We have some real Spurs optimism from a Mailbox regular, some Manchester United reality and more mails on women’s football.
The season is now just days away. Send your thoughts on all subjects to firstname.lastname@example.org
Manchester United CAN make top four…it will be damned close
Of course Utd can make the top four and frankly their biggest chance in doing so is the fact that we’re talking about that 4th placed trophy rather than the ridiculous expectations of last season to push on from their second-place finish only achieved thanks to Liverpool’s ridiculous injury list.
Clearly City and Utd will finish top two, or at the very least one might have a disaster and finish third so there are two places left. Arsenal are being tipped to do better than last season as they have a proper manager and have made some good additions. However, we’ve heard it all before. Arsenal have been in transition every season since they decided to build a new stadium and if they don’t start well they’ll learn the pressure that comes with being the biggest spenders in the league for the last few seasons. Top 4 is a minimum for them now. Jesus could well be the difference that gets them there but any blip and the gunners fans seem to be very quick to turn on the manager and players in recent years. The last loud calls for Arteta out weren’t long ago. The last St Totteringham’s day was 15 May 2016, just saying.
Similarly, Spurs seem to have stabilised and become less Spursy. However, I can’t see anyone betting their mortgage on them finishing top 4. Spursiness is just a game away.
Chelsea, who were potential title contenders this time last year seem to have the least expectations on them and are expected to struggle. I’d have to agree with that. Tuchel strikes me as a fair weather manager based on nothing in particular and a lack of appetite to Google something.
And then Utd. Last season for me was rock bottom. Ole’s strongest traits of bringing some belief to the players and getting them to run around a lot went severely tits up and then we had the beige non-manager that didn’t have a hope in hell of turning things round (hindsight is a marvellous thing).
Move on 12 months and we have not lost any players that could make us weaker. We have gained key players in midfield and defence, have good youth prospects coming through, an actual manager/coach who has a way of playing and the cherry on top is that expectation is so low that the aim is 4th at a max. And even missing out on that might not be a disaster given the relative improvements of the other clubs who will be fighting for top 4.
I do have concerns for our striking options and quality but also feel the strengthening of the squad behind them might see more chances come their way and the transfer window is still open. Then we have the Ronaldo circus and the De Jong saga. One who want to leave and one who doesn’t want to come. The biggest boost to Utd’s chances of top 4 would be to give those two what they want and rather get 1 or 2 players in that want to play for us. Utd do probably have the most changes from last season so I’d expect them to be slower out of the blocks than the rest.
Do I think Utd will get top four? Who knows, but I don’t see much daylight between any of the four clubs realistically chasing 3rd and 4th. I’d go for Arsenal 3rd, Utd 4th and Chelsea/Spurs close behind. Between those four though I could see any order happening. Let’s also not forget that Newcastle were one of the strongest teams for the second half of the season. No-one seems to be taking them too seriously but I could see them throwing a further spanner in the works for the big clubs. So many six-pointers to look forward to…
Jon, Cape Town (hoping no Utd fans will take the bait of Lee Baron, hope you feel better soon buddy)
Five reasons Spurs will win the league this season
Following on from your unusually positive Spurs feature I have put together five reasons why we will win the league next season:
1. Our strength in depth. By the end of last season Conte had already transformed us into a formidable unit. The business we have done this summer has both strengthened our first XI and added immense depth to our bench. The signing of Richarlison means we are finally in position to rest Harry Kane without becoming toothless up front, while we have excellent cover right across the pitch. Something neither Liverpool nor Man City can claim to have. A squad in which Richarlison, Sessegnon, Lenglet, Hojberg, Skipp, Lucas, and Doherty aren’t considered first team starters is one to be feared.
2. Our fitness. We’ve all seen the viral videos of Conte’s punishing pre-season training methods, with players collapsing on the pitch. These rigorous training sessions aren’t done for show, they will serve to prepare us for the long season ahead. Look at how chiselled Harry Kane looks compared to the beginning of last season, he looks intimidating now and is ready to hit the ground running.
