Keep your mails coming to email@example.com…
The estimated basic value (aside from sponsorship, brand promotion etc) of winning the league is about £150m. Prize money for winning the FA Cup it’s over £3m, or £1.5m for reaching the final. For the Champions League, it’s a around £15m.
On this basis alone, considering the performance of Utd last year, the £75m for Grealish and £110m for Sancho is pretty obviously a sensible investment, as such players would be the difference between nearly and actually competing with a chance of winning in each competition. Add in nationality and age, it’s a no brainer.
Utd are a staggeringly rich club anyway, and can easily afford it, while not investing in these players will see them stuck in the Arsenal Groundhog Day of just fighting for 4th and quarter finals every year.
I guess Woodward wants to be seen as some kind of haggling genius, but after Fellani, Di Maria and Sanchez (among many many others) that horse has not just bolted but already being packaged and sold in supermarkets.
I’ve said it before, but failure to land both these players, in a market where there are few rival bidders, is transfer window suicide and Woodward should take complete blame. It’s time to cough up or jog on.
A side containing a selection from Greenwood, Martial, Rashford, Pogba, Bruno, Sancho and Grealish would be a delight for club fans and (any remaining) neutrals. It would be a serious contender in all competitions.
So I fully expect both transfers not to happen and United to spend over the money in the second tier bin instead.
If we win its a ‘trophy’, if we lose, it’s a friendly, we lost, so look for some positives, but I don’t want to.
What I do want to question is the Mane ‘penalty’? My favourite analyser, Philip Walton said “there is contact, but not enough to justify a penalty”, WTF? When did we adopt NFL rules? Bellerin decides that he doesn’t want Mane to run past him and decides to, put as delicately as I can, impede his run, how is that not a penalty?
On 45 minutes, Mane (I think) catches an Arsenal’s players foot, very minimally and causes him to misplace a pass, because this is 30 yards from goal, a free kick is given, how is this different?
Nothing to do with me being an LFC fan, but I am sick and tired of referees double standards, where a foul outside the box is punished but the same foul inside the box is ignored, something that rhymes with hit houses comes to mind.
Howard (ffs grow some balls) Jones
Arteta showing why he is the leading tier 2 manager
Liverpool were flat and rigid until the introduction of Keita and Minamino. Milner, Fabinho and Wijnaldum is a good combination for defending a lead, but should be reserved for that situation alone. Keita is the most creative central midfielder Liverpool possess. He instantly gave the team more cutting edge, and hopefully we will see the best of him this season for an extended period free of injuries. Great stuff for Minamino to get off the mark with a goal. His confidence was clearly shining brighter for the remainder of the game than it has at any point so far. Even his penalty was lashed down the center with authority. Perfect timing to get a boost on the verge of the new season.
Arsenal played very well as a whole. Solid in defence, dynamic in midfield and created openings.
Sublime goal from Aubameyang. For me, he is the most potent goal scorer in the Premier League at this moment, regardless of Vardy winning the Golden Boot. I don’t know what his actual conversion rate was last season, but whenever I have seen him play he is simply clinical, and as a brilliant bonus, is able to create goals out of nothing through sheer quality. Elite player, and I have maintained for some time that put him in Liverpool or City, and he is a 30+ goal a season man.
Congratulations to Arteta for validating and maintaining his spot at the top of the Tier 2 Manager Rankings with yet another piece of silverware in the bag, irrespective of its significance. A trophy, any trophy, feels good. So well done to him and to Arsenal.
Couple of responses, plus Grealish…
Thanks to Gav, Edinburgh and Mark Danger Endicott, MUFC for their respective well thought-out and not as well thought-out responses to my email on what I think could be done to move Man United on to the ‘next level’. If I may, I would like to respond to each of them here, in turn.
Firstly, Gav. It may have been a little hyperbolic to label City’s defence as ‘utter shite’, however, the point I was making was that they aren’t good enough when City are forced, by situation, to expose themselves more than they might like. That is a valid point. If it wasn’t, then surely Man City would be European Champions? Considering their awesome attacking players and all.
