Who are the Irreplaceables? Start with De Gea and Van Dijk…

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You can’t cock this up, Ed
If Ed Woodward manages to monumentally f*ck up the David De Gea contract negotiations then United fans should by law be legally allowed to drag the man through Manchester tied to the back of a bus for gross negligence.

In the grand scheme of things what Dave is asking for is a drop in the ocean of United’s monstrous finances, give him what he wants and give it him for the next five years minimum.

On a different note Ander Herrera should be made United captain, he just gets the club and the fans and will give his all every game. Looking forward to watching us again which is a nice feeling, I stuck up for Jose as he was our manager but the man made it hard to defend him on numerous occasions, onwards and upwards with the baby faced assassin.
Paul Murphy, Manchester (Prediction 3rd in the League and a Cup)


You’re irreplaceable…
Couldn’t agree more about De Gea. That man can write his own cheques. He’s been world class when all around him haven’t. He’s been iconic.

It got me thinking – who else should get an instant ‘yes’ no matter the amount of money they ask for.

Kane? I’m not sure. Strikers come and go.

Hazard? Nah, I’m not sure he’s proved any loyalty – he’s always had a foot in Madrid.

Salah? See above regarding strikers.

The only name I could come up with was Virgil Van Dijk. The guy has changed Liverpool. Salah and co are the latest goalscorers in a team with a history of goalscorers. But Virgil has brought back the 80’s Liverpool defence. Tough. Fast. And priceless.

I can’t think of a Man City player that they couldn’t replace but throwing some cash around.

Who am I missing? Is there an XI of priceless players?
Jonno McSchmonno


Callum Wilson worth same as Van Dijk?
Reading this about Bournemouth wanting 75 million pounds (spelling it out so your brain doesn’t explode from the shock if you’ve not heard), I just had to say to myself “and people thought that was too much for Van Dijk!”

Speaking of, Van Dijk is so good he’s making me lessen my “death to all who bear ye” stance on the man-bun.
Justin Murtaugh


Blaming Brexit
I see a lot of pundits and commentators remarking that there has not been a lot happening in the January transfer market. Despite Sky’s best efforts to hype the thing, the biggest move to date has been Dominic Solanke’s transfer to Bournemouth.

Its almost as if there is a potentially history-altering event about to happen that will restrict movement of people and trade, affect tax rates, remove the league from a common market, destabilise further an already crumbling government and potentially break up the United Kingdom, meaning its not exactly an attractive destination to uproot your family and come and work.

Or, with fees like £75mil for Callum Wilson, £35mil for Callum Hudson-Odoi, £100mil for Ruben Neves, £50mil for Gonzalo Higuain being floated about then maybe Fergie was right all those years ago and there really is no value in the January market.

Spare a thought for Portugal

If anybody ever thinks that the Premier League is predictable with its ‘Big 6’, cast a glance over to Portugal:

The top four in the league currently consists of Porto, Benfica, Braga & Sporting, which will almost certainly be the case at the end of the season too.

Their league cup semi-finals consists of the same four teams, and currently it looks very much like their domestic cup semi-finals will too consist of those four! (Sporting play Feirense tonight, looking to complete the set)

Further to that, only Belenenses in 1946 & Boavista in 2001 have EVER taken the title from the big three of Benfica, Porto & Sporting in its 85 year history!

The domestic cup has been shared around a little more, but Benfica have won seven of the eleven league cups played to date (incidentally, Porto are yet to win it and face Benfica a week today in the semis).
Vinny Flynn


Moyes: Not incompetent
I generally agreed with the gist of Jarron MUFC’s latest mail regarding the United Way (no, not the charity.) However, the one bone I have to pick with him was his declaration that Moyes was an “incompetent” manager. After watching Moyes at my Everton for the better part of ten years, I can safely say that Moyes was not incompetent. He may have been dour in his play, even pragmatic at times (all the time?), especially against the teams above us, or persisting with certain players who weren’t helping in breaking that glass ceiling, but he was most certainly not incompetent.

The only reason I could think that Jarron believes Moyes was incompetent was that he felt he should have done more with the reigning league champions than he had (or was given time to.) While he didn’t do what many United supporters felt he should have done (retain the title,) that doesn’t make him incompetent. And let’s just be perfectly honest here. It didn’t matter who United got in after Ferguson, they weren’t repeating as champions. I think Chelsea has since proved as recently at 2014-15 that because you win the league one year doesn’t mean you will be winning it the next year. Other teams strengthen or make changes in an effort to win. This has been going on since the dawn of football. For all his faults, very few people have accused Mourinho as being incompetent because he didn’t retain the title with Chelsea back then.

If you want to point at managers who are not good at doing their jobs, then look no further than Big Sam and his thankfully short reign at Everton.
TX Bill (glad to see Lookman getting a game) EFC


An ode to David Wagner
The word ‘crisis’ seems to get bandied around an awful lot these days. Apparently two defeats in a row for a Big Club constitutes a crisis – what a world we live in!

I vividly remember a season not all that long ago (early 2000’s), where my club went into a new season in a spot of bother. Newly relegated to the fourth tier, administration, scarcely able to field a team of eleven and with part of our our 7-8 contracted players’ wages coming from the contents of collection buckets at games. Watching from afar as the High Court came perilously close to liquidating my club. Those were the days, my friend.

