Mails: Has Mignolet stolen Courtois’ talent?

Date published: Tuesday 13th September 2016 10:08

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4-3-3 it, Jose
After seeing that first half, my first reaction was that City weren’t as great as United were horrible. And more than Lingard, Mkhitaryan and Blind, I thought the reason for that was Pogba mainly because De Bruyne was playing behind him.

Henry, during the Euros, made this fantastically concise statement that Pogba is good when the ball is in front of him and once it goes behind he lacks the awareness. This same fact was highlighted by Carragher yesterday during MNF. It would have been so much easier to highlight Blind’s off day or Lingard/Mkhitaryan being ‘un-sharp’. But the real reason was the in centre midfield we were playing a man less and De Bruyne just killed us in that space.

Pogba’s position is simple – He is the 3rd midfielder in a 3 man midfield. And his quality there is good enough to justify an irreversible shift to 4-3-3. Rooney is just not good anyway and much less as a #10. 4-3-3 also suits having a dedicated DM like Schneiderlin and Fellaini/Herrera as the second midfielder. The sooner this shift happens, the better.
David Moyes (The shift to 4-3-3 is inevitable though) MUFC


Pogba and Pep
Amongst all the fawning over Pep’s masterclass at the weekend, two major issues seem to have been overlooked.

Pogba was awful – Assuming that he wasn’t given a licence to wander around central midfield doing nothing, in the first half, you could argue that he was in large part to blame for the freedom De Bruyne and Silva operated in. He didn’t pick up either of them,leaving Fellaini with an impossible job, and didn’t seem to care too much either – jogging around, not tackling back, not demanding the ball, etc. You have to wonder how long Jose will tolerate this level of commitment and lack of tactical discipline.

Man City weren’t great in the 2nd half – once Jose had corrected his first half stuff up, and put Herrera into central midfield (instantly negating a lot of the Pogba inspired space for KDB and Silva), Man City lost their shape and composure. Even when Fernando came on and stopped the bleeding (a 100% negative/Jose style substitution), they still looked rattled, and played limited Pep style football. Bravo epitomised this – his much admired distribution was awful (how often did he boot the ball away ?), and every time he got the ball ManU sensed a chance. If it hadn’t been for the heroics of Otamendi and Fernandinho (and a relaxed view from the ref of Bravo’s Rooney tackle), Man City would have been over run. So overall, good display (first half) and a good win, but the lack of leadership and composure in the 2nd half would have been troubling to Pep, and an interesting weakness to ponder for Jose, Klopp, et al.
Matthew (ITFC)


Leave Jesse alone
Can we stop with this ‘Lingard simply isn’t good enough or of the required standard’ garbage? Several United teams won leagues with the help of John oshea, Jonny Evans, Anderson and Darren fletcher being key cogs. Lingard has extremely great stamina normally (never has to be subbed), does his job defensively and other than last night generally has a good touch and is a decent passer that can finish as a winger. He’s 23 years old, not 40, time is on his side. But because he doesn’t try to juke or shoot every time he touches the ball (a la sterling) and instead actually lays off a pass to a wide open player he is limited. I understand he had a horrible game at city but he is coming off an injury and isn’t fully fit, give the boy a chance to improve.
Kyle mufc (Fellaini the best cm in the league?)


Mesut Ozil = good
In reply to Rustin Cohle’s mail on Mesut Ozil yesterday,

In his first point Rustin states that Arsenal are unlikely to sell to a domestic rival, however this seems like a conclusion drawn from fiction. In the past decade the majority of Arsenal’s high profile sales have been to domestic rivals, such as Van Persie to United, Nasri and Clichy to City, and Cole to Chelsea.

Rustin then goes on to say how Europes top sides (and Man United) would not be willing to sign Ozil as they don’t play with a number 10. He seems to ignore the fact that any team signing a player of Mesut Ozil’s calibre would have to be willing to adapt to his style. I am sure that a team like PSG, where he would be the best player, or Juventus, where he would provide the perfect service for the most expensive striker ever, would be happy to sign a player described by Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the best he ever played alongside.

