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A Pea and Ham coup
With all due respect to West Ham (and that’s not said sarcastically, although they were disappointing last season), is anyone else surprised by their imminent signing of the Little Pea?

He would be a solid back-up for most of the top Premier League teams, I would think, and an upgrade for the others – Spurs only have Kane, unless Janssen finds his feet; United have Lukaku and the exciting but inexperienced Rashford; City have Aguero and Jesus, who are both terrifying but one is prone to injury and the other was injured last season so may need time to recover; Chelsea have Morata and the relatively unproven Batshuayi (who admittedly looked pretty excellent against Arsenal the other day); Everton have Wayne Rooney who may or may not be any good any more; and Southampton have Gabbiadini, Austin and Long, all of whom are decent but not world-beaters.

Arsenal have three options for centre-forward but two have been linked with moves away (Giroud and Sanchez) – the only place he might not fit is at Liverpool, who seem to be eschewing out-and-out strikers in lieu of the old false nines.

Unless none of the bigger clubs made an approach, I can only assume Hernandez wanted guaranteed first-team game time, which makes me love him even more. A striker with Premier League experience and a consistent goal-scoring record, available for essentially nothing (by current standards) – what am I missing?
Dan, (overly pleased with the title of this mail) Brighton

Chelsea have to change ethos for kids to come through
Surely, I mean surely Ollie London read news during the summer? A certain Frank de Boer has taken over at West Ham after Allardyce resigned (likely retired). On your email though, please find some counter points :

Zouma – I agree on this one, he needs game time and the mental confidence back. He lacks technique and game intelligence (not to be confused with IQ) especially in a 3 man defense. But a terrific player for a back 4 though.

Kalas – That one night at Liverpool is enough.

Christensen – This is where my difference begins. While I see merit in your point given our club’s policy of letting world class players for pittance while watching them grow elsewhere to be signed later by one of the Manchester clubs for world record fees, Christensen may follow Thibaut’s blueprint. I don’t think the club is that stupid to not see it. And he may very well be arguably our best center back!

Ake – I think this is more to do with the World Cup looming. I prefer this selling with buy-back than loan because it means if the player’s really good we get him back for almost nothing (factoring in sale price also), else we dont lose much. At the same time its a win-win for player also.

Ola Aina – I dont know what you’ve seen in Aina to call him great, but to me he is a mid-table (and currently a championship) player at best.

RLC – The biggest conundrum. Only part where I agree is his loan to Palace is going to change him. Where you’re wrong (apart from the manager obviously) is that the ages 18-21 for young players is very very important (a point I’ve mentioned before). They need to play roughly 80-100 games in this period. RLC in his youth days and various U levels was a star. You know why? He was a central midfielder. Not a defensive one, not an attacking one. A proper central midfielder like Pogba. Jose mentioned in 2015 summer that RLC may be as good as a player he was targeting (a hilarious August bid for pogba). He excels with a proper central midfield partnership.

Watch RLC for Chelsea play in midfield with players next to him. He’s either not had such players at first team or not given proper managerial backing to do so. Simply put, he’s been mismanaged big time (a lot of it to do with Jose and little Conte). He has been asked to play in various positions when we could have a version of Ballack right in front of us. And de Boer is the man to bring about that change.

Solanke – As much as I dont wish him bad, we’ve had cases earlier (Borini) where young kids go elsewhere. It was a pity he left but wish him well.

Traore – Again we have a buy back. If he’s really good we’ll get a better player for a bargain.

Piazon – nothing much for me to say.

Van Ginkel – Henrique Hilario once famously said to a barber (recalling something I read) that chelsea’s best technical talent is Van Ginkel. He was not signed to be loaned/farmed. He was signed as a potential first teamer. ACL on the other hand is a big b**ch. If only!

Chalobah – It’s a no brainer. Southgate (an admirer) is English coach. WC on the horizon. Needs games. Win-win for club and player for the fee sold and a buy-back installed in the contract.

The real point you’re missing are these: Thanks to Rafa Benitez (for he was the only one bold enough to start the likes of Ake and RLC) for bringing the kids to play. Jose for not mentoring and coaching them (he’s not a coach anyway and he’s not the manager for kids). The club needs to decide soon whether it intends to realize the dream of made in Chelsea or always instant titles (with managerial sackings).

Conte was right. We can’t have any more mistakes. We were lucky in 2012. Even more lucky Conte chose us. Abramovich and co. need to take a serious look at the strategy. There are some incredible talents made at Chelsea coming out (check England’s performances in the various U games this summer). Club needs to empower managers to give them game time but make it clear ‘we won’t sack you if we see you really building something’. Importantly club needs to hire managers capable of coaching young talent in the future.

