Mails: Has Coutinho been just as good as De Bruyne?

Matt Stead

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Ruined football etc
Alex has written in eloquently
in defence of his earlier viewpoint that City’s spending is the end of the Premier League world.  Only someone who supports United could come to that conclusion because, for every single other team, money ruined the Premier League about 20 years ago.  Do you think fans of any other club think that United winning the league almost every year by outspending everyone else, and City doing the same now, is any different whasoever?  No, we don’t.  Again, the delicious irony of a United supported complaining about spending is majestic, and actually now slightly infuriating in its total lack of any empathy for the vast majority of football fans who don’t support City or United or Chelsea.  I would love to know Alex if you will be writing in again next season when your board give Jose another 300m to spend to bridge the gap.  No, thought not.
Mike, Cayman, WHUFC


Stop worrying about what might happen and enjoy the football…

Alex ‘city corrupting the game’ slow down, history is against you when you consider the Premier League. Only two teams have ever won back to back titles since football began in 1992 and City weren’t one of them and no team has won consecutive titles since 07-08/08-09. So maybe people should wait for City to win a couple of titles on the bounce before we start worrying about them becoming a ‘Celtic’ (cos that’s a thing).

The best organisations attract the best managers and players because they pay the best salaries and offer the most realistic chance of winning things (the reason why most people play sport) but they still have to perform. Pep and his merry men are performing incredibly well right now and I’m thoroughly enjoying watching this ‘financially corrupt, no history with an overrated manager’ team play football.
Smiffy (can’t believe my first mail attempt wasn’t about LFC)


Wednesdayite here. Our season’s over, so may as well have a rant about summat else.

Got no Prem axe to grind, but this idea that Man City are corrupting English football is really winding me up.

(1) Man City finished 4th 2 seasons ago, 15 points behind the champions. They finished 3rd last season, 15 points behind the champions. Now all of a sudden, after 18 games, they’re corrupting the game? Do me a favour. That’s like Spurs having a couple of half decent seasons every now and again and suddenly thinking they’re Real Madrid. Big 6, my arse.

(2) Oops, got distracted. Anyway,  Guardiola signed 3 of that starting 11 (Ederson, Walker, Sane). In the meantime, he’s been coaching Delph to be a left-back, KDB and Silva to play much deeper, Sterling to be a goal-scorer, and Mangala to be a footballer (still a work in progress, admittedly).

(3) That’s what’s corrupting football. The reliance on whingeing about the players you haven’t got (here’s looking at you Mourinho/Castles and Rafa), instead of coaching and improving the ones you have (dammit, if even Hodgson and Moyes can do it….).

(4) And the other thing is that everybody’s always got an excuse for everything. Leicester won the league – fluke, out of nowhere, will never happen again (yeah, but it did happen, and it wasn’t YOU, was it!). Chelsea won the league – they caught us out by going 3 at the back and we couldn’t react (are we really that insular that we’d never seen a Conte team play before? Actually, don’t answer that.). I heard an Arsenal fan on Talksport recently who had an excuse for pretty much every year going right back to the Eduardo injury. Well that’s OK then, Arsenal have won the league for the last 10 years by your rationale.

Winds me up.

Anyway, rant over. Toodle-oo, snowflakes.
Mark (taking the Fat Man Scouse approach to the Paddy Barclay, Diane Abbott “190!” affair) Lewis, SWFC


Don’t forget Phil
While KDB has understandably and deservedly received a lot of praise, it may be surprising to most how Coutinho’s level of production this season stacks up so far…

KDB 23 PL & CL appearances this season – 7 goals, 11 assists

Coutinho 16 PL & CL appearances this season – 10 goals, 7 assists

That’s a massive difference in games played. But it’s not just padded stats, Coutinho has showed the touch, vision, technique, passing, running of games, all round effort, leadership qualities and more. The quality of many of the goals he’s scored and created is his typical highlights-reel quality stuff, now he’s adding consistency on top of it.

He hasnt lacked for showing a level of genius in his play either with some of his passing, dribbling, vision, free kicks and more.

And while he hasn’t lit up the big games this season like KDB has (in part due to availability) one just has to look at his time in England to see Coutinho has had a habit of scoring and creating in big games.

What makes his season even more Impressive is that all of this is coming off the back of an injury affected season’s start and undoubtedly some disappointment with how his summer transfer saga ended.

So again not to take anything away from De Bruyne, who deserves all the plaudits and more for a phenomenal season, but in a poorer team with much less resources, the question needs to be asked, just how great has the little magician been this season, and how is it with such excellence displayed it seems to be happening completely under the radar?
A. in Florida.


