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Wenger’s Chosen One
Arsenal should not consult Arsene Wenger or his lieutenants on his view of who should become their next manager.
From the perspective of an existing manager who is leaving the club – there are clearly benefits to them trying to recruit a manager who will not kitchen sink “their legacy”. Far better to have the new manager carry on with the same philosophy, same players, and let the blame fall on them a year or two down the line – especially if they are leaving the club in a weakened position.
Arsenal are a weakened club: they have slipped over the last 15 years from being a top-2 to a top-6 team. The need for change is as evident as the empty seats around the Emirates towards the latter end of this season.
From Arsene’s perspective, Arteta and Viera are ideal candidates: they are young and inexperienced – so would be unlikely to carry out significant changes to arrest the decline, could struggle to recruit players (being an unknown quantity), and could have difficulty getting the most out of players who have grown accustomed to providing average performance. An experienced manager, such as Allegri, would have the power to remove sub-par players and have the gravity to get the best out of under-performing players (e.g. Bellerin).
Allegri would show Arsene up. No wonder Arsene likes the idea of Arteta…
Ben (New York)
Going early on team of the tournament
It’s a Friday afternoon and I’m bored in work so I thought id try and pick a best starting 11 from players playing at the World Cup (I know some squads have yet to be named). The only rules are that you must pick a formation so we can have a Garth Crooks style team of the week where you have 11 forwards. The only other rule is that you can only pick one player from each county – I have went with a 4-1-2-3 formation and I suspect that everyone will go with the three I have picked up top:
Marcelo, Hummels, Lovren, Walker
Silva, De Bruyne
Messi, Ronaldo, Salah
I think my team gives good balance, we have Walker and Marcelo getting forward from the back with Matic sitting helping Lovern and Hummels. De Bruyne will be box to box as he has been all year with Silva linking the play to the front three who c an do whatever they want when they get the ball…. That front three simply have me purring!!!
Big Sam’s England
As an Irishman, I have no skin in the game when it comes to the England, but I have watched on with interest over the last couple of days at the reaction to the squad announced by Southgate. F365 even ran an article entitled the Shallow Pool, lamenting the dearth of options. Believe me, the Ireland team would be delighted to have one player playing at the level of Adam Lallana, let alone Sterling, Kane, Vardy or Rashford. That said, I do think there is an interesting question to ask about Southgate’s selection and how things would have been under Big Sam who, after all, would’ve been in charge for the World Cup but for his Pint of Wine ™ fiasco.
Bearing that in mind, I thought to myself, what would the squad have looked like under Big Sam, and how would he have justified it? Here is my stab at it, with just the changes called out rather than the whole squad…
Nick Pope -> JOE HART
Fabian Delph -> CHRIS SMALLING
Ashley Young -> RYAN BETRAND
Danny Rose -> LUKE SHAW
Jessie Lingard -> JACK WILSHERE
Reuben Loftus Cheek -> ADAM LALLANA
Marcus Rasford -> WAYNE ROONEY
Danny Welbeck -> ANDY CAROLL or JERMAINE DEFOE
This would likely mean that England would have lined up in Allardyce’s preferred 4-5-1 formation :
It would have been a classic case of shoehorning Rooney into the team in centre mid or behind Kane and playing two wide forwards (Sterling and Lallana) as orthodox wingers, neutering their attacking instincts by requiring them to track back as much as they attack. Also, you can almost guarantee that he would have gone with Joe Hart – not on merit, but because “he’s experienced” and that trumps form. He also would have one of Carrol or Defoe on the bench because “they offer something different”. You can also almost guarantee it would have been a conservative and tactically inflexible approach – I would have been amazed if he switched to 3 at the back and I also doubt he would significant game to Rashford or Vardy.
In short, Big Sam would have picked a squad that was conservative, not based on merit and have been desperate to shoehorn Rooney in despite him not being up to it. It would have been miserable to watch.
Instead, Southgate has picked a squad that has a genuinely interesting mix of tactically flexibility and attacking verve. Being able to field a front 4 of Lingard / Sterling / Kane / Vardy will frighten many defences in world football – its not quite as good as you can get but you have Pace, guile, trickery and excellent finishing all combined. It has the potential to be really exciting to watch.
Like I say, I’ve no skin in the game but I find Southgates England way more likeable than I could ever find Allardyce or England and genuinely wish them all the best for the tournament.
