5 POINTS: Romelu Lukaku scored 25 Premier League goals last season but not many against the big guns. This must change, plus Adele as Vic Reeves and why fans are hit with unfair train fares.
Just what I knew I didn't need, Martin Samuel talking about rugby. DaveYBH, Cork.
Don’t worry, Dave. We’ve got some people who know almost as much as you coming up on Five Points this week, if that were indeed possible. But first, this genuinely is What You Need.
Point one: my dear, it really has been too long.
It’s always a bit of a car crash when Samuel tries to write an article about rugby and this one is a 15-car pile-up. Ben Ryan, Mike Friday, Rob Baxter, Dean Richards, Steve Borthwick, Paul Gustard, Alex King are all top rugby coaches either working or worked in England, France, the United States, Fiji, Japan and South Africa. Baxter will likely be an England head coach in the future and he’s already coached the Saxons in summer tours as have many other English coaches. Don't believe this article: it’s rot. IWWT, London.
Ah, the good old days. Anyone remember when a half-baked intervention from IWWT was a weekly event? Just me? Fair enough, but he was quite the regular for the first few years of the column. His specialist subject was financial fair play and newly wealthy clubs that were taking the place of his beloved Arsenal. Then FFP collapsed within minutes of being introduced, and he’s been a bit quiet since then. But we did have some fun, didn’t we mate? Remember that time you thought Uzbekistan was in Europe, or when you had a sarcastic, sceptical pop when I wrote that Pep Guardiola was the next manager of Manchester City, and then it happened the following week, or that post where you dropped Jean-Paul Sartre and Voltaire in to show how smart you are. Classic stuff. I’ve missed you. It’s rare I got a post with the requisite level of pomposity that can be so utterly ripped to shreds within seconds. That was always the fun stuff for me.
So, last week I wrote that Britain and Ireland are some distance behind New Zealand when it comes to producing rugby coaches and cited the fact that at the recent World Cup draw six of the 13 countries represented had New Zealand-born coaches – and one more, Scotland, had parted company with Vern Cotter days before. I said this showed a failing in domestic rugby and it explained why Britain and Ireland are mainly now relying on coaches from the southern hemisphere, while New Zealand have a wide range of choices to succeed Steve Hansen. And, delightfully, in you waded. Now, I don’t pretend to be Warren Gatland when it comes to rugby, but I know enough to get by and I can spot an overplayed hand when I see one. Your list? It’s nonsense. Yes, some of those coaches have worked abroad, but we’re talking about international head coach potential here. Shall we take them one at a time?
Ben Ryan is a Rugby Sevens coach and so, apart from a year at London Scottish, is Mike Friday. Rob Baxter has been brilliant at Exeter Chiefs and would be a contender for the next England coach, I agree. But anyone can work that out. Dean Richards was banned for three years for his involvement in Bloodgate, the biggest scandal to hit modern club rugby, so I don’t see him getting the keys to the castle any time soon. Anyway, the time to consider Richards was many years ago, not now. The game has moved on since his peak. This leaves Borthwick, Gustard and King where the problem seems to be that not one of them has ever been head coach of a team. They are assistants; backroom men. They’ve never been where the buck stops, not even at a club – and you are seriously comparing them to men like Cotter, Gatland and Joe Schmidt? Welcome back, IWWT. We’ve missed your brand of weapons grade cobblers. It’s got far too rational on here since you’ve been gone. As you’ll see.
New Zealand have options when it comes to looking for a replacement for Steve Hansen (left)
Point two: about matches switched for television.
What would be nice was if the clubs put on their own trains for Friday night and Monday night games, to help travelling fans get to and from their destinations – it can’t cost that much and the clubs do get a nice chunk of money from Sky for this. I remember my club being involved in a Friday night game at Cardiff. The last train to get home was at 9.45pm and there wasn’t another one until 8am the next day. I think clubs could help with this and I’m not saying do it for free, either. Bladesam, Sheffield.
I don’t know how much it costs to hire a train, although I do know the Queen has one, which might be a clue, and that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie took a whole one up to Glasgow in 2011. Back then, an article I read quoted the price as anywhere between £15,000 and £40,000 for a 439 seater. So let’s do the maths, with inflation, on £50,000, divided by 439 comes to £113.89, and that’s with no food. It could end up around £150 a ticket. Would fans pay that for an away game at Cardiff? I’m not so sure. Plus the club would be liable for the train’s safe return, if you know what I mean. Some of those football specials can get a little lively. Not to mention police overtime and the fact that a lot of rail work is done at night, so the route could be slow or altogether impossible. I don’t want to be the one to dismiss a good idea, Sam, and I agree with you that more could be done to help. But it might not be as cost effective as you imagine, unless the club is prepared to take the financial hit.
