It’s a wonderfully wide Mailbox, featuring boos at City, Arsenal’s transfers, Spurs’ crossroads, Lingard’s priorities, Man Utd and refs, Palace, John Yems and more…
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Booing Pep’s City
As I type, it’s just after 80 minutes at the Etihad and the score is 3-2. But I don’t much care now how this match ends as whatever the score ends up, that won’t be the reason I’ll never forget this game.
Instead, I’m never going to get over the fact that some entitled glory-hunting assholes thought it perfectly acceptable to boo City’s most successful team in our history, under City’s most successful manager at half time.
Half f*cking time!!
If City finished this season with no trophies and outside the top four, I STILL wouldn’t dream of booing them and I don’t know any City fan, born and bred in Manchester, that would. Correction, those over 20 years old that is.
Who the f*ck are these people? Have we just seen the City equivalent of glory-hunting Cockney Reds? Liverpool and Chelsea supporters aren’t booing their teams and they are in far worse positions than City are.
Genuinely mortified and ashamed at that behaviour.
Mark (Just finished 4-2 which is marvellous but still leaves me with a desire to find every d*ckhead that booed and stuff a match program either down their throat or up their arse. Or both). MCFC
…The most astounding thing about that turnaround was the home crowd booing City at half time. Mental.
Good to see Bentancur back mind you.
Jon (inevitable, wasn’t it?), Lincoln
Well, after a night of reflection, I think it’s obvious that we have come to the point where everyone needs to just lay their cards out in the table and be honest with each other:
Board: Are you willing to fund the squad in the manner Conte usually demands – experienced players that cost £50+ millions and have limited resale? If yes, will you start completing transfers before the final day of the window? If no, then we move to Conte…
Conte: If the Board are unwilling to finance your usual vision/modus operandi, are you willing to modify your approach and commit to planning a more long term success, accepting there will be bumps in the road along the way? If yes, you need to start playing the younger folk you’re currently marginalising and we move to fans…
Fans: Are you willing to accept, like Arsenal did, that by taking a more long term outlook to getting where we want to be, then there will be periods such as right now, where results do not match expectations? If yes, then the mid gane moaning needs to stop and we need to get behind the team for the full 90mins each game so they know we are with them through the bad as much as the good
If at any point, someone says no – it’s better to just forego with the continued drawn out process and move on now
Paul (Spurs), T.Wells
Conte’s hands are tied
The idea that Conte has been backed by Levy and ENIC any more than Poch or Mourinho is simply a myth. His hands have been tied just as much as theirs were.
Kulusevski and Bentancur were obviously great signings, but why were they done so late in the window? Spurs lost three games in the period when they were being signed/settling in. Get both in earlier and Spurs would likely have won at least one of those games, maybe two and could’ve ended up in third.
A lot of the numbers being bandied around for the summer spend include the money for Romero, who was bought for Nuno the season before (he’s brilliant, though).
Outside of him, Richarlison was a big signing at £60m and Bissouma semi-big at £25m. Outside of them, though?
Spence cost anything between £15m and £20m but the deal took forever to do and Conte didn’t really want him. I’m not 100% what Udogie cost but as he went right back to Italy on loan he clearly wasn’t a Conte signing either.
We went for Bastoni but he didn’t want to leave Inter, so ended up with Lenglet on loan. Perisic obviously was for Conte, but was free anyway. And Forster was a necessary free transfer who would’ve joined regardless of manager.
Basically then Spurs spent £85m on two guys Conte wanted and picked up Perisic on a free. So Spurs fans are expected to believe he’s been “backed” because he was allowed to bring in an ageing free transfer on what is an average PL wage these days?
The defence is costing Spurs week in, week out and many of the players who have ups and downs (Dier, Davies, Sanchez when he plays, Lloris) have been around dating back to the Poch days. Why is this?
The truth is that Levy hamstrings every manager he has. Redknapp famously wanted Tevez and Cahill and got Saha and Nelsen. AVB wanted Moutinho and Levy left it too late to sort the technicalities. Poch wanted Mane and got Sissoko, and wanted anyone in 2018 and got nobody. Mourinho asked for Skriniar and got Rodon. And so it goes on. If Bastoni wouldn’t come last summer why not spend money on an alternative top level LCB?
