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Not scared of Ozil
You can fawn over Ozil all you like but I find that a good way to judge a player is how you feel when they line up against your team.
I actually feel good when I see Ozil line up at Anfield as you just know he will go missing and Arsenal will be playing with 10 men. Even Jordan Henderson has bullied him on numerous occasions.
Ozil is the man for easy home games where he can unlock a parked bus and early stages of Champions League, relying on him to perform outside of The Emirates against a decent team and I’m afraid you’ll be left wanting.
Jimmy (Decent player but not amazing) Spain
Ozil is better than a one-man band
Arsenal’s long barren silver less run actually came to an end with the signing of Ozil and NOT Sanchez. I think Wenger made the right choice.
Arsenal’s motto is Victoria Concordia Crescit – when we’ve been at our best, we’ve lived that motto – winning as a team.
As much as I loved Alexis – he never fitted that – Ozil, on the other hand, fits it perfectly.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Can I divorce my football club?
I used to love my football club. We were meant for each other. I first went to Arsenal when I was ten. When they were happy, I was happy. We went everywhere together, even defeats to York and Wrexham couldn’t put me off and you felt nothing could split us up. I loved the club, and I thought they loved me. But in recent years, they have changed. We have started having arguments about money issues, they clearly haven’t been putting as much into the relationship as I have and I am beginning to realise that they just don’t care anymore.
When you consider that I have been ‘married’ to this club much longer than to my wife (Arsenal 45 years, my wife 30), splitting up would be very hard, but I feel I have no choice. Oh, they try every now and then, five against Everton, big new signings, but there are too many times when I realise that their heart just isn’t in it. (Bournemouth, Swansea, Forest this year, Palace, Munich last year)
I know I said ‘sickness and in health’ all those years ago (and trust me, when you have seen the Don Howe 1982 team, you have suffered), but I just sense the love has gone from the relationship. Frankly, we only stay together for the sake of the children (I have three, all passionate Arsenal fans).
So, do I carry on in a soulless passionless relationship or do I move on? (MK Dons and Wycombe are only down the road and Dunstable Town really need my support, in every sense).
Tim ‘broken hearted’ Benson, Bedfordshire
No sympathy for West Ham
Sorry but Storey is having a laugh on this one.
West Ham have hardly been a likeable club. Perhaps I was immune to such feelings growing up in the north…
Plus, of all the fans to not have any sympathy for whatsoever, West Ham fans are right up near the top of that list.
Just call a spade a spade and slate them for what they are and what the owners are. There’s no room for sympathy whatsoever.
Opting for Salah over Suarez
Jimmy asks whether Liverpool fans would prefer peak Salah to peak Suarez. Leaving out entirely whether or not we’ve even seen ‘peak Salah’ yet, it’s an intriguing question. Their numbers are probably roughly the same, so the advantages of each boil down to intangibles.
Suarez is probably the living embodiment of “Garra,” “the claw;” the defining characteristic of Uruguayan football. The sort of “by any means necessary” approach to football that, on the one hand, delivers last-minute winners, and on the other hand attempts to provoke opponents by, say, biting them, or describing them in a racially insensitive manner.
Mo Salah is possibly technically better than Suarez, and is certainly faster and a better dribbler, but maybe needs a particular type of management. He struggled massively under Mourinho at Chelsea, for example. But, under Jürgen, he’s on course for the greatest debut season at Liverpool since Barnes.
Fundamentally, though, Salah just seems lovely, and I don’t fear having to defend the indefensible from him in the way I had to with Luis. I have no qualms about my small children having ‘Salah’ on their shirts, whereas, for all Luis’ positive qualities, I did with him. And all other factors being equal, that matters!
Dara O’Reilly, London
…In answer to Jimmy, surely the answer is ‘peak Salah’. Both excellent players, but ‘Peak Suarez’ is probably only half way through an eight match ban for doing something ridiculous…
Its Suarez…all day long. As good as Mo is.. (yes despite his bitey racisms – it’s purely on a football level)
Though if given the choice and despite what Carra reckons that Klopp wouldnt swap Firmino for Kane…I would take last season’s Mane (Peak?), this season’s Salah (definitely Peak, so far at least…) and sadly I would have Bobby miss out for Suarez up front. (possibly trade Mane for Suarez and let Bobby do his thing.. ahhhh see what you have started..
Now that would be a front three, whichever way round it was!
Al – LFC – Getting far too excited by half at the very thought of it!
…In response to Jimmy (Really?) Spain, regarding who is better – Salah or Suarez. Can only be Suarez. Better footballer than Salah. And can really sink his teeth in when things are not going to plan lol. Seriously tho, Suarez for me, was one of the really top players to have donned the shirt. Was a joy to watch. Those two 40 yard dips against Norwich in consecutive seasons – unreal.
Darryl Stephens – Cape Town, SA
…In response to Jimmy’s question, I would take Suarez all day long, the only downside being the many games missed through suspension. The reason why was explained perfectly by Darren from Dublin in his message about Naby Keita. Suarez was a bastard! A beautiful, belligerent bastard. Our bastard! So was Mascherano, though less divisive. Every team needs a player like that; a Roy Keane, a Diego Costa, a Mascherano to get in the opposition’s faces, ruffle their feathers and force the issue when the fancy stuff isn’t working. We’re definitely missing a bit of that, delighted to hear Keita might be the man to bring it back to the team.
