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Some Lessons Learned in Football Blogging

The Boot Room

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As some of you reading this will know, my latest (and now most infamous) article was posted on The Boot Room.  It was a piece on Paul Pogba’s potential move to Man City this summer and, before reading any furher, you might want to read it here to put the rest of this blog in some sort of context.

I knew within minutes of the post going live that I had struck on something.  My Twitter feed was flooded with unhappy Man City fans calling me out for some of the views expressed in the piece.  One of them suggested that it is part of intellectual debate for someone to defend their views when challenged and so, to some extent, that’s what I’m going to do now.

I should start by saying that, contrary to the belief of many of those who commented on the piece, I have no allegiance to any English team and, particularly, to Manchester United.  Some felt that the Pogba article was written with the intention of deliberately winding City fans up from this view point but I can say with all honesty, that was never the intention.  I should further state at this point that I have no particularly negative feelings towards City as a club.

What I think has been misconstrued in the reading of the article is the actual point I was trying to make.  The article is not a direct attack on City as a club, but more of a comment in general on the direction football is heading in.  It is actually more questioning of Pogba and other young players’ motivations in modern football than it is a piece about City being ‘evil’ or anything of the sort.

This brings me to one point about my original article that I must concede on.  It has been pointed out to me by numerous fans that the clubs I described as being more desirable are as money driven as any clubs in world football – and in today’s game, that is a point I accept.  No club could remain at the top of the footballing world without money, a point I did acknowledge in my original piece when I said that Pogba would ‘hardly be on the breadline’ signing for any of them.

Another point I must concede is my poor use of the phrase ‘so little history’.  I accept that Man City have a proud and long history in English football.  What would have been more accurate for me to say in making the point I was trying to make is that, in my opinion, money would be the motivating factor going to City when compared to the other clubs chasing Pogba.  Not even the most die hard City fan could deny that Barca, Real Madrid, FC Bayern or any of the others mentioned have a footballing pedigree that City or, for that matter, any other club would struggle to match.

The final point I will concede on is saying Pogba would possibly be better going to Chelsea.  While I acknowledge Chelsea were effectively doing 10 years ago what City are doing now, my point was that right now, today, Pogba is probably more likely to win trophies under a Blues team lead by Jose Mourinho than he is at City or any other club in England.

To any City fans reading this, I accept my original piece may have been poorly worded and ignorant in some places but I hope a little more detailed explanation of some of my points, as well as being able to admit certain parts of it where I was wrong will go some way to explaining my view point a little more clearly.  I am, of course, addressing those City fans who engaged with me over social media in a reasonable and calm manner, explaining why they felt I was wrong and giving valid explanations as to why.

I am not addressing those City fans who took the opportunity, having read the piece, to do nothing but abuse me both personally and from the point of view of my writing.

Let’s take each of those points individually.  Firstly, criticising my writing is well within your rights.  Given that I am not, and never will be, a professional football writer, the standard of my writing is bound to fall short at times.  This is not, however, an excuse to berate my intelligence or make remarks to that effect as, since you know nothing about me other than the small amount of my time I dedicate to writing about the sport I love, you have no right to judge me in that way.

Now on to the other insults – those of a personal nature.  I had always considered myself a robust and thick-skinned individual.  However, when the attacks from some fans left the footballing realm and entered the personal one, commenting on my looks and accessing my personal social media accounts, that is where a line was crossed.  And so I say this to anyone reading this – FOOTBALL IS JUST SPORT.  It is not life or death.  And clubs are not, like one fan put to me, part of you and your family.  No criticism of your club is any excuse to bully someone, or to entice others to do so.  And if you believe it is, then I feel sorry for you.

I accept the Pogba piece was more opinion than fact.  To that end, I guess there are two main lessons that this whole incident has taught me.  First and foremost, if I’m going to write a piece with the potential to divide, I should be more descriptive in explaining some of the points I make.  Secondly, I should probably not leave myself so open to having contradictions pointed out without addressing them myself, something I accept was bound to happen as a result of the piece that was published.

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Chelsea

Willian could hold key to Tottenham landing Anthony Martial

If Manchester United land the Brazilian it would undoubtedly improve Tottenham’s chances.

Jamie Watts

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Manchester United are reportedly preparing a £60 million bid to bring Chelsea winger Willian to Old Trafford this summer, according to reports from the Daily Mail, with manager Jose Mourinho having been linked with an approach for his former star for some time.

