Keep those emails coming to the firstname.lastname@example.org…
Harsh to criticise Mourinho over Man United’s younger players
So, I have noticed that there is currently a furtherance of the long running narrative that Mourinho would damage United’s young players. When you look at it objectively, I think this is not actually the true story. Let’s look at a few cases.
Anthony Martial: The tale being thrown about is that Mourinho has somehow made him regress from last season’s version of himself. Truth is that Mourinho’s system this season has showed up a flaw in Martial’s game – his off the ball movement. Under LvG, United moved the ball about slowly, without running off the ball. This was perfect for Martial because he usually received the ball to feet and then took on his marker. If he lost the ball, possession was recycled and he tried again. However, under Mourinho, the game is more fluid and requires movement. Martial lets the game pass him by because he stands still for most of the attacking moves, waiting for the ball to feet. This also explains why his shots per game count has reduced. Which brings us to…
Jesse Lingard: To the frustration of many United fans, Lingard is one of Mourinho’s favourites. The reason is simple. He runs off the ball, plays with aggression and is the most tactically astute of United’s younger players. He plays to instruction (which is also why Mourinho rates Fellaini). He might not have the ability to breeze past markers like Martial and Rashford but he applies himself.
Marcus Rashford: Perhaps the biggest unrealised success of Mourinho with United’s youth. Even by Rashford’s admission, Mourinho is making him a better and more rounded player by playing him out wide. This internship will serve him well and make him even more formidable on the ball. It reminds me of the time Fergie played Jonny Evans at left back and his ball skills improved drastically. Rashford, similar to Mbappe, will come good.
Luke Shaw: Honestly, I don’t understand the furore surrounding Mourinho’s comments. Age is no barrier to criticism. If you are good enough, you are old enough and all that. Mourinho knows Shaw has the talent but we can all see that the application is lacking. Let’s not forget that Mourinho has experience in dealing with this sort of talent/hardwork issue. See Mario Balotelli…
All in all, it’s not been the best in the short term. However, I think it’s important to give this a bit of time before drawing conclusions.
C Okudo, London (MUFC)
It’s easy to say ‘Told you so’ on Liverpool, but…
When Klopp insisted on an attacking, counter-pressing tactic with no “plan B,” folks get on his back. Now when Klopp tries the “plan B” of securing a win through a defensive sub and change of formation, folks get on his back.
I don’t mean to defend Klopp all the way. Maybe he simply chose the wrong “plan B.”
What I do think is worth observing, is that managers trade in undecidable experiences, while pundits and armchair critics traffic recklessly and rather forgetfully in theory and hypotheses. It’s easy to say, “I told you so,” after the fact—apparently oblivious to the fact that you actually told us the opposite.
Big Weekend’s Little Brother
West Ham United–Swansea City
Is Slaven’s time up? A loss here and it just might be. Meanwhile Paul Clement’s men are in serious danger. The defence held most of the way against an uninspired Spurs, but still can’t be relied on to deliver the goods. In the past three months only Man City and Arsenal have held the Hammers goalless, but we don’t know if either Andy Carroll or Michail Antonio will be available. On the other side, Fernando Llorente hasn’t been able to shake off his ankle injury, but Jordan Ayew might be the right kind of forward to play against West Ham’s slowish centre-halves. I’d love to see Clement change from 4-5-1 to 4-2-3-1 with Gylfi Sigurdsson in the middle and a strong press, but his natural instincts are conservative. If Bilic has two healthy strikers, I’d love to see him play 4-4-2 to put as much pressure as possible on Federico Fernández and Alfie Mawson.
Stat: Gylfi Sigurdsson has 11 assists. No other Swansea player has more than two.
West Bromwich Albion–Southampton
The game of the round. The Saints are belatedly climbing the table with Albion in their sights. The Baggies were poor at Watford, but they’re very tough at home, and Matt Phillips is finally fit to be turned loose on the counterattack. With Ryan Bertrand a doubt for the game, Phillips could give Southampton-born academy product Sam McQueen a torrid time. The key battle on the other side is between Dusan Tadic, excellent lately as a number 10, and the Jake Livermore/Darren Fletcher axis. Manolo Gabbiadini will probably be missing again, so the question is whether Claude Puel, who loves to rotate his squad, will start Shane Long a second straight time or go with Jay Rodriguez, who has a better strike rate but is less mobile. A shout out to James Ward-Prowse, who may finally be making the step up.
Stat: Although Southampton have roughly the same possession percentage home and away, they are first in tackles away and 14th in tackles at home.
