This fella and the race for seventh has reignited my passion…

Date published: Monday 8th April 2019 1:58

Send your thoughts to theeditor@football365.com…

You’re wrong, Johnny…
All of my emails are honest, and mostly tinged with anger, hypocrisy or injustice somewhere, yet today I just have to say how much I love Bernard Anicio Caldeira Duarte.

John Nich (F365’s resident clickbait artist) doesn’t see the point in playing for 7th place unless it has a trophy. I would like to counter that ridiculous opinion that playing for 7th has re-kindled my love for football, but not just the team, but one player in particular, Bernard.

It’s not just the backheeled throughball or the amazing close control and balance, it’s the fact that I lost count of the amount of balls he won on the edge of his box. At one point I said “who’s won that”? and then shouted “of course it’s Bernard again”. If he could score, he would be the best in the world, I’m sure of it. I’ve never heard a standing ovation that loud for quite some time at Goodison and it brought a little tear to my eye.

Make no mistake people (and I’m putting my cock on the block here) – Everton have turned the corner and it’s not just Bernard. Zouma, Gana, Digno and Gomes all impress but my biggest hope for the future is Mr Calvert-Lewin. We’ve done well sporadically this season yet now we have big yorkshire Dom up front, we look a different team. After he won his 15th header of the game yesterday I was just yearning for him to score. He works his socks off, has great close control, great awareness and is brilliant in the air. Now he’s getting some game time, he can probably improve his striking before the end of the season too.

We’re going for 7th and it’s re-kindling my love for football. In the last 3 games it’s been Everton 3, London 0, with no goals conceded.

Playing for 7th will always be fine, everyone has to do it at some point (City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, they’ve all had their time there) I just hope that next year we will have built enough momentum from this season to aim above that.
Fat Man Positive

 

I find Johnny’s rage at the top 6 somewhat disheartening. Yes, the structural advantages the top 6 enjoy seem more powerful than ever, but truly they’re not.

It’s fair to say that most of the top 6 is in a good season. Manchester United and Arsenal have cast off underperforming head coaches and bought in bright, talented replacements. Tottenham have finally got their new stadium underneath them, and persisted in a title challenge far longer than a club bringing in no new players should have been able. Liverpool and Manchester City have achieved full self-actualization and truly combined the effects of enormous wealth, prestige and excellent coaching. Chelsea, perhaps less so, but raw talent has carried them far. Their progress in the Champions league reflects this, four teams in the quarter finals is nearly unprecedented.

The cycle is waxing at the moment. It will wane. The TV deal reduces the impact of the champions league, and smart teams, like Leicester and Wolves, can reap the benefits of foreign markets and trying wierd and wonderful strategies that the top 6 can’t risk.

Ennui or wanderlust will catch Pep at some point, Klopp will revert to losing finals and calling journalists c*nts, Solskjear may be King Kenny 2.0, Pochettino may be tempted by Madrid or Milan. We will revert to four Spanish clubs making the semis and wondering where a decent British team is coming from.

We’re seeing some of the highest quality football ever on these shores. We saw similar things with Liverpool in the eighties and Manchester United in the nineties. Their empires crumbled. Empires always do.
Dan, Plastic LFC

 

…Change the record Johnny. We get it. John Nic doesn’t like that the PL is awash with money. We really, really get it. And yes, we understand there is an established elite but he never once mentions that this is the case in pretty much every major league. For f*cks sake, no one besides Juventus has won Seria A for about a thousand years. Change the record man.

How disheartening it must be to visit F365 and read yet again that your club is pointless, their games meaningless. As a Liverpool fan this doesn’t apply so much to me but for fans of mid table clubs or the strugglers I can’t imagine how annoying it is. Yesterday Wolves and Watford played out a brilliantly dramatic cup semi final and yet on Monday all Johnny can do is whinge about the PL. Again. He reminds me of a pal of mine who asked me about my mid-term break plans (I’m a teacher) and when I told him I planned to travel, his reaction was to tell me it was going to rain all my week in my intended destination. Thanks for the info you miserable bastard.

