Man Utd boss Rangnick is the new Wenger, Carra vs Keane and…

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Ralf is the new Arsene Who?
So Ralf Rangnick is the new Arsene Wenger. Back in 96 when Wenger arrived people were like “Grampus 8?” and befuddled, but not enough people went “but MONACO!!”, large swathes of influential rags focused on the former ignoring the far more distinguished latter. Monaco were a pretty successful club in those days, and he had great success with them, laying foundations which would be welcomed by Jean Tigana in the late 90s (remember him?) in an environment that nurtured the likes of Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet, Emmanuel Petit etc.)

Many of the ‘credible’ members of the press overlooked his long tenure at a successful Monaco in favour of his year and a bit in a no name team in the unheralded J-League.  They were ready to bury him and Arsenal for appointing him, leaving out a massive chunk of his career to focus on the ‘odd appointment’ look of things.  Luckily for him and Arsenal he got off to a flying start and Arsenal kept that momentum for the following 8 years or so.

This same side that is like “Ralf Who?” negates his fine work cultivating the way clubs operate from a managerial sense with a whole “what’s he won?” angle.

I don’t know much about him, I’ve seen his name in circles over the years, I read about him in Four Four Two at least one time, but I’m willing to educate myself, many others are too. But the entire “I can’t believe a person we aren’t aware of could be a contender” lot really need sorting out. They’re making us dumb, they convinced us Arsene Wenger was basically an unknown when his appointment was extremely savvy. It wasn’t a punt.
Dave (Charlton gegenpressing is the origin), Dublin


Results could take time at Man Utd…
Yesterday’s result was definitely good in the context of this season, if Ole was still in charge that could have been a mauling but now we can hit the reset button. Ralf’s contract particulars are taking longer than expected but it’s likely he will be announced before the Arsenal game and he’ll probably be in the dugout on Thursday, meaning from here on out all the stats will be of the ‘since Rangnick took charge…’ variety. I’m looking forward to seeing how he changes the team and the introduction of an organised press, however I think it will take time to get right.

My recollection of previous teams who have made the transition to a high pressing system is that it tends to go wrong in the beginning. I’m thinking of when Klopp came to Liverpool, Pep to City, Poch to Spurs etc. Their method of pressing is complicated, it involves the whole team moving together and backing each other up to close gaps, which takes practise. Like interconnecting cogs the mechanism won’t work unless they’re all positioned correctly. Until the pressing method is well drilled it can look disjointed and chaotic leaving spaces for the opposition to pass through, which in turn leaves a defence which is pushing up exposed to the break. So although I think performances will improve fairly quickly it may take a bit more time for results to follow suit.

At least Ralf will have a good run of fixtures to start with, after the Arsenal game United have 13 premier league games before they meet one of the big six again with Brighton, Palace, Wolves, and West Ham being the toughest fixtures and they’re all at Old Trafford. I fully expect United to come out the other side of that run in much better shape then they are now, with renewed confidence and the foundation of a tactical identity.

With regards to uncharted Dave, your issue more than anything seems to be the United marketing team promoting the clubs new manager. I mean that is what their paid to do and I’m not clear on why that’s a bad thing but you’re obviously upset about it. Also again, pundits reading from talking points is what they get paid to do. Surely you don’t believe the ex-footballer turned pundit community sit up till the wee hours doing their own research, scrolling though hours of old footage and stats to find that meaningful nugget of insight. I mean there are people who do that but they don’t get paid nearly so well. A few notable exceptions aside punditry is 99% theatrical, it’s a distraction to keep you engaged till the next ad break.
Dave, Manchester


You Rang?
Have to agree with Dave that there is a quickly-established “party line” on Rangnick in the media and now being parroted by fans. This seems to highlight two things: one, no-one knows much about him beyond certain fairly bland facts about his career to date; and two, the reason he’s so relatively low-profile is because, far from being the Secret Fairy Godfather of Modern Football, he has in fact toiled away at a middle-level of the footy ecosystem that doesn’t really equip him to be the Mancunian Saviour he is portrayed as.

Sure, he’s done decent jobs at mid-sized Bundesliga clubs. His Leipzig work seems to be his highlight to date, but looked at one way his legacy there is creating a sell-first talent factory for the actual contenders across the continent. Does that match United’s modus operandi and needs? His one dalliance with a Big Struggling Legacy Giant (Milan) seemed to end messily and I’ve never really seen why that happened explained clearly. You might almost think there was a reason he was starting over at Lokomotiv Moscow, rather than already leading a project at a top club (he also doesn’t seem to have been even vaguely considered as a Low successor for Germany).

