The first Mailbox since the end of the season is a cracker. Keep it up with mails to email@example.com
Embarrassed to celebrate fourth
I’m honestly not sure what I find more nauseous. The Terry guard of honour nonsense (think about it for one minute: it means the entire Sunderland side was clock watching for the first 26 minutes just in case one of them was on the ball when the clock struck 26 rather than playing football) or just how hard my side celebrated finishing fourth and trophy less. Shankley had it right. If you are 1st you are 1st. If you are second you are nothing. How far we have fallen when scraping into the Champions League knockout stage is considered a “successful” season. Don’t get me wrong: it’s an improvement on last season and should be a draw for better players but a back slap and a high five would have been sufficient celebration and then very much a sense of “now we get back to work”.
As for the Arsenal fans who are all gutted about missing out on their fourth placed trophy. May I be so bold as to ask why? In 20 years of qualifying for it every year you have achieved precisely nothing in it. One final appearance. Which you lost. If you won the bloody thing once in a while I could understand you being so sad about missing out.
Both Chelsea and Liverpool (who have barely qualified for the Champions League in the last 20 years) have all won it once in that time and Man United have won it twice in that period. Liverpool and Chelsea have also lifted the Europa League in that time as well and Man United are in the final this season. Chelsea have added a cup winners cup and a super cup in that time, Liverpool two super cups and Man United even picked up that Club World Cup nonsense. Arsenal in all that time of qualifying have done precisely nothing. Zip. Nada. Bupkis.
Go cry into your cornflakes someplace else. You have the FA Cup final to compete in. Maybe get behind your team and your manager instead of flying stupid planes over the stadium slagging the manager off or holding up your silly little signs. And someone shoot those morons from Arsenal TV. Or at the very least actually piss on their chips.
Oh, and well done Chelsea. 30 league wins in a 38 game season. That’s yet another new top-flight record they have set. I can’t stand the club, most of their players or a large section of their support base but in recent years they have redefined the statistics around top flight football in this country. On the pitch, they are the benchmark of recent years and it would be churlish to suggest otherwise.
But that Terry thing. Good grief.
Chuffed to be Liverpool…
First of all – WOOOO HOOOO! I never woo hoo; not in text or in real life so for me to be woo hoo’ing represents that this is a really magnificent day.
Liverpool are the sixth-best club in the league. We came out of the summer having spent and recouped the same amount of money and have managed to finish fourth. There is undoubtedly an argument that it should never have been so close to the wire however it’s impossible to argue that this is anything less than job done.
Looking forward to next season I think the key is depth and replacements. The mini league amongst the top six demonstrates that we can beat anyone in the league (except for Sunderland, gags) so the issue to resolve is simply working out what makes it hard for us to play our best. Missing Mane in January made it very hard to break down sides that sat deep. A lack of Henderson/Lallana in central midfield also hurt us. Finally, I think Clyne is the most defensively astute right back we’ve had since Arbeloa left (although Glen Johnson didn’t make much of a claim on that title) however in the final third he looks like a panicked and lost boy. Either his ability to beat a man and not just pass backwards needs to improve or we need Moreno to learn to play both RB and LB so that he can occupy one of the spaces when we play a team who we expect to sit deep, cede possession and be hard to break down.
For now reds, drink, be merry and let’s all buy Ajax shirts for Wednesday 🙂
Are Liverpool close to greatness?
Watching Liverpool is fascinating, as I really can’t work out where anyone’s playing. Obviously there’s the back four, then Can seem to collect from them and everyone else just sort of buzzes around. Coutinho drops deep, Gini pushes the defensive line, Lallana is playing both wings at the same time, then centre mid, and even Firmino is dropping close to Can at times. The only constant is Sturridge, but he doesn’t stay as a 9 when faced with the camped defence of Boro, and instead chooses to run the 18 yard line with the others. With the way they seem so close to clicking into a really frightening team, are they just lacking positions and speciality? Or are they a couple of matches away from reinventing total football?
KC (Lallana is like an attacking Kante)
So the top four is important now, is it?
Isn’t it funny how all of a sudden, being top four is thought better than a trophy. Liverpool players tweeting “we achieved our objective”. Good luck to all the teams in the CL next season, but for years Arsene Wenger has been saying how important top four is, and now, at the end of the first season that he has not made it, the press managers and players alike all appear to agree with him. For the first time. Funny how things work isn’t it?
