Liverpool have blown their one big chance…

Get it off your chest in the afternoon Mailbox – email…

That was Liverpool’s opportunity
As a Man United fan, I say this with heavy heart, but I think it’s the truth: after perhaps Leicester, Liverpool have just played the greatest ever Premier League season. I’m not talking whole season here mind – obviously the Treble tops that – purely the Premier League. And the fact that they didn’t win it is scandalous.

Now obviously it’s a bit weird me saying this. They finished second. Therefore surely the team that finished above them had the better season? Not the way I look at it.

Man City are a team of such extraordinary, unprecedented, strength, that to get 95+ points represents “par” for them. They did it last season, and the odds are they’ll do it next season too. This is their level, and as such represents “normal” performance for them. The reason it’s normal, and doesn’t really capture the imagination, is because they’ve assembled the greatest ever squad in the history of club football – essentially being able to field two different XIs capable of winning the Premier League. This makes them relatively “immune” to fatigue and injuries (there was an F365 article that covered how many less minutes on average their players have played compared to Liverpool’s), and is a key reason why they have been able to set a new standard in the league. They aren’t the first brilliant team we’ve seen (brilliant though they are) – but they *are* the first brilliant team with perfect cover for almost every position.

Liverpool on the other hand, whilst having a brilliant team, have a normally balanced squad – just like other top teams of the past. Their strength in depth is good, but normal. This means they are vulnerable to injuries and fatigue. Therefore, the fact that they’ve achieved this points total is completely unprecedented in the modern game. They aren’t performing to “par”. They’ve absolutely maxed out their potential. You could play this season 100 times more and whilst City would get similar (or higher) points most of the time, Liverpool would probably never repeat this.

They may have finished on similar totals, but City cruised there, whilst Liverpool battled.

For this reason, I would have to disagree with claims that Liverpool will now compete every year. I simply cannot see them getting this many points again, and would expect them to drop back to their normal level next season which is probably around 85 points (still comfortably the second best in the league, and normally title contenders, but miles off City).

One day, when FFP bites, or the Sheikh gets bored, or they make a terrible managerial appointment, City will drop a level. The question is whether that will happen whilst Klopp, and this great team, are still together.

I somewhat doubt it, and thus think that Liverpool’s chance – for now at least – may well have gone. Commiserations to an absolutely fantastic team. At least you’ve got the CL… and can laugh at United ?


Thrill of the chase
Long time reader, first time Mailbox submitter. Love the content, keep up the good work F365! For my first mail I wanted to touch on a subject that the F365 team have noted and, especially in light of Liverpool’s second place, I have personally experienced this weekend/season.

Firstly, congratulations to City. Your team were worthy champions, your second half of the season, in particular, was incredible (54 points out of 57!) and winning 14 in a row to finish with the title was exceptional.

Liverpool may have finished second and, judging from a lot of commenters / tweeters since then, some people (I’m guessing mainly Utd and Chelsea fans) clearly see that as a huge failure, that Liverpool somehow “choked” or “bottled” it (they didn’t, as 2.53 points/game since losing at the Ethiad demonstrates (vs. a season p/g of 2.55)) and that coming second in itself is pointless, “first loser” etc. I find this view of this title race (as well as football and sport more generally) extremely short-sighted. Anyone who views sport through such a narrow prism of winning being the sole purpose doesn’t, in my opinion, really get sport. Winning is important, very important, but I don’t agree with Vince Lombardi that it is “the only thing”.

The journey is equally important: the great performances, the wonderful goals; the scrappy wins; the lucky draws; bouncing back from defeat; failing to win winnable games; mid-week European football; the constant league position changes (until the final game); the anticipation before the big games; the joy/dejection after them; that moment immediately after an important goal (e.g. Origi vs. Everton or Newcastle) when the sheer euphoria of the moment overtakes your entire body and, for those few seconds, every hair on your neck is stood up and you’re hugging family / friends / total strangers. The journey is extremely important, it gives sport its meaning, it shapes the end result and leaves memories that will last a lifetime.

And what a journey this season has been. Thank you Jurgen and every single player for giving me memories that will last far beyond the disappointment of finishing second. The journey in the premier league is over (until next season) but we’ve one last destination on the way this season…


Dirty cash
The New York Times seems to think that UEFA will soon be advised to ban Man City from the Champions League as punishment for financial doping and false accounting.

