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Alphabet XI – A-Team v B-Team 1st Leg
To ease the transition back towards live football (and mostly because I am a bit of a geek), I have taken the liberty of bringing the F365 Feature Alphabet XI’s to life to settle the timeless question of who wore it be- er, which team is better. Using cutting edge gene sequencing from fossilised remains and computer-generated statistical projectioning programmes (simming it on FIFA), we have pitted the awesome A-Team vs the bourgeois B-Team, with the intention being to crown the best-lettered team of them all.
First, some disclaimers; any retired players have been faithfully recreated in terms of ability whereas the likenesses are… creative at best. Starting XI’s are as stated in the articles but there has been some licence taken with the subs bench due to limitations with the scientific technology available to date, sheer convenience and a difference of opinion. Team tactics reflect the adopted manager’s style of play.
To re-cap from the feature, the teams are as follows:
A-Team [Arsenal] XI: Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Tony Adams, Toby Alderweireld, Cesar Azpilicueta, Darren Anderton, Xabi Alonso, Mikel Arteta, Dele Alli, Sergio Aguero & Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Subs: Nathan Ake, Marcos Alonso, Joe Allen, Felipe Anderson, Michail Antonio, Nicolas Anelka & Tammy Abraham.
Manager: The furrowed brow of Unai Emery but the tactical genius of Carlo Ancelotti.
B-Team [Bournemouth] XI: Fabien Barthez, Henning Berg, Slaven Bilic, Steve Bruce, Leighton Baines, David Beckham, Gareth Barry, Michael Ballack, Gareth Bale, Dennis Bergkamp & Dimitar Berbatov.
Subs: Artur Boruc, Hector Bellerin, Phil Bardsley, Ross Barkley, John Barnes, Mario Balotelli & Peter Beardsley.
Manager: Eddie Benitez.
All ties are two-legged in the Alphabet Cup by design to allow us to enjoy the revival of some of our favourite players in more depth. Not tooting my own horn; these games are genuinely interesting enough to watch all the way through on full volume, but a highlight reel will be labelled in the description and a match report posted in the mailbox for those with more sense than time.
Full match: https://youtu.be/7wpRiUrw5cU – don’t forget to have your say on the polls!
The match report (SPOILER ALERT) compiled by some jobbing journo for those who just want to know is as follows:
The first five minutes of this heavyweight match-up passed by with Bergkamp pulling the strings for the Bees, in his first competitive appearance in just over 14 years, whereas Arteta was at the heart of some tidy build-up for the Albion. Bale looked dangerous and so it proved when he leaped to meet a delightful Beckham cross and put the B-Team ahead.
The A-Team rallied and some nice work from Arteta led to a glorious opportunity on 11 minutes for Aguero to level things up, which was well-saved by Barthez, happy to thwart anyone in an Arsenal kit like the good ol’ days. The resulting corner was notable for TAA booting his corner into Arteta’s ‘nads from 3 yards, deflecting the cross into Tony Adams’ path for a trademark overhead kick which is successfully blocked. The next one breaks to Sicknote whose drive is deflected over. Barthez smothers another Ageuro chance before Alisson swallows a Bergkamp effort.
A good spell of possession of the A-Team follows before Bergkamp is put through from Bale but Alisson saves the drive well. Baines fouls Anderton on the inside edge of the box after Barry is dispossessed expertly by Alonso. That must be a penalty! But no, free kick says the ref. Travesty. Unai Ancelotti looks to the heavens. Aguero on dead-ball duty chips one in which is cleared and smashed towards goal by Arteta, with Barthez saving well.
Just past the half-hour mark, and Berbatov breaks free after Bergkamp’s pass but is offside. Soon after, he is played into the box by the same expert culprit and buries the ball at Alisson’s near post; 2-0. The vaunted A-team’s defence is not up to all that much. Xabi Alonso scythes a ball to Aguero in the box but a poor touch costs him the opportunity. Ballack tries from range, comfortably saved. Aubameyang has the ball worked to him in the box and gets a fierce drive pushed away one-handed by Barthez in brilliant style. Eddie Benitez smoulders on the touchline. Ancelotti grimaces and Adams hoofs one away. Half-time arrives. Stern words in the A-team camp are due.