Chelsea were unwilling to sell at that time, but it is possible that Willian could be interested in a new challenge after apparently growing frustrated with life at Stamford Bridge, according to recent reports from Sky Sports. He managed a combined 25 goals and assists in 55 appearances in 2017/18, but only 20 of his 37 Premier League outings actually came as a starter.

Photo: Getty Images

Tottenham meanwhile, have become frustrated at United’s assertion that Anthony Martial will not be sold this summer (Sky Sports), after Mauricio Pochettino made the Frenchman his priority target last month (the Sun), as he looks to bolster the supply line to Harry Kane next term.

However, Martial’s revelation that he wants to leave the club could be vital for Spurs, as Mourinho has previously stated that he would never stop a player from moving if they really want the move and the money is right. And he’s backed up his words, selling two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata to his current club in 2014.

Photo: Getty Images

The Red Devils are currently stacked in terms of depth for the left wing, with Marcus Rashford struggling to start games over January signing Alexis Sanchez, but wide-right is somewhat scarce and Willian would undoubtedly improve United’s balance for the better.

Although the manager would prefer the Frenchman went abroad, if he asked for the move to north London, Willian’s transfer to United would undoubtedly improve Pochettino’s chances of securing his key man. United will also be buoyed by their recent business with the west Londoners, having surprisingly secured the signing of Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge last summer.

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Everton

Gylfi Sigurdsson shows why Everton splashed £45m on his services

Everton fans will hope they see Sigurdsson in fine form next season.

Mathew Nash

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Iceland pulled off another shock at a major tournament, as they managed to hold out for a draw against Argentina. Alfred Finnbogason scored the equaliser after Sergio Aguero had given the Albiceleste the lead. Lionel Messi then saw a penalty saved as Iceland fully deserved a share of the spoils.

One man who was in sensational form throughout the game was Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. Only recently returned from a knee injury he was the beacon of quality that Iceland needed. When they needed a player to keep possession he was there and he was a constant thorn in the side of Argentina’s defensive generals.

It was a performance that will remind Everton fans just why they spent £45 million to bring him from Swansea City last summer. It also highlighted that, used correctly. The ‘Iceman’ could be Everton’s talisman.

(Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

When Sigurdsson arrived last season he did so at the same time as two identical players. Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney also joined Everton last summer leaving them overbooked in that area of the field.

With Everton failing to bring in sufficient wide options, Sigurdsson also found himself playing wide left for much of his time at Goodison Park.

What is clear from the Iceland game is that Sigurdsson is best in the number 10 role, playing off of the front-man and hopefully next season that is where Everton will see him. With Cenk Tosun ahead of him, pace out wide and reliable generals behind him in midfield the Icelander will be free to roam and play his best football.

If Everton do that, then they will see more and more of the real Sigurdsson next season.

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Manchester United

Chicharito shows he’s capable of replacing Marko Arnautovic at West Ham in brilliant Mexico performance

The striker was unrecognisable from last season at West Ham.

Jamie Watts

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West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic is still heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, although the club have attempted to deter interest by slapping a whopping £60 million price tag on the Austrian, according to the Daily Star.

Although the price is considerable, it’s conceivable United could match the fee, or something close and Manuel Pellegrini may have to begin lining up replacements, in case a switch to Old Trafford materialises. But the Chilean coach may very well have his man already on yesterday’s evidence, ironically, in the form of former United fan favourite, Chicharito.

Photo: Getty Images

Chicharito made a name for himself throughout his career for his impressive ability to improvise a finish in the penalty area, and his movement, which has led to countless poacher goals. However, his performance for Mexico yesterday could indicate a change of responsibilities for the striker in the future. And West Ham will be thrilled.

Against Germany, he did everything but put the ball away. Non-initiated viewers may have been shocked to find out that the striker went into the match one goal off a career tally of 50 for his country, as he plied for the 90 minutes as a forward linch-pin, connecting play in the final third for almost every counter-attack. His general touch, awareness of approaching defenders, vision to see runners and execution of passes were all sensational on the night.

Photo: Getty Images

It could be argued that his national pride conjured this new style. but now there can be no doubting he has the ability to play the Arnautovic-type role, and in emphatic fashion. And if Pellegrini can tap-into this style, he could already have the Austrian’s ready made replacement at the London Stadium.

Last term the 30-year-old struggled to break into the team on a regular basis under David Moyes, making 33 appearances in all competitions, bagging eight goals and an assist, but his contribution next year could be far more valuable.

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