Jude Bellingham must beware of burning out like Michael Owen and Fernando Torres…

·20-min read
Jude Bellingham rests during England's win over Italy in Naples. Credit: Alamy
Jude Bellingham rests during England's win over Italy in Naples. Credit: Alamy

The Mailbox fears for Jude Bellingham and England’s defence after the Three Lions beat Italy. Also: record-breaking Harry Kane; ageism and Roy Hodgson; and more…

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Bellingham burnout
Watching the England game last night it occurred to me whilst watching Bellingham gallop around the pitch non stop….he’ll go the way of Owen and Rooney if he keeps playing like this and keeps being played at this rate (seriously when was the last time you seen anyone play with a knee brace especially a youngster). His style plus the reliance managers will have on him means his legs may go by 26/27 Fernando Torres style. I really hope not and hope that his clubs and national manager take proper care but I fear they won’t.
Also what’s happened to Jack Grealish – he’s a caricature of himself minus the skill of old. Jack come back!!!
Duck

 

Tottenham’s trophy wife
“God for Harry…”

Everyone has a go at Spurs for not winning trophies (even the coach). It’s a bit harsh. But, Harry Kane IS Tottenham’s “trophy” wife. So there’s that.
Simon, Norf London Gooner
P.S. Why sell him when you could put him in the cabinet?

 

Maguire’s mistakes
I didn’t expect Gareth Southgate’s “Championship or elsewhere” warning to come true so soon as he was forced to select a centre half that’s apparently never played football before.
SC, Belfast (still the world’s most expensive defender by the way)

 

Subs, Rob Burrow and Vieira
Thanks to Phil Foden and a group chat I was in during the England match for allowing me to return to one of my favourite hobby horses: there should not be stigma on a player being substituted after they have entered the game as a substitute. Now that five changes are allowed in most games, it’s a minor version of baseball’s pitching changes. These are done for a number of reasons, including maintaining a positive situation and trying to rectify a negative one, as well as replacing an injured or underperforming player. Foden came on in the 69th minute, replacing a tired Jack Grealish and presumably told to play a similar role. Then, about ten minutes later, the game situation changed. Foden was the obvious person to withdraw in place of the replacement left-back, just as Bukayo Saka was always likely to be taken off in favour of Reece James, who would offer more protection to Kyle Walker as England’s job became about defending deep and in numbers to see the game out.

Away from that game, I’m reading Rob Burrow’s book at the moment. F365’s man in Japan went to university in Leeds and had a season ticket to the Rhinos, and that got me into watching rugby league as well. Even allowing for recency bias, Burrow is one of the greatest ever to play the sport, the perfect embodiment of the combination of speed, skill and toughness. Anyway, towards the end of his career, he ends up in a different role. Even though rugby league teams have four substitutes and can make eight interchanges, Burrow’s coach decided to use him in the style of a football substitute: someone would start the game in his position and play for an hour, then Burrow would come on to run tired defenders ragged. Burrow argued that whatever he did, there was no way he could convince his coach it was the wrong decision: fail to impress in 20 minutes and he hasn’t done enough to earn a start, but a star turn would only be justification that the coach has made the right decision.

Applied to football – and perhaps most obviously in my case, Crystal Palace – something makes a lot of sense about the final games of the Patrick Vieira era. Rightly or wrongly he had his trusted players, who started every game, regardless of their form. Then you had other players on the outside looking in; it certainly seems like it would be a lot easier to be motivated for a cameo appearance if there was a chance a good performance would lead to increased playing time, instead of being the rationale for restricting a player to a few minutes at the end of a game.
Ed Quoththeraven

 

Gareth at the Palace
It’s only half time and it’s only 2-0 so … hoping for at least three goals for Italy second half, Gareth sacked, Roy Hodgson brought back to prevent England sinking into oblivion, allowing Gareth to be appointed to save his old team from relegation and take the Eagles into the Champions’ League next season.
Eagle in Exile near Athens in Greece

 

Defending Roy
‘No disrespect to Roy Hodgson’ Jason Soutar writes, before going on to massively disrespect Roy Hodgson calling his appointment ‘bizarre’ and arguing that it ‘shows a huge lack of ambition’.

Seriously? How about you show Hodgson some actual respect by pointing to his excellent record in his last spell at Palace, his experience as a coach, his obvious good relationship with the players and man management skills etc?

Soutar also says he hopes that Hodgson finally does retire at the end of the season. Again, really? Why can’t Hodgson carry on if he’s fit and healthy.

