Mails: Maybe Andros Townsend IS the answer

Date published: Wednesday 14th October 2015 3:02

Plus, Ross Barkley is like Adel Taarabt, Sam Allardyce on ‘deluded’ fans and more…


England XI may not be Premier League’s best…
Roy Hodgson has used 33 players in qualifying for Euro 2016, which seems an awful lot to me. Sure, there will be injuries, and Roy did just go 10 out of 10, but I can’t help thinking this enormous rotation is over complicating what should be a fairly simple selection for the tournament itself.

Let’s face it, the standard of international football isn’t all that high. The pace is generally very slow compared with the Premier League or other top leagues, and teams without that many ‘good’ players can nonetheless be very competitive. While teams with transcendent talent levels like the recent Spanish team may come along once in a while and dominate, normally big tournaments are contested by the most organised and disciplined teams. This can produce surprise winners – like Denmark or Greece – or worthy winners like Germany at the last World Cup. These teams won because they were the best teams, not because they had the best 11 players or best 23-man squads. If that seems like a statement of the obvious, then why do we seem to constantly be engaged in a process of testing out young players and blooding them, when we could just be cementing a core unit and giving it the time it needs to perfectly understand and execute Roy’s game plan?

Take Andros Townsend. He may be blinking useless for Spurs (on the rare occasion that he even gets a game), but he has consistently produced the goods for England. For whatever reason, his ability to run with the ball from deep and take shots works against international defences, and good ones too like Italy. I suspect the pace of the Premier League negates this advantage, but you won’t see much gegenpressing in France next summer. Still, as he is struggling at club level, he may well miss out even though there appears little relationship between his performances for Spurs and England.

Then take Michael Carrick. He has played 33 times for England, and rarely has he dominated the midfield and set the tempo like he has done for years at Manchester United. Again, it may be something to do with the pace of the football, but he just doesn’t look nearly as effective. But, with concerns over the lack of a natural defensive midfield option, he looks likely to get another shot. He is 34 now – so I think we can safely so that what we’ve seen is what we’ll get in international terms.

You would have thought, after years and years and years of seeing Stevie Gerrard and Frank Lampard try but fail to effectively form a midfield combo for England, despite being the best two midfielders in the Premier League, we would have learned to differentiate between club performances and country performances, and accept that the most effective England XI may not be the strongest XI on paper.

So I hope Roy doesn’t experiment with tactics or personnel in the matches between now and the Euros. I want to see the same team, playing the same way, so that when we all rock up in France, England will know exactly what they are doing and are ready to execute when it matters.
Charlie, THFC, Somerset


Barkley, Coco and Disco Taarabt
Tim, EFC
, the reason that Barkley is perceived as sloppy in comparison with the likes of 20 fewer passes than Silva, with an accuracy that is 4% lower. As a result, they both have a similar number of inaccurate passes per game, but Barkley’s come with greater frequency given how often he actually passes the ball. And above all this comes one simple factor: Barkley’s end product is pretty damn poor. Despite being a man who offers almost nothing defensively, he has more bookings than goals or assists (and nearly both combined) in his professional career. He wants to play up front despite not demonstrating that this is a role he is suited to, and despite being of a decent height he wins nothing in the air.

A fairer comparison may be with Erik Lamela. Both like to dribble past one man too many, and there is only 18 months between them in age, and a similar number of PL appearances. And even Erik, baffling, maddening, magical Erik, has more assists than Barkley. When I say more, I mean that he set up more goals last season alone than Barkley has throughout his entire PL career. Vampiric Erik also makes more tackles, despite being built like a split twig.

I don’t understand the hype around Barkley, I never have. He reminds me of Adel Taarabt: initially an exciting prospect, someone you want to see on the pitch because he can ‘make things happen’. Then you realise, he can’t. Not really. He’s just a bit fancy and we tend to over-rate a stepover when the person performing it holds a UK passport/is young and plays for our club. When the ineffective trickster ticks both boxes then we get even giddier.

Ultimately, conceding possession a few times a game becomes more forgivable when the culprit can be relied upon to make a frequent, tangible difference. Barkley is not that player. He needs to improve his game in many areas, or he will be yet another exciting prospect who developed into an unwanted luxury. But he seems a little too convinced of his own greatness. It’s a shame, because there is potentially a very good player in there. But right now, he’s just looking like another over-hyped and under-achieving young British footballer.