Just smile, big lad
Look we Liverpool FC fans get it you want to leave us for your dream move to Barca to join your Pro Evo PS4 playing mate Suarez!

But please can you smile on the pitch (like you used to) when you score and not look so bloody miserable and still be apparently sulking as you were not allowed to go this summer!  Yesterdays performance has calmed my opinion that you were playing below your ability in recent weeks in the Premier League so that we would struggle to challenge for a top 4 place (and mean that we would have no chance of keeping you for another season (without Champions League) however remote that possibiliy is currently).

We know you are probably going at some point soon so please look happy and give your all for the remaining few months you are with us and we will happily wish you well when you go (just like we did with Suarez)!
Stef (Man City buying the league makes me sick!  Killing the competative sport we love!)


Questioning the Ox
Sid LFC says that anyone questioning the signing of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain has been ‘completely disproved’.

How about the fact Liverpool paid between £35m and £40m for a player who they could have had for free in a year, in a department that they are exceptionally well stocked? That counts central midfield or wide forward depending where he plays.

AOC is an above average player who probably wouldn’t get in to any truly top team, but the lunacy of paying that much money to get him a year earlier (when you’ve already bagged the signing of Keita next year anyway) should definitely be questioned.
Calum, MUFC, Wokingham


To all the Liverpool fans praising Oxlade-Chamberlain for his performance, this is part of his cycle.

Having watched him for 6 seasons I can promise you this is how it goes:

Starts on bench

Makes the odd appearance here and there

Performances improve and starts matches

Plays pretty well for 4-5 matches

Has a world class performance


Return to top
Dave (Arsenal) Herts


A quick note of caution for Minty, LFC and other Liverpool fans getting excited about AOC.   He’s had more than a couple of outstanding displays over the years for Arsenal, more than once it’s looked like he’s turned the corner and is about to start performing consistently, but each time either injuries or loss of form have curtailed this.  I genuinely hope he does well (sent a mail at the time of the transfer saying so) and turns into the sort of player he looks like he could but….
Matt, AFC


More Spurs thoughts
It’s a curious time for Spurs and their supporters. We have started a season in such an unfamiliar position that there has been a palpable sense of disappointment among many supporters at our season. Our league form has been patchy and yet we’ve excelled in the Champions League.

It’s without question that many had hoped for more, myself included but there are elements which have certainly conspired against our progress.

Our injuries have highlighted a continued lack of depth. Wanyama and Dembele were a force last season, both have been injured (Wanyama all season) and Dembele has been part of the walking wounded for, well for years. Alderwerield is pivotal. It’s akin to City losing Kompany (not this season but certainly previous years). Winks is playing more games than he had been expected, and whilst playing well he can, as the City match proved, be a little out of his depth just yet. Lamela’s absence has left us with little options to replace Dele or Eriksen. His return is a massive boost.

Dele All’s form has been well highlighted but his form doesn’t concern me; he has had two breathtaking seasons and is having a slow few months, it happens. I worry about his petulance, and the fact that he is constantly on the verge of getting sent off…he is very fortunate that he hasn’t caused serious injury to at least two players in his young career.

These might appear to be excuses they aren’t, or at the very least are but only to highlight that expectation were, as I had thought in August, excessive. We have played poorly far too often this seasons to justify our pre-season tag of title challengers…but the season is still relatively young, there are many, many points to be had between now and May – any doom mongering ought to be reigned in.
Dan Mallerman


Hindsight in punditry
Good column on the weekend’s early loser with regard to Liverpool and their critics. I spoke in a mail a few weeks back about pundits and their use of hindsight to criticise (in this case it was regarding transfers and did not get published) various decisions, without taking into consideration the information available when the decision was made.

How often have you heard a pundit say something along the lines of ‘it is a risk, we will see if it pays off’ before a game and then claim ‘they got the result, so it was the right decision’? The problem here is that the analysis is non-existent, anyone could come to that conclusion that the right decision was made because they won the game, but that does not necessarily make it right.

In the Liverpool case the situation is the opposite to the example above, pundits (like Jenas) have been moaning about the resting of players precisely because they did not get the results. Again this is just lazy analysis that is not in the least bit useful – particularly when discussing the Everton game, that they _should*_ have won three times over with the chances they had. I did not catch the WBA game, but it sounds like that game was perhaps slightly different.

