Matt Stanger was left impressed by Chelsea's superb first-half display against West Ham as Sam Allardyce's top-four hopes went up in smoke. The Blues will take some beating...
Degsy is tipping Spurs to pile more pressure on Nigel Pearson with a 3-0 win at Leicester on Boxing Day. He also predicts easy wins for United and Arsenal...
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Is 3-5-2 The New 4-2-3-1?
In the Premier League, its mostly been a 4-4-2 formation used by most teams. There were always exceptions of course, and variations. Then for the past few years its mostly been 4-2-3-1. And now, all the talk is of 3-5-2.
Roberto Mancini tried it with Man City, though it would mostly be deemed unsuccessful I would think. Liverpool used it at times very effectively last season, less so on some occasions. With their reported acquisition of both a new left and right-back, on top of already having Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan, is Rodgers planning to use that formation even more extensively? Though one of the main reasons it seemed he used it, was to accommodate both Suarez and Sturridge up front, an issue he no longer has.
We have seen other teams such as Hull use it also. And of course now Van Gaal used it with the Netherlands, and is using it with Man Utd. Its nothing new of course and has always been around. But certainly in the Premier League there were not many times you would see it, certainly from the bigger teams. Are we going to see more and more teams use this formation?
It's difficult to do effectively, as you need two very capable wingbacks who are adept at defending, yet can get forward well and create chances. That's nothing new of course. Modern full-backs need to offer more than just being sound defensively (unless of course you are a rock at the back you might get away with it, see Gary Neville and Ashley Cole). But that used to be in support of the winger in front of them. The definition of a wing-back is that they are both the winger and the full-back.
There are not many full-backs or wingers who I would say are suited to it who are currently in the league. Some such as Coleman and Zabaleta would take to it like ducks to water. Others could find themselves floundering a bit. For that reason alone, we may not see too many teams try it, as they simply may not have the players. But given time, if some of the big teams are successful with it, it may be the new template for success.
If Suarez Had Joined Arsenal...
Simon, Belfast is forgetting one thing about Suarez's 'should he have/shouldn't he have'. Had he joined Arsenal one year ago, he would have faced the Arsenal standard 'three to six weeks' after his knee operation at the end of last season which, by the start of the World Cup would have become 'still a couple of weeks away'. Therefore no bite on Chiellini, no ban and no need to offload him to our players' usual suitors Barça.
And without his goals in the WC, England would surely have charged to the final and torn Germany a new...
Alright, now I'm being silly.
Can I be the first to ask 'How hasn't Tim Sherwood got a job yet'?
He did a fantastic job with Spurs last season. He catapulted a dreary team into potential title winners in the matter of weeks. Teams were pummeling us before he came along and he stopped the rot, brought Ade back into the fold and we started firing.
His PPG was THE BEST EVER FOR A SPURS MANAGER.
After LVG, he is THE BEST MANAGER WE COULD HAVE APPOINTED LONG TERM.
He got Spurs playing exciting ATTACKING FOOTBALL.
He showed the fans WHAT THEY WANTED TO SEE.
He dropped the rubbish Soldado and played the INCREDIBLE HARRY KANE.
He ditched those rubbish overpriced forriners and played ACADEMY PLAYERS.
He could have been the future of Spurs. He could have changed our fortunes for the better. All the real fans who travel home and away (not the fake social media or idiot fans with no money who can't afford LOL) know he's a great manager.
I guess some other lucky club will get him and go from strength to strength, whereas we'll be stuck with another foreign boss. WILL WE NEVER LEARN?
Defending Jose On Lukaku
Agree with nearly everything written about Lukaku except one thing - the idea that Mourinho wasn't convinced by his potential. There's nothing in Mourinho's words to suggest this is true - Mourinho was convinced that he isn't ready to be undisputed first-choice striker for Chelsea NOW (as surely is everyone), and wanted him to fight for his place. But Lukaku, in a misguided attempt to prevent himself from sitting on the bench all the time, refused to accept that. No big club would have given him that assurance at this stage.
Maybe in the long run he's made the right choice. But it's equally likely that he's blown his chance to break through at a big club and will now stagnate, limited by Everton's limitations. Because every player has to fight to become an automatic first choice in a top club, with the possible exception of those who are signed having been automatic first choice at another top club. Look at Toni Kroos - one of the stars of Germany and Bayern Munich, but even he will have to fight for his place at Real Madrid.
As a Chelsea fan, I'm disappointed that we never got a chance to see what he could do in a full season breaking through into the first team (as he surely would have done had he chosen to stay last season). But it's hard to blame the club for this - possibly AVB for having him rot on the bench his first season, which appears to have scarred him thereafter, but not Mourinho. Still, with him gone we do need another striker (and I expect us to sign one before the end of the season). The scenario in which Costa gets injured and we're left with Drogba or Torres is not worth considering...
Tim Colyer, Chelsea fan, London
Caps Mean Little
I've often wondered why 'international players' are seemingly given so much more importance (by fans, mainly) while players who are uncapped are generally considered relatively inferior. The context is what matters in the end.