Barkley: Makes the wrong decisions
In response to Tim, EFC, I agree that Barkley’s reputation for sloppiness is somewhat unwarranted, I do often feel however that he chooses the wrong option, particularly in close proximity to the box. But he’s not sloppy and is a young man who should be given more time to adapt to the high level at which he is now playing every week. Decision-making is an enormous part of the game and you can be the most skilful player in the world but if you decide to make a 100-yard back pass when faced with an open goal you aren’t going to be much good to anyone. More regular appearances with players of a high standard will gradually eradicate this from his game.
Mark Jones, LFC, Liverpool


…and doesn’t fight enough
I’m a born and bred scouser and an Everton season ticket holder. I’d love nothing more than to see Ross Barkley succeed. He’s got all of the ability.

At the moment though the reason he isn’t reaching the standards of Rooney or Gerrard at his age is because of his lack of fight. He can do all of the flicks and 30-yard shots that he likes, but it’s immensely dissappointing as an Evertonian watching the Merseyside derby to see your star man, a local lad, dive rather than face a challenge from Adam Lallana or Joe Allen.

Maybe it’s his history of injuries but he does this a lot. He has all of the talent, if only he’d find the fight and lose the sh*thouse nature then we might have a world-class player on our hands.
Sean McNally, EFC COYB


Malli and me
I was quite surprised not to see Mainz’s Yunus Malli in your list of targets for Jurgen Klopp. A combination of having traded in Sky for BT and regularly watching ITV4’s Bundesliga Highlights show mean I probably see more Bundesliga than Premier League these days. Besides Leroy Sane and Darmstadt playing out of their skins, Malli has been the real highlight this year. Ha has become influential instead of merely talented. Perhaps more of a central attacking midfielder than a natural wideman so maybe that’s why he was absent. Given Klopp’s relationship with Mainz, Mainz’s struggles, and Malli’s age and style he seems like a natural target for Liverpool though. Similar in style to Coutinho, and perhaps a successor should Barca follow up on their rumoured interest.

Elsewhere in the world of more traditional wingers are the Gladbach pair Andre Hahn and Patrick Herrmann. Both capable on either flank, both pacy and capable of scoring goals. Gladbach would loath to part with both but perhaps would could be prised away. Leverkusen have an abundance of wingers since Kampl and Mehmedhi arrived. As a result of their form it’s possible that Karim Bellerabi and Julian Brandt could be available there. There’s so much talent in Germany and Bayern can’t hoover it all up!


Mail from a ‘deluded’ West Ham fan
So Big Fat Sam has come out denying his teams play long ball, unimaginative, boring football and its West Ham fans who are deluded!?!

Well done Sam! You made me chuckle with that one.

Us West Ham fans love scraping to a 2-1 win at home to Hull with Hull down to ten men after the 26th minute, we especially love seeing the team that started the season so well ripped apart to accommodate Carroll and Nolan and a return to the long ball, unimaginative boring football you so aspire to. There’s only so many times you can watch the ball travel backwards from the left/right wing to the centre midfielder only for him to pass it to the left/right-back and then back to the keeper for another punt upfield for Carroll to get his head to and for Nolan to feed off scraps.

I could fill the whole mailbox page up with other examples but I’ll just sign off by sending my condolences to Sunderland fans. It’s going to be a looooooooooong season for you boys.
Steve Coatsworth


What happens when you involve Rafa…
Anyone else feel like Big Sam’s appointment at Sunderland was very timely for him? It’s certainly helped him flog his book. Aside from the announcements of him becoming manager, and him promising to stay for a bit longer than he did at Newcastle, coverage of his last few days has been him slagging off Rafa Benitez and now West Ham fans – although I suppose that’s a lot easier than trying to come up with ways for Sunderland to lift their spirits whilst having Big Sam as a leader.

I have a lot of sympathy for any fans who think their club should play attractive football and instead have to watch them play repetitive, uninspiring dross, and as for the ‘Rafa did nowt’ claim – I assume that Big Sam had nowt to do with West Ham’s promotion in his first season? Given that managers, in their first season, apparently do nowt for their teams. It was by no means Rafa’s personal solo triumph, but to say he did nothing? How about when he got to the final the other time with Liverpool, Sam? Nowt to do with him?

