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Get Henderson further forward
What a super attacking performance. Slick passing, young players gaining experience, and a very watchable football match.
The most intriguing aspect of which was the midfield dynamic. Barkley was excellent, Rice read the play well and moved the ball nicely, though Dele was largely anonymous. His squad position is the one under most long term threat, having struggled in an England shirt for a long time now. Maybe due to tiredness, or possibly the stop/start nature of his season, the Spurs man struggled to make his mark in a position that requires a skilful ball carrier or link player, combined with a goal threat. None of which, unfortunately, has recently been provided by Dele Alli in an England shirt.
Jordan Henderson floated around the pitch majestically for his 50th cap cameo, injecting energy, quick passing and incisive through-balls. In half an hour, Henderson made 5 decisive passes including one particularly accurate through ball and a sumptuous assist for the fifth goal. Dele Alli made none. Is it time to try Henderson in this slightly more advanced role more often?
A Henderson/Rice combination, on it’s face, would bring energy, passing ability and discipline without curtailing the teams attacking threat, although bringing a slight tweak in the formation. Having been on the receiving end of frightful abuse from all comers for as long as I can remember, maybe it’s time to appreciate the role that Hendo can play as an experienced leader, one who sets the platform for others to play.
As for Ross Barkley? Last night, he made an almighty claim to the attacking midfielder’s spot. Surely, though, he’s just keeping the shirt warm until Phil Foden grows into it. Exciting times.
Rob S (not even a Liverpool fan)
…Winning his 50th cap tonight, I think its pretty obvious that the British people were never going to agree on Brexit when we can’t even agree on Jordan Henderson.
Sam, LFC [Square brackets for life] North Yorkshire
I have always felt that the captain and manager should lead their team off the pitch if any of their players are subjected to racist abuse. Once off, they should stay off. UEFA /FIFA would then have to make a proper decision.
It would bring a swift resolution to the racism thing. The authorities would either have to back the team who walked off or else publicly punish them for standing up to racism.
…Given 100% of all criticism that Raheem Sterling has ever received in the UK has been racist or racist-adjacent, the British Press seem to be taking a moral high ground on racism that I’m sure they know they don’t deserve.
…t is disappointing in the mildest sense of the word that some of the best football England have played in decades is intertwined with a racism problem in the wider game. However it is not really a shame as the problem has been there all along and the governing bodies don’t really care about it enough to introduce the appropriate sanctions to crush the problem out of the game. The arguments regarding racism as a societal problem are valid but it does not detract from the fact that football can take its own tough stance.
We have our own issues at times but English football has traditionally lead on the subject and I would love for the FA to step up to the task of truly tackling racism as a practice not accepted in our game. The example being set by Gareth Southgate and leading players like Raheem Sterling is one the FA must support and back up with type of action that is needed, English football must lead where the likes of FIFA are failing in their duty of care for the game.
Support the club, not just the team
I’ve been meaning to write in for some time on this subject, and Daniel Storey’s article on women’s football (and the mailbox responses to it) have given me the nudge to push send.
Around the time that Arsenal’s Invincibles were rapidly dismantled in favour of Project Youth I started keenly following the clubs loanees. Wenger was a collector of youth talent, and prolifically used the loan system to send his young charges out to gather valuable experience. I would take pride whenever Nicklas Bendtner or Anthony Stokes scored or were praised by their temporary managers or teammates.
More recently, with the increased formalisation of youth teams and leagues I have been reading about and keeping tabs on the potential new stars from the under-16s up – it used to be pretty difficult to keep track of scores and scorers at this level but is now easily available. Admittedly there have been more Akpoms than Bellerins but still, watching them grow and develop and occasionally make it to the first team fills me with pride.
Even more than this, I have followed, though never watched live, the Arsenal Ladies, and then Women’s team – they are by far and away the most successful women’s side of all time winning tens of trophies including 14 league titles, 29 (proper) domestic cups and a UEFA Cup. They were formed by our legendary kitman, Vic Akers as a personal project in his spare time and have grown to become a full-time professional outfit leading the way here and abroad. This was especially gratifying during the men’s lean years.
