Mails: Conte to Manchester United, Mourinho to…Senegal

Date published: Wednesday 10th October 2018 1:21

Send your thoughts to


Potential risks
Dear MC,

A very interesting article this morning about the potential being fulfilled (after 9 games, I know, I know) in the Arsenal squad at the moment. So it got me thinking about some players who I still in my heart of hearts haven’t given up on, who I believe with better coaching could have been alright.

I remember being one of the only fans who was excited by the arrival of Yaya Sanogo. Now, before you all fall over laughing, I still believe in the guy, mad as that may sound. I don’t know why but I could see the potential that Wenger could and I am only too unhappy that he didn’t do more. I still ponder his whereabouts and wonder what might have been. Is he now tearing up another league somewhere? Probably not.

Alex Song was another one. For some reason he went to Barca so that he could be embarrassed in that clip of him trying to pose with that trophy. Never really made it though, and that move was a mega fluke. When I saw him live at the Emirates, he looked a pretty decent midfielder to me. Perhaps like Sanogo he just needed better coaching and belief?

I remember thinking the same thing for Chelsea with Kezman. He looked the business in Holland and I really thought he’d do well for them, and in some ways I still think he’ll come good (he’s probably retired now?).

Does anyone else have the same misplaced loyalty/fascination with certain players?
JazGooner (Vela, Joel Campbell etc..)


Long live Peter G
After reading your Arsenal piece, I crunched a few numbers. I’m looking at conversion rate of non-penalty shots, deducting blocked shots as well, because that’s what the boffins say works best.

In his last full season in the Bundesliga, Aubameyang had a conversion rate of 29.3%, which is brilliant, and easily his best ever.

In his last partial season in the Bundesliga, it was 22.7%, OK for a top striker but nothing special.

In his partial season at Arsenal, it was 40.9%, which is off the scale and unrepeatable, and was achieved with a small sample of shots anyway.

This season so far he’s at 33.3%, which would be one of the all-time great seasons by anybody.

For comparison, here are the conversion rates of the top six goalscorers in the league last year:

Vardy 28.3%
Salah 27.9%
Sterling 25.4%
Aguero 24.3%
Lukaku 23.9%
Kane (always lower) 21.1%

So getting Aubameyang was definitely a great move—but it’s likely, although not certain, that his conversion rate will go down somewhat.

As for Lacazette, his current conversion rate is 23.5%, so it has room to increase. Last season it was 24.5%. His last four seasons for Lyon were 20.8, 26.8, 21.8, 28.1. That kind of fluctuation is fairly normal, and was also typical of Aubameyang in his first several years.

The xG table doesn’t lie, but since teams can significantly over-perform their xG over the course of the season, there’s no reason why Arsenal, with two good strikers firing, can’t pull it off. However, Arsenal are more than 8 goals above their xG in only 8 games, and they can’t keep that pace up over the whole season. But there’s no reason to think they can’t improve their attacking play as the season proceeds as well.

Yours from Nerdland,


Talk about stating the obvious. When has Mourinho ever improved upon a player or taken someone in his wings and even provided any kind of advice? To do these things you need humility, a side of which he simply doesnt show. Its good to have an ego and it helps get you somewhere, but once youre there adaptability becomes a factor, especially in any sort of people management business. Id advise that he hire an assistant coach asap, if you cant manage these aspects get someone who can.Besides, the other aspect is that he should simply stop replacing players based on on-field performance. Its too  knee jerk for a man of his stature. Surely there are more holistic ways of understanding how a player is placed mentally, physically, emotionally and formwise. Which is why, at some level, i do agree that he has become a bit of a relic. Fergie also had similar ego but he had a way of striking a balance and that’s whats clearly missing in Mourinho’s approach.

In response to Chris I do feel that its better to go top heavy in the coming weeks else things would look hopeless. I would always play with Martial, Lukaku, Sanchez, Mata and Rashford and try and fit in the rest. Unless we attack and risk it we’re risking further humiliation in the upcoming matches.


Conte is your man for 5-3-2
Chris (MUFC), I’ve seen this point raised a few times, and to me only highlights why United need a Director of Football.  An agreed ‘Plan A’  that is played through the squads, when Plan A is changed it is done in full agreement for the long term, once a year max, and ideally an evolving change rather than overnight.

Every team, should also have plan B, C, and D, but say 80% of the time its Plan A, and this is the plan the Squad is built towards.

Squad includes; players, coaches and manager. If United’s chose to go to 5-3-2, they need to recruit accordingly, you’ve made a decent argument for the players, (I would make one for 4-2-3-1). But what about the coaching? Is that suited for 5-3-2?

On recent evidence (Spurs, West Ham, and 1st Half Newcastle), and Jose’s history showing preference for 4-2-3-1. I’d suggest that Jose is not the man to implement 5-3-2.

In which case Jose should be replaced by a 5-3-2 manager such as Conte. That’s a big call, and although he won a title, it lasted one season only and his team was eye-gauging boring to watch. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team play 5-3-2 and it be regularly entertaining.

