Pogba was pretty poor at Chelsea. Goal and assist aside…

Date published: Tuesday 19th February 2019 9:59

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Pogba was actually quite poor
I’ve been having regular discussions on here with a Utd fan (hi Garey) regarding the ability of Paul Pogba. As a Liverpool fan I’ve often been confused about Pogba, looking from the outside in, I don’t watch every single Utd game but I just don’t ‘get him’. He got schooled against PSG so I was eager to see the latest Pogba showing.

Today for the first half an hour I thought he was dreadful. Then he sets a goal up and I thought we might see an upturn in his game. He lost the ball cheaply two more times before he then scored.

I continued to keep a close eye on him and thought he was very poor for the rest of the game. Now I’m not a one-eyed Liverpool fan that can’t appreciate other team’s players but what I’ve written above was exactly what I thought I’d seen.

Pogba had a HUGE say in Utd winning this game but the fawning BBC and then Talk Sport spouted afterwards was predictable but I just wanted someone to point out how cheaply he lost the ball, then I thought maybe it’s me that’s the problem, so off to WhoScored.com to see if I was watching the same game as everybody else.

71% pass success rate. Only Young, Rashford and Romero lost the ball more than Pogba, including the Chelsea team.

He got dispossessed 6 times. That’s not misplacing passes, that’s getting robbed of the ball. That is at least two more times than any other player on the park.

Once again, I appreciate that he contributed massively to winning the game but after hearing everyone afterwards, you would think he ran the show. He didn’t, Hererra did.
Jimmy (I like my ‘best midfielders in the world’, to actually be that) Spain.


Ole, ole, Ander Herrera
Fantastic result for United last night, still for the life of me cannot see why Herrera isn’t made captain of the team.
Right on to my gripe, Eden Hazard is the most protected player in the Premier League, as soon as he hits the deck the whistle is blown whether it’s a foul or not, at one point Matic won the ball cleanly Hazard did his usual tumble Kevin Friend of Eden blew and Chelsea players surround him asking for a red card, from a clean tackle ffs. I understand players like him need protecting but not every tackle is a bloody foul, last night he won 3 or 4 free kicks in dangerous positions by basically dribbling into traffic and falling over and every time the referee bought it.
Under the letter of the law Matic should of seen red (not for the clean tackle on Hazard mind) but his first yellow was harsher than harsh. So by all means protect the fanny merchants but only when they are actually fouled please.
Paul Murphy, Manchester


So Sarri
I had sympathy for Sarri amid sack rumours given Chelsea are about where I expected them to be in the league and were still in all the cups.

Then he left Hudson-Odoi and Giroud on the bench in favour of Zappacosta when 2-0 down and supposedly chasing the game

That decision alone should negate any pay off when they sack him
Ben, Manchester


…You’re 2-0 down, 10 minutes left to play, Hudson-Odoi on the bench and you bring on Zappacosta…..

Says it all, fans booing the team off, chants about Sarri-Ball, we know what the Chelsea board will do next and no one could blame them.
Mikey, CFC


…One of the reasons Sarri’s system isn’t working at the moment is because of the way we defend when we’ve lost the ball. Any possession based game relies on fast movement in attack, and when you move like that it means that when the ball is inevitably turned over occasionally up the pitch you’re stuck with players out of position (See: Alonso multiple times last night and all season).
Something Man U did successfully in those situations is getting that first tackle in straight away. The nearest player sprinted 5 yards to the ball and put a challenge in. It didn’t matter if he was clumsy, if he was the wrong side of his man, or even if he made no attempt for the ball and simply tripped or tugged at his opponent – he just did whatever he could to prevent the situation from escalating. If you leave it just a couple of seconds, a good opponent will have shifted the ball into space and all of a sudden any foul becomes one that is preventing a break, and worthy of a booking whether it’s an honest attempt to play the ball or not. If you get the challenge in early enough you either win the ball back in a good position, give away a soft free kick and escape further punishment no matter how deliberate the foul (I think the rule of thumb is that each player gets to dish out 3 or 4 of these before it’s deserving of a booking), or cause your opponent to stumble and slow down which gives you and your teammates that extra second to get back into position to defend properly. All you have to do is stay on your feet, and it works. This isn’t a criticism of Man U – plenty of teams do it both in England and abroad. It’s generally the top teams who play that attractive, high intensity brand of football that we all fawn over. Essentially any time you hear the words “high press” this is what it really means. My frustration is that we either don’t do it at all, or we’re just not very good at it.
Of course as a Chelsea fan I have plenty of current frustrations around predictable substitutions, lack of plan b, lack of opportunity for Loftus-Cheek / Christensen / Hudson-Odoi, shocking transfer record under Marina Gravonskaia, and generally shambolic way in which the club is being run at the moment, but I will save those for another rant.
Adam H, CFC, London
P.s. A big shout out to the United fans who draped a banner bemoaning the FA selling out the magic of the cup for TV money (resulting in an inconvenient trip down to London on a Monday night) over the top of their “Chelmsford City Reds” banner.


