John Giles: There\'s A Line That Shouldn\'t Be Crossed And Jurgen Klopp Has Been Living On The Wrong Side Of It All Season

Mails, mails, mails. Keep them coming to…


Laughable treatment of managers by the media

Laughable suggestions by >Andy, WBA

in the mailbox yesterday. Pep has been in charge of Man City for 11 months because he knew he would be manager back in January? Isn’t it possible that he was focusing on winning his 3rd consecutive double-double with Bayern instead? And there is a huge difference between seeing a game on TV and being with players day-in and day-out. You don’t get to understand motivations, diligence, team-spirit and various other qualitative factors without spending time with people. Likewise, ridiculous by the media to have taken his words and equate them to mean not focussing on defence. All Pep said was that he doesn’t prepare for tackles. That is analogous to a manager saying that his team doesn’t prepare for penalties in a cup game.

I love Klopp. There, I said it. I thought I couldn’t love him more but then he ripped into the Nevilles and I found out that I could. This was pure genius too in my opinion – deflect criticism away from Karius by blaming Neville and questioning his piss poor record as manager. Also make this a Manu-Liverpool rivalry so that Karius gets some “Liverpool pundits’ support”, hopefully from the likes of Carra etc. And most importantly, let your young, still impressionable, talented goalkeeper who may be a little low on confidence at the moment, know that you have his back no matter what.

RV, India


Differing fortunes for Ronaldo and Anderson

On a night where >Cristiano

has won his fourth Ballon d’Or, a former Manchester United team mate was relegated to the second tier of Brazilian football – Anderson. I’ve always felt a degree of sympathy for Anderson and I’ve always wanted him to succeed, but sadly, I’m not convinced Anderson wanted it as much as the fans did.

For his faults (real or imagined), no one can deny that Cristiano is a hugely talented footballer who has forced his way to the top of world football through hard work and dedication. Former teammates tell of a young player that would stay behind for hours, practising free-kicks. He hardly drinks according to interviews and he keeps himself in great shape. He seems like a model athlete. Compare this to Anderson, who always looked to be carrying a couple of kilos extra, had a couple of late night car accidents and seemed to be in it more for the party lifestyle than the glory, and I think there is most of the reason for the difference in fortunes that they are facing today. Anderson, for all his undoubted talent – I remember games where he absolutely bossed Fabregas – he didn’t have the drive to be the best he could be, and that is a huge shame not just for him, but for all footballers that he had an opportunity most people would die for and squandered it.

Hopefully, if there is any positive that will come out of this, it’s that Anderson will be an example to all academy players: “If you’re born with limited talent, but are dedicated and professional you could be like Gary Neville. If you’re born with amazing talent, and are dedicated and professional you can be like Cristiano or Ibrahimovic. If you’re born with talent, but don’t give a fig, you could end up like Anderson (or Cassano).”

Daniel (GNev was a world class right back though), Cambridge


And Ronaldo’s a nice bloke, too

Another lovely piece, but I feel you may have missed an opportunity to paint him in a much more sympathetic light. Recently he has donated a lot of money to various people and causes. There was the request for a signed shirt to auction for a young cancer sufferer – he paid all the medical bills.

At the highest level of sport, there is “white line fever” (not like that!) – an example of this is ex South African quick Andre Nel; off the field he is apparently as nice a person as you could ever hope to meet, but on the pitch is a different matter. He bocomes a creation called “Gunter” and all he wants to do is bowl quick and hurt the opposition.

Ronaldo may well be like this, an invention on the pitch, a decent, kind and caring human being off it. And a truly incredible footballer.



A Liverpool fan not happy with Carragher

Liverpool fan here who is disappointed by >Carragher in this tiff with Karius


He should remember his own first few seasons with Liverpool. He was not the rock most people remember until 2004/2005 when Rafa Benitez arrived. I am sure he would not have appreciated such public criticism and disrespect from a Liverpool legend like Hansen or Souness etc. when he was a young defender in and out of the Liverpool backline and scoring own goals for fun. With all that in mind he should cut him some slack.

