Mails: Defending Coquelin, Rooney and Phelan

Date published: Tuesday 24th January 2017 12:06 - Matthew Stead

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The title race really is over
Your piece in winners and losers about how Chelsea more or less have the league sewn up got me thinking about when the last season was that we saw a comparable league table after 22 games and what the outcome of the season was.

As it happens you have to cast your mind back to early 2013, when Man Utd sat on 55 points with a 7 point lead over Man City. They eventually won the league with 89 points, winning 10, drawing 4 and losing 2 of their final 16 games. Lets say even if Chelsea finish this season with the same record (unfortunately I cant see them dropping that many points), the chasing pack would basically have to win all their remaining games to pass Chelsea’s points total. For example Liverpool have to go 15-0-1, Arsenal 14-1-1, etc.

So anyway, all of that was a long winded way of saying yes, you’re right, Chelsea will probably win the league.
Peter AFC


Throw the book at Wenger
He’s no longer manager at my club but can anyone honestly say that if the FA were looking at the ‘contact’ charges against Mourinho rather than Wenger the punishment wouldn’t be at least twice as severe?

(And before we get into ‘previous’ I struggle to remember another manager ‘pushing’ more of his colleagues (Pardew, Jol, Mourinho etc. than Wenger)

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Defending my Coq
Long time listener, first time writer. Felt obliged to defend the boy Coquelin after an unfair lambasting.

Le Coq wasn’t brought on to specifically see out a game, he was the only option the boss had on the bench after Xhaka needlessly left us with a midfield shaped hole. You’ll have noticed Elneny being away at the AFCON, Cazorla being knacked and Jacky ‘boy’ Wilshere playing rather well for a different team this year.

Young Francois’s strength has been winning the ball up high on the pitch and turning teams around quickly, a massive asset when playing teams that will come at us. The difference comes when playing a team like Burnley who, with all due respect, will look to sit deep and frustrate Arsenal. This is where Xhaka is the definite upgrade as he is able to sit and control the pace with his passing range. The point is they are different players who do things differently, both to a class standard.

The only thing I saw Coq do wrong was give away a rash pen, which happens… Is it not better to look at the sterile domination and Granits divviness as reasons Arsenal were in the position they were?

Just sayin…
Gary (virgin brackets) Lang, AFC


Five ways to improve things
I have seen plenty written about things that are wrong with the game so I’ve decided to have a go at making some suggestions of how I would like to improve things. I realise this idea is nothing particularly new, but I’ve not weighed in yet, so here I go:

1. “Free” subs for head injuries.
I can almost see why managers are reluctant to use a substitute on a player that might just be a bit dazed; they don’t want to take off a player and use up a substitution “needlessly” on a player that ultimately is fine to carry on. But head injuries are not something to take lightly and a thorough diagnosis can’t be made in-game, so the choice should be removed: any head injury at all (e.g. any time something other than the ball strikes the players head) and the player is removed from play automatically. The manager can replace him with any substitute from the bench, regardless of how many have been made so far.

2. Mandatory protective headgear
You’re never going to get rid of heading from the game, therefore you’re always going to have the potential for head injuries, so what about introducing Petr Cech-style headgear for all players? It can’t make that much difference to the heading ability of the player and it’s better than nothing. What’s to lose? Plus it would save us from some of the godawful haircuts in the Premier League these days.

3. Unlimited youth substitutes on the bench
I would go one step further than naming unlimited acamedy players in the seasonal squad, and say that it should be possible to name as many academy players as you like in your match day squad. People are always bemoaning the lack of young talent at Premier League level, so why not increase the size of the bench? It’s not mandatory, and you can still only use three during the game, but it might just give one or two youngsters a shot.

4. Get rid of the offside rule.
I don’t see what the big fuss was about when van Basten made this suggestion. What are the two biggest complaints about football? I would say they are offsides and diving. They are trying (well, half-trying) to referee diving out of the game, because video technology is not quite there yet. But the tech for offsides is equally far away and it’s yet to be proved whether it would even work practically anyway. Offside is such a debatable issue, especially at the speed at which the modern game is played, and does anyone actually like that rule? Why not just do away with it and end the issue? Sure you would get goal-hanging but that would only result in more goals, and who doesn’t want that?

5. Better retrospective punishment
It’s all very well having the ability to punish stuff that the referee hasn’t seen, but why stop there? Retrospective action on diving would be a good start, but I think it should be possible to correct in-game decisions; overturning yellow cards, issuing additional bookings, and actual sanctions for poor performing match officials – not necessarily monetary punishment but I’m irritated by referees making bad mistakes in big games and there being seemingly no repurcussions or attempts to address the issue.

