Mails: Europa final, Mbappe, N’Gog, diving, Adams, Exeter

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Dirty Sanchez
Does your photo man want to give Alexis a dirty Sanchez? Every time I’ve opened your site this week I’ve been greeted by him, sweaty and half-naked, like I’ve taken a wrong turn to Men’s Fitness.

Yours in disgust,
Olivier Giroud

The Europa final
Good question in the mailbox on the Europa final.  There is of course no such thing as a neutral, and I don’t suppose United fans care one jot if anyone wants them to win, but as a fan of a non-Premier League team I’ll have a go at answering the question.

It’s a tricky one though.  In general, I want the English teams to do well in Europe.  Since Manchester United became a lot less good at doing winning over the last few years they’ve become a lot more likable, and their fans mostly quite pragmatic about their reduced circumstances.  They have more likeable players than I can remember for a while which helps (point lost for selling Welbeck though).  But, and it’s a pretty big old but at that, Mourinho is the manager.  Football fans rarely agree on much, but on a sliding scale of likeability I’d guess most fans would place Jose somewhere between ‘a bit of an arse’ and ‘Sepp Blatter’, so I’m torn between a general goodwill towards the English team and generally not liking Mourinho much.  In an ideal world, here’s how the match will play out.

United go 3-0 down due to horrific tactical decisions made by Mourinho. He stays in the dressing room at half time, unable to cope with the looming presence of failure and spends the second half painting ‘Chris Smalling is out to get me’ over and over on the dressing room walls. Rooney appoints himself player-manager.  United go on the attack and get back to 3-3 thanks to 2 goals from Rashford and one that goes in off Phil Jones’s back as he’s falling over.  Rooney brings himself on for the last 5 mins and scores the winner from 30 yards out to ensure that the mailbox has content in the off season, and nice man Carrick gets a late 5th to ensure a full set of club medals for the best/worst midfielder of his generation.

Fingers crossed!
Jeremy Aves

 

In response to Tim from London’s question, and as a Liverpool fan, I am surprisingly conflicted as to whether I want United to beat Ajax in the Europa League Final.

Normally the answer would be a resounding no, as I don’t want them to win anything, ever.

However, taking the longer term view, I want Mourinho to be in charge for as long as possible, so that he can continue his fine job of destroying them from the inside like a particularly surly Trojan horse.

So the question becomes, if they don’t win, will he get sacked?  If the answer is no, then i want them to get beaten like an old drum.  If the answer is yes, then I think i want them to win.  Which feels wrong, but you have to speculate to accumulate…
Paul, London Red and Schadenfreude specialist

Ending the night with David N’Gog
Surely Premier league clubs must realise that there is no point in approaching or bidding for Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe.

Like a night out on the pull, you (Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea etc) do all the hard yards, buying drinks, getting some laughs……to the point where you think you have almost clinched it when some suave bastard (Real or Barca) strolls in, glances over, gives a sultry wink and a slight beckoning of the head and you are left standing at the bar looking like a prize knobend for even attempting to play out of your league.

And so it ends, and by 3am instead of taking Kylian Mbappe home you are seen skulking off with  David N’Gog.
John, Brisbane

More on diving
On the face of it the news that the FA has approved retrospective bans for diving would appear to be a good thing. However, I can’t shake the feeling that it will lead to some very odd situations.

There will, not doubt, be more guidance further down the line but as things stand there is significant risk of inconsistency.

· Scenario A (call it the ‘Rashford’ scenario)- player dives and wins a penalty. The review panel agrees it was a dive and the player is given a two match ban.

· Scenario B (call it the ‘Lucas’ scenario)- player dives and the ref spots it. This would only be a yellow card. That is quite a difference. Can a Scenario A player jump up and admit the dive if it is in a meaningless Premier League (aren’t they all meaningless?) match and the League Cup final is coming up?

· Scenario C (call if the ‘every player under the sun’ scenario)- player exaggerates contact massively/ invents contact and wins a non-descript free-kick in their own half. Is the review panel going to trawl through every match and every free kick to find the countless examples of diving and feigning injury and apply two game bans to all? Or is it just penalties?