I love Spurs but we are basically an upper level club who don’t even behave like a mid table one when it comes to the transfer market. We stumbled on Poch, could’ve hit the top and failed because unlike Liverpool, Levy wasn’t proactive in improving the squad. We’re now reaping what he sewed, probably all the way to mid table status once Kane inevitably goes.
Lots of Arsenal fans seem quite split or underwhelmed by the Trossard links/likely signing, but I’d like to push the ‘really quite excited’ brigade a bit here.
I think Trossard is a dream player for Arteta. Two footed, good dribbler, good passer, good finisher, highly competent in 5/6 positions and, importantly, has the it factor.
I’ve seen him play a couple of times live, and a lot on TV and the last player from a mid-tier Premier League club I was this into was Wijnaldum when he was at Newcastle. There’s something about Trossard when he is really on form which screams of a really high ceiling to unlock, especially if the level of the supporting cast is raised.
Not to knock Brighton, who are clearly capable of growing without him (and maybe that’s just a relationship that is due to end) but to play with Jesus, Saka and Martinelli instead of Welbeck (love you Danny) and Maupay will provide a higher platform and given the attention all those players receive, maybe more space/freedom to work.
Ultimately, I think he’s 3/4 to equal the player Ferran Torres is, plays more positions, would come at less than half the price/salary and ultimately Arsenal don’t need an improvement to their starting XI to win this league, they need high quality back-ups, which Trossard is in spades.
So will he take us to the next level? Maybe not, but he raises the floor of our front line substantially in depth and versatility and isn’t going to be a long term blocker to our star youth.
Now a suitable back-up/replacement for Partey please, maybe with a Lokonga loan. I don’t really think we have a shot at Rice this summer, but a boy can dream.
Tom (this is my 200th mail to the Mailbox; a suitably/typical long, rambling Arsenal note filled with naive optimism!) Walthamstow
Mitro on fire for Gunners?
In as much as there’s been a cheerful atmosphere around the Arsenal lately, being top of the table and all, there still has been some consternation at the apparent inability to get high-profile transfers across the finish line. Despite much fanfare, deals for Dusan Vlahovic, Luis Diaz, Youri Tielemans and now Mikhaylo Mudryk have failed to materialize. If press reports are to be believed Edu and Co. are trying to make another run at Vlahovic and Zaha has been mentioned as a possible target.
Seems to me though, everyone’s ignoring a solution that’s just a stone’s throw away. The Gunners should target Alesksandar Mitrovic.
The man has been on an absolute tear this season, and is a proven quantity given his earlier exploits with the Magpies. I believe his contract is up at the end of this season (It isn’t, he’s contracted until 2026 – MC) so he shouldn’t cost too much to bring aboard. He also has that dog to him that would definitely add some bite to this squad with Saka and Odegaard sometimes being accused of lacking that nasty edge. At his age, he ideally would be more willing to accept a bench role at a bigger club for more wages and a chance at silverware; furthermore, once Jesus returns, I can even see them playing alongside each other in a two-pronged attack. Again his age should allow Nketiah time to really develop into a future front-man for the Gunners, without making him feel thrown to the curb.
I really cannot see any downsides to this move. What do the rest think?
Andrew Mbogoh, Nairobi, Kenya.
I, and I’m sure many others, have written in here before to accuse United players of being lifestyle celebrities who see football as nothing but a vehicle for fame and money. Obviously, nobody had any concrete proof that they were consciously doing this, it just felt like it from their actions.
Today, I read Jesse Lingard has said this;
“Even the social side of things and that. I went to them like 2017 about YouTube and doing content…I just want them to get up to date with….the things that are popping. You’ve got to be relevant, you’ve got to stay relevant.”
Chap can barely get in the team and he’s worried about the club’s social media strategy. Roy Keane was right to rip into him for his clothing line launch. His priority, and loads of other people’s, really was somewhere other than the football pitch.
Great decision letting him go. He seems to be Rashford’s best mate and his departure might be a big reason for the significant upturn in form. Rashford didn’t seem focussed on the football either and Lingard does seem to have ‘big brother’ vibes in their dynamic. Obviously a large part of Rashford’s focus was on shit that was actually important but he was also VERY active on twitter and, as I said here previously, he came across like a TV presenter on it. That, the book, the thing he did on American telly with Kevin Hart and LeBron James for Nike or Adidas or one of those, it really felt like he was setting himself up for a career on TV or politics. Now his fashion designer pal is gone, he’s hardly ever on twitter anymore and he’s banging in the goals.