Now I read (courtesy of the brilliant Amy Lawrence) that the Arsenal Academy has begun integrating some of the top girls into the boys training sessions to push them to the next level. Is it weird for the boys to train with girls? “They are looking at each other for five minutes and then it is normal. What is very good to see is for them it is no difference. It is more a difference for some grown-ups” says Marcel Lucassen – the man tasked with replicating his bigger picture thinking from the German national side at Arsenal. It seems his picture includes the Womens and Girls sides too.
The Arsenal are more than a men’s 11 a side team that play a couple of times a week, more than a bauble on the KSE sports tree, more than a bunch of red and white shirts worn by mercenaries and carrying sponsors logos. The Arsenal are a football club with millions of fans around the world, that promotes youth, that pushes the boundaries of the women’s game, that encourages integration and inclusion… I haven’t even touched on Arsenal in the Community (another mail for another day).
I am not saying Arsenal are better than other clubs or that your club is shit, I am sure that many others have similar programmes and provide similar support to their youth and female branches.
I am saying that I am proud to be an Arsenal fan, proud of all the good that my club does for the local community and for other communities around the world. And I am saying that in this age of rampant commercialism and eye-watering sums of money being flung around like custard pies at the end of Bugsy Malone, that there is a positive side to it all.
I am saying that I support The Arsenal Football Club, the whole Club, not just the first team.
Alay, N15 Gooner
Postcard from a bamboo hut in Tanzania
There are two main drivers behind this email.
Firstly, your call-to-arms subheading in yesterday’s mailbox, and secondly, the final mail coming from Tanzania. How freaky! I thought – I just had to make it two consecutive days in a row.
Currently, I am in a 6x4m bamboo hut atop a small rocky hill in Western Tanzania. Dirt floor, corrugated tin roof, poorly constructed desk and chair, plastic sheet windows, incoming thunderstorm etc., the works. This is an isolated research camp primarily for those wishing to study primates, however I am here to collect multispectral reflectance data of the surrounding vegetation (predominately miombo woodland with areas of thick gallery forest aligning the river valleys) using a drone, for the purposes of rapid, large-scale tree identification. But, as dictated by the weather am currently grounded, so I find myself perusing your site using only an ‘E’ data connection on my phone. A solid 3 minutes to load any webpage and that’s without it timing out.
Anyway, for a long while I have wanted to write this letter, but apathy and perfectionism have curtailed previous attempts. Now, while the rain lashes down here in the jungle and I continue to procrastinate on planning tomorrow’s activities, it’s as good a time as any. Here goes.
It is my sincere and entrenched opinion, that football clubs and managers should be locked together for the duration of their domestic season. No club should be allowed to remove/replace a manager, and no manager can leave a post until the season has ended. I know some of you will scoff at this notion, and I suspect it would likely infringe on employment (maybe even Human?) rights issues, but humour me, for as far as I am concerned, the pros grossly outweigh the cons.
*Due diligence. It forces both parties to really contemplate their choices and make their decisions on prolonged and balanced assessment rather than knee-jerk reactions. There is no jumping from a sinking ship; and there is no swift instalment of Sam Allardyce to stave off relegation. You both entered in to this together, it’s time to see something through for once.
*Clarity. Every member of staff, from the boardroom to the dressing room, the groundskeepers to the pint-pullers – everyone – knows exactly where they stand and what lies ahead for the next 9 months.
*Manager window. The managerial merry-go-round would be restricted to the off-season, and as a result I think would be much more entertaining.
*Stability. No club gets screwed over mid-season by a manager leaving; No manager gets screwed out of a job mid-season.
