We have a second Mailbox after the VAR farce in Paris for Newcastle and it’s fair to say that sympathy is thinner on the ground.
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Why do good players flop at Man Utd?
It’s about time to start a conversation about why excellent players flop at Man United.
It is unfathomable that so many very good players join Man United, flop and pick up their game again when they leave and join other clubs. The likes of Falcao, Lukaku, Paul Pogba, Angel Di Mario, Jadon Sancho, Mason Mount, Sofyan Amrabat, Casemiro, Antony and many more have not performed at the expected or desired levels at United.
The club is looking at replacing a number of those currently in their books in the near future. How long will this trend prevail? Bring players in, they don’t perform and struggle to offload and replace them. So I ask, why do players play poorly at United when they excelled elsewhere? The point is history has shown that replacing the players does not yield results as most new arrivals tend to perform at that same poor level over time.
A case in point is Mason Mount; also Jadon Sancho and Sofyan Amrabat. As a club, United’s position is clear, let’s offload and replace, leading to a vicious cycle of recruiting and replacing players continuously unabated. Not to mention the financial and related losses incurred. It is only when we identify and address the reasons behind these poor performances that the issues can be resolved.
Is the ongoing poor performance due to complex, challenging and demanding training? Is it poor and ineffective tactics, players dissatisfaction or players being fielded out of position? Is it even due to authoritarian managers/coaches? I think it’s a combination of all of the above.
It is now imperative for the top hierarchy of the club to take a close look at identifying the key reasons why good players are not performing well at United. There is no point in repeating the process of replacing underperforming players when new arrivals follow suit and perform badly as well PERIOD.
Professor (Dr) David Achanfuo Yeboah
There is a lot of discussion about Kobbie Mainoo. He has had one good game in the PL (This is not a diss email or a hold your horses email but tempering expectations for the email to follow). IF, (I say mean IF here as this is very hypothetical as it’s so early for him) he carries on this form, and development. Would people take him with the England team this summer? And if yes, does he start and what formation/team around him?
The Toon timing is tough
Well that was tough. With Dortmund winning the other game, I would have been happy with a draw before kick-off, but the timing and manner of the PSG goal is pretty painful. Not a penalty for me, probably less of a penalty than the other one a few minutes earlier. These things happen as they say, and if they put a million balls into the box a few are going to lend themselves to penalty claims, and those, like penalty shootouts, are a bit of a lottery these days.
On another night they would have won that game 3-1, so its not all bad. You can’t call it a defensive masterclass if the other team get that many chances, but if they can’t finish any of their chances then it’s certainly not an attacking masterclass either.
It was clear we were going to have a tough game from the off, as we really are down to the bare bones (copyright Harry Redknapp) and played an intense game on the Saturday featuring all the same players. To underline it, we made no subs. None! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team make no subs before.
The squad was so thin and the potential drop off so extreme Howe wouldn’t even use it as a timewasting tactic (and you all know we loooove us some timewasting). But, on another night we win that game and are in a really good position to get out of the group. As it happens we can still qualify but we’ll need Dortmund to do us a favour, which they might as they’ll want to play well at home and top the group.
I thought Howe was fine in his assessment at the end, disappointed but measured in his comments. Anyone comparing it to Arteta from a few weeks ago is being a bit facetious, but that is football fandom I suppose.
So, overall I am disappointed with the manner of the draw, very proud of the team the way they have worked hard for each other when they have a good excuse to lie down, and very pleased to be still in the mix for the next round
Derek from Dundalk
The love is ebbing away
Qatar backed PSG scoring a 98th minute penalty, scored by a player who doesn’t want to be there, in front of indifferent plastic fans against the Saudi backed premier league version of Atletico Madrid.
With the penalty scored following a VAR overruling to make a terrible, terrible (terrible) decision.
Is this what we want from football? This anodyne, sanitised, digital nonsense. It’s so so bad. I enjoy Fantasy Football, football 365 is a perfect timewaster with some great content and I’ll keep an eye on the results, but this is it for me really, I’m over it.
Appreciate sending this to a football website is hypocritical, but I’m checking out until they get rid of VAR and the big 5/6/7 clear off to the European SuperLeague.
Newcastle were hard done by last night, that penalty was a joke.
Still, not as hard done by as Jamal Khashoggi. So, you know, gotta take the positives.
The goggles of self-interest
Football will probably never recover its credibility as a sport with a level playing field and just and fair results – but one thing is for sure – unless managers are prepared to support their colleagues and also admit when they “got one” then nobody that could have an influence for the better will ever take them seriously.
Which means the Eddie Howes of the world are very much part of the problem. And for today at least – that’s very very funny.