…Sarri has broken Kanté and Azpilicueta. The monster.
Brian, Dublin


Ole-ball > Sarri-ball
Forget Sarriball. Is it now time to start talking about Ole-ball?
DC (Bouncebackability in Norwegian is Bouncebackability), BAC


…A United team beating a team intent on playing one way and one way only.

That took me back 10 years watching Wenger’s Arsenal being bested by one of Fergie’s teams.

I almost felt sorry for Chelsea and then the Beeb panned over to John Terry and I laughed my a*se off.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


…After last night’s game I think it must be time for people to stop treating Solskjaer like some amateur who shouldn’t be in the job and give him some credit. I’m not saying give him the job now, we might as well leave it until the end of the season to make the most sensible decision for the future of the club. (Very unlike recent Manchester United!)

Chelsea haven’t been too great recently but the tactics Utd used worked wonders. With our two best wingers out a change was necessary and using the same diamond used against arsenal, instead of the 4231 used in every other game shows flexibility and a willingness to adapt. (Something people thought ole couldn’t do after the PSG defeat and was very much lacking in the opposite dugout!) Two up top worked well too with both capable of drifting wide and being useful when they do.

As with the Spurs game we ceded possession in the second half which is a risky way to play but can’t have been a tactic as Solskjaer said he didn’t like it in his post match interview, this suggests he is going to do something about it which would be wise given our next opponents are Liverpool which will be another tough game. With our defence looking iffy a lot of the time you don’t want to be giving the opposition as many chances as they want, Chelsea couldn’t make use of having most of the ball but I suspect Liverpool will. However, the defensive side of the game by all players was top notch tonight with special mention for Lindelof who was excellent. It’s still not a defence which inspires confidence, but more of the same in the next game would go a long way to changing that vilew.

Solskjaer and his team (it seems to be a group thing, right down to giving instructions in game) clearly have the ability to motivate a team and are not as naive as some suggest. I’m not saying we are going to win a cup double and get top four but there are many positives, not just the happy atmosphere which is getting the best out of the players. We bounced back from that first defeat, people will say “yeah but its just….” forever just to avoid praising someone they don’t want to wether it is warranted or not.
Neil, Glasgow (won’t be betting on it but we stand a much better chance of beating Liverpool than we did last time we met)


…I think it’s safe to say Ole’s leaning on a lot more than just hugs and good vibes to get this team playing well again. Last night was a big game, especially after the loss to PSG, he got his tactics spot on. I do realise that Sarri’s system doesn’t change, but it can still be effective, and Ole navigated that particular challenge immaculately.

Speaking of Sarri’s system, it felt like a bad acid flashback of the LVG era at times, but in blue shirts. Loads of possession without really posing a significant attacking threat, switching off at crucial moments, and even a fullback substitution. Admittedly I haven’t watched Chelsea play a whole lot this season, but surely he should have at least a plan B in his back pocket? Bringing on Zappacosta when 2-0 down was plain absurd. Not that I’m complaining.

Lastly, a word on Ander Herrera. The man has been transformed by Solskjaer, and he’s easily our most important midfielder now (if not quite our “best”). If there’s one gripe I have with Ole’s reign so far, it’s that he hasn’t made Herrera club captain already. He’s the leader we’ve been crying out for the last few seasons, and she’s showing it more and more with every passing game. Ander Herrera for Man United captain. The campaign starts here.
DJ, MUFC India


…Whoever your team is, you can’t help but like Solskjaer, and understand the Man United fan’s happiness.

