in the squad and a good coach who’s more than capable of turning things around.
Phew, that took longer than I’d expected. Apologies for any assessments I may have got completely wrong. Anyway, here’s hoping everyone has a great season ahead!
DJ, MUFC (thank god for Saturdays) India
Don’t fool yourselves
The teams at the top of the Premier League look a lot stronger and more competitive this season, but it will not be a six-way battle.
To win the league takes a minimum of 94 points, post oil-enhanced City came to the fore under Pep. Only two of the current teams have achieved that, and no one else is close.
The best we can hope for is a 3-way battle.
The Man Utd conundrum
From the outset this is not a rebuttal and I usually refrain from discussing Man U because I’m a Liverpool fan and biased. I agree with taz that they should be mixing things up instead of just going for big names that don’t work out however my examples of Ronaldo and sanchez were based more on wages than impact. Fact is Ronaldo scored the goals and got the numbers for Man U so why not pay the same for Kane? It doesn’t seem like he’ll stop putting away 20-30 per season just because he’s pulled a red shirt on not white. I think Kane is the right option and based on money spent in the past those wages shouldn’t be a stumbling block, I might be wrong it should be an interesting season to find out.
Simon M, LFC
New season, bonus injury time that no-one asked for
The new season is upon us and we now have confirmation of how the new rules on time added on are actually being implemented. As feared, it means a lot of extra injury time. The Sheff Wed vs Saints game on Friday night was a free-flowing affair with no time wasting to speak of, nor any significant stoppages. There were seven added minutes in the first half and nine in the second. Who wants this?
Remy the Saint (with an eye on the clock)
Hey, Steve – Omagh Town FC, to be honest, the answer to the over-paying on transfer fees is the Manchester City approach. Have your valuation and stick to it.
Everyone knows that if City deem a player to be too expensive, they walk away, even concerning piffling amounts. For example, we lost out on Jorginiho because we wouldn’t overpay by a poxy arsed £2m quid. Would United and Chelsea do that? Would they buggery. No, clubs like these (and, increasingly so, Arsenal) just stump up so therefore are fueling football inflation because selling clubs know that if they hold out, they’ll get what they are demanding (here’s looking at you, Brighton).
It also suggests a lack of a Plan B. Everything falls apart if ‘that’ player doesn’t come in. Basically, it’s a lack of foresight, football intelligence and basic planning.
Incompetence, in other words.
City’s capture of Gvardiol is a case in point. We wouldn’t pay the world record fee for a defender so we negotiated down to the point of where we were only a couple of million more than the cost of the 2017 signing of Virgil van Dyke. Why don’t other clubs do this? It’s not beyond the wit of them, surely?
Another example. City wouldn’t pay £100m for Koulibaly so we went and signed Dias, for £60m, instead. Is there anyone out there who’d say that was a failure in the transfer market?
Incidentally, why is the Gvardiol signing reported as €90m (£77.6m) instead of £77.6m? The currency in the UK is pounds sterling so why is it reported in euros, first? I have my suspicions but I’m not going there…
Levenshulme Blue, Manchester 19
Just been reading about Real Madrid potentially buying Vlahovic to play up top as they apparently only have Joselu. Then I had to check Wikipedia to see that it was the same Joselu that played for Stoke.
With football giants Bayern also fielding fellow former potter Eric Choupo-Moting, does this mean that Stoke may, at on point in time, had a decent eye for talent?
Or that 12 months of doing it on a wet night in Stoke turns players into top tier players?
Or is the market completely buggered?
Either way, I’m putting a fiver on Dwight Gayle leading out Inter by summer 2024.
Women’s World Cup Fever
I’m currently caught in Women’s World Cup fever at the moment. I live in Melbourne and I’ll be going to a few round of 16 games including Sweden vs USA. The World Cup has genuinely gripped the nation’s attention. Australia’s thrilling dismantling of Canada this week has even the most uninterested in football talking about them.
The women’s game is a refreshing change from the men’s game. There’s far less diving, play-acting, time wasting and blatant cheating. A big reason why a lot of Aussies and Kiwis don’t get into football is because at the highest level the game is plagued by widespread cheating attempts on the pitch, particularly diving, which most of us have little patience for.
I hope this tournament inspires plenty of kids down here to play football and make it to the top, we could really use more talented players.
Vish (AFC), Melbourne
I hope we’ve driven away the “women’s football doesn’t matter” people away from the Mailbox, or better yet, that we’ve driven them to watch the World Cup. I haven’t watched any full matches besides the USA’s, ENG-DEN and FRA-BRA (all recorded) because it’s happening during the six hours a day I can reliably sleep. But I’ve watched long highlights packages from every group match, and I’m honestly finding the women’s game more beautiful. Not the USA’s performances, mind; we look ripe for the picking.
