Keep those emails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org…
On the England squad
After reading Winty’s World Cup ladder I was hoping that F365 would follow Johnny Nic’s maxim that experience in failure is no experience at all.
Cahill, Smalling and Hart are specialists in disappointment and should not be near the squad unless they want to pass on knowledge about how to (in order) lose a man at a set piece against top class opposition, be woefully exposed when not playing behind De Gea and how to cock up a routine shot.
Similarly, players who are short of fitness should not go unless they are, A, world class (Kane), or, B, the best we have in that position (Lallana). Taking Jones, Wilshere, Rose (who has never managed more than 30 league games in a season – that is why he has less caps than Bertrand) and Delph are not of the requisite class to be worth risking a squad place for. All of them are replaceable.
Finally, it would be really nice to see Southgate pick a wildcard exciting squad. Rather crash out in a blaze of glory than watch another England v Algeria snoozefest. Lascelles, Shelvey, Sessegnon, Lookman and Loftus-Cheek should all be in the reckoning. As a side note it would be nice to see TAA go as we could then have 3 right backs in the same team with Walker at CB, TAA at CM and Trippier at RWB. Given Gomez, Ox, Jones, Stones and Dier can (have done in the past) play right back it seems the best way to become a key international fixture is have right back as one of your favoured positions.
Joe Midlands (Given the YourName XIs we’ve had shall we do a Can Also Play Right Back XI? Mama Diouf up front, Walker-Peters at LB, anyone got a keeper?)
Maitland-Niles > Welbeck
Personally, I don’t think of any of our players deserve to be playing at the World Cup.
Mustafi has been deservedly dropped by Germany but why should Jack and Danny be given a free ride?
Back in 2006, as an experiment I was able to pick a Fantasy World Cup team made up of entirely Arsenal players and didn’t even have room for them all.
These days, I couldn’t tell you if any of them will get a game – even Ozil given his bad back.
If England are going to take one Arsenal player, I’d go for Maitland-Niles. He’s won silverware for England already, seemingly excels in any position and you need that in a World Cup, and his best days are hopefully ahead of him, while Jack isn’t likely to offer any surprises.
That said, none of them get in the first team.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Liverpool season review
Signing of the Season- Considering he was the best signing of any premier league team, it simply has to be that man Mo Salah. I remember when it was confirmed that we were going to sign him, me and a Liverpool supporting mate of mine couldn’t help but think “why??”. Then he went and proved that maybe the recruitment staff at Liverpool may in fact have greater football knowledge than us.
Worst signing of the season- This is a bit harsh but it has to be Solanke. When the other signings have been Salah, Ox, VVD and Robertson, you’re damn out of luck. He does seem to lack the quality required to be a backup to Bobby but I still have hope for him yet. Think Origi would have been the better replacement for the year. Once again though, Klopp et al know best.
Breakthrough Season- Trent Alexander-Arnold. I had seen flashes of him in previous seasons and he looked very raw. He still is a bit raw but he’s starting to gain the in game knowledge required to play to PL standards. Can still get caught out if targeted but at his age getting caught out for me was mitching college to get high and play FIFA with my mate so kudos to him.
Game of the Season- Probably the 3-0 first leg against city. We showed in the first half that when we get going we just absolutely destroy teams and sometimes there’s just nothing that can be done about it. The second half we play backs to the wall football and actually didn’t concede which is so very unliverpool.
Worst game of the season- Either the Spurs away game or the United away game. The Spurs game was bad because we didn’t have a sniff. The United game was bad because I was surrounded by united supporting mates and it was a typical Mourinho performance. The first PL game against city was lost to me once Mané got sent off so I had detached my emotion from the game.
Goal of the season- This is hard. Salah vs Spurs, Salah vs Roma, Ox vs City or Bobby vs City in PL.
Moment of the season- I think it would be Salah’s goal against City in the 2nd leg. When that went in it just took all that intense pressure off and pretty much ensure qualification.
Worst moment of the Season- Probably the second Rashford goal on the defeat. United fans around me going ape and me sat there knowing we had 70 mins left to play and thinking we could be on the end of battering.
Player of the Season- The Egyptian King rules again here but a big shout out to Bobby and Robbo.
On a related note to transfers, how often have Liverpool had such a success rate with their transfers? I’d argue never but I can only remember since the Houllier era.
Tottenham season review
Signing of the season: Davinson Sanchez. Clearly managers are finding it difficult to buy quality, affordable CBs these days, but in Sanchez we have found a 21-year-old diamond in the rough. A very good tackling technique and comfortable on the ball. Loads of potential.
Worst signing of the season: Probably Llorente. Another season has passed and again we have failed to buy a good back-up for Harry Kane. Llorente was serviceable, but that was it.
