Axed Vieira joins Lampard and Gerrard among great players who just won’t learn…

Former Premier League managers Frank Lampard, Patrick Vieira and Steven Gerrard. Credit: Alamy
Former Premier League managers Frank Lampard, Patrick Vieira and Steven Gerrard. Credit: Alamy

The Mailbox reacts to Patrick Vieira’s sacking and identifies what Crystal Palace need next. Also: Arsenal’s Europa League exit; Man Utd’s injustice; and the same old England squad.

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Ain’t Paddy’s day
I’m not sure I 100% agree with Crystal Palace’s decision to sack Patrick Vieira, but I understand why they have acted now. Palace started the year in 12th and have only played teams above them in the table since; five draws from this is not a terrible record. However, performances were getting progressively worse – they only opened the scoring once in those games, and haven’t scored for four games.

Truth be told, this isn’t a new development. The team were terrible at defending set pieces last season and have barely improved since; at the World Cup break, they were in a reasonable position, but came back looking like a team that had spent three weeks doing nothing, instead of using it as an opportunity to address their issues. Only two regular starters (Joachim Andersen and Jordan Ayew) were away in Qatar, and it would not have taken long to bring them up to speed. As I wrote on 5 January, it seems like Vieira and his coaches either don’t recognise there are problems or don’t know how to fix them. It turned out their only solution was to do precisely what had irritated people about his predecessor: if Plan A doesn’t work, Plan B is to work harder at Plan A. As with the worst parts of the Roy Hodgson era, the players seem a bit under-motivated: underwhelming starters don’t fear the stick of losing their place, and there is no carrot in the form of a starting berth to inspire those making substitute cameos. This is what will keep Vieira in the same bracket as Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard, instead of up with Mikel Arteta, Eddie Howe or Graham Potter. The second group, for all their ups and downs, do seem to be constantly learning and trying to improve themselves, in a way that the first group has not necessarily shown yet.

Whoever comes in to Palace, and I’m sure the banter accounts are already drawing up their lists of candidates, has a sizeable task on their hands, but not an impossible one. It needs to be someone who can first and foremost restore confidence to a level that matches the talent in the squad, and everything will follow from there. The ideal candidate will be someone who plays the 4-3-3 that suits the team’s best players, combining defensive solidarity with an attacking freedom. I don’t ask for much, do I?

The good news for the new manager is the fixture list: after the Arsenal on Sunday, Palace will have ten games left. In addition to Spurs, and a trip to Fulham in the penultimate game of the season, all of their other opponents are currently below them in the table. This is not to suggest they will be easy games, but they are the perfect chance for the Eagles (and, of course, their opponents), to play themselves out of trouble while doing big damage to a direct relegation rival. Their fate is still in their own hands, but soon it will be time for action, not talking.
Ed Quoththeraven


Ramsdale Karius-ed
Had Ramsdale gotten some tips from Karius prior to that match? From the halfway-chip disaster to getting hands to two goals in the penalties but failing? So so Arsenal (minus the other/historic European club trophy success to cling to, of course.)
Scott, Toronto


…Now can we stop with the Ramsdale for England shouts? Please.
TX Bill, EFC


Encouragement for Arsenal
11 years and one day ago, Sporting Club played a UEFA Cup last sixteen second leg at the English league leaders, a club going for their first title not in one but two generations. Just like last night, they won the tie in dramatic fashion. Not on penalties this time but with backs to the wall defending, goalies up for corners and crazy goalmouth scrambles following a barnstorming, Aguero-fuelled comeback from their opponents that was repulsed by a tiny margin to secure an away goals win.

As a City fan that night, I remember the disappointment as the Etihad emptied after a breathless last half hour turned a two goal deficit into a 3-2 win on the night and a last ten minutes of complete pandemonium as the ball pinged across the visitors’ six yard box time and again. It was hugely exciting.

But the morning after, we realised it wasn’t such a bad thing and Mancini’s seeming nonchalance about the result may have been telling us something. 60 days later, we know what happened. What an omen for Arsenal.
Mark Meadowcroft

Read more: A bruising, painful night for Arsenal that reopened the wounds of 1995 might also win them the title

Happy to lose
As I type this, it’s 1-1. What a great goal from Sporting too. But, I’m actually not bothered if we lose tonight.

We’re looking tired and I don’t think we can fight on two fronts for the remainder of the season. Two injuries tonight already. I’d go so far as to say we look nervous and weak. Like a later Wenger era side.

We’ll amosst certainly be in the CL next season given our excellent league form. I know the Europa League is a chance for a trophy, but is it worth the risk?

