Mails: This Man United just missing a star

Date published: Monday 30th November 2015 4:41

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Van Gaal’s plan is just missing class
Firstly, I would like to thank Sean for his concern about Manchester United. I’m sure United sitting a point off top with this Pulis-ball must hurt deeply.

Now to the mail itself. I can’t deny agreeing with his assessment that United’s football is defensive and more often than not boring. It is very frustrating for fans, hence the booing brigade and it does stand against that wonderful attacking, beautiful football we all enjoyed under Fergie….except that we didn’t.

Fergie’s football was built on great defences and teams that would win 1-0 following a moment of genius from one of the world-class players his sides were gifted with. These players were given a free reign to take the risks and represent the ‘spontaneity’ Sean mentions is missing from this United team. However I disagree completely this United are missing this. It is well known that LVG utilises a rigid system but this system is balanced with three players who are allowed to take the risks that are believed to be absent from the team. In my opinion, it is these risks that are as frustrating as the barrage of sideways passing because they are represented by Depay losing the ball in an unsuccessful dribble or Rooney kicking the ball into touch with his cross-field passes that work once in every twenty attempts. Martial’s risk-taking is the only time we see any success or excitement but since he is quite literally the only threat in the team, it is becoming very easy to shut Manchester United down. The team, as Neville pointed over the weekend, lacks two world-class players who make the difference, the players who provide the sparks necessary to turn draws against PSV and Leicester into wins that would have United top of the league and qualified out of their Champions League group. The complaints about the style of play would be muffled had the chances for Lingard or Depay fallen to the world-class players this team lacks.

Van Gaal clearly recognises this lack of quality and has alluded to it several times since his appointment by calling for wingers with pace and creativity. You might point to Di Maria and yes you would be right. He was bought to fulfill this role but Di Maria himself has said he never wanted to sign for United and it couldn’t have been more obvious on the pitch. You might say Depay but as LVG said, he was bought for the future and a year early due to PSG’s interest. If Depay was viewed as the player LVG wanted to fill this void then Ed wouldn’t have been bombarding Rummenigge and Perez with emails all summer. United tried and failed to sign the type of player LVG wanted most during the summer and he is letting them know when asked about his team. United’s other signings have given them the control they need in midfield and defense but their forward line is an odd mix of being too raw (Depay and Martial) and not good enough (Young and Rooney).

It is unlikely that United will get the player they need in January and that leaves them with the team playing exactly how LVG wants without the final ingredient. If this player arrives next summer then United are on course to follow LVG’s blueprint of winning the league during his third season. If so, his process went according to his own plan and his successor will be left with a squad immeasurably better than the one left to Moyes by Fergie. A young squad with world-class talent, players with a footballing education that English football so desperately lacks and an academy rejuvenated by its closer association with the first team. This is hardly the work of a man ‘doing far more damage that Moyes ever did’.
David (I would still cut his stint early if Pep wanted the job) MUFC


…while it is hard to argue against possession stopping teams from scoring against you, it is also mathematically factual that the more passes you make, the more chance you have to lose possession even if your pass accuracy is 90%. For max nerdiness, after 10 passes at 90% accuracy there is a 65% chance you will have lost the ball. So, while possession of the ball stops you from conceding, slow build-up possession severely limits your chance of getting it in the mixer and scoring no matter who you have up top. Similarly, winning the ball high up requires less passes to get the ball into the danger area. Ranieri has undoubtedly figured this out to work to his advantage.

When LVG took over Utd had a leaky defence, a weak midfield and a strike force of Rooney, Van Persie, Welbeck and Hernandez. While the addition of Falcao gave some hope, that did not materialise and now, while all the strikers have left bar Rooney, the only addition is Martial (with a notable mention to Lingard coming through). LVG has undoubtedly fixed the defence, the midfield is the strongest Utd have had since Roy Keane was kicking lumps out of people leaving the striking department as the only weakness in the team (other than playing keep ball instead of trying to score). LVG gets credit from me for what he has done thus far and deserves a fair chance to transition from an undoubtedly overly defensive team to one that could actually create chances and win things. If not, then he will very likely leave the team in a much better state than he or David Moyes found it in.

