Mails on Mkhitaryan, Barkley, Arsenal and…

Date published: Tuesday 30th August 2016 9:20

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Refreshing that Sam dropped Barkley
Completely agree with Sarah Winterburn’s sentiments re Ross Barkley, Sam picked the squad he thought could do the best job there is nothing ridiculous about that. The comment about ‘most technically gifted talents’ is an interesting comment from the Daily Mail bloke. How do we measure this? Do we take Sterling who is a better dribbler than both Barkley and Wilshere? Or Drinkwater who is a better passer of the ball? Or Dele Alli with better long range shooting?

I think regarding Winty’s article and her focus on angry journalists, the point can be made along the lines of “I’d like to see Ross Barkley in the squad as I think he’s a good player” as opposed to “Why would anyone who had a talent like Barkley available not want to work with him?” as Matt Law stated. I know I feel far more like the first sentence than the second sentence, it’s possible to think a footballer is good and deserves to be in the squad (as I do with Ross Barkley) without getting so irate and forgetting this is only Sam’s first squad and he can only pick a limited number of players.

If Barkley plays better he’ll be in there and the same will apply to Wilshere, personally I think it#s quite refreshing to see an England manager not pick a media-influenced squad for change.
Rob, Guangzhou


Give Big Sam a chance
First off John Nicholson ought to apologise to keen readers of this tabloid for his parody on Big Sam’s appointment. It was a horribly written piece and I think he was drunk when he wrote it.

Anyways, what I like about the new England manager is that he knows the limitations of the England team. He knows English players hardly possess the Brazilian flair or the African swagger and so he will play to the team’s strengths. If that means long-ball football, he will serve that unpalatable platter with a side of up-yours. Perhaps his most endearing of qualities is his thick skin and he’s prepared to make the tough calls that previous mangers were too chicken to make. It’s cock-a-doodle-doo time and the big fat rooster is starting to crow.

Barkley you no perform? Dropped. Rashford you sit on bench? Dropped. Wilshere you always on wheelchair? Dismissed. It’s also time for England fans to stop thinking too highly of their team. England can hardly be put in the same category as accomplished teams like Spain or Germany, and hardly possess the flair of South American teams like Brazil and Argentina. So when Ruski 2020 arrives, FFS go into the competition with downplayed expectations. That will make it easier for you to accept what everyone outside the UK can see, that England can be likened to that school kid from a rich family with all the text books and the lunch money, but hardly the smarts to pass the exams.
Keg Baridi (Football Pundit) Nairobi, Kenya


But then…Rooney
Cheers, Sam. Another FA yes man, apparently. They must have to agree to sign something to get the job. Rooney shouldn’t be on the pitch, let alone captain. Circles of insanity.
Adam Corbett


…We are now at Peak England. For years we’ve heard successful managers preach no player is bigger than the club, well folks we now have a player (sponsorship deal) bigger than his national team.

I’m not that against Rooney I can’t see any positives to his game, but for him to decide where he plays is completely outrageous. Even if we didn’t have better options in that position (which we quite clearly do) it is a disgrace that a payer has that level of power. I’ll be watching the under 21s thank you very much.
Paul, NUFC


Rebuttal to Rooney nonsense at United
Honestly this is ridiculous now. Wayne Rooney is not the glue that holds United together if anything he is a hindrance. The game against Hull should have never gotten to a situation where United had to throw everything they had to take victory but it happened because Wayne Rooney disrupts build-up play at every chance he has.

I find it criminal that Mkhitaryan has to be on the bench so that Wayne Rooney can scream and shout at people. What makes it worse is that it’s so hard to even understand the guy when he speaks, so I doubt the players on the pitch even have a clue what he is saying!

Mkhitaryan changed the whole tempo of the game when he came in. His energy, vision and share balls put united in the ascendency. The sooner Rooney is ‘phased out’ the better. Here’s to hoping.
Fed-up Red in SA


Did Jose disregard Kante because of height?
* I noticed on Saturday that when United are in possession, Juan Mata does not just drift in from the right but plays the number 10 role (somebody has to). He usually completely vacates the right side and roams in the middle. This obviously fits his strengths but also creates space for Valencia as Mata drags his marker with him – numerically it stays the same but there is more space on the right for Valencia to use his pace. When United defend, Mata returns to his position on the right.

* Is Daley Blind now officially the first-choice central defender alongside Bailly? At first I thought José is giving Smalling time to build his fitness but after four matches the line-up is still the same and Blind has definitely not disappointed. Last year lot of people (including me) were saying Blind only plays because of lack of alternatives or LVG’s style of play but really held his own so far this season.