His role as some kind of inspiration for Klopp and Tuchel is used to draw the straight-line conclusion that United will now morph into LFC or CFC style-wise (and presumably results-wise). Well, maybe that will happen. The other guru-figure we’ve heard about for years is of course Bielsa, who never really made it work before Leeds, despite being Yoda for Pep and the most widely-admired ideologue in world football. I suppose United fans would take an equivalent of the last 2 season’s of relative joy and achievement at Elland Road – and at least the current year 3 / 4 comedown is a cycle they are well used to by now anyway.
Ian, Dublin


In response to Daves mail, I get your point about Paul not really saying much about Rangnick, I agree on that but I sort of see what Paul is trying to say. Maybe what he said about Rangnick implied that he will make us play the sort of football Klopp and Tuchel play, and on those points you argued that they both have their own styles, Klopp the “Heavy Metal” and Tuchel more (to summarize) “Compact and Organized”. You’re right again here, however to get to my point, what he is trying to imply is that Rangnick will only sort of lay the foundations that these coaches who he has mentored have built upon. And that is the counter pressing system or gegenpressing whichever you fancy.

If you look at the common traits of their teams you’ll always see that they’re always looking to press their opponents further up the pitch and depending on the formation , opponents and even the players at their disposal, they’ll probably get instructions on the where’s when and how to effectively apply it. This is where the style from the different managers come in, they want to build upon that counter pressing system and see how best they can utilize it depending on their preferences, to summarize what I’m saying into one point, I’d say they have the same play style but with different variations of it. I won’t say I’m an expert and know what sort of variation Ragnick has in his mind and I also won’t tell you I’ve ever watched a single minute of the Ragnick variation.

The role of Rangnick will be more of “laying the foundations” sort of role, hence why he was more interested in the interim role, that also tells me he actually has the self awareness to know he’s not that good to win us those trophies by being on the sidelines but being much of a use in a consultancy role upstairs. I respect that unlike a certain Norwegian Fellow.
Kai, Kenya


Carra vs Keane
I thought their heated debate was pretty interesting so for those that haven’t seen it here’s the abridged version.

Keanes contention was that Ronnie signed on to win cups (he specifically mentioned the FA cup) and not to win the league.

Carraghers was that a 36 year old extremely decorated and experienced winner was signed because he was supposed to give them the extra push they needed to win the league, and is failing miserably because United didn’t need him.

Keane is 100% wrong, there’s no way United are paying £34m a year for Ronaldo just to win an fa cup. Carragher is mostly right, Ronaldo was signed under the assumption they would be back to at least competing for the league with him.

The issue is what United needed was a manager who could organise the team and make them tough to beat (Carrick has done surprisingly well here) and a striker who would do what none of them are currently doing – press from the front and encourage the team to do the same. That’s not Ronaldo. It wasn’t even the 26 year old Ronaldo. That’s never been Ronaldo. And it’s definitely not the 36 year old Ronaldo. He’s at United because they’re paying him a shitload of money and he’s universally loved there by fans and so it’s a good place to end his career. From the club’s perspective Ronaldo was a fan signing, and a commercial gift. Nothing more.

He actively makes the team worse because that disorganised lazy sit back and wait attitude is already rampant there, having a spearhead who does the same only makes it worse. Carrick was right to drop him, they needed energy and hustle against a vastly superior Chelsea side and Ronnie doesn’t bring that. Now if you have a lot of possession and can ping passes to him in and around the box, sure he’s gotta play because he’ll have the net bulging.

But against superior opposition where you’ll need the team to run hard and press as a unit? No, he’s a hinderence, and that showed against Liverpool and city where he was 100% useless.

I think Carrick was right to bench him and I think rangnick will be right to when he does against stronger opposition (and he will). Ronnie isn’t what you need when chasing better opponents, he’s what you need when you are bullying weaker ones and need a sharpshooter to finish them off.

I think signing him was a nostalgic mistake and one which has reduced your wage/transfer budget by £34m per year. That £68m would have been far better invested in a good holding player or an actual left winger/left forward.

Finally Keane mentioned that no manager should expect a player of ronaldos class to press. Funny that because pep made aguero press, famously benched him until he would. Klopp makes all three forwards press (one of whom I’d argue is currently the world’s best player) and tuchel makes everyone press at Chelsea.

So why can’t Ronaldo? Because he is Ronaldo. Which is why it was a mistake.


The beginning of a new successful era? Or more tears?
It’s weird being an Arsenal fan at the moment.

If you’re glass half empty, then you’re fearful that we’ll inevitably go on a run of terrible results as the real Arsenal rears its ugly head and we drop out of the Europa places back into mid table or even worse.

