Guardiola has let defenders down, not the other way around

Guardiola has let defenders down, not the other way around
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Pep talk

This is written pre 16 conclusions. Just saying I hope you will now start criticising Pep Guardiola rather than putting all Man City defensive woes down to John Stones and Benjamin Mendy. Could it be they have been let down by a coach who let them get poorer and is physically incapable of improving defensive traits rather than them letting Guardiola down?

Your daily anti Lampard articles are all very well but it’s now quite a long time since Guardiola bought the title and if he fails again this year at what point does his time at Man City cease to actually be successful considering the money spent?

Whoah horsey, whooaaa, Leicester 5, Man City 2, what the hell is happening in Manchester,  is there a problem in the water there? I can’t decide which was better, that Jamie Vardy flick, or that Madison curler. Just absolute quality finishes.

If we all hate VAR, Guardiola has to absolutely loathe it, I think it will expose the major issue his team has been accused of. They stop play by making innocuous fouls that are not too big to be a yellow, but stop the other teams from developing a play. I personally don’t know if it’s for the better,but it gives the clever players a chance that they didn’t have.
Dave(Jamie Vardy surely did his best diving act for those penalties), Somewhere 

Dear Editor,

There are few things more enjoyable in football than seeing a Guardiola team getting spanked, it’s even more fun if that team is Man City and it’s the icing on the cake when it’s your team doing it.

The majority of football journalists who it seems didn’t notice how poor City were last season so declared them the champions elect this season just because Guardiola is their manager look very silly now don’t they. City have lost a club legend in Silva, bought a young player to replace him that has no PL experience so might flop and a defender from a team that got relegated last season which hardly screams improvement. If they don’t buy any players that will actually improve their team before the transfer window closes even finishing second might be beyond them this season. I see a costly panic buy or two from them to be honest.

In comparison to journalists being delusional about City they were very negative about Leicester’s chances before even a ball was kicked despite us having the same squad as last season that finished 5th bar Chillwell. I’ve come to expect this since we won our title, it’s happened at the start of every season since. Yes we ran out of steam in the second half of last season but we still have a great squad more balanced than most. Castagne has been our only permanent signing so far but was met with a lot of negativity in the press (probably as they had no clue who he was) despite him being a Belgian international and being signed from a very exciting Atlanta side who impressed in the CL last season. He has been excellent in all 3 PL games, with 1 goal and 2 assists to his name he seems like a great signing so far. We have also signed Cengiz Ünder on loan who will bolster our attacking options.

All round I’m feeling positive for Leicester this season but City have been shown so early to be no better than last season, maybe even worse. This is due to the inability of Guardiola to fix his own team’s weaknesses season after season. Poor in defence, no leadership on the pitch and cluelessness from Guardiola once plan A fails. It promises to be a fun VAR filled season of handball related penalties so bring it on!
William, Leicester

As an Arsenal fan I am a bit concerned that Arteta will indeed become the next Guardiola.

Just saying.

Bring on the Moyes

Perfect example right there of efficiency and results increasing significantly with Work from Home in the workplace.

Fair play David Moyes for showing other companies how it’s done.

Handball corner

Righto, let’s chop all defenders arms off shall we.
Mark Danger Endicott, MUFC

Can I just say, as a long time opponent of the vandalism to the hand ball and offside laws that have taken place over recent years… It’s starting to get kind of funny at this point,
Greg, Taunton.

Football is ruined. Not because of VAR. Not because of 5 subs. Not because of water breaks. Not because of inept refs. No. Football is ruined because players are looking to intentionally hit the ball to a player’s hand.

There was already a warning. When Mane aimed at Sissoko’s hand in the first minute of the CL final. But the rule-makers did nothing to fix it. Instead, they encouraged players to aim at the hands of their opponents with this atrocious new handball rule.

It’s ridiculous. It’s a shame. It’s not football.
Nabil, THFC, Bangladesh

First-time writing in here, felt interested to do it because there’s one aspect of the recent change to the handball rule which I feel like has not really been covered much, either by the media or managers/footballers (apologies if I have missed it), and the lack of discussion on it has been really puzzling me. Basically, no one seems to be discussing how teams and managers will start to react to it if it becomes clear that the new handball VAR rules are here to stay.

