Keep those emails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org…
Karius turned a corner
I wouldn’t ordinarily go out of my way to praise a Liverpool player, but the importance of one thing that I think has been underplayed is the penalty save from Karius this weekend. 16 conclusions gave a casual nod to it, but to consciously plan that save took a great deal of guts. As a fan, I always feel that to not dive when trying to save a penalty is always a huge risk – if the taker puts it either side of you then you’ll a) look like a bit daft, and b) probably get absolutely roasted by your own fans if it costs you points.
The TV coverage showed that Kane does have form for putting it down the middle, but also that he has gone to the sides before too, so it wasn’t a “sure thing” that it was going down the middle by any means. So a ‘keeper, who has received more than his fair share of criticism while at Liverpool, to stick to his guns with the match so finely balanced shows quite remarkable bravery. To have such faith in his own judgement that he literally stood his ground deserves significant praise. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the best penalty saves I’ve seen for a while, given the atmosphere and circumstances.
As another mailboxer mentioned, that was probably his best performance to date, despite the concession of two goals, and he should definitely be given another few chances in big games to prove himself. To my mind, that moment was similar to the one had by De Gea in the 8-2 against Arsenal, end result excepted. But De Gea had also been copping a lot of flak in the run up to that game and, at 1-0, he saved a crucial penalty from van Persie, which was the springboard for the performance in the rest of the game. I’m not saying Karius will go on to emulate De Gea’s career exactly, but this could well be a turning point for him. Great oaks and all that.
Winter break myth
I have emailed in before about English people citing the lack of a Winter Break as the reason for Englands shortcomings at tournament being nonsense but why do they need a break anyway.Yes,Spain has a 14 day break but the actual players get 5 days off…5 days.
Liverpool had a 9 day break before playing City & an 8 day break before losing to Swansea.They have a week till they play Southampton,are out of the FA Cup so will have 2 weeks till their next league game.Both Liverpool & Utd went to Dubai in January so have had plenty of R & R. Also,most teams sit back when they play the big teams, Utd’s match Sat v H’field was a glorified testimonial.
Also,if people are so worried about players being tired going into tournaments doesn’t it make more sense to play more games early in the season & lighten the load towards the end of the season? Break or no break you still have to play 38 league games. Bear in mind English teams have been diabolical in Europe the last 5 seasons so when Barca, Real, Bayern, Juve etc are playing 2 games a week in late March,April & May,English teams are just playing 1 game a week-surely this would ensure Premiership players are less tired in tournaments then players in Spain, Italy or Germany? Or did England lose to Iceland in June because Kane had to play 2 games in 4 days the previous December?
Complete rubbish,Ronaldo played in the CL final a good 2 weeks after the PL ended in 2016 & went on to win the Euros.When England start slowly in a tournament it is because they haven’t played competitively for a few weeks,when they go out early it is because they are tired.
Break or no break,England will never win a tournament-they are not good enough, simple as.
…I can see the appeal of a winter break for PL clubs and players, and also the convoluted timing it would bring, but a January break would not stop the real problem with the English football calendar; the December death march.
Really the problem is that there are too many games being squeezed into too few dates, and a January break does not reduce that. The December run in this scenario will still produce the same number of injuries, the same crap football and the same TV ratings.
The ultimate solution would be some proper re-alignment of English football. Kill the League Cup, re-allocate those dates to the FA Cup (to better spread it out), and reduce the total number of games. Then add that winter break, but perhaps for the entire professional tier. You could fill the break with something intense and fun (maybe a 2-week youth football tournament, or the same with the FA Vase (March Madness-style)).
I can hear Daniel Storey yelling curse words at the idea of less football from here in Ottawa, but it could improve the quality of the actual games played.
Anyway, it’s my own bad advice.
Duncan (in balmy Ottawa)
The next Lampard
Lovely to see James Ward-Prowse in your team of the week. He has indeed stepped up a level or two in recent weeks. This is what every Saints fan has wanted to see since he hit the scene three or four years ago. At the time it seemed that he would go on to be our next success story for the academy, however, in the past year or two fans have become frustrated with how little he was actually impacting games. Too often he was a passenger, only useful for his excellent dead ball delivery. Recently he has started to add much more in open play, including the much needed goals needed from a midfielder in the absence of a prolific striker.
The rest of the season will define what level of player JWP is. Will he revert to his previous form and establish himself as no more than a squad player for a mid-ranking premier league side? Or will he continue to kick on and become a bonafide quality player for club and country?
He reminds me of Frank Lampard at the start of his career.
At West Ham Lampard had talent, but similar to JWP threatened to never really become a quality player. He then went to Chelsea and the rest is history. JWP is now the age that Frank was when he made that move.
The two have similarities. Both are limited physically. Neither possess pace or athleticism (a real barrier to JWP in the past…he just can’t get to the danger areas quickly enough) but what they both have is intelligence. In fact you can point at the A*s in their GCSEs as evidence of this particular similarity. What this led to in Lampard was a player who could evaluate his own performance, build on his strengths and counter his weaknesses. His attitude was superb and he was smart enough to make himself into an excellent player. JWP seems to take the same approach. He has improved through the years, albeit slowly. Every game seems to make him 1% better. He is articulate and dedicated, known for his extra time on the training ground. He was England U21 Captain for a number of years, demonstrating his positive attitude.
