Mails: The Prem’s most complete midfielder?

Date published: Wednesday 23rd December 2015 10:07

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Defending Ramsey
I can’t believe some of the nonsense i’m reading. First of all, Thom from Newport claiming that Ramsey wouldn’t get into Arsenal’s 11 if all players were fit is laughable. He is one of the first names on the team sheet. One such time where a majority of team were fit was versus Man City last year, Wilshere was fit, Cazorla was fit, the Ox was fit, but was Aaron ‘not all that’ Ramsey shunted aside to the bench? Not a chance. He was indispensable then and he is indispensable now. Without him we are considerably worse.

Secondly, the criticism leveled at him by ‘Peter G’ is laughable. Ramsey isn’t up to the task at top level because he missed a few chances? The man was busting a gut the entire game and basically covering the entire centre of the midfield due to Flamini being preoccupied with Silva. Whenever a player needed an option to pass to Ramsey was always there, and always will be there as seen in other games. It’s laughable that Ramsey’s hard work and solid performance is being ignored because he missed one or two chances.

I personally wouldn’t take anyone other centre mid in the league over Ramsey. He is the most complete. Those who are technically gifted are normally lazy( Yaya Toure) or weak defensively( Cazorla/Herrera), and those who are hard workers are normally not the best technically( Henderson). The only player who is on Ramsey’s level is Fernandinho, who in all fairness is outperforming Ramsey this season. Yet he still barely got a sniff yesterday. In the big games Ramsey has proved time and time again he is the best centre mid at Arsenal and without a doubt one of, if not the best in the league.
Matt, (Shockingly enough) Arsenal Fan


More on Yaya
First Tim Howard during the in-game commentary and now the Mailbox repeating the criticism towards Yaya for not showing up until the 75th minute. Did anyone notice that maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with Silva being withdrawn and Yaya moving higher up the pitch into the #10 role? Similar to the Mancini days when Yaya would start off deep, City would need a goal, he would move further up the pitch, and take the game by the scruff of the neck. I know he’s a tank, but he can’t be in two places at once people.

Which leads to the main tactical nuance I took from the match. I understand Silva’s preferred role is behind the striker, but City are a better side when Yaya plays there. In my opinion, he’s better than Silva in that role. His strength and touch allow him to easily play in between the lines, draw in defenders, and find Silva or Aguero or make runs beyond the striker. It was evident in the first 5 minutes, and I think it’s fair to say that Pelligrini got it wrong when he played Delph out wide, Silva behind Aguero, and Yaya deep. Put Yaya behind the striker, Silva wide, and either De Bruyne/Sterling on the other side.
The Original Brian, LFC


One day as a lion or a thousand years as a lamb
With Leicester top at Christmas and the possibility of them winning the league becomes less and less ridiculous each week I was curious, out of the two scenarios below, which would Leicester fans prefer:

A) They hold on and win the League. It’s hailed as one of the biggest Sporting miracles of all time and Ranieri is spoken of as a modern day Brian Clough. However things turn sour in the summer. Ranieri replaces Benitez at Real and takes Mahrez with him and Vardy joins United. They fail to attract any Champions League quality players as they simply can’t match the wages offered by other top 4 clubs. They replace Ranieri with LVG (sacked by United in January) who says he wants another chance to prove himself in England and the Champions League. They play negative, unimaginative football and are knocked out of Europe in the group stages. They finish the season 10th, at which point many other top players leave as there’s no European football on offer. LVG retires and they bring in Sam Allardyce. He does a decent job given the poor state of the squad but they finish in the bottom half. He’s given a harsh dismissal and replaced by Harry Redknapp. With the side 20th at Christmas with only 2 points, Harry resigns saying his knees are playing up again. He in turn is replaced by Mick McCarthy who turns their fortunes around a little but cannot prevent them suffering relegation on the final day, just 3 seasons after winning the league. They just miss out on automatic promotion the following season and Mick suffers his 400th loss in a play-off final. He’s replaced by Malky Macay who say’s he’s reformed his racist ways. He’s sacked in December with the club bottom of the Championship and after a video is leaked of him and James Pearson on the lash in Leicester racially abusing Indian restaurant staff. Ian Holloway takes over but is unable to stop their slide into slide League One, just 5 seasons after the Premier League triumph. Srivaddhanaprabha (I remembered the spelling by heart, not copy and pasted at all) pulls out investment and sells the club to Ken Bates. They spend the next 50 years yo-yoing between League 2 and the Conference. However the stories of the 2015 League title keep up the fans spirits as they watch their team lose to the likes of Forest Green and Salford City.