Can any fans of non top six clubs help me out? Do you enjoy the season? Or as John reckons, is the entire thing an exercise in futility?
Alan, Córdoba.

 

 

…I agree in general with Johnny Nic’s view of the protected top 6, but I do have a couple of points to make.

1. There have been several generations of the inpenetrable top X club. It’s currently the top 6. It takes another oligarch injecting bags of dodgy cash into one of the sleeping giants in the EFL to build a team that can sneak into the party without getting kicked out.

2. I disagree that clubs don’t want to fight for places up the table. Johnny quotes an average wage bill of £50k p/w in the PL, with a prize money gap of almost £20m between 17th and 7th. He ignores the fact that the top 6 clubs will be contributing a considerable amount of that £50k.

Taking figures from the first source I found (https://www.statista.com/statistics/675303/average-epl-salary-by-team/), I make it that the yearly wage bill of the top 6 is roughly equal to the bottom 14 ($40.5m vs $38m). In other words the average top 6 wage bill is around 2.5 times the average bottom 14 club. Applying this ratio to £50k p/w, it roughly works out as £119k p/w in the top 6 and £21k p/w in the bottom 14.

Extra prize money of around £20m pays for the salary of 3 average top 6 players, or 18 bottom 14 players.

I’m not saying that a club finishing in the bottom half can hope to break into the top 6 after a few years of 7th place finishes, simply that the extra prize money makes life more comfortable and worth fighting for from a club’s point of view (especially if you’re Mike Ashley looking for a new High Street brand to gut).

I guess I’ve not really factored the players’ motivations into this. I’m assuming that they’re happy following the money.
Kurt (Come on you Lincoln), Oxford

 

United might fall – but it won’t be Ole’s fault
It’s official. I’m old. Getting old anyway. Less tolerant. Irritable. Prone to exasperation. I’ve had to stop buying the Sunday papers because they just leave me in a fury for the day. As is so often the case however the mailbox has again left me with emotional IBS. Thank you Andrew and your fears for United’s well being.

A couple of points. Ole won’t have the pulling power of established top managers – that’s manifestly true. So what? How did the pulling power of Mourinho work out for us in the end? Or for that matter Van Gaal? Perhaps there’s something to be said for attracting potential talent before it becomes the next big thing rather than splurging on mega-stars like Sanchez, Di Maria, Ibrahimovic or the consistently inconsistent Pogba? Of greater importance is Ole’s (and his scouts) ability to spot talent early – not woo the footballing glitteratti.

Ferguson’s ability to pull in the top talent is also vastly overstated. True he had the pick of almost anyone in the Premier League in his prime. But t United didn’t sign top tier, established stars from the continent. The only two elite stars I really remember Ferguson signing are Veron and Barthez – you could argue maybe Stam too who came for a pretty hefty fee and Kagawa at a long stretch. But that’s it. Everyone else was an up and coming. Andrew puts far too much importance on Ole’s ability to attract stars.

As for the players leaving – it says a lot about the side that of your list almost all of them are…’meh’. Mata – top guy, old though and slow. Sanchez, Bailly, Valencia been there too long as is. Herrera – good player but worth 200k per week? Pogba? A star – sometimes. The only player we really can’t afford to lose in that list is De Gea.