Obviously Arsenal won, and convincingly.
Obviously they did it the hard way, with ten men courtesy of a defensive meh, that now means our best defender will miss the FA Cup Final.
Obviously they gave a penalty away with another moment of comedy.
Obviously we suffered another defensive injury. Self-inflicted (obviously).
Obviously Man City and Liverpool won convincingly making this pointless.
Champion form for the last eight games scoring plenty, racking up some clean sheets, breaking hoodoos, and looking like an actual football team.
Alay (Europa League here we come…), N15 Gooner
Personally couldn’t care less
I have to say I actually had a really nice day at the Emirates yesterday.
It was a lovely sunny Spring day and we won 3-1 despite the best efforts of Michael Oliver.
So we didn’t qualify for the Champions League – just what is the material benefit of that competition to us fans other than to watch some of the world’s best players give us a ruddy good tonking?
The only people that suffer out of all of this is Wenger and his players, who don’t get their Champions League bonuses. And after the piss-poor performances these guys have put in this season – it’s extremely hard to feel any pity for them whatsoever. I’m sure Arsene is gutted that he has managed to do the bare minimum yet again – I, on the other hand, couldn’t care less.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Arsenal would have won the league in 1997
Arsenal’s points total (75) and goal difference (+33) this season would have won the league in Wenger’s first season at the club.
Synecdoche matches please
On the Premier League’s first day, Liverpool and Arsenal played out a game that anticipated the shape of each team’s season. Arsenal were Peak Arsenal on day one. Operating on the front foot for much of the first half of a football game only to go into halftime level after the other side produced a bit of quality in smash and grab style. Then, pleased surely with the midfield and defensive play of the first half, Arsenal and Arsene expected things to go the way the first half went. Only sensible.
Liverpool, as everybody knows, ran riot for three second half goals, capped by an outrageous Mane run and strike that underlined his importance for Liverpool. Then Liverpool switched off, gave away two VERY quick goals, and demonstrated that the vulnerability of their defense was ever the equal of their breathtaking attack. It looked like the game could finish at 7-7 after 75 minutes but then Liverpool battened down the hatches and saw out a narrow yet impressive, flawed yet promising victory. Arsenal, of course, took a deserved early lead, fell behind, rallied admirably but ultimately fell short. Questions were asked of Arsene’s team selection. Did he fully understand the strengths of the opposition? A goal short that day, a point short of Liverpool in fourth on the season’s final day.
The literary term synecdoche refers to a part standing in for a whole. The commonplace examples are: all “hands” on deck (sailors as a whole being reduced to the part that is their hands), “the crown” issues a decree, and the like. Liverpool 4 Arsenal 3 is absolutely a part that stands in for the whole of each teams’ season, with the added benefit of presaging how each team would finish relative to each other. My question/provocation is this: what other games worked like this this season? In other seasons? Preferably early games that anticipated the fate of each team involved. I’m wondering if this is just a freak occurrence or is it something that happens every year that deserves a better name than ‘synecdoche matches’…
Where’s the ammo, Jose?
Obviously there are plenty of sticks with which to beat Jose Mourinho this season. The fun stat I’ve gone for is instances of scoring 4+ goals in league games. Of teams finishing in the top half, the list reads as follows:
Spurs – 10
Liverpool – 7
Chelsea – 6
Man City – 6
Arsenal – 5
Everton – 4
Bournemouth – 3
Southampton – 2
West Brom (!) – 2
Man United – 1
That’s pretty bloody ordinary considering some of the dross knocking around at the bottom of the PL. With the attacking talent in that squad, you’d expect them to dominate at least occasionally rather than scratching around for draws. Under Mourinho they regularly revert to less than the sum of their parts. Are there any United fans who think he’s actually building towards something?
Charlie (waiting with bated schadenfreude ahead of the Europa final), Sydney
What next for Man United?
That was the best United performance that I’ve seen for a number of weeks now – given the participants, I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Josh Harrop was brilliant in the first half, looking like a player with quite a bit of promise and scoring a cracking goal. Demetri Mitchell was really good throughout, both defensively and in an attacking role too. Pogba was excellent again, with both a brilliant pass to put Harrop in and a well taken goal too – I’m glad he’s back for Wednesday. Tuanzebe was again great in the midfield role too, I had been hoping to see him play for a while and he’s slotted in to the team pretty seamlessly. Pereira in goal did pretty well too, though he was largely untroubled, except for a really nice save from a Palace free-kick in the second half.