I’d say no. Sack tonight off and focus fully on the league. We might not get this chance again!
Stu – Gooner in France


…Further to my earlier mail, it’s extra time now and we’ve got all the players on the pitch I hoped would be able to have a rest. This is why I’d be happy to go out of this competition.

If we win tonight, that’s two more games minimum. We look shot to pieces. We’ve big games coming up and we’re looking like the legs are running out of energy. Too many poor passes, too many errors. They need a break. Especially with City still in the CL. It could be our advantage (other than the current 5 point gap of course!).

Concentrate on the domestic league and sack off the Europa League! Please!!!
Stu – Now a frustrated Gooner in France


Here we go again
England’s squad for the upcoming European Qualifiers is, to borrow a phrase…

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

England should now be planning for the next World Cup in 2026 as that is the pinnacle of international football. Winning the World Cup should always be the goal.

However, in June 2026…

Kyle Walker will be 36. Jordan Henderson will turn 36. Kieran Trippier will be almost 36. Harry Maguire will be 33. Harry Kane will be almost 33. Eric Dier will be 32.

Now, I don’t think it’s crazy to think that the only one of those who has a good reason to think he will definitely be at the next World Cup is Harry Kane (even if it’s only as depth). RB might well be England’s deepest position (Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Tino Livramento etc), and well, Harry Maguire and Eric Dier are extremely lucky to be in the squad over Fikayo Tomori and Ben White as it is.

And that’s ignoring the others who have been picked purely because Southgate ‘trusts’ them but are currently out of form.

I understand that if you want to play for England or any team, you have to do what the manager wants. I get that. I understand that a manager needs to trust his players.

But for the love of all things Glenn Hoddle, if it’s possible to find younger players who can do that, and certainly more in-form players who can do that, then maybe we should at least try? Plan to win the World Cup FFS!

Gareth Southgate’s squads are as imaginative as the football his team produces and I just don’t understand it. Surely we should always want to be better than we have previously been?
The Harlow Globetrotter, Vienna, Austria


…I feel as though I need to have an input of opinion in that joke of a squad. How on earth do English players have any hope of “if I play well I may get a call up” when they get shot down in place of the “click” James ward prowse, solly march, I would give up if I were you because you are not an overweight crock on city’s bench. Southgate has embarrassed himself here


Toney and confusing messages
So Ivan Toney has been charged with more than 200 betting offences, he has apparently admitted to ‘most’ and is awaiting the FA response to those he is contesting.
Given that he has effectively pleaded guilty to something which will carry a pretty hefty ban I’d guess given past examples, how is he allowed to carry on playing, and be part of the England squad.
Kind of sends the message that you don’t have to worry about the rules if you can score goals.
What if his goals get Brentford into a European spot ahead of Liverpool for example – and he is then charged and banned for 3 months that turn out to be June July and August ?
All just seems a bit odd to me
Steve (Leeds and happy he scored against Southampton the other night of course)


United’s midfield and abysmal reffing
So now we’ve had the confirmation that Garnacho was injured (Mar 12) and could be looking at a month or so away, potentially ending his season. This comes just weeks after Eriksen was injured (Jan 28) in a very similar “tackle” and has been out since with no guarantee that he’ll be back this season. In both cases there was no card nor VAR check. F*ck knows why – maybe the argument “they won the ball” is invoked despite that both tackles displayed “excessive force” and “endangered the safety of an opponent” (demonstrably true by the injuries suffered) which amount to serious foul play according to the FA and should be sent off. But no referee considered these for a check and two players out for months with injuries.

This contrasts sharply with a head on ’50:50′ tackle where McTominay got to the ball first (if we talk maths it was probably more a 70:30), won the ball but caught a player on the follow through (I think it may have been against Liverpool and I apologise to readers if I’ve suppressed my memories from that match), which could arguably be considered reckless and was booked. We’ll ignore the debate whether it was reckless for the other player to go for a ball they couldn’t get to because that leads down a rabbit hole. The point is that a player got a yellow card for a frontal challenge where they won the ball first and no injury was incurred, arguably rightly according to the rules of the game (this is dependent on your interpretation on whether it was indeed reckless or not).

And then we get to Casemiro, who received a yellow card for “putting his hand on a player’s throat”, when handbags erupted in a match. It actually sounds much worse that it was, like Casemiro was trying to choke Hughes but replays show that he was mostly trying to hold Hughes back away from the huddle and his hand placement was affected by the slope off the edge of the pitch. Seconds later they were smiling and hugging so clearly Hughes didn’t feel like there had been serious foul play or violent conduct i.e. he didn’t feel like he’d been choked. No one was injured but the referee on VAR looked at it and decided it was a red card. You can kind of understand it from certain angles so let’s not quibble. And obviously there was the challenge against Alvarez on Sunday, where Casemiro I think he was reckless, careless and used excessive force – serious foul play and was shown a red after review. of all these incidents, this one is the least controversial.