I wonder if UEFA have the balls to follow through with this and whether ultimately, when they don’t, or when they try and Man City fight them in court over it and win, if that will mean the end for FFP. Ultimately this is a huge summer for UEFA where their marquee policy regarding checks and balance may be proved to be a farce. If they prove it’s totally toothless then it becomes largely irrelevant almost instantly.

That said, if UEFA are successful, would the FA follow suit and levy a punishment of their own? And what form might that take? I vaguely recall 10 point deductions for clubs that enter administration; would financial impropriety be met with the same? Or would it be a tiny fine just so they appear to have done their job without rocking the boat?

Finally, Man City’s finances are clearly farcical and all the money they have is really coming from their owners not their commercial activities. Would the punishment be ongoing until they got their house properly in order or will it be a one time thing then freeing them up to carry on falsifying sponsorship deals so they can keep spending freely? If it’s the former then how could City feasibly continue to spend in the way they have done up to now? How could they even continue paying the wages of their stars given they don’t generate the money legitimately to strictly cover any of it?

Also…if Man City get a champions league ban, and Arsenal win the Europa League…do Man Utd get Man City’s Champions league spot?
Minty, LFC


…Saying that “City have a deeper squad than most teams in Europe” is like saying “The US spends more on weapons than most countries in the world.” You really soft peddle the hows and the whys. Plus, “most” usually means “not all.” Please tell me a team in Europe that has more depth than City. Guardiola should be praised for his accomplishment, but let’s be honest, his benefactors have stacked the deck in his favor. As someone said in a prior mailbox, the story really is when they don’t win.
Eric Breitman, Spurs, NYC.


Julian Speroni – Manos de dios
After having a shocker on his Selhurst Park debut (caught out trying to skin Kevin Campbell in his own box) Jules lost his spot to the rightly lauded Gabor Kiraly, after several seasons playing understudy he went on to make the number one jersey more than his own and do nothing but superb things for the club and local community throughout the rest of his time in SE25.

The bonita Argentine claims the club record for goalkeeping appearances (405) and clean sheets made (112), holds 4 Player of the Year awards (including 3 in consecutive seasons) and has groomed a number of wonderful hair styles and beard trims throughout his Palace career.

He stuck by the Eagles through spells of mediocrity, a number of questionable gaffers plus a gruelling administration and went on to play a major part in their last destiny changing promotion campaign – every CPFC fan will forever remember his outstanding Play Off stops against Brighton and then Watford. The club’s initial PL campaign would definitely have been a solitary one were it not for his sterling contribution then too.

His achievements and dedication on all fronts are vast and his service to the club and community over such a long period deserve far more credit than can ever be written. That Dundee United fans celebrate his time to them to this day demonstrate his class and that he never got the Argentina call up is a travesty of justice the Football world will sadly rue too little.

Here’s to a true gentleman, dreamboat and quite possibly the most influential and greatest Palace footballer of all time.

Do do do, Julian Speroni.
Matt (welling up) Ring


Don’t blame United’s players
Blaming the players at United for lacking a certain mentality is like saying to someone who grew up in a junkie household its their fault they’re a junkie. It completely disregards the environment’s potential to impact a person. Sure these players are on crazy wages, and while it may make it harder for them to relate to fans on a personal level, it doesnt make them any less human or any less susceptible to their environment.

Neville was right when he said there was a real cultural problem at United. You only have to look at the fact that every single player to join in the last few years has either fallen drastically short of expectation or is struggling/struggled to reach anywhere near their potential. Yes some transfer decisions from above have been poor, but the objective truth is that many of United’s signings only look bad with hindsight. Schneiderlin was a consistent top 5 prem midfielder for 2-3 years prior to joining United. Shaw was in the PFA team of the year and was creating as many waves as Wan Bissaka is currently. Mata was Chelsea’s player of the year across both his full seasons at Chelsea and prior to joining Man Utd. Lukaku was breaking all sorts of goals:age records, topping his personal best for goal return with each successive season, all whilst playing in an average Everton side. All 4 players mentioned above were in the PFA team of the year before they signed for United, all were young, all had promising potential, all were showing good progression. I could easily pick out another 15 of United’s post-Fergie signings and offer similar arguments. The evidence suggests that not only do the problems develop after a player signs, but that they’re present throughout the squad (long and short serving players, variable ages/nationalities/wages/playing positions). We shouldn’t blame the players for failing to thrive in an environment that seemingly discourages it.

