It’s another belting Mailbox, with Liverpool’s critics put in their place, Patrick Vieira questioned, Spurs offered a potential replacement for Antonio Conte, and more.
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RIP Gianluca Vialli
I’ve never much had time for Chelsea but have always loved Gianluca Vialli.
He wasn’t just a great footballer and coach but he was also a lovely bloke.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Carry on Klopp
I have read a number of emails and articles over the last few days on Liverpool, Klopp and the obvious problems they have encountered. I’ve heard pundits voice their opinions and question some of the things Klopp is saying and the issues in midfield and rightly so to a certain extent and I feel like I’m ready to give my opinion on it (which I’m sure they will all be thoroughly relieved about!).
The worst of the bed-wetters out there just need to grow up. This isn’t Champ Manager and even the best teams in the world suffer slumps. Only 2 seasons ago Liverpool went from looking like walking to a second title in a row after humping Palace away as City stumbled, to basically imploding due to the defensive injuries whilst City went on an all too common insane winning streak to reclaim the Premiership title. It was all doom and gloom then with people screaming for signings in the summer. Guess what, they didn’t really make any and were a couple of breaks away from winning the whole lot!
Now the hindsight brigade are out again and shouting down Klopp for not making a midfield signing in the summer and although I do think it was a mistake putting all their eggs in the Tchouaméni basket nobody saw this drop off coming. You can blame the midfield options but the entire squad other than Alisson have been below par this season if were honest, Salah included. I’m a huge Trent fan (and voiced as much previously in this very mailbox) but he has been dreadful this season, although he is showing signs of a return to form recently. The main issue for me though has been injuries to Jota and Diaz. Missing those 2 for almost the whole season whilst Mane has moved on meant that there was only Salah left from the regular 4 starters last season, all of whom were the options for that left wide spot in the front 3. Nunez can play there but Firmino’s injury has meant The Ox playing out of position and a really disjointed attack. Nunez is obviously still finding his feet (which is a nice way of saying he’s constantly offside and missing chances) and Salah is also far from his usual clinical self. This set up has seen the press disappear which has in turn seen the midfield bypassed easily at times. I genuinely think the Gakpo signing and Jota hopefully returning to the fold soon will see a massive change in the level of performance with balance restored.
Now I do agree that Liverpool need new faces in midfield as the tremendous Wijnaldum was never replaced, Henderson and Milner get on and players like Jones, Elliott and Carvalho although young will never be more than squad players for me. What I would say though is a couple of decent midfield signings and some fresh legs and this team still has plenty of miles in it and I believe Klopp is still the man to deliver more trophies to Anfield. It’s not all that bad lads!
To finish up I would like to make a quick comment on Klopp and his sometimes abrasive demeanour and comments after losses that can come across as bitter and one sided…I couldn’t care less. I remember Brendan Rogers coming out after 3-0 defeats and banging on about how tremendous the team had been and it drove me mad! Look back at all the great Premier League managers and they have all been awful losers for the most part. Ferguson and Mourinho were famously so whilst Wenger was terrible and Pep is too. For the most part like Klopp they are charming and likeable but it’s easy to be like that when you lose 3 games a season eh. I was talking about this just the other day with my brother and he reminded me of the famous Vince Lombardi quote “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” Preach brother!
Do we need to talk about Patrick Vieira? I don’t think it’s just my natural pessimism and lifelong experience of supporting Crystal Palace that makes me convinced the Eagles are sleepwalking towards relegation. While it’s likely there are three worse teams than Palace in the Premier League, at the moment it isn’t clear who they will be at the end of the season.
Palace currently sit 12th, with a five point lead over Leicester City, but this is not likely to stay around, based on some of the teams beneath them: Leeds United and Nottingham Forest have shown character this season and pulled out some big results; Everton, West Ham United and City themselves seem equally likely to spend money improving their squad or change their manager in an attempt to improve their fortunes; Bournemouth and Wolves already have replaced their manager, with mixed successes so far; only Southampton, despite replacing Ralph Hassenhuttl with Nathan Jones, look condemned.
