Klopp has offered Man Utd a lesson they must learn…

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Don’t pin this on Pogba
I don’ wanna start another Pro/Anti Pogba debate, but not sure how Tim from yesterday’s mailbox can use United losing 2-0 without Pogba as a stick to bash him with and chastise him as a primadonna.

Look how you’ve been playing whilst he’s been injured – to put it bluntly it’s turgid, insipid, bland, lacking ideas, one dimensional – whatever you want to call it.

So he fluttered eyelashes at Madrid – Hazard had been doing it for about 3 years, and Chelsea fans not only tolerated it but wished him well when he left (from what I can gather).

By all means moan about him when he tries to cruyff turn his way out of trouble 30 yards from his own goal, but not when he’s injured FFS.

If I were you, i’d be more red in the face and the cheek of Phil Jones. Just a thought.
Lee (Pogba fan FWIW), LFC


United can learn from Klopp
At the ridiculous FIFA awards, Klopp said in his best coach winning speech that “As a coach you can only be as good as your team is. The potential of your team is one, what they make of it is the other”.

This made me think about the emotional and knee-jerk reactions of my fellow united fans after Sunday’s game vs West Ham. Can we not all accept that Ole clearly needs time and investment in order to get this team to where he wants it to be? I purposefully haven’t called this team, “his team” because it obviously isn’t yet and won’t be for another 3 transfer windows minimum if we keep up this recruitment drive. I really hope he gets the time to reach that point.

Keep the faith in Ole, ride this out. Us MUFC fans really are an entitled, whiny bunch and its getting on my nerves.

Anyway, must stop typing now and go back to watching the abomination that is the FIFA awards (as great as they were, what to ballet dancer have to do with football). Game’s Gone.
Click Here: Aston Villa Shop
Raoul, MUFC

Spurs squabbling
I thought that winner’s and loser’s assessment of Spurs needing a plan B away from home was spot on. At the same time there’s not much you can do about Victor Wanyama coming on and being really s**t. I don’t think we’re soft as Shearer said, it just doesn’t feel like we’ve got a plan.

The other thing that Spurs need to do is control the story in the media. They really are airing all their dirty laundry in public and I can’t see what the point of it is. Pochettino lobbying Levy publicly when the transfer window is open is a smart move. Pochettino saying that he’s not sure if this is his best Spurs squad when the transfer window has closed is not a smart move. There’s nothing to be gained by that in September.

There’s an argument to say that if you buy into Pochettino’s tears and fist pumping, tie-askew raw emotion all the way to the champions league, that you have to accept the sulky version of it now. I’m not sure I’m buying that, he’s a grown up. He’s calling for the players to have big balls. If I’m Jan Vertonghen it might piss me off. I’m pretty sure Vertonghen’s got a pair. He seems like a straightforward, dependable guy. Maybe tell him in private that he needs to grow a pair, not in public.

Similarly the players. If Eriksen is going to tell the press that he feels like “trying something new” you better make sure that something new is obviously there. Why does Danny Rose feel he wants to talk about what happened last summer. I like Danny Rose, he’s been through a lot, he’s given us a lot. All these people – Vertonghen, Rose, Eriksen – they’ve really given a lot for Spurs…if they’re going to go can we do it in a way that’s a bit classier than this….this weird half in half out transitional period is hurting us.

I don’t know if Pochettino wants to rebuild again. The comment about leaving if we’d won the Champions League is telling. It feels like he’s climbed his Everest but fell over 20 metres from the end and has the air of a man who can’t bring something to go again.

This is shaping up to be a tricky season,
Andrew, Woodford Green


Don’t lump equal pay in with bigger issues
So I see that even the Best Fifa Football awards aren’t safe from having to listen to the equal pay for women’s football argument.

For Rapinoe to lump it in with the very real issues of homophobia and racism is a clever tactic, but also pathetic.

Women’s football shouldn’t even be compared to Men’s. They’re asking for the nets to be reduced in size for God’s sake! So no, you don’t get equal pay – for like a million reasons that I really don’t need to list, as everyone has eyes and a brain.

Your politically weighted arguments are boring Rapinoe, no one seems willing to point out the glaringly obvious fact that at the moment, the viewing figures and actual entertainment value of women’s football is hugely overshadowed by the men’s.

Fix that, then you won’t need to ask for more money, you’ll automatically get it.
Reuben (grumpy in the mornings) Jenkins


Marcelo wasn’t even ‘The Best’ at Real Madrid
At last! Something arrived yesterday evening to take the utter embarrassment spotlight off VAR for the early part of this season – the FIFPro World11.

Now, despite the fact that Hazard came nowhere near winning his league and Mbappe won his walkover league but did relatively diddly squat in Europe, I can take them being in it ahead of Mane and Salah. I don’t agree with it, but I can take it.