The time is now for JWP. For both Southampton and England we have to hope that he can emulate Lampard to at least some extent.
Jon Tucker, Southampton
The Wanyama strike on the weekend got me thinking – what goal in your lifetime gave you the biggest goalgasm? Think Neville’s reaction to Torres v Barcelona. I’m 30 so it’s tough to remember some of the older one’s so here goes…
O’shea v Liverpool ’07 – I think I punched a hole in my pouf sofa in a slightly exaggerated celebration.
RVP v Man City ’12 – I lost my sh*t.
Ronaldo v Porto ’09 – I turned my living room into a mini Olympic-running track.
Scholes v Barcelona ’08 – I put this as I can’t actually remember my reaction, so it must have been super goalgasmic!
Beckham v Greece ’01 – ‘Went mental’ is an understatement. Wow.
Sergi Roberto v PSG ’17 – I couldn’t believe what I had seen. And neither could my girlfriend who had to experience my reaction first hand.
Beletti v Arsenal ’06 – At the peak of my anti-Arsenal self… this was just glorious.
Ben Watson v Man City ’13 – Again, OTT, but it was so much fun.
There are so many, but these stick out in particular.
New manager bounce
I see United have Chelsea on the 25th of Feb, what are the odds that Conte gets sacked, the new manager is installed just before the game and the players all start turning up on match day again?
Paul, Man Utd
Mourinho’s mind games
Conte’s record in all competitions before spat with Jose:
W 6 D 2 L 1
Conte’s record in all competitions after spat with Jose:
W 2 D 5 L 3
Get it in writing
With all this talk of Conte being close to the sack at Chelsea, it has made me realise how managers are held to absolutely no professional or performance standards when it comes to their contracts.
While I agree that clubs want to lock in their managers for a longer period to prevent bigger clubs from poaching them in case they succeed, and that performance evaluation can be entirely subjective, there still exists a lot that can be measured objectively to safeguard clubs.
Let us take Conte’s example. In the last few weeks, he has:
1. Moaned about the lack of funds
2. Moaned about the team strength
3. Moaned about the transfer policy / board
Yet he hasn’t walked away.
Now let us contrast this with regular jobs. If I do not agree with the strategic direction that my company is taking and is not investing in a shiny new ERP and mobile application, should I just stop working? Can I simply show up, and randomly type some words on my laptop, and leave? Will I still be paid GBP 10 million for this for not doing my job? The answer sadly (very sadly) is no!
Why can’t clubs enforce minimum performance standards? My interpretation of minimum is:
– Don’t publically b**ch about the club
– Don’t lose 5 of the last 10 matches (this can change with each club)
– Don’t lose more than 30% of the games against the bottom 10/12/15
If you violate any or all of these terms, the club can potentially fire you for underperformance or serve you a notice where you either improve performances or leave without a big payout.
What does the mailbox think?
Gaurav (Moyes will hate me for this) B, India
…A friend of mine is an avid Chelsea fan, part of Chelsea TV and recently featured in a (pretend) pre-match sparring session with Arsenal TV, boxing gloves and all. He is adamant that Chelsea are following the American football model where the manager is more a coach and is easily replaced, avoiding the issues that United have suffered post-Ferguson and that Arsenal will almost inevitably suffer post-Wenger. Our discussions usually centre around me being a bit more of a romantic and enjoying stability with a manager staying for longer periods and I think the current Chelsea malaise backs up my argument, although nothing is black and white obviously.
Looking back over recent years, Chelsea won the title under Mourinho, then fell away dramatically in the following season, they now seem to be repeating the cycle under Conte, is this down to having a manager that the players know is possibly temporary? Back in the Mourinho siege days at Chelsea (his first stint) there was obviously something rotten in the dressing room after he left, the treatment of AVB was stark evidence of that but those players (Terry, Lampard, Cole) have gone now. So is it actually the approach of Abramovich, who is never shy to wield the axe, that is creating this cycle of win/falter under successive managers or is it just a coincidence?
If Conte does go, it will be interesting to see if Chelsea challenge for the title next year under another manager. You reap what you sow and stability is, in my opinion, under-rated.
Paul, Man Utd
Three thoughts on Chelsea
Firstly, I have thought all season that Conte deciding he hates Costa and totally ostracising him was incredibly poor management. Chelsea now lack any sort of identity, let alone the relentlessly competitive beast that Costa embodied.
Secondly, Eden Hazard: I agree that he has all the talent in the world, but for a player like that never to have scored more than 20 goals in a season is indicative of a weak mentality, which I think will forever hold him back.
Finally, yeah, Bakayoko is f*cking terrible.
Alex G, THFC (we all hate to see it, too)
What price Mahrez?