And in non-Utd news…

F365 could save Arsenal fans a lot of time by just re-posting their mails from previous years at this time. This is their customary blip fuelled by injuries and mails on a lack of squad depth, blah blah blah, Wenger out. The customary run that falls short of the title will resume soon or in a few weeks time followed by “Look what he’s done for us”, “would you rather trust someone else?”, blah blah blah, Wenger in.

Will Jose be able to leave this season off his CV?
Jon, Joburg (P.S. Everton – How could you lose a two-goal lead, then get in front again five minutes into injury time and then manage to lose that lead again? Where can I send my betting slip for compensation on the treble you lost me? It is in South African Rand so is not worth jack sh*t)


United just need attacking verve
Presumably Simon Eaton was disappointed to find no United fans had been published saying how lucky Leicester were, or that they only benefited from United being crap. If Simon should be disappointed about anything, it should be the fact that his team failed to kill off the game and take all three points. They certainly had the opportunities to do so; United were there for the taking and they let us back in with a piece of really poor defending, though it was a pretty good header from Schweinsteiger.

I’d say that United were actually the lucky ones on Saturday. Our ‘sterile domination’ style was never really going to work against a Leicester team full of confidence and with a sensible game plan, so to come out of it with a draw has to be considered a good result. The worst thing about our performance was its utter predictability; if there was anyone who didn’t see Leicester (and Vardy) scoring first then they clearly haven’t been paying attention recently.

Leicester fully deserve to be as high up the table as they are and if they can improve their defending a bit then there is no reason why they can’t remain there. My favourite thing about them is that they are a perfect demonstration that possession isn’t the be-all and end-all if you use the ball well when you have it. Ranieri is getting the most out of his players by using them to their strengths; allowing them to play their natural attacking game without stifling them or enforcing every player on the pitch to hold on to the ball first and foremost. They aren’t afraid to take risks or try more difficult passes and it results in moments like Fuchs’ pass to Vardy. That type of passage of play is being coached out of United by Van Gaal, yet he still insists that a lack of pace is the problem.

With the players at United’s disposal, imagine how much we could improve if we combined our current defensive solidity with a bit of Leicester’s attacking verve; continue to retain possession but be more attack-minded when we have it. I don’t think anyone would complain if our possession went down from 60% – 65% to around 55% if it meant that we were more attacking.

Finally, just a word on some a quote from Gary Neville on his podcast after the match; I think it was something along the lines of United should “easily win the league with one or two of Suarez, Messi, Neymar, Bale or Ronaldo”. So, adding one or two of the best players in the world would help us win the league? Get out of town, Gary! There’s no place in football for that kind of radical thinking.
Ted, Manchester


They can’t play like Leicester…
I don’t want to rain too much on Leicester’s parade – they’re doing well, Vardy’s scoring, Mahrez is on fire etc.

However, I don’t really think that they showed Van Gaal how football should be played, as many match reports seem to be claiming. Do people mean that United should have sat back for nearly all the game, then had three attacks on the (admittedly lightning fast) break?

It’s all very well saying that, but if both teams just played like that then there’d be an awful lot of nothing happening, both sides conceding possession whilst waiting for their opponents to over-commit. I’m not defending LVG, I think United were and are incredibly boring, but the solution isn’t to play on the counter-attack. The hard part, what makes a great team, and what some of Fergie’s sides managed to achieve, is keeping control of the ball AND attempting something useful and exciting with it. THAT’s what United should be trying to do. Yes, incisive counter-attacking would also be useful, but that’s hardly a gameplan for destroying lesser teams (with all due respect to Leicester etc).

And before anyone excuses me of rose-tinted view, I’m well aware that late-period Fergie teams were more functional than fantastic – I’ve sat through enough of those games not to be nostalgic for that.
Dan (MUFC since 1983)


Vardy, the British media and educating yourself
Excellent Winners and Losers as always. Particularly appreciated the link to Mr. Liew’s missive on Vardy’s casino ‘indiscretion’. It got me thinking in general how the media focus on things that suit their agenda. They would rather focus on the factory worker to Premier League record breaker narrative and skate over his ‘misdemeanor’.

Similarly, Tyson Fury newly crowned Heavyweight Champion of the World is generally regarded as a bit of an eccentric, quite the character ho! ho! by a fawning media ecstatic that a Brit is top dog rather than as a bigot (he infamously ranted that as a christian he found homosexuality and abortions to be on par with paedophilia in the sin stakes).

