Mails: Van Dijk hasn’t improved Liverpool’s defence

Date published: Tuesday 31st July 2018 1:28 - Joe Williams

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Van Dijk hasn’t changed much for Liverpool yet
I have seen a little bit over the recent months on how Virgil Van Dijk has improved Liverpool’s defence. So I looked at the numbers and well it just isn’t true.

The reality is that when VVD played for Liverpool last season they let 24 goals in 22 games so that is 1.09 goals a game. Without him in the team they let 39 goals in 34 games for 1.15 goals a game. That’s basically no difference really. While it can be said that in the Premier League he has helped (avg. goal per game dropped from 1.17 to 0.71) some of this is due to him not playing against the bigger teams (only played in 3 of a possible 10 top 6 games – incidentally Liverpool won none of those three games and let in 5). When he was in the team against better opposition in the champions league they let goals in just like before – see nine goals conceded in three games against Roma and Real.

I will say for the record that I’m a United fan but this is not takedown of Liverpool’s top signing. I think he a good defender who cost too much but who doesnt these days really. I think this season with more time in the team and most importantly a better keeper and midfield shield in front of VVD, I would expect Liverpool to concede less. BUT it didn’t happen in the second half of last season so hold your horses Liverpool fans.
Dave P, Dublin MUFC



In Jose’s defence…
I am not Jose’s biggest fan but feel compelled to step in and defend after the recent kicking he has taken.

Pep Guardiola gets a lot of credit for having a philosophy and how he stamps this on his teams. He is praised for being a purist. When Pep comes across a player that doesn’t fit his philosophy (Joe Hart, Ibra, Yaya Toure), he discards them and is usually praised for his decisiveness and courage.

However, Mourinho has a ‘philosophy’ too. It comes down to total commitment, putting the collective over the individual and an ‘us against them’ siege mentality. This was especially evident in his pre-Madrid teams of Porto, Chelsea and Inter.

Mourinho’s favorites are the players that buy into this. He is loyal to these players to a fault (Ivanonivic being a recent example). For players that don’t, he attempts to shock a response out of them and moves on the players that don’t respond.

What is wrong with that? Why is it any different from Pep discarding players who don’t fit his blueprint? And these are extraordinarily well paid, young men we are talking about here, not 11 year old children. I know I certainly would have appreciated some of this tough love during my whirlwind 20s.

An undercooked factor of Mourinho is the lasting positive impact he seems to have on his clubs even after his customary toxic 3rd season departure. This is because Mourinho leaves behind linchpins and leaders in the team who are far more mentally resilient than they were before. (Lampard, Terry, Drogba, Ramos, Xabi Alonso, Ibrahimovic.)

Look at this years world cup as an illustration. Lingard has become a key member of the English team. Lukaku was the undisputed leader in the Belgian team, with coaches remarking at the massive step up he has made. Jose defended him tooth and nail during his mid season slump when United fans (including me) started calling him a donkey, but gets zero credit for his amazing development.

And of course, Paul Pogba.

Pogba joined United after a disappointing and anonymous Euro 2016. He has had a mixed 2 years, where Mourinho tried to instill discipline in him, a requirement echoed by Deschamps. In WC 2018, we see a Pogba who was disciplined and increasingly talismanic as the tournament wore on. Jose himself remarked on how this was the Pogba he wanted to see. Did Jose get any credit for helping to turn the immature, ineffective Euro 2016 Pogba into the talismanic WC 2018 winner?

Compare that to Pep’s players at the World Cup. Sterling? Kdb? Kun? Jesus? Fernandinho? Otamendi seems to have grown only in his thuggishness. He can take credit for Stones and Walker. Why is Pep so revered as a coach who improves players, and Jose as the opposite?

I think Real Madrid broke something in Mourinho. He has never been the same after. That mischievous glint in his eye is gone, and he seems to be permanently bitter now. But the recent criticism of him after United’s best finish (by far) in 5 years is way over the top. They finished only behind a City team that comfortably outspent them after having a much stronger starting point.

This is not an attempt to say Mourinho > Pep. I’d take Pep at United in a heartbeat. But at the same time, having a balanced perspective is important.
Gautam (would be nice for Jose to smile occasionally though)


Is Jose’s Mental Health at Stake?
The more articles that crop up in my news feed and the continued Mailbox missives on the subject of Jose Mourinho has led me to consider not just what he says, but the manner in which he says it and for how long he has been saying the same type of things.

We have taken this period of Mourinho’s reign in Manchester as act 3 in a 3 year narrative, one where he presses the self-destruct button and ends up being sacked/let go by mutual consent. But his moaning and griping at anything related to well, football has gone on longer than just his time at United. His stints at Real Madrid and his most recent time at Chelsea were peppered with widely publicised outbursts aimed at the club hierarchy and his own subordinates. With each passing job where he left in less than rosy circumstances, the level at which he complains about the players he has at his disposal, the lashing out at everything and anything has become more concentrated and as a consequence more toxic, beyond that of other managers who have also been known to ‘act out’ in similar situations.

Looking from the outside in, he looks less like a man with genuine concerns that are being voiced in the public sphere (for they are not being heeded in private), and more like a man that is beginning to suffer the effects of a possible breakdown.