Rustin states how Barcelona do not play a number 10, however Ozil has proven with his distance covered stats in the past that he is capable of playing the deeper role currently occupied by Rakitic at Barcelona, playing as the focal point of a midfield three with Iniesta and Busquets behind him. At Barcelona surely his passing ability would see him rack up at least two dozen assists for the season.

At Manchester United Ozil would provide a signifigant upgrade on any of the number 10s mentioned, and would also be the sort if signing Jose would love, as it would be a jibe at Wenger as well

With the rest of the teams Rustin does make a fair point, but in the absence of a transfer ban Ozil would be welcomed at both Madrid clubs.

In conclusion I believe that Rustin is making the stereotypical fans opinion of Mesut Ozil being a poor footballer, simply because he does not make explosive runs or score 30 yard belters, when in fact he is easily one of the top five players in the premier league.
Niall W


Finders, keepers
I am as surprised as anyone about what I’m about to say, but folks should give Mignolet a break and maybe even some praise for his performance on Saturday. I absolutely loved the literal blood and metaphorical guts approach he displayed. When the opposing keeper is staring you down with blood on his face you think twice as a striker about going anywhere near him for that 50:50 ball that until recently has been more like 80:20 in your favor. Mignolet’s issue isn’t that he’s rubbish at crosses; it’s that his opponent thinks he can intimidate him physically and go in for balls he’d normally leave because there is absolutely no risk. Simply put, Mignolet lacks command of his area and the majority of that command is based on intimidation or even more simply put being a mad bastard. That’s why the best keepers tend to aim their punches lower because it’s a nice legal way to beat the living sh*t out of a striker. So next time he thinks, “Ah, that’s a bit overhit, no need to go after it!” What I saw from Mignolet on Saturday was a nice guy trying to develop a mean streak because he knows what’s coming with Karius waiting in the wings. He should be praised for this because it clearly doesn’t come naturally to him, even though one suspects he knows it’s the only way he’ll stay at the top(ish) level.

By the way, could you give the weak defense/great attack narrative a break for a bit? (MC – No.) They made one mistake and were saved by their keeper with a point blank save; no different than most teams week in week out.


Buckle up, T-Bo
I’m writing in because over the past few months (year even) I’ve noticed a pretty evident regression in Thibaut Courtois’s performances. It does appear to me that not much has been made of this, and the general impression of him seems to be that, although he has suffered from a drop (as did most Chelsea players last season), he’s still a reasonably reliable presence between the posts (EA bumped him up from 86 to 89 in FIFA 17!). Don’t get me wrong; Courtois is a quality goalkeeper, and at his best, is the very definition of commanding. However, as fans who watch every Chelsea game would attest, his kicking, handling, and decision making have all been rather suspect for a quite a while now. This summer even saw the departure of Petr Cech’s long standing mentor Christophe Lollichon from the club after nine years, following a row with Courtois. The increased frequency of his mistakes does make you wonder if the club are feeling too great about that decision right now.

Two seasons ago, it promised to be an intriguing battle between Courtois and De Gea as to who would go on to upstage Manuel Neuer as the world’s best. Right now, there’s an outright winner, and no, he isn’t Belgian. Buckle up, T-bo


Leicester should have signed Dat Gueye
As has been said twice a day, every day, Kante’s loss was completely underestimated by Leicester. Nempalys Mendy and Daniel Amartey haven’t yet proven they can adequtely replace the Frenchman and Danny Drinkwater is now regularly getting found out for being quite average. Watching him play against Sunderland, I can’t help but think Idrissa was the Gana Gueye Leicester should’ve signed.

And he cost 7million pounds. Consider the fact that Aston Villa then proceeded to spunk 25+million on their forward line of Championship strikers; 7 million for a player who managed to look impressive and hungry in a relegated team is quite the bargain. Can’t help but think Leicester should’ve said ‘Nay, pah-lease’ to Mendy and instead ear marked Gueye (from his performances last season).

Couldn’t help myself.
Emad MUFC Boston


Support for the European Super League
When the idea of a European Super League was floated back in the 90’s I didn’t like the idea. Now though, I don’t really see a downside to it. Many people believe its inevitable but damaging to the game/disrespectful of tradition etc. However when I think about it rationally, it actually seems like a good idea. The Pro’s do outweigh the con’s, and somewhat counterintuitively – for sporting reasons more than financial ones.