Just when Sam Allardyce seemed to have it sorted, his defence delivered a stinker against Southampton. But Arsenal might have gone forever without scoring against West Ham if Darren Randolph hadn’t let one through. Still, Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil were combining very well on the left of attack, and Joel Ward on that side is probably Palace’s biggest weakness. But the Eagles will almost certainly sit deep, knowing that Wilfried Zaha, Andros Townsend, and Christian Benteke are in dangerous form, and that Arsenal’s defence, particularly with Laurent Koscielny missing, is vulnerable on the counter. Mohamed Elneny had a solid game next to Granit Xhaka midweek, and will be needed here. Under normal circumstances you’d pick Palace to get a result, but it’d be so very Arsenal to make a late charge at fourth place.
Stat: Arsenal are 19th in fouls committed per game, ahead of only Bournemouth.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
Changing the concept of the ‘flat-track bully’
After reading Storey’s great article regarding flat track bullies and disagreeing with his point about Rooney it got me thinking, rather than focusing on goals against weaker teams if we simply introduced the idea of “important goals scored” and then used it to measure the impact of strikers it would be a lot more accurate (and fun).
For example, if England were to draw Iceland in a quarter finals (purely hypothetical, as if we’d get to a quarter finals..) and Rooney scored a last minute winner to send us into the semis, that should be worth more than him getting the last goal in a surprise 4-0 tonking of Germany in the group stages when both England and Germany have already qualified.
If Kane scores against Hull and it gets them to the FA cup final it should count more than scoring and winning against Arsenal in the first game of a Premier League season. Lukaku scoring a goal that helped Everton leapfrog Liverpool into 4th should be worth more than an insane performance and goal against City in the 2nd leg of a tie that finished 5-0 to City.
Now if someone could come up with a table of goals (hi Peter) that is determined by the goal’s impact (how do we measure impact? Oh hi again Peter) we would be able to draw much more meaningful conclusions about how much strikers are actually worth.
Jesse Lingard: Manchester United’s Theo Walcott
So Lingard has just been given a new 4 year contract for 100k a week! Is he really worth it? As you say on the site, all United first team player are on around that amount. But is he an actual first team player?
The barometer I use for whether or not a player is of the calibre required for United is simple. While our success has somewhat been blunted recently, with some piss poor transfers, I still think it is safe to say that the red half of Manchester is a European elite club and still in the upper echelons of European footballing ambition. So would Lingard get within an arses roar of the Bayern, Real, Barca, PSG, Chelsea or Juventus starting 11’s? Not a f*ckin chance. So why should we have to settle for him?
I like having local lads making it at the big club, but this sentiment just doesn’t wash anymore. I wish he was good enough, but he has shown himself regularly to be incapable of putting in performances required to be a top player. Because he looks like a child we seem to think he is still one for the future – HE’S 24! He should be well established and getting better, but he hasn’t done either. I backed him the last 2 years to come good, with my brother arguing against, but I hate to admit, bigger bro is right on this occasion.
He bangs in the odd spectacular goal, and the odd important one, but it is not enough to keep him on the first 11. Even then, if he is coming off the bench, do you think any opposing manager will be thinking “Oh no, the big Jesse is on, we’re doomed!”, will they f*ck.
We have had bang average players at that club for decades, every club does, but it was always dusted in between behemoths that would make them better. Our first 11 and squad is littered with them now – Rooney, Lingard, Jones, Smalling, Fellaini, Blind, Rojo, Darmian, Herrera (loved him, but again he hasn’t done enough to warrant a regular starting place) and thankfully we’ve just shifted 3 others out (Schweini, Schneidi, Depay). That’s 12, now 9, below par players in total infecting that team. And we’ve just rewarded one of them with 100k a week. Rashford still has age on his side, but he has been sh*te this season, plain and simple. And Martial would want to have a great season next year or he should be shifted as well.
Lingard, like Walcott, despite continuous efforts to become something more than he is, just won’t, but for some reason will be kept around. United have a big summer ahead of them and need to sell and buy big or will be left behind like Liverpool and Arsenal have.
Sorry for the rant……I find it therapeutic!
Lingard now earns 100k every week.
Eriksen is on 75k
David Moyes: Form for uninspiring substitutions
Was reading through Winners & Losers (as that is your required first read of the day after a slate of games) and came upon the Moyes in the “Losers” column with the discussion about him bringing on Darron Gibson as his final change whilst down 2-0.
That’s not new as Everton supporters will tell you. He was bringing on John Heitinga for Phil Neville (or vice versa) in the defensive midfield role for years while Everton were needing goals to draw or win.
Bad habits and all that.
TX Bill (Wonder if Koeman is feeling a bit silly about now regarding Niasse) EFC
Whatever happened to that guy?
Probably sending this at the wrong time to get published but I was watching Channel 4’s excellent Catastrophe on catch up last night and the characters were discussing the untimely demise of Conor Byrne. That may explain why he never writes.