While the greatest coaches in the world cannot legislate for the sort of individual errors that led to some of the goals in recent games, but away from those there are some questions for Vieira to answer. Palace have been dreadful in defence all season, but don’t appear to have worked on improving this during the World Cup break, despite only one of their regular defenders (Joachim Andersen) being in Qatar. There has to be more to it, but it seems like Vieira and his coaches either don’t recognise that there’s a problem, or they don’t have any ideas of how to fix it. Similarly, there are issues in midfield, and while the rumoured move for Conor Gallagher would solve some of them, it does suggest a lack of imagination on the part of the club that he’s the only player that fits the bill.
Since the Premier League returned, the Eagles have lost heavily twice and beaten Bournemouth 3-0. The temptation is to sack off the FA Cup game against Southampton on Saturday, even though it is the perfect opportunity to either try a different approach or to see if the same approach reaps rewards and lifts the mood. When they return to league action, they have an incredibly tough run of games – they won’t play a team that is currently below them in the table until 1 April (Leicester City), at which point they could be in a bit of trouble. Over to Vieira now to kickstart Palace’s season.
Potter for Spurs?
The article on Spurs this morning only very briefly touches upon the absence of players for whom any team would feel the pinch, but also brings up a player who excited so many before his arrival but has felt a little like, hang on – who dis – since his arrival.
Bissouma’s has been a strange case; a player who, for many, was the best midfielder outside the top four/five/six – but quite possibly the best midfielder in the Premier League regardless. Conte has said it was taking him a while to get to grips with what was being required of him under his tutelage but why change him? He flourished in a three man midfield at Brighton but Conte has no desire to play anything but his 343 formation that leaves our midfield so often exposed.
One of the things which (many) Tottenham fans have been pleading to see is tactical flexibility from Conte. Against Villa it was obvious, as it has been so frequently, that our two man midfield isn’t good enough, and neither are our wing backs, to accommodate such a system.
No matter how good a coach is, when the system isn’t paying dividends, then surely cut your cloth accordingly. Emerson – awful wing back but competent right back – and was bought as one – so go back four – play with three in the middle which, in a roundabout way, makes defending easier. If a team has two fairly average centre backs and one who is good but can be a liability, don’t play three of them – especially if you have a more than capable midfield three to counter that.
If Conte does go, and in keeping with hiring former Chelsea gaffers, Potter seems the best fit; has excelled under stricter conditions than at Chelsea but Tottenham are still a significant step up from Brighton (who I think are a super outfit, run brilliantly). Has coached young players to become better players – see Spurs’s squad of Gil, Spence, Skipp, White, Sarr – with Scarlett and Parrot currently out on loan – all of whom would surely enjoy a coach who’s ethos seems, to me, to be player improvement with tactically flexibility.
Clearly the timing of this is poor as we won 4-0 last night but I have long thought Palace’s praise was overblown, good win though it was.
P.S Kane to score one against Pompey this weekend, then bag a brace against Arsenal to clear Greaves’s Spurs record and reach 200 PL goals.
Due to frankly vicious customer service on the part of American Airlines, I’ve only just gotten to watch the Arsenal – Newcastle match, so these observations may too out of date to publish. But holy smokes, did Arteta make a clown of himself. His fury was expressed almost entirely outside his technical area, and he could have been sent off in the first ten minutes; for all his complaining, is he completely unaware of his own behavior? Was Mikel’s lability the reason Arsenal lost, despite appearing to have the better of the match? Was he too overcome to make the required adjustments? Perhaps. Certainly, he generally seemed more concerned with the referee team than he was with his players; even during stoppages when the squad would gather around him, his clapping and shouting made a marked contrast to Eddie Howe’s calm observation.
Newcastle’s sh*thousing was – as previously noted here – noteworthy. And in fact, I’m enormously pleased by it because as Harry, York observed, we’ve been soft since I fell in love with the club. Still, y’all shouldn’t sleep on Arsenal’s own version of sh*thousery. Particularly in the first half, Arsenal players wasted tons of time and threw themselves to the ground at any contact. The simple fact is that despite Arteta’s deeply hilarious antics, Arsenal deserved no more than they got from that match.
A few more observations:
Nick Pope did nothing spectacular in that match. Indeed, he seldom does. But I still think he’s the biggest bargain of last summer’s transfer market.
Sven Botman is absolutely immense. He’s *still to lose in a Newcastle shirt. I’m a fan of Fabien Schar, but Botman has made him so, so much better.
I don’t know why Dan Burn is not a huge liability at left back. But it can’t last forever.