3. Our front three. People take for granted just how much of an impact Kulusevski was able to make after joining midway through the season. He added the perfect balance to our front three with his intelligent use of the ball and strength. Now imagine him alongside Kane and Son with a full pre season behind them. The three of them are a perfect combination of pace, intelligence, strength, ruthlessness and finishing ability. No other front three in the league comes close, which brings me onto reason number four:
4. Man City and Liverpool have made major changes to their attacks, and we don’t know yet whether they are changes for the better. Haaland and Nunez are completely different styles of striker compared to what City and Liverpool have been accustomed to in recent seasons, and it will take both sides time to adjust. They could well lose their attacking fluidity, which isn’t a concern for Spurs. Our attack is already proven.
5. It’s about time. City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Utd and our neighbours have all had their time in the sun in recent decades. Spurs’ turn for a period of dominance was always going to come eventually, and it feels like the stars may well be aligning for us, with the new stadium, world class manager, Kane and Son entering their primes and Levy going all out in the transfer market.
Bring on Saturday, I cannot wait.
Sir Alex DID adapt
Ferguson managed to continue after because he adapted to Wenger and Mourinho. He figured out how to beat them. Who’s to say that he wouldn’t have adapted to the modern game? Plus, I’d wager if Ferguson was still in charge at United would have had Harry Kane playing in red for years now. The whole team would likely be different. Saying that if he was managing now it would only be the League cup based on the team United currently have is nonsense.
My dad used to turn the sound of the TV off when Ferguson was speaking on the tv, and here I am defending him…the shame.
Jon (See you all at the Lane 2.0 on Saturday), Lincoln
…When angrily challenged by Roy Keane for having ‘changed’, Alex Ferguson responded by saying:
“I hope I have changed, because today is not yesterday…I would never have survived if I hadn’t changed”
Though their playing styles differ, how Ferguson, Klopp and Guardiola run their clubs and players is not. Ferguson’s success was remarkable for the consistency with which he delivered it over 3 decades. More than anything that takes adaptability – which is why he would in all likelihood be just as successful today.
Lee Baron’s breathtaking ignorance concerning not only Sir Alex Ferguson’s management style but also the approaches of the current greats is generally the kind of thing I expect F365 to publish during a slow summer. Provoke a “furious backlash”. But not the week before the new season! Surely Ed Quoth the Raven or some other mailbox luminary has more insightful hot takes for us?
In all seriousness though Lee. If you’ve taken the time to write to a footballing website then presumably you have at least a passing interest in the sport. If you genuinely think Ferguson’s man management amounted to “he used to throw teacups at them” then I suggest you read a book or two. Good news! Football biographies usually come with pictures!
Not blaming the referee in Euro final, actually
Quickish reply to Fat Man in yesterday afternoon’s mailbox. I realize the other mail he was responding to had blamed the referee, but I certainly didn’t. The handball incident happened in the 25th minute, there was enough time remaining for either team to score, as both indeed did. (1966 was arguably different given that it was in extra time and little time remained to equalize, but let’s not get into that).
I have no idea what Fat Man is referring to when he mentions ‘Oberdorf’s blatant sending off in the first half’ – neither does the match report/MBM I’ve quickly CTRL+F’d through to double-check. Even the exceptionally biased commentary on the BBC, which was aghast at every single physical-but-fair German challenge and actively promoting ‘making a meal of things’ to try to get Germany’s players booked, did not claim Oberdorf should have seen red at any point.
I’m not sure where this rose-tinted view of women’s football is coming from either. OK fine, I’m actually pretty sure its coming from the perspective of people who have only just began to pay attention to women’s football (at a time when England’s women’s team has just won something, what fortunate timing)!