Yet for his two red cards and 7 matches missed, Casemiro didn’t injure anyone. For his yellow card, McTominay didn’t injure anyone. And despite this, the two players who were on the receiving end of dangerous challenges that have curtailed their seasons, no f*cks were given, let alone cards or punishments by the officials, and this inconsistency feels like a puzzling slap in the face. Through the fault of dangerous tackles that were sanctioned by referees Eriksen and Garnacho will miss months of football. Had they, 20 seconds before these challenges, simply punched Carroll and Walker-Peters and been sent off, they would have received less time off but instead they’ll be off injured for months. And both Carroll and Walker-Peters were free to continue playing during that time. This is plainly absurd.

It is farcical that players cannot be retrospectively punished for inconsistent and frankly abysmal refereeing. Man Utd can’t be given the penalty for the foul on Garnacho, that likely would have won the game coming towards the end of the 90 minutes. Man Utd can’t get the points from the game. This could be extremely costly if it ends up being the difference between Champions League and Europa League or no European football at all. Garnacho and Eriksen have both had great seasons until injury – how costly could it be if they are not fit for FA Cup and Europa League games on top of the burden it places on other players in the squad in terms of injury risk and burnout? And the fault likes squarely with football’s authorities. I’d blame a certain section of football fans who really want to see organised violence – the kind of ‘fan’ who decries that you can’t tackle any more or opines that players should give a good kick to skilful players for showing them up. But really it’s not their fault that the idiots in charge listen to this and tell referees to be lenient and to “allow the game to flow” – i.e. turn a blind eye obvious fouls in favour of the television spectacle. When you add this to a frankly shite standard of refereeing which is anyway inconsistently applied, you get absurd situations like this; where victims of bad tackles get lengthier lay offs than their colleagues who committed lesser acts of foul play, who in turn have lengthier bans/more punishment than those who hobbled their colleagues.

I love football, I really do. But it’s management is abso-f*cking-lutely atrocious, and there seems to be very little impulse to change, and whether that’s through more funding and better training for referees, more transparency at all levels including for referees, revising out-dated rules and resistance to technology driven solutions to football problems, all the way to the top and World Cups being given out to medieval minded slave states to sportswash their public image while federation members take massive kickbacks for their votes. So the refereeing will continue to be awful, fans will continue to debate the “drama” as though we’d all rather talk about poor refereeing that great goals or silky skills. And those at the top of the game will continue to get rich off the status quo.
Daniel, Cambridge

Scott McTominay replaces Casemiro during Man Utd's Europa League win over Sheriff. Credit: Alamy
Scott McTominay replaces Casemiro during Man Utd's Europa League win over Sheriff. Credit: Alamy

Call it out
Something that has always irked me is why in press conferences when managers spin a completely untrue story that well informed journalists don’t immediately call them out on it? Is it because they are quiver in fear at the prospect of being banned from that club’s press conferences?

The most recent example is Ten Hag bemoaning that Man U haven’t been able to put their best team out much this season because of injuries and suspensions (obviously the suspensions are your own player’s fault but the debate on those red cards for Casemiro has been done to death). But then Ten Hag goes on to say something along the line of ‘unlike Arsenal who have had the same team out every week’. Surely it doesn’t take anyone with a vested interest in Arsenal to know that we have been missing our main striker for 3 months? That is before you even start digging in to the injuries suffered by Smith-Rowe (barely played this season), Zinchenko (7 games missed) Nketiah (injured at the same time as Jesus wasn’t helpful) and Partey missing the two toughest games we’ve had this season. Of course Arsenal have had lots of players stay fit and healthy but is that luck or have Arsenal finally cracked it after years of injury prone players we’ve signed robust players who stay fit – just as good an attribute as any other ability on the pitch for me.

So why does no journalist just shoot that notion down immediately by reminding Ten Hag that Arsenal have lost Jesus for half the season so far?

It seems a lot of managers are talking about Arteta and Arsenal at the moment. Klopp said we were lucky to beat Bournemouth (then proceeded to lose to them himself), Pep talking about 96th…i mean 98th minute winners (we see what you did there) and now Ten Hag saying we’ve been injury free. Go back to last season and there was the very smug Conte telling Arteta to ‘stop moaning’ – clearly not seeing the huge dollop of irony in that piece of advice. Managers across the country are lining up to use Arteta as a yardstick in a message to their own owners to give them more time because look at what Arteta has done with his patient board. And all the while Arteta has kept his counsel on other managers and other teams, been very respectful and repeated his mantra of we focus on ourselves and concentrate on the things in our control.