But please don’t let the latter continue in their next game!

Sorry Ole!
Mike Woolrich, LFC


Super Sergio
Romero is an example of the perfect professional. He’s performed admirably every time he’s been put between in the sticks and has never complained or made noises about leaving to be the starter at another club. Having lost his place just before the world cup must have been hard for him. Watching Lee Grant being signed (a head scratcher to be fair) could have been the perfect trigger to request a transfer and yet here he is – keeping clean sheets at the Bridge.

And as for Ander Herrera.. I don’t have words. He’s been deployed as a terrier under Louis Van Gaal and Mourinho with very specific instructions to disturb and destroy and has carried out orders faithfully with success more often than not. And yet he’s never been able to hold a starting place down. Among his last outings at the Bridge, he’s been sent off and he’s celebrated what looked like a winner only to come on and concede in the last minute. Last night, he was absolutely immense. His telepathic understanding with Mata worked perfectly as Mata ghosted to the left and took the entire midfield with him leaving him with the perfect opportunity for his run. And when it looked like Chelsea would hammer the door down in the 2nd half, he was there at the right moment to keep snuffing out possible danger.

The last time United won at the Bridge, Sir Alex had just signed RVP in an effort to wrest the title back from the noisy neighbours. A 2-0 lead had almost been blown before Chicha stepped up to win it. This time, it felt different – Ole may not be the right candidate for the job but he sure as hell is going about righting the ship after last 5 years of utter incompetence and disarray at the helm.


Cum on feel the noize
Performance aside, to me the noise coming from those United fans at the Bridge tonight is what football is all about.
They were the ones that made that performance memorable. When you’ve got a 3000 set of roaring supporters behind you like that how can you not be fired up???
At times it sounded like United had packed a travel sized San Siro!?

Supporters NOT customers.
Chris Hardy


Keown at it again
I just wanted to mention, because every time he opens his mouth a minor miracle occurs in the depths the human intellect can sink to, Martin Keown’s at it on co-comms again.

Sometimes, in the dead of night, for barely seconds, and then the thought flees, I wonder . . is it just a kind of performance art? That furrowed, intentional brow, thrust towards whoever is in the main chair, the neck slightly bent, the tennis-ball heft of the skull – ‘Well Gary’, he’ll say, eyes eerily focused, ‘You’d have to say what he’ll most want to be doing is scoring goals again’, about a striker whose manager has just said, publicly, that if he doesn’t score a goal in the next game he’s going to cover his work-permit in petrol, and burn it . .

In this instance, and literally in the space of about thirty seconds of Paul Pogba scoring United’s second, ‘From Chelsea’s point of view, that’s absolutely brilli . .’ even to Keown, it seemed, at this point, unlikely, to say United scoring a quality second goal away from home could be classed, from Chelsea’s point of view, absolutely brilliant. But he swiftly appeased his inner demons by watching the replay of the ball as it went in being not just near, but fully touching Kepa’s outstretched glove, and sagely concluding, ‘He’s given the keeper no chance.’

I don’t know how you do it Martin, I wouldn’t want to have the brain that could do it, but in a weird way, I appreciate that you do.
best, Toby Sprigings


No problem for Pep
In response to Ben B’s question about Pep and the unmitigated disasters he has missed out on in the transfer market. Jorginho is suffering in the Chelsea team because Sarri has focused every element of the team’s play with the ball through him. That would not have happened at City and even if it did the players around him would have been far better so teams would not be able to afford to just sit a midfielder on his toes for 90 minutes.

Fred could still work out ok at United, he’s a good player and seems to be totally devoid of confidence. Mourinho’d one might say. If he had signed for City he would probably have been eased in a bit better and allowed to adapt and, again, surrounded by better players and coached in a way that didn’t make him frightened of a football.

