Mails: Ten questions ahead of a new Champions League season

Date published: Tuesday 12th September 2017 11:50

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The chaaaaampions: Ten questions to answer
1. They’ve already broken the jinx, so can Madrid three-peat? The form of Isco and Asensio is incredible, Bale and Benzema not so much. So what will be the team composition.Will ronaldo scored in almost every knockout game again?

2. Will Juve recover? Last year was supposed to be their year and they were the feelgood story that made the final. Buffon was supposed to finally crown his efforts along with the Italian wall in front of him. And then they met Madrid… .

3 Can Messi’s supporting cast help? They are supposed to be fading into obscurity, Neymar’s gone and they couldn’t buy most of the players they wanted. However they are top of the league and Messi’s already got one hat-trick.

4.Will MEN work out for PSG – I watched fleeting bits of PSG’s win over the weekend and was impressed by the combination between Mbappe and Neymar especially.

5 How will the English teams work out? There are five this year and on paper they should be stronger even though Leicester were last year’s best performers. English teams have failed too many times recently.

6 Are Bayern going to struggle? Sure they’ve made great signings, but the new guys are mainly young and inexperienced. They’ve lost two of their most influential playersl don’t have their usual stepping stone (Arsenal) to play against in the 1st knock out round and both their strikers have had issues.

7. Can Atletico finally overcome their mental block and new hurdles? Make a list of all the teams to have eliminated Atletico in the Champions League in the last four years. Oh you’ve only written down Real Madrid huh. Well you’re actually right. At some point if they are going to achieve their goal, but they aren’t helped by having to play in a new stadium and being unable to get new players. Is this the year they drop down.

8 Are the group stages going to be better? Except for that United capitulation two years ago the group stages have been fairly predictable. This year the draw has given us two great groups as well as humdinger games such as Bayern vs PSG, Barca vs Juve and open groups like Manchester City’s and Monaco’s. Will people complain about boredom this year or watch some great games?

9 How will Monaco’s rebuild go? Riight now i’m not sure if the 8,000 or so people who go to the stadium can remember what their players look like. They’ve sold a lot of assets and brought in replacements of great quality like Tielemans and Balde. Will they have enough to mount a serious challenge this year and who are they going to sell for (insert dr evil laugh here) 500 million dollars next year?

10 Which team will spring a surprise? The wildcards are probably Leipzig, who have loads of money, have stubbornly kept the players they wanted to keep and are in one of those groups that could go either way.

It’s back and man I’ve missed it
Timi, MUFC


Chelsea really could win this again
As a Chelsea fan, I wanted to make a disclosure – You heard it here first: Chelsea will be back to back champions. The media, fans and much of the chattering classes have decided to ignore us like a disliked stepchild. Unfortunately for them, we are about to get a visit from fairy godmother. Cinderella will ball.

I reached this conclusion after watching us whip Spurs in week two, but having seen us steadily improve our performances in dismantling both Everton and Leicester, I am increasingly confident of our chances.

Our summer business was much better than advertised. I am loving me some Alvaroooo. Clinical, hustles for the team and works the entire width of the forward line. His dribbling is better than Costa’s and has a steely determination that fits in well with our group. Rudiger has been immense and his assuredness on the ball works well next to David Luiz. It releases the pressure on Luiz from always being the ball carrier in the back three.

Bakayoko is going to be some player. Strong, powerful and technical. His distribution and awareness will improve as the season goes on. Alonso has improved yet again. Along with the Duracell battery in his back, Kante’s ball playing has improved immeasurably. Moses has real competition for his place and will also get rest when required. Christensen is ready and Cahill will hopefully play the cup games and provide injury cover. Fabregas to provide the quality and vision when he plays.

Antonio Conte (best, most adaptable manager in league) has 12 months of winning experience of the league to guide him through. Hazard, the league’s best player, is yet to play any substantial minutes. We are sitting pretty, although I’d love to have Verratti in our midfield.

The enthusiastic furore around Manchester City is justified. Their attacking armoury is quite unreal. About the rest, don’t believe the hype. Arsenal is well…Arsenal. Expect nothing from them. Spurs is like the pimpled kid ignored all his life, now in College hanging out with the jocks. They are just happy “to be here.” No winning mentality. Liverpool will falter. For reasons why, see the Manchester City demolition for exhibit A.