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this mail. I guess my advice is don’t take the media’s opinion as gospel. Try educate yourself – bigotry (particularly racism) comes in many shapes and sizes and the amount of people I account in life who struggle to grasp the concept of ‘white privilege’ still astounds me.

Be cool; not sh*t.
Osric the Brave, (A very hot) Cape Town


Thin Spurs squad makes title impossible
After having some, what I felt were, interesting thoughts prior to the Spurs v Chelsea game and then seeing your usual wonderful 16 conclusions after the game, I thought I’d share my musings with a wider audience – so whilst I lay in bed waiting for my tea and biscuits to be delivered on this windy, grey Monday – here it is.

There’s been an awful lot of talk about the positivity of, particularly, Spurs and Liverpool’s chances of creating waves this season. Whilst I’m very excited that Spurs seem to finally have a true identity and sustainable football model for the future, the whole ‘strength in depth’ notion really needs to be addressed. As soon as a team goes on a good run people are very quick to harp on about ‘when we have player x (and x, x, x, x, x, x ,x ,x, x, x, x……in Arsenal’s case) back we will have a really strong squad and be able to mount x type of challenge’.

Let’s all have a reality check, using my team as said example. We were missing young Dele Sunday which was obviously going to be a huge miss. His replacement? Mason. Sure I’m not alone in being severely underwhelmed by that fact. Football and first-choice 11s are wonderfully subjective. It gives us the ability to be completely and utterly irrational and sent into a fit of rage just by the mere suggestion from another human that a particular player is decent or should be included in a squad/starting 11.

Let’s not pretend that certain players are not a huge miss though. Usually top teams can afford maybe up to three players missing. But Spurs? No. Just one of our ‘better’ players is a huge miss. The sad thing is the only players we could afford to miss from our starting 11 are the full-backs. That’s not a compliment to Walker and Rose unfortunately, just a reflection that their understudies are closer in quality compared to other areas in the team. If we miss the following players, based on other current available options, this is what we have:

Son/Eriksen/Dembele – Njie/Townsend/Lamela
Kane – Spurs mascot
Alli/Dier – Mason/Carroll
Lloris – Vorm
Toby/Jan – Fazio/Wimmer
four would be a huge achievement. I’m not trying go piss on anyone’s chips here, just bringing some much-needed perspective to a set of (historically) usually deluded fans with ideas way above our station. An assault on the title would be magical and wondrous. However, let’s all agree now that we’d be over the moon with a top-four finish. And that we’d have beaten that toilet outfit yesterday had young Dele been available.
Glen / Realistic Spur in Bracknell \


Chelsea making baby steps
I was the Chelsea fan who wrote in last week and you used the mailbox headline ‘Chelsea running scared of Spurs’. That wasn’t really the angle I was going for, now I know what Corbyn feels like dealing with the media!

That said, I was definitely concerned (okay fine I was scared) about how we’d deal with an in-form, high intensity Spurs side. Suffice to say, I was pleased enough with a 0-0. One of your mailboxers mentioned lack of ambition, yes we have a lot money, but we’re also sitting just above the relegation zone with a third of the season gone! It’s a baby step, but one think Chelsea fans will be happy enough with. We’re finally looking more solid defensively and keeping clean sheets because of it.

Attacking wise we don’t look great though. I thought Mourinho’s comments were right that Costa is privileged to not have been dropped yet. Having the pace of Pedro and Hazard up front meant that Tottenham couldn’t push up and press us as high as they would have liked, so that worked well, but Remy must be looking for the exit if Mourinho would rather play no striker than give him a go.

Final point to make about Fabregas. He’s bloody awful and has been since the mid-point of last season! As one of your writers pointed out, Loftus-Cheek shouldn’t be restricted to one minute cameo’s when he could definitely do a job that no-tackle making, no chance creating, 65% pass completing Cesc seems unable to do.
Jimmy (Does anyone except Leicester want to win the league this year?) Sham


Same old Arsenal…
Just before the Wenger apologists get their fingers-in-ears-la-la-la response in, I just wanted to mention something.