By the way, to be fair to Spurs, as soon as that second peno was given I thought of Suarez straight away and how I miss that wonderful skill he had of putting himself between the attacker’s leg and the ball, as soon as the other player swung for the ball. It won us so many free-kicks within striking distance of the goal. Looking forward to having a little bit of bite in our midfield.
Richie (Cambodia – glad I stayed up all night for the City & Spurs matches)
Swap deals ahoy
Johneix@m wrote in this morning’s mailbox that he would like to swap Luke Shaw for Danny Rose and Phil Jones for David Luiz. Well, I’d also like to swap Moussa Sissoko for Anthony Martial and Llorente for Mbappé but you see there is a slight difference in class there. Suggesting a straight swap for Shaw and Rose is absolutely ludicrous. Shaw’s stock has plummeted since he arrived in Manchester as a very exciting young fullback. He has since sustained a carreer threatening injury and has not been anywhere near his best since. So suggesting a straight swap for him and Rose, the leagues top 3 LB along with Davies (no bias here) and Marcos Alonso, is utter bollocks. Give us Shaw and 30 million pounds and I’ll call it fair.
Same goes for Jones, he is by no means a world class defender. David Luiz however, regardless of falling out with his manager, is. Phil Jones is committed enough and can give it his all making last ditch tackles and making good blocks but so can Ben Mee. I’d argue what separates good defenders from world class is the ability to a)read the game and prevent trouble before it happens and b)passing from the back. Jones is not good at either of those things while Luiz excels at them. Now Luiz is not a young man anymore so his transfer fee shouldn’t be as high as 50 million pounds but easily 35-40 million. Meanwhile Jones could go to a West Ham or a Crystal Palace kind of team for about 18-20 million. I’m all for this game of who’d you want to swap at your club but you’ve got to have some sense of players’ value for it to be fun.
Anyway, if I’d played this game three weeks ago I’d have said Llorente + cash for Batshuayi but as of now I really don’t know. Llorente for someone who still knows how to score a goal?
Sibbi, the Icelandic Spur
Over and out
Great article on post-match interviews.
Another aspect of the paranoia surrounding potential PR gaffs by players and managers is when they cover their mouths in case their comments are lipread by some hawk eyed journalist. This has got me worried.
As most of our high streets are covered by CCTV these days when I was walking along my local high street with my wife recently, I covered my mouth in case my words were picked up by some person monitoring the screens in a small room somewhere in the Council offices.
I have to say the only consequence of this was she called me a d*ckhead and swiftly headed of into New Look.
It’s me then.
Comparing different eras is a mug’s game
On the subject of the greatest XIs of the Premier League, it got me thinking about comparing players from different eras and the perils of doing so. Hugo in the mailbox counters that the greatest Spurs XI wouldn’t even beat the invincibles but I think it was Michael Cox (who is an Arsenal fan) on the Totally Football Show who said that due to the rapid changes in football and how fitness and pressing has evolved, the current Spurs team (not even the greatest XI) would beat the great AC Milan team of 25-30 years ago, and I think (sorry if I’m wrong, Michael) he said that they would probably beat the invincibles too.
I’m sure we’re not too far off Football Manager/FIFA being able to somehow, based on hours of footage, being able to set up such a virtual game…
Finally, on the great email from the referee this morning, my only comment was his (taking a leap it’s not a her) assertion that intention isn’t taken into account, although now of course the referee does have to take into account ‘intention’ for fouls in the box that could be a red card. But otherwise I agree with the mail and Daniel Storey’s piece about the focus on refs. A simple change like ratcheting up the punishments for players/managers who verbally attack refs or call their integrity into account would help a lot.
Pundits should try refereeing
Great to hear from ‘the bastard in the black’.
He makes the excellent point that players, managers and spectators often don’t know the rules (sorry, laws!). This can also be extended to a lot of the pundits who earn pretty good money sitting on a sofa and waffling inconsequentially. But in recent years it’s become more common to see ex-referees also on these sofas and while you might not always agree with them they often give a useful insight into how and why decisions are made.
What I’ve long thought would be really fascinating is if we saw a move in the opposite direction, pundits becoming referees. I don’t mean professionally, but how about a documentary following, for instance, Mark Lawrenson and Alan Shearer through referee training and exams. It could then finish with them taking charge of an under 21 game or a preseason friendly, with their performance critiqued by Graeme Poll and Howard Webb.
Not only would it give the viewers a look into how difficult the job is, it may educate the viewers, and the pundits thrmselves, about the actual laws of the game. And finally, it might make the pundits more open to VAR.
I don’t know any commissioning editors, so feel free to steal this idea.
…Terrific mail about refereeing from The Bastard in the Black this morning, but it was his last paragraph, about seeing top players getting away with all manner of nonsense that really hit home.
I’d also like to add that it doesn’t help when the gang of smug, self satisfied nitwits that comprise a lot of the TV pundits in the UK, can’t help but show their ignorance of the Laws every time they pass an opinion.
My own pet hates are ‘he got the ball’ and ‘he wasn’t the last man’, both of which aren’t that relevant to what the Laws actually say, although my all-time favourite was Alan Hanson covering a Cup Final for the BBC and saying ‘I don’t care what the rules say, that was never a penalty.’
I’ve long thought that anybody who wants to be a commentator or football pundit on TV should be made to pass an exam on the Laws, and nothing that’s happened recently has done anything to change my mind. Furthermore it could be a good way to get rid of Robbie Savage. Win-win, you might say.
Paul Quinton, Wolves