If we’re talking about “petty bullshit” in football, one of the first things which comes to mind is Hope Solo’s wonderful rants over the years. I enjoy Solo’s perspective and appreciate that she shares it so openly, but its really hard to dispute that the label “petty bullshit” is pretty apt. More broadly, are we really going to pretend that we didn’t see plenty of incidents of players feigning injury to try to get each other booked? There is no reason to put women’s football on a pedestal like that. It’s engaging and worthwhile and exciting and important, but it’s not perfect and there’s no reason to pretend that it is.
Fat Man also claimed ‘we saw two excellent teams playing football, with the more experienced team resorting to hacking and cheating’. That’s not the match I saw, but football is a game of opinions. My opinion was that we saw two excellent teams playing extremely nervously given the occasion, with the eventual winners resorting to spending the entire final 10 minutes holding the ball in the corner, including one moment when an England attacker had a clear route to goal but chose to turn around and bring it back towards the corner.
It was 100% the right thing to do, but if you’re watching from any perspective other than an English one, you’re not coming away thinking “wow, what a festival of football that was!” Then again, Fat Man seems to be of the opinion that Manchester City and Liverpool “hardly play any football” so again, football is a game of opinions, I suppose!
I’ll end by emphasising that as disappointed as I was for Germany not to win on Sunday, it’s inarguable that this result will have a hugely beneficial impact on football in this country, for all people but especially women, and for that reason it is A Good Thing that England won, regardless of personal preferences.
Oliver (In fairness, if I were an Everton supporter I’d be keen to switch track too…) Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
How to make women’s club football more accessible
Now the Lionesses are sobering up, a few dull but important thoughts on how to increase attendances at domestic women’s games apart from the occasional showpiece, often during a men’s international break. I speak as a fan of a club with a very successful men’s team and a women’s team who’ve been successful too but have underperformed recently. I’ve been going to matches for more than 40 years and am a parent of a (not as a little as she once was) girl.
Firstly, if you’re a big boy club, let the big girls play in your big boy stadium every week. People know where they are, the facilities are great and it’s also a respect thing. Lots of seats to fill? You boast about your marketing strength? Excellent, you have just accepted your mission. If you won’t do it, get out of the way. The women don’t need you.
One thing you could do to make filling those seats easier is to allow walk-up admission on the day. I am not singling out Everton (others are just as bad) but to have a crowd below 10,000 in Goodison for the visit of City last season and no tickets available on the day is ridiculous. There may be the need to add some temporary ticket offices but that’s part of the price of saying you’re on the women’s football train.
While you are it, stop using the women’s teams as data gathering exercises both for people close to your ground who have never been before or to find out yet more about the middle aged blokes who’ve been supporting your club for decades. Just let them buy a ticket without revealing the inside leg measurement of everyone they have ever lived with.
Now that you’ve got a big stadium, you can offer separate fan experiences to the two audiences the women’s game needs to attract. In the main stands, kids (and particularly girls) with parents, many of whom may be at best people with a passing interest in football. Which means the fans who might prefer a saltier atmosphere can go behind the goal and everyone is happy. The players themselves want both types of support
To make things even easier for the clubs (and this is particularly true of the big six), think about the default kick off time for matches, which I think is a powerful tool for driving up crowds, maybe as much as attractive ticket prices . Saturday at 3 o’clock might appeal very strongly to both sections of the fan base we have already described. As an extremely old man, I also find it weirdly easy to remember.
Finally, scheduling. This isn’t easy (particularly when I am insisting on clubs using their proper stadiums) but when City men are at home and United men are away, United women should be at home and City women away. That’s not hugely difficult most of the time. Ideally, they should play on different days, although I accept that won’t always be possible. But men’s and women’s teams for individual clubs should not be playing simultaneously other than on extremely rare occasions. Twice in the last five years, City women have played a Cup Final at Wembley while City men are playing a Premier League match . Last May, City fans had to choose between the penultimate men’s league game of the season at West Ham (you may remember it was all a bit of an arse-nipper) and an FA Cup Final. That’s wrong and shouldn’t happen again.
