Conte’s break offers Liverpool and Chelsea solution for Klopp and Potter problems…

Ian Watson
Graham Potter and Jurgen Klopp in conversation before Liverpool face Chelsea in the Premier League.

The Mailbox reckons giving managers should sometimes be given a holiday instead of the sack. Also: the genius of Ten Hag; Diet Trebles; Newcastle bullsh*t; Villa’s opportunity…

Get your views in to


Managers need a break
Although less than ideal, conte being away from spurs has actually been fairly successful and actually got spurs out of a bad run of form.

Which made me think whether rather than sacking an underperforming manager you send him away for a week on holiday even if it’s mid season. It would be a lot cheaper!!

Like when you’re studying for an exam or struggling with a problem at work , it is worth going and doing something completely differently and the solution comes to you.

Managers are intense and probably become even more intense when things go wrong. Players start to feel the pressure and then start plotting a revolt against the manager. With the manager removed the ideas are still in place but the players have the freedom to implement them. This is possibly part of the new manager bounce that is observed.

It would never happen, but maybe Klopp and Potter need a holiday.
Paulo (maybe it’s me who wants the holiday)


Ten Hag, Potter highlight influence of managers
If anyone ever questions the importance of the manager to a football club, you have two perfect examples of how much they matter right now.

ETH is doing a spectacular job at Manchester United ( sadly ). He’s brought in some absolute quality in the likes of Casemiro and Martínez and greatly improved what he already had – Rashford being the most eye catching example. Tactically he’s spot on and he managed to remove the most toxic swollen ego on the planet and actually came out stronger for the experience.

He’s now won one trophy and undoubtedly will be challenging for many more for many years to come. The club the looked like an unmanageable basket case for years has been sorted out in record time. Just by getting the right man in. This is obviously very much his level and he really is a world class manager.

The absolute opposite is Graham Potter at Chelsea. Handed the most ludicrously expensive squad you could imagine – he has literally no idea how to make them play. Tuchel got fired from Chelsea ( after winning the CL no less ) but they must be thanking God for the points he won before he was hoofed out.

Potter doesn’t know his best team, he doesn’t know how to tactically set them up and he’s losing games in a manner that is practically relegation form. As an aside – he’s a lovely bloke who doesn’t deserve the crap he’s getting. But this isn’t his level, he’s drowning and he’s taking Chelsea with him.

Two huge clubs but with two very different managers and two very different chances of success now and in the future. The very top tier of the game is a bloody hard place to excel in.

And it’s never been more important that you have the right manager you can excel with.
James, Liverpool ( and we still have the right manager – hopefully! )

Read more: Ten Premier League managers who completely f**ked their big chance, with Potter on brink at Chelsea


League Cup lift-off
You know what League Cup win gets overlooked for its importance? United in 2006.

Following Arsenal’s invincibles, Mourinho’s first 2 titles at Chelsea, the Kleberson/Djemba-Djemba era etc. Fergie was starting to look like a has-been. It sounds silly now but at the time, it looked like United’s era was over.

I remember the Mirror’s closing comments in the double page spread: “And just like that, Alex Ferguson was a winner again.”

And so began Fergie’s third great era.

The League Cup can be the springboard or it can be the mid-season silverware that keeps the winning mentality strong as you head into the last few months. United in the late 2000s had a couple of routine wins and so have City recently.

Not the biggest of competitions but it’s always good to win, no matter who you are.
Silvio Dante


Why it matters
Hi there,

Levenshulme Blue is right to say that Manchester City’s League Cup wins didn’t matter. But it’s not because the LEAGUE CUP is trivial and meaningless….
Dara O’Reilly


Dreamy sleepy nightie snoozy snooze
Newcastle fan Greg wrote in yesterday that his club had “made a city dream again – a city that was not even permitted to dream for far too long”. What an utter load of bollocks. Please pray tell, Greg, who it was that didn’t permit you to even DREAM of success? Because if the people of Newcastle really have been suffering under some sort of uniquely Geordie dictatorship that has managed to extend the long arm of the law so far as to be able to police its subjects’ very thoughts and desires, then somebody needs to inform Amnesty International at the very least, and probably Mulder and Scully while they’re at it.