And they most certainly arrive, as the second half starts with a rasping Arteta drive again beaten away with a stiff Barthez palm. The corner is headed by Alderweireld into Barthez’s grateful clutches. The A-team remain in the ascendency and win a corner. But then dark side of Unai supersedes the Ancelotti inside of him; Joe Allen comes on for Arteta. Benitez sees sense and hooks Bale for John Barnes. Anderton nearly buries the resulting chance but fires wide. Aubameyang then shares a neat 1-2 with Allen on the edge of the box and blasts the most fierce drive of the game for the top right-hand corner, and Barthez somehow palms it over! Unbelievable Jeff! Tony Adams then has a free hit from the six-yard box and Ballack blocks with his bollocks and it bounces over the bar! Oh, what could have been.
Aubameyang proceeds to have a few half-chances saved by Barthez. On 70 minutes, Michael Ballack drives down the right and turns onto his left before blasting a shot onto Alisson’s right-hand post and back into play. Barry is then subbed for Barkley. A free-kick down the right leads to an Alli shot, again saved comfortably. Allen creates a neat heading opportunity for Anderton which is wasted. Anderton is then felled clumsily by Barkley for a booking. Ake comes on for TAA. Aguero is on the free-kick at the half-way line when he plonks a perfect ball on Dele Alli’s forehead which lobs Barthez from outside the box in style not dissimilar to RVP’s famous effort at the World Cup! And just like that, the tie is back on!
The game peters out to a close before Beckham passes to Berbatov who passes to Bergkamp who lays off Barnes in the box to drive at goal, well-saved by Alisson. The corner is cleared but the ball is worked back to Berbatov who tees himself up to volley at close range which is expertly saved. Beckham has the last short of the game to little effect. The referee calls time and the tie is nicely poised for the return leg at Bramall Lane.
MOTM: Dele Alli 8.8/10
The highlights for the second-leg and an accompanying match report will be released tomorrow and I will do this for the Seasons XI’s if this takes – you’re in for a treat from Goldenballs (https://youtu.be/_eIVn1GXK0c) and the match is an instant classic 🙂. Hey, it’s no worse than Football Manager.
Kind regards, stay safe.
Andrei (Brackets are never dated) Kerkache
Gerrard/Beckham – who cares…
The 1999 and 2005 Champions League Finals being discussed show just how mis-leading football stats and how varied opinions can be.
No one can really dispute that “the better team lost” on both occassions, but stats show that ManU had more possession and more shots than Bayern yet everyone still considers them lucky to come out victorious as Bayern were clearly more of a threat and the woodwork was struck twice with Schmeichel well beaten. Beckham had some influence on the game as he took both corners from which they scored but no one remembers his contribution as anything more than normal.
Statistically AC Milan dominated Liverpool in every department other than the one that matters but whilst everyone knows that Liverpool scored 3 in a 6 minute spell, people forget that AC scored 2 in the final 6 minutes of the first half. Indeed, this period started with a very contentious moment, Luis Garcia skins Nesta but as he slides past the ball, he clearly stops it with his hand/arm, the next Liverpool player to touch the ball is Dudek when he picks it out of the net. VAR would almost certainly have disallowed the goal and awarded LFC a penalty, an equalizer in the 39th minute may well have led to a far different outcome. And by that I mean that AC wouldn’t have come out with a “this games won” attitude or Liverpool with a “well at least lets win the second half and stop the embarrasment”.
I don’t know any ManU or Liverpool fan who would have it any other way or who shouldn’t consider it their teams most memorable night (with apologies to 1968 and 1977) and they have their OGS night and we have Gerrard and those last 6 words sum up expertly who had the most influence but really, no one cares.