Fast-forward to the tail-end of 2015, and things were much better. Nevertheless, we were treading water in the Championship, the football was a bit rubbish, and we didn’t really have an identity – there’s only so many times you can hark on about what we did in the 20’s. But at least we had a club.

But then…something remarkable happened. Well, several things, at about the same time – a perfect storm, if you will. The club addressed a long-standing concern amongst supporters, that giving up the stand with the best acoustics to a disproportionately high number of away fans wasn’t doing us any favours on a match-day. Ticket prices and policies – such as penalising walk-ups in a half-empty stadium – were starting to grate.

So, the club re-jigged the stadium, set ticket prices at a level that were lower, even, than some non-league clubs, and supporters’ groups stepped in to ramp-up the atmosphere. Most importantly, though, the club hired some virtually-unknown, inexperienced, slightly eccentric German chap as what was – remarkably – our first ever foreign manager.

David Wagner happened.

In 3 1/2 remarkable years, the transformation was incredible. Talk about luck all you like. Talk about negative goal differences all you like. He took what was a League One club-in-waiting to the top-tier in just over a season – and then ruddy well kept us up. Although I’ve always been a bit non-plussed about the Premier League, I’d always quite fancied a season in it – and thanks to that wonderful German, I’ve been given two. I genuinely don’t think you can overstate the job he did – not once (the unlikeliest of promotions) but twice (defying the pundits who’d tipped us to fall short of Derby’s “record” of 11 points).

Things are a bit grim now, I admit. I don’t want to sound like a martyr, but despite being a season-ticket holder, having missed the Fulham game in November because of family commitments, I still haven’t see us win at home since April. Earlier, though, I brought up the early 2000’s for a reason – perspective. If, as expected, this part of the journey ends in relegation – I still wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It’s been bloody brilliant.

I get why he’s gone – although I’m absolutely gutted. He’s looked a shadow of himself recently. But he leaves Huddersfield as their best manager in my lifetime – probably in the top three of all time.

Onwards and downwards. But then upwards. Possibly, but it’s been a blast.
Lukas, Huddersfield Town


Where Arsenal are heading now…
As a PSG fan who suffered two years of Emery as the head coach of my team, I thought I would give my word about his position at Arsenal.

Not so long ago, a writer in this very mailbox wrote an fine mail about what a good manager is and the importance of the “right man, right time, right team” factor for success.

If we look at his managerial career, what stand out is the three Europa league with FC Sevilla, fine. But what about his league performances:

Valancia, four years from 2008 to 2012, league finish: 6th, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd back on the days when La Liga was a two horse race (Atleti not being the powerhouse it is now).

Half a year in Moscow where he get fired after a 11 defeat from 26 games in a league where he was supposed to play for the title

Sevilla, three years from 2013 to 2016, league finish: 5th, 5th, 6th

PSG, two years from 2016 to 2018, league finish: 2nd (!!!), 1st

So what’s the pattern here ? When coaching an underdog team with no superstar, (Valancia, Sevilla), he over-performs. The three Europa Leagues being the highlight.

When expectations are high (Spartak, Paris), he’s not quite up to the level. He somehow managed to NOT win the league with PSG. As brilliant as the Monaco team was that year, it’s still a massive failure.

As Spence said it in yesterday’s mailbox, he was totally overflown by the egos at PSG. Basically the Thiagos (Motta and Silva) were running the team. He started the season trying to implement his then favorite 4-2-3-1 formation with quick forward transition (you may call that counter-attack and may say that it’s mostly and underdog scheme and you would not be totally wrong) until Silva told him that the team is more used to 4-3-3 so he gave up and played as Silva asked.

The guy has no idea how to play as the dominant side. He just let the Thiagos run his predecessor’s (Laurent Blanc) tactics. When in position of favorite, he exhale fear and don’t know how to react. The CL tie against Barcelona is a two game summary of his career. First leg, underdog, nobody thought Paris could go through: 4-0 victory. Second leg, clear cut favourite, the team was slaughtered with Emery unable to stop the bleeding.

Now the question is, where does Arsenal sit right now compared to the rest of the league ?

Financially (I have not much insight here), I would say 5th or 6th level with Tottenham and far behind the big four.

Roster wise, I would say 6th. On their own league. So far behind the rest of big six (face it Arsenal fans, it’s a big Five now) and still quite ahead of Everton, Wolves or Leicester.

So I guess it’s all about expectation from the Arsenal fans now.

What’s the plan ? Try to get back to the big six? Then you need to invest massively in players that can compete with the big boys. Outside of Auba (and maybe Laca but mostly because Chelsea have no striker), I don’t think any of your players would get in the starting 11 of any of the big five. And for this job, I’m pretty sure Emery is not the right man.

Or is it to consolidate your position as the “best of the rest”, try to make a coup from times to times and compete for silverware through cups (domestic or Europa League) ? That may be a little difficult to accept from fans of a team so accustomed to being top dogs. But face it. Now, with that team and that president, it’s the best you can hope for. And for that job Emery is probably your man.

But maybe I’m all wrong. From a big six with four CL places, two teams had to be in crisis whatsoever. United and Arsenal this year, maybe City and Liverpool next year. And Arsenal will be back in the top four.

But from what I’ve seen from Emery’s career so far, it will probably be without him.
Alex (still wish Arsenal the best in memory of Vieira and Henry) Paris

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