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England need an injury
Gareth Southgate is in desperate need of a face-saving niggle which would allow him to reverse his mistake and get Lallana back in the squad.

Also, ‘16 Conclusions‘ felt a bit weird. Like it was just ‘this is the squad because this is the squad’ repeated 16 times, seemingly in order to bat away the slightest critique in the squad.

Shelvey, Lascelles, Lallana, even Tarkowski and Mawson are all genuine shouts whose absence should at least stimulate debate. You can’t just say ‘well if they were good enough they’d be in the squad and/or playing for a top 6 team’.

Overall not the worst squad selection (although it is the worst squad in my lifetime) and Trent is a nice pick, but the treatment of Lascelles and Shelvey has done nothing to dispel the company man reputation Gareth has.
Aaron, Croydon.

 

More squad thoughts
Solid effort Gareth. A-. I know what people say about opinions so you’ll never please everyone. However you’ve got to applaud the fact Southgate’s employing a plan. I don’t mean a plan like predecessors – pick the 23 players with the highest media profile, then shoehorn 11 into a random formation to accommodate the superstar(s) in the team.

He’s looked at those struggling for fitness (Wilshire, Lallana) – gone.

Those in poor form or not playing (Joe Hart, Smalling), you’re out.

He’s selected a squad that contains tactically flexible players (not the most technically gifted admittedly) that can play a system or two (Delph, Dier, TAA, Welbeck) depending on the opposition.

Most importantly, no Jake Livermore. The only anomaly for me is Gary Cahill who hasn’t figured a lot, and when he has he’s been culpable for several mistakes. Let’s put that one down to his ‘experience’(!?).

Personally, I’d have taken a little risk on Sessegnon or Lookman over Welback … but I can see TAA is probably enough risk for Gaz.

All hail the man with a plan. (It might not work, but at least it looks like he’s got one).
David Moore

 

Well, that’s the squad we’re going with. I see absolutely no reason why those players can’t stumble out of the group stages and be eliminated at the first knockout game, so we’re on target. In all seriousness, it’s about as good as could be expected with some of the players ruled out through injury, though I’m not sure about a few of those call-ups.

I totally agree with the ‘keeper selections, they pretty much are the best we have right now. Joe Hart would have offered absolutely nothing good as third choice, so better to bring the actually in-form ‘keepers.

Defence is a worry for me. Three right-backs (no matter how they’re being used), one specialist and two converted midfielders on the left, and Gary “Outfield Joe Hart” Cahill. That list doesn’t inspire me with much confidence. I am glad that Alexander-Arnold has got a call-up though, I just question whether we really needed Trippier as well. Bertrand not even being on standby is a surprise.

Central midfield seems really light to me. Henderson and Dier were always going, which is fine, and Loftus-Cheek being in there is a positive, but there’s not much depth in the squad. I’m guessing Delph will also be backup midfield, which is ok I guess but it just feels like we should be able to do better. Oxlade-Chamberlain will be a miss, as surprising as that fact may be.

Further forward it just seems a bit confusing. How has Welbeck got in, really? If you’re taking winger-cum-strikers then surely Rashford would have been enough. And are we playing with width, or not? I can’t tell. I’m just not sure how that list of players fit into a balanced formation that gets the best out of them. Sterling, Alli/Lingard, Welbeck/Rashford/Young behind Kane or Vardy? Again, it feels like we should have been able to do better.

It seems like Southgate has hedged his bets a little, taking too many versatile players and not enough who are clearly the best in one particular position. Though I wholeheartedly agree that Hart, Wilshere and Lallana should miss out on the 23. I would personally have gone with Bertrand over Rose, Cook over Delph, and I would have been half-tempted to go for Sessegnon over Welbeck, just for the wildcard factor.
Ted, Manchester

 

A couple of tweaks
To be honest the squad is pretty much as good as it gets although seems very full back heavy with Walker, Trippier, Alexander-Arnold, Young, Rose and Delph.