Why can’t games be screened at 3pm on Saturday? If the team I support are playing at the same time, I would still go and watch them regardless of, say, Liverpool versus Manchester United. You forget midweek games are screened when other games are being played, and what about the final game of the season, all games kick off at the same time, and there are always at least two on Sky? The Truth Teller, United Kingdom.
Arsenal and Leicester will open the season - on a Friday after the match was moved for TV
I think the long-standing motivation is to support the smaller clubs, particularly those outside the top divisions, who need all the help they can get to attract people through the turnstiles. Obviously, it is not possible to produce a schedule in which television games never clash with live events, so there are overlaps in midweek and at the finale of the season. Yet, by common consent, 3pm on a Saturday is sacred. I know what you are saying about your loyalty, TT – but not everybody is the same.
It’s not just the scheduling but when they announce the games that is the problem. The fixtures came out on June 14, but the TV games were announced on July 6. This means you have to wait nearly a month to book your travel, so fares rise. They managed to announce the Championship’s TV games on the same day as the fixtures, so it can be done. Sky and BT do this constantly through the season meaning you can’t take advantage of cheap train fares in case they decide to move the games. They also arrange fixtures when you can’t get a train home. The last couple of seasons we’ve played Liverpool on Saturday at 5:30pm, with the last train back to London at 7:48pm. You either have to miss the last 15 minutes, or the last train. Maxj, London.
I understand Max. Football aside, I think the time of the last trains from major cities to London, and vice versa, are ludicrous. On your point about the announcement of TV fixtures, I do think it’s a little more complicated than you make out. Yes, the Championship had their early-season TV schedule up from the start, but they also came out a week later than the Premier League fixtures, with the season starting earlier. So in real time, it probably wasn’t too different. Also, the Football League does not have Champions League or European commitments to consider, making scheduling easier. Finally, for the money they pay, don’t you think if you were head of a television company you would want to ensure your broadcast games carried maximum punch? They don’t call early for fear of showing a load of games that mean little. I know it makes it hard work for the rest of us, but I can understand the motivation.
Point three: here’s a business plan – let’s give it all away for nothing.
There is that much TV money swilling about, fans should be allowed in free. Without them… The Vimto Kid, Manchester.
Football would go skint. Even with them, to be fair, if you had your way. Yet leaving voodoo economics aside…
I guess Adele should let her fans into her concert for free as well, then. After all, she’s getting an obscene amount of money from sales and endorsement deals. And her fans attended her concerts when she was unknown? Where would she be without her fans? Why isn’t she showing eternal gratitude to her fans? I grow so tired hearing about the suffering of football fans. It's not compulsory, you can choose not to go. And if you don’t, others will. Beyond the entertainment value of football, and many sports, the tribal instinct makes us yearn to be part of something greater. Football doesn’t owe you anything. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Rugrats, Huyton.
Pretty much. I’ve never understood this argument. Why should football deliver its product free? Why should anyone, for that matter? It devalues your worth, and the worth of what you do. There is too much of this in modern life, people expected to work for nothing or with little value attached to their time and skill. Unpaid interns, zero-hours contracts. It’s horrible. Football clubs have a product that works on television, but also as a live event. Why should they have to sacrifice part of that revenue stream because the other strand does so well? On Adele, by the way, I’ve never been a fan. I always thought that Bond theme sounded like Vic Reeves’ pub singer: ‘Letta sky-FUULLLL.’ Here’s how Bond sounded when giants like John Barry walked the earth.
Point four: the nobility of the lower leagues.
Every time you read about football in the papers, it’s the Premier League, the Premier League and nothing else. What about the teams from the lower divisions that don’t get all that television money? They have to rely on supporters and are the bread and butter of English football, not full of overseas players. Not a fan, Grimsby.
Well, yes and no. I agree it takes a certain steadfastness to go home and away with Grimsby and fans are vital to the lower-league clubs – another fact that makes a mockery of the free football argument. Yet there are a surprising number of imports outside the top division. Even Grimsby have foreign players, as you know.
Point five: two very good arguments about Romelu Lukaku, some fair ones, some questionable ones, a statistical schmozzle, a right pair of fruits, and a Tottenham fan who really hasn’t thought it through.
Manchester United’s problem was not scoring enough against the other clubs, not just the top six. If Lukaku still scores against the rest then he'll be a success. Ohne, London.
When you are the only real threat in your team then you can get marked out of the game. Lukaku often ended up double marked because he had to do it all himself; nobody else at Everton scored more than six goals last season. If you draw defenders to you and have quality elsewhere then you create space to exploit. I am sure Lukaku will score a lot of goals at United and benefit the other attackers. Vproject, Salford.
You’re absolutely right, Ohne. Leaving the top five out of it, last season, Manchester United drew league matches with Stoke (twice), Burnley, West Ham, Everton (twice), Hull, Bournemouth, West Brom, Swansea and Southampton. If Lukaku had scored a single goal in all of those games it would have amounted to another 22 points, enough to propel United to second. He could be a flat-track bully and it would still impress compared to what went before. Yet it wouldn’t have been enough to get in front of Chelsea. To do that, he would have had to influence some of the bigger games, too: Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City. But it’s a very valid argument – as is that made by Vproject. Everton are no mugs but without doubt Lukaku was the danger last season and was marked accordingly. He will be greatly aided by the attacking potential throughout the forward line at United.