It seems that, back down here on Earth, Newcastle fans have still failed to grasp why fans of other teams seem to despise them so much. Perhaps it is the sense that the people of Newcastle feel like they have suffered to some uniquely bad degree over the last 20 years, as opposed to the people of, say….Leeds, Birmingham, Preston, Sunderland, Derby, and so on? Or perhaps it is the indulgent glee at the Saudi purchase, and the indignant defence of the state’s war-crimes thereafter. Greg is of course right in that Newcastle probably will win silverware eventually, but my question to him would be this: will you enjoy it? Will it feel good to be permitted to dream again? I truly hope all of this posturing and excessive crying ends up being worth it.

Eyes rolling,
Matt, Berlin

Man Utd owner Avi Glazer shakes hands with Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan and chats with director Amanda Staveley.

Treble levels
When Liverpool won the League Cup, The FA Cup and the Europa League. Man Utd fans were very quick to label it a “Mickey Mouse Treble” (yes you did and you know you did) so with one of those trophies secured, I’d have you as favourites for the Europa League. And still being in the fa cup……IF and that’s IF you win all 3 trophies are you going to celebrate the “Mickey Mouse Treble” or shrug your shoulders and deem it unworthy of embarrassing celebration like it was back then??
Paul, Manchester


God moves in mysterious ways
Thank Robbie Fowler! It was truly beneficent of Him to have United up for sale at the same time as us. We might have attracted the Qatari interest, and then I would have had to turn my back on my beloved reds. Instead, I’ll be able to double my ha4e for the even more appropriately named ‘red devils’. 30 years of hurt, the pain of our current meltdown, Graeme Souness the manager, Roy Hodgson and Christian Poulsen and Paul Konchesky, Another Howler From David James, letting Xabi leave, Loris in goal in a final, Gerrard’s slip, hoping Andy Carroll is the answer, waiting for Naby lad to settle in, Luis Suarez, Hicks and Gillett for crying out loud: things I prefer supporting to an authoritarian, human-rights-violating state-owned club.
Rob, LFC NYC c/o JHB
PS if we ended up as the only non-sportswasher in the big 7, would it objectively mean more?


It’s on for Arsenal
City fan here. This mail is about the remaining fixtures for the current top four and Liverpool as at 27/02/23. (For our colonial cousins, y’all need to swap the ‘27’ with ‘02’ And don’t get me started on ‘sidewalks, ‘elevators’ or, God help us, ‘Aluminum’ 😊).

It’s just a discussion piece written, in part, with tongue firmly in cheek and is meant to be read as such. Do not get your tribal knickers in a twist at any point. Ta!

Was yakking with a Gooner mate yesterday about all things football from the weekend. He (this particular mate) is firmly in the ‘no-chance-of-winning-the-Prem-and-if-we-get-top-four-I’ll-be-happy’ camp. We ended up checking the remaining fixtures for both Arsenal and City and I was quite surprised at the result. Then checked United and Spurs and, just for kicks, Liverpool’s’ to see the likelihood of their gaining a top four spot. I’ve listed them all (briefly) below.

Obviously, there are FA cup fixtures and CL/EL games to throw in the mix so some of these five are going to have more fixtures and some less, with all that entails. But still, I’m throwing it out there.

Everton (H), Bournemouth (H), Sporting (A), Fulham (A), Sporting (H), Palace (H), Leeds (H), Liverpool (A), West Ham (A), Southampton (H), City (A), Chelsea (H), Newcastle (A), Brighton (H), Forest (A) and finally, Wolves (H).

Bristol City (A), Newcastle (H), Palace (A), RB Leipzig (H), West Ham (H), Liverpool (H), Southampton (A), Leicester (H), Brighton (A), Arsenal (H), Fulham (A), Leeds (H), Everton (A), Chelsea (H), and finally Brentford (A).

West Ham FAC (H), Liverpool (A), Real Betis (H), Southampton (H), Betis (A), Brighton (A), Newcastle (A), Brentford (H), Everton (H), Forest (A), Chelsea (H), Spurs (A), Villa (H), West Ham (A), Wolves (H), Bournemouth (A) and finally, Fulham (H).

Blades (A), Wolves (A), AC Milan (H), Forest (H), Southampton (A), Everton (A), Brighton (H), Bournemouth (H), Newcastle (A), United (H), Liverpool (A), Palace (H), Villa (A), Brentford (H) and finally, Leeds (A).

