After yesterday afternoon’s little break (blame the internet overlords), keep those mails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org…
Some bold season predictions
So we’re (finally) coming up on the start of the season, with the community shield this weekend followed by the league next weekend. With that in mind, I think now is as good a time as any to make some bold predictions that can be used as tools of ridicule come the end of the season!
1. An English team to win the Champions League.
Barca are losing Neymar and have been in a slight decline recently. Bayern aren’t looking as unstoppable as a few years ago. Juve have lost Bonucci and are having trouble landing their primary targets this year. PSG, even with Neymar, are still a bit short I feel. Madrid are still amazing but they’re statistically unlikely to win three in a row. I think this leaves the English teams with their best chance in years. If United kick on in Jose’s second season they could have a chance if draws are kind to them. If the ridiculous amount of talent in Pep’s City lives up to it’s potential I could see them winning several trophies this year, including the CL. Although, on the other hand….
2. Pep or Klopp to be gone by the end of the season.
Klopp has done great work with Liverpool so far and is an extremely likeable man, but I get the impression that he seems to be slightly annoyed at the difficulty of kicking on to that next level. He had three “these or nothing” signings picked out at the start of the summer, of which they almost certainly won’t get what I think is the best of them (Keita). Salah didn’t do well last time in the league with Chelsea, and although he’s definitely a much better player now I feel there’s still some question marks over him. If they do end up signing Van Dijk I think they’ll do well this year, but if not I could see Liverpool dropping out of the top four and Klopp resigning in a fit of fury come February.
Although I just tipped City as potential CL winners, I don’t think it’s too crazy if they were to struggle a bit instead. They have half a new backline, and a small yet extremely skilful side. If they don’t end up gelling, and if the physicality of the league catches up to them they might start find themselves between 6th and 3rd, with Pep coming under increasing pressure considering the money he’s spent. Like Klopp, I think he’d have to jump rather than be pushed.
What about the rest of you. Any out there expectations for the coming season?
Dave (cue the egg on my face next May when Liverpool win the league and City the champions league…) London
Matic isn’t *just* a signing for Pogba
Ander and Nemanja
There is literally no debate to be had about Matic: his transfer is a no-lose situation for United.
His price being lower than any of Dier/Fabinho/Bakayako has been written about, as has his being settled in the PL, as well as Matic already knowing what Mourinho demands of him. Even the fans don’t have to come up with a new chant! His age and consequent resale value (or lack there of) are not factors for fans to worry about! There is enough money to buy 3 more DM’s next summer if need be. Matic is essentially a free-pass for at least two years. An upgrade on Fellaini, he’s going to be expected to do just enough to transition Carrick out of the first team and then see if a younger DM is needed. He’s also going to ascertain Herrera (should he stay forever) is going to play the best football of his life.
Make no mistake, Matic is not a signing just to benefit Pogba (because that’s apparently the new barometer to judge United’s signings). Ander Herrera has spent the last two seasons being United’s ‘dirty man’ while also covering for Carrick’s lack of pace and Fellaini being Fellaini. Now, Herrera can finally establish himself as the best box-to-box midfielder in the PL, because he’s finally got a partner who is a ‘dirty man’ by trade, and he knows his trade quite well. In one or two seasons, Herrera will truly and totally earn his reputation as United’s on-field-captain. Pogba gonna Pogba but Herrera can now play with a freedom he hasn’t been afforded yet. There is no chance we’ve seen the best of the Spaniard yet and this signing will be a massive contributing factor towards said ‘best chance’.
Now, I truly don’t know why Schneiderlin couldn’t have done what Matic will*, but Schneiderlin was not the best defensive midfielder in the league within the last 3 years, and isn’t as likely (as Matic) to be the best one for the upcoming year. That said, there was a time when Fellaini was hailed as Ferguson’s prospective midfield general, so there is the thought that the professionals know this part of the job better than us.
So there you go. There is no reason to insist that Matic’s ability is permanently lost and the fans needn’t worry about the $$$ involved or how many years a signing can give to a club. United needed to sign a player for a certain position and they signed, literally, one of the best options the PL offered. That’s literally just that.
Liverpool were sodding brilliant vs Bayern
Well that was entertaining. With the exception of Karius trying to dummy the ball into his own net and Sturridge injuring his <tick appropriate box>, that was a near perfect performance for 90 minutes.
I know it’s only pre-season, but Bayern went for a physical and competitive game of football and were simply outmaneuvered and outplayed.
Mane, Firmino & Salah getting fed by Coutinho is exactly as good as we hoped it could be.