The easiest way to see why it would be good is to picture the future without a European Superleague. This is how I see it:

The year is 2030. In England Chelsea, Arsenal, The Two Manchester Clubs and Liverpool host record crowds – almost exclusively made up of wealthy tourists paying ridiculous ticket prices to see a one of match.  Season tickets are not even an option anymore, as getting higher one of prices from the “global brand” of the Premier League from wealthy fly in fans fore one of games is far more lucrative. Outside of this top five hower, attendance is way down as no one outside the “big clubs” has one a trophy since pluck Leicester City in 2015/2016. Teams can no longer even seem competitive in games against the big five, who regularly thrash any middle table side 6-0. The big clubs buy not only good youngsters, but also established players from the likes of Tottenham on astronomical wages – just to loan them out so that the mid table clubs can’t ever challenge them.

In Spain, Barcelona, Real and Athletico play out their mini league. The gap back to fourth is 20 points.  Everyone below them has a negative goal difference on account of 10-0 the thrashings home and away from these sides.

In Germany, Bayern Munich has gone six seasons without losing a game.  Etc. etc.


There is a European Superleague where the likes of Bayern play Juventus, Or Man City plays Madrid and the result is not pre-determined. Meanwhile, domestic leagues are competitive, fans aren’t priced out of actually attending game (and many choose to attend matches rather than pay astronomical the TV subscription for the Euro Super League)  and young English players can get a chance playing for well supported sides who are actually realistically competing for trophies. Essentially a better supported version of the Championship.

See my point?
Hugo (NUFC) Adelaide


Conflicted Celtic fan
Reading Johnny Nic’s article really brought home my conflicted feelings about the Champions League. Due to various woeful results over the past few years Celtic have failed to qualify for the group stages. Most embarrassing of these was getting humped 6-1 on aggregate by Legia Warsaw, who it transpired fielded an unregistered player for three minutes at the end of the second leg. After being reinstated at their expense, we managed to lose to an abysmal Maribor side in the final qualifying round.

With Celtic not participating I’ve barely taken an interest in the group stages as they are mostly pretty tedious, and even the knockout stages test my willpower as they keep throwing up the same ties each year (Madrid derby, PSG-Chelsea etc). Add to that the balancing of the tournament in favour of the top leagues at the expense of smaller countries such as Scotland, none more so than guaranteeing the top four leagues four places in the group stages from 2018, and it’s easy to see the competition in a negative light.

Yet this season Celtic have finally reached the group stages again and it couldn’t be more exciting. This despite the bookies considering  us more likely to get no points than to progress further. The superstars of Barcelona, Man City, and Borussia Monchengladbach will all be coming to town and the atmosphere for the home games will be as special as only Celtic Park on a European night can be. There is no doubt that being part of the whole thing feels prestiguous. And as someone in the comments pointed out, the financial reward for clubs in smaller leagues is phenomenal. Celtic are estimated to gain £30 million through prize money and ticket sales, compared with the few million they receive per season for domestic broadcasting rights. Without that income it would be more difficult to afford the wages of guys like Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclar (stop laughing City and Villa fans, he’s been really good for us so far).

So it might be hypocritical but as much as I may dislike the Champions League, I certainly want Celtic to be in it and will be enjoying every moment of it.
J (loved Senderos watch from the last mailbox) Glasgow


Many thoughts
A few scattered thoughts from the weekend and looking forwards too;

I was whole heartedly convinced that the Manchester Derby would be rubbish and so didn’t tune in. Sad times. My thinking was based on all my experience of watch Mourinho big games early on. Remember that dour 0-0 at OT when Moyes was in charge? He loves a must not lose situation and is usually excellent at creating the type of game which nullifies the oppositions strength and also reduces opportunities for his own players to make mistakes (the Steven Gerrard slip game is another great example of that). Based on what I subsequently saw, what I read and the tactical changes he made, a part of me wondered if Pep’s team was simply too good for Mourinho, if Mourinho just got the selection wrong, or if Mourinho did actually try to set Man Utd up to compete and they just failed in the key tactical battles. It must at least be some part a combination of the latter two since Jose changed formation and personnel at half time I guess.