The feigning injury bit is interesting as well. To my mind this has got out of hand. Every game sees examples of players going down clutching their shins and writhing about in pain. It is odd how the same contact when they are given offside, or even score, results in no ill effect. My own personal hatred is for the player who commits a bookable offence and then rolls around like he has been shot, only to look amazed when the ref patiently waits for him to stop pissing about and books him. Commentators go for this every time (‘he looks like he has hurt himself making that challenge’). It would be good if they called them out on it (‘well, he knows he is going to be booked there so he is rolling around pretending to be injured, I don’t see the physio coming out for this one’).

However, despite being out of hand I just cannot see this being clamped down on. The FA are not going to trawl though the matches to stop players feigning injury and apply two game bans. I can see this being 2017/18’s version of the no-swearing-at-the-ref rule. It will last three weeks and be quietly forgotten about.
Micki Attridge

To Paul, London who essentially thinks the new diving rule is a bad idea because it means we will be out-cheated in Europe.

I just cannot get on board with this way of thinking.  It’s perpetuating the idea of “if you can’t beat them, join them” which is a terrible lesson.

It will be interesting to see how it’s implemented (if at all; this season was supposed to be the one where referees starting stamping out the corner wrestling).  Also, having ex-managers and players on the 3-man panel that make the decision opens the possibility for bias.

But, I am all for it.  It’s not often I believe the FA are deserving of praise but I think this is one such time.

Anyway, as Brits, being eliminated from Europe because of cheating gives us an excuse for one almighty session of complaining which we all love.
BlueLuke

Pathways to the top
It’s been interesting to read about the highly-rated England U17s this week and particularly the apparent consensus that their pathways towards the top are being blocked by the strength of modern Premier League squads. Big Weekend was explicit about this, talking about how promising young players were having their appetite for the game “eroded away” by lower league loans.

But why is that necessarily the case? England’s lower leagues are well-supported and many of its teams are well run and have considerable resources. It’s not clear why developing their game in these divisions should be an obstacle to later success, and in the last England squad only Marcus Rashford had never been temporarily on the books of a club in a weaker division. I’m an Ipswich Town fan and to me Championship football seems to give quality young players (like Tom Lawrence for us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD0-zyMlaFE) plentiful opportunities to excel, improve and demonstrate enough ability to progress their careers.

That few of England’s 2014 U17 winners have yet made it as top level footballers mainly reflects the unlikelihood of transitioning from excellent youth to adult star. In fact, of the 144 players at that tournament, just 3 (Ruben Neves, Benjamin Henrichs and Renato Sanches) are now more than fringe players for their parent clubs. That 12 of the 18 players in that England U17 squad have been replaced in their age group (now U20) by other players whose pathways to Premier League starting spots are equally “blocked” probably tells us it was ultimately their quality as adult footballers that was inadequate, not their opportunities.

Best wishes,
Jack Saunders

 

Easy, Tony
While Arsene Wenger is not be the best defensive coach in the game, Tony Adams shouldn’t really be running his mouth considering the predicament he finds himself in.

In 6 games as manager – in which I assume he had control over the defensive coaching – his team have faced 108 shots (18 per game), 41 (6.8) on target, and conceded 15 (2.5) goals.

In the 8 games Arsenal have played since Adams became Granada manager, Arsenal have faced 100 shots (12.5 per game), 32 (4) on target, and conceded 8 (1) goals. (All data from WhoScored.com)

I know stats don’t mean everything on these hallowed pages, and I do have better things (ok, maybe not) to be doing, but it doesn’t scream defensive solidity from Adams, does it?
Néill, Ireland

 

Just stop the clock
Hi everybody;

First time mailer, long time lurker!

I have a quick question which may have been discussed before. Why not just stop the clock when the ball goes out of play?

I think this makes sense from many different points of view:

1) It would surely cut out time wasting (Of all forms…especially the throw-in classic of: “Hmmm….will I throw it to him? No…What about…no….maybe…hmm…I’ll leave it for my left back to jog 40 yards to take it.”)

2) The fans are actually getting value for their money. Well…as much value as £40+ can get you, depending on the team you support. Stats put together by opta (Granted from the 2010-11 season in the PL) showed that the average length of actual play time is somewhere between 50-60 minutes. That’s a lot of game-time we’re losing out on.