Hats off to Moreno for an outstanding attacking display. I’m beginning to think he’s actually an aggressive winger disguised as a confused left-back.
But the standout moment for me was young TAA putting in a pitch-perfect tackle on Franck Ribery by the touchline and sending him on his arse in the process. He looked up at Trent fuming and the kid just strolled past him. Boom. He will be a great player for Liverpool.
A couple more signings still required, but bring on Saturday 12th!
ShaneO’ (Definitely Our Year), Ireland
Gutted for him, and hope it isn’t serious
Daniel Sturridge. Just…I mean…what’s the point now?
The new season is back!
Things I haven’t missed this summer: Chris Sutton’s Hyperbole-olllocks.
He has called Sunderland football club a cesspit as a footballer Is filmed having a mindless rant. Which is effectively Suttons occupation.
The exceptions to boring kit templates
I don’t think anyone has an even remotely interesting home kit this season. Manufacturers seem reluctant to do anything fun with them, and reserve all their ideas for away strips. I’d say the best four, in order, are:
1. Man Utd away – that funky pattern has cult classic written all over it, if only it was for a German minnow rather than the all conquering commercial behemoth.
2. Swansea away – another cool, albeit more subtle pattern. That green/red combo is the nuts, like a reverse Mexico.
3. Arsenal away – dat fade.
4. Liverpool away – I’m not sure how much I like the whole kit together, but I can’t help but be drawn to a quarters shirt.
All those shirts have some sort of pattern and pretty standard round collars. That’s the template for kit designers to follow.
Ross, AFC London
How I chose my team from Africa
Great to see that the off-season mails are putting Africa back on the discussion table. I have travelled to 12 African countries, always hunting down places to watch soccer on weekends on my travels, so have seen as many games in luxury hotels as I have seen in villages. There are many factors to consider on why a certain club is popular in any African country, but my opinion will be based on personal experiences. It all comes down to what sort of connection/attachment one has to a club. like anywhere in the world really.
Born in Zimbabwe, living in South Africa, I’ve supported Arsenal since 1995. I followed Blackburn Rovers briefly, not just because they were champions, but you could literally pick up pen and paper, write a letter to Blackburn Rovers in Ewood Park and receive an official club magazine, which was absolute GOLD back then. Also flirted with Coventry (Peter Ndlovu) and Liverpool (Bruce Grobelaar) and Arsenal (uncle studied in London and ended up supporting Arsenal, so he told stories upon his return). But I finally settled for Arsenal as a 10-year old because of one reason – Dennis Bergkamp. Never had I seen a player move with so much grace and pull the strings with such artistry – I was bewildered and hypnotised into supporting the Gunners.
The Liverpool influence was also because my father, who was 50 around then and a strong Liverpool fan. The person who really pushed me to follow football the most was my father’s friend, a Spurs fan – he’s followed Spurs since the 60’s and knows almost every Spurs player from their double-winning season (before the internet mind you). I have two friends who are die-hard Newcastle fans, but most of my circle supports the marketing behemoth that is Manchester United – who had their fair share of pre-season tours in Africa a few years back. And surprise surprise 90% of Chelsea and 99% of City fans are post-Abramovich.
Some follow a club because they relate to a single player, so I can see why one mail mentioned some people followed Arsenal because Wenger gave African players a chance. I vividly remember a day when Wenger’s starting XI had only black players in the outfield – Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole, Vieira, Gilberto, Pennant (?) Wiltord, Kanu, Henry (Seaman was the white goalkeeper I think). And although I was an Arsenal fan already, that had an impression on me. I imagine a lot of Barca fans in Cameroon would follow clubs because of Eto’o, Ivory Coast (Drogba), Ghana (Essien, Gyan) and the likes.
But this discussion would also have to consider the effect of the DSTV/Supersport (biggest broadcaster of live games across the continent) bias towards English football. Also consider historical factors, language differences across countries, pre-season tours to Africa (expect a lot of Everton fans in Tanzania soon) etc.
Hope more African fans can share their stories too.
Lee, Durban (South Africa)
Now that Ian Cathro has been sacked by Hearts (after being dumped out of the League Cup by some part-timers), will John Nicholson be re-visiting this classic article he wrote back in December, just after Cathro was appointed? ‘Scottish football losing its sh*t over a laptop guru’.
We need a new phrase
Re Gary Vance’s mail on Tuesday. If “Scouse Maths” exists for a particular logic used by Liverpool fans, what is the appropriate term for the logic United fans use wherein they judge the future success, efficacy, fear factor and potency of their own team in line with how much abuse fans of other clubs are giving them?