The mailbag formerly known as the "Liverpool Mailbag," continues to exist but will do so in an altered state. We've decided to rename it the "Soccer Mailbag" in a In an effort to attract a wider number of interested parties to the party.
That does not mean Liverpool won't remain a central focus. It will. If you have questions, comments, concerns or anything else to say about the move, please contact me via Facebook, Twitter @NESNsoccer or here. Let's get to the questions.
Arsenal appear to be riding solely on the goal scoring of Robin Van Persie. With that fact that RVP is more fragile than porcelain and Arsenal have a comedic defense, do you still think Arsenal have a realistic chance of finishing in the top four?
— Isaac Lungu, Gaborone, Botswana
Isaac, thanks for the question and the continued support. After its disastrous start, Arsenal has to be elated with its current position given the depths from which it pulled itself up. The Gunners have a more than realistic chance of finishing in the top four.
I'm bullish on their chances because of the law of averages. Sure, the Gunners rely on Van Persie for all their goals. But it's only a matter of time before Gervinho, Theo Walcott and others start scoring as well.
Van Persie could even miss time due to injury or Arsene Wenger's good sense (to rest him), but consider the fact that Arsenal's reconstructed defense and midfield are still learning how to play together. If and when that happens, I think you'll start seeing the Gunners score some team goals that are the result of flowing moves rather than Van Persie's lethal finishing. Right now Arsenal is winning ugly courtesy of the Dutchman's goals.
Finally, I think the adversity the team has endured for the better part of 2011 — last season's collapse and this year's terrible start — will harden the group and make it better equipped to deal with any challenges that the winter and spring months present them.
Manchester City's recent announcement of over $300 million in losses for 2010-2011 is staggering. Any comments on either City's prospects for being able to comply with fair play rules, their long-term sustainability, or the effect that massive overspending is having on the EPL?
— Kristaps, Washington, D.C.
That's a great question, Kris and thanks for helping carry the mailbag. Manchester City's losses are staggering, but I don't see them having a problem complying with the new fair play rules. The fair play rules that dictate that clubs can only spend a percentage of their revenues are made to be broken.
In the last three years, City has inked head-turning sponsorship deals that have some observers — like Wenger — crying "foul". The deals for its stadium, shirts and other club features have been signed with concerns (companies) connected to Sheikh Mansour and other elites from the U.A.E.
I understand that UEFA will not sanction clubs in the first year of the new fair play regime as long as they make a "good faith" effort to comply with the rules in the next year.
City will continue on its current course for at least the next year, but it won't have as dramatic effect on the league as some may think. Sure, City can out-bid other teams for players. But the city Manchester is not for every player. Roberto Mancini and his direct way of speaking to players is not for every player. Warming the bench at the star-studded club is not for every player either.
However, I think its current course will continue to feed the growing bubble at the top end of the wage and transfer market. Only a few teams — four or five worldwide — can compete in that realm and I'm not sure when it will pop.
As for sustainablilty, City will take and hold its place among England's elite as long as Mansour is involved. I don't see him taking his money and running any time soon.
Liverpool have been able to show their dominance by continuously tying or beating Top 4 teams. For example, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United. And then we fail miserably by tying Norwich and Swansea. What gives?
— Ryan Friend, Darrien, Conn.
Hi Ryan, thanks for this and other questions you've submitted. I think it's a matter of Liverpool playing to its competition. It proved early in the season that it can handle itself against the big clubs.
I have a feeling (and no further insight) that Kenny Dalglish has the ability to motivate his players to get 150 percent of their abilities on the days of big games.
The dark side of this man-management skill is that players may not approach the run of the mill games with the same focus, intensity or commitment that they show on derby day or other significant occasions. That's my best guess, but that's what it is; a guess.
Hi Marcus, I'm a Spurs fan and I just wanted to know why you seem to dislike Tottenham so much? You scoffed at the chance of Spurs finishing fourth, you even said Stoke City and Newcastle have a better chance of taking 4th than us! … Sorry for such a long message and I just want to say I really enjoy your mailbag even though this was a bit of a complaint. Thanks!
— Max Cavas, R.I.
Max, I had a feeling I'd catch a little heat for that one. I have to tell you the disdain you sensed in that answer (the bulk of it anyway) was less a matter of personal anti-Spurs feelings than a thinly-veiled shot at a couple Spurs-supporting friends of mine.
But when it comes to Spurs' chances for fourth, I still think it's an outside shot at best. The two Manchester clubs will certainly be in the reckoning. I let my feelings on Arsenal be known in the space above. That leaves Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea, the Gunners and darkhorse Newcastle fighting it out for two spots. When I line these teams up against a wall, it's Spurs that comes up short.
Does Posh Spice wear the pants in David Beckham's house?
— Jack, Oakland, Calif.
This isn't the exact wording of the question, but it questioned Beckham's manhood in a similar way.
The answer to this one has to be no. He showed real guts in leading the L.A. Galaxy to the 2011 Cup. That he did it on one good leg — he was playing with a torn hamstring — showed real toughness. It inspired his teammates throughout the playoffs and you have to credit the man for that.
That's all for now. Thanks for all the questions and keep them coming.