But of you’re glass half full, then we’re just outside the Champions League places on goal difference, Martinelli may be on the verge becoming the striker Auba clearly isn’t in getting on the end of some of those Tierney crosses and Odegaard may finally snap into life and be the playmaker to up our goal tally.

It’s all going to end in tears – isn’t it?
Graham Simons, Gooner, (enjoying it while it lasts), Norf London

It doesn’t matter if the snow stopped at kick off
It’s not often I disagree with winners & losers, and in a way I don’t really. The fans who had gone all the way to Burnley from North London certainly have a right to feel aggrieved, but postponing a football match due to snow has never just been about the snow on the pitch.

If the surrounding areas are deemed unsafe for travel, if roads can’t be gritted in time and snow is piling up on the motorways, doesn’t somebody need to make a decision based on common sense and safety? Ok the pitch heating is excellent and if the snow stopped it might’ve been playable, but what about the fans driving home on icy roads in the dark? Already half asleep, having been subjected to Burnley v Spurs in the freezing cold, they’d have had no chance.

And I want to bring up a group of people consistently overlooked in the world of football, but at this time of year they are the games own key workers. They sacrifice time at home with their loved ones in the build up to Christmas, Boxing Day and New Years because we expect our seasonal fix of football and somebody’s gotta make that happen. There would’ve been 20+ people in the TV compound at Burnley, depending on the size of the coverage. I’m willing to bet a large amount of money that none of them are local to Burnley (Leeds or Manchester at best) and with most of them being freelancers they would’ve looked at a 2pm kick off and saved themselves money on a hotel by going home once it’s all packed away. Usually an hour or so from full time, give or take a press conference. All those people would’ve been travelling home in unsafe conditions, or booking emergency accommodation for a premium cost. It’s already a small industry, we’re already overworked and the last thing we need is to be trying to replace half a dozen engineers because they got involved in an icy pile up coming back down the M6. Sometime common sense prevails and it still sucks for the fans, but this game should not have gone ahead and the right decision was made.


Just a quick one on the Chelsea penalty yesterday, although by the letter of the law it was a penalty, I think Silva throwing his leg in front of Wan Bissaka clearing a ball is a harsh call, it’s like someone throwing themselves in front of a moving vehicle then claiming it’s the drivers fault (not the best analogy I know) but I hope you get my meaning. I would like to agree with the Chelsea fans on the none flag for Ronaldo’s offside too, imagine if we had scored from the resulting corner, Tuchel would have spontaneously combusted, also would they then go back and look at the offside or would the goal stand?

Lastly people slating United for the defensive approach yesterday, at the moment we are flopping a flailing from one extreme to the other, going to the current league leaders and European Champions and playing safe was the smart thing to do, playing an attacking line up would have been footballing suicide especially with Chelsea targeting Lindelof.
Paul Murphy, Manchester


Are Chelsea creating chances for the wrong players/positions?
That miss by Rudiger is emblemic of an issue I’ve had with this current Chelsea team: we aren’t creating the best type of chances, & we aren’t creating them for the right players in the right positions.

It’s all nice and good that our defenders & wing backs are scoring but this shows that defenders (CBs) are taking advantage of corners & the formation gives our WBs the most space. Our WBs are meant to create chances for our frontmen but because they can’t position themselves well in the box for cutbacks, they tend to take the shots themselves, which has worked when they score but when they don’t our attack just devolves into crosses that get cleared & a crazy succession of corners (which paid off with the equalizer tbf).

But none of the frontmen provides enough goal threat. I need Lampard to come back and teach them runs into the box cos they never take good positions to score. CHO terrorizes defenders but keepers can’t relate. Ziyech helps with possession & is a creative passer but no goal threat. Werner never needs to drop deep to get the ball with this formation – just stay close to to the box. I’m only confident in Mount, Pulisic & Havertz for goals but even they have to prove they can do it consistently & let’s hope Lukaku comes back banging, cos it would be a shame to buy a striker for £100m and lose out of the title cos we don’t score when we need to.

Overall, a frustrating game yesterday but we should’ve won if we were more clinical and Jorginho didn’t set up Sancho. We dominated the ball and Utd defended well with a good gameplan, but we didn’t create clear cut chances & we didn’t convert when we did. Tuchel needed to bring in subs much earlier than the 75th minute – bringing players in too late doesn’t allow them to get into the game.

We have a team that can win the PL & I hope we don’t lose out cos we can’t score when we have to.


Balls up
Just a quick one – the winter ball that the boffins at premier league HQ commissioned for use in all conditions this season… isn’t actually visible when it snows.