The result of City pushing up, so as to be able to score match saving / winning goals against Lyon, was that they collapsed and lost the game comfortably, within the ninety minutes. Admittedly, one of Dembele’s goals should have been ruled out for a foul, however, that is football. Man City should have been able to put Lyon away, dodgy goal or not, but they couldn’t.
Pep played with a team set-up to protect the defence, with five defenders on the pitch and a comparatively conservative midfield selection in front. City were not able to score more than one goal with that set-up, and when they switched to a four man defence, with an attacking midfield in front of them, City got blown off the park.
Kyle Walker and Aymeric Laporte are both excellent players, however, as with to United, I think City needed to improve at CB, which by signing Nathan Ake, they have done. If I was City, I would also have been in for Chilwell, however, it is too late for that now. All in all, and in light of Gav’s well evidenced email, I would be happy to revise my initial assessment from ‘utterly shite’ to ‘a bit shite’ – I hope that is more to his liking.
Mark is well within his rights to complain about people trying to convert Man United’s fullbacks into defensive midfielders, and I even agree with him that trying to spoon Wan Bissaka into a midfield position would probably not work. I do however think that Williams has performed well further forward on the left flank when asked to do so, and have been impressed with his ball retention abilities. When a player is as good as I think he is ‘in his head’, a move forward is not uncommon.
He is a good left back, however, his tackles can be a little wild and his overlap play is not that great. Where I think he excels is in his positioning, timing and mentality, as well as his ability to retain possession in tight spots. Both in finding team mates when he is under pressure, and more importantly, in making himself available for pressure relieving passes, Williams is excellent. His attitude is also very good, and I see him developing into a real leader on the pitch in time.
These intangible, mental abilities, unlike pace for example, do not necessarily translate from development to first team football. There may be ten players who look better in the midfield than Williams at youth level, pushing him to a fullback role, but that turn out to lack the mental capacity to make the step-up. That Williams has come straight into the United side and looked top class in these intangible areas, while not really possessing the traits of an attacking full-back, means that to me, he looks like a wonderfully square peg rattling about in a round hole.
I’m sure he would develop into a very good left-back, however, I personally do not believe that to be his best position. I may well be wrong, but that is my view. That the traits he lacks as an attacking fullback are the ones that would make him a top-class left winger means a move to that position may not be the best option. I think that a position as a box-to-box central midfielder is a natural option for a player like him.
An example of a player that has gone from being an average left-back to a world class attacker is Gareth Bale. While, unlike Bale, Williams is no attacker, he is a great all-round team player with defensive skills, ball retention abilities, and an excellent footballing brain.
There is a player that started off at Man United as a fullback, who possessed similar skills to Williams, along with a winning mentality, AND who successfully made the move to midfield lynch pin. No, it isn’t Phil Neville… the player I am thinking of is Roy Keane.
I’ll leave that one there.
Speaking of Keano, in my last mail I mentioned how I felt that United were lacking a player that provides a goal threat when making late runs into the box from midfield – a player like Robson or Keane. I don’t think Williams is necessarily that player, his similarity to Keane is mostly in his ability to position himself so as to be able to offer his team mates a safe pass, when they are under pressure in the midfield area. A vital skill for a side like United.
One option for this aggressive midfield role is Jack Grealish. I appreciate that he currently plays as a winger / playmaker for Aston Villa, and hence that this suggestion risks annoying Mark as much or more than my idea of moving Williams forward, but their is a basis for this suggestion as well.
Due to the abundance of brilliant, young attacking midfielders and wingers in the country at the moment, Gareth Southgate is unable to find a spot in his England squad for Jack Grealish. This seems a little unfair on first consideration, however, when assessing the players in front of him in the squad, even Grealish admitted back in February (I think) that he is not worthy of a place on the wing for the national side.
In the same interview, Grealish explained that he sees his future as a central midfielder and not an attacker. While his current position is where he is most useful for Villa, for England or Man United (for example) he himself sees a move to a more reserved midfield role as his best option going forward. Could Grealish, then, be the marauding midfield player that United need to add a dynamic goal threat? If he can adapt, then he would walk backwards into England’s central midfield. On his hands.
Brandon Williams – Bruno Fernandes – Jack Grealish
I for one, even though I may be alone / wrong (or both) in this, would like to see United giving that a go.