Ageism is the last acceptable form of prejudice in society and it certainly is alive and well at F365, isn’t it? Hodgson’s age has been repeatedly referenced in the coverage of his return to Palace.

Please admit that your slavish, gushingly over-the-top praise of Vieira was wrong and that Roy Hodgson deserves to be judged on his results, not on preconceived ideas based on how old he is.
BB

Read more: Crystal Palace and Roy Hodgson: a sign of panic at Selhurst Park or back to the future?

Just punishment
I see the FA are looking into Man Ut’d part in what happened against Fulham

One can only hope they ban Casemiro as in the norm now
Leon, MUFC

What do Spurs expect?
As an Arsenal fan, the current ‘crisis’ surrounding Spurs seems quite bizarre to me.

Last season they finished 4th, accumulating 71 points. Whilst I’m sure most spurs fans were not quick to label this a ‘success’, I don’t recall much noise about this being a particularly bad season.

Fast forward ten months and Spurs occupy exactly the same league position – 4th.

Whilst throwing away a 3-1 lead at St Mary’s is entertaining, that was never a penalty at the end. Spurs could (and should) have walked away with three points from that game, lifting them into 3rd. What is it exactly that Spurs expect from their club?

I have a theory that their ‘success’ is by no means objective, and is based purely on their position in relation to Arsenal. Finishing 4th in itself isn’t a problem, but sitting 20 points behind Arsenal is unacceptable.

Question for Spurs fans….. if Arsenal and Liverpool switched places in the league, and Arsenal were sitting 7 points behind, with Liverpool at the top, would you be happy with how the season was going?
Chris (I bet you would), London

 

Mood music
On the topic of drumming, do you think that the awful drummers and bands affect how the team plays? Throughout history we’ve always used musical instruments to keep tempo, like drums, flutes and bagpipes for marching soldiers or kettle drums for rowing ships. Even if you’re stripping wallpaper and Mambo No. 5 comes on, you can’t help but synchronise to the music. Does this explain how slow and ponderous England play at times as the band plays a funeral dirge? Are we better off banning musical instruments from matches for the sake of the team? Please say yes.
SC, Belfast

 

Fergie won’t come cheap
Liam, Utd and Ireland: I get that relativity is a somewhat flexible and nebulous concept, but there’s no multiverse in which Evan Ferguson could be regarded ‘relatively cheap’, When he does eventually go (and go he will), Bloom and Barber will squeeze every last drop of value out of the sale, and it will be for a metric fuck-ton of cash. As Montell Jordan once crooned: “This is how we do it”.
MR, Brighton

 

Why Lascelles lost it
In response to Paul’s question about what happened to Jamaal Lascelles, it’s a combination of hitting a ceiling and his lack of ball-playing ability getting horribly exposed.

He was at his best under Rafa, who played two ball-playing centre backs either side of him in a back three, so he just had to nudge it to Schar or Lejeune or dump it up field if he must. Very good in the air, and a decent penalty box defender with blocks and such, but was helped by that shape.

Steve Bruce (shudder) did the opposite, and insisted that Fabian Schar’s technical skill was no match for spit and sawdust defending from Lascelles and Clark, who were sort of helped by our complete lack of ambition as a team (and club) and parking 10 men behind the ball for 90 mins and hoping Allan Saint Maximin could save us from relegation. It meant the sort of defending he was doing was much more about these blocks and headers.

Then in comes Eddie Howe, who wants his team to try and play football (and we do!) And the centre backs are a key part of that. Last season it was Schar and Burn, now Schar and Botman. Lascelles doesn’t have the technical ability to do that, and so when he plays we’re much more “hoofy”. It also means defending higher up the pitch and his limitations have been exposed. I think this is why England never made the call, style was unsuited.

He may leave Newcastle this summer as we look to upgrade, but what a great servant, captaining the club at a young age, being a great role model when out of the 11 and giving his all when he’s on the pitch. He’ll be missed and I hope he can go and play, either top end of Championship or for a promoted premier league team as he deserves it.
James, NUFC

 

Away day for the neutral
I went with family to London for the weekend and had the opportunity to go to the Chelsea-Everton game so I thought in this week of international nonsense and weird arguments about generational talents etc. I’d share my observations as a neutral (Man Utd) fan in the upper east stand of Stamford Bridge.