Daniel Storey’s assessment of Arsenal and Wenger in W&L really reminded me of Pete Gill writing on the same subjects almost a decade ago in the same column. Almost like…nothing had changed, or something.

Just saying.
Stu, London


Arsenal: Physically and mentally flaky
Totally agree with Johnny’s opinions on the lack of physically flaky specimens at Arsenal. It’s been the case for a decade now. Unfortunately it’s the same at other clubs too and I reckon the inconsistency of line-ups puts pay to even better football. If you are the midfielder stringing the pass through to a striker who plays every week, after a while you don’t have to look up to know which run he’s likely to make. It’s not a PFM issue at all.

However, as I’ve heard from those ITK, the fact is we have been building thoroughbred footballers whose stamina and fitness is developed without knocks and they’re therefore extremely brittle. The majority are one over-stretch or awkward landing away from half a season on the sidelines.

Speaking of weakness, remember that mental toughness should also be part of the package. Unfortunately, this is something that Arsene Wenger has never really transferred to his players, ever, unless they came to Arsenal with it in-built. His constant whinging about decisions, results, and the fault laying elsewhere occasionally assisted in creating a siege mentality but more often than not what was needed was a quick ‘shit happens’ response to the media and his players in order to strengthen their resolve.

A last note, it has to be said Nacho Monreal has been playing out of his skin this season (by your own admission too) and should really be added to your short list of three Arsenal players currently constantly on form. He’s deceptively intelligent, quick, creative, defensively solid and reasonably injury free….

…oh sh*t. Mockers.

TyA, Suffolk


Arsenal fans upset? Boo-hoo-hoo
‘Arsenal fans are turning on Wenger’ trumpets your morning mailbox headline.


What else is happening in the news? Christmas is coming in December? Donald Trump is starting to offend people? There’s a new Saw film out? Someone said something on Twitter?

Why is it only Arsenal fans who feel the need to write a ‘Dear Diary’ entry every time Arsenal don’t win a game? Liverpool, their closest rival for this, just don’t get anywhere near the self-indulgent handwringing of people like Ciaran, who not only want to express their dissatisfaction with Wenger (hold the phone? An arsenal fan is annoyed with Wenger??), but they actually want to tell us about their recent and distant past too? ‘I’ve never wanted to hate Arsene Wenger’…boo-hoo…sounds like the first line of a Whitney power ballad, for god’s sake.

It’s boring, guys, boring.
Shaun (‘Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen’) Livingston


Rational attempts at discussing Arsenal
I am sure you will be inundated with mails about Arsenal’s draw with Norwich, and having not always been the most reasonable Arsenal fan, I’ve taken a deep breath and attempted to break down a few things that we saw…

1) Starting with the big one, Sanchez. I do feel some sympathy with him on this one, because if Sanchez had started on the bench and Arsenal had still drawn or lost, he would’ve been berated for not starting him (as was the case when Cech was on the bench against Olympiakos and Ospina had a shocker). However, it’s only natural that he receives criticism for this given that he stated Sanchez had a hamstring injury midweek and played him for the full 90 against Zagreb. It’s in an injury that surprised absolutely no one and I think rather than people trying to manoeuvre this situation to make it seem like Wenger was in the right, we should just all admit that he dropped the ball here.

2) It’s funny how one or two injuries can dramatically change the outlook of a team. Suddenly, without Sanchez, this Arsenal side looks like it hasn’t got very many goals in it especially when you take into account Walcott’s absence. Giroud has been excellent this season but with Olympiakos looming and Arsenal needing to score at least twice, you’d hope that the likes of Ramsey, Campbell and Oxlade-Chamberlain can chip in more (one goal each in a combined 33 appearances).

3) In terms of the actual Norwich match, the goal Arsenal conceded was really disappointing. The way Brady ghosted past Ramsey was far too easy and Gabriel made a complete hash of marking Grabban. I like Gabriel but I’d be worried if him and Koscielny were the future starting centre-backs for Arsenal given that both of them are prone to being extremely rash. Because both of them are much quicker and more athletic than your average centre-back, they have a tendency to charge in to win the ball which looks good when it comes off but is suicidal when it doesn’t. Mertesacker’s complete lack of pace means that he has to be so considered in everything he does and while he’s far from ideal, him and are Koscielny probably the most logical pairing for the time being.