Wolves (H), United (H), Bournemouth (A), Real Madrid (A), Fulham (H), City (A), Chelsea (A), Arsenal (H), Leeds (A), Forest (H), West Ham (A), Spurs (H), Brentford (H), Leicester (A), Villa (H) and finally, Southampton (A).

I haven’t bothered going into any more detail such as who’s in which competition/fixture congestion/lack of it etc because that way madness lies. It’s just a broad look at what’s coming up.


The key thing for me is that Arsenal have been the most consistent team so far which, durrr, is why they’ve been top of the league for so long. City and United, on the other hand, haven’t been. Spurs are well, just Spurs aren’t they? Also, only Arsenal and United have their last PL games at home which, given that this is shaping up to be the tightest PL (at both the top and bottom) may prove to be significant.

I’m not a betting man but, looking at that set of fixtures, I really do think that Arsenal fans are within their rights to start to dare to dream. Furthermore, even if they don’t manage to prevail, who saw this season unfolding for them as it has?

I feel dirty just typing this but, if there had to be a vote for Manager of The Season on the 28th February 2023 (there isn’t and there won’t), it surely would be between Arteta and Fergie’s brand new Dutch mate. Yuck.

Oh, and Garey Vance and Badwolf. Genuinely expected better from you two in your response to Levenshulme Blue’s mail about the League Cup in Monday’s mailbox. You both know very well the point he was making. United win it and OH! Launchpad to a ‘quad’ no less. Crap when we win it but marvellous when you do. C’mon chaps! You can’t have it both ways.

The naughty step the pair of you!
Mark (At this point? Not convinced we’ll win the Prem). MCFC.


Villa can push for Europe
They say the table doesn’t lie. Villa have played every team at least once and 5 teams twice – Arsenal, City, Everton, Leeds, and Southampton. 11th probably does seem about right then. That said…

Emery has only been in charge for 11 of those 24 games, picking up 19 points in the process. In those 11 games he’s faced Arsenal, Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool, Spurs, and Brighton. Most media outlets described a recent ‘drop off in form’ or ‘blip’ and the lead up to the Everton game. I saw a team going head-to-head with Arsenal and a spirited 2nd half vs City – that’s the top two teams in the league. The Leicester result was admittedly a little disappointing but if a win rate of over 50% can be maintained I think Villa Park will be a very happy place. This is all before Emery has really stamped his mark too.

I don’t think a late European push is likely this season, but I am looking up the table (rather than down), and have a lot of hope for next. Delighted for Ollie Watkins too – just seems like a decent bloke. McGinn looks back to somewhere near his best. Diego Carlos is nearly back. Duran does look to have some real potential. I need a lie down. This is all too much.
Gary, AVFC


Clinging to the purity
Just a point about the purity and soul that can never leave football…

Right at the end of point 5 in 16 conclusions on the Utd v Newcastle final….about when it all boils down to it, after everything that football (and society) has become, with oil money, Tiki taka, philosophies, dabbing, VAR, FUT cards and so much more, that there is still aspects of football so prevalent such as ‘rattle this guy and see how he reacts’.

I love those basal things that still exist, that once upon a time were all that mattered, that didn’t really separate the pros in the top division from the yard dogs in the Manchester prem.

Tackling someone and eyeballing them and calling them a f**king k**b just for the sake of it.

Of course I still love football, nothing will change that, but I’ve wrote I before about those days pre 1995 (maybe later) before the pantomime, sensationalist aspect came in, the excitement of watching Italian football on channel 4 with the square nets, the divisions being called 1,2,3 and 4, and not being able to wait for goal of the month on MOTD to name just a few.

Intimidating someone at a corner, thank god you still exist.

Anyone else think of anything you’re clinging to that reminds you that this is the game we fell in love with?
Wigan Dave


Changing of the guard
As we all know, things in football go in cycles. Over the last five years I have enjoyed Liverpool being excellent and challenging Man City for the title on a few occasions. Over this time these two were head and shoulders above the rest of the league. These things don’t last forever, and both these great teams are ending their cycles. Certainly Liverpool have, and it can be argued Man City may also be in need of a re-build soon as they aren’t quite at their best this season. Although they will always be up there challenging.