That said, people are getting a bit too giddy about his recent run. He flew out the gates with LVG obviously but his last good season was Jose’s first. That’s five years of running into brick walls and ballooning shots when there’s an obvious pass on. There’s been moments of brilliance because the talent he showed his first two seasons is still there but his default setting for a very long time now is ‘wasteful’ so I’m hesitant to get overly excited just yet. To reference and paraphrase another Roy Keane rant, the chap has had a good month. He needs to keep it up for eight or nine months. Last night he was back to being a headless chicken. You need at least 8 out of 10 in at least 8 out of every 10 matches to be considered world class so hopefully he will show last night was just a blip.
Ten Hag though. I’m not hesitant to be excited about him. He beat Madrid in their own ground 4-1 when they were European champions and he had Dusan Tadic and Donny Van deBeek up front. It’s not that surprising he’s doing well. I’ve loved his regular talk about attitude though. Everything you do starts as a thought in your head so delighted he sees the importance of that. He’s cleared out the wasters and brought in professionals like Eriksen and Casimero. He’s set a tone and a standard in a few months.
He’s yet to prove it with the CV but I’m confident that he’ll soon show that only Pep can claim to be a more talented manager than him and he could well make that a serious argument as well. Love him.
Yems, racism and the FA
After Ian King’s fairly spot on article about Yems, I wondered whether there’s a big issue here.
Why, in sentencing, do the panel need to say that someone is not racist? If a judge was sentencing a serial killer, they wouldn’t say “Oh you’ve killed many people but I don’t think you’re a conscious murderer” (unless there was some sort of diminished responsibility defence). It’s ludicrous. What the panel should be referencing is previous behaviour i.e. “no previous convictions” which is a statement of fact not a subjective opinion. I just don’t think the panel needed to insist that he isn’t intrinsically racist.
Nor do I think they should have said he is a racist. Given the evidence before us he very probably is but you can’t use an opinion that can’t be proved one way or another to formulate a sentence. Being racist isn’t against the law because it can’t be policed whereas doing and saying racist things are and can. If you want to police racists rather than racist activities, you will need thought police and that’s a slippery slope. It would simply have been enough to reference the myriad of offences and the consistency of such.
So why did they say he wasn’t racist? I think there are a couple of things at play. One is preservation of reputation. Had they not made the statement about Yems it’s conceivable that he wouldn’t have worked in football again. Making the statement as certainly made it easier for him to get a job somewhere after his ban as he can say he’s been rehabilitated and show some contrition. Maybe that’s right, maybe people should be given a second chance. I think the panel, in a bid to show how fair and independent they are, have deliberately bent over backwards to ensure that they don’t leave cause for appeal or accusations about ruined reputations. I think I remember the same when Suarez was banned (though that may be my shaky memory) but in fairness he only committed one offence.
But my second point is that Yems is likely to have had an expensive solicitor working on for him which I think has helped water the language and the sentence down. Football fans can and have been banned from stadiums from 1+ years for a single offence. I count at least 9 separate instances of racism in Ian’s article alone so Yems’ ban should’ve been at least 9 years in my book. I accept that the FA are not responsible for the banning of fans but the authorities are not treating fans, players and coaching staff the same. And part of that is to do with the disparity between the pay and culture of your average fan and those who run the game (and the country?)
What they should have said was that Yems has committed multiple offences over a prolonged period of time which suggests a pattern of behaviour and is an aggravating factor. As such his sentence should have been extremely severe. And whilst we could – and perhaps should- all refrain from calling him racist, we can infer that Yems is likely to have committed significantly more offences in his long career than we will likely ever know about. And if the argument from the panel for the weak sentence is that that was all they could give according to the guidelines than the FA needs to toughen its rules up and cease with the faux outrage.
Not everyone likes Man Utd
Just a quick one because I couldn’t read my eyes on Wednesday night when I was reading that nonsense about how we can like Man Utd again. I couldn’t sleep for ages just thinking about what I’d read.
