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Jesus, Liverpool didn’t dodge Dybala or Schmeichel this summer no more than I dodged buying a Ferrari because my Mazda was more reliable.
They didn’t buy them because their budget and business plan doesn’t allow for it.
Next summer, with a few more players off the books, wage bill lowered, they’ll spend again. They over-spent last year and that had a knock on effect for this summer, therefore they haven’t spent because the cash was already committed to huge contracts dished out over the last two years. Stop the nonsense that it was a choice or decision.
You have a good team, and a strict business model that’s working.
While I am here, all this stuff about Dybala/Mandzukic deals to various clubs falling through, did they ever actually board a plane out of Turin? I doubt it.
What’s the difference between Pogba and King Eric?
I’ve have to echo the sentiments of Ryan, MCFC and it’s a sad state when City fans talk more sense about your team.
Bear with me here because I’m going off on a tangent… But Adam Smith’s theory on the division of labour and specialisation from the “Wealth of Nations” states roughly that workers will develop greater skill and have greater productivity where they are left to concentrate on the particular sub-task(s) at which they perform best. A Scottish economist grasped this in 1776 but here we are still talking rubbish about it over 200 years later.
The midfield of any team is the same as any other working department in Business. You have Sales & Marketing, HR & Finance and then the dreaded Compliance & Internal Audit. Each has unique functions which allow a business to operate to the best of it’s potential. I’m going to call Pogba Sales & Marketing here, he’s all fluff and creativity, the beautiful side of the business that everyone wants to be in. Compliance & Audit have an important role to stop the business falling flat on it’s face but requires a certain type of person… We’ve done nothing to replace our Compliance & IA function in years, Fellaini, Herrera, Matic, Carrick and every other player who fit that bill over the last 10 years is gone or not up to the task. Fred is not that guy, I hope Scotty will one day be that guy. Giving out that Pogba doesn’t track back and may lose the ball is mute in my book. To be creative (something we moaned about throughout LVG & Mourinho) you have to try and make a pass, sometimes it doesn’t come off, sometimes (Rashford assist) it looks like pure genius and reminds you why you have them.
As an aside, Pogba reminds me of another eccentric Frenchman with tonnes of swagger, an anti-establishment attitude, the ability to turn a game on it’s head and create moments of genius. Someone who looked like they could take football one day and leave it the next (and ultimately did leave it all too suddenly) but never got any stick from the fanbase. I idolised Eric growing up and this is slightly sacrilegious, and from memory yes he put it about a bit more than Pogs but we lived with his flaws for the moments of brilliance. What’s the difference now?
Eamonn (what happened to Diamond Geezer) Dublin
It’s taken one game to show up Steve Bruce for how out of his depth he is. I wrote in pre season with some tentative reasons for NUFC optimism but this manager really is awful.
Theres just no cohesive plan to move the ball up field and the substitutions were a joke, leaving us overrun in midfield and devoid of any shape. There’s not a bad team there as they showed in patches but the manager is the worst in the league by miles.
It may only be one game but Bruce is horribly out of his depth. We knew this before but Premier League football has moved on. Look at Potter at Brighton or Wilder at Sheff Utd showing tactical ideas that Bruce won’t understand. He needs to get a tactician in to work with him and take a back seat on that too, just like he has on signings.
Is he even a good coach? Maybe he could also outsource that too please? Or just leave?
It’s frustrating he’s taken a job that theoretically could have gone to someone who’s earned it
Question, tell me what you think about me
In regard to John Nicholson’s article – and apologise if I’m late to the party here – I just have one question – Why can’t a footballer quit their job?
Why can’t (arbitrary example) Gareth Bale say to Real Madrid “I’ve had it with this, I’m off, I will no longer turn up to work and in return, you no longer have to pay me”. What would happen next? I’m no legal expert but I assume there’s some class of contract law which would mean the club can take legal action against the player etc. However is there any legal measure a club can take to force a player to work? You know, like a slave?
I’m aware players can buy themselves out of their contracts, but as far as I know, this only applies to players over a certain age (open to correction on this as I just don’t know for sure). Surely a fundamental part of being employed is your right to terminate that employment or at least hand in the required notice to your employer at a time of your choosing – why not in football? Managers can do it (e.g. Pulis at Palace, O’Neill at Villa, actually – come to think of it – I’m struggling to recall many more examples of this).