Is it now time for a return to Arsenal and Man Utd battling it out for the title? Arsenal have a vibrant young team that will get better, regardless of if they see it through this season and win the title. The turnaround of Man Utd by ETH has been exceptional to be honest. Adding his first trophy can only be a major positive going forward (even if that trophy doesn’t mean anything if you don’t add to it – had to get that in!). Can see both teams spending in the summer and coming back even better next season.

Really hoping Liverpool can get their re-build done and gel again as quickly as possible, to try and make the title battles in the future a real four team battle along with the likes of Newcastle, and possibly Chelsea sorting themselves out, in joining a Arsenal, Utd and Man City title fight.

Man Utd fans – enjoy your trophy. Unlike a lot of fans, I personally enjoy winning any silverware, regardless of it’s status as there is only so many trophies available in a season.



Ziyech’s escape
Can anyone explain to me why Ziyech didn’t get sent off against Spurs? I can kind of understand why it wasn’t a straight red if he didn’t mean to hit Emerson Royal in the face but the fact remains that he pushed a player and his hand went into the face. Footballers need to be held accountable for their actions and not the limit of their intent. What’s to stop players just windmilling the entire game? I don’t mean to hit anyone but I’m performing a dangerous action that could possibly lead to it.

My question though is how is that not two yellow cards? Ziyech fouls Richarlison, the ref runs in with the yellow already out so we can assume that he’s going to book Ziyech. Ziyech pushes a player in the face, the ref decides that’s a straight red. Chaos ensues, ref rescinds red and gives a yellow. For what though? For the challenge or the push? Because surely those are each yellow cards and it should have been red anyway. The PGMOL already made their position clear on two consecutive yellows last year when they vehemently defended their decision to send Martinelli off.
SC, Belfast

Read more: It’s tough being a Chelsea fan…largely because of other Chelsea fans


Reply on Chelsea
Ah, Aravind, Chelsea fan (of course)

What blinkered, hypocritical, contradictory nonsense. I’ll try to address each point as they numbered:

1. The ESL was always a terrible idea. One conjured up and pushed by the businessmen who own these clubs and, despite fans best rose-tinted delusions, are just that – businessmen. Abramovich’s Chelsea signed up for exactly the same reason as Levy’s Spurs – money. F*ck the fans, f*ck history, f*ck communities, f*ck sport.. Money. More and more MONEY!

Not sure about the strawman argument/justification about the Premier League taking racism seriously compared to continental leagues, because A) does it really? and B) what’s that go to do with the ESL? Massively wild tangent there.

2. The War. Or as Roman’s pal calls it “special military operation”. Not wanting to comment on it, doesn’t negate it being important. In fact it’s the main reason for not commenting on it. Because both the aggressive invasion of the sovereign state of Ukraine, and incomprehensible wealth of an individual who could bankroll a football club in the upper echelons of European football for 19 years, are intrinsically and inescapably linked – corruption, coercion, suppression and threats (look up how Roman made his money)

3. New Owners – Boehly is a f*cking lunatic! A billionaire with money to burn and a sense that because he’s rich, he is a genius, rather than just privileged and lucky (see also: Musk, Elon). Has no clue about football, and has been approaching transfer windows like a drunk with a winning lottery ticket. You think Potter asked for those signings? He’s just got a rich man’s ego-boosting purchases sitting around a dressing room despite being of little worth, like a gallery full of Banksy’s.

4. Sacking Tuchel was ridiculous? You literally just said how great Boehly was.

5. Roman’s sackings resulted in an upturn – Boehly made a sacking. It didn’t result in an upturn. “I like Boehly-Clearlake’s long term vision, and they have understood where Roman messed up” – please explain?

6. “the insane Jan window”. The incontinent spewing of money for random players to be foisted into a squad. See point 3. “I like Boehly-Clearlake’s vision” Which is what?

7. On Our Football – I cant bring myself to refute everything here. Most of it is nonsense, and seems like a lot of copied-and-pasted Twitter comments. Mi not convinced Aravind actually watches football.

8. I agree here.

9. Is the season salvageable? No.

Im here all week. Tip your watiress.
Chris (Spurs sufferer) T


Palace postcard
Two months after the nation gave him a glorious send-off to retirement from Match of the Day, he turned up on talkSPORT; are we glossing over that, or ignoring it entirely?