B) They drop off the pace and end up finishing 6th. Vardy and Mahrez leave to join Champions League clubs. However they take the big money they’ve received for them and build a solid Europa League squad. They get knocked out in the last-16 in the Europa League and finish 8th. They spend the next eternity flittering between being a mid-table and a decent Europa league club. They essentially become the Midlands version of Everton, maybe a bit better, occasionally getting to a Cup final but losing to stronger opposition. They never suffer the indignity of relegation, or even the threat of it. Their Premier League status is secured for the rest of time but as I say, they never actually win anything.

Obviously the first circumstance is an extremely pessimistic view of what would happen. They have a rich-owner, a strong fan base and good players, so whose to say if they do win the League or get Champions League football that they won’t establish themselves as one of the big boys. However, what I basically want to know from Leicester fans is would they accept 10 maybe even 20 years of decline, of flitting between divisions, maybe even ending up in a Portsmouth post-FA Cup win fall from grace, in exchange for one season of Premier League winning glory? Or would they rather not win the league but have decade upon decade as an established but not top, Premier League club, like the likes of Everton?


Nobody hates Leicester – yet
Before we embark on the annual exhaustion-fest that is English Christmas holiday soccer, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that if you asked any fan who they’d like to win the Premier League if their own team couldn’t, you’d get the same answer – Leicester.

They haven’t done anything to p*ss anyone off yet – they seem like a nice bunch of guys (MC – racism aside, one assumes), they don’t play long-ball thuggery (I wonder who I’m looking at here – cough West Brom cough Stoke), the coach was derided by the press and turns out he seems like he knows what he’s doing (and we all like to see the media eating their words), they don’t have a wage bill the size of the national debt and they don’t play at Filbert Street any more.

The Leicester fans must understand this is a temporary situation. If they do actually go ahead and win the thing, three things will happen. One – they will become an object of derision and hate from those same fans of other clubs because – well, because they won it. Two – because of the injection of Champion’s League cash they will spend money on players of dubious ability, or character, or motivation (and quite probably all three) serving only to upset the close-knit camaraderie engendered by an “us against the world” league-winning season and give the newly-coined haters more to point and laugh about. Three – and this is the horrible and sad one – if we learn anything from history, they’re going to “do a Leeds” (or Blackburn Rovers, or Wimbledon) and disappear from whence they came, which would be upsetting to everyone (except the haters, which there will be many).

If I want to ask for anything this Christmas it’s that Leicester win the league and prove me wrong afterwards (I’ve obviously been naughtier than nice this year because Santa sure as sh*t isn’t delivering much in the way of presents to Chelsea).

Oh – and you can keep Steven Gerrard after the MLS break. Thanks much.
Steve (used up all my brackets in the email) Los Angeles


No to Mourinho at City
Paul from Nigeria.

Utterly disagree with your comments on Mourinho:

1) ‘Mourinho and city both share a taste for really expensive new recruits.’
Chelsea and City are known to have vast reserves of readily available cash. Selling clubs use this to their advantage in securing massive fees, not a shared reasoning between City and Mourinho. Correlation does not equal causation.

2) ‘Mou’s style will get them further in Europe.’
City fans are pretty disdainful of UEFA given the FFP situation (witness booing the Champion’s League anthem). We don’t hold the CL in the same regard as United, Chelsea or Liverpool fans so although it’s disappointing to have exited prematurely (when expenditure taken into account) we are not so desperate to win it that we would like to see Mourinho’s dour, cynical tactics at the expense of thrilling, attacking football that could be played under Guardiola.

3) ‘I don’t think the city fans really care much about attacking football as they do about winning trophies.’
Whilst I don’t subscribe to the ‘we pay to be entertained’ or the ‘for what the club have paid we deserve the best’ I do enjoy Silva, Touré (in his pomp a while back), De Bruyne and Agüero weaving their magic. Considering the regression Cesc, Hazard and Oscar all showed under Mourinho it would be horrible to see it happen at City. On our day we play the most glorious, sumptuous attacking football seen in these Isles and no City fan would change that for Mourinho’s style of success.

4) ‘…for that, Jose is their man… For 2 seasons.’
Have you seen what we are trying to build at City? The City Football Academy? The Women’s team? The integration with the City of Manchester? Mourinho might come in and win trophies, but he would do so at the expense of the great work the academy is doing (stop laughing at the back, it takes more than a year to develop talent. It will come) and I doubt he will leave the club anything other than a broken husk of what it is now in pursuit of those trophies.

5) ‘Players like mandala, otamendi, fernand(inh)o, Kompany. Will be resurgent under mourinho’s defensive system’
Otamendi is showing absolute class as he grows into his role. It’s his first half a season in the English top flight. Kompany is proven quality either side of his injuries this season. Fernandinho has shown a resurgence from last season (possibly due to a shattering WC in 2014?). Mangala is a real concern, but he looks tactically undisciplined and prone to panic. These are not traits that Mourinho treasures. Given the non-appearance of Baba Rahman, Cuadrado, Mohammed Saleh, Felipe Luis, Schürrle, etc. during Mourinho’s reign he clearly does let a transfer fee affect his decisions and I can’t see Mangala being given a stay of execution.

