Man United and being screwed over by ‘away goals’…

Date published: Wednesday 5th September 2018 12:35

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Looking for the next Eddie Howe
Good piece on Eddie Howe, It made me think about the possible next crop that we can actually see now. The main ones that stick out for me are the Cowley brothers at Lincoln. Went from teachers to full time professional managers and haven’t really stopped progressing. Eventually they will need a jump up the ladder unless of course they can do a Bournemouth and take Lincoln all the way, Which to be honest seems impossible.

They are well known as some of the hardest-working people and the line Storey used about attention to detail is also used often to describe them.

They also have a style of play / philosophy that they stick to and it seems to be working well for them. I really hope they eventually make the right move and make it to the top.

On a side note another similarity is that when Howe got the Job at Bournemouth they didn’t play the lovely flowing football you associate with them now. Howe signed Steve Fletcher to get them out of the lower leagues and similarly The Cowleys signed Matt Rhead to get them up. This just shows me they can adapt as they grow!
Chaz (Essex)


A super email on away goals
I read today that a number of top coaches are asking UEFA to review the use of the away goals rule in continental competitions i.e. CL and EL. The general consensus seems to be that scoring away from home is not as difficult as it used to be.

The rule was first introduced in the 1965-66 European Cup Winners’ Cup as an alternative to tossing a coin or a replay on neutral territory. At the time, playing away in Europe was a huge challenge which involved difficult travel and intimidating, unfamiliar conditions abroad; however, these days travelling is routine for players and the most intimidating thing about foreign stadia is the worry that they won’t get wifi to send their latest dab or eye mask celebration (WTF is that all about anyway?).

I would be supportive of scrapping it because it can distort a match, with home teams clamming up, afraid of conceding, and away teams defending in numbers, trying to not concede and nick an away goal. Plus it is an absolutely gutting feeling to be knocked out on away goals. Our (United) first foray into the rebranded Champions League saw us dumped out in the second round by Galatasaray in ‘93/94 on away goals after a six goal thriller in the first leg and a tense 0-0 in the second.

Other notable away goal “losses” in the CL include Monaco in ‘97/98 (QF), Bayer Leverkusen in ‘01/02 (SF), Bayern Munich in ‘09/10 (QF) – add those to our other three and that’s us up to six right there! I jest of course (calm down Stevie la’) but should any team deserve to lose when they have in fact scored the same amount of goals over two legs?

On the other hand, there have been CL nights where I have been reaching for the defibrillator as a last minute scramble thankfully ends in the away team spurning a glorious opportunity. That feeling of relief as we’ve clung on for a narrow victory is something that I would probably miss – obviously under the same scenario with no away goals rule the match would go to ET (and possibly penalties) but there wouldn’t be that fear (or hope) of one season-defining swing from glory to despair and vice-versa.

That late Beckham free kick sailing over the bar late against Monaco. That Forlan shot cleared off the line in the last minute against Leverkusen. That Robben volley for Bayern (go watch that again – awesome and still heart-breaking). Moments of pure gut-wrenching misery, forever etched on my brain thereby ensuring a greater appreciation of those moments of “Beckham into Sheringham…and Solskjaer has won it!” Even typing that makes the hairs stand on end.

So let’s hear other about other team’s sliding doors moments at the hands of the away goal rule and opinions on whether removing the away goals rule is a good thing or if it is taking away from some excitement?
Garey Vance, MUFC

England’s malaise, Wilson and Hughes
Sarah’s article about England’s ‘fresh cycle’ is spot on. What more do players like Will Hughes and Callum Wilson need to do to get his attention? More to the point, how much less do Lallana, Delph, Rashford and Welbeck need to do to drop out? These are hardly important games, so it would have been a great chance to see how some new players fit in. At least Denmark’s new approach is interesting…

On Welbeck, Rashford and Wilson – I have no doubt who I’d rather see up front for my team at the moment. Wilson is the better player by quite a long way in my opinion, Rashford has potential but hasn’t really improved in the last two years and he’s still quite naive in terms of positioning. He might be in danger of becoming the next Ross Barkley if he doesn’t take a step up soon.
Ollie, Bristol


England, Spurs and a tactical puzzle
While thinking about the upcoming England games and wondering if we can ride the summer’s residual optimism any further, it occurred to me that Southgate’s formation from this summer is exactly what Spurs played against Watford:

Lloris (Pickford)

Alderweireld (Walker)
D Sanchez (Stones)
Vertonghen (Maguire)
Rose (Young)

Dembele (Henderson)
Eriksen (Lingard)
Moura (Sterling)


Three centre-backs that can all play a bit; wing backs pushed up; a buzzy winger-striker playing off Kane; two roaming attacking mids; just the one central midfielder left to his own devices.