If this is not the idea, then at least don’t sell these kids to buy mediocre players (like how we did from 2013-16). Go back to ‘ol days and buy world class talent. We’re making a lot of money commercially and from TV. Abramovich’s money at times helps but Chelsea are on the brink of self-sustainability. With new stadium and all coming up, high time we figured what we are? A ruthless winning machine? No problem. Sign Sandro, VVD etc. A club with good talent + world class kids? No problem. Play those damned kids and don’t sack the boss if we don’t win anything.
Aravind, Chelsea Fan.

I hate that we still have Fellaini
I fully understand that Fellaini is a willing, hard working player who a succession of United managers have trusted in big matches, but I hate that he’s still a United player. Watching him lumber about the midfield yesterday surrounded by Modric, Kroos, Herrera, Carrick et al. highlighted his inadequacies as anything other than battering ram. He’s technically weak, a limited passer, a surprisingly poor tackler, and has the turning speed of late-career Vidic.

He’s a floppy-haired, clod-hoofed, elbow-happy razor blade in an increasingly fluffy candy-floss of a United squad, and should be nowhere near a club with ambitions of winning a league title.
Chris MUFC

Football is over as we know it
I had written a really long mail about the benefits of travelling to the States and Far East to play pre season games.
It questioned the need to play Premier League teams so far away, and got misty eyed about a simpler time when Man Utd used to come to Ireland regularly to play pre-season games.
I made some points about reading too much into pre-season form for both players and teams.
I even wondered whether its better to draw 1-1 with Real Madrid or to batter some Austrian 3rd division team 17-1.

And then I deleted it all.

Because Ronald McDonald.
DC, BAC

France vs England is not a good look
I found myself thinking about how bloody amazing the French team will be at the next tournament. And by contrast how mediocre the England team will be. Forget about the managers, as that’s only one small (if revealing) part of a depressing story.

The question to the FA surely has to be, how is it that France can have had two world class teams in the time we’ve had about 4 world class players? How are they able to develop so many incredible players? Looking at the current squads, you have:

Martial vs Sterling
Mbappe vs Rashford
Lemar vs Barkley
Pogba vs Deli Alli
Lloris vs Hart or Butland
Zouma vs Stones
Laporte vs Jones
Varane vs Cahill
Mendy vs Shaw
Bakayoko vs Dier
Kante vs Henderson
Griezmann vs Kane
Dembele vs Lingard
Coman vs the Ox

The list goes on and it’s actually quite ridiculous, all the more so when you think about the relative quality of the national top leagues.

But I have come to a theory. I think the French national team player development actually benefits from their league being not as competitive as the English one. Hear me out…

Very few 17-19 year olds (of any nationality) can really cut it in the Premier League, either physically or with the pace of the game. There are occasional exceptions (Sterling, Rooney, Wilshire, Barkley) but that (and their subsequent hammering) only proves the rule. As a result, teams either loan young players out (which I think damages their development because they’re not nurtured by their parent club’s usually superior coaches), or keep them in the squad and give them occasional game time in meaningless or second tier matches. This means that these potential stars don’t get the development time that they do at, for example, Monaco.

What is the solution? I’m not sure there’s an easy one, though two options are to loan players to Ligue 1 clubs (has to be better than when United used to send players to Belgium), or allow clubs to create B sides (as in Spain) that can be entered into lower leagues but managed and developed as part of the parent club.

Whatever the correct answer is, it needs to be found and implemented as soon as possible. Or we’ll just have to set aside any hopes of ever developing a large enough crop of players to challenge on the international stage.
RedWolf

Money for money’s sake
This team cost £108m, would it even avoid Premier League relegation?

Randolph (£5m)
Wisdom (£4.5m)
Ake (£20m)
Chalobah (£5m)
Maguire (£17m)
Cork (£17m)
Hughes (£8m)
Ince (£8.5m)
Cleverley (£8m)
Walters (£3m)
Rodriguez (£12m)
Ricky, scratching his head in Solihull

Comparing the Tour de France to football
If we had several days of people going on about tennis in the mailbox, where the weirdest thing was that none of the published mails were from Jeremy Aves, there has to be space for one about cycling.

I’ve spent far too much time over the past three weeks watching the Tour de France, so here’s a clunky comparison with football. The team with the most money won, but it was more a testament to them being excellent recruiters and spending the most money on research and development.

For the riders themselves, they won by being an incredibly cohesive team, getting their tactics generally spot-on, and by knowing exactly what to do when something went wrong. A lot of the tactics are so subtle it looks for a long time like the top teams aren’t actually doing anything, but it’s about controlling the race and waiting for an opportunity.

It’s a bit like when teams cycle the ball around the midfield rather than advancing it, because the opposition are sat deep in two banks for four and they’re trying to tempt someone out of position, but until they actually succeed, it looks like nothing’s really happening. Well, unless it’s the England men’s team, who also seem to look bereft of ideas while trying this.

What can be admired about the Tour de France is what can be admired in any sport – for the participants, that they are the very best in the world, performing to the best of their abilities and using all their powers of endurance; for the broadcasting, that the experts paid to talk about the sport are able to use their experience and insight from their time as a professional to explain to the viewers what is happening, and why. ITV4 use David Millar as co-commentator.