Six of us went to the game, my wife’s Chelsea supporting niece and nephew with their dad, my father in law, and my 13-year old daughter. The tickets we had put us in three different pockets of the stand so during the game I was sat with my daughter who has NO interest in football at all whatsoever. Four of the six of us had no affinity with Chelsea and it’s fair to say probably had the same level of distaste for the club as most fans but seeing my niece’s face light up in awe approaching Stamford Bridge in twilight was fantastic. I understand the arguments some people make about being plastic fans if you’re not local but you’ve no real choice of the club that picks you and the feeling of connectedness, even from a distance is the same. Few of us non-locals get to make it to England to go football matches without considerable expense so when you do it’s something to take in, even if it’s Chelsea.

Don’t know if Chelsea fans agree but as an outsider-looking-in Kovacic is an underrated player. Everton crowded the midfield at times but Kovacic was everywhere. Enzo didn’t look anything like £106M player – for about five minutes. After that he looked fantastic. Constantly showed for the ball, received it with 3 players around him and moved it on. I know it probably sounds obvious when talking about a 22 year-old world cup winning CM signed for over £100M but if Chelsea build around him and fill the rest of the squad with players half his quality they’ll be laughing for years to come. Pulisic seems to be loved by the Chelsea fans more than I was led to believe and quite right too. He scared Everton every time he got on the ball in the first half and the delay from getting hit in the head from an Everton freekick allowed everyone to run down to the toilets and back before the half time rush. Very thoughtful.

I have no love for Chelsea but I do really want it to work out for Graham Potter. He seems like a smart man who could be very good at what he does but with the imbalance in the current Chelsea squad and mood coming off some of the players they won’t get anywhere til that’s sorted. Chelsea reminded me a little bit of United last year; all the ingredients are well capable but the spirit within the team is severely lacking. Chelsea’s tactic in possession of just playing it out to Chilwell to break was so predictable that should have been exploited by a better team. Fortunately for them it was just Everton who were absolutely useless and really didn’t deserve anything from the game. They looked like they got a nosebleed every time they got into the final 3rd and had no idea what to do when they got that far. Demarai Gray could only do so much on the wing but was outnumbered with no one in the middle. For all the credit Sean Dyche is getting for turning things around late on, it really was crying out for any second player to occupy the Chelsea centre backs which Simms did immediately and deservedly got a great goal. Koulibaly had an easy game right up until he didn’t, which just so happened to be the first time he really needed to and to just do the basics to guide Simms outside. He didn’t, Everton scored, and Chelsea lost two points.

Plenty of Chelsea fans seemed disgruntled at the wasted chances and wanted to pin the blame of drawing a game they should have won on either the manager or the forwards. With 29 crosses and 20 shots Chelsea did create good chances but, similar to Everton without a proper number 9 they will continue to squander. The big difference is if Thiago Silva was playing instead of Koulibaly the whole team would have been calmer, Everton would never have gotten an equaliser and those same fans would have been leaving the ground with a satisfied sense of progress.

A word for the away fans. The Everton support were terrific. It must be a hard supporting Everton this season but they were right behind the team, and as a neutral I particularly enjoyed the massive taunting of the Chelsea fans after each of Everton’s goals. No wonder Havertz acted the clown towards them after scoring his penalty, you really do love to see it. At the end of the match my daughter asked me why the Everton fans were celebrating, they hadn’t even won, but I explained how this Everton team had actually just won 2-2. All in all a great day at the Bridge, would definitely recommend going to a game when your team’s not playing, even if it’s Chelsea
Bren, Dublin

Chelsea and Everton half-and-half scarf. Credit: Alamy
Chelsea and Everton half-and-half scarf. Credit: Alamy


Class debate
Here’s a Utd fan defending a fellow footy fan, albeit a gooner.

I get your comparisons to the class of ’92. You weren’t talking about the quantity or quality of players or some set of rules that decide whether a player is allowed to be claimed as home grown. It’s about a different sense of pride that by developing a player and moulding them into a first team regular gives a lot more to us fans than just buying a 100 million pound player that has to hit the ground running. Even if the player cost a whopping 6 million pounds like Martinelli, he’s been at the club 3 years and has grown

For Utd we have Garnacho, Pelestri (same age and similar transfer fee as Martinelli BTW), Mainoo coming through and these type of players will always be looked at more fondly that the mega stars that come in for ridiculous sums. I’m sure fans will be a little more lenient on Garnacho or Pelistri should they have a bad game here or there but Sancho and Anthony as dictated by their transfer fees and wages need to be contributing to the goals or assists column pretty much every time they set foot on a pitch – the media demands that, it’s easy to ridicule them based on how much they cost – most fans are much more forgiving.