Manchester United, the flavour of the (last) month will regress to the mean. This argument that Matic frees up Pogba will fade away like a wolf’s howl at dawn. He lacks the mobility of real top defensive midfielders (Kante, Casemiro, Bakoyoko) and with Pogba frequently abandoning him, will be overrun, as already demonstrated by a decent Stoke team. I can’t wait to watch Jose combust as his second season winning thing evaporates into thin dust.

Which leaves City and the Blues battling for the title. We’ll take it by 4 points.
Ricky (Conte needs more credit for this 3 at the back thing) Blues


Documenting the De Boer downfall
Here’s a timeline of things I’ve written to F365 based on a search of my sent items for “ de Boer”:

*27 June: There is cautious optimism around [de Boer’s] appointment, not least because he is talking of long-term plans when he could just as easily be gone in short order. It seems like there is plenty of goodwill around this appointment, with people looking for positives – he didn’t last long at Inter but did manage to defeat Juventus, which is not to be sniffed at. The club deserve praise for being thorough in their search for a new manager, and for breaking the streak of gaffers who attract schadenfreude, but now the real hard work starts, in filling out the squad and getting everyone up to speed with his systems. I don’t claim to speak for all Palace fans but I think many others are just as interested as me to see how he gets on.

*14 August: This was only the first game of the season, so while there is disappointment, there is no reason for panic. If anything, it has given Frank de Boer the perfect example of how, why and where he needs to improve both his tactics and his squad. It’s now up to him to make the changes.

*16 August: In yesterday’s Top Ten Kneejerk Reactions, point #6 was “Frank de Boer won’t last the season”. This was based on having close to his strongest team available and them looking awful. Daniel’s reasoning was sound, but it could easily have been boiled down to four words that got a regular outing in the Mailbox last season: Crystal Palace are f###ed. (I don’t actually believe that)

*4 September: There is a huge sense of frustration with all things to do with the club at the moment. Between de Boer, Freedman, Parish and the players, a real statement of intent is needed. Parish, ultimately, by way of his decisions, needs to prove to everyone he is a Premier League-calibre chairman, and by extension, that Crystal Palace are a Premier League-calibre club.

*7 September: We’re now in a situation where reputable journalists are reporting that Frank de Boer will be dismissed if his team fail to win against Burnley on Saturday. Either it’s going to end badly or, like when Pardew rallied his side to beat Southampton last season, it’ll be a reprieve for a manager who will ultimately still be given the boot.

*11 September, before the news: The talk before the game was that Frank de Boer would be sacked should his side not pick up three points. That wasn’t the case, but the situation is still difficult for both him and the club. The club have presumably offered him a stay of execution based on the performance, but reviewing things on a game by game basis does not tally with the previous comments about long-term vision. What message does it send to the players that the club went back on the popular wisdom, but haven’t actually publicly backed the manager? If they know the manager is on borrowed time, where’s their motivation to play to the best of their abilities?

Frank de Boer has gone, carrying the can for everything, not all of which was his fault. Meanwhile, the club’s reputation is in the gutter, its leadership looks incredibly inept, and the players are bereft of confidence. It’s hard to see happy ending (stop it, it was obvious what I meant) to the season.
Ed Quoththeraven


Managers need to be better at picking jobs
A fellow mailboxer who follows the Eredivisie wrote in yesterday about the implications of De Boer’s ridiculous sacking on both his career and that of other young Dutch managers.

I have been very impressed at how the great Dutch players are able to transform their wealth of experience from their playing career to football administration and management. Ajax has Edwin Van der Sar as CEO, Marc Overmars as Sporting Director, and the other De Boer twin as youth coach.

More impressive though are the managers, after glittering trophy-laden careers at Europe’s top clubs, they all returned home where it all began to do amazing things. Frank De Boer won 4 consecutive titles with Ajax, Philip Cocu broke that cycle and returned PSV to the summit before the brilliant Giovanni Van Bronckhorst started a revolution at his hometown club Feyenord, a KNVB cup win in 15/16 and a first title in 19 years last season.

Now there are a select group of elite managers in world football, these young managers have what it takes to reach that level of José, Carlo, Pep etc. The key thing is they must be smart in their choice of clubs. Pep still has a lot of doubters but he has been very smart about his choice of clubs, Jose and Carlo has won titles in 4 countries. Granted, they manage the big teams but they choose them wisely.