Breakthrough season: Quite a few options here: Son, Sanchez and Trippier… but it was Ben Davies for me. The Rose saga at the start of the year got him in to the team, but his form kept him there. He tailed off a bit towards the end, but he had a blistering start with 2 goals and 3 assists in his first six League games to get us up and running. Subject to Rose being transferred, it will be interesting to see who our preferred left-back is next season.
Game of the season: Again, a few options here: Leicester on the final day, doing Chelsea at the bridge… but it has to be the 3-1 win vs Real Madrid. Winning that game and in that fashion was a huge scalp for this team. It shut down the Wembley hoodoo once and for all and gave us great immense confidence moving forward.
Worst game of the season: Performance-wise, probably the 2-0 defeat against Arsenal or the recent 1-0 loss against West Brom. We were very stagnant in both. Truthfully though, the worst game was the 2-1 defeat at Wembley against Juventus. We didn’t necessarily play that badly, but when your side goes 1-0 up at home following a 2-2 away draw, you start to assume that you’re home. It’s a bit cliché, but better ‘game management’ probably would’ve seen us through.
Goal of the season: An honourable mention to Wanyama’s thunderbastard vs Liverpool. What. A . Hit. Son. But the winner (for me) is Dele Alli vs Chelsea. A sublime control and finish from a sumptuous 40+ yard pass from Dier.
Worst moment of the season: Losing another FA Cup semi-final. I don’t get too bothered by the whole ‘but you haven’t won anything yet’ guff, but winning or even challenging for the FA Cup would’ve been a fair reward for our efforts. (Dis)honourable mention: Kane’s appeal to steal Eriksen’s goal. What an ugly shambles that was.
Player of the season: This was very hard. Firstly, honourable mentions to Kane and Eriksen. With 41 goals I almost feel guilty not giving it to Kane but, at times this season, I thought he was selfish and shot recklessly when there was a pass available. Eriksen also had a cracking season. In fact, probably his best to date playing 37 games and recording 10 goals, 10 assists, 15 big chances created. A worthy PFA TOTS inclusion. However, I’ve decided to go with Jan Vertonghen for several reasons:
1) Toby’s absence – Jan and Toby are formidable together, but Vertonghen had to play without his partner in crime for most of the year.
2) Walker and Rose – Last season, Vertonghen started with Walker and Rose 15 times. This year, Walker left for City and Rose played just 9 games. The Sherriff not only lost his Mayor (Toby), but also his two closest deputies.
3) Wanyama vs Dier. Wanyama missed 18 games this season and his replacement, Dier, was not up to scratch. I think Dier gets far too much stick from followers of this site, but even I will acknowledge that he made some glaring errors, many of which made Jan’s life more difficult.
Despite all of this though, I think Vertonghen had his best season to date. We have plenty of creative players, but without Jan (or his great form), I feel we would’ve lost a lot more games.
That’s my two cents. Happy to debate!
Sam (Australia), THFC
I have two passions, football and conservation biology. Unfortunately, I have 2 left feet, so never had a chance of succeeding as a footballer. However, I am starting to make progress as a conservation biologist.
Yesterday, I read that Ji-Sung Park attributes his success to drinking wild frog juice. Now, Park was a fantastic footballer, something we can almost certainly attribute to hard-work, resilience, and a good measure of skill. However, it is completely outlandish to attribute Park’s ability to frog juice – it’s almost comical. Except, in reality, it isn’t!
Frogs, a type of amphibian, are approaching extinction faster than any other group of animal, with other 500 species in decline, primarily because of a nasty fungal disease. The last thing these stunningly beautiful, highly endangered species need, is another threat. And that is what Park has done, he has used his global platform to tell aspiring athletes, that the key to success is capturing wild frogs and drinking their juice. This is the equivalent of Sadio Mane suggesting the key to being a footballer is butchering an Elephant, and eating its tusks.
These athletes, and celebrities more generally, have a global profile with such a massive reach, that they must speak carefully. Uttering a few silly words can have really severe consequences (e.g. Kylie Jenner knocked $1.3 billion off the value of snapchat). Lets hope Ji-Sung Park hasn’t just pushed frogs even closer to extinction.
Tom, Reading (LFC)
A Wales ladder
Nope, no reason for this at all except that the World Cup and your (very good) England squad ladders are making me feel left out.
Ahead of the announcement of Ryan Giggs’ second squad, this is how I think the ladder stands as he sees it. The changes in position are from when I first/last did this in early September last year, when Cookie was still in charge.
1 (1) Gareth Bale
Wales’ all-time top scorer, coming back to form and fitness at just the wrong time.
2 (4) Aaron Ramsey
As important as ever, although/because the emergence of a billion young attacking midfielders, combined with decreasing options in central midfield, means a likely end to his more advanced role for Wales.
3 (3) Joe Allen
Even more important than ever, due to the reason mentioned above. Somebody good please sign him this summer.