And it’s a bit hypocritical for him to tell Karius to shut up and do his job when we can all remember him calling into a radio phone in and offering to fight the host who had criticised him for retiring from England (as a reminder he retired because he thought he should be picked ahead of Ledley King FFS).

Another thing that annoys me is how quickly Carragher and Neville (among others) have taken to bashing Karrius. Yet an English player like Stones, who plays in Carragher and Neville’s position of expertise no less, who is in his 4th season as a Premier League player and has been making the same mistakes in each season goes unquestioned by either of them, or any other English pundit. On Saturday’s MOTD Ian Wright was even blaming Kolarov for Stones back pass assist to Vardy!!

I’m not sure why I’m still surprised by the fact pundits ignore everything wrong about English players but drag foreign players to hell. Last weekend Dele Alli did the worst dive of the year and yet it was practically forgotten by Monday. Imagine if that had been “stealing a living” Ozil??? We’d still be hearing about it, in fact Robbie Savage and the others would have had heart attacks!!

CW, Gloucester


A bonus midweek ‘games to watch’

Crystal Palace–Manchester United – A cup final rematch, and Nijinsky probably won’t be dancing this time. The most alarming thing about the 3-3 with Hull City was how poor Joe Ledley was; Palace will need him to do the dirty work in midfield. With Jason Puncheon suspended, a lot will ride on Yohan Cabaye, unless Lee Chung-Yong gets a chance to impress. On the other side, Antonio Valencia has to sit as well, so I’m guessing Matteo Darmian will play right back and either Daley Blind or Marcos Rojo left. Even Andros Townsend might get some mileage out of Darmian, but the big show will be the very-much-in-form Wilfried Zaha against whoever’s on the other side. This will be a huge test for Zaha, more mental than physical: he’ll really want to show his stuff, but has been known to flop when he tries too hard. Anthony Martial might very well outdo Zaha if he gets to go against one of Palace’s several ordinary right-backs.

Stats: Zlatan Ibrahimovic has intercepted nine passes this year, best in the league among out-and-out strikers. Christian Benteke has intercepted one.

West Ham United-Burnley – Resistible force meets movable object in potentially the weirdest game of the round. For all West Ham’s troubles, they’ve recently recorded draws at Anfield and Old Trafford, and nearly pulled off a win at White Hart Lane. So Burnley, notoriously poor away from home, should be easy prey. But the Hammers have rarely looked convincing, and particularly not at the London Stadium. (The stat that shows this best: away they’re seventh in team tackles, but at home they’re dead last by a very long way.) The big tactical question will be whether Sean Dyche goes 4-5-1 or 4-4-2. The latter had its moments at Stoke a couple of weeks ago, with André Gray finally finding his feet. On the other hand, the former might be best to exploit West Ham’s weak central midfield. Either way, Andy Carroll might finally be ready to start, and the aerial battles with Michael Keane and Ben Mee should be worth watching.

Stats: Last year Michail Antonio was 25th in the league in dribbles per game; this year he’s fifth. By a large margin, Burnley are last in the league in dribbles attempted, at 4.5 per game.

Bournemouth-Leicester City – Home advantage, bl**dy hell. Bournemouth can beat Liverpool one week and lose to Burnley the next, Leicester can lose to Sunderland one week and beat Manchester City the next. But here the visitors might have a tactical edge, with Bournemouth as vulnerable to the counterattack as Man City. Danny Drinkwater is back just in time to spring Jamie Vardy. Expect to see Shinji Okazaki as well, and festive-period rotation might bring more pace at some point with Demarai Gray, Ahmed Musa, or Jeffrey Schlupp. Jack Wilshere will be back for the Cherries, who will have the extra man in midfield. Of course it’s not OK to classify people by skin color, but can we make an exception for Ryan Fraser and call him the Little White Bull? (Younger generations, check YouTube and wonder what we were thinking in 1959.) Let’s hope to see Fraser up against Luis Hernández, deputising for the suspended Danny Simpson.