Can anybody clear this up and advise why this sort of thing does not happen (at least in the highest levels) in football?
Middle ground exists
I think the major point about the game on Sunday is that it was neither a disaster for Chelsea, nor a sign that the old United are back. Chelsea have some extenuating circumstances (though one of these is their own doing) in that they’ve been unable to sign new players, have a new manager, a young squad, and a few important players missing (though identifying Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, and Reece James as “key players” is stretching the truth a little there).
Chelsea’s defence was bad but it’ll likely get better with time and some cohesion will start to develop (or it won’t and Lampard will get the boot), but one game is nowhere near enough evidence to make any long term predictions. They didn’t create too many clear cut chances but arguably different combinations of Pulisic, Willian, Hudson-Odoi, Mount and Barkley in the attacking midfield roles will likely result in greater creativity eventually.
United were ruthless in attack indeed, but I can tell you now that an 80% conversion rate is either unsustainable or it means we are having an extremely low number of shots. All things considered, we still only managed five shots on target, which isn’t really enough considering how poor Chelsea’s defence played. Some games we’ll have five shots and not score at all, some games we’ll score from all five shots on target, but one is for sure: we can’t rely on getting a conversion rate of 80% every game, so the midfield possession needs to really improve to make that easier.
The frequent turnover of possession is a major worry; I highlighted this as an issue during our pre-season and Sunday’s game was further evidence of it. The worry is that we’ll need the three starters from game one to improve quickly because the two additional players we didn’t use (Matic and Fred) are hardly renowned for their intelligent use of the ball. That our apparent best player Pogba is still a culprit for this is a huge concern; it’s not just the frequency with which he does it but the locations in which he does – he tried far too many little spins and tricks close to our box for my liking. Embarrassingly, he could learn a lot from Wan-Bissaka’s use of the ball in defensive areas; against Chelsea he was excellent at finding a safe pass instead of trying to either dribble/trick his way out of trouble. Do the simple things right and fans will be more forgiving when the spectacular doesn’t quite come off.
The style worked pretty well overall against a team that wanted to attack but, as with last season, it’ll be the teams that pack the defence that cause us problems. The additions of Maguire and Wan-Bissaka should help us to concede fewer goals and De Gea appeared to have some of his old confidence back, but keeping clean sheets is only half the story. Teams like City, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal might (I said “might”) find it more difficult against us this year if our defence is more resilient because of their own attacking ambitions, so it might leave them slightly more vulnerable to our counter-attacks.
My fear is that we will still struggle to score against teams that are happy to sit back and defend in numbers. Against Cardiff last term, with virtually the same midfield and attack (swap Greenwood for Martial); we only managed 10 shots on target and failed to score at all against a team that conceded 69 league goals – not because Cardiff suddenly turned into an amazing defensive unit but through sheer weight of numbers they stifled our creativity. We can expect very much the same against any team with a bit of organisation about them – I foresee similarly difficult tasks against Sheffield United, Brighton, Burnley etc., so I hope we start finding other ways to be creative when facing sides against whom pace and counter-attacking football isn’t going to work.
On a related note, there were a couple of rules which appeared to be applied incorrectly. First was the drop-ball incident in the first half. Christensen was caught by Pogba’s arm while contesting a header and we had possession near the Chelsea box yet, when the referee noticed and stopped play, the drop ball was given to Chelsea to kick back to De Gea. I know that drop balls are now uncontested but the new rule suggests that we should have had the possession where play was stopped, rather than having it returned to us.
The other one was a rule about players asking for VAR reviews – when it was used at the World Cup it was briefed that any players making the TV signal would receive a booking – is this not the case anymore? For the United penalty, Kepa quite clearly made the gesture to the referee but nothing came of it, so I’m wondering if that’s still the case? Only minor gripes but it’ll be irritating if we fall foul of that later in the season because of refereeing inconsistencies.
Hoping the BBC article on analytics and transfer evaluations they spewed out this morning gets the rightful kicking it deserves in Mediawatch.
The point of Moneyball was that people were fundamentally misunderstanding by what actions a player actually added value to winning (e.g. getting on base).
The Oakland A’s weren’t able to pay for players that were stars, so they needed an edge to compete. Beating the existing paradigm by assessing that the existing model for talent didn’t correlate with success allowed them to compensate for a lack of classically great baseball players (which is why when a richer club, Boston, took it on they were really able to deliver on it by having both).