Jealousy at being widely known to be inferior. It makes us even more stupid than we normally are, doesn’t it Sam? Especially as Slaven Bilic is having them play entertaining (although maddeningly inconsistent) football with almost the exact same players you had, you outdated, bitter, whinging second-rater.
Matt (sorry Sunderland, I’ve nothing against you) LFC


Office banter
I haven’t read Sam Allardici’s autobiography so can anyone tell me if he uses the phrase “needless to say I had the last laugh” at any point?
Grant (not lovely stuff), Herts


Do clubs really have a philosophy?
I just woke up to read Sam Alladicci’s comments on West Ham fans and their demand for a better playing style. As a glorified plastic ( ecause I’m not English and watch the EPL only on TV), I did not know this was the case. I’d imagine a club like West Ham would be happy to have a manager who kept them in the EPL and also had them punching above their weight like Alladicci had, but alas, fans are fickle beings.

To me, there are very few clubs in the world, let alone the EPL, that have a defined playing style. Much of this comes from the longevity of the man in charge. Arsenal and Barca have the tiki-taka title, Arsenal have it more due to Wenger than anything, and Barcelona have it due to their academy. United had that, quick tricky winger, attack at pace through the wings playing style, with Fergie and Busby. Madrid, Milan and Bayern have always had that dominating, aggressive, combative playing style. All said and done, I believe ”the philosophy” comes down to the man in charge, and very little to do with the club, and West Ham fans should be reminded that Barca were Barcelona before Messi, and won very little, indeed, everytime the man get injured, they begin to struggle. So it’s not that Arsenal are Barcalite, Barca were Arsenalite, until Messi came about. Unless West Ham have a history of sustained success, and the team is composed of 11 of the worl’ds best, I do not see how they can be setting such unrealistic expectations from the team and manager.

Anyway, as stated earlier, my views are from a plastic perspective, so I may not know what the hell I’m on about, could the mailbox please enlighten the world on what their club’s philosophy is.
Dave (I truly stand by this, Barca were Arsenalite) Somewhere


Some actual Arsenal insight…
Jaimie Kaffash, AFC, London’s email made a lot of sense, but it also got me thinking about something slightly different: the exposure of players to the media and the public. It appears to me that players very quickly get a reputation that is then difficult to shake – pundits, fans, journalists, all pick and choose evidence to back up the en vogue reputation, and it becomes almost written in stone. Giroud is a good example, a player who almost immediately was classed as ‘not good enough for a title-chasing team’, and no matter what his record is now or how he changes, he’ll probably always be thought of that way.

Since it’s pretty much physically impossible (and almost certainly mentally impossible) to watch every Premier League game (although I wouldn’t put it past someone), most of the time a fan’s knowledge as to how each clubs’ players are doing comes from numerous media outlets, with their varying agendas/bias, and a few minutes of Match of the Day. There must be so much we’re missing out on. I’ll see that Jamie Vardy’s scored again/Eden Hazard hasn’t, Ross Barkley’s done something great and something rubbish at the same time, and just assume they’re all continuing in their current form. But as ‘knowledgeable’ fans we know there’s a lot more to it than that, and that what’s reported in the papers can be a piece of good or bad luck away from being something very different.

So I’d be interested as to what is really happening at other clubs and not being shown, from the people who watch them week in week out. Here’s a couple of things from an Arsenal perspective (and yes it is just my own perspective):

1) Mesut Ozil hasn’t suddenly found form, he’s been playing very well for the whole of 2015. He really is a glorious player – the only other player I’ve seen at Arsenal in 30 years who can perfectly weight a pass like him is Dennis Bergkamp. The team now seem a lot more set up to use his talents properly. The media still like to paint him as someone who just strolls around the pitch and not putting in the requisite effort to play football in good old England, and use the fact that he turned his head when trying to block a shot as proof – but they’re not showing that actually he works bloody hard: tracking and tackling back, gut-busting runs late in a game, sprinting to take throw-ins when the full-back is strolling over to the touchline.

2) The Ox is regressing. Wenger has mentioned how he has lost confidence and is too hard on himself, and there’s certainly some evidence of that. But often it seems to go the other way, where he tries to do too much when he should just keep it simple, and then doesn’t work to win the ball back. Gone is his early enthusiasm and drive, and often the game seems to pass him by. He can look good coming off the bench, but that’s only because he’s up against a tired defence. He should be offering much more.
James, North London Gooner


Mercurial rising…
I enjoyed Daniel Storey’s Bergkamp piece, but I’d take issue with the idea that intolerance of ‘mercurial’, risky players is a modern thing. As an example, Berbatov seems to be just as popular with United fans as Kanchelskis, Whiteside, Coppell, etc. ever were; while Cantona, who was admittedly good most of the time, was only there because Howard Wilkinson was too thick/English to know how to use him properly at Leeds.