As for Sanchez he is the killer one from a United perspective as we adopted the tactic that Chelsea perfected when Abramovich first came in, and City later did to good effect; they brought him in 50% to stop City getting him and 50% purely as a wind up to try and derail City a bit. It did not work. Sanchez looks incredibly unfit, again devoid of confidence and looks utterly unbothered by how sh*t he now plays. No affiliation with the club, or connection with the fans or other players (by all accounts), again Mourinho’d but primarily just past his prime and clearly doesn’t give a sh*t. Would it have been different at City? Again I would have to say probably yes. He would have been well received by City’s fans and players as he was a target they were after for donkeys, whereas at United everyone just seemed a little confused and surprised by it all. Oh, and the Pep coaching thing really is a factor when you properly mull these things over.

So to conclude, things may have still dipped for these three had they signed for City but I seriously f*cking doubt it.
Mangor United (did I remember to mention Pep’s superior coaching?), Belfast


Jonny Nic’s proposal
Firstly just wanted to say how eloquently Mr Nic delivered his 3 part thesis on how we can ‘take back our football’. It’s a lovely thought but I think we need to consider the key future drivers and what a realistic action plan would look like.

I agree that the UK tv rights have reached their zenith. On our fantasy football whatsapp group there is continual talk of being robbed by Sky and how do you get the best deal. One of the lads has full Sky package + a Q box and multi room for £75 a month. A couple of the other lads have got it for under £100 so if anyone out there is paying more get onto them. Knowledge is power and the more we share our experience the better off we will all be.

I would be very interested in starting a campaign beginning on the 1st of May to notify Sky to cancel your service so your subscription ends the end of May. May is perfect as there is no football until August anyway and if you hold out until 1st September that’s 3 whole months (June July August) so a 25% reduction in Sky’s revenue. This hurts them but means you don’t miss too much football but still sends a clear message that we’ve had enough. Getting BT sport, Netflix and Now TV for sky sports seems to be a very cost effective option too and I urge everyone to not be lazy, save yourself some money and take a stand right here, right now (well end of May actually !!).

I also think there should be another investigation into shirt prices. Thy are quietly edging up on an annual basis and it’s a disgrace. In the US shirts cost $200 each and you know the American owners have their eye on price hikes. I know we can choose not to buy but essentially I feel that each club has a monopoly over their fans and shirt prices should be capped to equivalence. What I mean by this is a non football Nike sports top tends to cost about £30-40 yet football shirts are £60. I read an article stating shirt prices have tracked inflation since the 70’s but I do feel there is still an issue here.

Mr Nic needs to do some more research about overseas rights though. I have lived in Dubai Singapore and San Francisco over the last 6 years and so I know that subscription fees are relatively cheap compared to the UK and demand is surging, so I expect these fees to keep going up significantly over the next 2 bidding rounds so there will be even more money coming in anyway.

I love the idea of championing a minimum living wage for employees.
I love the idea of taxing transfers and agents fees.
Some have stated capping away fans ticket prices but the Premier League has already done this so all tickets are capped at £30.

I think the taxman needs to investigate and crack down on tax avoidance by footballers. I read about Roberto Mancini getting 90% of his wages tax free because he was given 2 jobs, Man City coach and also a role in Abu Dhabi. There is also a tax rule whereby footballers are allowed to save 35% into their pensions thus avoiding tax. This should be capped. The tax man has also agreed that players getting overseas earnings (shirts, scarves, mugs etc) is tax free too. This also needs to be clamped down on. They work and live in the UK, not overseas and it’s just another tax dodge. I am emphasising the tax implications as this is an indirect way we as football fans get our money back. It pays for schools, hospitals, and whether they deserve it or not, politicians salaries.

So lots can be done, we just need a Facebook, instagram, email campaign, ideas for a slogan welcome, how about ‘Don’t Nic our passion’ terrible I know but I am slightly hungover !!

I am sure there are a lot more suggestions and ideas out there, so as a famous chef once shouted ‘let’s be ‘avin you’.
Ian (To the victor the spoils…..) LFC


What silly, infantile arguments Johnny Nic presents on Monday morning regarding subscription services for football.

To start with, Sky TV and the rest charge what they can because, without regulation, football has the pulling power to do so. Customers buy the product because they are willing to pay for something they really want. It’s that simple.