No matter what anyone tells me, or what I see from Sir Rashford, I’ll always have distain for them. And here’s a few reasons why…
They won everything for ages and it was really boring. Sure, they had competition from time to time, but generally speaking, it was really fucking boring.
They always found a way to win – a Beckham last minute freekick, OGS or Sheringham coming off the bench against a tiring defence, a dubious penalty award… There was no end to them scoring in the last few minutes to save themselves. I hated it.
Speaking of penalties – there was a 10-year period when no single penalty was awarded against them at Old Trafford. Ridiculous.
One of the reasons for that would be Fergie screaming at the refs or linesmen – or because the players surrounded the ref and screamed at him. Either way, they were bullies.
Jar Jar Binks look-a-like Rio Ferdinand jumping on the back of whoever had scored and looking all joyous. Smug git. He can’t even speak properly.
Paul Scholes sucking his daughter’s toes.
Bruno Fernandes is a whinging clown who throws temper tantrums ALL THE TIME.
Everyone supported them – despite being from nowhere nearby and having the most tenuous of links (“I visited Bury once”)
That f*cking devil on their badge – who the f*ck has Satan on their chest and thinks it’s a good idea? Whether you’re religious or not it’s just weird to parade the symbol of evil with pride.
So, there you go. I won’t forget any of that nonsense, I won’t be cheering on Man Utd at the weekend – or ever. And I will always take great pleasure in watching them lose.
Nick P. Burnley FC.
I think Casemiro’s suspension for the Arsenal match is a blessing in disguise. The guy needs some rest for the back end of the season and sitting out a match our May be better in the long term for the team.
Honestly I think I might be getting baited here, but Paulie really is ironically a complete clown.
A player has a mediocre game after just ten appearances at a new club in a new country. That’s definitely the kind of player who should be seen as useless. Jesus christ man, this isn’t twitter, keep those sh*tty opinions to yourself next time.
Antony scored the opening goal against Arsenal, a consolation goal against Man City, the equaliser against Everton in the league, oh and the first goal against Charlton in the League Cup QF, oh, and the opening goal against Everton in the FA Cup third round. So that’s five goals, four of which have been openers or equalisers.
I can only imagine Paulie getting his face makeup all over his keyboard as he mashed out this email, since he’s clearly the real clown here.
Calum, MUFC, Wokingham
So about Wednesday night, no quibbles with the draw but I do have issues with the referee and VAR, for four days we have had so called experts bemoaning United’s equaliser against City (4 DAYS) now I’m not saying the referee was looking not to give a stonewall penalty to United for the trip on McTominay but unconscious bias is a real thing and to compound the none decision VAR said it wasn’t a clear and obvious error, HOW it’s was a penalty so it was clearly a bloody error. At 2 nil United would have seen the game out and now be second in the table as it is Palace won a dubious free kick (watch it Shaw plants his foot but doesn’t touch him) and score an excellent goal.
On to my next point, Bruno, great goal but got Casemiro booked with a woefully under hit pass and miss placed passes all over the pitch, Rashford has been wonderful this season but seemed to want to score more than play for the team and was frustrating to watch as he time and again tried to beat 2 or 3 defenders when the pass was on. Wan Bissaka has really turned his fortunes around and but for a fantastic last ditch tackle United could of gone home with nothing. Lastly this season is going to have it’s dips and a point away at Palace is hardly the end of the World, bring on Arsenal.
Paul Murphy, Manchester
…I, like fellow United fan Garey Vance, thought there was a clear foul on McTominay in the area.
Shoot me down if I’m being blinkered but it looked inarguable to me – McTominay plays the ball, the defender is late and clips him. That’s a classic “foul anywhere else on the pitch” one.
So, then we’re into the mess of “clear and obvious” errors are, and Howard Webb’s new mandate that there should be a higher threshold to overturn.
But what on earth do they really mean? My view is that the referee’s decision was objectively wrong. Did he think the defender played the ball? If yes, he was wrong, clear error. Did he think the defender didn’t catch the attecker? In whic case, he was wrong, clear error. His mistakes would have been understandable having only had a split second to see, but it was a clear and obvious error.
But the interpretation they seem to want to apply now isn’t really “clear and obvious error” at all. It seems instead that last night they were applying “OK, it was a foul, but was it a really egregious error?”.