*End of speculation. This is a big one for me, huge. It will ENTIRELY REMOVE the need for any journalist, anywhere in the world, to ask the question “are you worried about your position?” or words to that effect. I utterly despise the regularity with which this question is blurted out at press conferences. I honestly do not care for the answer, and those asking the question are the very reason why society as a whole, has no patience today. They should be ashamed of themselves. From here on out, imagine a world where football is not saddled with the burden of speculation; the constant debate across every media outlet about will he/won’t he would be no more. How many pundits would be out of a job? That’s what I really want to see. Make this so, and I promise, joy will find its way back into your life. Think of the progress we could make as a species if such frivolous distractions were removed…
*Integrity. I know it is genuinely impossible to standardise a competition that runs for nine months, across various latitudes and longitudes, throughout all seasons, and at (virtually) any hour of the day and night, but surely the one place to ensure parity is within the playing and coaching staff? With respect to the competition and in fairness to all competitors, how is it OK for X to face a struggling Y one week, only for Y to replace a vital component and then bounce back against Z the following week? This is so completely normalised and accepted that it barely registers as a topic of conversation these days, but I’ll tell you what, I think it stinks. This ‘new manager bounce’, genuine or otherwise, is entirely at odds with a fair competition in my view. You guys got yourselves into this mess, either get yourselves out of it or face the consequences. Simple.
*Personal freedom. It removes freedom of choice/opportunity from clubs and managers. Boohoo. You can all wait a few more months.
*This isn’t going how we hoped. Poor performance by club/manager. I refer you back to Pro #1.
That’s all I have (or care to write) for now, but I hope this helps to oil the mailbox machine during this international break. Interested to hear of any other pros/cons you may have, or perhaps we could take a poll for and against? Just one more way to further divide our society!
If I get chance to put my data collection on hold again whilst here, I’ll be sure to brighten all your lives with my plans to improve football across the globe, dramatically! With only a few simple tweaks. Stay tuned.
Rusty Blue, MCFC. (Yes, I am also in favour of removing the January transfer window for the very same reasons).
Would Chelsea want to sign Hudson-Odoi?
Quick, late night irrelevant question.
If Hudson-Odoi was in the same situation (contract/game time) at any other club right now, would Chelsea be trying to sign him???
Please use the comments section below for any polite insults.
Chardy (loving international breaks)
…I’ll start off by saying I don’t necessarily want Maurizio Sarri out and that it hasn’t been his unwillingness to compromise on Sarri-ball that has annoyed me about his management this season, as it has many other fellow Chelsea fans. In fact, I quite respect that he has so much faith in his system despite the onslaught from the media and our own fans and still hope that it will somehow click at some point (as unlikely as that now seems).
What has frustrated me is his inexplicable refusal to give Callum Hudson-Odoi a real chance to become a first-team regular. For the first half of the season he very rarely even made the bench in the Premier League – despite Willian and Pedro often performing inconsistently – and was only given marginally more game time once Bayern Munich came calling in January. It was then that Sarri started coming out with statements that Callum was now ‘ready’ and the ‘future of the club’ etc., only to dump him back onto the bench or worse still not even include him in matchday squads as soon as the transfer window had closed. Even when our form dipped severely, such as after the 4-0 thumping by Bournemouth, Hudson-Odoi wasn’t given a look-in, while Willian and Pedro remained almost untouchable despite patchy form at best. Pretty much every time he is given a chance he seems to thrive, even scoring when brought on for brief cameos at the end of already-won games.
This is all made all the more maddening when you compare Gareth Southgate’s comments a few days ago that Hudson-Odoi was ready to become and important part of his England with Sarri’s infuriating mantra that “He will be ready to be at the top at 22 or 23”. I accept that Willian and Pedro are both fine players when they are at their best, but they are both 31 and nearing the end of their contracts. Add to that the likelihood that Eden Hazard will be off to Real Madrid in the summer and it becomes clear that we should be prioritising making Hudson-Odoi feel seriously valued. I, along with most other Chelsea fans have been longing to see an academy graduate break into the first team for years, and Callum is clearly supremely talented, so it’s painful to see him moving closer and closer to the exit door with each minute he wastes sitting on the bench against lower mid-table opposition.