No club can sell 20 players and replace them in a window, so who’s to say the 4-5 players we get this summer won’t end up going rotten like nearly all of the most recent 25 additions have. For those blaming Pogba for creating a toxic atmosphere, please get real. Everyone who’s shared a dressing room with him at Juve or France has spoken glowingly of him. The problems were there before he joined and I’m far more inclined to believe he’s fallen victim to the same foul smell stinking out both Old Trafford and whoever dares set foot in it.
Sari (trying to fix manifestations instead of the cause is like someone trying to scoop water out of a sinking boat rather than plugging the holes) MUFC


Ince was right all along
Given how it all ended in tears, do we now collectively owe Paul Ince an apology after mocking his assertion that he, Bruce or Hughes could have ‘done the job’ at Man Utd? Maybe he was on to something after all.



Citeh break
If I see one more mail with ‘City’ replaced by ‘Citeh’ I’m going to jump out of my office window. It’s literally more letters!
Olly, Isle of Man


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Proud of the Prem
Last week, I stated that I felt proud to be English because of the success of the Premier League. To myself and others who feel the same John Nicholson asks ‘How can you be proud of the Premier League unless you support Man City or Liverpool?’

I find the success of the Premier League a source of pride because as Englishmen we endure mockery from the Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Australians and just about any country linked to the British Empire. Some friendly, some fair and much that is neither. In England we don’t celebrate our national day and it’s not even a national holiday. The only means of national pride it seems we can express without international condemnation is sporting success and I celebrate it when I can.

Also are we no longer allowed to take pride in the achievements of others? Is a parent not allowed to feel pride in their child winning a race at school because they didn’t run in it?

Does football tribalism now mean that anything not involving teams we support has to be meaningless to us? Not by a long shot. I am proud of Man City and Liverpool’s achievement because it was beautiful and because I want Arsenal to roll up their sleeves and think ‘challenge excepted’ and then find a way to scales those remarkable heights. I like Ralph Hassenhuttl and wish him well at Southampton.

I am proud of 4 English European finalists because it’s amazing. I even enjoyed watching Spurs beat Ajax (I will burn in Gooner hell for it but don’t care). I am also proud that the league my team plays in is better than the league the Spanish, German & Italian teams play in. I think it’s blooming marvellous because like all things it won’t last forever.

In the 70’s when Liverpool were winning everything and in the 90’s, 00’s and early 10’s when Man U dominated nobody thought it would end but it did.

As Real Madrid and Barcelona won tons of Champions League trophies and Saville won loads of Europa League. Arsenal didn’t cry into their coco pops, no, we nicked their manager!

On Monday 24th October 2004, I bet my last Sherbet Dib Dab with Russel Barker on an Arsenal win. They hadn’t lost in 49 matches how could they lose? Seriously how did they lose? Rooney definitely took a dive! Where was VAR? Refereee!?! I digress but you get the idea. All good things come to an end so enjoy them while they last.

It’s our turn now John Nicholson and I am proud to say that I will savour every minute of it.
Balham Gooner


…In response to John Nicolson article which reads as though he wrote it in the most curmudgeonly of moods.

He says football is supposed to be entertainment, competition and fun…did you even watch the league that has just passed? The title race, the most competitive I have ever witnessed, the other 4 top six teams tripping over themselves has definitely been fun, while some of the football by teams outside of the top six (Watford, Wolves, Everton) has been f*cking entertaining.

How will those team’ success in Europe help Newcastle, Bournemouth and Newcastle? You’re having a bloody laugh! The success and fame of the Prem means Brendan Rogers left Rangers to manage Leicester, means Rafa may just stay at Newcastle and that teams like Everton can attract players like Yeri Mina (from Barcelona), Bernard, Digne. That West Ham can buy players like Filipe Anderson and that Ralph Hassenhutl was happy to take a job at struggling Southampton. Having four teams in the Euro finals have plenty for the teams below them and its disingenuous to intimate otherwise.

Why are we proud? Because its OUR league! We pay enough to watch it, why begrudge us that? Name another league that isn’t a hoover? La Liga (Santander)? I know which mid table teams I would rather watch. I love the league and watch as many games a possible, not just my team.

Finally your points about the Prem constantly marketing itself…mate you sound naive. Name any body or person in the public sphere that isn’t?

It’s ok for you not to be proud John, but plenty of reasons for the rest of us to feel just that.
Daps the Gooner – Norf London


Right on, Brighton?
I’m a resident of Brighton and a huge admirer of Chris Hughton as both a manager and, as far as I can tell, a person. But I’m still not sure I understand Troy Townsend’s point. Is he saying Brighton shouldn’t have sacked Chris Hughton because he’s black? Also, is it really so shocking that Nuno Espirito Santo is now the only black manager in the Premier League? That’s still five percent. Current percentage of the UK population that is black? Three percent. It’s almost as though Troy is trying to find racism where it doesn’t exist.
Matt Pitt


…I’m Irish, a big fan of Chris Hughton (personally and professionally) having met him, granted everyone who meets him says the same thing.