Johnno (Arsenal fan that wants Gary O’Neil to get one. But not this weekend)
Circle of strife
Following the terrible decision in the Newcastle game last night, as much as fans don’t like to see games settled in such manner (except Arsenal fans last night), this non-Arsenal fan who loves nothing more than visible karma is now perfectly primed and ready and very much excited to see the “unfair but fair” circle of decisions complete in a way that we very rarely get to see.
Early November: Arsenal barely turn up at St James Park, dominate possession in a sterile manner and then lose the game down to a suspect decision in the run up to the winning goal with Joelinton’s hands clearly on Gabriel’s back.
Late November: Newcastle park-the-bus in front of one of the biggest names in European football, nearly perform the ultimate smash-and-grab only to be undone by a suspect decision leading to an equalising penalty with Livramento clearly only “handling” the ball after it hits his chest.
January: PSG, now set to finish 2nd in the group having only obtained 1 point out of 6 against Newcastle, find themselves drawn against Arsenal who (even for them) will struggle from here not to top their group. The two-legged tie then being settled by Arsenal being awarded a suspect decision, lets say… Cedric Soares gets awarded a ghost goal from the ball upsetting the goal-line tech from the side netting.
Yoda goes mad for the balance returning to the force, Eddie Howe, Mikel Arteta and Luis Enrique prepare to face off at Survivor Series in a table match (do wrasslin’ still do those?) and the closed/open sign on modern football gets turned around, the lights switch off and we all go home to pick a new sport.
Yer’ man Harry Hooler
(P.S. We can’t say we didn’t have this coming but I for one am looking forward to diving head first into Netball)
Great Barrier Grief
The only article that I’ve read so far which seems to indicate that PSG deserved a penalty against Newcastle comes from The Athletic:
‘Former FIFA referee Christina Unkel, however, explained to U.S. broadcaster CBS why it was the right call according to the current laws of the game.
“It is a penalty,” she said. “The extended left arm effectively creates a barrier. Once that arm is out, even though there is a deflection, that is no longer part of the interpretation or the analysis. I know it’s one that many don’t like and it’s something that the International Football Association Board (the sport’s lawmakers) are looking at.””
If that’s true then it makes even less sense to me than the idea that the referee is an idiot, and made a terrible decision.
His arm, by virtue of being connected to his body, always has the potential to create a barrier to anything in proximity to his torso. It’s not like humans just developed arms in the last five years, so surely this should have been sorted out decades ago? The idea that it is currently being looked at is indefensible.
The IFAB rules for handball indicate it is an offense if a player: Deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, for example moving the hand/arm towards the ball.
Touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger. A player is considered to have made their body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation.
It seems pretty clear that Livramento didn’t deliberately touch the ball with his arm, so then the logical conclusion is that he had made his body “unnaturally bigger”. Even putting aside the fact that the ball hit another part of his body first, I’m hard pressed to see how the defenders arm is in an “unnatural” position. If anything, the position many defenders take up these days with their hands behind their backs makes their body unnaturally smaller. Do IFAB understand the role of the human arm in providing balance while moving? It wouldn’t be so bad if we had tails, but then we would just get into a big debate about “tail ball”.
If it’s unnatural for human beings to run while having their arms extended away from their bodies I would suggest that referees not be allowed to do it. Any time they aren’t using their arms in the course of their duties they should be behind their backs, where arms belong. Every time they extend them without reason then take away 25% of their match fee or some similar punitive measure. Maybe then we’ll be able to determine how pointless arms are.
Andrew (I had to type this with my tongue since my arms are behind my back) – Canada
On the collective crazy
So if anyone is any doubt about how Brexit happened, we saw an example yesterday.
People who are generally ill-informed and reactionary, who have a strong sense of self-entitlement, will rage and fume when the reality of the world takes away something that they feel they are entitled to.
Case in point, Newcastle not winning in Paris yesterday. Watching McCoist frothing at the mouth, seeing Jenas shoot down Laura Woods for even daring to consider if the decision could be justified, watching the Sky Sports News studio lose its collective rag including the supposedly impartial presenter. Even Football365 writes about Newcastle being ‘cheated’ and calls it a ‘risible call’ by the referee. It is surely the job of those in the media to maybe, at some point, inform rather than just whip people up, and to correct people when they say things in the absence of sufficient knowledge or insight.
The rules of IFAB are made by panels including ex-players, The relevant rule says the following:
It is an offence if a player:
touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger. A player is considered to have made their body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation. By having their hand/arm in such a position, the player takes a risk of their hand/arm being hit by the ball and being penalised
Let us be clear. First, there is nothing about the ball deflecting from another part of the body. Some have assumed this was amended at one point, but that was merely a suggestion made by the UEFA board (which has no power to change the laws of the game).