Every rule change has consequences, and a period of adaptation in which teams learn, then adjust, to the new rules. The back-pass rule had implications for defenders and goalkeepers, making a common form of time-wasting obsolete and goalkeepers need to improve with their feet; the excessive force rule for tackles made the game less physical, and basically changed the art of top-class defending to encompass more subtle forms of shithousery; and even the early VAR-offside rule adjustments, with lines on a screen, has had an impact on how attackers time runs and how much higher teams feel they can hold a defensive line.

If the FA is really serious about sticking to this hand-ball rule change, then I think teams will clock on, and I’d personally bet we’re going to see teams start really start to change the way they play in the next few weeks. I’m not a massive stats guy, but I would bet that teams score from somewhere around 5% of crosses they put into the box, maybe even less – as it’s just bloody hard in general to score a goal (get the cross in the right place; not ruled offside, not blocked by the defender; striker doesn’t fluff his lines; goalkeeper doesn’t keep it out etc). On the flip side, I’d be surprised if a top winger couldn’t hit the hand of a defender one in every two or three crosses – you’ve basically just got to hit the ball high and hard to a players side.

Even if not every single handball is given as a penalty, it feels like as a play it would be therefore be somewhere in the range of 5-10 times more likely to result in a goal if wingers just aimed for fullbacks hands repeatedly than actually tried to, you know, score or set up a goal. The natural counter would be for defenders to stand with their arms behind their backs, which we saw a little of today (from Doherty from Spurs for example), but that would also have a knock-on effect – as its very difficult to run or change direction with your hands behind your back, so wingers could then just scoot by. I don’t really see how we don’t see big change longer-term – as a winger your first thought should be to try and hit and hand, and if you can’t because hands are behind the fullbacks back, then try to take advantage and beat your man.

This is what worries me about the proposed rules – and it’s also why the rule change Gary Lineker keeps pushing on MOTD (that every handball should just be a foul) feels massive flawed, as in this scenario football just becomes a game of hockey, with players looking to flick the ball onto a foot to win a penalty corner. I’m not against rule changes, or the FA sticking to its guns- I think in hindsight the back-pass or red-card rules have improved the game, and while I don’t like VAR I think if you are going to have it you may as well apply offsides literally, rather than introducing random margins of error.

However, this rule change really doesn’t feel like it was thought through, and this weekend it felt like we saw the first signs of team’s adapting, with some players from both Everton and Newcastle looking to me like they were starting to look for penalties, and particularly standing out as immediately throwing their arms up to VAR the moment a ball hit an arm, to make sure an incident was reviewed. (Apologies if other teams did it too – for what it’s worth, as a championship club fan I don’t have any stakes in the usual premier league fights, so no bias intended)
Ed (Norwich)

Dear mailbox,

I went to the pub Saturday with two friends (socially distanced off course) and had a great time, then had a lovely evening with a nice pizza and a film with my lady and new puppy. I got up Sunday, cleaned the house, went to the gym and did a big shop just in time to watch the Spurs game. For 90 minutes, the weekend was continuing to go well and on course for a decent finish.

Then that happened. What the utter f**k. What the f**king f**k was that? Who on earth thought this rule up? F**k f**kity f**k. Ah well, Monday tomorrow.
Jon (Games gone, cant believe I’ve uttered that cliche), Lincoln

I used to write in quite a lot, but I don’t watch much football these days. I keep an eye on results, for the reason of hoying a few quid on bets each weekend, but that’s it.

I got out around the time goal-line technology was being brought in, and had a few letters published here about how it was the thin end of the wedge, how the encroachment of technology would ruin the game.

It wasn’t Project Fear. This is what you voted for.

Alex Stokoe, Newcastle upon Tyne

As the rules on handball seem to change season to season. I’d like to see a new rule implemented where it it hits someones hand/arm in the box it’s an indirect free kick. Unless the handball is a Luis Suarez style save (Uruguay vs Ghana)

Hopefully that will stop games getting decided by contentious penalties which really is ruining the game.
Dan (up the Villa)

There’s so much opportunity to fix decisions in football now that I’m not really convinced I trust it anymore.
Dave, Winchester Spurs

Inject those salty tears into my veins.
Jason (Chorley Gooner)

I read with much amusement on the many gripes managers, coaches, footballers, ex-footballers, etc on the new handball rules.


