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I understand entirely that Frank Lampard is probably getting an easier time than others might be under the circumstances. Even taking that into account though the editorial line that has filtered down via Mediawatch and Daniel Storey has been pretty vituperative. I get that you all really wanted Sarri to be a huge success, and were delighted he won the Europa League and finished third, partially because it meant that could happily go to town on the opinions of the unsophisticated fans, with the overriding feeling being ‘how dare they have a negative opinion of Sarri?”
He finished 3rd and won the Europa League and we’re supposed to be blown away by this, despite the fact that he only achieved a single point more than Conte did the previous season to finish 5th, and the lofty league finish was far more due to the failings of Spurs, Utd and Arsenal than anything else. Lampard too suffered from something very similar, finishing a virtually identical points record, something you don’t hesitate to point out, though you don’t seem to want to do so in Sarri’s case.
He won the Europa League, but frankly Chelsea were the best side in it, and should have won, so we’ll call this a par.
Their Europa League opponents were;
Arsenal’s more or less a coin toss, but where there is the game they should lose? The best side they played finished 7th in the Bundesliga. Yes, they had to win these games but they were the betting favourite in literally every game.
You’re also doing your absolute damnedest to minimise the effect of losing Eden Hazard, as if this was a relatively minor player leaving. The 1-1 against Leicester was exactly the type of game that last season Hazard dragged them over the line in, did something special and turned one point into three.
Amusingly there’s been something of a volte face from most of your writers regarding the quality of Chelsea’s squad. Last season Sarri was suffering from having to weld together so many players who were stylistically mismatched, with only the addition of Jorginho and Kepa. This season on the other hand the squad is expensively assembled and absolutely cannot be used as a reason for any perceived failure by Lampard.
I get that you feel the instant reactive need to push back against ‘the narrative’ of ‘Franky Lampard, club legend, knows the club and the yoof and is back at Chelsea!’ but you go too far the other way.
I’ve not written to the fabled mailbox for years, but James, Kent’s message inspired me to get back in touch with the F365 world and ponder a question which until recently, I didn’t even think needed asking.
What happened to the Gabriel Batistuta statue?
The great Fiorentina team of the late 90s were just wonderful, there’s no denying it. The memories of Tomas Repka kicking people while Manuel Rui Costa fed Batistuta to smash one in the top corner played out on TV every week to the backdrop of James Richardson cruising the Gazetta Dello Sport. I remember my mum constantly confused as to why in between highlights of ‘foreign football which we don’t follow’ there was a man in a coffee shop reading a newspaper. She just didn’t get it.
But it was Batistuta who stole the show, week in week out, arms outstretched to clenched fists, celebrating another thunderbolt, especially against the arch nemesis, Juventus (Which was basically Nintendo v Sony at the time, a whole ‘console wars’ undertone that 15 year olds cared about).
When Fiorentina eventually qualified for the Champions league and we got to watch him play live against such rivals as Arsenal and Manchester Utd. Football peaked.
I remember the unveiling of a Batistuta Statue, it definitely happened but then it all gets a little hazy. It was, I thought, before he went to Roma. I recall photos of him posing outside the Artemio Franchi Stadium. It wasn’t a great likeness and I think it was holding a spear? But that seems to be it. The trail just stops, despite his induction to the Hall of Fame in 2014.
I researched the internet which is amazingly devoid of details. Yes, the statue existed, but there are no dates, no real locations and nothing to say what became of it. A few Reddit feeds and tripadvisor comments suggest extremes from the statue being torn down by Ultras on his move to Roma, to the Statue being shipped to Buenos Aires by a wealthy industrialist. Both sounded speculative at best, so I thought the best option was to visit Florence myself and see if I could solve the mystery.
For anyone who hasn’t been by the way, Florence is gorgeous.
I decided to go straight for the jugular and headed to the Artemio Franchi, a very pleasant walk from the train station, which turned out to be a journey from one art deco masterpiece to another. Being Florence, I expected beauty, but I wasn’t expecting inch perfect 1930s design. It’s a wonderful sight, complete with it’s own enormous column in one end. The perfect plinth for the statue!? Sadly not.
Far from having a megastore to ask questions, the Artemio Franchi didn’t even really have any walls. A classic small Italian stadium, the backs of the terraces clearly visible between concrete columns in the middle of a residential area. There was no museum, no box office, no one to question and annoyingly, no statue.
A little fed up, and googling ‘statue, Florence’, I headed for the Piazza della Signoria which was said to hold some of the finest sculptures in the city. If ‘Batigol’ was not at the Stadium, then this seemed a pretty good location for the city’s most beloved import. Again this proved a red herring. Sure there were statues of Perseus, Menelaus and a copy of Michelangelo’s David, but no Batistua. The adjacent Uffizi museum while too expensive for me to enter, brought mere confused looks when I asked ticket officials if they held such an artefact.