Work can suffocate you during those times you consider yourself under immense pressure, regardless of whether or not you love what you do/have loved what you do. With Danny Rose opening up to the press this summer while on England duty about his injury and his road to recovery being plagued by depression and the widely commended actions of Dr Pippa Grange  in creating a sense of mental wellbeing in the England squad, is it not conceivable that Jose is himself feeling isolated due to the pressure of attempting to return Manchester United to the summit of English football and restoring the reputation that he and others felt was sullied under the stewardship of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal? That he is angrily and overtly lashing out at his players as he cannot articulate in a more reasonable fashion that he may require help (and by ‘help’ I don’t mean a £200mil transfer budget)?

I have personally felt the loneliness that comes with knowing you may be unwell, but cannot find the words to tell those closest to you that you can no longer balance the weight of expectations, of those around you and those you place on yourself, however big or small, on your shoulders. That one of the things that defined your strength, the reason why many turned to you when the chips were down, now weighs so heavily, you cannot carry that burden anymore. That you may be beaten by a greater challenge than those you have faced throughout you career.  Is it that farfetched to consider that the pervasive attitude he continues to exhibit is one of a man thoroughly out of love with the game and himself?


Man United fans need to chill
Anyone reading through your mailbox over the past couple of days would think that Man United are a club in crisis. People seem to be freaking out over a grumpy press conference from a grumpy man and their reserve team getting beaten. It’s madness.

Meanwhile Spurs haven’t signed anyone, City have only signed one player, a player that they don’t even need, and Chelsea are in a battle to hang on the their best asset. Arsenal have been shopping at an old people’s home which leaves only Liverpool showing any form of impressive aggression in the transfer market.

Fans of the other clubs don’t seem too fussed. Maybe because they realise a competitive ball is yet to be kicked. Mourinho and United fans need to chill out, it turns out that with the World Cup and lack of exciting transfers they’re all in very similar boats.
Mike, Norwich 


Call Mourinho’s bluff
As we slowly fear up for the new premier league season, I’ve watched the build up with a vague sense of amusement. If the World Cup was a breath of fresh air, Jose Mourinho is doing his best to suck all the joy and excitement out of Football, at the very least  for Man U fans. I am a Chelsea fan and have seen this before from Jose.

In his first spell at the club he had the swagger and arrogance that Chelsea needed to put ourselves on the map. He was the young upstart to lead a nouveau riché club and it was a match made in heaven. By the end of his second spell, he had burned bridges with many of the players, staff , owners and fans for his conduct, in particular with regards the treatment of our former doctor, Eva Carniero. He had employed the full plethora of excuses available to him and, ultimately, his position became untenable.

All of this leads me to ask, why not call his bluff? Ed Woodward could easily release the folllowing statement :

“Jose has our full support, as shown by us investing over £300m in transfer fees over the last three windows to improve the squad. We have also given him a new 4 year contact, despite the club winning no silverware in the last season. We have backed him and we have worked with him to secure players and ensure the finest prospects in the youth team are developed. If Jose has any issues with our level of support, he is welcome to leave the club and find an alternate employer”.

This may sound extreme, but it would (I think) be a factually correct statement that reminds Jose that no one person is bigger than the club. It’s not a threat, but it shows that Woodward and Man U have teeth and are not going to stand for the latest nonsense being circulated.

He was a great manager, but he is fast becoming a parody and liking like a man struggling with the weight of responsibility of managing one of the biggest clubs in the world.

He has form for being dictatorial and bullying, why not stand up to him?
Lee (And I say this as a Chelsea fan who loves Jose for what he achieved at the club)


Meanwhile, in a parallel universe…
For the first time in many, many, many years I have this strange feeling.  I believe it is called “contentment” and may well be shared by other Arsenal fans this summer.

We have a new manager.  Not just that but we have a new management structure.  This new group has signed players early in the Transfer Window.  These are players that we both need and want.  Yes, that’s right, good players who would be welcome at most other clubs, filling yawning gaps in our team/squad.  We are also seeing promising youngsters doing well in pre-season (true, that is not necessarily new but let’s not p*ss on our own chips).

As if that were not enough to enable Gooners to breathe easily, we also have the delightful distraction of watching Man Utd fans losing their marbles as their manager finally makes the final step in his evolution from Special One to Miserable Git.  And of course the cherry on top is that Sp*rs seem to paying homage to Arsene Wenger with a new stadium yet to be completed, no new players on the horizon and their manager claiming the renewal of contracts for existing players as being “like new signings”.

Truly it feels as if we all just stepped out of the back of a wardrobe.
Carolyn (optimistic for the first time in years about a new season because even if we lose at least we will lose differently), South London Gooner.


Can’t have it both ways
In the mailbox this morning, Adidasmufc bemoans that Man United can’t compete with Man City because Man City has more money. Then he or she proceeds to say that Man United can’t be expected to finish above Tottenham. Tottenham spends a lot less money than Man City as we all know.

Can we all just strive for a bit of consistency in our arguments?
Nathan, Newark


Blimey – your top ten transfer needs. When was the last time Arsenal didn’t feature in that….?!
John, London


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