My only tweaks would be Trippier out for Lallana – there’s enough cover at full back and Lallana could be a good impact sub

Cahill for Lascelles or Tarkowski – Cahill isn’t and shouldn’t be first choice so it would have been good to let someone for the next campaign to travel

Welbeck for a leftfield exciting youngster like Sessegnon or Bailey – four strikers when chances are we will play 1 up top is too many, having a young fearless dribbler to come on in desperate times could be handy
Ryan, Whitehaven

 

Standby for disappointment
The standby list for the England squad is one of the worst things I have ever seen in my life…

Regards
James R

 

 

Hart not heart
Kudos to Mediawatch for yet again cutting through the bullsh*t that is modern football journalism. Here I think Hart’s reaction has completely vindicated why Southgate thought he wouldn’t make a good No3. Instead of backing the two starters and pushing them to succeed, Hart would try and undermine them through leaked stories to regain his place. Completely agree that he needs to focus on his own deficiencies rather than blame Moyes – whose job was to ensure West Ham didn’t get relegated.

Nick Pope, would not have reacted in such a way, no man who plays for a Sean Dyche team has an agenda other than the team’s goal. Likewise, Pope is used to having to bide his time given his career rising through the non-league, football league and then warming the Burnley bench. Finally, a grounded individual like that is a much better dressing room/hotel base camp presence than an inflated ego like Hart.

I think Hart is more likely to be in the MLS next season than England team and we are all the better for it.

Hoping the rest of the squad is as sensible and bold.
Joe, Midlands (prepared for dissappointment)

 

Taking the Mikel
I was surprised there were no mails this morning about the strengthening rumours of Mikel Arteta coming in to manage at Arsenal. This may be typical of Arsenal fans and their (my) blind faith but I am actually slowly becoming rather excited about the idea.

Arteta worked very closely with the younger players and was very involved in the strategic side of play when he was a player there. So he knows a lot about our infrastructure and ethos. He won’t cost as much as Allegri (although I am sad about not getting him) but with the new management team being built it could (could)just work out beautifully.

Mislintat, Sanllehi and Burgess are names we are starting to hear about. It sounds to me like a clever way forward, the forming of a team with specific roles that would suit the introduction of a clever, hungry and attacking manager like Arteta. I can’t believe that the Arsenal board will make an appointment like Arteta lightly. He may be accompanied by Santi Cazorla as well, which sound like an inspired idea!

Quite frankly, life is too short and hiring safety could be too boring and equally at risk of backfiring. Why not take a risk and change something in football? Wenger did that when he revolutionised the Premier League, after all. Who’s to say we can’t do that again?
JazGooner

 

A happy Hammer
I wrote in a while ago about Moyes. I said it wouldn’t work out for him. He got a few results but his record was not as great as he’d like you to believe. 8 wins in 26 games. We got lucky that everyone else was so bloody terrible below us.

Since they took over Gold, Sullivan and Brady have gone through 5 of the 16 permanent managers in West Ham’s history (31% of our managers) – not bad in 8 years. Every year they spout the usual mantras of seeking “high calibre” and the club seeking an “exciting future”. An exciting present would be good. Is there any reason we are in such a shambles when we have a net spend of £7m and spent the best part of £12m on a striker who has played 28 minutes and was bought in case we were relegated. We wasted £16m on Hernandez and then appointed a manager who hates him.

We have a sham of a stadium, an extremely poor recruitment process, no assets, a board more bothered about their own PR and personal reputations than the good of the club. They haven’t yet paid off the £100m in debt in loans that Gold and Sullivan are earning huge sums of interest on and no doubt they will have a personal interest in the numerous flats being built on the site of our old home.

The businesses left behind are dying – Nathan’s has shut and no doubt the pubs we all frequented are going. The walk to the new stadium from Stratford is through a shopping centre that would clearly prefer us not to be darkening their doors and keeping away their customers.

The Board got all close and loving with the ICF to avoid the march against them that was organised. The “Lady’s” Sun column is used to slag off other clubs (Leicester) and the fans (“keyboard warriors and malcontents”). She crows about what a great deal she did by getting the stadium (2 seasons in and still no branded stadium name like they hoped – the reason for the change from “Olympic” to the stupefying “London”) yet there is still temporary scaffolding, empty seats, fans wearing other team’s shirts in the home seats. She puts this down to the poor terms of the lease – which she’s spent the last few years claiming was a fantastic deal for the club and the fans and all down to her amazing negotiating skills. The Mayor of London is looking at taking it back over so that’s our sweet deal scuppered and will be re-written. The move was fantastic – for three bank accounts. Messrs Gold’s, Sullivan’s and the “Lady’s”.
AndytheGine.