4) Seeing Ozil play this well alongside people such as Erik Lamela and Mousa Dembele really underlines the need to have a bit of patience with players sometimes. The way Memphis Depay is getting slated and goodwill for Anthony Martial is slowly beginning to erode which is ridiculous when you consider they’re both very young and new to the league. Obviously you get cases such as Soldado or Falcao where it clearly hasn’t worked out but hopefully we begin to see a greater acceptance of the need for a bedding-in period.

5) Finally, I am totally unsure as to whether Arsene Wenger is going to extend his contract beyond next year. 2017 would be a good point for him to finish but I don’t know if he can leave without winning the Premier/Champions League so if an announcement came out about him extending until 2020, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. It might all be happening behind the scenes but I hope there’s a carefully vetted selection process ongoing for his successor because a manager with a few fresh ideas and who adds a bit of quality into the required areas could really achieve something. I think the risk of a Moyes happening is low given that the squad is quite young and relatively balanced so despite the repetitiveness of the current side always Arsenaling games/seasons, it’s probably quite an exciting time going forward.
Brett (this moderate, rational thing isn’t that bad after all!) AFC


…I see from this morning’s mailbox the Arsenal Manic Depressometer has swung towards the ‘End of Days’ part of the scale again for some of my fellow Gooners. I appreciate they’re not just pis*ed off about the Norwich result, but I did find myself wondering why everyone was *quite* so angry.

We’ve had a couple of really poor results and performances at a time when we were looking to cement our place at the top of the table, but we’ve already seen this season that these sort of slips can and will happen to everybody, there are no outstanding teams and, when it all shakes out, we’re still only a couple of points off the top, with almost half the season gone. Things could be a lot worse.

Of course the gloom has been exacerbated by the traditional injury ‘crisis’ swinging into full effect. No denying this is massively frustrating, especially when it’s claiming key personnel like in recent weeks, but equally frustrating is the avalanche of totally unqualified analysis and opinion that follow. Training methods are to blame, training pitches are too soft/hard, Wenger hasn’t changed a single aspect of his coaching since the 90s, our shirts are too red, modern music is too loud, why can’t teenagers buy jeans which fit them properly etc. Personally I’m just annoyed that I had no idea how, for years, people have been able to wander into our training ground at their leisure, observe exactly how things are done behind the scenes and form completely objective, informed opinions…

The worst aspect of all this though is that everything becomes so binary and so loud. There were some perfectly valid points made in the mails you published about squad depth/rotation, the management structure, Wenger’s suitability, recruitment policy etc. but it all gets lost in the overblown fury when things go badly and premature triumphalism when things are going well.

Having said all that, I don’t actually have any answers, I think I just wish everybody would take a breath. After all, things might actually be terrible in a few months…
Ben, Putting the ‘moan’ in ‘sanctimony’, London


Leave Danny alone
Can people (Arsenal fans) stop calling Danny Welbeck an injury-prone player? The mail from Alex AFC this morning was not the first time I have seen Arsenal fans saying this. He really, really isnt. From the 09/10 season (age 19) until the day he joined Arsenal, he had spent a total of 138 days injured, missing 24 games. Since joining arsenal 18 months ago, (and assuming he makes his return on the 12th of January as expected) he has missed 42 games – a total of 296 days injured.

Injury-prone club, not player.


Bucking the Leicester trend
With regards to Simon Eaton’s mail on Leicester, and how every win is greeted with the “that was our worst performance of the season” response from opposition supporters.

I can confidentially say that as a Villa fan, the 3-2 loss to Leicester was probably in our top 5, maybe even top 3, best performances of the season.

I hope this helps.
Mike (AVFC), London


Sherwood a tool but…
I dislike Tim Sherwood as the next man. I spent six months or so watching my beloved Spurs from in between my fingers, while he flung gilets and rambled about high win ratios. However, I think I have to defend his latest interview, which has been given the customary acerbic F365 treatment (not a criticism, by the way – if I wanted anodyne, I’d just read the Beeb website).