But baseball is a highly structured game with a high degree of quantitative data and a huge data set. Players have consistent, measurable outputs in a role they play day in, day out.
In football conversely, Player X won’t behave the same for Team Y and Team Z, especially when there are 10 other players on each of those teams interacting with them. They’ll play against different players each week who have no comparison with the ones they did last week. The ‘value to the team’ and output of a player is fundamentally different in different systems and an unstructured environment. Compounded by a variation in quality and style of play across leagues and raw player stats are indicative at best.
Analytics certainly has a place in football, but it’s interpretive, not instructive for future success.
And then you have the ‘monetary’ value. And that is where we enter pure horses**t territory. If the ‘value’ is what a player can monetise for the club, is that weighed for the benefit of the club? We know that getting into the Premier League is the most lucrative windfall in football, so surely every top-tier Championship player is artificially inflated against a Ligue Un player? And so the following logic is that their worth more in general? Utter bollocks.
Now people might be saying why get annoyed by all this stuff? More fool these clubs who bring on a sodding investment firm to advise on player transfers. But bad analytics/data science ruins the value of good data science and stops people looking at things more critically.
Knowing what questions can and can’t be answered, and adding value where the former is true is the whole point of data science and when some jackasses put this crap out, they’re not only being snake oil salesmen but hurts the industry as a whole.
No-one in their right mind would have said Koscielny was worth £25m. Or Trippier was worth £60m. So piss off with that crap.
Tom, (apologies for those getting angry I’m not using data in the plural, I’m not there yet) Walthamstow
Wonderful email from Tom, (still got Pepe on my new bruised banana shirt obviously, despite being a poor to mediocre CB, because I’m also mentally 9 years old) Walthamstow today, about irrational love for players.
Also being an Arsenal fan, I’ve had a few exceptional ones, the most irrational being Song and Deneilson. In terms of the current squad, I have great admiration for Holding and think he will really kick on this year. I am not too worried about our defence because I believe that we have a solid English CB for the first time since Adams, Campbell, Ect. But that is a more rational love because many gooners feel the same way.
That being said, I still harbor an irrational love for Granit Xhaka. Despite his brain farts and his limitations, I truly believe that he has the technical ability and the mentality to be a proper captain. Most think I’m crazy, but I genuinely believe he too will be a real asset this year.
Pherain (Looks like I have a type) Johannesburg.
As pointed out by Mab in the comments section, it won’t be long before we have sponsored VAR checks, and I for one, just cannot wait.
I am sure these guys are working on this already but here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling:
Specsavers – because those refs have been getting it wrong (apparently) for so long we needed this godforsaken system
Andrex – tissues to dry the eyes of that fan who thought the goal had put them through the the champions league semi final
Pampers – for those fans who soiled themselves when the goal originally went in but now need to stay for rest of game.
Angry birds – well, you have to have something to do on your phone while they check the 47th camera angle to see if sterling’s armpit hair is offside.
Rolex – because who knows what time games will finish in the future (could do a deep marketing campaign here tying in the Manager wearing one in interview)
Prozac – “don’t get too excited when you’re team scores, just relax till our VAR overlords say you can celebrate”
Budweiser – “do get too excited when the opposition think they have scored but VAR says no” (ideally if you are close enough to them throw this piss water over them to rub it in)
Uk Gold – re-runs of One Foot in The Grave because everyone likes a good moan and now VAR has taken all the controversy out of the game we need to see it somewhere.
Bet 365 – “you should have cashed out when the ball hit the net, you mug!”
I am sure you guys can think of a lot more.
Graham Kirk, Sunny Manchester (who said sarcasm is the lowest form of wit?)
Here’s to you, Eliaquim
There it is then, the end of an era. We’ll always have the good times. The game against Hull. The assist for Bobby Reid v Bristol City. And who could forget the lovely near post finish past Joe Hart v Liverpool?
Mangala was important. As an opposition fan, he gave you hope. Hope that City wasn’t the most well-oiled sexy football factory in the world. Hope that their scouting system was just in the midst of a Steve Walsh-esque golden period, and that the transfer duds would come again, like late buses. Hope that people drink at work at City, too. Without him, it’s impossible not to succumb to the dread that accompanies the dawn of any evil empire.
With him, City were good, but human. Without him, they’re a collection of almost flawless £50m men. I, for one, will miss him dearly. My advice to Valencia’s La Liga rivals is that, sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. Cherish him while you can.