Just clearly articulated, enforced and finally reminded to English football on what it is.

Everyone is griping that, defending now translates to having run with hands behind the back, etc. Yes, of course. Go look at how the great Paola Maldini defended in his prime ie hands behind his back whenever the attacker is in his penalty box, knowing that it reduces the probability of conceding an unnecessary penalty. In short, he adapted to the prevailing rules of the game!

In defence of the handball rules, look carefully at the footballing Instinctive behaviour of the defenders of the last 3 controversial penalties conceded :

(1) Joel Ward.
He defended well in the first incident, by pulling his right hand behind his back. Clearly, no penalty! However, in the second incident, he got lazy and thought to stretch and test the rules by opening his arms wide. Clear penalty! Why didn’t he stick to what he did right in the first incident?

(2) Victor Lindelof.
He knew he was beaten by the pace of the attacker and sought to block the ball from being crossed, but, stretching out his hand in a running motion. This is one of the many desperate attempts by any defender in such situations (just that they won’t admit to it).

(3) Eric Dier.
Study carefully the footage and you see that he had a glance to his left after, he knew he had missed the cross. Then, he knew the ball would be headed back into the danger zone behind him. Not surprisingly, he used his right arm to instinctively divert the ball away. Again, another one of those desperate attempts.

In short, there is nothing new or wrong on the “new” handball rules.

If English football chooses to whine and rant over this, and refuses to adapt and coach their defenders to defend properly, then, it is to English football demise.

At the same time, no surprises if England loses over such “controversial” penalties in international matches and tournaments.

Adapt or concede.
James How ? Liverpool fan. Singapore.

A happy Chelsea fan

I’ll start this off by saying I fully expected Chelsea to get the 3 points against West Brom. That we only leave with one is and should be disappointing.


I am nowhere near as upset as I should be about dropping points to a relegation battling team. This morsel of joy comes from the positives below.

1) At half time this is a different game. A point looks a decent one. It may have been West Brom, but this was still a comeback. Scoring 3 goals in 45 minutes against a team who would sit deep and throw bodies on the line is not an easy task.

2)This should be the end of Alonso. An absolute liability at the back. Chilwell will be a breath of fresh air. He may not be the best defender, he surely can’t make as many mistakes.

3)Thiago Silva has played well since coming in. Yes he’s made a mistake but his positioning is good and he seems solid. I think his ideal partner is Zouma. Both dominant in the air and I feel had Zouma been next to Thiago when he made the mistake, Zouma has the pace to make a tackle or at least push the striker wide.

4) When kovacic came off we played with Kante as a cdm (his best position) with Havertz and Mount as double 8s. They dovetailed well and showed it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Havertz is settling in well and gets better with every game I see him in.

5)Mount was phenomenal. Energy and attitude. He never dropped his head and kept pushing until the end. When our wingers are fit, I think he plays in his favoured No 8 role.

6)West Brom had 3 shots on target and scored all 3. Had United not used all the days luck, Tammy or Timo may have put their chances away.

7) I remember Klopp and Liverpool celebrating a 2-2 draw with West Brom. It meant more than the result. It was the mentality and belief that mattered. It showed the path they were on. Hopefully this is a similar situation.

8) The team have been clicking more and more as time goes on.

9) We’ve played 3 games and scored 12 goals, conceding 4. Two of those conceded were extreme errors, almost guaranteeing a goal. As the season goes on and the team become sharper, I’d expect these errors to decrease.

10) This might be pushing it, but I’d suggest Chelsea are coming out of an injury crisis. We’re still missing 3 starters, and if they had been available, I honestly believe we would have taken all 3 points. Our most creative player may well be Ziyech, and we haven’t seen him yet. This attack will be devastating.

11) I never doubted we could come back. It seemed inevitable that we would score, and a comeback seemed likely. That speaks volumes. 3 goals in one half. The first team to do that in 9 years if the stat I heard is true. That level of belief, but more importantly, confidence, is promising. I can’t remember the last time I had that level of belief, so I can only imagine how the squad feel.

12) If the notion in point 10 is true, then I think Chelsea could look back at this as a decent start. 4 points after playing the champions, a fantastic Brighton team who will give teams plenty of problems, and a draw against a promoted team who were 3-0 up at half time.