I was beginning to lose hope.
On walking back toward the train station though I happened upon a man pushing a huge wagon full of tourist bric brac, paintings of the Mona Lisa (not actually in Florence), Snowglobes (??) and football scarfs. I immediately saw the purple of Fiorentina and excitedly shared my allegiance with the owner of the wagon. “Batistuta statue!?” I asked, “yes!’ he said, my heart racing, ‘very famous!’. He walked to the end of the wagon, I assumed to get me a map, yet to my dismay, yet faint, childhood delight, simply returned with a cheap replica of Fiorentina’s famous ‘Nintendo’ sponsored jersey, BATISTUTA 9 on the back. On seeing my slight frown he then vanished again, only to return with a Juventus RONALDO 9 jersey. ‘This is better?’ he said.
The ultras would be furious.
Ric Duncombe (once of Kampala, Uganda)
No change at United
Some interesting mails this week about United. (Personally, I find Ted, Manchester to be the voice of reason when writing about his team and I read his views with keen interest. Respect). I understand the optimism around OGS and his apparent style of play, particularly after the drudgery served up by Jose, as well as the discussions as to whether they’ll gain top four status this season. These mails though, I believe, are missing the key point. Essentially, nothing has changed from last season. Or all those since SAF retired.
The deadwood hasn’t been shed. Again. The key positions that needed quality replacements haven’t been filled. Again. AWB and Maguire were definitely steps in the right direction (I think the former will prove the better signing of the two) but nowhere near enough. There is still no DoF, nor any sign of one that I’m aware of and accordingly, and crucially, no strategic plan. Can any Utd supporter tell me where their club will be in 5 years’ time?
The current United squad remind me of Arsenal in the last years of Wenger’s reign. A couple of top-quality players (Whoa, nearly typed ‘World Class’!) amidst a team of good, but not great, colleagues. Capable, when their key men turn up, of playing superb football but equally liable to have some real shockers with the remainder of the season’s games being generally ‘meh’. Struggling each year to attain fourth spot whilst winning very little trophies in the meantime. But there the comparisons end because, it seems to me, out of the two Arsenal are heading in the right direction much quicker than United currently are.
In short, the main problem is still in his job. Dear old Eduardo. He may be a genius when it comes to marketing and finances in general but how is he different to, say, owners of other clubs that insist on dictating who is bought and who is sold? Since when has he been a scouting mastermind? OGS can’t drag this behemoth of a club back into being title contenders and nor could his predecessors because the United manager on his own hasn’t been the only problem. Liverpool, Spurs and City (amongst others) all have systems in place whereby the Chief Exec, DoF and Manager are all on the same page. Where there is a coherent 5-10 year plan with relevant target players, including realistic alternatives, agreed and identified 6-12 months before a transfer window opens. Where there is a certain ruthlessness in culling those, however beloved, that are no longer meeting or able to match the standards your elite club demands.
Last year I believe Woodward made a comment to the effect that activities on the pitch have little bearing on the club’s bottom line. He may be right. After all, he is the money expert. I do wonder though. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be a damned liar if I said I wasn’t enjoying the post-SAF ‘troubles’ but, equally, I really don’t want to see a top 6 becoming a top 3 or even 2. No right-thinking football fan wants an equivalent of Celtic & Rangers in the EPL. United should be looking over their shoulder at the chasing elite not, and with the greatest of respect to them, at Wolves Leicester and Everton. Their biggest priority, in my view, is the urgent requirement to recruit a top-drawer DoF who could work seamlessly with both Ed and Ole. If, however, United still fail to adapt and, instead, continue with their outdated and quite obviously failing management structure then there are some grim times ahead I’m afraid.
Mark (And we don’t yet know whether Sanchez or Pogba will be following Lukaku). MCFC
Twitter won’t do a thing
Regarding Daniel Storey’s article on football clubs, Twitter, and the unacceptable racist abuse of players, it’s important to consider a few contextual issues that I believe will result in Twitter taking little to no action on this front regardless of boycotts by clubs or face-to-face talks.
While it’s true that high-profile clubs boycotting the platform would raise some eyebrows, Twitter has form for paying lip service to the idea of regulating its content while not actually doing much to ban racist trolls. Katie Hopkins still has a verified account, after all. Supplementing this non-action is the political environment in the U.S. and Twitter’s lopsided relationship to conservative political figures in the wake of the 2016 election. There has been a concerted bad-faith effort on the part of Donald Trump in particular to insist that Twitter has been censoring right-wing accounts–the same ones that tweet what one might charitably call “racially tinged” things about migrants, Jewish people, Muslims, etc. Twitter leadership have responded by kowtowing to Trump and his gaggle of alt-right trolls, even going so far as to appoint a right-wing former Senator named Jon Kyl to “audit’ the site for evidence of bias against conservatives. Additionally, there has been some speculation that Jack Dorsey doesn’t care to actually regulate speech on Twitter at all and only took the minimal actions he has to avoid cratering Twitter’s reputation (and share price).
