It’s a grumpy Monday morning Mailbox, with problems at Tottenham and Man Utd among the talking points. Do we all owe Ole Gunnar Solskjaer an apology?
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Writing in before full time, simply because I’m so irritated. Any change to the score line won’t be in favour of Spurs.
Now, there will be other mails about the personnel and sh*t they are. Which will be true and I’ll assess some of the performances in a moment.
We were very lucky to get Antonio, said people not realising he’ll be getting paid around £15m per season for the pleasure. Sarcasm aside, he is a great coach. Wtf was that lineup though. People will argue he’s working with a limited squad and that’s not inaccurate. Pick the best of a bad bunch though, A Conte. As much as Bentancur is, apparently, the second coming of Glenn Hoddle, you wouldn’t want your first start in the league to come paired with one Mr Winks. So why Winks? Why Sessegnon? Why Sanchez? RWB, you’re never going to win but try Moura there. Or something. Anything.
Lloris. Great servant to the club but, even with all the mediocrity in front of him, all he had to do was be anything better than mediocre to deal with either goal conceded. Pick apart the teamwork, or lack thereof, all you want but he did not cover himself in glory whatsoever. This isn’t a comment based on isolated incident, however, I’d have liked to see him leave in the summer.
Surely with PEH and Reguilon starting today we’d have had more control. Rodon over Sanchez anyone? Who, btw, was terrible even based on Davinson Sanchez standards. Just awful. Davies plays because there’s no other option.
I appreciate the limitations, I really do. Changes, obvious or creative, are required so I get that changes are made. We are weakest at RWB, so why not a creative change? Much stronger are LWB, so what do we do? Weaken it. Centre mid a bit light? Take out our Viking warrior that, despite his limitations, is exponentially better than Winks. Why not play 3 in the middle of the park to offer more control? Centre backs a bit shoddy? No change. How is Joe Rodon going to be any worse than Sanchez?
Neither Sonny or Kane had their shooting boots on today. You can argue we carved out some decent chances and with clinical finishing it’d be a different story. All it’d have done was deflect away attention on our incompetencies. How we play with the ball at the back is shocking and I don’t see this from any team on such a consistent basis.
3 losses on the trot. The last 2, both at home, to mid-table powerhouses Southampton and Wolves. The latter of which are now above us in the table.
The absolute lol in all of this is what if we win our 2 games in hand, as well as or including the postponed Arsenal match, we will be 4th. Of course, that won’t happen. Not even in an alternate reality is there a back line including Sanchez, Davies and one of Doherty or Royal that would achieve CL qualification.
It’s brilliant that most Man U, Arsenal and Spurs fans are all bitching about their current circumstances, whilst all fighting for a realistic chance of CL qualification. WHU fans aren’t included because they’re happier and will probably be the ones who nick that last spot anyway.
So is it all really that bad? Well, yes. It’s not a lack of gratitude but a reflection of how far behind the established ‘big 3’ we all are. That’s harder for United to accept, considering their history. Arsenal fans will argue their recent history – you know, actually winning some stuff – will mean they’re harder done by than Spurs. I’d have to agree, unfortunately. Despite a blip for Tottenham, of doing relatively well under Poch, we are actually regressing to the painful norm of yesteryear.
It’s not to say we can’t change that narrative. We can. I’m just not sure what it is that has to change. Terrific coach in? Checked. First class facilities including training ground and stadium? Yep. Questionable board leadership leading to odd player investment and a super average squad? Bingo.
Forget if Spurs can attract quality players. We can. We have enough of a history, an outstanding stadium and we’re based in London. We also can pay handsomely on the old wage packet. But we just won’t pay top dollar on transfer fees. The few occasions we’ve splurged, we kinda f*cked it. We either have to discover unknown talent and be up early in the morning to catch that worm or we need to put enough money on the table to get the more established players, without it being £42m for Sanchez or £30m for Sissoko. Neither strategy happens or will happen.