 

Worst transfer campaign ever?
Has another club ever had a more disastrous campaign, from a transfers perspective, than Chelsea had this season?

Before the season starts, we sell Matic to Man Utd for £40m.  He goes on to be a key player as they finish second. Only De Gea plays more Premier League minutes for Utd than Matic’s 3,119 minutes. He will also (most probably) lift the FA Cup.

Oh yeah, let’s also loan out Chalobah and Loftus-Cheek for good measure.

Ah, but don’t worry, we’ll replace Matic with Bakayoko and Drinkwater for a combined £70m! Between the two of them they rack up just 2,648 minutes, with Bakayoko bizarrely starting 24 league games, despite being consistently poor. Kante is forced to carry the midfield by himself and it turns out that, contrary to popular wisdom, he is not like having two midfielders – he is like having just one very good midfielder.

We also sell Costa – the best striker we’ve had since Drogba – and bring in Morata as a replacement for the same fee. We all know how that went, while Costa helped Atletico to a top 4 finish and (most probably) a Europa League trophy.

We sign Zappacosta for £23m.  He is a bit like Moses but slightly worse.  I guess that’s what we were missing…?

Rudiger for £30m divides opinion though I think he has turned out OK – but is he better than Ake, sold to Bournemouth for £20m?

Anyway, thank God for the January transfer window where we can rectify some of these mistakes! Specifically:
– Sign Giroud for £15m.  Seems a decent deal on the face of it, but he’s rusty and only manages an underwhelming 3 league goals. At the same time, we loan out red-hot Batshuayi, who chips in with 7 league goals for Dortmund, which incidentally helps them qualify for the CL by the skin of their teeth.
– Sign Emerson for £18m, who is a bit like Zappacosta but left-footed. We then continue to play Alonso whenever he is available.
– Sign Barkley, who is still completely crocked and would be available for free in the summer, for £15m. He starts 2 Premier League games: a 3-0 loss to Bournemouth and a 3-0 loss to Newcastle.

Can anyone beat that?
James Bruschini

 

Meh
As a United fan I am used to seeing the club linked with every player under the sun, and Gareth Bale once every half an hour throughout the summer, but this year I am completely unenthused by the transfer window. I usually get curious about who we might bring in, excited when a rumour becomes a bit more concrete and then properly happy when we confirm a signing but it matters not a jot who we sign this year. We could buy Salah, De Bruyne, Bale, Ronaldo and Neymar and Jose would ruin every single one of them.

A Chelsea supporting friend of mine reckoned that Mourinho had become a parody of his own bitterness, raging against all those who doubted him and prepared to cut off his nose to spite his face, purely to try to prove people wrong, I used to disagree. Used to. This is exactly where I think Jose is heading, showing that his pragmatism of parking the bus away against title rivals while scraping 1-0 victories for the rest of the season brings results. It does, Jose, I agree but it’s mind-numbingly tedious to go through it, year after year. Look at the players United have who have shown some flair, some guile, even if sporadically over the last couple of seasons. Rashford – shackled by a lack of support and supply and often left on the bench, Martial – reduced to bench warming, Mata – used lots but expected to supply all the flair himself. It’s no coincidence that the players Jose prefers are solid, dependable, no-nonsense and that is why he’ll always buy a Lukaku over a Morata (even if that looks to be the right decision) – power against guile. The top PL players for Jose this season, in terms of minutes, are: De Gea, Matic, Lukaku, Valencia, Smalling, Young, Pogba, Jones and then Mata.

My fear is that firstly Mourinho will continue to buy older, no-nonsense players over quicker, younger less reliable types and that will lead to more slow, predictable football, which can only lead me to one, horribly obvious conclusion. We’re going to keep Fellaini. At the start of 2017/18 we were thumping teams 4-0 regularly, then Jose reverted to type, forced the players to do things his way and we’ve been awful ever since. I really don’t want another year of this but I’m certain that’s what we will get, so I don’t care who we buy, I’m off to watch some paint dry in preparation for next season.

Cheers,
Paul, Man Utd

 

Life swap
So after hearing about Big Sam being sacked, and Moyes leaving West Ham, anyone think Moyesy back to Everton is appropriate?

He didn’t have to spend much money to succeed when he was there for 11 years and always had a good relationship with the Board and Chairman at the club.