I would be surprised if many of those players yesterday actually get a crack at the Premier League with us next year, but I would really like to see that happen. In terms of personnel for next season, I can’t see us making more than four signings again – maybe five at a push. If it was me, I would look to do the following (though I’d like to preface this with a disclaimer: I’m not saying we could definitely sign these players, just that I would love us to, in an ideal world):
New centre-back – I would like us to bring back Michael Keane. He still has some improvements to make to his game, and it would undoubtedly be a harder task playing for us than it is for Burnley but at 23 he and Bailly could form a defensive partnership that lasts us seven or eight years. Plus he’s home grown, which I’m sure will come into play more in the next few years. Alternatives: Victor Lindelof or Harry Maguire.
New left back – I love Shaw, but have come to terms with that fact that he’s probably never going to be our first choice left-back, so we clearly need something else. I’m not keen on the idea of signing any of Monaco’s players – considering almost every rumour you hear is pricing them around the £50m – £70m mark, it would be too big a gamble, so I’d take a look at either Aaron Cresswell or Andy Robertson. Alternatives: Ryan Bertrand or Alex Grimaldo.
New central midfielder – Carrick clearly isn’t going to last forever, and even if we do sign him up for another year, it would still be prudent to sign a replacement. We were linked with Radja Nainggolan last week, and I’d be pretty damn chuffed if we got him. I would really like Blaise Matuidi as well, and we were linked with him at one stage this season, so that could be a good option too. Alternatives: Oriol Romeu or Daniele De Rossi on a free.
New attacker – I do not want James Rodriguez. I think it would be another Di Maria situation, and he’s not getting in the Real Madrid team for a reason – whatever that reason is, I would be reluctant to spend north of £50m on him. I know that it would probably be impossible to get him, but my first choice would have to be Alexis Sanchez. I expect he wouldn’t want to come and play for us, but we’d be stupid not to at least try. I would also love Willian to join us, but again I think that is extremely unlikely. So, for the sake of realism, I’ll say Douglas Costa. There are rumours he wants to leave Bayern, and I have been a fan of his for a few years, plus he played alongside Mkhitaryan so could slot in quite nicely. Alternatives: Emil Forsber.
New striker – We are probably going to replace Zlatan, so I would consider Mario Gomez. He seems like the sort of striker that Mourinho likes, and he’s had a great season in Germany. I would also like to see a return for Javier Hernandez – I’m not sure that he would be our leading forward, but he would definitely help out in being more clinical. Alternatives: Timo Werner or Anthony Modeste.
I don’t expect that we’ll sign the names above, but I definitely think that those are the positions to strengthen. Obviously we’d need a new ‘keeper if De Gea leaves, but I’m still holding out hope that we can keep him for another year.
On John Terry and his touching tribute…to himself
John Terry ‘requested’ he be substituted in his final appearance for Chelsea in the 26th minute, his shirt number, sparking an ‘impromptu’ mid-match guard of honour. This tells you everything you need to know about John Terry and his view of John Terry.
David Moyes, the Sunderland manager, confirmed afterwards that he had agreed to tell his team to kick the ball out of play at this time so that the substitution could take place.
This tells you everything you need to know about David Moyes, a broken man but a toady of the highest order…and also a fantasist for considering that his Sunderland team might’ve been able to hold possession for an entire minute.
…Seriously, who the f**k does John Terry think he is? Orchestrating a mid game stoppage for his own soapy t*tw**k goodbye was an act of Brentian hubris. The self-regarding absurdity of the thing should’ve rendered it funny, but actually it just got right up my snout. The guy’s a berk.
Ben (Sunderland’s team sheet was a f*****g timewarp ), London
Judging the managers
Here are my badly written and totally not funny end of season manager reviews/musings:
Conte – The best used to be balding but now beautifully haired manager in Europe. Managed to turn an unwanted winger and an average former Bolton Wanderers defender into two of the best wing-backs in the league. He also won the title with a record number of wins and is ushering John Terry out of the door. 5 Stars *****
Pochettino – You’d think by the way the media goes on about ‘youth’ that his team are made up of 15 year olds, they aren’t but that doesn’t devalue how entertaining and promising his team are. Just hope he can win something with this squad before Real/Barca come calling for his services or buy all his best players.