Glen, Stratford Spur
…How do you solve a problem like Spurs? There are no easy answers, but 3 Premier League losses in a row (soon to be 4) point to plenty of problems.
After the Southampton game I wrote to The Mailbox about the problems with the quality of the players. Now step forward Antonio Conte.
First off, Conte should be offering Sessegnon a huge apology. He was the sacrificial lamb for Conte’s refusal to change from 5-2-3 before the game, only rectifying his mistake after the horses had bolted.
And before anyone starts, it’s absolutely not 3-4-3, and that is a huge problem.
In this iteration of 5-2-3 our midfield two (whatever combination that is) have been pulled around the pitch by the opposition, resulting in lots of holes and little to no protection for the back three.
But isn’t it a back five in the 5-2-3 I hear you ask? No. The wing backs have been operating in no man’s land. Too advanced to be part of (or inspire confidence in) the defence, too far back to add meaningful support or quality to the attack. This positional no man’s land has obviously resulted in significant issues (see Southampton’s last two goals) with no player coming out well recently.
Antonio Conte is clearly a talented manager but he’s been guilty of being locked to a formation that exposes every one Spurs’ weaknesses. Today was in the same class of performances that Jose or Nunes offered up at their nadirs.
Conte is a broken record when talking about how far the quality of Spurs’ playing staff has fallen, so he clearly knows the limitations of the players. What he needs to start doing is coaching around this fact.
At the moment the players are lambs to the slaughter in 5-2-3. Conte needs to give these players a chance and play the hand he’s been dealt. 4-3-3 would be a start, but trying anything other than 5-2-3 would be an acknowledgment and a step in the right direction.
…Stayed up to watch Match of The Day to see if were as bad as the radio had said.
Jon (anyone else worried about Son?), Lincoln
Ralf has had 10 Premier League games at Man United. In those 10 games the highest placed team he has played is West Ham. He’s also played 6 of the bottom 10 in the league including the team bottom of the league twice. He has taken 19 points.
In Ole’s final ten games he played 5 of the current top 8 and 6 of the top 10 teams in the league. He took 14 points.
Is it just me or is becoming increasingly clear that it might not have all been Ole’s fault.
Man Utd’s players the problem?
Unfortunately for Ved Sen, to those not wearing red tinted glasses, it does appear that players like Ronaldo, Rashford, Fernandes, Pogba, etc, are incapable of carrying out the managers plan. The mere fact the opposition manager can clearly articulate what United can’t and don’t do, and use it against them, shows it’s the players.
OGS papered over the ‘cracks’ and got lucky from individual performances. But it wasn’t a sustainable ‘plan’ and once Ronaldo came on board, wouldn’t work as Ronaldo slowed the game down and required he become the focal point.
The current United team simply don’t have the personnel to play a press – either not fit enough or too lazy to play to a structured plan. We saw how Pogba can play well for France but requires Griezman to put in the hard yards and mop up around him. He can’t be relied to track back hence relying and can be lazy in passing – resulting in France missing out on the Euros. But it’s not just Pogba. Fernandes who almost single handedly kept United going under Ole while given a free role, is having a hard time adjusting to playing within a structured plan – same as when he plays for Portugal. The full backs all seem to not be positionally aware and apart from McTominay the midfield can go missing applying a lot of pressure on Varane and Maguire. The latter playa much better for England because he doesn’t have to do it all defensively.
If the players don’t like the basic training, as the rumours indicate, they need to get with the program. You might be able to carry one top player who wants the freedom to play to their own tune but no more. In Pogba, Fernandes and Ronaldo have 3, and it seems it’s brushing off on Rashford, Dalot and Shaw. Hence United will continue to struggle to play well for a whole game.
Luckily they’ve drawn another team struggling in the next round of the CL, but Atletico must be slathering at the chance to turn their season around against the easy pickings United currently present.