Frank De Boer joined a confused Inter regime turning over managers like a change of clothing, and then an even more confused Palace who have been spending like the big boys and battling relegation. Clubs like Everton, Milan, Dortmund, etc with their investment and long term plans are better fits for Frank. Managers also have to be sure that whoever is throwing them in the firing line does not leave them with a knife in a gun fight, only to hang them out to dry when the inevitable happens.

This does not excuse the crazy hiring and firing culture of football today, but managers can make better choices. To think that Frank once had Spurs and Liverpool asking for him. Just hope the likes of Cocu and Van Bronckhorst have good advisers.
Mere Godled, MUFC, Nigeria (Palace proves its not just about spending money)


Should referees look at actions or consequences?
Hope somebody can clarify which is it the action or the consequence of the action that the referee should be looking at. Considering the two high foot incidents this weekend both actions by the player are the same but the consequences are different, therefore different outcomes.

Conversely, what if Mane had gone with his head and made contact the consequences may have been worse but would it still be considered as putting your opponent in danger.

This needs clarity. If you do a piece brilliant control in mid air like Bergkamp with nobody around great skill, try it like Nani with a guy coming from behind red card. Both have the potential to endanger the opponent but neither have the intention.

Be interested to see next time a goalkeeper comes out jumping across opponents to get the ball. Will he be pulled up for a penalty and red card for endangering opponents? Obviously that is not his intention he is merely going for the ball, but the consequences of having a 6ft 5 keeper landing on you can hurt.
Gary, confused


You are only allowed to write about football
So I didn’t think it was worth writing in regarding JNic’s article, i honetly didn’t think it would get published but David Krakow amazingly managed to slip through the cracks and sum it up quite beautifully.

It appears that the recent series of JNic’s articles could be entitled “The Things I Want To Take Issue With Because It’ll Get Me Brownie Points With The PC Crowd”. And the most poignant piece of commentary that David Krakow produced was the fact that JNic doesn’t actually write about football anymore, which is completely the case.

All JNic does is pick on a subject where he can lay into a group (or an individual) for expressing or behaving themselves in not-so-polished ways. Since that’s the case, let’s call that kettle black just as the pot is. Is this the same JNic that for years compared some footballing story with some sort of a sexual adventure of his in the years past? I seem to remember copious examples of ladies JNic met in a bar and other places that vividly described the goings on in the PL.

I would like to implore F365 to ask JNic to write about actual football for once. Not about sexism, or racism, or bullying, or sheepsh*gging, or any other potential injustice in this world. We want to read about football and football only. And yet, when it comes to football, his only recent contribution has been about the average height of the ManU squad and how impressive that is. Yet Barcelona, somehow managed to get so much criticism from him over the years despite producing likely the most unstoppable team in recent memory.

So my question is, does JNic actually watch football? Does he love football? Because it seems that he fixates on all the things that aren’t actually part of football itself.
Patrick (THFC)
(MC – Johnny can write about what he wants, really. You really don’t have to read it and we don’t expect everyone to enjoy every column. We write a helluva lot about the football too, y’know)


You know you’re taken seriously as a football writer when…
Now I’m not saying Peter G is biased but it’s been 4 gameweeks now and not a single Man United player has made it into his team of the week. We’re only top of the league you know.(It’s early but still).

Combine that with the regular potshots he takes at Mourinho in his columns and wait….. I am saying that. You’re biased, Peter G.
Divyank, Los Angeles


In Hughesy’s defence, he isn’t a yes man
Just a quick comment on Mark Hughes. Unlike a lot of British managers and particularly ex-Man United players who went into management (hello Steve Bruce), he never bended his knee to Fergie. I think he should be commended for that, even if he does act like a tool on the touchline.
Brian Oliver, Galway


For the 1,000th time: It’s your Mailbox. If you want different topics, send them in
Yes, it was the first thing I read and I would read every mail. I also did that thing where you paste it into a document so it looks like you’re working. But now…

Now, most mailboxes are filled with abuse. Supporters just trying to bait each other with ridiculous mails of the factual merit you’d expect from the tabloids.

After one of the big sides loses a game I don’t even bother to read the mailbox other than scroll to the end to see if there’s something else.

Not long ago the mailbox was filled with largely intelligent or thought provoking reads and some funny banter. Now it seems generating more content is all that matters regardless of quality.
Jon, Joburg
(MC – We love the niche Mails, the *other* teams and countries, the anecdotes and the stories about football experiences. But we have to receive them to publish them)

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