Lets say that there was an international wide strike over subscription costs – it would need to be international as a huge swathe of the income for these companies comes from beyond these shores. Good luck organising that.

What would it achieve? Have the people “broken the Premier League?” No, but prices may come down a smidge to entice the fans to sign back on. Plus, companies are then forced to become more inventive in their subscription services, as some have already have done so (SkyGo for example).

Yes, TV deals would subsequently come down, but remember that the EPL sells the games in separate bundles. Could the BBC/ITV afford to bid for one of them? Who knows, but it wouldn’t be free (license fee), and clubs would certainly attempt to recoup some of the lost income in other ways – match day prices, merchandising, price of a beer etc. Congratulations, you have further priced out the committed fan, because the “tourist fan” is better for business. Furthermore, Clubs would be hugely reluctant to decrease transfer/wage spending, as they would fall behind their competition.

Also, certain clubs exist outside this business model anyway. Take away the TV money and nothing else, and you have just handed Man City the keys to the Premier League and made football in the UK completely uncompetitive.

So, taking a more holistic viewpoint, what’s a better answer?

1. Clubs throughout Europe need to come together to work on a player salary cap, with effective implementation and harsh punishment for contravention (european ban). FPP is not currently fit for purpose.

2. Lobby the UK government to change the law to have a certain % of the labour workforce to be on of the Board of directors in every company. That way, the “every man” is well represented when it comes to discussions about ticket prices etc.

3. Legislate for a certain % of EPL games to be shown on Terrestrial TV. There is precedent for this; many other sporting events (e.g. the Olympics) already must be shown in the same way. Five a season is plenty: start of season, Christmas, New Year, Easter and end of season, and in itself would bring down subscriptions costs hugely as a side effect.

4. Hugely restrict the power of agents – possibly by capping agents fees.

All four things are possible, some harder than others. And as a result, we could a) maintain the profitability of owning a football club thanks to the cap; b) improve the competitive nature of the sport, giving many more clubs a fighting chance; and c) give the sport back to the people.

Who loses out in this alternate reality? The players and agents. And looking at the amount of leverage that both groups currently wield in football, I’m absolutely fine with that.
Rob S


Minnows becoming Messi
In response to Mark MCFC, who expressed frustration at minnows upping their game in cups.

First I think Mark does have a point – minnows do up their game when the cameras are in town. However I think this understandable as part of human nature. While any employer wants their staff giving their best 100% of the time, the reality is most people wax and wane between high productivity and slacker days. Staff that give 100% every day are rare. They are the elite. If they are footballers, they get to work at clubs like Man City (can anyone rival David Silva for consistency?).

Indeed if a league two player gave his best every game and every training session….allow me to suggest he’d probably find himself getting interest from the higher leagues. The ability to put in a high standard performance consistently is a difference, perhaps *the* difference, between a very good footballer and an elite footballer. Almost never drop your standards for a game and you are probably at a top six club, drop those standards rarely and you’d be somewhere else in the EPL or the Championship. Play below your best often but your best is still very good…the lower leagues for you.

Luke Moore mentioned on the Football Ramble this week that some of the retired ex-players he’s spoken to have admitted they didn’t enjoy dropping down the leagues when they got older because they would be frustrated with effort levels of lower league players who “didn’t want it enough”. I think it was Benitez who said during his Liverpool time that there is little skill difference between a Championship player and a Premier League player – the real difference is the mentality.

While we might moan about players not being professional despite their high pay…lets face it people are just like that. They have other things in their life than work. People become parents, move house, get married, have a death in the family and other things that make work a lower priority for a time. If we dedicate ourselves to something like fitness, learning an instrument or getting good at chess, cooking or whatever we improve significantly and get very, very good. However we still have the off day. We still have big life events that disrupt our dedication a few times a decade. That’s why supermodels, professional musicians, grandmasters and michelin-star chefs are rare.

People say footballers should be immune to this because of their pay – but occupational psychologists point out it simply doesn’t work like that. Money only motivates in the short term. Its not going to keep someone totally focussed for a fifteen year career, or even a forty game season. Someone who’s standards rarely drop is rare, even in football.
Hugo (NUFC) Adelaide.

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