Howard (Dudek was the real hero) Jones
Gerrard, the man without a home…
I have to respect Gerrard for his achievements and abilities, but my overriding memory of Gerrard is as a man without a home. Benetiz knew he wasn’t a natural in deep lying midfielder, that’s why he played him off the right and then through the middle and bought Alonso. Cappello pushed him further forward. Continental managers MAY have recognised a shortcoming in his game. And although many would point to great achievements in a deeper midfield (ie not attacking midfield) I remember only three: letting Henry through for England and Liverpool and the slip against Chelsea. And two of those mishaps were utterly massive for club and country. He didn’t have the awareness of what’s going on around him that Xavi, Alonso, Busquets or Scholes had.
And if you take dead balls out of his goal scoring record, his and Scholes‘s are comparable (I agree, it’s a skill too). And Scholes played most of his career from deep.
I think people are missing who Liverpool’s real hero was on that night in Istanbul, the linesman who incorrectly disallowed a perfectly good Milan goal for offside thereby giving an inferior Liverpool the chance to steal an undeserved trophy.
Paul Murphy, Manchester (donning his flak jacket and tin hat)
I read rumors that Gabriel Jesus is to be offered a new contract by City. Being a Liverpool fan, I only really watch City play when they play us. Consequently, I have very limited experience watching Gabriel Jesus. As such, I was wondering do Man City fans think he is any good? Are people excited that he might sign a contract extension? He has 37 premier league goals in 92 games, which is not to be sniffed at but doesn’t scream leading striker for a team aiming to win the UCL.
To put it concisely, I want to know if Gabriel Jesus is to Guardiola’s City what Louis Saha was to Ferguson’s Utd? Or is he the Prince That Was Promised who will take up Aguero’s crown and deliver City an unmatched period of dominance?
Thoughts on a postcard.
Football is back!
I have never appreciated 90 minutes like I did watching Dortmund vs Schalke, end to end game, Haaland scoring as per usual, I even found myself enjoying the VAR delay and the sound of Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe being played at halftime.
Football is such an escapism and for 90 minutes I truly appreciated not thinking about anything else other than a simple game of football.
I am writing to you having just watched the Dortmund vs Schalke match.
If that wasnt an advert for voiding the EPL season then I dont know what is.
The pace of the game barely resembled a training match. The fact that the game I just watched could contribute points to a professional league season is utterly farcical.
I am sending a video of that game to both the FA and the government, just in case they missed it.
Void the season right now.
Kalidou Koulibaly – LFC
Thanks for continuing to operate at a difficult time.
I was thinking about Kalidou Koulibaly and any rumours that we might buy him and offer the following thoughts:
He has always been brilliant when we have played against them in CL (seems like every year for 5 years)
Liverpool are almost certainly not going to spend a huge amount on a 28 year old (29 if next season starts on time) as it is not how they seem to work.
Unless…Klopp continues his evolution of how we play – hard press then more selective press to the next stage AND we are going to try and stop our recent defensive weakness by playing 3-4-3 with the following formation:
TAA-AN Other-AN Other-Robertson
It also means he cannot play against us.
Just a thought
Vincenzo (nothing funny to say)
Just read Daniel Taylor’s excellent interview piece on Luke Chadwick in the Athletic, where he talks about the crippling impact of being a young man in the public eye routinely ridiculed for his facial appearance. It made me think of all the really toxic behaviours that we allow to persist in a football ground which are usually subject to critical peer review in any other social setting – the Adebayor and Wenger songs, those angry Chelsea fans shouting at Sterling, the grown men pretending to be airplanes while Old Trafford, the homophobic chants at any player deemed even remotely effeminate, and even the grotesque level of enjoyment some rival fans seemed to get from watching Steven Gerrard’s lifelong dreams come assunder before our very eyes in 2014 – something seemingly more vitriolic and hateful than your average dose of schadenfreude.
I miss football terribly, and am absolutely over the moon to have watched Dortmund today, but it would be really nice if, at this time where the notion of fans entering football grounds to watch the best players in the world do their thing feels like an absolute privilege that any of us would be lucky to enjoy, we could take a moment to reflect on what we don’t miss at all about football, and what we’d really rather didn’t return after this lengthy respite.