Will United slip into midtable obscurity? Quite possibly yes. But it won’t be because Ole can’t attract talent and it certainly won’t be because Juan Mata and Bailly have left. So Andrew – stop clutching at your pearls. Sure once you’ve left the EU football will probably be played on motorbikes inside the Thunderdome anyway and a fat lot of good Pogba will be at that.
Your old pal Stevo, Dublin

 

…I get where Andrew is coming from with his worries about the potential exits of the players he identified, but I think that some of his concerns aren’t quite as bad as they seem. I’d say the biggest question is: of those eight players, how many of their departures would really affect the team?
– Bailly (12), Sanchez (12), Mata (17) and Valencia (8) are not regular starters (stats in all competitions in brackets). While Sanchez, Mata and Valencia have all previously been good players to varying degrees, I think it’s reasonable to say that they no longer feature prominently in the manager’s plans, so would their departure really hurt us that much?
– Perhaps Bailly is the exception to the above because he’s struggled with injury and, with him only turning 25 (on Friday, apparently), he might still have time to turn it around. That said, whenever he has featured lately he has been very disappointing so, again, would he really be that big a miss?
– Furthermore, of the 8 players listed: Herrera (30), Sanchez (30), Mata (31), and Valencia (34) are all the wrong sort of ages for the style Ole clearly likes to play (ages they’ll be by the start of next season in brackets). Plus, three of them are out of contract at the end of the season. Maybe Herrera is the one you’d keep but acquiescing to his wage demands at his age would be a mistake; would you really want to be committing to £200k a week for a player who will be 33 by the end of his contract?
– Pogba and Lukaku clearly have the ability to be very good players on their day but their main problem is consistency. The form of both has trended towards the average, with moments of both brilliance and shoddiness bookending this. They’ve been at United for at least two years now, so I think it’s fairly reasonable to assume this is more or less what we’re going to get from them if they stay. If Lukaku is happy with his current role then fine (though his agent comments suggests he’s not), but if either want to leave then I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it (especially given the reported wage demands of Pogba) – it’s not like when we lost Ronaldo and we were genuinely losing a wonderful player.
– Obviously De Gea would be a loss, whichever way you cut it, so we’d have to go out and spend big to get a suitable replacement. But even that isn’t impossible, as long as we’re willing to spend the money and do so wisely.

Of course, losing eight players all at once would be inconvenient but replacing them would not be an insurmountable task. If I ask myself how many of those players would I unequivocally want to be there next year, then in all honesty I could only say De Gea. As much as I love both Herrera and Mata, now is the right time for them to go. We need to rebuild from the ground up and keeping hold of players who either aren’t wholly committed or don’t fit into the style we’re going to use does us no favours at all.

Andrew worries about our ability to attract star names but I don’t think that’s what we need right now; we need hardworking, talented players who fit into the way we want to play. If they are a big name then fine but there are plenty of teams out there who have proved that you don’t have to sign superstars to be successful. Look at Liverpool, for example: I think you could argue that none of Salah, Mane, Firmino, Alisson, van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson (I could go on) were what you could define as “superstars” when they signed for Liverpool, but they have all become that (or are well on their to) through their work ethic, abilities and suitability for the style. I would rather have the a handful of lower-profile signings come in with a point to prove and upwards progression a possibility, than go out and pay five times as much for famous names and still end up falling short of the title.

The way some people are talking, you would think that, now we’ve appointed Ole, no more decisions are going be made and this is it for the long haul, come hell or high water. Anyone under the illusion that Ole won’t be out on his ear if this goes disastrously needs a reality check. Maybe we’ve made a mistake in hiring Ole and not going for Pochettino, but only time will tell. Could we end up in mid-table obscurity? Of course we could but the board of shown they will take action (if a little belatedly) when things are going down the toilet. Hopefully it won’t come to that, mind you!
Ted, Manchester

 

Dortmund not done
Dave(I’ll watch the highlights of the other European games), Somewhere: The reason Dortmund are supposedly not handling the pressure is the exact reason that they get lauded by all the football luvvies, they give youth a chance. Saturdays game was a case of Bayern ratcheting up the tempo and aggression levels and BVB just didn’t have the physical presence or experience to handle it.
Also it could probably be argued that BVB’s early form put them in a false position, late goals scored and conceded, general mayhem, Alcacer on a mental scoring run. That is not sustainable, exciting though. The best move on Saturday was the buildup play to Dortmund hitting the post, unfortunately that was a fleeting moment, then old heads and physical beasts of Bayern took over.
Season is not done yet, Bayern have a few potentially tough games, RB away looks tasty and Werder are probably due a result after 20 years, Frankfurt will be on a high as they prepare for the Europa League final.
Keep the faith.
Mel – Berlin, Brussels, Athlone town. (Calculated at the weekend I have seen Hertha Berlin play 111 times, that is a lot of my life I ain’t getting back)