In some ways he’s cycling’s Phil Neville, because of his voice – Millar makes interesting points, but his voice is a bit of a low drone and thus difficult to listen to for a long time. They also have Chris Boardman doing vignettes about technological progress for the bikes and outfits, and a tactical insight about each stage’s finish. Boardman also has to stand next to Gary Imlach on the highlights programme. Imlach is one of the best presenters, because he asks the right questions to get a good answer from his colleagues. I’ve wondered for a while, given he presented on Channel 4 in the 1980s and 1990s, if his penchant for a wordy introduction featuring amusing comments was an inspiration to the man so many of us love in football, James Richardson.

Also, and this isn’t exclusive to cycling, but there is one phrase that immediately identifies the person saying it as someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about when it comes to this (or any) sport – “that’ll help his/her chances of winning Sports Personality of the Year”, as though SPOTY is not only a legitimate prize, but more worthy than any actual award earned through sporting ability.

If a tree falls down in the woods, clearly it doesn’t make a sound unless it’s voted for by the general public as having made the most meaningful sound of every tree to have fallen that year. In fact, I’d go so far as to say “he/she will definitely win SPOTY now” is even clearer an indication that opinions can be discarded than football’s own champion, “I’m a United supporter” (not you, obviously).
Ed Quoththeraven

A good banter
Premier League Predictions 17/18

1.There
2.Are
3.Stil
4.Six
5.Weeks
6.Left
7.Of
8.The
9.Window
10.So
11.Nobody
12.Can
13.Possibly
14.Make
15.A
16.Decent
17.Prediction
18.Just
19.Yet
20.Huddersfield Town
Dale (not in the slightest am I bitter about dropping out of the play off in the last 10 games.) Leeds

And ending with some lovely random thoughts
As there’s not much going on yet (other than pre-season friendlies) in the world of the Premier League, I thought I’d send a few thoughts from the wider football world. No real them to these other than some of the things I have noticed recently.

Firstly the Gold Cup – I read in the paper this morning that not one but two El Salvador players have been banned for 3 and 6 games respectively for biting opponents during their Gold Cup game against the USA. I didn’t catch the game so can’t comment on the incidents themselves but I’m astonished that this is still a thing – perhaps I’m being naïve but surely back in the 80’s and 90’s, biting didn’t happen did it? Or do we just have better coverage these days to pick it up? Anyway I’m interested to hear what Peter G might have to say on the game and the biting incidents in particular.

Secondly the Women’s Euro Championships – I watched Switzerland v Iceland and was expecting a tough match, knowing that both sides needed the win. What I wasn’t ready for was a match of that brutality. Iceland clearly set out their stall to physically intimidate the Swiss with a lot of very late tackles and “reducer” style challenges on the Swiss players – however the two worst tackles of the day came from the Swiss captain, both more than deserving of a red card but only one punished with a yellow. Considering she scored the opener and was involved in much of the best play from a Swiss perspective, we were lucky to have a lenient referee.

This will however be forgotten as the stand out moment was a clash of heads (genuinely accidental) leaving the Swiss goalkeeper at first apparently unconscious, bleeding heavily from a head wound which was stitched up on the pitch leading to 11 minutes of added time. Both players involved played on – the Swiss keeper completing the full 90 minutes (or 101, depending how you look at it). How many times must this happen before FIFA put some rules in place regarding substitutions for serious head injuries? Surely the health of the players must come first.

Finally, the Grasshoppers v FC Zürich derby match yesterday. After a year in the Challenge League (2nd tier), FCZ are back in the top flight and this was the first league Zürcher Derby game of the season, made all the more tempting as it was also the curtain raiser.

An unusually high attendance (20,000) with good chances for both sides – Raphael Dawmena scoring twice and giving FCZ a 2-0 win, but three smart saves by new FCZ captain Andris Vanins really secured the points. GC can feel hard done by, but overall FCZ did deserve the win with much better overall team play – however once GC’s new players gel they will be a force to reckon with.

All that said, the real story was FC Basel losing their season opener to Young Boys – Basel only lost twice in all of last season, and scored in every game – so this defeat to their only real title rival, without scoring, is already a shock result. If they fail to take all 3 points at home to Luzern next weekend, there could already be a lot of pressure on new trainer Raphael Wicky.

I’ll leave you with a chant for Chelsea fans for their newest youth prospect, Ethan Ampadu signed from my lot for (most likely) the EPPP minimum of just £112k

“Ampadu, du, du, push pineapple shake a tree
Ampadu, du, du, won’t play first team for Chelsea
To Vitesse, or League One, or just under 23
Bet he wishes he’d stayed at Exeter City”
Terry Hall, Switzerland (not bitter at all.)

Source: http://www.football365.com/news/mails-why-didnt-bigger-clubs-go-for-hernandez