It’s only highlights, but I haven’t seen a single dive. I haven’t seen a feigned injury. I haven’t even seen a really cynical foul (a few desperate ones, sure). But I have seen fantastic skill and athleticism. I’ve seen enormous, undiluted joy on the faces of women from Jamaica, Morocco and South Africa. I’ve seen heartbroken women supporting each other, and triumphant women celebrating each other while comforting the heartbroken. You see all of those good parts at a men’s World Cup, to be sure. But for most men’s teams, the need to win seems to outweigh the need to be a sportsman – which seems to make the term ironic, given the state of the women’s game. Maybe it’s only because there’s less money involved, but there is clearly more joy on display at the WWC (except in Argentina).
I don’t know the players nearly as well, and I don’t know that I could love a sports club like I do the NUFC men’s team, but there is just so much to love happening in women’s football right now. I, for one, am paying attention.
Chris C, Toon Army DC
Responding to Gaurav…
I wrote an email some time back detailing some things I noticed when looking at the world’s most valuable players on Transfermarkt.
Somethings to note were:
There is no player in the top 25 over 30
There are only 3 players over the age of 25 (Rodri #14 – Aged 27, Kane #17 – 29 & Martinez #22 – 25)
Only 5 players in the top 50 are within the commonly agreed upon peak years of 27-30 years old.
This is what I assume the big wigs at United are putting into their transfer calculations. Kane is a very valuable footballer, and certainly would guarantee goals, but it’s all downhill from here sadly.
Hojlund on the other hand, at 20 years of age, has his whole future (and future value) ahead of him.
Added to that is the fact the Hojlund package is roughly 72M + 20M in wages over five years= 92M
Kanes package assumably 100M + 130M wages over five years = 230M.
While Hojlund is a risk in the sense he is relatively untested, and has never played in the PL, he is young, will be working under a coach who develops young players, and fits that coaches playing style perfectly.
Consider Kane, who would also be a risk, given that there is every chance he could be the next RVP or Mane, as opposed to another Lewandowski or Ibrahimovic. He is not the archetypal Ten Haag striker, has had an injury laden past, is officially 30, and over double the price of Hojlund, with no resale value.
Imagine two universe’s in which both deals happened, and both ended in failure. You would rather a 20 something failure who’s on reasonable wages to offload, rather than a 30 something year old, half crocked and unable to be moved on due to mammoth wages.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see Harry Kane in Manchester red, but I can absolutely understand why they would go for Hojlund over Kane, given the costs vs risk & reward.
Calvino (PS- Antony+Sancho, when they were signed, fees combined, was not enough to buy Kane then. Ask City)
The Bourne Hypocrisy
I have been reading a fair but about the minor exodus of players to the Saudi league. Now, I wouldn’t normally write in on the matter but I am not seeing much talk about my favourite issue (full backs) apart from Livramento going for 40 million – which is nuts – and I have been sipping on some nice red wine, so here goes:
I don’t get it. Saudi Arabia has an immensely questionable/non-existent human and LGBTQ+ rights record. They are paying for the players’ fees and wages through their oil sales, which harm the environment. Neither can be denied. But – and this is the important bit – where does one draw the line? At Saudi Arabia? Qatar? Selling players to Russian clubs?
My argument is this: no club or league is as pure as the driven snow. Let’s start with England. Yes, there has been some movement to bar betting firms as shirt sponsors. But we know it’s a half-baked proposal. Consider some other sponsors, such as Liverpool’s Standard Chartered. I supported Liverpool for the better part of 20 years even though I knew StanChart had been penalised more than a billion dollars for violating sanctions against Iran and essentially helping to launder money. Brentford’s owner made his money from helping gamblers. Newcastle are PIF, Spurs have Joe Lewis in their corner, City have Abu Dhabi… I am sure that if anyone digs deep enough, every club will be associated with someone or some entity that is dirty – financially, environmentally, or just on a human level. And I am pretty sure the case is the same in every league, with the difference being one of degree. Before I am called a Messi fan boy – even Beckham’s Inter Miami stadium transaction is called a land heist.
So I come back to my original question: where does one draw the line? This is not to say that players should join the Saudi Pro League en masse and we should all rejoice in seeing Ronaldo and other has-beens milk the last few years of their careers for what oil-rich nations think they are worth. But I am rather tired of the double standards. Sure, some crimes/acts are worse than others. But I think we often don’t recognise how grave the crimes closer to home are. A layer or two of credibility in the middle does not change anything. If a club is getting sponsorship money from a company that is involved in an activity – directly or as an investor/creditor – which is questionable, we should not kid ourselves and think it’s significantly different from petro-dollars.
So which club should we support? I don’t know. I am drunk.
Siddharth (Dig up my old mails and see if I have not been saying for years that Trent AA should be in midfield and not right back)