Looking forward to the polystyrene goal posts which are being introduced next season.

You had one job.
Sesh Juan, Brixton


Find your Premier League referee name
Dear Football365,

Over the weekend the news broke that author Dave Roberts had passed away. Most of his books were about football culture, and the best-known of them, The Bromley Boys, was made into a film. What came through in that book, and Home & Away, his journal of returning to the UK after 35 years in America to follow Bromley in the National League, was the joy of being part of a football-supporting community, no matter how well the team are doing on the field or in the league. Also, it seems like at school he was surrounded by gloryhunters, something many of us can sympathise with.

*Slightly higher up the pyramid, but only just down the road, Crystal Palace took on Aston Villa in what proved to be a good day for producers of “want to feel old” memes. Going into the game, the Eagles had the longest unbeaten run in the Premier League, while the Villans had the worst away record; this should have made it obvious that the visitors would claim all three points, but the message was hammered home when someone scored for the first time in ages (Matt Targett’s first goal in 75 appearances). A new manager, a new approach, but Typical Palace TM never changes.

*Targett’s goal was a disappointing concession. Last week a lot was said about Palace’s weaknesses from set pieces,  and when another goal goes in, it seems like an oversight from Patrick Vieira that this wasn’t addressed.

*Apart from opening day against Chelsea, this was the most disappointing performance of the season, but one that serves as a reminder that this is a work in progress. When Vieira has all of his best players available, the team play really well, but there is not yet the depth in the squad to counter the inevitable unavailability of key figures. James McArthur is out for a few weeks, and there isn’t an obvious like for like replacement for him: Will Hughes is a possibility, but Luka Milivojevic and Cheikhou Kouyate have been sort of filling those roles but without the Scotsman’s dynamism.

Joachim Andersen was also ruled out of this game, so James Tomkins deputised. Despite his troubles with injuries, Tomkins has been a very good centre-back for both West Ham United and Palace for a number of years. However, he does not have Andersen’s range of passing, which inhibits the potential for counterattacking, and also restricted the opportunities for Marc Guehi to bring the ball out of defence. Tomkins had a disappointing game, but has not become a bad player; he just isn’t a good fit for the new way of playing.

*Another hangover from previous seasons was this game was also surprisingly chippy. At the end of 2019-20, Christian Benteke was shown a red card after the final whistle for lashing out at an opponent, and on Boxing Day last year, Tyrone Mings was sent off following a running battle with Wilfried Zaha. While both teams finished the game with 11 players, there was a lot of ferocity from both sides: Douglas Luiz had a red card overturned for a foul that looked like a stamp motion on first viewing but was not so serious on second viewing, and Milivojevic’s cynicism nearly earned him the chance to be first in the showers. After the match, Vieira said he replaced Milivojevic and Zaha because he was concerned they were going to get themselves sent off; both players thrive on a bit of aggression but the risk of it boiling over negatively affects their ability to be the leaders of the team on the field.

*This was apparently a Premier League debut for referee Michael Salisbury. Find your Premier League referee name by combining your dad’s first name with either the name of the road you lived on between the ages of 8 and 18 OR the name of the road you lived on in your second year at university. It’s not surprising he was a bit overawed, or that both sides took it upon themselves to surround him at every opportunity. Bit weird how this happens and people decide officiating isn’t worth the hassle, isn’t it?

Though Salisbury’s name suggests he is the top flight’s answer to Keith Stroud, he was closer in refereeing style to Mark Clattenburg. The most frustrating moment of the game was when he stopped play because he wanted to show Marvellous Nakamba a yellow card, instead of allowing Palace, who had the ball in the Villa penalty area, a chance at goal. There really needs to be a change in the guidelines to how advantage is applied. Something similar to ice hockey’s delayed penalty would be good, where advantage continues until either the ball goes out of play, a goal is scored, or the offending team secure possession. A shout from the referee of “advantage, that’s a yellow Nakamba” would alert everyone to the situation and, should the referee forget about the card, he can be reminded by a colleague.

*Ultimately, a disappointing day for the Eagles. The main thing now is to make it a one-off instead of a rot setting in. Tomorrow night’s trip to Elland Road is as good a place as any to start turning things round.
Ed Quoththeraven


Can someone explain…
…why there’s roughly zero media bias about Bielsa getting the sack? Absolutely shocking season so far.  All you hear about Bielsa is what a genius he is………..goes man to man across the whole team. Thats genius is it? Just seems some managers are fashionable and some aren’t. Someone like Curbishley did much better with a far inferior squad yet hasn’t had a job for 10yrs or so. Cant work out if its a media bias, fan power or boardroom ignorance.
Terry Patio


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