DD, MUFC, Liverpool
Women’s charity shield fun and games
Watching the Chelsea v Man City Women’s Charity Shield game (no I’m not John Nicholson) on this cold, wet, miserable British Saturday afternoon in August with nothing better to do.
After about an hour of this exhibition of truly dismal finishing and comically missed sitters, with Sam Kerr in particular fluffing frankly umpteen easily-scoreable chances, I thought to myself that this is the kind of game whereby the deadlock would only be broken by a 30-yard thunderbastard into top bins.
Lo and behold, up steps Millie Bright!
How I love being proved right. It’s a predictable old game, Saint….
Lee, not even a mystic
Ridiculous blind-spot for Abramovich…
The Roman Empire? What in the world is that piece even about? Roman Abramovich is rich and spends money on expensive players for Chelsea FC? Hard-hitting stuff.
Full marks for effort to the editor who headlined that piece as being ostensibly about Lampard’s position at Chelsea. Apart from a silly metaphor about Marina’s diamonds “enchanting” young superstars to west London (not in the least bit sexist, btw), that piece is basically a celebration of Abramovich’s incredible wealth, including a completely irrelevant reference to his so-called charity towards NHS workers, which was obviously not a piece of performance charity for the sake of his visa and stranded assets. The piece is devoid of any critique of how he has amassed that wealth, of course, apart from a reference to Robbie Williams dancing on a yacht or something (how quaint!). A courtesy which seems to be reserved almost exclusively for the Russian.
It’s now almost impossible to read about PSG or Man City without everyone expressing their outrage on behalf of the real or perceived victims of human rights abuse in the Middle East. But I suppose as long as the guy is a white European whose wealth is a result of his fealty to the world’s most vicious dictator, his ownership can be termed an “Empire” rather than a “Caliphate”. Even the owner of my club is primarily hated because he won’t buy us a world-class DM. For all the frothing at the mouth about his stinginess, most Arsenal fans have very little to say about the fact that he’s an heir through marriage of the Walton family which owns and controls a company alleged to use overseas prison labour and sources most of its products from sweatshops in Asia. But he’s American and therefore, he’s part of the “civilized” world, not some Middle Eastern “warlord”. The Geordies rightfully moan about Mike Ashley’s ownership of the club these days, but when things were good, not much was said about his employees being run into the ground on zero-hour contracts without pee-breaks. I admire the empathy for the migrants in the Middle East but perhaps they should look closer home before preaching to the rest of the world. It’s amazing how football fans and journalists consistently ignore white billionaires with questionable records but will dutifully inform us at every opportunity that the Abu Dhabi and Qatar royal families are bad people.
In the run-up to the CL final, one would have sworn that supporting PSG and the fantastic footballers who make up that team is a crime against humanity under the Geneva Convention. Apparently, because Neymar and Mbappe earn their wages from the Qatari royal family’s estate, they’re not worthy of lifting the CL trophy. What’s that? They’re fantastic footballers? Never mind, they’re complicit. Off with their heads! I put it to you that Qatar’s ownership of PSG has actually brought their domestic issues into sharper focus. Despite every major sports publication creaming themselves over the coinage of the term “sportswashing”, the fact remains that a few years ago, most Europeans would have thought Qatar was a holiday beach resort on the Iberian peninsula. No one in the world views those regimes as any more legitimate than before just because their teams have won league titles. It’s incredibly condescending of sports journalists to think so. Although I wouldn’t like it any more, it would at least be easier to tolerate if the people who pontificate on the morality of sports ownership were at least consistent in their objections. If not for the dodgy election of Donald Trump and the alleged Russian involvement in the Brexit referendum, the ambivalence surrounding Roman Abramovich’s ownership of one of England’s biggest clubs would have continued. As it stands, the West has finally woken up to the fact that he’s a crony of one of the world’s biggest despots and not just an enigmatic billionaire playboy. Every now and again though, people forget and they can’t help but revel in the majesty of his expensively assembled travelling circus.
