Paul Scholes was the ginger Craig Gardner…

Date published: Friday 18th January 2019 2:43

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Football blindspots
Two blindspots I can think of…

Paul Scholes. Not doubting he was a good footballer, but massively overhyped in my opinion. (Don’t throw the Beckham at Madrid quotes back at me please, it’s been proven to be bullsh*t to sell a book). Good late runs into the box, check. Great technique, check. Could ping a football for fun, check. Cynical, nasty, petulant tackler, check, check, check. Basically he was Craig Gardner wearing a UTD shirt.

Matt Le Tissier. Le God. A reverse blindspot here. Everyone who ever saw him play at The Dell (Google it) knew of his magnificence … the rest of the country seemed to have a blindspot for him though, particularly if they managed England.
David Moore (Donning my hard hat …)


The Shaw-shank Redemption
Reading about Mourinho complaining about player power in modern football made me think of…

Dear fellas, I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw a pacey attack once when I was a kid, but now they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry. The Man Utd board made me leave the halfway house called “The Lowry” and I now have a job folding towels at a laundrette. It’s hard work and I try to keep up but my hands hurt most of the time, not that I am one to complain. I don’t think the manager likes me very much after he took umbrage when I called him a specialist in failure, so most of my time is spent hiding in the baskets to avoid confrontation.

Sometimes after work, I go to the park and watch the kids playing, but if I am honest the games are too open and I prefer the mad dogs who hump street furniture when they don’t know I am watching. I keep thinking Rui might just show up and say hello, but he never does. I hope wherever he is, he’s doin’ okay and makin’ new friends.

I have trouble sleepin’ at night. I have bad dreams like I’m not special anymore. I wake up scared. Sometimes it takes me a while to remember who I am but then my reflection holds up three fingers and I recall. Maybe I should get me a new team and buy some ‘class one eggs’ like JT, Lamps and Drogs. I could shout at the team doctor while I was at it, sort of like a bonus. I guess I’m too old for that sort of nonsense any more. I don’t like it here. I’m tired of being afraid to attack all the time. I’ve decided not to stay. I doubt they’ll kick up any fuss. Not for an old coach like me.

P.S: Tell Tito I’m sorry I put a finger in his eye. No hard feelings.

Garey (sorry Mou, call me) Vance, MUFC


In Coutinho’s corner
Been reading with interest a lot of revisionism around Phillippe Coutinho in the last few days, the general gist being that he wasn’t all that and was over-rated, Liverpool did spankingly well out of the transfer fee and he’s found his level as a squad player at Barcelona.

Much of that rings reasonably true, but whilst he wasn’t an elite performer of the level of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva or Eden Hazard, he was still a very good player and two things I keep read are beginning to grind my gears.

Firstly, the reliance on his stats of goals and assists as the absolute measure of a player’s effectiveness. His 1 in 4 or 5 stats aren’t particularly impressive, but they ignore so much more about what he offered. Liverpool are a team transformed this season but the one major area that’s arguably worse than last year is the linking of midfield and attack. Whilst the reliance on Coutinho did at times stifle Liverpool in his last season or two, he did bring creativity and sparkle to the attacking play and whilst he may not have been the player giving the assist or scoring the goal, look at a lot of the goals and you’ll see he was often involved a pass or two before the assist. And he did have a habit of scoring important goals – I can’t help thinking the large number of United fans writing in about him are influenced in part by the goal he scored in the Europa League at Old Trafford. And he was rather good in the first leg too, though didn’t score thanks largely to De Gea’s brilliance.

Secondly, the ‘fact’ Liverpool haven’t missed him indicates he wasn’t that good. Liverpool happen to have a trio of forwards as good as many in the world so his departure hardly decimated the team and the defence was transformed with the signing of first Van Dijk and then Allison. The whole shape and tactics of the team has evolved from last season to this, with the switch to 4-2-3-1 against more defence-minded teams and the inclusion of Fabinho, a defensive midfielder of the kind Klopp had previously said he didn’t want in his team, clear indications of that. So to attribute Liverpool’s improvement since Coutinho left to the fact he wasn’t that good rather misses the point that significant other changes to personnel and tactics have contributed more to that improvement than the loss of one player. And at the risk of repeating myself, since his departure the one aspect of play much talked about as lacking is that link between midfield and attack that he provided. If he wasn’t that good, then surely that wouldn’t be an issue?

In summary – Coutinho isn’t in the very top level of players, Barcelona paid far, far too much and Liverpool spent the money very well, but he was and still is a very good player who wouldn’t be out of place at any club in the world.