Just how delusional are Joe Hart And Jack Wilshire? I know this was touched on elsewhere, but just what do they think they are achieving with their “You made a mistake, I’m the dogs do-das” media rhetoric? Today’s “I know what I can offer/am capable of …” nonsense has got under my skin. I hope someone has asked them the question – What is it Jack/Joe? Blind panic under pressure? Needlessly conceding goals/possession? A losing mentality? Tactical naivety? Or is it just being a PFM? More importantly why would you only reveal this superpower you possess when you get dropped, maybe you could have used it last couple of tournament when you were both absolute toilet.
When people question why Southgate didn’t pick Wilshire, and Shelvey for that matter, I suspect part of it is that Southgate just thinks they are self-absorb dickheads, incapable of taking feedback/criticism on board, and offer nothing for squad unity. I’d much rather see England try something new and fail, then continue with the same old dross and fail in the same way.
No surprise over Martial and Lacazette
France released its 23-man selection for the World Cup on Thursday – for me, there were very few (if any) surprises. The same can’t be said for many others, though. The exclusions of Alex Lacazette and Anthony Martial were met with a not insignificant degree of twit-uproar. Martial’s goal contributions were cited (20+ across the season), while Lacazette’s raw figures and strong end to the season were used to argue in his favour. Fair. However, a lot of those arguments reveal their lack of balance, and glaze over (or totally ignore) obvious arguments against the inclusions of both players and, in doing so, trivialise the most important of qualities a manager seeks when approaching an international tournament – balance and personality. Martial has had strong moments in France colours, however these have almost exclusively come in friendlies and not particularly recently. And some credit should go to Deschamps – Martial was selected for the March 2018 internationals, despite being in the middle of a slump (which continued). He didn’t make an outstanding claim to be included in the next squad, and his relative lack of minutes for Manchester United in the period after have come back to haunt him. The same argument, in terms of impact for France, could be made against Lacazette, whose 3 goals in 16 appearances do not holler “PICK ME!” For comparison, Olivier Giroud, derided by some as a donkey, has scored 30 goals in just over 70 appearances and, most importantly, helps Antoine Griezmann play. This is part of the discussion around balance – providing a platform for your best (and most reliable) players to contribute most effectively. Playing Giroud comes with some complications – his lack of pace, for one, limits the flexibility which was also a problem at Arsenal – but if Deschamps chooses to live and die by Giroud, “he has 30 international goals” won’t be a bad dirge to be let down to.
Beyond Giroud, let’s take a look at the other options. Griezmann is not an option – he’s a certainty. Kylian Mbappe was ever-present for PSG this season and consistently performs for France (and is possibly the best teenager we have seen since Lionel Messi). He provides quality at centre forward, and down both flanks. Florian Thauvin was the only player in Ligue 1 other than Neymar and Memphis Depay (!) to register double digits in both goals (22) and assists (11) – his inclusion goes without saying. Nabil Fekir was resplendent with Lyon, arguably the most watchable player in France after Neymar and Mbappe, and is also able to play off either flank or just ahead of the midfield. Ousmane Dembele, despite an injury-ravaged first season at Barcelona, has proven his fitness in 2018 and has been surprisingly productive. Additionally, his performance against Villareal a couple of weeks ago was a strong argument for not leaving that kind of game-breaking talent at home. He can also play off both flanks, another feather in his cap.
To sign off, I’m delighted N’Zonzi’s made it into the squad. In doing so, Deschamps can do more with that midfield (and it gives him the option of using N’Golo Kante in a more expansive way, which I believe he’s very capable of doing).
Raymond (Apathetic Manchester United supporter), London
…Surprised to read in the Gossip column what you believe is the prime reason Martial for not making the France squad (‘a lack of regular first-team football of Manchester United hardly helped his odds of making the final cut’).
I’d suggest that looking like he’d rather be anywhere else while he was playing was just as much of a factor. He’s got bags of potential, but his attitude is awful and he doesn’t work hard enough. Nicolas Anelka used to be called Le Sulk; you can multiply that by 10 for Martial.
Random England musings
A Friday afternoon mailbox call to arms? Oh go on then. Here are a few random and completely unoriginal thoughts on England.