United have always been an attacking/entertaining team, historically 4-4-2.  Alex Ferguson tried numerous times to move this to 4-5-1/4-2-3-1, but generally defaulted back to his preferred 4-4-2.

4-2-3-1 seems the natural attacking progression from this, and Jose has proven this is his preferred formation, so it seems a good fit for United, Manager, Fans and Players.

I genuinely think this was the intent, they did have a Plan A, a 4-2-3-1, and Jose and United recruited accordingly, even as recently as Sanchez in Jan 2018.

But it’s clearly not happening, so something needs to change, Manager? Players? New Plan A?. A decision which should be led by a Sporting Director (Gary Neville?).
Nick – build 4-2-3-1 around Lukaku, not 4-3-3 around Pogba  – J


Mourinho’s next job
In all the recent e-mails about Mourinho, it seems they are overlooking one basic fact. It’s not that he’s a dinosaur or has lost the ability to motivate his players, it’s just simply that his swagger is gone. Like an ageing boxer, he’s taken too many blows to the head, or more specifically his ego. It has left him strangely unsure of himself and as a result of his declining confidence he lashes out at everyone. He used to foster an ‘us against the world’ mentality to help his team but now it’s just a  ‘me against the world’ approach. This has clearly filtered down to the players.

It’s not hard to see why he’s insecure. He’s won titles everywhere he went since arriving at Porto. That’s league titles in 4 countries and while he often had financial backing, he had to get through teams like Barcelona, Juventus and the Manchester teams to get those victories. He was incredibly successful twice at Chelsea and got unceremoniously sacked twice.

And now finally, he arrives at the biggest club in the world. He spends boatloads of money and the results aren’t coming. His team isn’t playing attractive football and he gets bogged down in a series of squabbles. He wants to be able to pull out one more great performance but he’s shot. His lustre has worn off.

The most interesting aspect of all of this is seeing where he goes after United because we all know he doesn’t have long left. At some point, it would have been smart for him to take the Portugal job but they can’t win the World Cup and they only recently won the European Championship. He can’t be their saviour. So what’s next?

Here’s what I would like to see. Much of his success in England was achieved with Essien and Drogba. He took a couple of great African players from Ligue Un and helped transform them into world-class players. For Jose’s comeback and what would undoubtedly be his greatest accomplishment, he needs to lead an African team to winning the World Cup. The challenge would invigorate him and it would serve as a perfect bookend to his Champions League success with underdog Porto.

I’m calling it now. Jose Mourinho, the new manager of Senegal (or maybe Nigeria and an equally ageing Jon Obi Mikel).
Mark (not a Chelsea, Man U, Real Madrid, Inter, Porto or Mourinho fan), San Francisco 


Is there a draft in here?
International break innit,

Last night I was reading an article about the Draft System in the States, and in particular about how there is no guarantee that the number one pick is guaranteed to be the best player unless he is a once in a generation player like LeBron James in Basketball or Tom Brady in Americam Football. The thinking was it was better to trade your number one pick for, say, 3-4 picks from lower down the draft and to build a team around solid players rather than take a punt on a potential superstar that might not work.

I was trying to draw parallels to football as I was reading through this and, as there is no comparable draft system, the obvious examples are teams who spunk the budget on a star player, but who have foundations built on sand.

The main thing I was trying to figure out was, would a draft type structure help the league be more competitive? Now I know that a straight match would not work, we have no college structure and teams would not agree to youth team players being drafted.

But one element that could be adopted would be this: In the US Draft, the worst team from the previous season gets the first pick, second worst gets second pick and so on until the champions from the previous season gets the final pick. If we were to adopt this to football, I would block these into 4 groups of 5 so as this could all be done in a month!

I would propose that the 3 promoted teams and the teams and the teams that finished 16th and 17th be in group 1, having first shot at the window. So that’s Huddersfield, Southampton, Brighton, Wolves Fulham and Cardiff all having their transfer window opening on June 1st.

Then, on June 7th, Palace, Bournemouth, Watford, and West Ham would all be able to make transfers too.

June 14th, Arsenal, Burnley, Everton, Leicester and Newcastle join in.

Finally on June 21st City, United, Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea get their cheque books out. That would mean that the lower ranked teams have more time to assemble their squads, while this season Chelsea and City could see what business has already has been done and react accordingly.

There could also be some trading going on to improve your position in the draft. EG: Chelsea agree to loan Newcastle Tammy Abraham, Kurt Zouma and 2 the following season to get 3 extra weeks in the window.

I think this would spice things up no end! If this was adopted Europe wide, then there could be no end of fun! We would also get 5 deadline days in the summer!

I cant see any drawbacks to this plan, aside from the ones you all will most likely point out.

Anyone got Gianni Infantino’s number?


Hard Brexit
The Brexit deadline is fast approaching, and amidst all the talk of budgets and the implosion of the financial markets, I’m more concerned about how it might affect the Premier League.