And lets face it, he was pretty much used as a scapegoat at United, although it is now obvious United was just too big a job for him and that he couldn’t handle some pedigree of players.

I am just saying, it ain’t the worst idea in the world.
Rami, London

 

Fly on the wall
What I would have given to have been a fly on the wall for Allardyce’s conversation with Moshiri this morning.

I imagine it went like this:

“Hi Sam, just to start by apologising for how you found ou…”

“THIS IS A DISGRACE TO MYSELF AND ENGLISH MANAGERS EVERYWHERE”

“Yes, well this was a decision about what’s best for the futur….”

“HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST THAT US BRITS ARE INFERIOR. DON’T YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?”

“Well, yes, and really this is more about moving Everton forw….”

“YOU’RE IN ON THIS CONSPIRACY AREN’T YOU, YOU AND ALL THESE MODERN OWNERS MAKING US EXILES IN OUR OWN LAND”

“Look, if we can just be reasona…”

“IF I HAD GRAY AND KEYSEY HERE WITH ME, AND A PINT OF WINE IN MY HAND…”

Sigh “Security….”
Tom, (that Ndiaye pun has made my day) Walthamstow

 

Huddersfield season review
Am I too late to submit one of those “season reviews”? It’s for a team outside the top six, so I hope you’ll indulge me. It’s for odds-beating, pre-season prediction defying, Paul “Gonzo” Merson’s new favourite team – Huddersfield Town.

Without further ado:

Signing of the Season. Jonas Lössl. Twice. It’s an effective, relatively low-risk strategy – take a player who, for whatever reason, has struggled at his previous club on a season’s loan along with an option to buy – even going so far as to agree a price beforehand. The pleasing thing is that he agreed to sign permanently before we were assured of safety, when he’s proved that he can cut it at this level. Prone to mistakes, for sure (if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be playing for us), but some of those saves – most recently at Chelsea – have been breathtaking. Special mention for Zanka, who for the price of Managala’s left elbow, was an absolute steal. The fact that he bought everyone* a pint – a sure-fire way to a Yorkshireman’s heart – did him no harm.

Worst signing of the season. It’s been such a great season, and we’ve been so effective in the transfer market since Wagner came in, that I’m a little reluctant to pick one. If pushed I guess I’d have to say Ince, but I still think he’ll come good. Or at least, a little less frustrating to watch.

Breakthrough Season. Wagner. It’s easy to overlook just how little managerial experience he actually has in club management, and yet these last two seasons have already elevated him to the status of one of our greatest ever managers. Yes, even ahead of Neil Warnock.

Game of the Season. I’m undecided, I’m greedy, and this is my mail – so I’m going to pick four. In chronological order; beating Manchester United at home was fantastic – it was the first time we’d played them since the 1970’s, let alone beaten them. Bournemouth at home was exhilarating, by far our best attacking performance at home all season. (Speaking of whom – I’ve seen us play them in three divisions now, and not one game has been dull.) Finally, our late-season draws at Manchester City and Chelsea respectively. Backs-to-the-wall stuff, of that there was no doubt – but whatever criticism might come our way for our style of play in those two games (it wasn’t actually like that away from home the rest of the season, by the way – as some of the scorelines show), we assured our own safety in the most difficult of fixtures, without going to the last day relying on others.

Worst game of the season. There were a few, but that was only to be expected. However at the time, away to Stoke was a real six-pointer against a team who couldn’t buy a win – and we blew it.

Goal of the season. Aesthetically and technically, you’d have to say van la Parra at home to West Brom. However – and you can blame the recency effect if you want – I have to go for Depoitre’s goal at Chelsea last week.

Moment of the season – There are a few, but for me it has to be Ince’s injury-time winner at home to Watford. The celebrations afterwards are something that will stay long in the memory. Not that I remember much of them.

Worst moment of the Season. Easy to say this now, but I genuinely believed we’d stay up before – and for the vast majority of – the season. Walking away from the ground after the heavy home defeat to West Ham, though, my confidence took the biggest battering of the season, and I almost gave up hope we’d stay up.

Player of the Season – Hands down, Schindler. An absolute colossus. Honourable mention, though; 70% of the planet is covered by water… and the other 30% is covered by Jonathan Hogg. Is Livermore really a better option for England in the Summer?!
Lukas

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