When are we going to have an honest conversation about Maguire, why is the bristish media still skirting around it, even the usually forthright F365 will only go as far saying he’s having a bad season, an euro 2020 hangover yunno, Paul Pogba won the actual world cup and didn’t get a pass, no other players did so why do the british media insist on making excuses for or completely ignore Maguire like he isn’t an 80m British pounds, slow and ponderous elephant in the room.
Oh I guess he’s got a sensible hairstyle and he doesn’t dance so we won’t get 432 articles from Ian Watson about how he’s been a waste of total money and he’s letting his teammates down.
Nobody can have an honest, agenda-free conversation about Man Utd right now, the media and the pundits have their favourite scape goats.
The post match comments from Paul Scholes says alot, he would rather talk about Bruno Fernandes and Ralf. Why is an honest appraisal of the world most expensive defender and Man Utd’s captain too much to ask. He’s never achieved anything noteworthy in football so why does he seem to have so much credit in the bank, what’s this privilege??
Like ffs! Someone explain pls
Hope, Nigeria (rant over)
Champions of the world
So, the next time any F365 Journalist write anything along the lines of “For some reason the Club World Championship is bizarrely not as valued in Europe as South America etc” they may want to see today’s homepage for proof.
The first article we see on it is one about Tuchel’s post match quotes, so not even what I’d call analysis. And hardly a raucous celebration, either
Ahead, (in order of page placment on the page) of reporting on an English club becoming WORLD CLUB CHAMPIONS are a mailbox headlined by usual Man U / top 4 dross, Coutinho piece… Wilshere Arsenal cotract…Euro 28 bid… general news … Winsome Frank Lampard and Everton…Man U Early losers ….news again that Dany Murphy thinks ma U are shambolic… the Sterling hat trick…
Finally, news on Chelsea’s extra time win to become only the third UK team to be legitimately called the Best In The World.
Come on guys, ease off criticises other outlets for clickbait and actually celebrate something like this with the respect it deserves.
…Champions of the World, a very surreal thing to ever say as a football fan when it comes to your club but hey that is what Chelsea now are even if the game itself was terrible and for 120 minutes i was convinced we would not be lifting the trophy, overall a trophy no matter what it is is an achievement and the fact Cesar Azpilicueta has won everything possible in the English game is fantastic and truly puts him amongst the greats in our history, i also loved the fact he took the ball for the penalty in the dying embers of the game so the Palmeiras players would give him all the stick to put him off, play those mind games and then he places the ball on the spot for Kai Havertz to bury it in the net, that is a true captain and i must admit i am shocked this has not been done before by a player or perhaps it has and we have simply not heard about it.
Second 100% agree with Naz on the TV Blackout point, it is still ludicous that fans in the UK miss 15 minutes of the Serie A evening game each week due to the blackout, i am certain that lifting the ban for say those games in particular are not going to result in the attendance of Barrow vs Stevenage dropping in significant numbers, it is time to move with times.
Finally a birthday XI? mine is dreadful and to make a 5-a-side team would be hard, having a look at the greatest XI you could field based on a calendar month however yields this for June:
That XI and manager is just insane, maybe the midfield is totally unbalanced but still, when it comes to squad players for June take your pick from Alaba, Riquelme, Platini, Sneijder, Aubameyang, Raul, Hansen and Ancelotti, oooft!
The Admin @ At The Bridge Pod
Lukaku in the wrong place?
Watching Big Rom belaboring up and down the field makes me think he’s in the wrong place, his latest header from the vicinity of short Palmeniras’ center-backs notwithstanding.
Rom’s specialty – like Timo’s – is to run the channels. Feed him early and he’ll keep everybody at bay – spectacularly so, like against Villa.
Once he runs at the goal he’s impossible to stop. Guy will run through a wall if needed. And: he has a decent % of goals per run. There’s your 20+ goals a season.
But that’s it: he is not a box player in the mold of Lewandowski, Benzema or even Dzeko, but merely a more physical Timo with the added ability to head the ball.
His trampoline first-touch doesn’t serve him well when pinned in the box with the goal at his back.
But Chelsea play no “channels”. Instead “possession” is their game, which they dominate even when losing matches.