Southgate’s formation worked against teams that sat back as it created overloads in important areas. However once we reached the semi-final, and opposition that could play a bit, this all changed. We did well in the first half against Croatia and took a deserved 1-0 lead, but in the second half they settled, figured us out and exploited that gaping hole in central midfield. This resulted in England gradually losing control and, ultimately, the game.

The pattern of the Watford-Spurs game was identical. Spurs looked comfortable at first and took the lead, but faded badly in the latter stages as Dembele was swarmed by Watford’s midfield and Deeney started finding space, and ultimately conceded twice to lose. The similarities highlight that this is not a personnel issue – the Spurs players are all as good or better than their England equivalents, and certainly better than Watford’s on a man to man basis – but a tactical weakness. The coup de grace comes from the post-match quotes:

Vrsaljko: “The all-round perception was that this is a new-look England who have changed their ways of punting long balls upfield but when we pressed them it turned out that they haven’t.”

Pochettino: “When you score you keep going, playing the same way, but we started to change and play long balls.”

Both sides were overwhelmed in midfield and, unable to play through the press (primarily due to a lack of support), just tried to bypass it instead, but to no avail. Crucially instead of changing the system both Southgate and Pochettino stuck with it and just changed the personnel which, again, had no effect. Weirdly the pattern of subs was also very similar with both managers making straight swaps at CM and LWB before finally removing a CB for a striker and hoping for the best.

So given that this represents an obvious flaw in Southgate’s chosen system, will he stick with it? If he does, England could be in for a torrid time against Spain (who I understand have a decent centre-mid or two) and Croatia (who will be better prepared this time).

For what it’s worth, to me the solution seems obvious: pull back one of the AMFs into central midfield to provide more support. This gives you something more akin to the formations used by the last two Premier League champions – the 3-4-3 used by Conte in 2016-17 and Guardiola’s 3-1-4-2 from last season which frequently morphed into 3-2-3-2 when de Bruyne or Silva sat back. For Spurs, Eriksen could perform this role; for England the best candidates are either injured (Ox), past it (Lallana) not yet ready (RLC, L Cook, even Foden) or unfancied (Hughes) – but it would at least help shore up the structural weaknesses in the system.

So I’m not sure yet whether that wave can be ridden further or is about to crash down and wipe us out, but either way Saturday’s game should be very interesting from a tactical perspective. Over to you Gareth…


Nothing wrong with bold maths
attempts at not pouring scoring on the boffins at TotallyMoney despite their calculations that Essien was signed for £116 in today’s money (£25.6m at the time) when Zidane was signed for a world record £46.6m just four years earlier, actually missed the point. It’s converting all historical transfer fees to today’s values, which would mean Zidane’s would be adjusted too..

You’d presume if the calculations covered all transfers, instead of just Premier League transfers, then Zidane’s transfer fee in today’s money would be around the £200m mark.

So if Essien at £25.6m was 55% of the value of Zidane at £46.6m, 55% of Neymar’s current world record £198m would be £109m, so not far off (I presume their calculations are based on total fees of the transfers of that particular year, so there’ll be further variance between the intermittent four years between those transfers).
Don L. Renegade


Tottenham’s stadium should be empty for six months
Just to Chime in on Stevo (THFC) point, if new White Hart Lane was not going to be ready in until midway through the seatsuon, then yes, it should have had to sit empty for 6 months after completion. They were responsible for hiring the contractor, so they are ultimately resptinsible for the delays. There should have been a plan in place in the summer, were if there we going to be delays, Spurs had to play their entire season at Wembley, regardless of the their new stadium being finished and sitting empty.