But come on, Marcelo and Ramos?! Based on last season?! Ahead of Andy Robertson and TAA? Champions of Europe, part of the best defence in Europe’s top leagues whilst at the same time breaking records for full backs at the other end of the pitch?

Real Madrid were F**KING awful last season! Marcelo was dropped before the end of it (and from Brazil’s Copa America squad), and they crowbarred Ramos into this XI at right back – he’s not played there in nearly a decade!

And i’ll let fans of other teams wonder how Modric was in it again at the expense of a multitude of better performing midfielders from last season.

Some might say ‘meh, who cares?’, but that car crash of a show / ceremony (with it’s dodgy awards) in Milan last night was paid for by the profits of OUR game and they could be spent on so many more worthy things. Speaking of which at least it was saved by the acceptance speeches of Klopp and Rapinoe.
Cheers, Bobby.


…Good morning mailbox. I’m a first time mailer.  Just want to talk about the FIFA XI.
Take a look at the team:

Allison (Liverpool/Brazil).
Ramos (Real Madrid/Spain).
Van Dijk (Liverpool/Netherlands).
De Ligt (Ajax/Netherlands).
Marcelo (Real Madrid/Brazil).
Modric (Real Madrid/Croatia).
De Jong (Ajax/Netherlands).
Messi (Barcelona/Argentina).
Hazard (Chelsea/Belgium).
Mbappe (PSG/France).
Ronaldo (Juventus/Portugal).

How did a wretched Real Madrid team produce 3 players and a superb Manchester City team none?
Was Hazard’s performance last season better than Sterling’s?
How did Marcelo beat Robertson to that left back spot?
I need answers.
Michael Patrick, CRS, Nigeria


Loving the Arsenal ride
hahahaha – what a mental game, Frankfurt was mental, Watford was mental – seeing a pattern – as strong as the Wenger pattern of inactivity and nothing changing – we have the polar opposite with Emery. Can you pick his next line-up? I did not enjoy the Watford game (well at least until we cacked it), but did really enjoy the Frankfurt and Villa games. I was listening to Andrew and James (Arsecast) and Yankee Gunner (arsenal vision – two great podcasts) and it seems we are all suffering/enjoying the same thing – 20 years of nothing changing and ever decreasing circles has now changed to be mad, unpredictable and mental, our team resembles a basketball team more than a football team at the moment (attack-defend-attack-defend) – all this from a man who looks like he is best friends with Mr Bean!

After years of nothing much now we are being made queasy by the ride – drink it in and enjoy – I bet this is the best season in years! Just not sure if my heart can take it.

One more thing – Emery – stop playing Xhaka and please don’t make him captain!
London Gooner


Bravo, Brodge
Say what you want about Rodgers, and I’m not an unconditional admirer. But I can’t help being impressed by the guy’s resilience and ability to play the long game.
When he left Liverpool under a cloud, it was universally agreed that he’d had his shot with a top Prem club and failed. Mid-lower table or a lesser league was his natural level and he should accept that. He duly went to Celtic to rehabilitate his career and reputation. For all his success there, there was always the SPL asterisk though. Objectively he would have been as well or better qualified than the guys who won jobs at United and Arsenal, but seemingly his cards were marked.

So, locked out of a top 4 job…what does he do? He takes the best mid table job going, one with a great squad but massively underperforming, and creates his own top 4 club.

Bravo Brendan!
Aussie Red


No passing fad
There was a time, back long ago, when Johnny Nic was interesting and a breath of fresh air, but now, he comes across as jaded, trite and worst of all, stale-dated. A “football like it used to be” PFM snob.

Contrary to Johnny’s first point in his opening paragraph – no, PC was never ever used to indicate something progressive and thoughtful. You can’t just create something to make your argument.

I recall going to games in the 70’s, on pitches that were little more than mud patches, balls getting stuck in the mud in the middle of the box, players with names like Chopper Harris and Norman ‘bites your legs’ Hunter who would simply chop the opponent down with little from the ref and games that were often chaotic and tactically shambolic. Balls were often kicked long because you couldn’t play it out through the mud and heavy pitch.

I recall my dad, who was a pretty good footballer himself, berate teams for passing sideways, playing out from the back, using ‘triangles’ to move the ball around opponents and so on, as all being modern rubbish. And then see him wonder why unfancied teams from Eastern Europe or elsewhere would play one of the home nations or British club teams off the park – keeping possession and playing with incision.

Ultimately a new style or tactic comes along that overcomes the current best. I was around when Sir Alf brought in 442. It worked against the then best teams and helped England to its first and only World Cup win. The wingless wonders.