How the hell did Fulham get Van der Sar?
I’m watching MOTD, it’s showing the relegation great escape from 2005. Norwich are away at Fulham, who have one of the top 5 goalkeepers in world football at the time – Edwin van der Sar. How the hell did they manage to sign him again?
I’ve been trying to think of another world class player in their peak joining a ‘lesser’ premier league side. Mendieta at Middlesbrough; Jay Jay at Bolton, etc. Both quality but probably not amongst the very very top of their position like van der Sar.
There must be another couple of examples, but I can’t think of any as drastic. Who have I missed?
A few random lockdown conclusions
1. I think I could beat Jamie Carragher at a quiz, come on Martin giz a go.
2. Isn’t it weird when footballers from your team’s rival clubs retire/ move to a non rival club, you look at them in a completely different light, like as an actual human being instead of a monster. Realised this with Tim Cahill yesterday and also had similar effect from G Nev, Rio and even Wayne. It’s like you understand that they loved their club in the same way you love your own and you respect that.
3. Football, especially English football needs to reset completely. Premier League needs to help the lower leagues out, but not in the sense of just give a cash injection. 51% of each English club needs to be given to a consortium of fans of that club. Help each fan base to acquire the amount of cash needed. Sky, you help out too. I’ve watched no footy for months yet still paid you full whack.
If fans don’t take a stance now to lower the price of watching football, we never will. The only thing left to confirm this officially is a weekend of Bundesliga football behind the doors.
4. It’s all well and good for people to clamour about saying the Premier League needs to help clubs out but what the Football League or FA need to do first is sort the ownership structure of clubs out. It was sad to see Bury go this year but if somebody had given that twat 20 mil he would have probably pocketed it and the club would have still gone out. Football needs to evict the parasites out of the game and stop them from owning clubs. It’s the only way forward although I can’t even begin to suggest how it can be done which makes me sad.
Fred, the superior
I really enjoyed one of your latest lists, top biggest downgrades. As a Man United I have seen some truly dire attempts at player replacement over the years. On the contrary, I would like to mention one that I feel the club have got right; Fred replacing Herrera.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Herrera, he was a huge fan favourite and for good reason, but he was, for lack of a better phrase, all fart and no follow-through. He would run, harass, moan, and wind opponents up no end. A player that is hated by almost every other clubs’ fans, loved it! But, Fred is just the superior footballer. Sure he has taken a bit of time to get up to speed, but now (not right now, obviously) I think we are starting to see what he is capable of, being that steady Fr-eddy that the club need in midfield. He can do a little bit of everything and just seems to be improving game on game. I find it hard to articulate quite why I think he is an such an improvement, but I’m willing to wager that in a few years time he will be one of the clubs ‘irreplaceables’. After all, it took a lot of people a few seasons to realise the majesty and importance of Carrick.
Maybe this is just my view on this particular matter, but I’m willing to bet that other clubs have done some astute upgrading that’s gone relatively unnoticed.
Bracketless Bagpuss, Abroad
John Terry’s trophy cabinet
Oliver Dziggel talking about players having replica trophies made in Friday’s mailbox reminded me of something I saw recently – an Aston Villa Q&A from John Terry’s house. Which I’m sure all Villa fans were delighted to see conveniently took place in front of his personal trophy cabinet, featuring all the trophies he won at a different club. Including the infamous ‘full kit’ one that his team-mates won without him.
Dave Horgan, AVFC, Dublin
Back in the day, Football365.com used to publish pictures of footballers with their famous doppelgängers.
It amused me.
I was reminded of this the other day when I noticed the similarities between Sting and Dennis Bergkamp.
Can anyone suggest any others?
Juan Carlos (Cádiz CF)
We could not keep away from the camera for long so we made a Football365 Isolation Show. Watch it, subscribe and share until we get back in the studio/pub and produce something a little slicker…