The home grown rule was established as a round about way of circumventing the EU legislation making it illegal to discriminate between EU nations. So rather than having a “no foreigners” policy, they had to make one that gave everyone in the EU fair whack, so home-grown simply meant 3 years at the club before 21, meaning it’s available to anyone (but obviously favoured heavily to domestic players). The squad size limit effectively means you’re limited to 17 non-home-grown players.

With Brexit due very soon, next season could see an overhaul of this rule, meaning actual “no-foreigners” rules, probably just making it so it’s a mandatory number of player that qualify for the home nations, or more likely a slight change of up to 17 players that don’t qualify, still within a 25 man squad, and now perhaps including foreign players that are under 21 (previously didn’t need registering). This will make squad rules harder to hit, and make under 21 home nations players a lot more  valuable as they’re exempt from registration, where nobody else is.

A quick look at squad lists shows how first teams might be affected by this:

Lose Hector Bellerin and Emiliano Martinez as homegrown, mavropanos and guendouzi now need registering.

Lose Christensen, Cesc, and Lucas Piazon as homegrown, maybe Moses as well due to opting for Nigeria.

Squad remains the same as they have no foreign home-grown players nor foreign u21 players in the first team.

Man City:
Home grown players remain the same (of which they only have 4), must now register Gabriel Jesus.

Man Utd:
Lose Andreas Perreira and Paul Pogba, no u21 foreigns in first team.

GAIN Eric Dier, must now register Juan Foyth.

Most of the other teams are less affected as they aren’t already on their limit of 17 foreign players (Burnley have 19 home-grown players, 6 foreign).

Would be interesting to see how values change (you thought there was an English premium before?) and how the bigger teams would cope without sufficient quality. Filling the squad up with u21 players or using the loophole on homegrown may seem not much, but how does Arsenal react when they have to cut 4 players out of their first team (probably ok as they have quite a deep English academy), or Man City when they’re running on just 21 players in their first team?
KC (think it will be very good for young players experience, very bad for the cost of English players) 


Yay, football
Having seen so many references to “the dreaded international break” this weekend, thought it was worth a reminder that there are still several hundred games taking place in the UK this weekend, and with it being Non-League Day on Saturday you can see some great action for an absolute bargain.

I’ve tried to pick out a few of the many great offers and deals that non-league clubs across the country have put in place to attract some extra support.  Try it, you might like it!

Leyton Orient v Hartlepool (National League) – already a huge match between two clubs still adjusting to non-league life, tickets have been reduced to just £5 and expectations are for a sell-out at Brisbane Road.

Margate v Enfield Town (Bostik Premier) – the entry fee to this game is “pay what you like”, with Margate donating half of all proceeds to blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan.  Beer and wine is also just £3 a pint/glass, which is a useful reminder that at most non-league clubs you are allowed to booze during the game!!!

Oxford City v Concord Rangers (National League South) – families go for free! Groups of 1 or 2 adults accompanied by 2 children get completely free admission to the game (make sure you print a voucher off from the Oxford City website first though).

Altrincham v Alfreton Town (National League North) – entry is discounted to £8 for any Premier League or Football League season ticket or member card holder, plus admission includes a free drink (hot, cold or alcoholic!)

There are loads of other great offers out there.  Whatever you think of Twitter, it’s the main form of communication for most non-league clubs so it’s worth heading there to check out who your local clubs are and what offers they are promoting.
Coley DHFC (swapped the Championship for the Ryman League 8 years ago and have never looked back)



Wading in, as is my wont, to a controversial debate. I think David Squires of The Grauniad rather brilliantly saves most of his opprobrium for ‘Captain, Leader, Bellend’ JT.  Most recently there was a hilarious few panes within the Nations League and Ireland’s Keane Row (11th September) with England deploying their biggest weapon in Moscow. “Can’t park there? Alright, Jog on. Now, who’s JT got to shout at to get a burger and chips round here?” This is followed by Putin instructing “Prepare the pod, General, it’s over” with a monitor showing JT screaming ‘CHIPS!’.

Brilliant stuff. If ever a player so perfectly illustrated everything so execrable about a particular club then it’s Terry. Him and Chelsea; talk about a marriage made in Hell.

I could talk all night and all morning (and then some) about the myriad reasons to despise that club and fanbase. JT is just one of them.
Gregory Whitehead, LFC


Lovely to see
I was just on twitter and saw so many footballers and pundits, along with clubs, helping to promote World Mental Health Day and it fills me with joy. We’ve come a long way from the ‘suck it up’ era when players and men who watched football couldn’t speak about mental health without it being used as some sort of weakness. I know a lot of people whose love of football is part of maintaining their mental health. Whether it be to let out pent up frustration, or even if it is just to feel less alone. With more and more players speaking out, hopefully we can bury this taboo once and for all.
John Matrix.


Jose’s Been Working for the Drug Squad
Just seen Ian’s email about Man U and The Clash, and can’t believe he didn’t squeeze in Give ‘Em Enough Rope given Mourinho’s situation.
Tom (I’ll be amazed dead chuffed if The Clash is what gets me in the mailbox) AFC


More Related Articles