At Villa – where consistency is the last thing we want, to be honest – we may still songs about Tony Daley and Paul Birch, but equally we still sing songs about Alan McInally and Tony Cascarino, hardly prime examples of flair and trickery; and every supporter in the ground is (rightly) foaming at the mouth when Gil and Grealish aren’t in the current side.

And across the last 30 years, the England team did include the likes of Hoddle, Barnes, Waddle, Gascoigne, Scholes, Gerrard and Lampard whenever they were fit, showing that successive managers were aware of their skills and potential. But none of those managers – none of whom were Brian Clough, notably – were trusting enough to just let them play football.

We all love these players – not many people buy shirts and ask to have MILNER stamped on the back, for instance – but let’s not forget that ‘mercurial’ players get that description because they’re rubbish half the time. Are two performances of 7/10 better or worse than a 10/10 and a 3/10?
Neil (wanted to write an email about Mourinho so I could call it Whole Lotta Jose) Raines


Wenger on Bergkamp
“Intelligence and class. Class is of course, most of the time linked to what you can do with the ball, but the intelligence makes you use the technique in an efficient way. It’s like somebody who has a big vocabulary but he doesn’t say intelligent words, and somebody who has a big vocabulary but he can talk intelligently, and that’s what Dennis is all about.”

Not just my football idol but my mailbox inspiration too.
Andre (pleonastic garrulousness emblematized) E


Using your noddle
I’m on the last five minutes of my lunch break, so don’t have the time to give Colin’s mail the derision it deserves, but there is a third method of analysing how easy the groups are.

It’s called ‘using your head’ and this method shows that Scotland, Ireland, Poland and Germany are quite clearly more difficult opponents than England, Montenegro, Switzerland and Estonia.
Danny (two minutes late now) Scotland


On Mediawatch
I’ve just read through the recommended articles at the bottom of your Mediawatch section and couldn’t find a single reference to anybody having their c**k chopped off.

Thought you might want to address that.
Dave Allen, IoM
…The recommended reading section of Mediawatch is wonderous, I really enjoyed your series of articles on British coaches abroad, so having a daily dose of similarly interesting football stories that aren’t the boring crap I’ve already read five times today is great. To not have to go and find them myself is even better.

So cheers (and please continue)!


Dominic King’s dad writes…
Your Mediawatch ‘takedown’ of Dominic King’s piece on the Everton/Liverpool academies was a bit odd, building up and knocking down straw men for fun as it did.

But the main problem I had with it was the line ‘We will leave you with this quote from King – a former Everton correspondent on the Liverpool Echo’, as if you’ve uncovered the secret to his hidden agenda.

King is a Liverpool fan. The Echo, printed in Manchester, employed two Liverpool fans at one point to cover the teams in the city they named their club after. So you can stop barking up that particular tree.

Maybe King thought Martin Kelly’s Euro 2012 call-up was as much of a joke as the rest of us? Who knows? Maybe he thinks Leon Osman might have been more use to a Liverpool team – that finishes in roughly the same position as Everton in the last five years – than any of a number of expensive players bought in the time since Osman has been in Everton’s first team? Not the craziest idea. Maybe no-one at the Liverpool academy could have predicted Jack Rodwell’s future injury problems and so the criticism of their youth scouts for not signing him is a valid one?

What we do know is that King didn’t make any of those judgements from the position of supporting Everton.

‘Because Liverpool fans would rather their club finished eighth with a ‘Scouse heartbeat’ than win the Premier League with players like Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge. One word: Behave.’

Who said that? King? Also, those players didn’t win the league, did they? So what is the choice between again? Nearly winning the league two years ago or bringing more players through the academy? Don’t think they are mutually exclusive, or for that matter remotely linked.

Still, it filled half a page (and a bit more now if you print this under a snarky title – might I suggest ‘Dominic King’s Mum Writes’, or similar).
Rick Jones


I’ll take the abuse, but let it just be said….Leaving Phil Neville at number 50 every ladder is the equivalent to Soccer AM shouting Cobblers every time Northampton is mentioned.
Thom, Newport

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