Firstly, the biggest issue for us is the lack of a midfield general. The player to act as a link man between the defence and holding midfielders and drive the ball onwards to the forward players, a De Bruyne if you will. I think we have enough talent, drive and graft in other areas of the squad to make a good fist of it if we had such a player (not win it mind, just at least not disgrace ourselves). Jack Wilshere should have been that player but his talent hasn’t reached the expectation levels unfortunately. Jonjo Shelvey could have been that man, but Jonjo Shelvey is Jonjo Shelvey and is not in the squad for obvious reasons – if he really was all that there would be bigger clubs than Newcastle demanding his services. That leaves only Loftus-Cheek who can, potentiality shoulder that burden. I read somewhere that he could either be an occasional last-few-mins tactical sub or start every match. I agree with that and he could well be the standout star of this World Cup for us and a real difference maker to our performances (a caveat: I am not building him up in order to knock him down media stylee – just offering my crystal ball gazing skills to you lot).
Because of this lack of a Midfield General, I really do think we will be slightly unbalanced no matter what side we play. We could put out 11 good men and true who would give their all and are all a talented bunch but I cannot, for the life of me, reach a side that would look balanced on paper. We just seem to be missing that one player to create that balance between defence and attack. Playing Dier and Hendo in the middle is just too conservative for CM area and leaves us unbalanced up top (Sterling, Kane and Alli just doesn’t feel right somehow). Playing only Hendo and replacing Dier with Loftus-Cheek or Rashford, say, leaves us very exposed at the back.
Someone mentioned this morning starting both Kane and Vardy. I assume he means Vardy as a wing forward with Kane up top. That will never work. For one thing they both go for the same balls and both stand on the shoulder of the last defender. On top of that, Vardy as a wing forward just doesnt work. He looks isolated and unsure. In our miraculous ‘Great Escape’ season (that was the one before the proper miracle season) Vardy only scored about 5 goals as a wing forward for Nigel Pearson. It just doesnt play to his strengths at all. Are we not meant to be moving on from the simplistic pick-the-best-XI-players-and-to-hell-with-tactics approach these days??
Finally, for all the words written and spoken, I believe our tournament is going to be relatively predictable in terms of final outcome. We will get through the group. To not qualify for the knockouts would mean failure against either Tunisia or Panama. I think we will be too organised and motivated for that to happen. Then it is simply a case of whether we lose in the R16 or QFs. Columbia or Poland would be formidable foes and it could go either way. Should we beat them and, without question, we will face either Brazil or Germany. And there endeth our journey.
A quarter final would be a great achievement and bring some feelgood back to the team. But, you know, should we do get that far, you know we are going to start dreaming again….
Rob (both excited and sh*t-scared in equal measure), Leicester
…Couple of quick points after reading your morning mailbox (making commuting bearable since god knows when! So thanks MC)
Apologies if this has already been brought up recently but, doesn’t it feel refreshing that in the week of the England squad announcement, we don’t have a single over-the-hill type player (Becks, Rooney, Owen, Gerrard, Lampard etc) that half of our fans are still clamouring for their inclusion (citing experience as a reason) whilst the other half are explaining why leaving them is the right call(citing previous tournament experiences as a reason)?
I’ve been waiting for the fallout from Southgate’ selection and the nearest we’ve had has been from Hart throwing his and everyone’s else’s toys out of the collective pram! Nice.
I’m not optimistic at all for our time in Russia but, like every other 2 years of my life, I’ll be watching until the end.
My second ‘quick’ point is to ‘Aravind Chelsea fan’ with regard to “There’s no argument, Chelsea has the best academy in England and arguably Europe”. I’m sorry my friend, there is a big argument here.
Although it can’t be denied that Chelsea have/have had some of the worlds best young players passing through their doors, it doesn’t make for the best academy. I’m not implying that if they’re not local lads then Chelsea don’t deserve any credit for them but let’s be realistic here. Without paying these ‘kids’ £30-40k a week then half of them would never have been there. Every youngster that is signed by Chelsea through compensation to their previous club, knows (see past 10-15 years for examples) that they haven’t got a direct route to the first team, if at all.
Surely if the academy was so good then there would be no need to loan out 30+ players a season???
Who actually plays for their junior teams from August to June???
Sorry for the long ramble.
I should’ve just focused on my Chris’ XI…
Chris Hardy (Wombles staying up and the Franchise going down!)