Probably a load of old rubbish but these issues need to be debated, rather than FIFA and the FAs attitude of “well, there’s nothing more we can do”. By the way, whatever happened to Sian Massey? Is she still a PL match official?
Ted, Manchester


Defending Wayne Rooney, but from what?
I’ll take your bait and unabashedly defend the boy. In a furious rage at your digs at United and Rooney in W&L, I texted my brother. His reply sums up how the faithful feel…
(MC – You should read back that bit in W & L. It definitely wasn’t a dig at Rooney)

“Yeah. The Rooney bit was disrespectful. The entire English mentality of slagging off Rooney for having a 9/10 career instead of a 10/10 is so stupid. It’s almost like they blame him for an English trophy drought. England never lost a tournament because of Rooney. They lost tournaments because they start keepers like Rob Green and Paul Robinson. And centre-backs like Matthew Upson. And midfielders like Gareth Barry. It’s almost like they lose in spite of Rooney. His club career is beyond reproach. Won everything. Club top scorer. Period.”
Kevin, MUFC, USA


Defending Mike Phelan
Can I just say you’re being a little too harsh on Mike Phelan. Fine making him, permanent manager has not worked out well but let’s look at the broader picture:

*Who amongst us would have been surprised if Hull, with all their problems, had the number of points he achieved before his sacking?

* The performances were not so sh*t. Hull could have been out of the relegation places if they had defended better after taking two leads against Everton and gotten their just reward against West Ham.
(MC – So it’s not Phelan’s fault they didn’t defend better?)

* He also should get some points for taking them on a cup run.

Overall Phelan made the most of what was a hopeless situation with players who probably wouldn’t have made it elsewhere and had kept them close in the relegation marathon. I would argue an even greater mistake was hiring Bob Bradley and not having the guts to back him up and you yourself have said Silva may not keep Hull up. So stop making Phelan out to be completly inept.
Timi, MUFC

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Some good thoughts on head injuries
I’d just like to take a moment to applaud the inclusion of “football’s attitude to head injuries” in Winners and Losers, and add one small point of emphasis.

For anyone who was feeling hungover and breezed through that bit, don’t. Go back. “It’s time football demonstrated some maturity” on this is an understatement… if your sports organization is being outstripped by the American National Football League for player safety standards, you’re in trouble.

It was hard to escape the impression that Conte (who I otherwise find disarmingly likable) was posturing for liability concerns, pretending as if he were bizarrely oblivious to the fact that, being manager, he, well, had the distinct power to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT if Cahill’s head knock was indeed “very bad”.

It’s very simple, simple to the point that I can no longer chalk up the lack of action to anything but gross negligence. The player should not be on the pitch. Full stop. He comes off. This is not getting on a high horse, it’s noticing a child’s toy pony on the rug.

The underlying problem with the way that even the 2014 standards approach the issue is that football retains the mind set of treating injuries on their apparent severity at the time. Of course there’s good reason for that: an already concussed player who takes a second hard knock could be quite literally killed. But while terrifying, that’s also quite rare, and the focus on mortality rates and obvious injuries actually obscures the deeper problem. What is not at all rare is significant long-term damage from accumulated degradation, much of which is created – and this is why it is still crucial in non- or mild-concussion cases – by significant activity after the impact. In other words, you are actually actively injuring the player, minute by minute, by leaving them on the pitch.

The science is blindingly one-sided, but so is the anecdotal evidence of lasting psychological health problems in former footballers. You don’t have to have full-blown chronic traumatic encephalopathy to spend the rest of a (statistically shortened) lifetime struggling with deep chronic depression and difficulty with normal sociality.

Playground children are taught it: the boy’s had a knock. He needs a sit down. I think we can manage Year One-level standards in the wealthiest football league in the world.


Time to mic up the refs
After Van Basten’s opinions on changing the rules of football to make it more exciting, I thought of one rule that I think football badly needs. Hooking the refs up with a mic, same as in Rugby.

The FA, try as they might, chop and change the rules about going up to referees and screaming in their faces. After Arsenal were awarded a penalty in the dying minutes against Burnley, a player can be seen literally screaming at the refs face.

With the endless reports about the treatment of referees at grass roots level, is it not time to give the referees some protection and record the conversations between themselves and the players.

The disrespect shown towards them is incredible and in any other walk of life, treating authority like that would get you in expelled/fired/arrested. Rugby players, as far as I know, generally respect the referee and his decisions more. This appears to be instilled within the sport, however by hooking up the referees with a mic, they immediately get protection against any kind of abusive behaviour and the players could get punished for this.

Besides, who doesn’t want to see Moss go up to Costa like this…

Rob A (before anyone kicks off, no i’m not happy at the way Arsene treated the 4th official) AFC


Whatever happened to club sing-alongs ?
A Madness song came on the radio this morning and it reminded me of “Blue Day” the Chelsea FA Cup final song led by Suggs.

The first song both my kids could sing was “Blue is the Colour”. Whatever happened to the team sing-alongs?

Bring them back and watch the FA Cup prosper.
Matthew (plus the memories of that goal from Di Matteo) Barlow

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