Second, there is nothing about interpreting the rule differently if a team has played 90 plus minutes and defended ‘heroically’ (which seemed to be Jenas and McCoist’s main source of anger). Few, if any, in this country seemed that bothered when Michael Oliver gave a last minute penalty against Juventus against Real Madrid in the quarter final of the 2018 Champions Leage after making a truly outstanding comeback from 3-0 down in the first leg to make it 3-3. Guess its only English teams that can be ‘heroic’, especially when the referee isn’t English.
Third, the key is about the hand/arm being in a position that is not a consequence or justifiable by that specific situation. There has to be some room for interpretation here. I am sure that John Terry would say that everytime he would handle the ball by throwing his arms in the air he was simply naturally trying to shield his face. I am sure that Sissoko would say that he had his arm raised simply from the momentum of his movement when he gave away a penalty in the Champions League final against Liverpool. Here, Livramento has no reason to have his arm in a horizontal position to the rest of his body. He is running towards the ball with his arm to the side, and it will always be unnatural to run with your arms away from your body like that. We could argue all day long with that interpretation, but that is how the rule has been consistently interpreted this season and in previous ones in Europe. It would have been inconsistent not to award that as a penalty.
There may be legitimate concerns about the rule itself, or even how it is interpreted. I have seen people even try to say that it is disproportionate- but pretty much every penalty is disproportionate to the offence (if you trip an opposing attacker towards the edge of the box and they are facing away from goal with no other attackers and a penalty box full of defenders, it is not proportionate to give a penalty). VAR can only go off the rule and the whole point about refereeing is that they need to apply the rules as they are generally understood. Similarly, once the ref sees this, then there is nothing that he can do except give it.
The absolute loss of collective minds yesterday and today is just insane. The pundits, presenters, newspapers and even normally level-headed websites are steadfast that they will not report anything that might inform their viewers or readers. Instead, the officials will be berated and a frenzy of hysteria will be whipped up. The normal conspiracies will be flung about and given oxygen by those who surely have some responsibility to offer a more level-headed response.
It is now being reported that the VAR ref has been ‘stood down’ from the match tonight, and it is being implied by those reporting this that is equivalent to an official confirmation that there was an error- until UEFA say that, it is a big leap by all of the sites reporting this for the sole purpose of adding fuel to this sense of injustice against the plucky English underdogs.
As per usual.
Welcome to Britain in 2023.
Anarchy in the UK
Interesting email from Mark about creating a UK league. As intriguing an idea as that would be, there are several things that would make it a non-starter.
1. Individual football associations. If you create a UK league, you’re very quickly down the road to a UK national team. It would be very hard to argue to FIFA (who by all accounts have regularly questioned the UKs need for 4 separate teams) why Scotland should keep its own national team. The SFA were too scared to even compete as Team GB in the olympics, lest it set the precedent for the future.
2. Imagine you’re a Plymouth Argyle fan. You’ve previously ensured the long away trip to Sunderland. This year you’ve got to drive to Aberdeen. Even from London to Edinburgh is a long way. It wouldn’t be sustainable for teams or fans. You would have to completely restructure the league into regional leagues lower down the pyramid.
3. Implementation. Where even would you begin? Would Rangers and Celtic start in the Premier League? Would Aberdeen? How would even determine it? Where do these spaces in the league come from?
4. On a similar note, you have to consider the size of Scottish clubs. The average attendance in the Scottish Championship is 3,436. 8 of the teams have an attendance less than 5,000 and all of them are below 8,000. Pretty much all of them would league 2 or below. Certainly any team from Scottish league 1 and below would be non-league.
5. Is that actually what fans want? Aberdeen is basically the size of Hull, bigger than Burnley, smaller than Sheffield. So they would end up being the kind of club that is mostly in the Championship, sometimes in league 1, sometimes in the Premier League. Hearts & Hibs would be similar. All other clubs would be championship or lower. Is that better than what they have now? You go from small chance of winning a cup to no chance. Chance of qualifying for Europe to no chance. I get the argument that the SPL is a 2-horse race, but the Premier League (miracle of Leicester aside) is no more open to clubs outside the elite.
I would love for something to change in Scottish football, but it never will. A United UK league benefits no one.
Mike, LFC, Dubai
…Interesting opinion from Mark MCFC who has obviously never been in say, Aberdeen when Rangers and Celtic come to town. Time to get out of Dodge as I recall, especially if they hear your are a Bastard English.
I appreciate High Streets across the land are a bit busted at the mo, but if you truly want to destroy them, then invite the Glasgow clubs to join your league.
Bladey Mick (Had to hide in a boozer along with most of the rest of Aberdeen)
Terrible idea but…
I’ve been thinking about how to build back a little more excitement in the premier league. Not the Champo or the EFL — that’s got plenty thank you very much — but let’s be honest, everyone knows City will win the league and the promoted 3 clubs will go down this season. I’ve noticed how much joy everyone has got from the emergence of the two lads at MUnited and Newcastle — Mainoo and Miley, I think and it made me think how great it is when we see bright youngsters coming through – possibly more than a massive signing?