Finally, re defenders taking penalties I’m perhaps disclosing my age but I recall a couple of defenders of late 70s/ early 80s vintage being unerringly accurate from the spot, including West Ham’s Ray Stewart and Liverpool’s Phil Neal, who scored a penalty in the 1977 European Cup Final and scored in the penalty shoot-out in the 1984 final and was the regular penalty taker for years.
Jonny Dance


First time writer so go easy on me…

I just have a bit of a bone to pick with the amount of people having a pop at Phillipe Coutinho stating that he was overrated, wasn’t worth the money Barca paid etc.

In the 152 games that Coutinho played for the reds (Just Prem stats to make them easier to find AND compare) he provided a goal/assist 76 times, so exactly 0.5 goal contributions per game. Regardless of the fact that that’s a pretty decent record to hold in arguably the world’s most difficult league, similar players that do get held in such high esteem, the likes of Fabregas (0.46 GC/game), David Silva (0.49 GC/ game), Eriksen (0.52 GC/Game) etc. all seem to be hailed for being the world’s best, with Coutinho mocked for being an overrated show pony who ‘occasionally’ would score the odd worldy. The reality is he was getting better season on season with us (even with adapting to Klopp’s style of play) and scoring and assisting more every season he had in the PL. The likelihood is he would have continued contributing to games at the same rate if not faster than the previous three players mentioned, yet would still be sniped at for being overrated.

We all knew he wasn’t going to be the next Messi, and he was never going to be anywhere near the genius of Iniesta, but he’s still in that world class bracket that you’d count the likes of Lewandowski, Rakitic, Eriksen, Dybala etc. Of course £142mil is a ridiculous amount of money, we all know that the transfer prices have gone absolutely bonkers over the past few years, but the fact remains that he was an absolutely outstanding player to have in the PL.

I know Liverpool aren’t exactly missing him right now, but if we ever got the chance to have him back I would welcome him with open arms. My theory is that if he didn’t have the Liverpool connection (say he’d played for Spurs, Arsenal or Chelsea) then most United fans would too…
DC (Begging Pep to finally let this year be our year…)


Marcelo’s misdirection
I think many people are missing the point of Bielsa’s press conference.

Most people came away from it thinking he is a master of statistics and tactics.

So what happened in the press conference?

Did he admit to Spying on Derby? Yes

Did he admit to Spying on everyone else? Yes

Did he quickly move on to how his team spends a huge amount of time analysing in detail every team they play against? Yes

Has he pulled a fast one on us,?

All the letters to the Mailbox so far are concentrating on the last point, the statistics, the effort, the team of analysts, the depth of analysis.

All this is legitimate analysis done to a greater or lesser extent by any team with an enlightened manager and a decent budget.

In a 70 minute conference it appears that he spent 60 mins talking about a subject that had no bearing on the reason for the conference and we’ve swallowed it hook line and sinker.

So maybe he is a master of tactics.
Matt (but do love the data)


After reading Tom Reed’s The Premier League’s Big Six is bad for English football, I feel that it’s necessary to point out a few flaws in the argument. My aim is not to be pro or against the “Big 6”, it would be great to have a mostly even league where 10+ teams are separated by 12 points at the top, but anyway… As an example, Tom mentions that “In America there have been nine different winners of the NFL Superbowl in the past ten years, with just four unique champions of the Premier League over the same period.” Let’s look at history (going back to the 60’s for the sake of time) to see how many different league winners there have been…

1960 – 69 – 7 Winners (Spurs, Ipswich, Everton, Liverpool, Man United, Man City, Leeds)
1970 – 79 – 5 Winners (Arsenal, Derby, Liverpool, Leeds, Forest)
1980 – 89 – 4 Winners (Villa, Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal)
1990 – 99 – 4 Winners (Arsenal, Leeds, Man United, Blackburn)
2000 – 09 – 3 Winners (Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea)
2010 – 18 – 4 Winners (Man United, Man City, Chelsea Leicester)

This makes 13 unique teams to win the league for the best part of six decades.

How many different German or Spanish teams have won their respective leagues recently? How often do any of the top leagues have 3+ teams in a title race? Mentioning Mönchengladbach and Wolfsburg doesn’t make sense either, because there is a long list of teams like Norwich, Portsmouth, Fulham, West Brom, Sunderland, Newcastle, Southampton, etc. who have occupied positions anywhere from the top half of the premier league to the championship or even league one in the last decade alone.