The point is, decisions HAVE to be judged taking into consideration the information available at the time, not in hindsight. In this case, the fact Liverpool have far more games this season than last means they have to rest players – particularly bearing in mind how shattered they were last season – the question is simply when to do it. Was the Everton game a good choice? The performance would suggest yes I would argue, but perhaps the debate should be whether you rest players for a big derby and that is a more valid argument perhaps….

* – Do not get me started on the ‘deserved’ discussion – you do not deserve three points, league titles or cups in football, you simply win them!
Tim Harrington (QPR), London


Better than all the rest
All this talk of City being the greatest English team ever, even being compared to Arsenal’s 2004 invincibles (which I’ll come to later) has left me somewhat perplexed. Firstly, they haven’t won anything yet. I’ll admit that their football has been outstanding so far this season and they are a joy to watch. They will go on to win the premier league this season. But great teams win trophies and for this City team to be a truly great team they have to do what great teams before them have done and go and win the big ones.

The bar has been set by teams gone by that have won the league and European cup in the same season. Some have even won the big three trophies in one season. City could go undefeated and smash the goals and points record but failure to win the European cup in the same season will render the success as tainted.

If they fail to win the European cup then they must win the FA cup to make it a double. Failure here will leave them on the same level as Arsenals greatly overrated 2004 team that bottled the big games (Chelsea in CL and United in FA).. I value Leicester’s league win above Arsenal’s 2004 effort.

Great teams win trophies. If City do go on to win the lot then fair play, we’ll have the debate after the fact. But for now, steady on.
Andrew, London


Here’s Ed
*With the title race looking more and more decided with every passing week, there is an argument that Crystal Palace are keeping the Premier League season interesting.  Having made a start noteworthy as the worst in top-flight history (seven defeats without scoring), they have since set a club record by going seven games unbeaten in the Premier League for the first time.  They have lost to Huddersfield Town, beaten Chelsea, been thumped by both Manchester sides, and on Saturday came away from Leicester with a convincing win against a team that had been in good form.

The glorious inconsistency of a team like Palace means that they cannot be taken lightly by any opponent, and the notion that they are equally likely to pull off (stop laughing, it’s obvious what I meant) an upset victory as they are to slip up puts pressure on all the sides around them in their games.

*Crystal Palace lined up in a 4-4-2, with Wilfried Zaha as the second striker, but given freedom to roam all over the pitch.  I think at one point or another he was fouled by every single City defender.  James McArthur started in central midfield, and as the team’s unsung hero, continued his fine form in repelling City’s attacks.

*Zaha showed once again why Eagles fans love him, and why plenty of fans of other teams admire him.  He is an absolute joy to watch.  Anyone who thinks he is merely a diver, or lacking intelligence, or a failure because he didn’t establish himself at Manchester United is entitled to their wrong opinion.  He is Palace’s focal point in attack, attracting the attention of multiple defenders, and able to beat them time and again.  City’s defenders must have formed quite the queue at the proctology department at Leicester Royal Infirmary after Zaha tore them all a new bumhole.

*A lot of the narrative around the game was about Christian Benteke’s “redemption”, after missing a penalty last week and scoring his first of the season this week.  I know football tends to oversell these things, but this was a bit far.  A few years ago, in rugby league, Brian McDermott was asked why his club hadn’t suspended a player after a brush with the law.  His response was that when someone makes a mistake, there are consequences, but if you have a normal job, you go to work, get your head down and get on with it.  The circumstances with Benteke are different, but the outcome was the same – he made a mistake at work, he apologised to everyone for it, and got on with his job.  He worked hard without reward in midweek, but got on the scoresheet here.

Benteke’s goal was well-taken; he got into an excellent position between centre-back and full-back, evading the attentions of either, and placing his header well – it was right in front of Kasper Schmeichel, but reminiscent of a cricket bowler finding an unplayable length.  The Belgian striker was constantly in good positions, and at one point forced a fantastic point-blank save from the City keeper.  The way he made himself big (stop laughing, it’s obvious what I meant) reminded me of someone.

*A quick word for Julian Speroni – that was his 111th clean sheet for the Eagles, drawing him level with Nigel Martyn.  That’s quite the company.  Speroni had a fairly quiet game, but made an excellent save from Riyad Mahrez.  Mahrez and Jamie Vardy were constantly looking to combine and when they do, are a real threat to even the best teams.

*Martin Atkinson got a lot of stick from the home fans for his refereeing, but had three big calls to make in quick succession.  The first was to rule out a goal for City, correctly, for a shove on a defender.  Then, he correctly adjudged Wilfried Ndidi to have dived, a huge decision to make about a player who had already been booked.  The third was when Marc Albrighton cleaned out Benteke.  While it’s not always good to see players appealing, cricket-style, for a penalty, it was remarkable that no Palace player made any sort of claim.