Klopp – Gives the best player hugs in the league by far. Has built a team that are super duper exciting in attack and truly world class at playing statues when defending set-pieces. Since they only ever really play well against top sides they could win the CL next season (unless they get the easy group like Leicester did this season which would cause them to finish fourth with no wins).
Wenger – No fourth place trophy ouch! Will he accept this is the time he should finally just leave since he’s lost the fans and star players? Probably not. Are Wenger and Kroenke secret lovers because nothing else can explain the goings-on at this club? Not beyond the realms of possibility. Will the club announce he’s signed a new far too long contract after the FA Cup Final even if Arsenal lose causing riots in North London? Highly likely!
Mourinho – How ugly will this turn if he doesn’t win the Europa League? Very even by his standards, like Rooney’s face ugly! His signings performed well at least even if 99% of the football on offer was worse to watch than ‘Two Girls One Cup’.
* In case you are wondering why I didn’t write about G******** it’s because it will be edited or not posted if I write anything negative about him #conspiracy #whyarentthemourinhoandwengerhaterssilencedtoo
I’ll stop now as I can’t be bothered to write 20 of these.
The top six are extending the gap
Now that the season has finished, as we all do it’s time to compare our season to that of last. As an Arsenal supporter I was quite amused between the fan backlash on Wenger to find that we had gained an extra four points over last year. However with all the extra money floating around in the league after mega sponsorship deals and the clubs getting a bigger piece of the pie, I thought I’d look at the league as a whole.
In order of finishing positions these are the +/- points compared to last season. Top six: +12, +15, +8, +10, +10, +6. Instantly you know that lower teams haven’t had a good year. The second six: +1, -14,-5,-4,-2,-3. There it is, a giant drop to the rest of the field. The remainder are from position 13: -1,-2,-1,-2,-1,-3,-6,+7. Ignore that last +7, Aston Villa were truly rubbish last year. The point is, it’s interesting to see that it seems as if the gap which was touted as being closed due to the massive increase in clubs coffers actually seems to have increased.
So go on you mid-table clubs, get your act together and start stripping points off the big teams. That is except Arsenal please.
Tom Fletcher (Trying desperately to find a positive from this season)
Barkley thoughts please
I know the mailbox will be flooded with Liverpool and Arsenal fans, plus a few justifiably proud Spurs fans and some punters having a go at John Terry finally leaving our daily lives but I am really interesting in asking Everton fans for their views on Ross Barkley. Should you sell him if he doesn’t sign? Do you back Koeman? Is he worth a massive transfer fee?
Ed’s final-day thoughts
My other life got in the way of the final day, so instead of watching football I was on a pub tour. There were still some highlights:
* Even though there was little riding on the last day, there is still something great about all the games starting at the same time. I think this is because so many of us are able to remember when this happened all the time.
* Last week I lamented the passing of time when it emerged that iconic celebration-inspiration Matheus was 22 years old. Yesterday saw the first Premier League appearance by someone born in 2000 (Angel Gomes, Manchester United), following a stellar season in the Championship by the similarly youthful Ryan Sessegnon of Fulham.
* People may claim that this shows Jose Mourinho does trust youth, actually. Let’s all meet up in a year’s time and see how many of the fringe players who came into the Manchester United side have become regulars in the first team during 2017/18. My hope would be “a couple”, but it’s more likely to be none.
More chance of kids coming through at Manchester United than at West Ham United, mind.
* The retirement, amidst great fanfare, of a true club legend. Not him, I mean Francesco Totti. Lots more will be said by those more knowledgeable but he deserves all the plaudits. Chievo Verona brought on a substitute whose name escapes me, but who was born during Totti’s eighth season as a professional.
* On Tuesday I attracted flak from narky Chelsea fans for making a joke about John Terry slightly making a fool of himself wearing shin pads near to a trophy presentation. The only mistake was going too early – yesterday’s orchestrated gesture of fanfare was so weak I’m amazed Anne Robinson didn’t appear out of nowhere to make a withering remark.
* Matt Dickinson of the Times done a banter on Duncan Castles.