When he does inevitably leave, I’ll be placing the majority of the blame at Sarri’s feet. If he was given a consistent run of starts in the league between now and May, perhaps it could change his mind, but that simply doesn’t seem possible. The board of course aren’t blameless either – they placed yet another obstacle in Callum’s path to a starting place with the completely unnecessary £60m signing of Pulisic – but I believe that by giving Hudson-Odoi regular game-time, Sarri could have allowed him to make himself a mainstay just before Hazard’s seemingly inevitable departure.
Unfortunately it seems as if Chelsea fans are going to see yet another highly talented youngster flourish somewhere else though.
SK, CFC, West London
Boys in green
A wonderfully eloquent mail from Eoghan, Ireland in response to my question about what’s happening to Irish football.
Then I found this.
What the hell? That is so screwed up. How do you have a budget of 37mil, pay half a million to your CEO, then two million for the manager and assistant of the national team(subsidised by a local businessman, I hope the Ipswich Town reject is on a more modest sum). And then invest a paltry 1 mil in grassroots. And still be borrowing money, left, right and centre.
There is a direct correlation between gold medals won at the Olympics and money invested in sport. The US, UK and China have dominated in recent years for a reason. It needs to get to the athletes, seniors and juniors. When it’s not reaching the grassroots organisations and they’re scared to say anything in case they’ll get less, you have what has happened to Irish football. If you don’t have a big budget then you need to be efficient. If I was one of Jack Charlton’s former players then I’d be so disappointed that the FAI couldn’t use that time to create a lasting legacy. They must have been raking it in in those days.
Eoghan’s example of Iceland was spot on. A long term sustainable plan and they’re managed by a part time dentist. I bet he’s not on 2 mil a year. It really wouldn’t be too difficult to imitate that.
I’d have a second team if I was Irish. This England team is pretty easy to like. Even if the rest of us aren’t so much. You can even claim Declan as one of your own.
Sorry Sala situation
Just reacting to the news that Cardiff have claimed that the contract for Sala was ‘invalid’ and he was ‘free to sign for someone else’
I don’t know the ins and outs, no legal knowledge here whatsoever, but just on an emotional level, this is a really really nasty ending to the whole business isn’t it? Feels like the whole outpouring of grief and ‘people are more important than football, tribalism etc’ was a long long time ago.
I don’t know who’s in the right here, but it sounds pretty low. Cardiff fans, what’s your take?
I would like to take issue with what Stuart Smith said, as an English person who lives in Mexico.
Many foreigners here, especially Americans, are rightly criticised for making no effort to learn the local language here. It is considered a lack of respect for the country in which they choose to reside.
Gareth Bale has been in Spain since 2013, and apparently doesn’t even speak rudimentary Spanish, despite his wealth, and the incredible amount of downtime a professional footballer enjoys. Learning a language is not easy, but to make next to no effort is very very poor indeed. Not speaking Welsh is irrelevant, he’s an English speaker in an English speaking country.
Being a great player who has won a lot of trophies does not excuse a lack of respect for the country you live in, and I would very much hope an English player would receive the same amount of criticism, this criticism predominantly coming from the Real Madrid dressing room.
Alexis Sanchez is just as bad.
A different kind of national team
Steve Chicken’s article was clearly tongue in cheek and a bit of a waste of time (did he have some kind of quota to fill?) but it did bring to mind another idea of how to reorder the “international” classification system. I’ve always thought it would be great to see the best team made of players plying their trades in every given country. Imagine a Premier league eleven against a La Liga eleven, it would be bonkers and you’d legitimately have players moving from one team to the next as they move countries.
Admittedly it wouldn’t be much fun for countries outside the top five leagues but then let’s be honest, none of us care about them anyway do we?
Warren (The French one would just be the PSG team) Batt