The Ndidi situation was rather odd.  He was probably unfortunate to have his name taken for the foul on Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but that only serves to make his decision to take a dive all the more ridiculous.  In one of those “I never thought I’d say that” moments, I found it interesting to hear Martin Keown talking about that incident.  He highlighted Scott Dann withdrawing his foot, as part of a trend of defenders gambling on a decision not to attempt a tackle and effectively daring attackers to take a dive.

*The only blot on Benteke’s copybook was the yellow card he received, which means he’ll miss next week’s game against Swansea City.  In line to replace him will be Bakary Sako, who did his own form no harm with a well-taken goal to finally put the game to bed.

Sako’s goal went in as I was driving through Elton on the Wolds, and the entire village probably heard my delight.  I was on my way to The Meres in Grantham, but that’s another story.
Ed Quoththeraven


Looney Toon
If like me you’re engaged in a perennial mid-table ‘dream team’ battle with your pals.

I suggest you adopt the following tactic.

1) See who Newcastle are playing next
2) Include their opponents best player/s
3) Make your new signing ‘captain’
4) Sit in your undies on Saturday afternoon and let double 0 Stelling inform you that you’re climbing the ladder.
5) On Monday return to point one
Ratt Mitchie – NUFC (‘thanking’ in recent weeks, Hazard, Mahrez, Rooney & Ozil. Through the most gritted of gritted teeth).


“Deserved” to win
Regarding your article on “Deserved to Win”, it is difficult to fathom that you cannot understand why it is we have such an obsession with the phrase, or other similar ones.

Football is by its very nature, a game of the tightest margins, where fractions of an inch make all of the difference…where you can beat the keeper all ends up and ricochet the ball off the underside of the crossbar, and end up with nothing… except your face in your hands.

Of course we feel the need to justify how good performances are, especially when the results don’t match. You work in the office Peter (I assume), pop over to the lads in the advertising department and ask them if they ever blabber on about how many sales pitches they have waiting to close, how many people let them down, and how they are all out of luck when their target fails to be achieved this month. It is in our very nature to stand up for ourselves, and highlight all that is good in our effort, especially when our back is against the wall.

Long live “we deserved more from that game” because without it all of our players, managers, and staff may lose the optimism that the phraseology brings, and what would football be without the belief that you, the bottom of the league side, can go to City away, and get that result.


Is it too soon for F365 to apologise to David Moyes?
Interested Brummie


Ask a simple question…
Craig Morrison, Athens – no wasn’t me, I went to Sandilands then Brookway High school in Wythenshawe and I’m not mean just pissed off at the City w*nkfest that’s all me old fruit.

Anyway everybody have a fantastic Xmas and a splendiferous New Year.~
Paul Murphy


Kaka trivia
Stijn (used Bing, so was pretty much on my own) Amsterdam


Kaka beauty
Lovely bit of trivia about Kaka this morning. His retirement announcement has sparked old memories and it’s been lovely reading the various throwbacks and eulogising doing the rounds. Being a teenage central midfielder for whom football was everything when Kaka was in his prime, he was the kind of player who was easy to worship and indeed I did. He played the game at pace but with delicacy, was poised and intelligent and chose the route of sublime simplicity over ‘Brazilian’ flair. If it wasn’t for his sharp drop in form that coincided with and was no doubt catalysed by – especially after his move to Real – the monumental rise of the great Messi/Ronaldo battle of our times, I’ve no doubt he would be remembered as one of the all time greats. Instead it’s now easy to forget just how good he was.

But the lasting moment for me that encapsulated him and serves as permanent reminder of his class is the goal I consider my all time favourite goal. I am of course speaking of that goal at Old Trafford, his and Milan’s second of the match to put them 2-1 up and which served to put his team in a commanding position for the second leg despite going on to lose the game.

It had everything. The directness of his run, the strength to hold off Fletcher, the skill to flick it over Heinze’s head, the speed to reach the ball first and the bravery to stick his head between two oncoming raised legs before slotting it past Van der Sar, cool as a cucumber. And all made to look so damn simple. But I think the thing I like most is the manner in which he made two world class defenders run headlong into each other and tumble over like a group of U8’s chasing a ball around aimlessly. Something so much more satisfying about that kind of thing than any smashed volley or sumptuous curler.

Anyway, I’ll move on. Just thought people might enjoy remembering a great player and a great goal.
Will (that’s not even mentioning the pass against Liverpool) Wymant, EFC