Us Utd fans did love that class of ’92, and still do. That so many came through the ranks was definitely part of it with their youthful arrogance and enjoyment of the game showing through. However, let’s not forget that the all important ingredient to loving that team was winning. Had Alan Hansen been right (“You can’t win anything with kids”) then Utd would have dipped into the transfer kitty very quickly.

So enjoy your developed players gooners by whatever you feel qualifies them to be so, any extra joy we can get out of the game is always a good thing.
Jon, Cape Town (Jack, all in for Europa – I like your excellent retort, my heart says go for everything, my head worries about the fixture pile up. Heart wins and I hope the right level of rotation keeps the dreams alive)

 

…I both understand and am annoyed with John Matrix and his comparison/non-comparison with the class of ’92.

I’m a Chelsea fan and if I’m honest it just annoys me when there’s an allusion to another club claiming some kind of high ground. I know it wasn’t explicitly stated but when you are talking up (and claiming non youth players as) “one of your own” and then saying you understand why ManU fans feel for their class of ’92, it IS saying that you are better than the other title-winning teams before. You are saying this may be start of a team dynasty powered by its kids. You are saying it is the first time since ’92. You are saying you finally understand the pride of ManU fans because you feel it yourself because it is better, it means more.

I think we can all admit jealousy to the ’92 boys as it was genuinely amazing that a group of kids achieved so much together from such a young age. Obviously, this Arsenal team is nothing close to that and barely has 2 real youth products that are mainstays of the first team.

Then again, the hypocrite in me was thiiiis close to writing in about Chelsea’s class of ’21 when Mount, James and to a much lesser extent Abraham, Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, Tomori, Christensen and Chalobah were our version of ’92 after that beautiful dance with ol’ Big Ears. At the beginning of next season, when we probably only have James in the starting 11, I think it is pretty clear that dream is dead.

What I’m trying to say is, I both understand you but also stop it or go write it in an Arsenal fan forum. Very few non-Arsenals will be gracious enough to let you indulge in your happiness-fueled dreams and musings – and we’re all hypocrites.
Saaj (CFC)

 

Generation games and GOATs
This generational talent debate is nonsense. Having said that, if we’re going to rank best ever players in the PL, then clearly both Rooney and Henry are going to feature. Label them however you like, they were both brilliant players for a sustained period.

The amount of people saying Henry is the best player to ever play in the PL is really silly though. Come on guys! Football fans the world over have spent years arguing whether Ronaldo or Messi is the GOAT. Ronaldo’s peak years may have been spent in Madrid, but he played just under 350 games for Man United over his 2 spells at the club. There is the best player to have played in the PL, no argument possible, even if he is extremely annoying.
Neil, Swansea

 

Saka and Robben
I have to write in to counter Paul K’s mail that Saka is basically just Robben. Robben was incredible, and like Paul said, he had that brilliant trick of being 20-25 yards out and cut in on his strong left foot and bent it high or low in to the far corner time and time again – you knew what he wanted to do but it was hard to stop. If you watch compilations of Robben’s goals you’ll see a lot of this from a very good but one-footed player. All agreed. However, just a quick look at Saka’s 12 goals in the league this season shows only 1 goal (v Man U) which could be described as a ‘Robben’ goal. He’s scored more with his right foot high in to the roof of the net (Everton and Leeds) than the Robben goal which apparently he ‘always’ wants to do.
I would suggest Paul hasn’t really watched much of Arsenal or Saka if he thinks this is what Saka wants to do all game. He obviously prefers his left foot but look at how many times he goes on the outside of his man and crosses or shoots with his right. Of Saka’s 12 goals and 10 assist this season 7 of those have been with his right foot – or nearly a 1/3rd of his goal contributions. I haven’t watched every goal and assist in the league but I’d wager that percentage of weaker foot goal contributions would probably rank very near the top of players with at least 10 goals+assists in the league.
Rich, AFC

 

Teamwork in the Mailbox
This is a mail to express my appreciation for the mailbox.

Whilst agreeing with Badwolf’s general point about not overhyping Saka and young players, I nearly seared by retinas reading the scalding hot take that Henry (Thierry bloody Henry!) wasn’t on the same level as Wayne Rooney. Apparently Rooney could do things that others could not, whereas things like walking through an entire Liverpool/Spurs/Real Madrid team before coolly finishing is something any excellent player can do.

I didn’t get a chance to write in yesterday because I got busy with work so I just want to thank everyone who chipped in – It’s so great that we can always count on the mailbox to pick up the slack!
Amro (the good thing is this inspired me to watch henry compilations on youtube – I’m a biased Arsenal fan but for me quite simply the best to play in the premier league)

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