As an American, I can only remember one time in my 32 years that a team over here played home games in multiple stadiums in a season, and that was this year with Wayne Rooney’s DC United. Even then, they still played nearly all of the games before their stadium was ready away, one of the main reasons they were in last place when Audi Field finally opened.

If Tottenham truly wanted to move into their new stadium mid season, this should have been the price they had to pay. Get an honest, independent assessment of when the stadium was going to be ready, and schedule all games before that date as away games. It sucks for their fans, but it is the only truly fair thing to do if they insist upon playing at White Hart Lane this year.
Ryan (MCFC in Maryland)


Some more points on Spurs and the stadium
Mike, AFC pointed out that the NFL game will be played on a retractable pitch. Allow me to point out that Wembley does not in fact have a retractable pitch so playing a game immediately after a NFL game will most decidedly be an issue for the ground. Perhaps he meant the retractable pitch at the new Tottenham Stadium where the NFL game was originally scheduled to be played.

…Adam Jones points out that playing at Wembley was the original contingency plan all along. Considering Spurs have already had an exception made to play their first 3 home games at Wembley, this does not appear to be the case. If it was, there wouldn’t be such protracted negotiations on where to hold the games at this junction. The fact is Spurs overpromised on their schedule and underdelivered. They are the ones who sign off on the contractor plans, they are the ones who communicated the schedule on to the FA. This is negligent planning and asking the authorities to accommodate their issues with the contractor, is not a “contingency” plan.

…Stevo (THFC) Tricking the authorities into setting a precedent is not sensible, its devious. What is clever is the club communicating all is well with the stadium construction at the time of season ticket renewal towards the end of last season, while charging a price increase, when it was apparent the schedule would be massive stretch. There is no doubt in my mind that Levy did in fact know about the stadium delays earlier than the club has let on, there were noises about the stadium not being ready all summer. (And if they didn’t, that is abysmal handling of the situation in the first place). Communication from the club, both to the authorities and the fans, has been poor.

The club did not do their due diligence in setting a reasonable schedule, overpromised and underdelivered. How about playing the entire season at Wembley and communicating that from the beginning? The whole reason they didn’t was to save money. Instead, their poor planning and communication, has left everyone in a difficult situation where their incompetence needs a solution by making things difficult for other clubs, their players (poor pitch) and their fans.

A points penalty would be too extreme but the FA have to act here in some regard to discourage such poor planning from clubs in the future.
Falooda in NY


Correcting the story on Crystal Palace ladies
An own goal from the usually reliable Martha Kelner in the Guardian.

Firstly, it was later confirmed by the club as the sort of player sponsorship that happens at most clubs these days, especially outside the elite.

Secondly, it’s a bit of a leap of logic to suggest the club aren’t funding their women’s team because they have given the star player in their men’s team a new contract. Isn’t “there’s no money for women because they gave it all to a black man” usually the preserve of right wing tabloids?

Palace have done a lot to support their women’s team, who nearly didn’t have anywhere to play because the FA saw fit to give their place in the league to Manchester United. It was lobbying from the whole club that helped the team get reinstated.
Ed Quoththeraven


Is Sanchez selling his house? We must know
I’ve had some scattered thoughts which I thought I’d share:

It’s exciting that Liverpool are unbeaten, our XG against is incredible (even more so if you take out the open goal fluff from Alisson against Leicester) and with Fabinho yet to integrate fully and Ox injured our best XI hasn’t started a game yet.

Has Mourinho been told to stop being a grumpy pr*ck or has he founded this new strategy himself? Is he trying to preserve his reputation amongst fans or elicit more from his team?

Alexis Sanchez’s home in London is right by where I live but hasn’t been put up for sale or rent. What’s he doing with it? Maybe he’s too rich to care. He massively overpaid for it in the first place so he’s no hope of getting his money back.

I met Rachel Stevens from S Club 7 today! Personally very exciting but not strictly football related.
Minty, LFC


No, no Cambiasso
Not even an honourable mention for Esteban Cambiasso? Maxi Rodriguez? Come on!
Jaymo (he’s magic y’know) LCFC

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