It’s time for another edition of the EDIZD Mailbag! We have a PACKED mailbag this time around, and we got so many good questions that we couldn’t answer them all. (If your question does not appear here, it will be answered in a future mailbag. Or it may even be turned into a post. You just never know.)
Q: Why don’t people recognize Bob Bradley is the greatest manager of all time?
A: I hate to put it in black or white terms but… he’s bald. I like to affectionately refer to this as “baldism.” There aren’t a lot of bald successful managers in football. Sure, there’s a lot of managers who are losing their hair and are rocking questionable hairlines/hair volume, but full bald managers are a rarity. Pep Guardiola is bald and he’s done a thing or two in leagues, and Jorge Sampaoli has won plaudits for both his managing record with Chile and looking like Pitbull, but other than that it’s hard to find successful managers who fully embrace baldness (looking at you Tony Pulis).–Moe
Q: What is the most underrated league in Europe?
A: This answer is gonna be biased, but I am convinced that the most underrated league in Europe is Spain’s La Liga. For a while, it was seen – and quite rightly, I might add – as a two horse race, most prominently in the Jose Mourinho – Pep Guardiola duopoly. Draws were the new losses, as Sid Lowe put it. However, that has recently changed, and it’s not just because Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid won the league last year.
I would argue that the top eight sides in La Liga are better than their Premier League counterparts (in fact, I have argued that not that long ago), with the quality of football being played in Spain – technical, more reliant on skill rather than out and out physicality – being better than perhaps every other league in Europe.
And if you enjoy tactical football (i.e. football that requires some semblance of a planned strategy), Spain is perhaps the second hottest hotbed of coaching talent in the world (Hallo, Deutschland!). Málaga’s Javi Gracia (who basically outlined for City how to beat Barcelona), Sevilla’s Unai Emery and the Morpheus of Spanish football, Valencia’s Nuno Espirito Santu, are only a handful of the greatest tactical minds in football.
The tactics on display in La Liga are outstanding. While you get the stale, recycled tactics in England that don’t require much thought, Spanish managers are looking for new folds to implement or new weaknesses in their upcoming opponents, something a select few in the BPL are capable of exhibiting.
Consider last weekend’s marquee game. Liverpool, seen as the epitome of a tactical paragon, were flummoxed by Louis van Gaal’s tactics. One of the aforementioned select few, van Gaal’s tactics were able to utilize the chinks in Liverpool’s system, which by the way are not hard to identify, and capitalize on them to the tune of a 2-1 victory.
Spain’s reputation of being a two horse race – with two fully developed stallions, thank you very much, Jose – might have been warranted, but it’s obscuring a very richly talented, and really really underrated, league.–Ahmad
Q: How do you see Wolfsburg faring in the UCL next year?
A: Now this can all change with the sale of a certain Belgian midfielder, but Wolfsburg’s chances in the Champions League are worth considering. They’re not the kind of team that can win the entire thing, no. But they’re certainly a quarterfinal, maybe even semifinal team with their talent. If they throw some of that Volkswagon money towards a striker? Who knows how far they can get.
Stylistically they’ll transition to the competition flawlessly. They’re currently set to play Napoli in the quarterfinals of the Europa League, and while Europa success don’t transition fully to the Champions League, there’s something we can take from their performances against other nations. Just look at last year’s Europa semifinalist Juventus.
Wolfsburg plays an expressive, but dominating style. They have a striker, and three attacking mids that can become a second striker or a winger at the drop of a hat. Their best centerback — no disrespect to the budding Robin Knoche, one of Europe’s more underrated young talents — is their third-leading goal scorer. Ricardo Rodriguez is much more of a do-it-all journeyman on the pitch more than a fullback. And Vierinha is a converted attacking midfielder playing the right back. They’re legitimately one of the funnest teams in Europe in how seemingly every player on the pitch is an offensive threat in some manner. Their quality on the ball can see them make a deep run.
The concern is the defense, Wolfsburg are prone to counter attacks with the large amount of players playing such an expressive style. Yet despite occasionally leaking a goal or two — and they do — the club has Luiz Gustavo and Joshua Guilavogui as pillars in the midfield. They’re not of exceptional quality, but are the brains and the grit of the operation. What they lack in goal scoring or passing prowess, they gladly make up for in being in the right position to make the tackle. Without them, the system would collapse on itself.
And how strong are they in the most vital Champions League football quality? They’re plenty strong on the counter attack. When playing defensively they’re very compact with their one striker formation. Yet, there’s always De Bruyne, Perisic, or Schurrle hanging out by the striker ready to pounce. One misplaced pass and you’re chasing a fast midfielder that’s more than capable scoring or making a key pass. That’s the last thing you want to go up against when trying to prevent the backbreaking away goal.–Cole
Q: Why is the FA trying to make the Premier League worse?
A: Greg Dyke just won’t let the Premier League live!
Part two of his “four point plan,” also known as “We’re blaming the Premier League for why England is so crap” has him trying to raise the home grown player quota from eight to 12. This, in theory, would increase the talent pool of players available for the England manager to choose…and hype up…and destroy as the savior of English football.
What this also does is, presumably, decrease the number of foreigners – foreigners who are cheaper, and sometimes better, than their English counterparts. As such, of course, the Premier League, which I have argued isn’t that great to begin with, suffers. Booooo!
The best part, of course, is that none of this will actually improve the English squad. In fact, Soccernomics’ Stefan Szymanski argues that it won’t even affect the number of foreign players in the league.
Another problem for the FA is that none of its players wants to test themselves outside of England, which is probably because of policies like this one. If an Englishman is good enough to make the bench at any of the top six sides, more often than not, he is picked by the national team. (Hi, Calum Chambers!) That, in turn, stagnates players’ development and it is the English national team, not the Premier League, that suffers.
The reason England isn’t as competitive as the FA thinks it should be is that, of course, England isn’t as good as they think it is. But because the FA doesn’t want to blame itself for that fact – their youth development is poor and becoming a coach is too expensive in England – they decide they want to blame the Premier League.
The thinking is, “We invented the game, we have the best league in the world™, so we should have the best national team in the world. And since we don’t? We’ll blame the best league in the world™.”–Ahmad
Q: Who do you actually think would win in a soccer manager Hunger Games?
A: Diego Simeone. How can he not be the answer? Sure, the competition is pretty tough: Gus Poyet is your typical scrappy South American, Brendan Rodgers is a snake, Bielsa is Chilean and generally insane, and Malky Mackay is… well, a lot of things (most of them I will not repeat on here). But this is the same man who thanked his players’ mothers for giving them big balls after they beat Chelsea last year. Plus, he looks like a genuine hitman with that slick hair. Those are as clear of signs as any that he would win a soccer manager hunger games.– Moe