The difference between the season-ticket holder and the armchair fan…

It’s international Friday. So you’ve no excuse for not sending us an email to:…

Entertainment versus results
Am I too late to say that Jack from the morning mailbox is spot on? In some ways it is stating the obvious that fans go to the match to enjoy themselves, but as he says the experience is not just about the match itself but all the extras: going through ridiculous rituals (I’ve had the same pre-match chips and curry sauce for what seems forever), being with friends, picking the team, worrying over the actual team selection, getting giddy, conjuring or witnessing wild accumulator bets and critically supporting your team (even if you are not entirely happy with the club). So I agree, clubs and the media shouldn’t draw too strong conclusions about fan match reaction. They do it because they can to serve their own purposes. Most importantly, Jack says why would you go to boo? Bizarrely some do.

I’ve always thought there is a division between fans’ experience who can go to the match and those that can’t. Those who can go are more likely to prioritise entertainment. Is this less so with those who can’t go? I am assuming it is. I am guessing the statistical approach to supporting your team (on this site) is more prevalent amongst non-attenders. I had my best season supporting Liverpool last year with the Champions League Odyssey and I have been going since 1978 when we actually used to routinely win stuff. Just also to say to Jack (30), I am 50 and actually seeing great players from the other side weave their magic is also increasingly part of what makes my experience. I’m still one-eyed and partisan but can grudgingly if not quietly appreciate opponents. Bernardo Silva being the best I have seen this season.
David lfc

Draft plan
As mentioned before, the draft system is very unlikely to work but not completely unfeasible. However, it would require a massive change in the academy format.

I would suggest that the draft is limited to “homegrown” players and that the FA set up stricter rules on the number of homegrown players in a starting XI – placing a higher value on blooding and developing homegrown players. As I have mentioned before, the movement of u18 players from abroad should be governed far more strictly.

In the States, players have to complete a certain number of years of college before becoming eligible – we simply do not have the setup for this currently. Therefore, I would suggest that players become draft eligible at 17.

However, this requires some thought about who’ll train them up until this point? Why would a top premiership club pump money into an academy to train players they’ll never be able to draft? I would argue that they technically do this already and that this process could be valuable in scouting for the draft. They could potentially be awarded “compensatory picks” for the following years draft based on where their academy trained players are drafted.

This brings me to the draft – the whole of the football league will be included with the promoted teams from the conference getting the first few picks and the Prem champions getting the last pick in a round. Teams can then trade draft picks to move up/down and wages for their first contract (Like rookie contracts in the NFL for 4 years with first rounders having an optional year) are set by draft position.

The top talent may be unhappy with being drafted highly and ending up in such a low division, so I would suggest that they can be bought from their new clubs – with the fee determined by their draft position – this means that the flow of money from the top clubs to the bottom clubs is far greater.

Another issue would be that the top talent will go abroad to escape these rules and for bigger pay packets – I would counter this by making players who refuse to come through the draft system ineligible for their respective national teams (GB & NI) and only will become eligible declaring for the draft.

As mentioned, this would be very hard to implement, but I feel that in the long run it could ensure that the talented youngsters are getting far more first team football and earlier, smaller clubs are generating more revenue through player sales and clubs are rewarded for generating top talent.

Feel free to point out any holes as I’m sure there are many.
Adam, Birmingham

…I’ve already found a hole – why would the SFA/NI FA restrict non drafted players from the national team if the Scottish League/NI league isn’t involved in the draft?

Therefore, the draft would have to be restricted to players looking to play for England in the future but there may be room for cooperation with the SFA etc in future.
Adam, Birmingham

Howe does he do it?
Unsurprisingly, the PL clubs with the most international players are those at the top of the league (or with aspirations to be close to the top in United’s case – zing!).

Unsurprisingly, the teams with a middling amount of internationals are roughly in the middle of the PL. It’s almost like there’s a correlation between being good and playing internationally.

Two teams stick out. First, Newcastle. 10th most experience squad in the league. For all this talk about them being full of Championship players and Benitez doing a grand old job with what he’s got, you can’t deny there’s obviously some talent there. The international teams might not be the best but there still OK and still better than no international experience.

Secondly, Bournemouth. 19th. Once again Eddie Howe should be applauded for what he’s done with that squad in my view. To be continually hitting top 10 finishes with what really is a Championship side* is phenomenal. Give that man the Scotland job.
Alex, (*in comparison with Newcastle & Wolves, christ, even Cardiff have nearly twice as many internationals), Ayr

The Mane man
I’ve been doing some thinking about Liverpool’s front three. Obviously Liverpool haven’t had a bad start to the season, but Firmino, Salah and Mané are by no means playing at full potential and I have a theory.

A lot of people are predicting Liverpool could actually win the league – or come very close – this year and if they do, or if they manage a repeat of their Champions League run from last season, surely one of the front three – probably the most influential – will be earmarked for a move to Barcelona or Real Madrid, or (I dread to think it) Manchester City. It’s what happens.

I think Mané wants that to be him. He’s 26, will be 27 at the end of the season – which we always hear is “the prime of a footballer’s career” – and the perfect time for him to make one more big money move to an elite club.