Twitter is far more worried about what the political party that controls two major branches of the U.S. government thinks of its site than some football clubs at least nominally based in England. Put more plainly, the federal government can do a hell of a lot more to hurt Twitter’s share price and overall user numbers than Manchester United Football Club can and Jack Dorsey has a vested interest in keeping Donald Trump happy. The unspoken issue at the root of all of it? If Twitter institutes a policy of banning any account that tweets racist harassment, they will eventually end up kicking a large number of prominent U.S./U.K. right-wingers including the President of the United States off of their site. It’s a nice idea but putting faith in Silicon Valley to actually do something about racism in the age of social media is something I just don’t see happening. Now if the several million users who follow accounts for MUFC, Chelsea, and all the rest declare they’re deleting the app until something is done…that might get some results.
R.Harris, MUFC, Colorado
There are few owners better than FSG in the premier league.
They’ve spent money well, sold players well, developed the stadium and have plans to do even more of it. That along with rumours of a massive new kit deal with Nike gives the club even more hope for the future that we can remain competitive.
When they took over Hodgson was manager and our teams regularly included Paul Konchesky, David N’Gog and a lot of other dross. As a club we have come a long way.
In defence of Adama
‘Traore – no end product’. This somewhat hasty accusation which is frequently leveled at Adama Traore, 23 years old, is proving to be the overriding narrative allocated to a very skillful, quick and exciting young player. Similar in a sense to Diogo Jota during his fruitless first half of the 18/19 season, Traore has been hindered by playing in multiple positions (none of which were his favoured right-wing berth) and seldom having a lengthy run of starts in this excellent Wolves side. Matt Doherty’s brilliant form on the right-hand touchline is another mitigating factor, and while Nuno Espírito Santo has done a marvelous job at Wolves, it appears that his attempts to fit one of Europe’s quickest players and best dribblers into his system have not prevailed… Yet!
Traore’s key passes and crossing are rated as ‘Strong’ by WhoScored’s statistically-based engine. He delivered 5 goals and 10 assists in 28 starts in the Championship a season ago, galvanised by the mentoring of Tony Pulis of all people, before moving to Wolves where he was given just 8 starts in the aforementioned plethora of positions. Anyone who witnessed Traore’s six months of unleashing mayhem in the Championship from Christmas 2017 onwards would agree that, while he can occasionally frustrate, his tantalising output while hugging the touchline transformed Middlesbrough’s attacking output. Perhaps the greatest testimony to his talent was the sheer boredom experienced by Boro fans in his absence the following season.
I was pleased to see Traore deliver his second assist of the season in Thursday’s Europa League fixture versus Torino. Following a typical burst of pace to the touchline before cutting back inside and leaving former Italy international Lorenzo De Silvestri in his wake, Traore slid an intelligent pass to Jota who gave Wolves a two goal advantage. Tellingly, Dendoncker and Jota both immediately ran to congratulate the young Spaniard for his pivotal contribution. His introduction versus Manchester United transformed the game and he drew fouls in dangerous positions (one which led to the equaliser), while he created a couple of opportunities.
Kevin de Bruyne he absolutely is not, nor does he possess a right foot capable of the crossing accuracy we are accustomed to expecting from messrs Alexander-Arnold or Maddison. That said, if Traore is given suitable opportunities over the course of the season to demonstrate that his invigorating league performance last Monday was no aberration, we can begin to see the transition from ‘rough diamond’ to a player whose numerous exceptional talents can prove to be a differential for Wolves this season.
Alex, Milan (failed to shoehorn the obligatory Afonso Alves reference into this letter)
Pre the weekend games, I watched the Sky TV interview with Jose Mourinho on YouTube (thank you, YouTube) and apropos of nothing, I rather liked his take on his career.
And then it struck me when he said he was 56 – it looks like he could lace ’em up in a heartbeat and be the emergency sub if he had to, even though he never played at any great level, he still looks like he is fit enough to make a nuisance of himself.
The same goes for Pep Guardiola, Nuno Espirito Santo, Unai Emery, Mauricio Pochettino, Jurgen Klopp – (I’d add Frank Lampard but he just retired from playing, so he doesn’t count for this purpose).
They will train with you, run with you, inspire you, test you …
… than I saw Sarri on the sideline for Chelsea, and wondered what the hell he could say to his players, but at least he could find a tracksuit to fit and just pretended to smoke on the sideline …
… and then we find Steve Bruce.