* That somehow brings me to N’golo Kante (I know, curious logic). Why didn’t United go for him in the summer? I am not saying he would definitely choose United over Chelsea but there were scarcely any rumours which seems to me as that United were not interested. Kante is definitely a Mourinho type of player, was available on the cheap and clearly no Champions League would not be a problem. Maybe it would be too many new players if he arrived on the top of Zlatan, Pogba, Bailly a Henrikh but I think it is because of Fellaini. Mourinho wanted him in the team from the start as he felt that the team needs additional height for set0pieces. At Chelsea he had three tall central defenders and Matic. At United the full-backs do not help in this aspect and Blind also is a dwarf of a central defender. Without Fellaini in the team, United could have serious problems.

* Chelsea made the best summer business. Conte (free), Kanté (worth as much as Pogba IMHO), Hazard (does it count as free?).

* European engagements will decide this year’s title race. Chelsea will be fresh and can focus solely on Premier League, but for United it won’t be much different as José made it pretty clear he will be starting his second string in Europe (as if we didn’t already know that he does not care for Europa league). City on the other hand will have to juggle both competitions and I am very curious how will Pep fare. Their squad does not seem too deep if we discount the players Pep clearly does not trust and the new style of play looked very demanding to me in the first games. They even seemed to fade a little in the second half on Sunday. I predict early City stroll to first place before they slow down and get hit by injuries and are overtaken by either United or Chelsea.

* One European point. It really is a shame that Borussia Dortmund can’t hold onto their players for a longer period as I would love to see what they could achieve with that attacking quintet of players that either are (Aubameyang, 27, Reus, 27), were (Gotze, 24) or surely will be world-class (Emre Mor, 19, Dembélé, 19).
Jan, Prague


Chelsea lucky to have nine points
Aravind made some good points about Chelsea’s start to the season in yesterday’s mailbox.

Chelsea with Conte?

No question they are more likeable (huge emphasis on ‘more’), but don’t pretend like luck wasn’t a large part of the first two wins when you should have played with 10 men.

He conveniently ignored the additional point that Costa should have been red carded in the first game, and could/should have received a second yellow for a dive against Watford.

This guy is on record as saying refs “have it in for him”, I’d like to know what he’d get away with if the refs actually liked him…

Gabriel Paulista and Mike Dean ring a bell?
Strevs, Afc, Canada
(Dear Mr. Storey, I quite like the look of Xhaka so far, does seem a bit Paul Scholes in the tackle, mind)


Could Fabregas reprise his false 9 role?
With the debate around whether or not Fabregas should play, maybe there’s a case for a positional change? In this Chelsea side he could possibly play up top, he doesn’t have the speed you’d want (neither does Costa), but could work well as a false 9, trying to play out for Hazard, Willian and Oscar. He had a 1 in 3 goalscoring record playing like this for Barça, not bad when you’re not the one meant to be doing the scoring.

Or perhaps it could be the other way around, and he could take a leaf out of Alonso’s book and become a makeshift centre-half. Whilst he isn’t solid defensively, Chelsea don’t need a centre half like JT anymore due to their midfield strength, and he could be the much coveted ‘ball-playing’ centre-back. Just as long as he doesn’t play next to Terry, otherwise that back line will get out-run by Mertesacker.

Neither seems a perfect fit, but with a full transition in pre-season it’d surely be worth a shot. If Loftus-Cheek was worth the experiment why not the guy who actually played striker for one of the biggest clubs in the world?
KC (don’t waste him)


Arsenal fans allowed to be p***ed off
Peter’s mail about relatively rosy times at Arsenal sounded an awful lot like bait. Irresistible, patronizing bait to an Arsenal fan, so I’ll bite.

I have been following Arsenal since the ‘AW pea'” years (~2004). The cries and pain of newer Arsenal fans, as he puts it, do not reflect reality. Well, what reality? Just having been around for longer than the average Arsenal supporter does not give him ownership of reality. My agony at this underachieving side is just as real as his contentment at what he feels is overachievement. We have both picked an arbitrary time in history with which we compare where we currently are, hence the differing views. And yet, I feel no need to assert that his views are unreal.

Then comes the part about the basis of the club being absolutely sound. I’m a long-time reader of this mailbox and I’ve seen people stating their case for and against change at Arsenal. But, I don’t think anybody would feel that the basis of this club is sound for a club of its size. We have demonstrably the least ambitious management structure of the big six (Ars, Che, ManU, ManC, Liv, Tot) and that has its roots in the owner Kroenke. Chelsea would crumble if Abramovich was assassinated but Arsenal could become a football club again if Kroenke was gone. The basis of this ‘business’ is sound, but the football club? I don’t think so.

The ups and downs of Liverpool show that they are at least trying to do something about their on-pitch performances. I reckon that Peter would be blissfully happy at another failed title bid and a Champions League spot. If only I could also become an expert at being unambitious…Better to have tried and failed than to have never tried anything, in my humble opinion.
Srinivas (will boldly predict we won’t win the title or the Champs League this year either), AFC, USA


…I’m 27 and have followed Arsenal since 1995. I didn’t have a choice; my dad became a Charlie George obsessive in 71 and even grew his hair. The photos are ridiculous.