*Good grief Crystal Palace v Liverpool was hard to watch. Two badly out of sorts bang average midtable sides should not be put on prime time television, games like this should get lost in the Saturday 3pm shuffle.

*Jurgen Klopp has been turning into the German Mourinho for the past few years, and this was the latest example of that. Much like his Portuguese counterpart, he’s always been incredibly charming (read: huge grin) when his team has won and incredibly ungracious in defeat – this site has previously, amusingly, described him as “excellent loser”, and he has started to get snarky in press conferences. On the pitch, what they have in common is that when things are going well, they play with fantastic style and it’s easy to overlook the undercurrent of snide; when things aren’t going well, they have a habit of saying the quiet bit loud.

This was the case on Saturday; their primary means of defence was to commit fouls, particularly to stop Michael Olise. Naby Keita was the first to be cautioned for this and ended up being substituted at half time. Jordan Henderson would receive the same punishment for the same offence. Fabinho and Andrew Robertson were both shown yellow cards for fouling Jordan Ayew, and Joel Matip probably felt a bit lonely as the only player to be booked for fouling Odsonne Edouard. As tactics go, it worked because Palace failed to have a single shot on target, largely because Liverpool committed fouls in midfield or out wide, from where an organised side can defend a free kick more easily than an open play chance.

Part of this is a team effectively playing the system. Rotational fouling bringing a player to the forefront until he is cautioned, then someone else taking the lead. While I prefer football’s approach to yellow cards, which punish a player for their personal transgressions, rather than rugby union’s approach of simply punishing the next offender without taking into account who the worst offenders were previously, there is perhaps a case for an additional collective punishment. Something based on basketball’s team fouls count would certainly clamp down on rotational fouling, but someone else will have to determine what the punishment should be.

*Liverpool’s problem isn’t confidence. As much as the “this means more” mindset attracts derision, they took to the field with the mentality that the sheer force of being Liverpool would be enough to propel them to victory. However, there is confidence and over-confidence, and too much of their play spilled over into the latter. Trent Alexander-Arnold was guilty of some terrible turnovers that a good team would have punished.

(Sidebar: if Everton don’t announce the opening of their new stadium with the line “this means Bramley-Moore” the whole thing will have been a giant waste of time and money)

*Palace deserve praise for their altruism. They served up a blueprint for how to play against Liverpool, where to focus pressing in order to force mistakes, which other teams will definitely profit from, but the Eagles were then generous to Liverpool by not actually scoring against them. Patrick Vieira clearly still believes in what Jean-Philippe Mateta does for the team but his lack of composure in scoring positions is becoming a problem. It’s basically Christian Benteke all over again, albeit with more mobility in the rest of his game.

*Watching the rugby league on Channel 4 yesterday, one player who stood out was Castleford winger Jake Mamo. Several times he made the hard bit of breaking through most of the St Helens defence look simple, only to then fail to find a teammate with an easy pass. He may well be the Super League equivalent to Jordan Ayew.

*Next up for Vieira’s team is a trip to Villa Park. Of all Palace’s March fixtures, it looks the most likely to yield their first win of 2023 (compared to facing Manchester City, Brighton & Hove and the Arsenal), but it’s by no means an easy game. Aston Villa have played well since Unai Emery arrived, perhaps because he isn’t weighed down by the pressure of believing himself to be a Liverpool manager in waiting. Wilfried Zaha could be in line to return to the first team, although whether he is risked from the start against a team with a history of kicking lumps out of him remains to be seen.

Overall, with the opposition they’ve had in January and February, five draws and three defeats is not a bad return. But there’s never a bad time to win a game.
Ed Quoththeraven


Messy Prem
La Liga after round 23, all teams 23 games played.
Bundesliga, 22, all teams 22 games played.
Same in France, 25/25.
My Eredivisie, 23/23

And then there’s the Bestest League in the World TM .. the almighty Prem, the real superleague:

Arsenal forever with their game in hand.
City on 25, United on 24, Liverpool with 23 and BHA with 22.

Why? It’s so annoying when looking at the table.. anyone else? Or just my brain??

Brexit really messed things up.
Stijn (yes i left out Serie A to make a point) Amsterdam