Stats: Bournemouth have engaged in fewer aerial duels than any other team except Spurs. For Leicester, Robert Huth’s aerial success has dropped from 63% last year to only 50% this year.

Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA


Mkhitaryan was always going to take time to settle

Henrikh Mkhitaryan put in another top class display against Spurs as Man United finally won a game at Old Trafford on Sunday and kept them in the race for the top four. Mkhitaryan is starting to look every bit the star many expected him to be.

His pace and directness have massively improved this Man United side and Mourinho said after the game that the Armenian has now crossed the line to becoming the type of player Jose expects him to be.

Many saw Mkhitaryan’s difficult first few months in England as further evidence of Joses disintegrating man management skills , although for many that have followed his career it was no major surprise. Mkhitaryan is by most accounts quite a complex character whose confidence can be fragile at times. Even at Dortmund he struggled in his first couple of seasons , he still played regularly and played well for that matter but Jurgen Klopp could not quite get him to raise his game to the level that his potential merited.

Only when Thomas Tuchel took over at the Westfalenstadion did Dortmund start to see the best of Mkhitaryan , with him notching up the quite ridiculous stats of 53 goals and assists in 52 games. Tuchel worked closely with the Armenian to maximise his talents , although the work carried out was purely mental as the talent was always there , it was the removal of certain mental blocks that resulted in Mkhitaryan having the season his life last year. Tuchel gave Mkhitaryan a book named ” The inner game of Tennis – The classic guide to the mental side of peak performance ,” which Mkhitaryan claims helped him massively.

Therefore , it was quite logical that the hugely talented Mkhitaryan would take time to adjust to such a elite club as Manchester United. United fans will be relieved that the injury that forced him off yesterday does not seem to be serious , as if the American can maintain his current form he will go onto have a fantastic United career and all the negativity of a rocky first few months will soon be forgotten.

Pedro Luxembourg


Spelling Mkhitaryan: A pundit’s guide

Since it now appears that he is actually going to feature in the Premier League, I thought I’d offer my own memory aid for the spelling of ‘Mkhitaryan’, which I’ve seen prove useful with some fellow armchair pundits. There are two parts…

Mk: As in M.K. Dons 4 – 0 Manchester United. The first of many blunders for LVG’s United. It would have either been a laugh or a low for you, but you should recall it with ease.

Hit-a-ryan: Man United, Liverpool, Celtic, Rangers, West Ham, Millwall, Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers. No matter who your club is or where your allegiances lie, we are all united by the fact that at some point in our lives, we all would have liked to hit a Ryan.

Mk hit-a-ryan.

Could have been worse, Jakub Blaszczykowski also left Borussia Dortmund during the Summer but remained in Germany with Wolfsburg. The Premier League dodged a genuine spell check bullet right there.  

Chris, Man United (No harm to ‘Ryan’, he’s generally sound but just a bit too wild at times) Ireland


A really good one on government intervention with the FA

I’m just not sure where I stand with this call for the Government to intervene in the running of the FA. For one thing, don’t FIFA tend to ban teams from International competition when governments interfere with national bodies?

There’s a lot not to like about the way the FA is run at the moment with one of the longest running gripes being the cronyism and lack of diversity at the very top of the game. I was surprised to read Wenger’s comments on this with him saying that the FA should be run by (proper?) football people. Surely Wenger is enlightened enough to understand that people with experience external to football have a great deal to offer the game? I remember a young Frenchman came over from Japan 20 years ago and changed the way people approached football in many ways (ok it’s still within football but you get the point), so it’s strange that Wenger should take this view. But, if Greg Dyke is right and 80% of the council are white men over 60, there’s no shock in a white man over 60 backing the status quo.

On the same theme it is surely the case that women’s football is severely under represented at the top level. This is clearly not just the FA’s problem when the biggest football club in the land doesn’t even have a women’s team (hardly a surprise given the board and present manager who has a history of misogynist behaviour). However, the FA need to be at the forefront of promoting women’s involvement in football at all levels and at the moment I believe they’re missing a trick. If nothing else, the growth of the women’s game is another way to grow revenue.