 

Laying down the law
Some really interesting points made by Stijn asking why the Refs do not ‘lay down the law’ as in other sports. Stijn references water polo but the usual comparison provided is rugby union. A number of explanations are put forward for this, ranging from the slightly classist (the backgrounds of rugby players vs. football players) to views around the use of mic’d up refs.

My own explanation for this comes down to the nature of the game itself. Rugby Union is a game of territory and moving the ‘game line’ up and down takes a lot of effort from a team. In any case of unreasonable chat back, the ref can penalise the team by moving a penalty forwards which can be of a significant disadvantage to the defending team. Rugby is also a game of set pieces and losing a man in a sin bin type scenario can be easily (in theory) exploited by the opposing team. I’m less au fait with the rules of water polo but from my limited knowledge the game is a bit more ‘end to end’ than football.

My overall point being that football is a much fluid game where things like territory do not come into the equation. The referee therefore has less ‘tools’ at their disposal for disciplining a team / individual. The only tools they currently have are pretty ‘nuclear’ and final e.g. a yellow / red card. If a deterrent is to be successful it needs to recognise how the game of football is played and what would be a proportionate reaction to chat back to the referee. I think this is a pretty difficult task and the best one I can think of is a ‘sin bin’ arrangement (although I do not think this would be as effective as in rugby for the reasons outlined above). With any rule change, it would also need to be practically replicated across the grass roots game too which adds to the challenge (unlike VAR for e.g.).

What is clear is that referees do require better protection from the Premier League down to Sunday League. I feel it’s naïve to put the solutions down to ‘culture change’ only as there do need to be effective deterrents at the ref’s disposal as well. This need to reflect the nature of the game and will not be easily transposed from other sports. No real answers provided there but hope to start a debate / some crowd sourcing ideas for effective rule changes!
Mark, LFC

 

…I have to agree with Stijn, Amsterdam and his “no one abuses the ref in water polo” comments. I watched live water polo for the first time last year and basically, whilst there appear to be rules, no-one abides by them! It basically consisted of a goal minder, a guy with the ball and 10 others trying to drown each other, there appeared to be some form of general acceptance that you grappled with your nearest opponent, allowed him to catch his breath, and then started trying to “dunk” him again, unless you managed to free yourself for 5 seconds and could receive a pass.

I asked a competitor if this was allowed and he responded “no, but the referees do nothing about it!”. As no-one is therefore penalised, no-one is complaining to or harassing the referee, a bit like corners and free kicks at the moment.

So, let’s introduce this for football and allow players like Fernandinho to block opponents willy nilly anywhere on the pitch without fear of reprisal, oh wait a minute……
Howard Jones

 

The Gary gang
With the general – who don’t you want to win League – I’m getting bored so thought I’d let the grey cells go mad and think of something stupid for mailbox

Here’s the rules …… use your real first name – pick a team ( formation can be flexible – as you’ll see) – no 2 players from same team – must have played for team when they were in top division – within your lifetime ( no cheating) – here’s mine – and here’s the kicker………. Your name can’t be in the top 100 boys name for 2018.

Gary Sprake – Leeds
Gary Neville – Man Utd
Gary Cahill – Chelsea
Gary Ablett – Liverpool
Gary Charles – Forest
Gary Stevens – Everton
Gary Medel – Cardiff
Gary Speed – Newcastle
Gary Mcallister – Leicester
Gary Lineker – spurs
Gary Shaw – Villa
(Bleeding obviously) Gary – born 69

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