The Mailbox is sick of ‘toxic nonsense’ like Gerrard’s comments on Saka

Date published: Monday 21st March 2022 10:30 - Editor F365

Steven Gerrard suggested that Bukayo Saka needs to toughen up after complaining at a lack of protection from referees. The Mailbox reacts to that, Arsenal’s over-celebrations, Patrick Vieira, Crystal Palace and more.

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Gerrard, the man’s man
Does someone want to remind Steven Gerrard that having 16 operations and not being able to go to the gym at 41 is a bad thing?

Saka wasn’t complaining about being tackled, he was complaining about opposition players seemingly trying to injure him. Nobody is suggesting football is a non contact sport, but referees have a responsibility for player safety and the man in charge of the Villa – Arsenal game seemed to let an awful lot of Villa tackles go. Saka is actually pretty tough considering his age and build, I have seen him ride challenges and get back up after being clattered multiple times.

I’m a bit sick of this toxic nonsense that in order to be good at something there has to be pain. Inevitably with what footballers go through there will be pain and injuries, but can we stop short of actually encouraging that?
Andrew (Never celebrate in the midlands)


As Arsenal fans, we’ve had to see more than our fair share of players stretchered off the pitch, their careers never to be the same again. So to hear Gerrard tell Saka that he needs to toughen up because he is kept together with screws and pva glue sticks in my craw.

I grew up with reducers clattering players in the 90s, I know the blood and thunder game, and we are better for it not being that anymore.

Saka is English, so you’d think he’d get some protection, but he isn’t a prodigal son like Rooney, or Owen or Kane, and add to that we questioned referees for their inconsistency of applying rules to Arsenal vs other clubs, and we are trying to ice skate uphill in this battle to quote Blade.

He will have a horrific injury at this rate, and all the people who enabled it to happen will clutch their pearls and say what a shame but secretly they are responsible.

No one is asking for special treatment but I’ve seen at least 4 different fouls in four matches on Saka that should have been red and we got nothing. How long before a player who is injured sues the referees for not doing their job?
John (and as for celebrating, I hope we continue to shove it down opponents throats) Matrix AFC


Celebration Police Alert!
With regards to Arsenal over-celebrations, is the so-called “Celebration Police” not tacitly trying to do the Gooners a favour by not letting them tempt fate like this? Have they not learned lessons from the past by now?

Remember 2016? After a last-gasp 2-1 win over Leicester City in February, those infamous cheesy dressing room selfies of the jubilant players surfaced, believing that right there and then the title was in the bag.

But Ranieri and the Leicester players used it as motivation and the rest was history.

If Arsenal do slip up in their remaining fixtures there shall be much laughter headed in the direction of the Emirates, just as there was six years ago, and pretty much every time Arsenal have fallen short of their objectives ever since.

Oh, and Arsenal fans really need to accept that simply being Granit Xhaka is a bookable offence. It’s not that the referees are against you!

That is all.
Lee, Policer of Celebrations


Nervy Arsenal fan
Whilst trying to pass the time on my last week at my current job I decided to take a closer look at Arsenal’s remaining fixtures (seeing as they are flavour of the month at F365 at the moment). It’s the hope that kills you, and that champions league spot is so close but the run-in is pretty tough. After the break Arsenal play away to fellow F356 favourites Crystal Palace, a team in good form and a Monday kick off to ramp up the pressure. This is followed by the easiest game on paper, home against Brighton, then away to Southampton. Palace and the Saints are both great at home so a lot of banana skins there. Following that is the double header against Man Utd and Chelsea just four days apart. Chelsea seem absurdly serene despite off pitch goings-on, and Utd have just the type of big game, turn it on once a month players to ruin the occasion. Throw in Arsenals poor record against the big teams this season and losing both those games becomes pretty conceivable.

Then comes West Ham away, hopefully they will be busy beating Barcelona somewhere in Europe, then Leeds (H), Newcastle (A), Everton (H). Two of those will probably still be fighting a relegation battle and Newcastle have remembered how to play football now.

Arsenal’s recent form has been aided by a kinder fixture list in my opinion, I can see them realistically losing four of those games, with maybe four wins and draw to finish on 67 points. This only just beats the lowest fourth places in the last ten seasons, and is below the 71 point average. Squeaky bum time is is then!
Dave (pessimism is cool right?) Brighton

Arsenal players celebrate victory

Patrick Vieira hates losing
My advice to Ed is is to get excited.

Arsene Wenger wrote the foreword to Patrick Vieira’s autobiography with one standout message – that Patrick Vieira hates losing.

It was one of the primary reason why he captained the only Premier League ever to go a full season unbeaten and why Palace shouldn’t be regarded as the whipping boys in this year’s FA Cup.