If Johnny Nic and his mysterious and nameless anti-PC mate are so adamant that the current style and tactics don’t work, they can just as easily get a team playing the ‘old’ un-PC way. If the team wins and wins a lot, then everyone will change their tactics accordingly. Simple. This has happened throughout the history of football. Tactics will change yet again. Just as Pep’s possession for possession’s sake style had been superceded by high-pressing. Except the ‘high-pressers didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and kept playing out from the back because it clearly must work. Hoofing the ball up the pitch doesn’t work. In examining goal-kicks, long goal kicks resulted in at best 33% success rate while short goal-kicks had a 95% success rate. In terms of clearing danger and keeping the ball away from your box, a long goal-kick doesn’t work as most times it comes straight back and increases the overall pressure. Its not fashion, its not PC, its real stats that show what works and doesn’t work today.

The reason Tony Pulis got flack was that his teams were just sheer dross. Win ratio in the very low 30s. Not even a goal a game. It wasn’t just that other teams have better players or bigger budgets but that his teams were characterized by a low risk mentality. You know, the hoof the ball clear rather than risk playing it out philosophy. A nothing ventured, nothing gained approach. The ‘you won’t get thumped and won’t get relegated approach.’

Football tactics are not ‘fashions’. Fashions imply something short term and subjective, a ‘passing fancy’. It completely misses the point that new tactics that win games get adopted. A sort of football Dawinism.

The game has changed. We use statistics to make decisions, we know more about tactics and formations than ever before. We have access to detailed player data. We get to see way more football in a year, from around the world than ever before. The average fan is now far more knowledgeable than ever they were in the 70s or 80s. Lets not mix up all that knowledge and data for being ‘PC’ and in fashion.
Paul McDevitt


Spoilt for choice
I must say, its a good time to be a Liverpool fan.

However, I have a bit of a dilemma for the coming game between Manyoo and Arsenal. On the one hand, I would love to see Manyoo lose for the breakdown that would ensue amongst the fanbase, on fan channels and here in the mailbox. On the other hand, Arsenal losing would make for great viewing on Arsenal Fan TV.

A win-win if you think about it. So spoilt for options.

Looking forward to El Banter-o.
johhnyWicky, Toronto


VAR corner
So Oliver Kay goes on in the Athletic about how VAR is disintegrating football’s soul. I get both sides of the debate. On one hand, delays, marginal offside calls, and more inconsistent use of VAR brings it all to question – sure VAR picked that hair-width offside call but skipped out on the rather obvious un-awarded red card. The other side has a point as well – behind every bad VAR is a human referee/(s). You cannot blame VAR alone without the ref sharing some of it. We are not living in a world where automated algorithms are posing as referees and making all the calls.

But both sides are too entrenched, and no one seems to want to be constructive. We can see all of this as experimentation and suggest ways to improve it as we are more likely to be in a world where VAR will remain, and Referees will continue to be error-prone (or human, whichever phrase you prefer).

So here are two suggestions:

i) Change the implementation of the offside rule

The point of the rule is to prevent players from hanging around the opposition’s penalty box, not where someone’s arm pit is located as they sprint down the field. The new rule should be that offside is called only if the attacking player is more than a foot behind the last defender. This would allow marginal offside situations, and we can agree a foot is a significant advantage to the attacker. This should drastically reduce meaningless VAR calls. Admittedly, this depends on whether the ref can tell what a foot offside looks like, but a foot presents a more consequential advantage to the attacker and should be easier to spot than armpits.

ii) Empower the referee to call VAR whenever they want to

Sure, this could lead to more VAR calls. And bad calls will continue when the ref is still blind. But at least this could potentially refocus VAR towards more important decisions. Also, this provides an opportunity to evaluate referees. If a referee is consistently stubborn about not calling VAR and making bad calls, this could come up as a statistic of intentional bad calls, not human error – the ref had an opportunity to call VAR, but stubbornly decided not to. The point of this statistic is not to get refs fired (we fans are kind people who wish everyone well), but for self-improvement – give refs the opportunity to look at how they are performing and find opportunities to better themselves.

I’m lukewarm towards VAR, as I worry more about a far greater threat. The day will come when someone realizes that a game is played to perfection if players have devices planted in their heads that tracks all players and allows them to make perfect calculations. Sure, you laugh, and it my sound like cyborg sci-fi stuff, but it is not unfathomable when the question posed to me will be do you want to see the game played in perfection, or watch the Arsenal defense comedy show?
Asif Islam (Arsenal Fan) Washington DC, USA


…Let me get my 3000th VAR mail in, before it gets nauseating again (already has maybe?)

