Mails: Xhaka is the second coming of Denilson

Date published: Wednesday 19th April 2017 8:50

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Herrera is a ‘rabid dog who lives too close to the edge’
It has long been a gripe of mine that fans have insisted that it is necessary for clubs to have a 6ft+ centre midfielder amongst their ranks in order to succeed. I have fond memories of Vieira marauding around the pitch, kicking and tackling his way to victory. Similarly, I have mixed feelings about the greatness of Roy Keane, a ferocious opponent in the Red of Manchester but a leader and warrior in the green of Ireland. For so long they were essential to the success of either team and became prerequisites of a title winning squad.

Football evolves quickly but the myth that a defensive midfielder need be an aggressive, belligerent, uncompromising midfielder is one that has lingered for far too long. This may be a result of the success of the premier league during the two aforementioned gentlemen’s’ reign or it may harp back to players of yesteryear (although I often feel this is a misnomer given that so many of the great defensive midfielders were not that tall or overly aggressive – Deschamps, Dunga, Matthäus, Redondo et al).

Finally though, we are seeing the illusion fade and the rightful reign of the glorious bastard beginning. Whilst Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern continue to opt for a playmaker at the base of their midfield (although the deployment of Casemiro in recent months is unsurprising given Zidane’s respect for the role of ‘water-carrier’), the premier league boast a great number of talented defensive midfielders – albeit of different styles. There is the strong box to box stylings of Wanyama and Can, the shielding and passing of Carrick and Xhaka, the astute tackling and positioning of N’Didi, Romeu, Gueye and (master and chief) Kante and now the glorious bastarding of Ander Herrera.

There are arguments to be made for each style and much will depend on the style of the 11 as a whole but it’s becoming increasingly hard for me not to fall in love with Herrera. He’s a rabid dog who lives too close to the edge. A canine who puts others on edge yet has the total trust of his master. His systematic fouling is a long way from the clumsy tackling of Xhaka or the strength of Wanyama. His positioning is excellent, and whilst some may champion the clean tackling of Kante in a similar position – Herrera knows where his skill lies and often reverts to type. There is a shrewdness to his fouling, often taking one for the team at the correct time and then subsequently having to play with fire for the rest of the game. Yet he does it magnificently; and rarely gets burnt. What is more, the little bastard has the audacity to complain. I love it.

My love for him may not last forever, I’m sure at some point one of my own players will be on the receiving end of a snide pull of the jersey or a ‘clumsy’ tangle of legs; but until that point, I’m going to sit back and watch the little bastard destroy teams’ attacking hopes singlehandedly. After all, this is the reign of the Glorious Bastard. Long live the King!

Til next time,


Xhaka is the second coming of Denilson
After digesting the game last night I would first like to say that it was refreshing to see a formation change and I completely welcome the change, but let’s not make too much out of it because overall it’s the players on the pitch that count and if you can get top quality players on the pitch who can also play to a successful system then even better.

Two honourable mentions for positivity are Holding and the Ox. Holding looks very composed on the ball and Ox just has something to his game that I think we would miss if he goes. He is frustrating and gives the ball away but his change of pace, stamina and explosiveness is something Arsenal lack in abundance.

Now I wouldn’t be an arsenal fan without some negativity so here goes. Midfield – Ramsey and Xhaka are simply not title challenging level. Good composure from Ramsey for the assist and credit where it’s due but he still does not offer anywhere near enough. No guile or skill, nothing special about his game. And Xhaka is the second coming of Denilson, a player that sent shivers down my spine years ago. What you need in midfield are gifted players who want the ball under pressure, players who can keep the ball when there are two players hunting him down like Genaro Gatusso foaming at the mouth on one side and Roy Keane picturing you as Alfe Inge Haaland on the other side. You need players that can play the ball round the corner or pull out a sublime piece of skill to take those two said players out of the game and launch an attack. Those are the special players and quite simply Arsenal do not possess them.

So it basically comes down to the fact that the manager has bought players who are not up to standard and cannot get them into a system and cannot get them to perform above their level. So that’s where the buck stops, Wenger. They’re his players, he coaches them and he believes in them. The sad thing is we don’t believe in them and worst of all we just don’t believe in him anymore. A welcome 3 points in the top 4 trophy race but sadly too little too late.
Frankie AFC


Sticking up for Xhaka
It is not often that we get sensible emails from Arsenal fans, especially one that contains an analogy of growers and showers. But I have to say I completely agree with JR and I have to defend Xhaka too. Firstly, let’s not forget how turgid Pires, Bergkamp and so many others were in their first season in England before shining. A first season in a new league can be challenging unless you are named Kante. He is also a young player who has partnered Cazorla, Coquelin, Elneny, Ramsey and the Ox for his first season. It can not be easy to adapt when your partner in midfield changes every week, and when they are as different as the players cited above. Just like Sterling, he is also not responsible for his fee. This team has been in full disarray with the contract negotiations, poor results, and the Wenger out controversy, many of which are not his fault I too think that he has been guilty of his reputation for some of his cards. It seems some players, especially Kante and Herrera, get away with committing foul after foul, some even nasty without repercussions. But he must also take responsibilties for his poor tackling.
I am in no way saying Xhaka is a success, nor that he will be a legend. While we can agree that Xhaka had a mediocre season, we should recognize the difficulties surrounding him. And that is also does not mean he is a flop.
Guillaume, Paris


Much fanfare surrounds the return of ‘Arry
It’s the first day back at work following a bank holiday weekend full of the usual shenanigans.