The other three remaining teams all have Champions League football to distract them – for Vieira and his boys – this is it.

So don’t be surprised to see Vieira lift the FA Cup again. Who doesn’t want to see Vieira with Wrighty celebrating in May?
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Crystal Palace
Dear Football365,

*F365’s man in Japan and I watched Crystal Palace v Everton via Zoom, a decision that never usually ends well when we watch Zweigen Kanazawa games. Being able to hear him meant I couldn’t hear Clive & Ally on commentary, but did mean he got to watch the game with the “oh for f##k’s sake” commentary track on. That’s just me saying “oh for f##k’s sake” over and over again for the entire match.

*That Palace team looked fun. Any opportunity to get Eberechi Eze, Conor Gallagher, Michael Olise and Wilfried Zaha on the pitch together should be taken. However, it requires a lot of diligence elsewhere, and in this regard, Cheikhou Kouyate and Jean-Philippe Mateta, starting behind and ahead of them respectively, deserve a lot of praise. Mateta is tenacious as a first line of defence, and in one moment won three tackles in quick succession on the edge of the Everton penalty area to set up a chance. Eze also deserves praise for his hard work in midfield, supporting the attack but never out of position in defence.

*The Toffees started incredibly strongly. They pressed aggressively, pinned their hosts back in their own area, and created a handful of chances, even if the best of them came in the first minute. Palace were riding a little bit of luck but they kept their composure and frustrated the visitors. The turning point the injury to Andros Townsend – not to make light of it but the break in play did allow Patrick Vieira to issue some new instructions to his players and get them playing slightly differently, and when play restarted, the Eagles began to dominate play.

*F365’s Ian King pointed out that Everton completely lost their shape after Townsend left the field, such was the fragility of their system. I think this can be a problem for three-man defences – the starkest example being Southampton’s  9-0 defeat against Leicester City, a large part of which was that they had a wing-back sent off. Three at the back is sometimes said to offer more tactical flexibility, but a back four can also offer more stability to cope with unexpected changes.

*Marc Guehi scored the sort of goal Palace are more familiar with conceding than scoring this season, although I’m sure even he would admit that it would have been incredible if Olise had succeeded with his Olympic goal attempt from the previous corner. It was a good header though, and he did brilliantly to find that much space.

*After this, Palace never looked back. A second goal followed before half time, from a move that began with Zaha coming deep to win the ball. He linked with Eze down the left, before crossing for Mateta to fire beyond Jordan Pickford. A just reward for a proper shift.

*Everton looked slightly more threatening in the second half, but as they pushed forward, they left themselves wide open to one of the most dangerous counter attacks in the Premier League. Odsonne Edouard has had his playing time limited recently but he was involved in the third goal, combining with Zaha and Olise. I actually missed this goal going in, I thought Olise had put it wide as he had done a couple of minutes previously and looked away from the screen; only when the Japanese feed caught up did I realise what had happened. After passing the ball Zaha looks for all the world like he’s switched off, but he was in fact doing the sort of casual walk away usually done by NFL quarterbacks during a trick play.

Will Hughes’s finish was similar; being in the right place at the right time is often ascribed to good fortune, but Hughes is watching intently the entire time Gallagher turned and shot. He had started the move and made a support run, but not a single defender pays him any attention.

*A trip to Wembley and an FA Cup semi-final awaits the Eagles. It’s a shame it’s Chelsea, so Gallagher won’t be eligible for it, because we’ve had Manchester City’s number this season, and Liverpool in an FA Cup semi-final? There’s a bit of history there. Will Ford thinks this could end up being Palace’s greatest ever season. I’m not sure about that, because I think finishing third in the First Division and winning the Zenith Data Systems Full Members’ Cup in 1990-91 deserve a mention. Maybe it’s just Will showing his (lack of) age.

*You heard it here first/tenth, but provenance of ingredients is the next big thing in food; typically this means gastropubs proudly telling you which local farmer’s produce they are serving you, but it also means chain restaurants telling you which premium brand sauces they use to marinate their meat (not a euphemism). The sort of product that any taste tests in food magazines suggest are not especially good, but sell well in supermarkets because people see the brand and the price and think it must be good, because it’s expensive.

All of which seems like a good analogy for Everton’s transfer policy. According to Transfermarkt, they have spent more than £20m on 18 players previously. There are a lot of players for whom they have clearly paid over the odds, and the only logical explanation is that their approach is that these players must be good, because they are expensive. That this culture has continued through several different managerial reigns suggests that it, rather than any manager, is the real problem here.