According to reports, the FA pays tens of millions of pounds to the Premier League every season. This makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever, especially considering the Premier League now has its own revenue somewhere in the billions. The FA’s money needs to be spent on grassroots football and initiatives aimed at getting more people to play the game, not used to top up the already exorbitant wages of people who are already stinking rich. If anything the Premier League needs to be contributing more to the rest of the game. As the Premier League is making so much money however, I can’t see anyone in Government keen on changing this (Jeremy Corbyn maybe?). The Premier League is supposed to sit under the FA not circle above it like a vulture over a carcass.

Reform is obviously required but as I said at the start I’m not convinced that government intervention is the way to go. For one thing the government (and previous governments) have shown a complete inability to run anything particularly well. Though the Olympics itself went spectacularly well, it was over budget and opinions about its legacy range from mixed to extremely negative. It’s hard to see how the Government would have made less of a shambles with Wembley when you consider how many homeless people there are on the streets of our cities. And at least 48% of us think Brexit is a complete fuck up brought on by one man’s incompetence.

Also, any government committee running football is going to be full of MPs treating it as a PR exercise. In a slightly bleaker scenario MPs could use it to practice ideological policies (one does wonder what austerity would do to the Premier League). Besides, when it comes to it do we really want our Civi Service sorting outing football when they’ve got more pressing matters to tend to like the aforementioned omnishambles that is Brexit?

Another problem is that if the Government intervenes with the English FA, what does that mean for the FAs of other British nations? Do they get interfered with by Westminster or the devolved governments? How is the average (idiot) English fan going to feel if a Scot gets a vote on something that affects the England football team?

Perhaps the man we need here is Prince William. Already the president of the FA perhaps now is the time for him to actually do something. Alright he’s still a white man (and as posh as it’s possible to be) but he’s educated and young and seemingly quite popular. His brother seems to have done a good job with the Invictus games so he could come in too. They both seem like quite forward think people so I see them being quite good at increasing the diversity of the game. What better way for the future King to connect with his subjects than by reforming the national sport? Plus they like poppies and that so they’re bound to be popular.

The subjects… er supporters have to be given representation on any future FA board. It feels like English football is moving away from it’s working class roots. Which is probably because it is. Having some sort of voice should help bridge that gap though it’s not going to be enough on its own.

Well there you have it – my incoherent ramblings on whether or not the Government should reform the FA. I think the basic gist of it is no the Government shouldn’t but somebody must. And I was only half joking about the Prince.

Ashley (I’ll probably regret this in ten years when Aston Villa have won three straight titles) Metcalfe


Some football guarantees

Read the >Monday afternoon mailbox

and was intrigued by the “sure as death and taxes, Arsenal will face Bayern in the Champions League” part of one particular mail. Here are other things I consider just as sure as death and taxes in football as of December 2016:

  1. Shane Long chewing while playing football. He even chews during training. Do his jaws never get tired? Is it a method of getting over a smoking habit we don’t know about?
  2. Arsene Wenger turning to his famous sleeping bag coat when Arsenal are having a difficult match on a cold evening.
  3. Wenger somehow being unable to operate the coat zip despite years of wearing jackets, jeans and other attire involving a zip.
  4. Harry Kane adopting a scarily blank look in the tunnel prior to kickoff. Seriously, watch him during the next game. He will stand behind Lloris and have this look on him that makes him look either literally brainless or someone planning a series of gruesome murders.
  5. > Ander Herrera

    reacting with a surprised look every time he fouls someone then acting like he has been aggrieved every time he flops to the turf after another non-foul.
  6. Conte celebrating a winning goal like it was the World Cup final and the goal was the best ever scored.
  7. Phil Neville saying that he “just doesn’t understand” how an English player is not starting for Club X even when there are obvious better alternatives for the manager concerned.

Greg Tric, Nairobi


It’s all going to be OK

For what it’s worth, I’ve just entered the year 2034 in Football Manager 2016 and Ian Cathro has just been given the Arsenal job.

So from one laptop guru to another, good luck.

Fred (I’ve also won the league 11 times with Stoke) M

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