Back to reality. Back to the depressing reality of 9 to 5 and trying to avoid the urge to throw a stapler at all of my annoying co workers.

The day started in the usual miserable fashion, with the container full of yesterday’s left over bolognese meat, which I had in my bag and was intending to eat for lunch, deciding to open, pouring contents of said bolognese meat all over my belongings.

I was ready to give up. Go home. Resume the foetal position and block out the world.

But then the news came.

Harry is back!!!

What a time to be alive. Roll on the summer transfer window. It hasn’t been the same without ‘Arrie hanging out the window of a Land Rover saying “he’s a traffic player” etc.

Does anyone know what Niko Kranjcar is up to these days? Can’t wait to see him, Crouchy and Defoe rock up to St. Andrews.
James, Gravesend


Following the appointment of the Bent Car Window King as Blues boss, the Second City Derby is now also the Official PFM Derby. Maybe this will persuade Sky to put it on the f***ing TV, although obviously Man U 1-0 Burnley and the Scottish Cup will be pretty exciting I’m sure.
Neil Raines utv


Weekend Thoughts (and a cycling joke)
Dear Football365,

Still not sure whether this is a Monday being held on a Tuesday, or a Tuesday that thinks it’s a Monday.

*Another good result for Crystal Palace this weekend, against a similarly resurgent Leicester City.  As many long-suffering Eagles fans will tell you, it makes a change to see our side come back from two goals down, rather than chucking away two points from a commanding position (NB may not be borne out by statistics).

*According to Opta, that was the first time the Eagles had recovered a two-goal deficit since the infamous 3-3 with Liverpool, that threw an almighty spanner in their works.  Between that and the wins over Chelsea and the Arsenal, the only derailers more effective than Palace are made by Shimano.

*City’s goals came from just two shots on target, meaning Wayne Hennessey didn’t actually make a save in the game.  This is a shame, because his form has been a big factor in the recent run of wins – Sam Allardyce has shown a lot of faith in him this season, but I still think his consistency (or lack thereof) needs to be addressed as a long-term concern.

*Skittles vodka enthusiast Jamie Vardy was interviewed on Match of the Day and seemed to suggest Christian Benteke’s goal was a foul.  I’m not sure that it was, but then I would say that.  However, watching the replay, if Yohan Benalouane jumps earlier (or at all) in an attempt to win the ball then he doesn’t get caught underneath the Palace striker.

*Craig Shakespeare has done a fantastic job of turning City’s season around, but I’m not yet convinced he’s the right person for the job long-term.  There are some similarities between Shakespeare and Tim Sherwood’s tenures at Hotspur and Aston Villa.  Shakespeare appears to be an excellent coach, having turned the season around, but this does not necessarily mean he will be effective at player recruitment; this was Sherwood’s undoing at Villa.  Shakespeare’s proven enough to deserve a chance, but it would be interesting to see how much he is trusted to source upgrades to the squad, or long-term replacements for key players.

*Well done to the summariser on Football League the Goal Rush who spotted Southend United had a player called Wordsworth and mentioned him “wandering lonely” to the far post to score against Chesterfield.  The Spireites’ return to the fourth tier was confirmed yesterday, with the only surprise being how long it took to get there.  This is the club that were taken to the League One playoffs by Paul Cook, but then inexplicably thought appropriate replacements for him were Dean Saunders (possibly the worst manager around) and Danny Wilson (whose tombstone will probably read “departed after a poor run of form”).

Cook, incidentally, left Chesterfield to take over at Portsmouth, and has just overseen their promotion to League One, so well done to him, and them.

*This is probably where I get accused of not being a true Palace fan, but I don’t hate Brighton & Hove Albion.  This is because hating another team is ultimately a bit pathetic.  Some of their fans are particularly irritating though.

Looking objectively at them, they are a club who have pulled themselves up from the brink of relegation from the Football League 20 years ago, suffering the indignity of a groundshare with Gillingham along the way, and have gradually built on each success.  Amy Lawrence tweeted something similar, and in the face of clubs being run atrociously, such as Coventry City, Leyton Orient and Nottingham Forest, promotion for Albion and Pompey are perfect examples of what can happen when clubs find the right owner, and then survive and thrive.

I might not hate them, but I don’t enjoy being nice about them.

*Next up for Crystal Palace are Liverpool (away) on Sunday and then Hotspur (home) on Wednesday.  Either two heavy beatings or repeat airings of that cycling joke I thought of on the way home from Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
Ed Quoththeraven


Suggestions for positive change
Excellent piece by John Nicholson on the state of the media, something I feel pretty strongly about and have written in discussing before, although not quite so well written.