There is no point having a VAR if it doesn’t correct small mistakes with significant consequences. It’s also a terrible idea, because in a few weeks time, another VAR with a slightly different threshold for whats a “big” error is going to overturn a similar decision against United, or in favour of one of United’s rivals and I’ll have to fetch my tinfoil hat…
They are making such a ludicrous pig’s ear of applying VARs when there are countless examples of it working properly in other sports.
If this was like a rugby match you’d hear (and actually hear, because they have the confidence to let people scrutinse them) the process play out like this:
Ref to VAR: “I think I saw the defender play the ball and he didn’t make contact with the attacker”.
VAR to ref: “no ref, the defender didn’t play the ball and did make illegal contact wit the attacker’s ankle”.
Ref to VAR: : “OK, so I should award the penalty?”.
VAR to ref: “absolutely not, ABU, am i right? Just joking, you should give a penalty…”
Penalty awarded after a ten second conversation where the ref trusts the rest of his team to do their jobs. No need to waste time checking monitors.
They don’t have the confidence to do that in the PL (though i think they are doing it at the club world cup). I suspect it’s for two reasons:
1) because the refs aren’t confident they know the laws well enough and will be called out: and
2) because i suspect that the logical process I’ve set out above (“I won’t award a penalty because I belive I saw the defender play the ball”, etc.) Isn’t what happened last night – last night, the ref’s decision was probably based on “well, it was a foul, but a minor one, and do I really have the stomach to award a pen against the home team who are 1-0 down this late in the game, when they were otherwise playing pretty well….”
Which is a very human response, but not the conclusion the refereeing team should’ve reached!
But look, United let Palace back into that game, so it’s hard to feel too aggrieved – ten Hag has done great work with this team but they’re still a work in progress!
Given what happened on Wednesday night, can we please put the ridiculous Howard Webb conspiracy theories to bed!
It’s not perfect, it’s Palace
Two games for Crystal Palace this week against Chelsea and Manchester United didn’t exactly give fans lots of reasons for hope this week, likely as they were to be the first two games of a winterlong winless run. However, beyond the results, there was plenty of expectation that the team would put in good performances.
*Matt Woosnam wrote for the Athletic that Patrick Vieira’s biggest problem is that he can’t get his three best attacking players – Eberechi Eze, Michael Olise and Wilfried Zaha – into the team at the same time, in his preferred 4-3-3 formation, without leaving the team a bit light in the defensive aspects of their midfield. Cheick Doucoure was signed to be a one-man defensive midfielder but he has struggled when his teammates have left him exposed. Against the Pensioners, he was lucky not to be sent off for committing too many fouls, many of which were the result of having to cover for poorly positioned teammates.
We don’t expect things to be perfect, because we’re Palace, and we don’t expect every decision to be spot on. However, it is entirely reasonable to expect a manager to know when his preferred strategy isn’t working, to know how to change things so the situation improves, and to learn from mistakes. Thankfully, Vieira did change his formation for this game, helping Doucoure by lining up in a 4-2-3-1 with Will Hughes next to him. Generally speaking, it worked. Manchester United were held at bay for long periods; half their attempts at goal came from outside the area and their only one to beat Vicente Guaita came from the only time their intelligent movement drew Doucoure and Hughes out of position, leaving Bruno Fernandes with the freedom of Selhurst Park to pick his spot.
*Another notable selection was Chris Richards, making his first Premier League start. He had a good game – only his centre-back partner Marc Guehi and Olise had a better Whoscored rating than him among his teammates. Richards has had a few injury setbacks since arriving in the summer, and his return to fitness is well-timed for two reasons: first, Joachim Andersen is now injured and will miss three weeks; second, Richards was signed as a versatile defender who could play anywhere along the defensive line, filling in capably anywhere but also, if Vieira does want to embrace tactical flexibility, someone who is comfortable as a back three.
Richards’s other involvement was something that shows just how far through the looking glass we’ve come: a 50-50 penalty decision that somehow didn’t go Manchester United’s way. It would have been harsh on Palace, but at the same time I see why Manchester United fans would be disappointed the decision went against them.