So there’s three main things about VAR:

1. Marginal offside decisions: Even though it is not, this has to be treated as binary as much as the frames per second on TV allows for it. We’ll never know when the ball has left the passer’s foot, but once the ref determines a near perfect frame for it, you look at the player whether he’s offside or onside, even if it is a centimetre. If they started to give a leeway of lets say, ‘if he’s offside by 10 cm, or less then give him the benefit of the doubt’, what happens if it’s 10.5 cm, or 11 cm? You can’t have leeways for leeways. Just like we all accept goal line technology down to the centimetre, as well as in run-outs in Cricket, if Son is offside by a centimetre, he’s offside, and so be it.

2. Penalty calls: This one VAR needs to improve upon, and the on-field ref should be given a middle option, instead of calling a penalty or not, he should make a sign for the VAR (credit to Tom McKenna from yesterday’s mailbox). The VAR should look at the replay and give his decision in less than 30 seconds or so by looking at it from 3 angles max.

3. The hand ball rule: That is not VAR’s fault and it’s the rule itself that’s being implemented by VAR (consistently well mind you), which is problematic. So what should the rule be? If there is an intentional handball anywhere or an unintentional handball that is very obviously giving you an advantage, it is a handball (as per the previous rules) – this is a no-brainer. But for unintentional handballs in the lead-up to a goal, the goal should only be chalked off if it happens during the actual strike to the goal or the assist to that goal. At least this makes it as binary as can be, taking the subjectiveness out of it.
Nikhil, LFC, Chicago


…There seem to be a lot of people who don’t fully understand what is going on, and that it isn’t what you’re seeing. To start with, there is no chip in the ball for goal line technology. It is just Hawk-eye (or a similar product), which has been in use in professional Tennis for a decade or so now. Hawk-eye is a system of high speed cameras set up around the stadium whose only purpose is to track the ball and recreate it’s path. When the ref looks at his watch, he is waiting for Hawk-eye to inform him that the ball has passed the line, not a chip going through a gate like when you “accidentally” walk out of a clothing shop with an item you didn’t purchase, or more likely, the attended didn’t take off the magnetic strip.

The second point about Hawk-eye, which is the more pertinent, is that the cameras capture at 500 frames per second. In the best circumstances, you will be watching the game (on television) at 60 frames per second, but possibly as low as 30 fps depending on your service provider. Even at 60 fps, that means Hawk-eye has captured 8.3 frames for every 1 you’ve seen, and a lot can happen in those 8 frames. It’s also determining the time the ball was struck whilst simultaneously creating a 3D image of the pitch and everything on it, to show you where players are. This is how you get those fun graphics on Tennis challenges, as well as the computer rendering of where the ball crossed the goal line.

They claim that in Tennis is it accurate to 3.6mm, which is only slightly larger than the thickness of a £1 coin. You may not being seeing the technology, but it’s a damn sight better than your average twitter troll shouting about a ball hair.
Jacques, Oxford


…Only just picked up on Graeme Souness’s line of “you can’t be a little bit pregnant” and whilst I may be late to the party I wanted to point at that whilst he’s true in a broad sense, it is possible to get a false positive on a pregnancy test!!!

We’ve no doubt all seen the analysis of VAR and the tech is simply not sophisticated enough to be taken as such gospel truth as Souness espouses for such marginal calls of offside such as Lingard’s goal vs. Netherlands, Sterling’s vs. WHU or Son’s at the weekend.

For VAR to be accepted as such it needs camera frame rates closer to those of the Hawkeye cameras (which themselves have been shown in tennis to have a 3.6mm margin of error) rather than the, on average 10 times slower frame rates of Sky TV cameras.

I’m definitely in the pro VAR corner; but I’m also for proper scientific rigour and evidence based decision making/policy creation and you can’t claim something to be black and white when the tech you are using produces quite a substantial grey area.
Paul (Spurs) T.Wells


…I’ll leave the inconsistency of the VAR and it’s application to others. For me VAR marks a watershed in how fans and players react to goals scored. Players are no longer ecstatic and uncontrolled in their joy of scoring. Now the reality is to stand there and wait, same for the crowd. The unbridled joy and release of emotion is being replaced with muted celebration. The perversity of the system is that now a disallowed goal will get a reaction from the opposition fans and boost their team as though they had scored a goal. And that is when a team is now at its weakest.

Managers are now instructing players to get behind the ball and focus in case the goal is disallowed. If you look at the game at Stamford Bridge on Sunday it was lost in 3 minutes. Liverpool’s second goal was the sucker punch that knocked so much out of Chelsea who were still deflated from the VAR incident.

VAR is here to stay, yes it gets hard facts right and will still be at the mercy of interpretation of the laws of the game, but it fundamentally changes the dynamics for players and fans and that will take a lot of getting used to.
Pete B

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