The ‘Lampard is failing’ narrative will be pushed, but this has been a promising start by an injury-stricken team. This will be an entertaining, brilliant season.

Slow coach

Looking forward to reading all about Frank Lampard being out coached by Slaven Bilic, or Guardiola being out coached by Brendan. Or does being ‘out coached’ only apply to Ole?

Oh and also

JM – you do know the woodwork doesn’t actively move to save a shot right? That hitting the woodwork is actually missing the target?

Michael – the reason why we don’t swap Greenwood and Martial, is that Martial is utterly useless on the right

You ain’t got no Alaba

Some transfer rumours I saw today have got me all giddy but for all the right reasons.

Alaba to Manchester, makes sense for all involved and hopefully to United. Left side centre back who can play left back and in midfield. Yes please. He fits in what we are could use right now in terms of pace, passing, leadership amongst other things.

But if we also add Telles as expected and let’s say went for Jimenez and maybe sell to add Kante in too, we would be set.

A 3-4-1-2 would allow Ole to keep his beloved Scandinavian in the defense but with more balance, and would also allow United to shift into a 4-3-3/4-4-2 fairly easy.

Up front you would have Jimenez, Rashford, Martial and Gwoodz with Fernandes and VDB in support. Midfield of Pogba and VDB/Matic/McTomz(or Kante).

Tell Wan B to just keep it simple with the forward play, Telles seems to have the attacking part down and the boys at the back get a Chamions league winner to help them out.

Oh and don’t forget Phil Jones will be in the mix too.

Thats said it may not be as ludicrous as it sounds.

Alaba- final year of his contract and wants out, let’s say 50m

Jimenez as recent as this week said he is still open to a move and with a replacement already in place 40 mill, maybe even try put J Lingz in the deal.

Telles should be done this week for 20m

Kante it persistently seems available for about 50 million and they would love Chips, or was it Rice?

All in thats about a Sancho and it solves a lot more issues than Sancho would or even could. These transfers would improve our defense, give us a player that can actually cross a ball and give us a player that can actually head a ball. They would give Pogba more protection, Harry some pace at the back and allow our strikers who can’t really cross play more central.

Add Kante into the mix to, you know, guarantee you a Premier League title, or at least thats what I’ve heard he does…

Some thoughts

– How does everyone feel about the English Penalty League? Has a nice ring to it no?

– As disastrous as Chelsea’s defending was, I still see more coherent football in 5 minutes of them chasing a goal than United in two complete matches. Whether that’s down to Lampard and Ole who knows, but I would stick a pile of cash on Chelsea finishing above United this season.

– That Hudson-Odoi guy looks alright. Perhaps he’d like a starting role on the right-side for a club up North?

– Speaking of which huge credit goes to Kavanaugh for spotting Connolly’s ‘cleverness’. That’s a penalty I’ve seen given so many times over the years and it drives me insane – where the attacker stops trying to play with the football, and instead tries to initiate contact with whomever is behind them.

– Aaron Wan Bissaka might be a lovely lad, genuine scholar and so forth, but his performance for 30 minutes yesterday made me question man’s ability to respond to a situation. For 30 minutes he watched ball after ball fly over him to the unmarked March. And for 30 minutes – even when Bailly came on – he wandered slowly to the penalty spot, and then gazed thoughtfully at the ball going beyond him. I assume he was getting through some deep philosophical work, because he certainly wasn’t defending in a football match.

– Also for those 30 minutes exactly zero United coaches thought to have a word.

– Whenever Rooney came back from injury for United he’d put in performances like Pogba just did. The ones where you question if it’s even the same player, or if there was a secret non-talented twin that is playing a prank. But fans tended to be patient with Rooney. Those same fans are not with Pogba. Weird.

– Am guessing anyone complaining about the time of United’s late penalty have done so after thorough research of looking at the stat without watching the match. The corner was conceded right on the 96th minute – after a goal and big (deserved) celebration – so the ref was always going to let it be taken (except Deano who probably would have blown with it in the air). The reason it was posted so late was that VAR took 5 more minutes. But United, Fergie time, aren’t you clever?
Ryan, Bermuda (Ole gone the day after winter transfer window ends, having mathematically failed to qualify for the CL and ensuring Ed doesn’t have to spend)

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