Now, he is in full agreement with Peter that most of the 70s and 80s were crap. No doubt, between 1940-1990, Arsenal were a relatively average club. More league titles than Spurs ever in that time, but pretty bog standard generally.

George Graham’s era was a successful one, with titles, cups and even European success (weird) and then Wenger, as Pete says, ‘spiked’ our general performance.

But as a ‘new’ Arsenal fan on the basis that I’m about 20 years younger than Pete, I should now be satisfied with fourth place because we were poor in the 70s?

The problem is that yes, us newbies were treated to a nice period of success. With that came the move (And I still sorely miss Highbury even though I’m new to all this) and promises of bigger and better things for the club, both in terms of transfers and trophies. In all, the last decade has been a damp squib, mostly.

The point is, why should my expectations be lowered because Arsenal were poor when Peter was a kid? Its 2016 now and we pay the highest ticket prices, we continually start slowly and we’re not making massive progress in Europe. Now this may be the stroppy stance of a 27 year old child but I’m afraid that’s the real reality.

Oh and if our expectations should be based on what we were doing in 1974, then I fully expect Jose to be happy when United survive relegation this year. Helpfully, Rooney never got sold to City to give us all a ‘Denis Law moment’.
Joe, AFC, East Sussex


The sad(dish) tale of Joleon Lescott
Joleon Lescott left English football yesterday, and no one seems to have mourned. Headline in the Birmingham Mail: ‘How Aston Villa flop Joleon Lescott ended up in a city famous for ruins.’ Yet it didn’t have to be that way. A big success at Everton, a starter in an FA Cup final win, a regular in a title-winning season, more than two dozen England caps including a goal at Euro 2012, he’s had a career that should have brought respect and affection. What went wrong?

For starters, he made no friends in the move from Everton to Manchester City, eventually handing in a transfer request and asking to be omitted from Everton’s squad. As one of the earlier big buys under the new City owners, he was often viewed as a mercenary.

Despite the title at City, his time in Manchester was mixed. Injuries in the first couple of years often kept him out of the lineup, and as the club progressed after their first successes, he was soon no longer good enough to keep his position. He started only 10 times in the second title season, and during the January window appeared headed out of the club altogether.

As for his England career, which stretched over his Everton and City days, he was just another part of an underachieving side. No honor there.

In his one year at West Brom, he may have reached the height of his post-Everton popularity, delivering consistently solid performances under Alan Irvine and Tony Pulis. Yet he lost much of that goodwill by leaving for rivals Aston Villa the next year.

And, of course, his time at Villa was disastrous. As captain of his boyhood club, not only did he play poorly, but his off-field comments and actions alienated everyone in sight. In a relegation-doomed side, where there was plenty of blame to go around, Villa fans consistently reserved their nastiest language for Lescott. Even at 34, he could have been a useful player in the Championship, but no one wanted him to stay.

Although the record suggests he brought much of it on himself, it’s still a sad story. Fans want to love their footballers, and few players can be completely indifferent to fan reaction. In the end, you just want to shake your head, and hope it turns out better for the rest.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA


How long before Nike is on somebody’s back?
There are big moments in the modern commercial world of football where people sit up and say ‘why aren’t we already doing that?’ These tend to be superfluous training gear sponsorships, or official motoring partner, but sometimes can be big, think stadium naming rights.

Often these things are met with derision and people talking about how football has sold its soul etc, only to be acknowledged and then absorbed and we all move on. The next one however, could potentially cause mayhem if what one footballer for Arsenal Tula in the Russian Premier League takes off.

That footballer is Emmanuel Frimpong, previously famous for being an annoying sod on social media whilst being rubbish for Arsenal Reserves. He is also famous as rapper Lethal Bizzle’s cousin, who also has a clothing line based around his slogan ‘Dench’, basically meaning cool. Frimpong also catchphrased this and used it in lots of tweets and promo material when he was social media famous.

Back to Arsenal Tula however, he made his first appearance at the weekend with ‘денч’ on the back of his shirt, pronounced as Dench.

What may be seen as him supporting his cousin is essentially a commercial slogan replacing his name on the shirt. We already don’t have rules on shirt names, evidenced by ‘kun Agüero’ or ‘Hulk’ due to their likenesses of characters, but where do we draw the lines of what’s acceptable? Is CR7 allowed? You could argue that’s more appropriate for Ronaldo than Kun is for Agüero. Maybe Martial could fight back about the number fiasco by changing the name on his shirt to AM9.

But how long until someone gets commercialised outside their own brands? See a transfer pushed through and financed on the condition that the shirt name is ‘NIKE’. Or maybe Newcastle’s record signing will be

Can clubs draw the line? Will the league step in under the whole unauthorised sponsor argument? If they can have logos/names on their boots then surely they can put whatever they want on their shirts?

I don’t think it’ll ever become widespread but certain money mercenaries (Hulk) would definitely trade their shirt name for a shed load of cash, and further serve a reminder that football isn’t about football any more, it’s about making you buy things.
KC (can see Chinese Super league lapping this up)

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