You wrote: ‘They cannot guarantee, and would not want, another Europa League lifeline.’ Seeing as Manchester United are not in the Europa League this season, the comment makes no sense. Spursfan323, North-west London.
You know who were also not in the UEFA Cup/Europa League when the competition began that season? Galatasaray (champions 2000), Feyenoord (champions 2002), CSKA Moscow (champions 2005), Shakhtar Donetsk (champions 2009), Atletico Madrid (champions 2010), Chelsea (champions 2013) and Sevilla (champions 2016). Also not in it were finalists Arsenal (2000), Borussia Dortmund (2002), Celtic (2003), Marseille (2004), Rangers (2008), Werder Bremen (2009), Braga (2011), Benfica (2013 and 2014), Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (2015) and Ajax (2017). I’ll sit here drumming my fingers while you work out how such a miracle occurred. Hey, well done, genius. Manchester United are in the Champions League so could, by UEFA rules, end up winning the Europa League. Still, how were you to know a Champions League team could reach the Europa League final? It’s only happened 14 of the last 18 seasons.
Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku left Everton for Manchester United in a £75m transfer
Lukaku scored more goals against the top six than Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez last season, playing for Everton a team that hardly ever picks up wins against the elite. Not saying he’s world class but let's see a bit more balanced reporting. Steviekoo, London.
You want balance? Here goes. Your statistics are completely flawed Steve. As Kane, Aguero and Sanchez all play for teams that finished inside the top six, and Everton did not, you are comparing his record over a maximum of 12 games, the others a maximum of 10. Using such a small sample of games that makes a big difference. The only way it would be fair is if Kane, Aguero and Sanchez could have games against Everton in their record, so also being studied over 12 matches – and then Lukaku’s advantage disappears. Lukaku scored four goals against top-six sides last season, which on the face of it is better than the three names you mentioned. But factor in Everton as opposition, so all the strikers have the potential to play 12 games, and Kane’s total rises to five (Arsenal two, Everton two, Manchester United one), while Sanchez also gets four (Chelsea two, Everton two) and Aguero stays on three (one each against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea). Yet Kane, Aguero and Sanchez also scored one goal each against a top six team in the FA Cup. I haven’t included those because that’s luck of the draw stuff but, widening it out, the final score, including Everton and the FA Cup is Kane 6, Sanchez 5, Lukaku/Aguero 4. What do they say about proving anything with statistics?
Lukaku, scorer of 25 PL goals last term, has joined his new team-mates on their US tour
He’ll be playing in a completely different team. It’s like comparing apples and pears. See how he goes before making a judgement. HSimpson76, Cardiff.
Actually, you can compare apples and pears as they are both pomaceous fruits, meaning they come from flowering plants in the subtribe malinae of the family rosaceae. Apples and pears are both pomes. You’re thinking of apples and oranges. Orange is a citrus fruit. Very different. Anyway, that’s enough botany for beginners, let’s move on to your second point. This week, writing the Wednesday column, my sports editor asked if I could include my thoughts on the Wayne Rooney transfer. His argument was that, no matter what others had written about it, the readers would want to know my opinion. I don’t know whether that’s true or not – what I do know is that if I responded with a note saying I’ll tell everyone at the end of the season once I’ve seen how it pans out, he wouldn’t have been best pleased. The same applies with Lukaku. I didn’t write him off, I didn’t write him up – but saying nothing about Manchester United’s new striker until the season is pretty much over is really not an option.
Did you factor in team quality? A striker cannot score if the men behind him can’t break down the defence. Al-Ghai, Canada.
He’s been playing for Everton. You’re cool with spending £80m on Alvaro Morata when his goals tally against the top six in Spain is worse. HeyWood, London.
Everton were only a place behind Manchester United last season – and I’ve never given a view on signing Morata in my life.
The only record that matters is the amount of goals Lukaku scores per season. The big games rarely decide where the Premier League ends up. It’s the small teams that you need to put to the sword. Look at Liverpool's record last season against the top 10 and bottom 10. You either accumulate enough points or you don't. Very simple. Chief Anarchy, Manchester.
Yes, but not that simple. Go back the last four seasons and only once – Leicester in 2015-16 – have the champions got less points against the Champions League qualifiers than the second-placed team. And, even then, only by a point. Yes, United could win the league with Lukaku firing blanks against their main rivals – but it would make it harder. And I was going to finish with a post that reminded me of a Boy George song, as an excuse to play this, but we’ve already covered the point, so I’ll just play it anyway. That’s the way Five Points works, folks: in mysterious ways. Until next time.
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