4 (6) James Chester
Whether he’s in the Premier League or the Championship next season, the 29-year-old (oh God, is he really 29 years old?) is Wales’ only decent centre-back not at the beginning or end of his career. Worrying.
5 (8) Ben Davies
An excellent club season at wing-back is sadly going to count for sod all, as a lack of central options will force Giggs to keep him as the left-sided centre-half in a back three. At least he’s ahead of Neil Taylor in the pecking order for a back four. Finally.
6 (30) Harry Wilson
Hindsight suggests he was starved of opportunities by Coleman (at least after Cookie made him Wales’ youngest ever player back in 2013) but in fact, he just wasn’t at the level required. Having time to develop in Liverpool’s Under-23s before a fantastic loan spell with Hull has changed all that. He was arguably Wales’ best player in Giggs’ first two games, winning his second and third caps five years after his first. He looks a completely different player now.
7 (2) Chris Gunter
Still a cult hero, still Wales’ most capped outfielder of all time, still the first-choice right-back, but with Coleman gone, his destiny of winning 100 caps before he’s 30 now looks more of a probability than an inevitability.
8 (7) Wayne Hennessey
Danny Ward was finally going to be given only his second opportunity since the opening match of Euro 2016, then he went and lost his fucking passport and Hennessey started Giggs’ first two games instead.
9 (12) Sam Vokes
He surely must have impressed Giggs with his link play in China, which is good because he’s at the front of a very short queue of ‘proper’ strikers.
10 (18) Tom Lawrence
He wasn’t great in China and will be in the Championship again next season, but he still looks likely to start Wales games regularly now.
11 (5) Ashley Williams
Depressingly high. Dire for club and country over the past year and needs ushering towards retirement, but Giggs retained him as captain (for now) and (for now) there really are few options.
12 (9) Andy King
Also depressingly high. He does everything averagely – sometimes not even that – and yet managers seem to like him. David Edwards’ retirement works in his favour.
13 (37) Declan John
A fine season for Rangers and seriously impressive performances in China mean he’s suddenly a strong contender to be Wales’ first-choice wing-back if Giggs does go with a back five – and Giggs has already tried him on the wing, too.
14 (19) Ben Woodburn
Seven caps already for the 18-year-old forward. Giggs is said to be a fan.
15 (22) David Brooks
Another young attacker (just 20) fighting for a starting place in the here and now.
16 (23) Chris Maxwell
Giggs’ keenness to win the China Cup meant Maxwell’s debut was put on hold again, although he’ll surely be given a chance soon. It’s not often that Wales have more than one Championship goalkeeper waiting in the wings.
17 (13) Joe Ledley
Ain’t nobody… like Joe Ledley…
18 (29) Ethan Ampadu
Believe the hype. Ludicrously, Wales may play a 17-year-old defensive midfielder at centre-back because players five years his senior ‘aren’t ready yet’. He’s that exciting.
19 (31) Lee Evans
Yes, he shares his name with a comedian and it’s hilarious. First called up in 2014 but made his debut only last year, yet he already seems to be ahead of Emyr Huws and maybe even Joe Ledley in Giggs’ thoughts.
20 (NE) Chris Mepham
Under the radar until Bournemouth had a supposed £5.5m bid turned down for a 20-year-old centre-back with barely half a dozen Championship appearances to his name. In 2018 he’s kept his place at Brentford, made his senior Wales debut and could be fast-tracked into the first team given the rate of Ash’s decline.
21 (26) Adam Matthews
Somehow emerged from Sunderland’s miserable season with a modicum of credit, showing his ability on the left as well as the right. Seems to have overtaken Jazz Richards in the running to be Wales’ versatile reserve wing-back.
22 (27) Tom Bradshaw
Has more of a chance now than he did, especially with the bromance of Cookie and Churchy coming to an end (Simon Church has just retired due to injury). He’s back in League One next season, although oddly that could help him.
23 (14) Danny Ward
This season could hardly have gone worse. Huddersfield wanted him back before they settled on Jonas Lössl, but Liverpool denied him another loan move – and then there was the passport fiasco. To think, he could’ve been playing regular Premier League football throughout 2017/18, rather than a single League Cup game.
24 (NE) Connor Roberts
Giggs likes what he sees. So do some Swansea fans, who have wondered aloud why he had to watch from the sidelines as Kyle Naughton did not a lot all season.
25 (10) Neil Taylor
With Coleman gone, Taylor’s golden goose has died. He’ll probably cling on for a few more squads, mind.
26 (20) Emyr Huws
A promising career in midfield stalled by injury just when he looked to be getting a run of games. Speaking of which…
27 (16) Jonny Williams
It’s hard to see Giggs having much patience with his injury record. He’s been in the last chance saloon for years and sadly, last orders are coming up.