What am I missing? If you look like you’ve stumbled out of the Cut & Shunt at 5AM with Miss Pinner 1982, what the hell do your players think of you?
I’m open to suggestions, it is Friday, after all.
Steve (I’m going to open a pub here called The Cut & Shunt), Los Angeles
They did let them use their training ground
On at least 3 occasions FC Bayern have bailed out another German club. 1860 Munich, FC St Pauli and Dortmund have all benefited from the Bayern stepping in to help stop them going to the wall.
I saw the local MP suggested the big Manchester clubs should step in and help Bury (not sure if his suggestion extended to Bolton) and that has received radio silence.
Unless helping Bury or Bolton out would help ship some tyres in Asia or doughnuts in America, it’s not surprising Man United aren’t going to help. I think we all know they’re strictly business first and all about that revenue growth.
But I’m genuinely surprised City haven’t bailed out Bury. Not because I think they are somehow less business first than United (look at the expenditure and rigging financial fair play), they just go about it in a more media friendly way.
Given the interest in whether City have manipulated FFP and City’s general purpose being to sportwash what their owners do, I really expected them to do a big PR stunt and save Bury.
Of course, it shouldn’t just be on those two clubs because of location. The Premier League should have a fund available that comes directly from the TV money, say maybe £10m, that is used for clubs in crisis.
Ready for a douzi
Matteo Guendouzi has come out and said that Arsenal are going to Anfield tomorrow to win. He believes that this Arsenal team can go on and beat any Premier League side.
Well, that’s nice. I look forward to our 5-0 thrashing tomorrow. Thanks Matteo.
Malcolm, (try beating a top Premier League side before opening your mouth) AFC
More world class fun
So according to Liverpool fans their team has between 6 and 7 World Class players, how much did they under perform then only coming second to City the useless sods.
Paul Murphy (World Class content) Manchester
…One thing I’ve noticed in the mailbox discussions over who is ‘world class’ is the complete absence of Aubameyang. By any measure he’s one of the best goal scorers in the world, and should definitely be included in the debate over who is in the top 5 in the world.
If you want to throw in all sorts of positions then Lacazette is 100% in the top 5 of false-9.5s.
I love how people seem to underestimate these guys and am praying that Liverpool will do the same this weekend.
I’ve not been published recently but I’m happy for this secret not to be published. Keep on underestimating Arsenal’s ‘world class’ front line!
Mike, Arsenal fan (just realised if ‘world class’ is top 5 then Liverpool will win based on having a ‘world class’ coach)
…Just to throw a different spin in on the world class debate, I think that there are also a few players who would be world class in any system, but are pushed to an even higher level by the system they play in. To use Man City as an example, Fernandinho was a really excellent CDM before Guardiola came in, but Fernandinho has risen to an entirely different level under Pep. His versatility, positioning, anticipation and passing range make him a perfect Pep player.
The best example though is Ederson. Taken in a vacuum, he is probably a top 5 keeper, or if not a top 7, but for the system that City plays, there is no better keeper in the world. Man City relies so much on his ball skills and passing, as well as how aggressively he comes out to cut off long balls and protect the back line. He is also an excellent shot stopper, but on another team, his greatest strengths wouldn’t be fully utilized. This is why he is behind Allison for Brazil.
Oh, and just to weigh in on the original question, Allison, Van Dyk, Robertson, Mane are world class. Salah and Firmino are really really really great, and are pushed in world class conversation by their system. TAA Fabinho are heading that way, but aren’t quite there.
Ryan, MCFC (If Sane played in Klopp’s system, he would be a ballon d’or finalist)
…Anyone notice how Liverpool fans more than any other set of fans have to tell everyone how many of their players are world class? By comparison, you don’t see City fans ramming it down our throats about the brilliance of De Bruyne or Sterling or the Silvas. Same applies to other great teams both past and present.
Usually, its there for everyone to see.
We get it. VVD is better than Maguire. Christ. Talk about tedious arguements.
Brian (although it probably is a golden age for the PL in terms of upper echelon players plying their trade, even with the departure of Hazard), Wexford.
Deal for Dave?
Has David De Gea even got a contract? There must be a sh*t-ton left on the table that he hasn’t signed.
Song for VAR
Considering the Man City fans sing the song, “we’ve got Guardiola…we’ve got Guardiola” to the tune of ‘Right all Over’ can I be the first to state that if Spurs fans don’t start singing, “we’ve got Vardiola…we’ve got Vardiola” this weekend then they are a disgrace to all football fans everywhere for their lack of ‘banter”
Secret of happiness
I haven’t clicked on any article involving Ian Holloway. Enjoy your effed up, VaR fuelled weekend.