But the reaction to his sacking is over top on a website that continually preaches standing still as going backwards.

Brighton have not kicked on, showed no signs of kicking on, and if this was Mark Hughes, everyone would be screaming for his sacking.

I 100% agree you can’t tear someone down for being in a minority (recent treatment of Sterling was as abhorrent as it was ridiculous) but at the same time you can’t then elevate someone solely for being a minority.

He’s showed himself a capable Championship or lower tier premier league manager but nothing to show he can kick on up the league.

Nobody (ok maybe not nobody but a select few) are begrudging BAMA managers jobs or success but at the same time we agree they shouldn’t lose or not get jobs because of their complexion/ethnicity they shouldn’t keep them solely for the same reason.

To say Chris should have kept his job based on his skin tone is just as bad as saying he shouldn’t be given an opportunity in the first place because of it and it does an incredible disservice to all by insinuating that BAMA managers should make up a token percent of managers as a gesture akin to the Rooney rule.

Football should be a meritocracy with the best and brightest rising to the top, but in this case unfortunately, I think Chris is neither.
Edward Canhands (May have opened a can of worms but)


….What? Are Brighton serious? I thought our (MUFC) was appalling but I am genuinely shocked at that decision. What the hell was he supposed to do!!!
Dave, Manchester


Arsenal deserve some of Spurs’ praise
After 10 years of stagnation under the previously fantastic Wenger we started the new season with a new manager with no experience of the English Premier League and with basically the same set of players not quite up to the mark in the previous season. So how did we do ?
Well we finished one point behind the media’s favourite team and the pundits favourite manager. We would have finished higher had the worst referee in the league been aware of the encroachment rule for penalties.
We reached the final of the Europa Cup not with 96th minute goals or last minute hand ball goals but by soundly beating two top European teams home and away.
We also achieved the Golden Boot and one of our goals has been nominated for Goal of the Season.
So please media and pundits have a bit of perspective and spread the praise around a bit. Many thanks.
Macca, Herts


Sentimentometer Pt 4
So that’s that then……. what a season. Chelsea Utd and Arsenal all trying to play catch up with Liverpool and City, Leicester Wolves and Everton to challenge the big 6 next year?! I wonder what Degsy thinks about Everton finishing 4th ?? Anyway here we go:-

1) Pep – you can say what you want about heartless regimes, ‘dirty money’ and buying the title but Utd have tried to buy the title and look where they are. Normally at the business end of the season teams are tired, injured, struggling to get results, you get the impression City could continue playing until the start of next season. Pep has put together a squad of 18 players who are interchangeable and will go for 5 trophies next season. He tried to do this at Barca but couldn’t quite do it. Give the man credit, he’s upped the profile of the league, plays wonderful football and is even improving England’s chances and future stars.

1) Klopp – joint top seems very reasonable. 97 points and a champions league final to come. Every player, manager, chairman and fan would take that. Wonderful squad, f*%#ing mentality monsters, positive outlook for the next few years. Even without any trophies this season thank you Jurgen.

1) Poch – when a manager holds his arms aloft, looks to the heavens and starts crying after his team scores a last second winner in the semi final of the champions league you have to be happy for him. Guaranteed champions league football again, new stadium sorted. Needs a war chest this summer, no excuses next year for ‘plucky little Spurs’ with their billion pound stadium and multi billion pound owner. It’s a false narrative and something I will write about later in the week.

4) Sarri – unhappy star player, irate fans, questionable respect from his squad, transfer ban, lots of players out of contract this summer, unhappy youth players, finishes 3rd in the league with a europa cup final to look forward to….. no wonder he smokes so much !! A very difficult job, he’s done his best under very difficult circumstances hasn’t he ?!

5) Emery – finally playing Aubameyang and Lacazette (imagine the Scrabble triple word scores with those 2… I know it’s not allowed, let’s not go there again!) up front with Ozil or Mikhitaryan behind. Europa league final to look forward to and a possible route into the champions league. Technically a year ahead of Chelsea and Utd in the rebuilding job, needs funds over the summer.

6) Ole… or Dole perhaps….oh dear what happened there, from world beater to panel beater in 2 months. It’s all been said in the mailbox week in week out. Massive summer ahead, huge.
Ian (6 times please…..) LFC

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