There’s a cracking book called ‘The Nowhere Men’ (one for the Christmas list, folks) which follows a few long-standing and successful old-style scouts as they struggle to justify their existence in an increasingly stats-driven industry. The scouts’ scene is littered with jobbing ex-pros who are trying to scrape a living – and it sounds like the money is absolutely dreadful, with some scouts actually making a loss from month to month – but there are genuinely insightful guys out there who have experience, nous and an instinct which has brought them and their clubs plenty of success over the years. The more modern-thinking of them see a place in scouting for data, but none of them advocate a dominant reliance on stats – that sounds like a statement based purely on their self-interest, but the book then spends time with several disciples of the Moneyball method, which is where the book becomes truly fascinating.

The problem with the data-driven model seems to be not so much with the fact that those harvesting the data are not freezing their balls off in Fleetwood on a Tuesday night, but that those interpreting the data (and those receiving it) do not have the ability to understand or use it properly. Sherwood’s complaints about pie charts seems to be rooted in some kind of reality, which is that, unless the numbers are placed into their proper context and interpreted appropriately, they are useless or, at worst, misleading. Two easy examples: firstly, a midfielder with great passing frequency and accuracy is not necessarily a suitable playmaker, because digging deeper shows that (a) the passes make negligible attacking impact and (b) the specific shape of his team makes it easier for him to be involved, regardless of his movement, game intelligence and willingness to take responsibility; secondly, a full-back with high tackle count and sprints frequency/intensity is not necessarily going to bolster a defence if his sprints are made to make yet another last-ditch tackle due to his poor positional sense.

The conclusion of the book, which seems a reasonable one, is that traditional scouts have some role to play and that clubs could do things more efficiently by using more data and less man-power, but that the key person is the one interpreting and using the data in a way which is meaningful. Being a gnarled old boy chugging up the M1 in a Rover 600 is not the complete answer, and neither is being a desk-based analyst with a fancy computer – a good scouting system requires a combination of the two.

Tim Sherwood is a still a complete tool, though, no mistake about that.
Ali Tabari


A lovely old rant about Sherwood
I’ve not had a good moan about Timbo for a while but with this new piece emerging today regarding scouting from the lower leagues via one of his own personal press packers, Sam Wallace, it seems as good a time as any to pick up on some of the glaring revisionism and will ask the question, why are the opinions of people such as Tim so sought after by the mainstream press?

We’ll start off with the glaringly obvious. Harry Kane.

When Timmy took over, he spoke a lot. An awful lot. He spoke of how he knew the club from top to bottom through his work in the youth set-up. He spoke more recently at his complete lack of surprise that Kane has risen to the top so quickly as he ‘always knew he was a talent’. A quick look at his team selections throughout his first four months as Tottenham boss, before news broke on the AM of April 7th (clearly a leak, maybe from Tim himself to SSN) that he was leaving the club at the end of the season, shows that Harry Kane made a sum total of zero starts in the Premier League under Tim. Soldado, who Tim pretty much described as a ‘joke’, started considerably more than zero. It seems the Academy product wasn’t trusted on this occasion, even though the first-team player wasn’t delivering and the academy player was ‘an obvious talent’. And why? After all, he had full faith in Bentaleb, and his ability and talent is much more difficult to quantify in comparison.

Ryan Mason. Another player who Tim would have had known lots about from his time with the academy. Despite not trusting the other players such as Paulinho, Capoue and Dembele (bar Bentaleb as we’ve touched upon) and resorting to playing Nacer Chadli, Cristian Eriksen or Gylfi Sigurdsson out of position in central midfield, Tim made no attempt to recall Ryan Mason from his loan spell in the lower leagues and bring him into the fray the way Pochettino has. In fact, Pochettino saw Mason’s talent as early as his first month at the club, taking him to the US tour and bringing him into the first-team squad early in the season. Why would he favour ‘sexy sounding forriners’ over good old fashioned English grit? I have no idea, perhaps Tim himself doesn’t even know.

Which brings me onto the piece and why ‘people’ or ‘teams’, vague terms he uses so he can generalise and create straw men arguments, don’t look at lower leagues rather than buy players from overseas? A quick look at his signings at Aston Villa and it’s largely made up of cheap overseas imports and older British players arguably past their best, and a lump from Blackburn. Groundbreaking I’m sure, and I’m sure Tim went and watched Jordan Ayew with his own eyes.