Now it’s plainly obvious that the “big 6” is closed for newcomers at the moment, winning more points than ever before and breaking new records for points gained by teams finishing 5th and 6th. Amidst this all, the ineptitude of clubs outside this group should also be examined further and is a major contribution to the uneven playing field.

The money being spent by the “Other 14” clubs in England is far more than most clubs occupying top half positions in the other big leagues. With that type of resources, how many of these clubs can claim to have spent these exorbitant amounts wisely? Would any of these teams match the likes of Sevilla or Dortmund or spend similar amounts? How much have the likes of Everton or West Ham splurged on above average players and managers, and then scratch their heads in bemusement when they stand still or are worse off.

Clubs outside the top 6 should be far more competitive with the riches available in England, but the evil “big 6” offers a red herring. The onus should be on the rest of the teams to raise their level to those of the top 6, instead of lamenting the improvement of these 6 clubs over the last few years.

Any breakaway leagues or an overly disproportionate money sharing instigated by the 6 clubs is more of a concern, but that’s another discussion.
Clyde (I used enough brackets already)


I’m not quite sure I understood Minty, LFC’s 2nd point about VAR. All calls are made by a referee, whether that’s to give something or not give something, so not sure how that can be prevented. Maybe I read it wrong.

I agree though with him on the time limit thing, though. One of my first thoughts was that it should be limited to 2 or 3 replays from different angles in real-time, as that’s how the referee initially sees the action. If you’re not sure either way as to whether the decision was incorrect, then it’s fine to stick with the initial decision. That’s the only way to use the technology for “clear and obvious” errors.

2 replays at real time is enough to see a Henry or Maradona handball. 3 replays should be enough to judge an offside, they may not still be completely accurate (offside is REALLY hard to judge – lino’s do an amazing job), but you’ll be able to eradicate the clear and obvious errors where someone was either blatantly onside or offside and the initial decision went the other way.
Don L. Renegade


Brendan’s dilemma
Brendan Rogers has a decision to make. Does he trade success in a mediocre league with Celtic for mediocrity in a successful one with Leicester? Unai Emery had a similar scenario in the summer, although he didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter, and the jury is still out on that, it seems. There is no doubt that the simple feelgood factor of winning games – similar to a relegated Premier League outfit having fun in the Championship – has a certain appeal, but it’s tallest dwarf, isn’t it? Rogers, of course has seen it all before. Had a top six premier league club come knocking, then maybe he would have his bags already packed. But after his experience at Liverpool, he must see these current options as the limit of his ambitions, stood as he is on the mid-table shore as the big ships of the Top Six sail over the horizon. No offence to Leicester, Celtic or Rodgers, but in the same way the youngsters at Chelsea kick their heels while an ancient Higuain is parachuted in for the season, it seems the merry-go-round of players and managers has largely yet to slow down long enough for new faces to either get on it or, when they do, not get thrown straight back off again. Maybe Rodgers should take a look at Huddersfield instead. Keep them up and the adulation of that crowd will be akin to winning the Champions League with Liverpool. If not, they’re relegated and he’s winning games and cheering with them in the Championship. More success in a mediocre league.
Tim (Stoke City fan – so I know all about mediocrity, thank you).


Where have all the strikers gone?
There seems to be a dearth of elite centre forwards at the moment. I would like the mailboxes input as to why?
Spending £75m tells me that Lukaku was the best the club could get who was interested. I think if there was an available prime/youngish Drogba or Rooney(both moved from ‘small’ clubs to Chelsea and Utd respectively), Man Utd would have shelled out even more to get them, ditto Chelsea and Morata. A vast majority of Chelsea and Utd fans I know were slightly underwhelmed by the signing of the best strikers their clubs money could buy in 2017.
Madrid and Barca need strikers, and Bayern have been forced to hold on to a want-away no 9. So mailboxers, where is the next Suarez and why are they so rare now?
Lawrence, CFC (Higuain for the golden boot) Abuja


Spot-on defenders
Can I add Phil Neal into the penalty taking defenders list. He scored 38 pens for Liverpool during his career and 21 goals from open play, pretty much all from right back. Most impressive is the fact that he played 417 consecutive top flight games for the Reds (which is a record) before 3 games out with injury and then another run of 127 games. That was in an era when you were actually allowed to tackle.

3 of those goals came in European Cup finals. For the record he won 8 league titles, 4 European cups, 1 UEFA cup and 4 League cups during his Liverpool career.

Had his reputation ruined a bit by the famous Graham Taylor documentary but what a legend.
Mark Robbo, LFC

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