It’s not directly football related but if you are looking for some small way to effect positive change in the industry as a whole, there’s an excellent campaign called ‘Stop Funding Hate’ [Find them on Facebook] which has been successfully putting pressure on the advertisers who fund the rags.

The papers so often display completely opposing values to which these organisations claim to hold, yet seem happy to have their adverts sit alongside such backwards and hateful rhetoric. What they write holds a lot of sway and there should be some sort of moral obligation to do it the right way, this stuff can be pursuasive and subconsciously manipulative at its worst.

It’s not comparable to the bashing immigrants get for example, but the idiocy on the back pages can be totally vile in its own right and there’s a long way to go in improving standards. The campaign has proven an effective method of voicing displeasure at their content, with many brands having already done so, or are currently considering pulling their advertising as a result.

So if you’d like to see the papers forced to up their game, see less about which black player is driving which expensive car or recently bought a home for his mother, as well as all the rest of the hate inciting garbage – Showing their main sources of income you aren’t happy about it is a pretty good place to start.
Joe, AFC, Manchester


United should let Zlatan go
This is probably not going to be too popular a post with my fellow Man United supporters but please hear me out (you never know, it may actually find support!). I feel Man United should not extend Zlatan’s contract at the end of the season. He has undoubtedly been our most influential player this season and we do owe him a big thank you for the highlights he has provided this season. The entertainment off the pitch is also well appreciated. However, Man United need to have the courage to take the right long term call and allow him to leave.

It may be the right call even for immediate success. With Zlatan in the team, we are effectively a two-man team (Pogba being the other one) from an attacking perspective. The style of play doesn’t suit the rest of the team. With Zlatan in the team there is never going to be any high pressing. So that tactic is a non-starter. The pace of build-up play is always going to be slow due to Zlatan’s lack of pace.

Another point worth considering is that everyone seems to give Zlatan the ball when he wants it even though there may be better options available. Someone like a Griezmann would be ideal instead. Brought up in Simeone’s philosophy he won’t be found wanting on the defensive end. Willing to press high, great first touch, close control, can run with the ball and good finisher. The only downside would be that lack of physical presence but the upside is just too much to overlook.

If Man United is able to sign Virgil Van Diyk and Fabinho alongwith Griezmann then it would be close to the perfect team next season (De Gea stays). The back line of Valencia, Bailly, Van Diyk and Shaw – pace, height, power, positional awareness. Midfield three of Fabinho, Herrera and Pogba – again pace, power, discipline, degree of creativity and footballing intelligence. Front three of Rashford, Mkhitaryan and Griezmann – pacey, creative, ability to run with the ball, close control and finishing. Backups Romero, Rojo, Jones/Smalling, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Darmian, Blind, Carrick (one year extension), Mata, Lingard, Martial, Perriera (back from loan).

It is a deep enough squad, rid of dead wood, full of Jose type players. Make it happen Jose. Get Ed working. Exciting times may be back.
Thanks, Aashay (win the Europa League first!)


Bruce the revolutionary
You’ve never published any of my mails and doubt you will this time. But you really should because I think I’ve stumbled upon a simple way to revolutionise football. Okay, maybe not “revolutionise” but certainly a way to curtail a long standing problem in the sport: players diving in the box to gain penalties. While watching a basketball match the other day, the idea game into my head: why not follow basketball and get the player who is ‘fouled’ to take the penalty?

To me, this makes perfect sense. Think about it. If I, Mr Joe Average DM, happen to find myself in the box with the ball and feel the slightest of touches which I know, in my heart of hearts, did absolutely nothing to destabilise me, I’d be a lot less likely to hit the ground knowing I face the prospect of humiliation from 12 yards. While this won’t stop the likes of Messi, Ronaldo or Milner from diving, all crap penalty takers will think twice and thrice about it.

I hate to be immodest but this is absolute genius. Not only does it solve one issue, but it also evens out the goal scoring charts since a team can no longer help a become top scorer by giving him all the penalties.

Please publish this as I feel the world needs to know my idea.


Congratulations to Brighton
A word of congratulations for Brighton and Hove Albion after their richly deserved promotion to the Premier League. Some friends and I who are local to Brighton went up the road to watch Ryman League football at Lewes whilst what seemed like everyone else in the city headed to the Amex for their coronation. After watching an incredible Lewes – Hastings United 4-4 draw (with an impressive 770 other people) we arrived back into the city after the short train ride to be greeted by a sea of pissed up and utterly delighted Brighton fans spilling out of every available orifice. My mate and I having lived in the City for 10+ years have adopted Brighton and Lewes as our second teams, whilst we ourselves are Liverpool and Coventry fans respectively. Standing outside our favourite city centre ale house joining in the songs with the jubilant Brighton fans was a brilliant end to a great day. Such an achievement for the club and absolutely massive for the City. Joining in with the celebrations of an entire City of fans who deserve this as much as any other was our privilege.
Rick, Brighton.

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