And then we come on to his increasingly ridiculous views on modern technology being used in scouting and player performance. Why is he such a Luddite? If he had a strong argument to back up his old school musings then of course we would sit up and take notice, but in true Timbo style, he doesn’t. “Don’t let statistics lead the way, trust your eyes,” he says, before going on to use Paul Mitchell at Spurs as a fantastic example of a young scouting and player development champion, a man who is arguably at the forefront of statistical analysis via the Black Box at Southampton and the dossier he uses at Spurs, rather than just his two eyes. Eyes don’t always work, especially if you’re scouting Luis Suarez at Ajax eh Tim? Lest we forget Tim’s now legendary ability for using a calculator and most impressively, the percentages function. I’m sure it was a basic Casio (other brands are available) and not a scientific calculator though. Maybe he used pencil and paper to show his workings? Perhaps Sam Wallace himself typed up this piece on a typewriter just to appease Tim? Nah, not for me.

And then Pochettino. Tim is telling us now that he really rates Poch highly, along with Martinez, but did he always think this? When asked if he thought that the young fella he invited into the dugout during his last game could be the next boss at Tottenham his reply was, true to form, very Sherwoody: “No, he’s English”. Now we could ignore that Tim himself seems to have forgotten that he himself is English and was handed the reigns to one of Britain’s biggest clubs with no experience or coaching badges, but fishes and barrels spring to mind. But what was this based on? Who knows. All I know is that he seems to have a bee in his bonnet about the English not getting a fair crack, whereas his favourite managers are foreign and both of these foreign managers seem to have more faith in English talent than he does, and faith in players that Tim had failed to entrust using his own eyes nonetheless.

I know I’ll be dug out by fans of ‘characters’ in football and seen as some sort of trendy modern oik who automatically ‘mugs off’, to use Sherwoodian parlance, anything English, but it simply isn’t the case. I’m yearning for what I hope most people are yearning for, meritocracy in football. Let the cream rise to the top, regardless of ethnic or national origin, let methods of coaching and scouting continue to modernise whilst also maintaining the basics that underpin it and please let us hear some fresh opinions from people of all backgrounds in football rather than just the tired musings of the same old faces.
Ross H (THFC fan)


Some Watford thoughts
Another away win and now 47.5% of the way to 40 points.

Yet another solid away-day performance and Watford have now picked up as many away points as they managed in either of their previous Premier League seasons. Villa look doomed, in (another) game where Watford opted to give up possession and press hard they still managed to concede three goals.

As a Watford fan it would be nice if we could go back to trying to control possession a bit, it is understandable to not have the much of the ball when playing Man Utd and Leicester but to only have 35% when playing against Villa is frustrating, we won but it could have been much less nervy.

I said a couple of weeks ago that once Deeney scored his first goal the flood gates would open, he now has four in five and whilst he is now scoring, he is still happy to lay on chances for Ighalo, Capoue (who looks to be the best signing we’ve made this year) and of course his assist yesterday for Alan Hutton’s excellent finish.

First goal had a touch of luck about it but a villa defender standing five yards behind the rest of the back line with his arm in the air seems to be the picture of the early part of the season. Hutton had to try and deal with the ball for the second or Ighalo was clean through and the third was just pure desire to beat the defender to the ball. Ultimately with even a slight plan in defence Villa would have been able to prevent all three goals being scored.

Trying not to get ahead of ourselves but it looks like all the pre-season optimism that this time we could have a real go at staying in the premiership (not just take the TV money and run) was not warranted.

This man is paid a lot of money to play football, something he continually shows himself to be incapable of
Colin, Watford (seriously how does Hutton continue to steal a living?)


McLaren in no trouble at all
Can the mailbox contributors please ensure that they spell McClaren correctly.

Starting to get a little depressed every Monday now, reading ‘McLaren appears clueless’ and alike.

Many thanks
Martin McLaren, LFC


Imagine anybody being as bad as Lennon…
I read with intrigue Nick Miller’s tweets on McClaren’s record.

I thought I would email Neil Lennon’s.

Since the 1st January 2015 he has overseen 40 games in all competitions winning just six times.

He has won one in 18 league and cup games this season.

He has won one of his last 26 games in all competitions. Joint lowest scorers in the Championship.

Let those numbers sink in!!!!

Has anyone else got a worse record in the Football League this season?
Andy (Lennon out) BWFC

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