I was unhappy to read on this site in your ‘Top 10 Premier League Players of the Season’ A belittlement of Leicester and Mahrez as is very popular in the media these days in the form of:
‘So if Leicester believe that Riyad Mahrez is worth £95m, then what price Zaha?
There is no ‘belief’ he is worth at least that in a world where Philippe Coutinho in worth £142m. There is no way Coutinho is worth that, Barca skewed the market for ‘second tier talent’ players values so they are to blame not Leicester on their valuation. To be honest Mahrez is not £47m less in talent than Coutinho there are pretty similar and since one of these players neither led his team to the EPL title (or any titles at all in 5 1/2 seasons at Liverpool) nor won a PFA Player of the year award so the argument on who’s better could go to the less fashionable player.
Mahrez is upset about his move to Man City falling through but it was due if reports are correct to a derisory £40m bid that Leicester had every right to reject. Personally I think he needs to grow up and get back to playing so he can be sold in the summer with his Leicester legacy intact. Bottom line is that the media needs to stop belittling clubs just because they aren’t in the top 6 (bank balances) and acting like they are obliged to sell their best players under their market value once one of these more fashionable clubs comes calling.
If Mahrez and Zaha move in the summer for less than half a Coutinho it it proof that playing for a top 6 club (even the ones that rarely if never win anything) and having a fancy nationality (in footballing terms) is worth more than actual talent.
Weird move XI
Weird XI you say? Ok ill have a go.
GK: Edwin Van Der Sar – Juve to Fulham. The whole thing was just weird. Clearly too good for them. Eventually made his move to Man U and won it all. What’s unreal is he was at Fulham for FOUR years. What a total waste of time.
RB: Mat Debuchy – Newcastle to Arsenal. May not seem that weird but as a Newcastle fan, we couldn’t believe Arsene Wenger paid us twice as much as we did for him, to take him off our hands. He’s done nothing at Arsenal and none of us are surprised. Weird.
CB: Laurent Blanc – Inter to Man Utd. Seriously this one was weird for the entire time. He was clearly too old and contributed to Fergies worst ever season in the PL. So ridiculous.
CB: David Luiz – PSG to Chelsea. This one was weird right? No-one could understand it. He then helped them win the league. So weird. He’s now not in the team. Not so weird.
LB: Mikael Silvestre – I found this one just very strange. I couldnt get my head around it. Fergie never sells to a rival, so he must have been past it, but he wasn’t that bad, which made it all just weird.
CM: Thomas Gravesen – Everton to Real Madrid. Has there ever been a more weird permanent transfer? He actually played as well. Twilight zone.
CM: Edgar Davids – rocks up at Barnet. This wasn’t a transfer and be was player-manager (kind of) but come on. Edgar Davids playing for Barnet? Weirdo.
CM: Ivan Campo – Real Madrid to Bolton. I could have put Fernando Hierro in this team or even Djorkaeff but Campo was still in his prime and had only recently stopped polishing his Champions League medal. He would spend six years at Bolton. Six.
FW: Nicolas Anelka – Fenerbache to Bolton. PSG, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Man City, Fenerbache, Bolton, Chelsea, wait what? If Anelka were to go for job interview he need to explain the gap in his CV for that 2 year spell at Bolton. How? Why?
FW: George Weah – Milan to Chelsea. This was just weird. It’s like it never happened but it did and I for one can’t forget it. George Weah was a mirage, a mysterious idol to be watched only on Football Italia, winning World Player Of the year. Not struggling to play up front with Chris Sutton. No. No. No.
FW: Ian Rush & John Barnes – Leeds & Liverpool to Newcastle. Like previously mentioned I am a Toon fan. I watched Keegan sign Ferdinand & Ginola in 1995 and almost win us the league. I then saw Dalglish sell them both in 1997 & replace them with over the hill Ian Rush & John Barnes. What? I know they say ‘sign what you know’ but this destroyed our team and put the club back for years. Perhaps forever. Why Kenny? Why? Utter nonsense.
Getting rid of simulation
As the dust settles on what was a great game of football between two exciting teams, I find myself considering the punishment for diving, or simulation, or the cringeworthy “giving the ref a decision to make”. Bollocks, it’s called cheating and we all know it.
This isn’t an attack on Spurs, we’ve all witnessed our own team’s players practice the dark arts for many years now. The once oft put forward myth that it was a ‘foreign blight’ on the innocent English game has now been truly debunked. Often by players talented enough to represent England at international level.
Rather than bemoan, shrug and claim that’s the way things are now, wouldn’t it be fantastic if we took a proper stand against it. Make all attempts at simulation in the penalty area an immediate red card. These are the worst offences, as if a player successfully cons the referee, it’s almost always a goal. Not only would a player caught out be letting their team down on the day, but would have to serve a suspension too. That might make them think twice about cheating.
To expand slightly on the idea, the impending implementation of VAR could make it easier to reduce the chance of incorrect decisions. File dismissals under bringing the game into disrepute, deride offenders for their stupidity. Make the game we love more about skill and excitement than who can throw themselves to the floor most convincingly.
Spoons (Never going to happen) LFC