Man Utd’s Xhaka, and why Thierry Henry remains the Premier League GOAT…

·10-min read
An Arsenal fan stands by the statue of Thierry Henry outside the Emirates Stadium. Credit: Alamy
An Arsenal fan stands by the statue of Thierry Henry outside the Emirates Stadium. Credit: Alamy

The Mailbox states Thierry Henry’s case for being the Premier League’s best ever. Also: English hipster clubs; and have we got Scott McTominay all wrong?

Thanks for your mails on Mason Greenwood. All sides have had their say so to avoid going around in circles, send your views on any other subject to


Why Henry was the greatest
You’re never going to get everyone to agree on the best premier league ever. But to remind everyone just how good Henry was; people fawn over De Bruyne and how he’s come close to breaking Henry’s assist record, (as has Fabregas), but the big difference is, Henry also got 24 goals to go with his 20 assists in that season.

He was unplayable and yet Arsenal didnt win the league. The year after – the invincibles season – Henry got 30 goals and 6 assists. The guy got rounds of applause at opposition grounds, he ran through an entire Liverpool team when his teammates were dead on their feet after painful losses in the cups.

He could pretty much do anything, he scored volleys, curlers, piledrivers, headers, backheeled goals, free kicks and, at times, ran through entire defences on his own. He was incredible. If he wasn’t the best player in the league, then fine, it was Dennis Bergkamp.
Strevs, Afc, Canada


GOAT semantics
Jon of Cape Town and the various others chiming in on who was the best premier league player are unfortunately having a bit of a semantic argument. Allow me to clarify things:

Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player to have ever played (even once) in the Premier League. If Messi played once in the premier league, even at age 70 in a wheelchair, he would instantly be the best player to have ever played in the Premier League.

However, Cristiano has not had the best Premier League career, which is what the prior mailboxers were asserting Henry or Bergkamp have. Just considering other attacking players, even Romelu Lukaku has put in more goals (in the Premier League of course) at a similar rate to Cristiano of 0.44 goals per game. Numerous additional players have scored more and at a better rate including Henry. And that doesn’t even include players in less goal-scoring positions who may have also had a better Premier League career than Cristiano.

So Jon may already be preparing his reply that Cristiano is the best because he had the highest highs, e.g. the best individual Premier League season ever, namely that 2007-08 season that he won the Ballon D’Or. Sorry Jon, still no.

Cristiano had 31 goals and 6 assists that season. However that season still falls short of Henry’s 24 goal, 20(!) assist season in 2002-03 and Luis Suarez’s 2013-14 season of 31 goals (including no penalties), 12 assists, all the while playing on a quite wank Liverpool team AND suspended the first five games. There are other seasons which are arguably better than Cristiano 2002-03 including Salah 2017-18, a few of Alan Shearer’s seasons, etc.

In conclusion, of all the ways Cristiano Ronaldo could be the “best player in the Premier League,” he only takes the crown in the least significant way. He was a very good player with one of the best individual seasons, but he buggered off to Spain before he hit his peak. Thierry has definitely had one of the best premier league careers, but he also sadly buggered off to Spain (I’m sensing a theme here) before he could put himself head and shoulders above the rest. As much as it pains me to say this, it might be Frank Lampard with the best premier league career. 609 matches, 176 goals (tied with Henry for 6th best premier league scorer), all from a deeper position with more defensive and creative responsibility.

As far as best season ever, I do believe Henry’s 24 goal 20 assist season takes the cake, but I’m an Arsenal fan so I leave you fellow mailboxers (or perhaps someone at f365 towers needing a topical top ten topic) to argue for or against that assertion.
Noah, Chicago Gooner

Read more: Top 10 greatest Premier League goalscorers of all time before Haaland smashes them all


Scotland are magic
Zinchenko must be the worlds best Left Back either that or he has pictures of Arteta because on the evidence of Kieran Tierney’s performances for us this past week it is an utter disgrace that he cannot get off the bench for Arsenal. If we did not have Shaw at United I would sign him yesterday.

Scott McTominay is slated by 90% of Manchester United Fans and associated Media, he has shown that played in the correct position what he is capable of. Anyone who has followed his career from Day 1 will know he is better further up the park. Maybe Mr Ten Haag could take note.

We actually have good players, really good players, it’s just a shame a lot of them are overlooked at Club Level. Billy Gilmour case in point.

Big laugh about Spain ironically slating our Tactics though when they are some of the finest Masters of the Dark Arts in the World. Not sure why they are bleating and moaning though, the better team won on the day.


McTominay misjudged
I am starting to wonder if Scott McTominay is suffering from, what I like to refer as, the Xhaka Syndrome.

Based on his recent international performances, I can’t help but feel that perhaps just because he has most often been deployed as a holding midfielder (a 6), that perhaps he isn’t more of an 8, perhaps even a 10, in terms of being more box to box or attacking as a midfielder. A la Xhaka.
Alex, Madrid.