*Frank Lampard’s comments after the match laid the blame entirely on his players rather than his management of them. His “you can’t keep buttering players up if they haven’t got the b#ll#cks to play” is unwittingly revealing that he has a major failing in his managerial abilities, as opposed to other high profile coaches like Gareth Southgate, whose successes seem to be primarily down to how he speaks to his players and manages them as people first, footballers second. He knew what the situation was when he took the job and to criticise the standard of the players he agreed to take charge of rings a little hollow in a way that was oddly reminiscent of the sort of comment Paul Jewell would regularly make while leading that Derby County team. It would not be surprising if Lampard loses his job before the start of next season.

*Radio 5 Live’s coverage and commentary on sporting events is highly commendable, but there is one thing that seems out of step in 2022, or makes me think I’m out of step with most people. To use Saturday as an example, they had live football commentary but every fifteen minutes or so there was an update on the rugby union, which was on 5 Live Sports Extra. I like a lot of different sports but I like them one at a time, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who made a choice to have one of football or rugby union live and the other on delay. With that in mind, surely anyone listening to 5 Live (over Sports Extra) made a decision of which sport they wanted live, unless I’ve completely misunderstood and there is in fact a large number of people who aren’t invested enough in rugby union to watch, listen to or follow (via social media) an entire game, but can’t live without periodic updates during something else they’re listening to.
Ed Quoththeraven


Red is the colour. Is that alright?
Liverpool are obviously the best team in Europe right now. Mo Salah is the best player in the world, Trent Alexander-Arnold has literally redefined the role of full back (and so has Andy Robertson). Jurgen Klopp is the best manager in the world, and Anfield on a European night is like no stadium on earth. Fabinho is clearly the most dominant defensive midfielder around (and has probably redefined the role too). Luis Diaz is the best January signing in the history of the premiership, and is obviously destined to take over the mantle of best player in the World when Salah lets go of it (which may happen fairly soon if he leaves the club). It is a truth universally acknowledged that Allison Becker is head and shoulders above any keeper on the planet, and Virgil Van Dijk has been the best defender in the Universe for the last few years now. And a quick word for Joel Matip, who makes Alan Hansen look like Vinnie Jones.

The quadruple is, basically, at this point a formality and if you can’t see that, you’re a moron.

If you haven’t worked out that was all trolling, then your name is almost certainly Ken (or you’re in his Reddit group).

There is a theme in the mailbox at the moment. It’s a battle between Liverpool fans being positive and optimistic, and occasionally hyperbolic, and others claiming that it is only Liverpool fans that behave in this manner because this is what Liverpool fans are like, and why can’t they be reasonable like (insert your team’s name) fans?

This is not a Liverpool problem. It’s a football fans problem. It’s slightly amplified at the moment because Liverpool are having a wonderful season. So far. Won a cup, have a favourable CL QF draw, have chased down a 14 point deficit at the top of the table and have an FA Cup SF coming up. Mo Salah is truly World class, but they have at least two or three more that one could reasonable make the same claim about. The squad had depth and quality, and the manager is at the top of his game.

I am not sure that there has ever been a better time to be a Liverpool fan (yet we might not win another thing this season because a lot of this will come down to outrageous fortune or lack of).

And I suggest that it is this that is behind the boring and repetitive “only Liverpool fans” tropes, and that this harks back to a time when men (maybe women, but probably men) of a certain age had to watch Liverpool dominate domestically and in Europe and it scarred them for life.

It’s not that Liverpool fans don’t include in their numbers a fair few idiots, but again, this is the same for all clubs. Especially United fans, who clearly have more headbangers than the rest of the League put together.

Calm down, I’m trolling again. We’re all the same basically. It is just that the manner in which our respective teams are performing has a profound effect on our collective behaviour. And at the moment, Liverpool fans feel pretty, pretty good about stuff. Arsenal fans right now have cautious optimism, but that optimism seems to be manifesting itself in a lot of defensive rhetoric if the last few mailboxes are anything to go by. This doesn’t mean that Arsenal fans are particularly this thing or that thing – they look like a return to the top table is possible after a few years in the wilderness and it seems to be making them a little twitchy.

My point is that we are all the same. We all arbitrarily support a bunch of millionaires who kick a sphere around very skilfully, and we lose our collective minds over what happens with that sphere.

Liverpool fans aren’t this, and Man Utd fans aren’t that, as much as some of you might like to think that our tribes aren’t basically the same.

I have to end on asking a question from another topic:

Why do some people come on here to deliberately argue and be contrary (often arguing points that they don’t even believe themselves), only to get really defensive and precious when people call them out on their shit? Are you so lacking in confidence about the person that you really are that you have to do this weird, pathological and constant projecting? Just be yourselves fellas, and see what happens.
Mat (obviously this stuff about fans all being the same doesn’t include City fans who are just the WORST)


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