I think Mané is focusing on what could happen as a result of a great personal season for him as part of a trophy winning side, without actually thinking about what’s best to achieve that as a club.

He looks more angry than usual whenever he doesn’t receive the ball and more reluctant than usual to give it over to a team mate. He doesn’t quite have the same look of joy that Salah and Firmino do playing in Liverpool colours. His contract is up 2 years before both of theirs too.

Firmino will never leave Liverpool and will be pressing opposition defenders until his later 80’s. Salah looks too good in a Liverpool shirt to play anywhere else. But I can’t help but keep picturing Mané in the all-white of Real Madrid and it just seems to fit.

Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe I’m just clutching at straws and looking for something to blame their slightly poor form on. Maybe 4 days into the International Break is doing bad things to my brain. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing Mané linked with a move away towards the end of the season.

Watch this space.
Joe Bass (First time Mailbox writer and hopeful LFC fan)

Best worst player
With the international break upon us and no club football, I was wondering who was the best worst player that ever played for your club. The player that springs to mind from an Arsenal perspective is Christopher Wreh. Not very talented but for a couple of months in the 97/98 double season he scored some crucial goals. Winning goals in games against Bolton and Wimbledon and an FA cup semi versus Wolves. He didn’t do much after and fell down the leagues but for a while he was brilliant.
Ferdia, Ireland (good to see Stewie isn’t smug or saying I told you so)

Stewie’s return
Welcome back Stewie, I was wondering what had happened to you. I feared the enduring Age of Wenger had caused you to lose all hope and abandon F365 or even football itself!

Turns out I, and in fact many of us, owe you an apology. Though I maintain you were a little too negative, you were right about Wenger, and right about the fact he stayed too long. In 2013 he looked to have slightly changed (Ozil) and then went about donning his dusty magic hat and collecting a few more FA Cups, thereby keeping the wolves from the door.

But he overstayed and as a result damaged his legacy but worse still caused some genuine talents to regress (too many to list) and in some cases slip through our fingers (Ox, Gnabry..). And now, I am left wondering just how many of our failed centrebacks may have shone brighter and achieved more than ignominy and shame had they been coached by, well, a coach that coaches.

Anyway, sorry for all the silent scorn I sent your way Stewie, you were right all along. Friends?
Alay (to be fair, Wenger’s Arsenal won more FA cups than all bar 3 Man U, Chelsea and the Spuds and he was only 1 shy of two of those teams), N15 Gooner and Emeryite

….. It isn’t really important if they win anything or not this season….

Jesus, apparently a LOT has changed and not just at the club.
Doug, AFC, Belfast

…Hi MC, long time no write – which I’m sure has been a blessed relief for you.

Someone got in touch with me on Twitter to say that Stewie Griffin was back in town, that he had namechecked me, and that he was as insufferable as always. It’s really weird to think that I have been some sort of unwitting nemesis of his all this time.

Alas Stewie, if you’re reading, I haven’t gone anywhere. The same can be said for the rest of Le Grim Reaper’s “Comedy Cult”. That’s because we’re Arsenal fans, and were, and remain, far less fixated on Arsene Wenger than you.

For what it’s worth, I hoped Arsene was going to call it a day after the 2014 Cup Final win, as I felt the game had left him behind. So I think Stewie misinterpreted my unreserved objection to him as undying loyalty to the manager. The thing that got my back up about him, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone, was not just how much vitriol he had reserved for the most successful manager to have ever managed the club he claimed to support, but that his bizarre hatred had become the only prism through which he could experience being an Arsenal fan. Read this afternoon’s mail, and you’ll see this hasn’t changed. There’s no giving Emery his due, it’s all just a weirdly enraged rant about the man who no longer manages Arsenal.

Stewie might have started out as a fan, but he certainly isn’t one now (and clearly wasn’t one in 2015, which is the last time we won 9 on the bounce). I wondered why he didn’t just find something more enjoyable to do with his life, before quickly realising that hate is his hobby.

Anything to fill the hole, eh Stewie? I’m sure Arsene was glad to be of service, just as Hector Bellerin and Mesut Ozil will be. And yes, from the chap who you felt the need to have a go at after all these years: you’re welcome.
Will O’Doherty

Moore the merrier
Re the managers brawl article. Myself and a mate had the very same conversation towards the end of last season after a couple of pints or ten (as you do) and came to the conclusion based mainly on size, age and sneakiness that WBA manager and former centre back Darren Moore would’ve won. Early 40’s and 6 foot 2.

Ps How about deciding the playoffs the same way? Reckon Roy Keane would be back in management pretty quick. Having said that he’d have to actually get a team to finish top 6 so maybe not.
Phil, lfc.

…I read Steven C’s excellent article on PL managers brawling in a boardroom and i got chills thinking about Slavisa Jovanokic routing what’s left of the 19 (or 18 as Herr Wagner is out enjoying a pint) other men while staring straight into the camera with those dead eyes.
Thanks to the 365 days for the great content that eases the passage of the dour international break.
Here’s the required mention of Mourinho, Pogba, Woodward, Sack and Hashtag “Out”
Tosin Collins, Lagos. (the brackets are still the best parts of the mails)

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