6) ‘…siege mentality will no doubt work on fans…’
City fans pride themselves on not being dicks. Chelsea fans are amongst the most dickish around (with Liverpool and United not far behind). We would spot the symptoms pretty quickly and stamp that sh*t right out. Look at the mailbox, where are the entitled, moaning, bitter City fans? We’re just happy with our lot.

7) ‘…who have spent the better part of the last 20years looking up at their local rivals.’
We haven’t looked up at United since 2010-2011. I don’t suspect we will whilst Van Gaal is in charge (nor Mourinho if he went there) either.

Thanks, but no thanks. Guardiola will do just fine.
Blue Tim


We had a lot of these…
I thoroughly enjoyed the comments made by Chris MUFC, until I realised that he actually meant every word. I had, naturally, assumed that he was presenting an extended comedy piece.

The idea, which seems to lurk at the centre of his comments, that the Premier League is poorer because the traditional big clubs are struggling, is one that only a bitter supporter of a once great but now average team could possibly espouse.

What makes the Premier League fun to watch is it’s entertainment value; fair enough, MUFC stuffing everyone in sight in the ’90’s is your idea of fun. I find watching the giants of old being regularly humbled a much more satisfying proposition.

I’m not sure it’s true to say that the distribution of tv income is unfair. It’s all very well suggesting that the big clubs should get more, but without the smaller clubs to trounce where would they be? 5th apparently, in MUFC’s case.

The so called lesser clubs earn their money by turning up, and providing decent opposition. The current tv deal has made this easier for them, and we have a division where anything can, and frequently does, happen. Presumably Chris would prefer the Premier League to model itself on the Spanish top flight, with only a handful of competitive fixtures each season.

As to the standard of the players, and the list of those who don’t excite him? Well, I suspect that he might be more willing to look again if they were at MUFC. I notice that none of United’s current bunch of underachievers were listed; are they all up to standard then?

I’d love it if English clubs were successful in Europe (yes, including MUFC), but our bread and butter is the Premier League, and I’m loving this season. Even if watching my own team is duller than reading Dan Brown in a dark room.

We’re not celebrating the League for a lack of quality. We’re celebrating it for being competitive, in a way that no other major European league is. We have teams who play in every style imaginable, and every result is in doubt. Every week I see great goals, and a great desire to win.

Or should that be limited to the elite? It’s all very well slagging off the smaller teams who are succeeding, but if teams such as MUFC were better, there wouldn’t be an issue. Look to the mote in your own eye before you start poking your fingers into the ocular devices of others, eh?


Assist talk
In response to Andrew’s point regarding less ‘value-adding’ assists:

When is a goal a goal? Do we only count 30 yard screamers towards a player’s goal tally and discount penalties and tap-ins?

No, not all assists are equal, but neither are goals, passes, tackles, or pretty much any other individual or team stat you care to name (including wins, losses and draws, if we’re expanding Andrew’s premise to its logical end).
Sam, AFC


Andrew asks the question in Tuesday’s mailbox: “When is an assist really an assist?”. Going one step further, how about asking whether unintentional assists count too? Mesut Özil is currently so good that he sets up goals without even meaning to! I cannot believe that not one single person, anywhere, has noticed that his pass for Walcott’s goal was not even meant for him…. Özil was clearly passing to the onrushing winger but Walcott got in the way and had a speculative pop at goal! Watch it again and give yourselves a collective slap round the face.

Like my old school reports used to say, the footballing public must pay better attention.
Jamie Bedwell (The pronunciation of Emre “Brother of Jackie” Chan still annoys me intensely), Cheltenhamshire


Andrew (Merry Christmas everyone!) (if you have a great Christmas then I get the assist for wishing it upon you), London sent in an interesting mail on how to define an assist. I’ve had this very conversation with friends before – I actually run a Sunday league team with a friend and we’ve often debated whether to credit assists for certain goals. I agree with Andrew that there are times when a player is credited with an assist which seems at least a little dubious – I remember Gareth Bale scoring a 35-yard screamer in his last season for Spurs and Tom Carroll was credited with the assist after Bale had literally taken it off him. But I don’t see how you can change the definition without making the waters even murkier. At the moment it’s as simple as whoever played the pass to the player who scored. Andrew suggests changing it so that an assist is only credited when the scorer finishes the chance with his first touch, but what about a situation where a player carves open a defence with a slide-rule pass and the scorer takes a touch to set himself before finishing? Should that not count?

Unfortunately, I don’t really see any way of improving the current definition. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we can do. Tom Carroll still gets his assist in the same way I still get credited with a goal if my team-mate hits a shot which would be going in anyway, but clips off my arse on the way in.
Jimbles, WFC


Great point that I read in the mailbox and that has had me flummoxed for a while too, about assists, and when is an assist actually an assist.