*Overall, the Eagles turned up to the game ready to play and kept fighting throughout. Maybe it’s a legacy of Vieira’s playing career, when the rivalry between Manchester United and the Arsenal was at its fiercest (in part because of him), but there was much more grit and determination than there has been in several recent games. They defended well from the front, too: only Casemiro made more tackles in the match than Odsonne Edouard, as Palace tried to balance a counterattacking approach with not sitting too deep.
*Speaking of Casemiro, there was a lot of talk after the match about his yellow card, his fifth of the season that will mean he misses their game against the Arsenal. I think this misses the point: he led with his studs, he made contact with Zaha’s knee (clearly using the bandage as a target), he makes a scissoring motion with his legs, and it is in no way a genuine attempt to win the ball, only to stop an opponent by foul means. All of this meets the description of a red card, and it’s incredible that neither the referee nor the VAR thought the same. The only thing missing was that Casemiro didn’t go on to score.
*Olise’s free kick was a thing of beauty. Curled into the top corner from out wide giving David de Gea no chance, and in off the crossbar. Absolutely magnificent.
*In reply to Will Ford’s article, I don’t think Manchester United are suddenly more likeable nowadays. Their fans still expect to win the league every year and get overly upset when they don’t. Then there’s the refusal to acknowledge that their deification of Eric Cantona, a man who boycotted the World Cup on moral grounds but appears in advertisements for Sports Direct, is tainted by the incident they celebrate being directly responsible for the death of an innocent man at the hands of Manchester United supporters exacting “revenge for Eric”.
What I would say in favour of Manchester United is that they appear to be moving away from treating their supporters as Veruca Salts in constant need of appeasement with shiny new signings. What has set them apart from Liverpool and Manchester City is that those two clubs have signed top quality players and worked with them to make sure they can play well in the existing setup, whereas Manchester United have been sending expensive players onto the field and assuming that because they were expensive, they were finished articles and therefore should already be good enough. This is possibly Palace bias showing through but the obvious difference is the recent upturn in form for Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Last night he was tremendous and he suddenly looks like a player ready to meet Manchester United’s expectations, possibly because he has actually been coached properly this season by Erik ten Hag and his assistants, in the way he would have been from his very first day at either Liverpool or Manchester City.
*Next up for Crystal Palace they host a team who probably enjoyed the effect of last night’s results on their own top four aspirations, Newcastle United. Eddie Howe’s teams have a mixed record against Palace, but while everything suggests they are the favourites to win, the Eagles could really make them work for it.
The power of Stewie
We have already had quite a few people respond to Stewie Griffin’s latest missive so I feel this might be considered redundant by the esteemed editor of the mailbox, but even as someone who isn’t an Arsenal fan (and in truth doesn’t even like the club although I do hope they win the title over City) I was annoyed by his email.
For starters, his argument revolves around a straw-man. He repeatedly mentioned that Arsenal fans are already celebrating the title and organizing the bus parade. We know he reads the mailbox (and presumably follows discussions on social media) so he must know that this is absolutely false.Arsenal fans are delighted with the fact that they are leading the table and looking far better than they have looked in years. I don’t think I have seen a single one saying Arsenal has basically won the trophy. The fact that Stewie’s argument revolves around that lie tells me that he isn’t writing in good faith.
It’s also really bizarre to write in with a list of problem areas for Arsenal regarding their thin squad as if he is some kind of visionary yet he is basically regurgitating arguments that I have seen other Arsenal fans make in the mailbox multiple times. Again- we know he reads the mailbox. Why would he pretend as if his analysis of risk areas is somehow new or overlooked? And which club other than Manchester City can say they have a squad that has a lot of depth in all positions?
Lastly, the idea that Arsenal being 8 points clear halfway through the season can be summarized as ‘exceeding the very low bar that Wenger had implemented for years’ also tells you everything you need to know about the validity of his analysis. The fact that Arsenal being in this incredible position can be summarized so dismissively says a lot about Stewie. And I know that if Arsenal do win the title Stewie will shift the goalposts- can they win it again? What about the champions league? He will try desperately to find an angle that will keep him from looking foolish.
So now Stewie has Liverpool fans like me writing in to defend Arsenal. That’s the power of the unity of the anti-Stewie club.
Turiyo Damascene, Kigali, Rwanda
Danny Ings hitting 3 clubs with Claret and Blue. Bargain price for West Ham.
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