Ireland’s second team
Couple of Irish lads in the mailbox this morning talking about who they’ll be supporting at this World Cup: The decision was easy enough for me.
Island in the Atlantic – Check
Massive Underdogs in a tough group – Check
Alternative National Sport to Football – Check
Players dotted around the English lower leagues – Check
And only a change of one letter …. C’mon lads, how can it not be Iceland?
Doug, AFC, Belfast
Pick a team
Referring to Doug, AFC, Belfast…I like the logic of your comparison between John Barnes and Owen Hargreaves but it does miss one vital thing which I will explain through my own situation.
I am English, was born in England and lived there for 30 years before marrying a south African and now living in SA. I have 3 boys who are thus half English and half south African. They have visited the UK a couple of times but might not live there ever.
However, they know they are English, they wear England stuff, watch England games, love curry, fish and chips and beer and know the national anthem and even know cockney rhyming slang as far as to invent the phrase ” just going for a Donald dad” Donald trump / Dump. Should these boys excel in any sport they could rightly play for England or South Africa and I don’t think you could deny their eligibility for either country.
Jon, Cape Town (if they chose SA over England for rugby or cricket I wouldn’t mind too much but if they were good enough at footy I’d be upset if they didn’t choose England)
Reverse John Nic
After reading Fat Man Scouse’s latest missive, this time on “players who dont play for their national team” (in other words, playing for the country of their choosing rather than the country of their birth), it occurred to me that our dear contributor seems to be on the “wrong side” of every issue.
I don’t know about the rest of your readers but personally I would love to read a weekly column by him in which he discusses his views. A reverse John Nicholson column, basically. Except instead of nodding in agreement…
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
There’s still a couple of issues to work out in the football world of course, so let’s, for (possibly) the final time this season, have ten things to be happy about.
1. Zbrojovka not quite being relegated yet. We were pronounced dead at the scene a couple of weeks back, but we put in a much better performance against Teplice last week, and our condition has been upgraded to “alive”.
2. Being searched going into an away game in České Budějovice a couple of years ago (it’s a long way away so we were staying overnight) and my mate Sam having, of all things, his shower gel confiscated. He was a bit miffed, but hte security tracked him down upon leaving and returned it to him. Lovely.
3. Rochdale’s Joe Thompson scoring the goal that kept the club in League One after having been diagnosed with – and beaten – cancer not once, but twice.
4. Despite football saturation, when the World Cup rolls around, I’ll bet there are a number of players about whom you know little or nothing. The same for a couple of the teams. Exciting, isn’t it?
5. The format of Euro 2020. There’s been some negativity surrounding it, but I think it’s a great idea. If you don’t know, it’s going to be a tournament with no host country; rather, matches will be played in cities across the continent. What with the price and availability of flights these days, I think it’s a great idea. What an extended holiday!
6. Tranmere being back in the football league. They’re one of those clubs I’ve got an awful lot of time for. The third club in a city dominated by two behemoths (although would they say they’re from Birkenhead rather than Liverpool?), I heard an episode of the excellent “Who Are Ya?” podcast concerning them, and they seem like a decent bunch of coves. Plus I liked watching Jason Koumas when he was there.
7. Unpaid plug, but have you been to tshirts365 yet? There’s some great stuff on there. In fact, two items are winging their way to me as we speak.
8. End-of-season lists. There’s something oddly comforting about them, remembering some of the beautiful and absurd things that have taken up so much of our collective time and love over the past ten months.
9. Nice guys not necessarily finishing last. Who hasn’t enjoyed the redemption of Roy Hodgson, the quiet eloquence of Chris Hughton, or the joyous madness of Fulham’s play? Caveat: Neil Warnock.
10. Coventry are still alive heading into the second leg of the playoffs tonight. That might not make you happy if you’re a Notts County fan, but hey, it’s my list.
Here’s hoping that, if you’ve got a dog in any of the fights this weekend, you get the result you want. Unless you support Notts County or Vysočina Jihlava. Have fun.
David (it’s the hope that kills you) Szmidt, Brno, Czech Rep.
More from Planet Sport:
T365 Recall: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer’s five-hour Italian masterpiece (Tennis365)
Five things to look forward to: Magic night out, Hull derby, fantastic TV coverage (Love Rugby League)
Revisiting the golden age of Pepsi adverts, ft Beckham, Carlos and Totti (Planet Football)