I don’t think there’s a formula for it as such, and that most of it is common sense. The writer said that it should only count as an assist if the scorer only takes one touch to score, and while this does on the surface make sense, it would rule out a LOT of assists that I still think are assists.

There could be a situation where a defence is playing a high line, on the halfway line say, chasing the game and a tricky number 10 gets possession, beats a guy and slides the attacker through who beats the trap, runs from the halfway line being chased down by the defenders and needs 4,5,6 touches and maybe rounds the keeper before scoring. I still think the number 10 gets the assist there.

Basically I think Ozil had one assist yesterday, the Giroud one. He turned and played the pass, the obvious pass, the ONLY pass really that he could have done and Giroud nailed it. Even if he took 2/3 touches it’s still Ozils assist.

It directly lead to danger, to the opportunity to score. Both the pass AND the run from Oli G. Realistically there was no other option / outcome other than a shot on goal.

The Walcott one tho I think is different. I think this is more a case of he just happened to play the pass before the goal but it wasn’t an assist. For a start I actually think the pass was meant for Monreal and Theo controlled it. But even then, there was no direct danger at that point, it’s just that Walcott did good stuff, and scored a worldie. But no one would have moaned if Walcott had turned back again or layed it off or sprayed it wide. There were other, maybe more sensible options.

I think this works for the one touch theory too. In the case of Charlie Adam / Beckham if someone lays it off to them and they score, first touch, from 60 yards, I still don’t think this is an assist, as the pass didn’t lead to direct danger. As before, the scorer has scored a peach.

As I said, it’s quite subjective and interpretational, and hard to be statistical about, so it would never be used and we’ll continue with how it is now, rendering this mail completely pointless but it’s a decent barometer nonetheless
Dave (Wigan Ath will be top of the prem this time in 2 years) Wigan


Calling out Stewie
I thought given the recent run of form, and the ample spare time, that some revisionism was in order. So here is some Stewie Griffin in hindsight from the past few months:

8th September 2015: “Giroud won’t “come good”. He isn’t a kid learning his trade, he’s 28, bags of experience and has 1 PL goal in over 1,000 minutes. 4 CL goals in 2 years.”
11th November 2015: “Forget that abysmal CL scoring record that sees him yet to hit double figures despite three years of being the sole number 9”
13th November 2015 “Like Giroud though, no chance it’d ever actually put a key chance away.”

– Giroud has since scored a crucial CL hattrick and has 10 goals in the league in 11 starts. He’s also in double figures in Europe. Oh and he just scored a key chance in a crucial game against our main title rival.

Friday 30th October 2015: “the suggestion is that a win in Greece will be a foregone conclusion for Arsenal – let’s just ignore they’ve lost on their last few visits there, and also ignore they couldn’t even beat Zagreb shall we! Or that Olympiakos gave them a lesson, at the Emirates. No no, let’s ignore facts. We are Wenger FC and this will be just as easy as….Monaco! Oh.”

– We all know what happened here. But to remind you, Giroud scored a hattrick and AFC went through to the knockout stages.

Thursday 3rd December 2015: “F365, could you please clear something up for me? I believe Liverpool sacked an underperforming circus act and replaced him with a superior alternative. Weren’t they supposed to “be careful what they wish for?””

– Klopp and Liverpool are winless in their last 4 games.

Monday 9th November 2015: “ Winty is 100% correct: we all know Arsenal will not win the league.”

– Arsenal are now clear favourites in the bookies, we’ll just have to wait to see what comes of this.

I’m sorry if it upsets fellow Gooners but please F365, please keep printing Stewies mails. He seems able to compel the opposite result of what he preaches, and it’s all coming up Milhouse for Arsenal.

Except for the injuries that is, those are beyond even his powers.
George (I think the correct medical terminology is Degsyitis) AFC, Wellington, NZ


TV deals and unpredictability
The Economist article linked to in today’s Mediawatch (the links are a brilliant addition) made a common but quite misleading assertion. Dismissing the new TV deal as a source of the ‘anyone can beat anyone’ phenomenon, the article says that money “…cannot account for greater parity within the EPL, because the payout formula has not changed.”

The new bumper TV deal’s primary effect on the league has been to reduce the financial advantage of teams competing in the Champions League. European TV money is now a lower proportion of top clubs’ incomes than before, and – given the pretty egalitarian division of League TV money – this has meant the relative advantage over the rest of the division enjoyed by those clubs has decreased. This has been exacerbated by the strengthening of the pound (CL money is paid in Euro) and English clubs’ recent inability to advance in the Champions League and generate even larger payouts. This obviously isn’t enough on its own to explain, for example, the Leicester-Chelsea switcheroo, but the new TV money is still a big reason the Premier League is more competitive this season.
Matt, AFC

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