3) Finally; it removes any accusation of bias from opposing team supporters. The game starts at zero and finishes at 90 (Obviously half-time is still there.)

The main drawback would be that the teams with smaller squads will not be able to compete as much; seeing as how the games could go on for hours. But screw it…while we’re changing the rules, throw in a forth sub too!

What do we think?
Paul Bartley (Really hope Cesc is at Milan next season), Dublin

 

Odd things for a Friday afternoon
The end of the season is rapidly approaching which brings up all sorts of odd stories from across Europe…

· John Bostock won player of the year for Ligue 2 (which is sponsored by Dominoes, I found that odd in its own right). Things never worked out for Bostock following the controversy around his move from Palace to Spurs but he took himself off around the world and is now doing well in France.

· Juventus have now won three successive doubles in Italy. Not odd as such but a sign that the Champions League has skewed things to such an extent that a European Super League cannot be far off. Bayern have won their fifth successive title, Juventus their sixth. Three clubs have shared the last 16 titles in Italy, three clubs have shared the last 12 in Spain and Champions League semi-finalists Monaco have just bought PSG’s four season streak in France to an end. Only the Premier League retains any real sense of uncertainty at the top and we have only had five winners in the last 22 years.

· Iago Aspas is the fourth highest scorer in La Liga this season. He has scored more than Antoine Griezmann, Gareth Bale and Neymar.

· Lee Trundle came out of retirement to play in Welsh Football League Division Two for Llanelli Town and scored 42 goals in 20 league games at the age of 40.

· Dinamo Zagreb will not win the Croatian League title. After 11 in a row they are currently five behind Rijeka with two games to play. More amazingly Lincoln Red Imps are in second in Gibraltar after winning the last 14 titles in a row.
Micki Attridge

The pleasures of supporting four teams
Just a shout-out to Exeter City, who completed arguably (and feel free to suggest other contenders) the greatest two-legged victory in the history of mankind last night. 3-1 up in the first leg in Carlisle, they were pegged back to draw the game 3-3. In the home leg last night the Grecians were 2-0 up with ten minutes to go, conceded twice including on one 90 minutes, but still won it with a 90+5th minute goal. So many changes of momentum – amazing. The best play-off I’ve seen since Exeter, in fact, turned a 3-1 aggregate deficit (as I remember) round against local rivals Torquay to win 4-1 on the night and 5-3 overall.

Joining Exeter (my best mate’s team and thus now one of four teams I follow) in the land of happy (for now) stripers are Brighton (my adopted hometown), Sheffield United (my actual hometown, and great to see Wednesday lose in comically tight fashion), and non-stripers Manchester United (my original team thanks to a school-friend recommending them when I was 9) who have already completed one rather brilliant cup final and might squeak a less exciting 1-0 on Wednesday. Overall, it’s been a great season.
Dan, (why are there so many crazy bendy-legged mid-air gymnastic scissor-kick goals this season?) Brighton

A wild Exeter fan appears
Exeter City capped off a remarkable feat last night – from bottom of the league in November to powering our way to the play-off final in an 11 goal thriller over two legs. We have never been a team with a lot of money, having been saved from the brink of extinction in the early 2000s by the Supporters’ Trust. This hardship has instilled a perseverance and conviction throughout the club and (almost) all of us are immensely proud of the way our team performs and is operated.

Since the dark days of borderline administration, the club has developed a fantastic youth academy – producing Premier League exports such as George Friend, Jamie Mackie, and Matt Grimes (not household names, I will admit) – that have allowed us to reinvest in the infrastructure of the club and improve the playing squad at the same time. Captaining us last night was academy graduate Jordan Moore-Taylor and two of our three goals were netted by EFL Young Player of the Year Ollie Watkins. Two players who we will do well to keep hold of over the summer. With a new stand being built next year, we are in a position to keep moving onwards and upwards and I am so delighted to see the performances on the pitch now reflecting the strength of everything behind the scenes.

We are not a massive club – we would do well to get to the Championship – but damn it, I am proud of my team continuing to push on by playing good football, sticking with homegrown players, and constantly giving back to the local community as well.

It’s a proud day to be a Grecian. Let’s hope we’ll have more to sing about after our date at Wembley!
Joe

Source: FOOTBALL365

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