I might get laughed out the door here but I’m not convinced Mourinho will be a success at Man Utd. I’m sure he’ll consistently be top 4 but will he have them winning the league or champions league? It’s early days in the league but he’s only had one proper test which he failed. The manner in which the team failed is what was surprising; the pressing was poor, the space Man City were given to play was alarming and the changes were easily thwarted by Guardiola. He was outclassed in every respect and whilst Pep might be the best manager in the league, there are better teams than both City and man Utd (on paper) in Europe so you wonder how he’ll fare against them. In addition he’s been managing in England for a long time, I think managers here are more comfortable with his tactics than ever before; his undefeated home record is never mentioned anymore and I’m not sure how much players care for his public criticism anymore either – maybe they just don’t revere him in the way they did before he went to Madrid and his method of winning was shown up to be both inferior and less fun compared with Barca.

Liverpool were rather good but I can’t decide if the same tactics/setup will be effective against Chelsea. Klopp loves to stick Firmino up on his own in the big games so I suspect we will see him with three energetic types fizzing around behind him. Lallana is putting me in an awkward position because he’s no longer taking large numbers of utterly useless touches. He seems to be losing his instinct to pirouette no matter what and it’s making him as effective with the ball as he always was without it. The problem is that I’ve grown to quite enjoy moaning about him and with Mignolet surely on his last legs in goal I might soon have nothing left to write into the mailbox about.

Everton looked pretty dire for the first half tonight but once they scored Sunderland chased the game and the Ev carved through them with ease. The draw with Spurs was a good result but otherwise they’ve basically just had an easy looking start so I’m yet to be convinced they’re a real top 6 competitor.

Moyes in the match build up tonight talked about “making it hard for Everton”. That’s basically accepting defeat before the ball has been kicked. He’s such a negative manager, it’s sad that chaps like him, Allardyce and Pulis keep getting gigs when the football world has been shown so many more fun alternatives. I guess when survival is more valuable than bums on seats in a stadium this is what you get.
Minty, LFC


Oh Yannick. I miss that guy already. Running at defenders with real pace and unpredictability.

Then to hear Everton fans take over the chant for him, I’m sure we nicked it from Bristol City anyway, but that’s a real kick in the balls.


Wor Al
Alan Shearer only had two goal celebrations – one where he held up one hand and the other where he held up two hands.

How is it his new statute celebrates neither?
Graham Simons, Gooner, confused, Norf London


Oh, Garth
It’s genuinely one of my greatest pleasures reading Mediawatch‘s analysis of Garth Crooks’ line-up every week; I still remember being shushed on a train by a lady (not in a quiet coach I might add) when I lost it reading Mediawatch’s incredulity at Troy Deeney being started at DM.

Reason this week tickled me was it brought back memories of the time I actually met the great man himself in The Sun, a pub in Barnes (also Gary Lineker’s end of town if anyone cares) when I was out on a work social.

We had several conversations about who we rated in the Prem, and I can tell you he categorically hated Koscielny and could not understand why anyone would rate him. He proceeded to tell me that Ramsey was spoiled and the Ox was an idiot for being on Twitter. I literally laughed in his face and he walked off, saying all Arsenal fans were arseholes.

I was a bit drunk so deserved some of it, but it did make me realise that as he is ten times more articulate than Merse and he’s had some profound and intense takes on racism in football, he’s given a free pass for his PFM take on football analysis. Ever since that conversation, I notice every time he makes a lazy analogy on Football Focus or whatever he’s doing these days.

There’s always a place in football commentary for those who challenge entrenched or unpleasant problems football has. But when it comes to the football, sorry Garth but I’d rather see you replaced in all forms of media by Dave Kitson, who is honestly the best ex-player I’ve ever listened to (and I’m not talking about ‘his’ regular article for the Guardian).
Tom, (Met Merse on a night out too, he looked at me like a small scared animal when I offered to buy him a drink) West Hampstead

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