Chelsea runs are at well-packed defences, their centre forwards static targets in the opponent’s penalty areas.
Neither Lukaku nor Werner do well in that locker of a setting.
Tuchel is now asking two world-class forwards to perform roles as alien to them as underwater synchronized swimming.
To “monetize” Lukaku and Werner, Tuchel must jettison his possession-obsession and play counter.
He doesn’t have the inclination to do so, despite the bevvy of perfectly suited available talent (Zyeych. Kovacic, Pulisic Mount, etc. etc)
No wonder then Werner and Lukaku are grumbling and muttering.
Enter Roman Arkadyevich, whose high-standards, short-patience and swift-beheadings have long entered the folklore.
Chelsea’s end of season may be the end of more than just the season.
Radu Tomescu, Taipei, Taiwan
After a very public division over Wenger in v Wenger out our fans have been prone to muppetry
But this is how it goes sometimes. Most fan bases are prone to cycles of moronic behaviour and actions akin to spoilt children. We will grow out of it probably
Probably best to avoid over analysing this
…Kroenke just won a Super Bowl using Arsenal as collateral. Wake up you bunch of muppets!
Expat North Banker, St. Louis MO USA
…In Friday’s Mailbox, Ash wondered why Arsenal are hated so much. In addition to the replies in the subsequent Mailbox, perhaps I can be of some assistance here, as Sean Connery said in the film Rising Sun.
Arsenal have always had the reputation of looking down on other teams, going back decades. I remember a former chairman describing Brian Clough and an upstart and an insolent puppy. That’s the same Brian Clough who won two European Cups, two more than Arsenal ever have. Arsene Wenger carried on the club’s traditionally supercilious attitude, often being outraged when other teams wouldn’t stand back and allow them to play their superior football, yet equally regularly being blind to when his own team did the same.
In more recent years, I remember in a When Saturday Comes season preview, an Arsenal fan acknowledged that other teams felt that Arsenal looked down on them and this opinion was probably justified. Once you get a reputation like that, it can take years to shake off, and I’m afraid the sense of entitlement that regularly emanates from the Emirates does little to help.
PS Ruben Neves’ remarks about Arsenal’s celebrations after winning at Wolves appear to have pissed off Piers Morgan. Surely that can only be a good thing?
Paul Quinton, Wolves
Thankful for VAR
For a team that doesn’t usually get VAR or penalty breaks, Newcastle United were gifted a break against Aston Villa. It looked like a draw between Krafth’s heel and Watkins toe. In real time & on the freeze frame view I saw it as a goal, and another case of a Newcastle defensive let down (Krafth should have been punished for lingering so deep). So thank you VAR for a totally unexpected reversal, it’s been too long since we’ve had a decision like that go our way.
As for Aston Villa, they absolutely deserve to feel they were wronged. I don’t see this decision as a positive indicator of the spirit of VAR. They had the attacking intent, and since goals were at a premium in this match, a decision that was this close should give the draw to the team that scored. This liked more like a thickness of the line decision than a clear and obvious error by the refs.
Definitely mixed feelings for this NUFC fan. 3 points instead of 1 is good, but this shouldn’t be used as a shining example of the use of VAR. A draw would have been an accurate result of the match, so it looks to me like it was a case of VAR putting its thumb on the scale for a Newcastle advantage. Bottom line, I won’t be looking too closely at the teeth of this gift horse.
The English league’s newest team, FC Isle of Man, NW counties league, played a double header this weekend with two games in two days. In today’s game a goal was disallowed with the result being a goal kick. How did this happen I hear you ask.
Fc IOM we’re attacking on the edge of the box, a pass hit the ref. As is the new rule this is an uncontested drop ball. Drop ball played, FC IOM player takes a touch and buried it bottom corner. Apparently you can’t score direct from a drop ball. Interested to know If a goal has ever been disallowed from a drop ball ever before. My gut says no.
John (up the ravens), rock in the Irish Sea