28 (25) Tom Lockyer
A throwback to the relatively recent days when Wales regularly had to pick defenders from the third division. To be closing in on 250 appearances for one club – Bristol Rovers – at the age of 24 is utterly ridiculous, by the way.
29 (NE) Michael Crowe
Yet to play even one professional match in his career (he turns 23 this year) and yet apparently preferred by Giggs to a goalkeeper starting regularly in the Championship…
30 (24) Adam Davies
What did he do wrong at Barnsley to fall behind this upstart Crowe?
31 (17) Jazz Richards
Falling out of favour at Cardiff means he did significantly worse out of the swap deal with Scott Malone, who subsequently shone at Fulham and then moved to Premier League Huddersfield. Richards will not be retained following promotion, you’d think.
32 (NE) Billy Bodin
Surely the fastest riser to Giggs’ squad (well, apart from Crowe): he played plenty in the under-21s but is 26 now and has just made his senior Wales debut. Found the step up the Championship hard after moving to Preston, but next season could be different. Will probably never live down his dad’s penalty miss.
33 (28) Marley Watkins
Needs to play more for his club.
34 (32) Ryan Hedges
35 (11) Hal Robson-Kanu
It physically hurts me to put Hal so low, but when you’re dropped from a manager’s first squad and start to spend your time talking about your sideline in cryptocurrency investment, it doesn’t bode well for your international future, however much the fans love you.
36 (34) Joe Walsh
So, so few centre-backs.
37 (38) George Williams
The man you wouldn’t guess in a ‘Euro 2016 squads’ Sporcle quiz (except you would, because writing just ‘Williams’ would be enough) has done all right on loan at St Johnstone, which gives him an out when Fulham inevitably let him go. Even allowing for his injury woes, it’s a long way back to the glory days of having a Panini sticker.
38 (42) George Thomas
A lot depends on what Leicester do with him.
39 (39) Tyler Roberts
See No.38, only with Leeds.
40 (NE) Rabbi Matondo
Young (albeit five days older than Ampadu) and also at a big club (Manchester City), but as a winger he’s playing in a position where Wales have a baffling number of prodigious talents already. He may well overtake them in time.
41 (46) Regan Poole
42 (35) Gethin Jones
43 (NE) Lloyd Isgrove
44 (43) Daniel James
45 (41) Shaun MacDonald
46 (NE) Cameron Coxe
47 (44) Andrew Crofts
48 (48) Mark Harris
49 (40) Owain Fôn Williams
50 (50) Ryan Giggs
Huw (theoretically on holiday in Pembrokeshire)
A Dembele XI
Reminiscent of the old Dembele of the week award, thought I’d give a fist to a Dembele XI.
343 with very attacking wingbacks. There’ll be goals.
GK: Siraba Dembele (Female Handball player(This was a tough one)).
DF: BIra Dembele (Laval, French third tier, aged 30)
DF: Siramana Dembele (Porto Assistant Coach, aged 41)
DF: Souleymane Dembele (Stade Malien, Malian top division, aged 33)
WB: Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona, aged 20)
WB: Karamoko Dembele (Celtic, aged 15)
MF: Mousa Dembele (Tottenham, aged 30)
MF: Bassirou Dembele (AS Bakaridjan, Malian top division, aged 28)
FW: Moussa Dembele (Celtic, aged 21)
FW: Makan Dembele (USFAS Bamako, Malian top division aged 31)
FW: Papis Malaly Dembele (AS Nancy, French third tier, aged 28)
Plenty of crosses for Makan to knock down and loads of pace throughout should cause plenty of teams trouble. Who could match up? Jones’? Cole’s? My French-Belgian-Malian-Senegalese team will have you.
KC (Harsh to omit Siriki of Grimsby, but theres a lot of talent in the striking department)
Some truly horrific goalkeeper puns
Brave call from Southgate. Joe wasn’t my Pickfor’d tournament but he was always Popeular with the fans for showing plenty of Hart. I never thought he was good enough Butland’ed on his feet with being England number one for so long. I hope he doesn’t Foster any resentment. It’s certainly a big call as the rest of the keepers are a bit Green. Could be the difference though, and I hear Southgate Banks on it making all the difference.
I’ll stop there but I’m sure there’s Shil’tons of puns left.
Mike, LFC, Dubai
So the Championship playoff semi finals have been tight, low- scoring affairs and the Champions League semi finals have been white knuckle rides of relentless attacking football and defensive mishap
Funny old game
Yay, no Pulis
Huge congratulations to Aston Villa, not for qualifying for the playoff final but for ensuring Pulis isn’t back in the Premier league.
On that note also huge congratulations to Everton fans for what seems like a successful campaign to get Allardyce out of the club.
Let’s kick anti football out of football.
Power to the people!