That’s also not on the clubs. That’s on Sky, who’ve been extremely keen to bathe in the reflected glory of the Lionesses. I’ll be judging their commitment, however, not on the PR they put out but how they schedule men’s coverage in a way that gives the women a chance.
There’s a cavalcade of other stuff to do with school PE, pitches, coaching and some people being a disgrace of course. But getting consistently good domestic crowds is important, and what I have outlined above will help.
Let’s talk legacy
I might be a bit late to the party but I took a bit of an epic journey to get home and then a couple of days to recover. I went to the final on Sunday and had the honour of taking my 72 year old dad and 12 year old daughter. My daughter and I have been to several games over the last year or so including games in the 3rd and 4th round of the (men’s) FA Cup in January, a women’s world cup qualifier, the group game between England and Northern Ireland and a Bournemouth women’s home match at the Vitality.
Why is any of this important? Because on the way home she asked to go to more matches but specifically more women’s matches. I said I would look up England matches and she asked if we could go to WSL matches, she just wants to watch as many live matches as possible. Our nearest WSL team is Reading so we are now off to their home match against Liverpool in September. We will also take in Southampton games in the Championship and Bournemouth matches if they return to the Vitality, or even if they don’t (their usual home is Ringwood Town’s ground). She also asked me to pump up the flat footballs which have sat in the shed for years unloved.
This story must be playing out all over the country. This is a jump off point for live matches, for participation and for getting millions more people into football. With the Women’s Finalissima set for February 2023, the World Cup in July and August 2023, the Olympics in 2024 and the next Euros in 2025 the momentum is already in place to make sure this isn’t a one off. And that is how you build a legacy.
Micki Attridge (my voice has just about come back now)
On the trans/women’s sport debate
I feel like the reason people have the view trans women can’t compete with women is a lack of knowledge.
1. Trans women do not have male biologies. The whole point in taking female hormones is it changes the testosterone levels, muscle and bone densities and other characteristics into female ones. If it didn’t do that then why would everyone be so worried about the drastic and permanent changes of people’s bodies by the meds? You can’t argue it changes people permanently while simultaneously arguing it doesn’t.
2. Studies show that trans women actually perform significantly worse than previous after transition. They also perform worse than almost all women too. Evidenced by the fact that despite competing for nearly a decade virtually none have won a professional medal yet and it’s incredibly rare to even make the top 5. If they really had a massive advantage they’d be winning left right and centre so clearly they don’t have a huge advantage.
3. The risk for other women is intense. See if you gatekeep against trans people you need to create rules and laws which force women to “prove their gender” based entirely on how they look. It’s humiliating enough that someone has been told they don’t look like a women but then to force them to undress so they can be inspected is a massive level of disrespect and invasion of privacy and bodily autonomy. This has also, so far, been applied almost exclusively to black African runners. Take from that what you will.
Over time this type of rule will be grossly exploited by men in power in sports in order to put women in compromising positions, just like how coaches and medics have done in athletics for decades.
4. The “natural advantage” argument is very flimsy. Even if they did have one (they don’t) why aren’t we calling to ban any competitor in any sport who has above average genetic gifts? Ban above average height high jumpers. Ban boxers with above average arm length. Michael Phelps has a rare genetic abnormality which gives him greater lung capacity – should he be banned? Tall basketball players? Banned. Etc etc. If you’re argument is trans women should be banned because their natural gifts raise them above the level of other competitors then you should be applying that to everyone everywhere and we’ll have some very average sports across the board.
Why is natural advantage celebrated in every other demographic (think how many times you’ve heard people talking about someone’s natural talent) apart from trans people? The answer is because you have an issue with trans people and don’t want them to be equally represented.
You can’t ban trans people without introducing horrific practices regarding gender testing which treats people like cattle. I don’t want to see anyone treated that way and if you believe it will only be applied to trans people you’re very naive.