US sports gets a lot of things wrong but what they do have is the draft system. Now I know things are vastly different here and Newcastle/City/MUnited would not want to give up their best youngsters to another team — but imagine if there was a centralised school of excellence — where the best 20 youngsters from all over the country were trained up, giving them a central contract such as you might get in Cricket etc..
And then every year the PL gets to draft a player to add to their squad: but the newly promoted clubs get first pick etc etc all the way up to City getting last pick…
I mean it would never work but imagine how much fun Sky would have televising it!
Oh and fix the Handball rule — VAR is rubbish but the main issue is that no-one understands Handball anymore — it used to be — ‘is it deliberate or not’? What’s the matter with that as a rule?
Buusting the system
In response to Barry Fox and his ‘you’re out till they are back’ suggestion what happens when the tackle is a genuine attempt at the ball and the players career ends because of it? For example I am not sure Denis Irwin and/or Peter Schmeichel should have never played again just because David Buust suffered an horrendous injury.
Not every tackle is a foul and injury doesn’t always correlate with a how bad a tackle was. Also was the tackle all that bad? To go down the same road as everyone else Romero, Hojberg et all will have all made similar tackles will they not?
What you need is some kind of Video System which could be referred to perhaps as that would reduce all the grey areas and introduce no further debate at all? We could call it the ARSE (Automated Refereeing System Environment)
Plus i cant stop signing Dirty Cash (Money Talks) now (kids look it up)
Having read this morning mailbox there are a few things that caught my eye .
Firstly, Mark MCFC and his observations about Scottish football – before I start I am also English and I don’t live anywhere near Scotland but…you don’t have a clue about Scottish football do you ?…
“What do supporters of all the other clubs have to look forward to exactly? How many clubs outside of Glasgow have any real chance of winning silverware?” err the cups and a half chance of a run at the league/ getting into Europe, the same as the English leagues…..a 30 second Google shows that the following teams have won silverware in Scotland in the last 10 years – Hibs, St Mirren, St Johnstone (3 times!) , Aberdeen, Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle and none of them are from Glasgow …(though I believe St Mirren are in Paisley which is very close to Glasgow ).
So that is 6 teams that have won either the Scottish League cup or the Scottish FA cup along with beaten finalists such as Falkirk, Hearts, Livingston and Motherwell. So that is 10 teams that have quite literally had a real chance of winning silverware in the last 10 years alone. And as for what do the supporters have to look forward too? Ask St Johnstone fans if they enjoyed the cup double they did in 2021..
But it’s only Scotland and neither of those cups count right?! So let’s look at the FA Cup and League cups winners from England in the last 10 years – Man Utd, Man Ciy, Liverpool , Chelsea, Arsenal , Leicester, Swansea. – oh so just 2 outside of the big 6 then… So you may as well ask ‘what do supporters of all the other clubs have to look forward to exactly? How many clubs outside of the big 6 have any real chance of winning silverware? ‘ As evidently you have a better chance in Scotland. Obviously in Scotland the league is dominated by the big two , and here in the England with the Premier League being the bestest league in the world we have no such domination ! remind me who has won 5 out of the last 6 Premier Leagues?
Just out of interest how would Hibs v Chelsea revolutionise and energise Scottish football? A club who’s record signing was £1.25M versus a club that has literally spent a billion in recent times… What is your point exactly? Will clubs outside Glasgow somehow have a better chance of winning silverware if they are playing against the big 6? Genuinely what is the logic there? If I’ve missed something then please feel free to expand on your suggestion because I can’t see what the logic is and why/how that will revolutionise and energise Scottish football.
Hearts and Aberdeen have been in the group stages recently in the Europa / Conference (‘but what do the supporters have to look forward to’? Maybe an away day in Florence and have a jolly ?) and Rangers made the Europa League final not so long ago – so you’re proposing taking that away by putting them in the English leagues where they are more than likely not going to qualify in Europe over the big 6 and the likes of Villa, Brighton etc.
And then I saw Graham Simons getting all upset that no one is falling over themselves to anoint Arsenal’s defence because of your article about the Top XI . Maybe its because the Top XI changes regularly? Hence why Vicario and Romero were in it for while, oh and it is made up of the actual WhoScored ratings. But Arsenal have the best defence he cries ! (by literally one goal, well done incredible stuff , have a cookie) but we’ve played 13 games so far so maybe chill a bit eh? Not sure why you are so desperate for validation.
Oh and Matty Cash is absolutely that sort of player – now the 3rd time he has injured a Spurs player by being shit at tackling – Doherty, Hojbjerg and now Bentancur.
Finally best wishes to JN, hope he makes a swift recovery.