Now is about the time the title mind games start happening but I don’t think you’ll get much from Arteta. Pep on the other hand will flip between overly praising Arsenal, digging at any perceived luck and making some passive aggressive sarcastic remark about Julia Roberts! Right now there are a few managers letting the pressure get to them but none of them arse Arteta.
Rich, AFC


Deal with diving
Just wanted to add to Dom’s email regarding VAR dealing with diving. For too long players have routinely gotten away with dives without any punishment despite the refereeing bodies saying ages ago that dives will be punished with a yellow card. At least 90% of blatant dives go unpunished and with VAR this is simply disgraceful.

This is hugely detrimental to the sport because there’s a very large group of people who don’t like football simply because of diving. Here in Australia the average person’s take on football is “they dive too much and it’s cringe to watch”. All my life I’ve had to listen to this and I’m beginning to think they’re right. If players aren’t punished adequately then they will keep diving since the risk of a yellow card is so low.

Right now we have a significant number of players in the highest level of the sport that take more care and make more effort in diving when they’re challenged in matches than using their actual technical skills. It’s embarassing for the game.

When we ask ourselves why so many Americans don’t care for the sport, this is the answer. Diving, simple as that. And seeing as the top brass of football are unhealthily obssessed with making more and more cash, it’s idiotic that they turn such a blind eye to diving which causes so many potential “customers” to turn away.
Vish, AFC, Melbourne


Willful blindness
Writing in response to Dom’s mail this morning about Real Madrid supposedly “diving” to “fake fouls”. Let me preface this by saying I effing hate Real Madrid, and always have. Losing two CL finals and two CL knock-outs to them in the Klopp Era has clearly not helped, but it predates that. I’ve long felt that supporting Real Madrid must be like watching Star Wars and hoping for the Empire’s Stormtroopers to win. I’m also a Liverpool supporter.

I mention this upfront because I have no effing clue what Dom is referring to; Real Madrid did not dive or fake fouls yesterday. Yes there were many cases where Liverpool players almost won the ball fairly, but the key word is “almost” and upon watching the replays, you could always see why the Real players had gone done. Even if you thought it was still a fair challenge, griping about Real players “writing on the floor clutching phantom injuries” is just pathetic bitterness, if we are calling a spade a spade.

So anyway, given that Dom has apparently watched replays of Liverpool players making contact with + fouling Real Madrid players and not seen said contact due to apparent willful blindness, I think we can all see why football fans/media will never stop blaming the referees for perceived injustice or incompetence.

On the subject of fouls/non-fouls last night, as was pointed out by one of the commentators, Liverpool could have made the closing stages interesting* had Harvey Elliott accepted the penalty offered to him by Nacho Fernandez’ wild sliding challenge, but instead Harvey skipped over the tackle + tried to keep the promising move going.
Oliver (* just kidding, Salah would have missed the penalty anyway) Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland


Lineker and language
I see Al McBoro is arguing against how the Daily Mail portrayed Lineker’s comments rather than what Lineker actually said. There’s a life lesson in that somewhere……

It was an accurate comparison considering the dehumanising and sensationalist language that Braverman was using (invasion, swarm, millions etc) to justify her potentially illegal policy. Language we have seen in the past, hence Lineker’s tweet.

Still not convinced? How about we listen to Joan Salter, an actual Holocaust survivor:

“When I hear you using words against refugees like ‘swarms’ and an ‘invasion’, I am reminded of the language used to dehumanise and justify the murder of my family and millions of others. Why do you find the need to use that kind of language?”

And save me, that ‘some Jews said Lineker was wrong’ in the Daily Mail, when we all know the question they were asked was along of the lines of, ‘Should we really compare the Conservative government to Nazis for trying to stop people dying in the English channel’? Which is some mega biased spin of a question. And doesn’t hold any water in this debate.

Can we all move on now?
Andy D. Manchester. MCFC.


…In response to Al McBoro

If you enter a discussion that refers to Nazi’s in any way with the sentence starter “Am I the only one…..” chances are you, as in the Mitchell and Webb meme, might be the bad guy.

To be fair F365 have included mails from different viewpoints. Interesting reading some of them. Although I disagreed with most of the more right leaning opinions at least they were well written and I could understand their point of view. Compared to twitter the mailbox is a utopia of reasoned discussion!

When politics and football do collide in such a forceful media manner of course we should discuss it. I don’t think politics should be leveraged and squeezed into every football report and discussion but there is definitely and time and a place for it.
Funstar (Watch Villa next season… it’s happening) Andy

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