Kieran Trippier deserves a lot of credit for Miggy Almiron’s performances this season. But then again, Miggy does a hero’s work in covering for Trippier’s forward sojourns. The Arsenal match was a lovely example.
Allan Saint-Maximin can’t or won’t do the defensive work that Howe requires. But Sean Longstaff is almost continually disappointing. I think we need to put ASM back in at left winger (swapping with Miggy now and then), return Joelinton to midfield, and send Sean Longstaff back to the bench.
Chris C, Toon Army DC
Arsenal are feared again
It is amusing to read the exasperation and criticism of Arteta’s antics on the touchline. Richard Key’s might spontaneously combust if he see’s Arteta outside his technical area one more time! Firstly, what he does is no different to countless successful managers in the league past and present and secondly, he’s been doing this since day 1 at Arsenal – it just seems that people weren’t that bothered when he did this and Arsenal weren’t winning games and were down in 8th! The trouble with these things is you can construct your argument to wherever your allegiance lies. Passionate manager, engaged with his team and the games tactics, a motivator and helping his team to victories vs a nuisance, an annoyance, he’s breaking the rules, disrespecting the game, influencing officials and distracting his team etc. As with all of these arguments, if he’s your manager you love it, if he’s not and he’s winning games you hate it and are jealous of it.
What it does show is Arteta has got people scared of Arsenal again. The worst thing Ferguson could do to you as a rival manager was stop talking about you, it meant you were no longer a threat to him!
No Arsenal fan expects us to win the league, City are rightly favourites, but what we will expect is the mountains of criticism, bottling claims and all the ‘I told you so’s’ should Arsenal not win it in what would amount to the most surprising Prem title winners after (a long way after) Leicester should it actually happen. It does seem that Arsenal with the youngest manager and squad in the league have faced more criticism for many things this season than certain big 6 clubs down in 10th or outside the top 4.
Everton’s business reassessed
Winners and Losers pointed out Lampard is paid and handsome sum (irrelevant), and was given a ‘substantial’ summer budget.
I have no stake in Everton or Lampard, but I couldn’t sit here and allow Everton’s summer business to be described as substantial. After the sale of Richarlison the summer balance was £20m spent. Yes, they got Tarkowski and Coady on free’s but those wages were more than offset by allowing Allan, Tosun, Gomes, Dele Alli and Gbamin to leave. So, it was a £20m net spend, and they sold Brazil’s no.9…. not substantial.
For the record – Do I think Lampard is the answer for Everton, probably not. If the club are going to net spend £20m a summer, they’d be better off with Dyche who’s used to working within those limitations.
Danny (Lampard’s eternal defender apparently)
Chelsea hopes of emergent sanity
An analysis of Todd Boehly’s strategy in last two transfer windows shows he’s a devout follower of 1977 Chemistry Nobel Prize laureate Ilya Prigogine and of his seminal work on dissipative systems.
Surely Boehly goes to bed holding Prigogine’s “Order out of Chaos” close to his chest.
We suspect it because, after having deftly engineered mayhem-level transfer-market chaos Boehly seems to be expecting for order to miraculously self-assemble, just as Prigogine would have predicted.
Radu Tomescu, Ko Phangan, Gulf of Thailand
I couldn’t agree more with Mikey, London that referees should give post match interviews. I, for one, look forward to hearing a referee say “Yeah, the lad’s completely done me on that tackle, he was never touched. That could cost me the cup final or thousands in after dinner engagements”. Or maybe “Everyone could see their left back was getting roasted by the winger so why did he bring on another midfielder? Perhaps a spell managing in League One would would help him perform better at this level”.
Andrew, Hove (EBFC)
Lampard and Moyes should simply swap jobs. A homecoming for them both.
I’ve been trying to read the article on Ronaldo and how much of a villain he is for taking the Saudi money and facilitating their sports washing (which I agree with) but its became very difficult as the article suddenly disappeared and the entire screen on my phone was taken up by a big purple visit Saudi Arabia ad. I’m sure this is the sort of thing Alanis Morrisette would sing about.
You really shouldn’t be posting articles lambasting Ronaldo for taking the Saudi money despite all their human rights issues while at the same time taking money from Saudi, or agents on their behalf
…I was enjoying Will Ford’s article on Ronaldo and his part in the Saudi sports washing machine when my reading was interrupted with a full page advert of ‘Saudi, Welcome to Arabia’.
Morals huh, they’re a slippery thing when you want to get paid.
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