Who are the English hipster clubs?
I have a friend who lives in Berlin and I plan on visiting him there one day, thus my legitimate connection to that most hipster of clubs Union cannot be denied. Their recent rise up the Bundesliga has been truly emotional for me and my fellow Union Berlin ultras. I also have a random fondness for Red Star from Paris, and Sassuolo in Serie A (cause their kit is cool) and that got me thinking.

Who are the English hipster clubs? West Ham have that London East End romance and the thing with the bubbles, as well as legendary England alumni such as Moore, Hurst and Lingard, though I think the stadium  move has nullified some of their hipster credentials. There’s trendy Brighton on the south coast maybe, and Fulham with the dinky stadium by the river. Don’t know if they quite have enough to be truly hipster though.

There’s probably loads from the lower leagues that have some quirkiness about them, though I don’t have time to research with all the Union Berlin first team, reserves and youth team games I passionately follow on teletext.
French Fried (Maybe Wrexham with their Hollywood owners and history of knocking Boring Boring Arsenal out of the FA Cup?)


Fergie, Wenger and rivalries
When is a rivalry really a rivalry? I ask this question because I saw that Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have been inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame. Firstly, why the heck wasn’t Ferguson one of the, if not , the first person named. No one dominated the league like he did. No one. He was a, wait for it, GENERATIONAL manager (literally in his case, he saw United win trophies in different decades!) And I hear now he and Arsene are actually like really good friends, like some sort of Dragon Ball Z anime arc.

But it got me to thinking, THAT was a rivalry. I don’t think Arsenal have had such a rivalry since Fergie left. Maybe because we fell off in quality, but that to me feels like the last true great rivalry.

City vs Liverpool never felt like the hatred was there. Chelsea vs everyone else, never really sparked. Mou was a douche to everyone. But United vs Arsenal – that was so spicy. The fact that a few decades later nothing has really got to the same level in the Premier League is kinda sad. Maybe the game has softened too much?

Which gets me to thinking, what are people’s favourite rivalries? I know internationally there are some great ones.
John (waiting for some wailing man-baby to cry it was never a rivalry because United were so far ahead etc etc) Matrix AFC

Wenger and Ferguson into hall of fame Credit: Alamy
Wenger and Ferguson into hall of fame Credit: Alamy

Sixy Spurs
To answer the huge essay from Eric from LA.

Spurs are considered part of the Big Six because they regularly finish in the top six.

It’s not difficult, mate.


Manager pay-outs and FFP
Dear F365: you recently the cross-posted a PlanetFootball piece about the ten biggest payouts to fired managers, and it got me thinking. I could write to *their mailbox, but I’m used to this one, over 50, and set in my ways. I’m hoping you (or perhaps a reader) will know the answer to this question: do manager payouts count against a club’s FFP balance sheet? My intuition was that they would, but then I considered the basic parasitism of the financial industry and realized there was every likelihood that they don’t. I feel like they probably should, as that would remove a way that super-rich clubs like my own — it’s wot wuh elwis wanted, but it cyem at a steep price – to make unlimited resources weigh *too heavily.

But if manager payouts do count for FFP, it makes decisions like Boehly’s or Levy’s seem a whole lot more reckless to me. NUFC’s Saudi ownership has thus far seemed to avoid rocking the boat, as far as spending goes. The club they bought from Mike Ashley was, to his credit, in the black, so the PIF had a clean FFP slate to work with. The judiciousness of their administration has been repeatedly noted by this site, so there’s no need to recapitulate it. In terms of transfer spending, the biggest buy has been Alexander Isak, who at the moment is looking like he might be decent value for 63 million quid, even though we paid well over his market value, which has happily jumped from 30 million to 50 million euro, according to Transfermarkt. That kind of money is an impulse buy for Chelsea (see Rashford, Marcus) but I believe a lot of thought and research led Newcastle to Isak. Time will tell, on the player’s part. But the management team really does seem to understand that success requires spending and planning. And I’m honestly impressed by the sensitivity to local concerns, evident commitment to the infrastructure of the club, and investment in the city they’ve offered thus far.

Unfortunately, it appears that Brighton, Brentford, possibly Manchester United [spits], apparently Fulham? and God help us, Arsenal are all presently being run with similar wisdom; the fight to the top is likely to be tougher than we hoped. But hey, a better league is an end in itself, right?
Chris C, Toon Army DC
PS – I very much regret those amongst our supporters who refuse to acknowledge the facts about our owners. I’ve often been met with hostility when suggesting, for example, that we just have to roll with the abuse we get over it. Kinda wish they didn’t support my club.


Quiet on quad 
Oh James the Liverpool fan, has my team come close to the quadruple? I give you 1998/99 Manchester United winners of the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League but knocked out in the 5th round of the League cup by eventual winners Tottenham, so this is me coming back to you with no young man you shut the fuck up.
Paul Murphy, Manchester

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