Chelsea have thus far had what is promising to be an excellent summer. They have a young team with some of Europe’s best talents. While that is largely due to the benevolence of their owner who happens to be a crony of Vladimir Putin, I’m happy to ignore that and judge the team and its players on their merits. Because sport is about the sportspeople and their excellence and when they are excellent, I want to give them their due without the caveat of moral objections to their bosses’ wealth. But if we’re going to start discussing what a fantastic owner Abramovich is, let’s also spare at least a few column inches to discuss how he got there, no matter how many times we’ve all heard the story.
Playing the Laporte card…
To Gav,Edinburgh,yes,Liverpool conceded just the 2 more goals compared to City but a few things your calculator won’t tell are:
(1)Alisson missed 9 league games,and went off injured in 1 and was sent off in another.
He still finished second in the golden glove for clean sheets
When he went off injured they hadn’t conceded and when he was sent off they hadn’t conceded.
(2)Matip,who would be first choice centre back to play alongside VVD,was also injured and missed nearly 3 months of the season.
(3)They conceded 33 all season but conceded 4 v City and 3 v Chelsea after winning the title.
Slightly skews the comparisions with other teams as after winning it they clearly weren’t at it.
If you’re going to play that Laporte card at least play fair and do the same for Liverpool.
Gav, Edinburgh wrote a long email about how good City’s defence was based on statistics but he misses the point I think.
I’m going to try and combine common sense with statistics here to point out the fallacy in his argument: Gav points out that City conceded, “a whooping 2 (that’s two) more than the Liverpool back four that’s generally lauded”. He must’ve not noticed that City also managed to lose a whooping 6 (that’s six) more than the eventual champions.
The goals scored column tells us that City outscored the champions by 17 so clearly there’s no issue with the strikers (perhaps an oversimplification but let’s stay on the defence topic). Perhaps this City team was perfect and the league table is lying to us? I can only hope that the City technical team is as advanced as this and has given up worrying.
If you want to know why City’s defence was so deeply flawed you could watch their games and see how frequently they wilted. This bears itself out in the statistics too when you look at victories by a single goal (City won 6 by a single goal in the league all season compared with Liverpool winning 14). City either beat you by 2 or couldn’t beat you. The teams they beat by a single goal – Chelsea/Southamptom/Sheffield Utd/Everton/Leicester/Bournemouth…broadly that’s Chelsea when they were poor at the start of the season, Leicester in February who couldn’t win for toffee by that stage, three mid table clubs and a relegated side.
You could also possibly look at the games they won by more than 3 goals and watch the entire opposition team give up playing to try and avoid an embarrassment or you could use errors leading to goals (Ederson joint 3rd highest, Mendy 8th highest).
My point is that if you use statistics in a silly way you can tell any sort of story you want but that doesn’t make your story reflect reality.
A lot has been said about Lionel Messi and some of it is a little disturbing. All the stuff about how he might be stuck for somewhere to go or could be forced into some team who might be better off without him. I notice that the photos of him are all relating to his shock and disappointment- head in the hands, rubbing his hair and looking pissed off- they remind me of contestants on X factor- you know when they get voted off and are gutted and the camera, rather than focus on the actual winner, shows us their misery so we can wallow in it. ‘Jesus, I’d hate to be that guy’. All the jokes about Messi playing for Stoke or whatever point to a certain car-crash obsession we have with watching awkward moments from behind our couches. Having reigned supreme for so long, we feel hyper-interested in how badly things could go for the newly deposed king.
I don’t believe that tennis fans are currently watching Roger Federer’s last years as a pro with anything like the same relish. I know even as a kid when I watched Larry Holmes clawing his way up from the canvas against a young Mike Tyson it made me feel sick and the Bayern Barca match had a similar effect. I loved your article on Kevin keegan recently. It reminded everyone how great he had been but his career had many lows and it’s a pity that people didn’t respect him more then.
A few outpourings of emotion and a couple of wrong moves and an entire country cast him as a first rate idiot.
Remember that Messi scored a tonne of goals this season. He’s won five European cups and more league titles than most. He is a byword for technical excellence and is as close as I’ve ever seen to a genius. He didn’t shoot at journalists, take drugs or live out an elaborate fantasy life at the expense of his craft. He deserves absolute respect. More than most. He’ll probably move to England or stay with Barca. Let’s not say anything we might regret in a couple of years.