For instance, Ander Herrera is uncapped at the international level, but for a good reason - Spain's midfield is full to bursting with outstanding talent. He's still a quality player though, who could still make the grade there. On the flip side, Fellaini plays regularly for Belgium, but we all saw how well it worked for him at United. Steve Bruce was never capped for England, and yet Zat Knight has two.
So while being capped for the national team is certainly a great honour for any player, it doesn't necessarily have a bearing on how good/bad he will be at club level. Just a thought.
DJ, MUFC (the 16th of August can't get here soon enough) India
True Love For BFS
After reading the article on sympathy for Sam, I did not feel sorry for him. By getting sacked he will get a nice juicy pay-off, and it will probably happen with West Ham not relegated, and his record for steady top-flight management intact.
However, as a Bolton fan, I love Big Sam. I know he's hideous, both in terms of arrogance and appearance, and the vast majority of football that his teams have played as been equally grim. But, as we dwell in relative anonymity in the Championship, with the reliable but unspectacular Jay Spearing as our star player, and the youth-focused Dougie Freedman in charge, it is hard not to look back at Sam's tenure with a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Under him we played direct, physical football, but we had an identity. We were tough to beat, we would turn the recently Invincible Arsenal inside out once or twice a season, and we would challenge for, and compete in, European football. We finished behind Liverpool on goal difference the year that they won the Champions League. We were certainly a team that were greater than the sum of its parts, and that was no doubt, thanks to his management.
And as for glamour, it might be hard to rack your top 7/latest crisis club filled brains back a few years, but our football was not as bad as you probably think. Allardyce brought classy players to the Reebok, Jay-Jay Okocha, Djorkaeff, Hierro, Campo, Candela, Nakata, Gary Speed, Stelios (not the greatest but still a European champion!), and Nicolas Anelka. Dare I even mention the time that we nearly signed Rivaldo!? With players such as these, even if our football was a bit rough and ready, there was always quality, and the potential for the sublime to occur.
I'm getting all misty-eyed and romantic here, and I'm trying not to waffle on, but what I am trying to say (again) is that I love BFS. His Blackburn(ugh)/Newcastle/West Ham teams have been difficult to stomach, and the once-real possibility of his England team would have been an abomination to the eyes, but his Bolton team were the ultimate underdogs, and, while I do not admire any of his recent achievements, he will never lose my gratitude.
Cal (No Idea what this season has in store for us) BWFC
The Good 'Ol Days And The Bottom 12
'Last season's bottom 12 were, to our minds, the worst 12 in the history of the league.'
That's taken from 'Johnny And Al's Ads For TV Football...'.
If you'll indulge me, I'd like to take a sharp blade to the furry behemoth that is nostalgia. I heard multiple times over the course of the World Cup how Pele would have run this defence ragged, how Gordon Banks would have got a hand to that, and how no-one could have kept pace with Zico. This is all utter garbage. The level of fitness of the players, their physiques, but most importantly, the fitness and speed of those they were playing against has improved so dramatically that when you watch re-runs of old games it almost looks like a different sport. I have no doubt some of these players my Dad speaks to me about would have been good, some even great, but they were not playing a standard of football even remotely comparable to the football played in the Premier League, La Liga, or the Champions League in the last few years.
This brings me to my gripe with that quote above. I hold my hands up and admit I had no faith in Sunderland staying up with six weeks to go. How we did it still baffles me. We were awful. However, we were awful compared to the teams around us. Who were all miles better than the pub teams in the bottom half of the Premier League from the 1990s. I urge anyone to watch a Premier League Years from the 90s and try to tell me with a straight face that the standard of the bottom twelve this year is worse than that of the bottom twelve from, say, 1999/2000. I've chosen the last season from the 90s deliberately because 1) it should be the fairest comparison and 2) Sunderland were in the league that year.
Sunderland finished 7th in 1999/2000. We missed out on Europe by one place. Yet, I have absolute faith that if the team from that season played against our current team it would be an absolute whitewash in favour of the 2014 crop. Good god, even Jozy Altidore would probably score.
Football has come on leaps and bounds in the past 30 years so why do we pretend it hasn't?
Perhaps I'm being too harsh. Perhaps its inevitable that at a certain point in your life you favour nostalgia over logic? Worryingly, I can imagine telling my grand-kids that Lee Cattermole was the greatest England captain that never was!
Daniel 'hurry up Fabio' Parker
Vanishing Spray And Quick Free-Kicks
Reg, London ponders whether the vanishing spray will affect quick free-kicks.
Doesn't the ref still ask the player if they want the wall? (Reminded me of this cheeky take by Henry in 2004 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCWjioIR5MM )
Must admit I don't recall seeing it of late but I assumed they still ask and every player says yes, as most are confident of getting it up and over. In that case the wall is positioned and the white stuff will come into play. They would still get the quick freekick opportunity if they so desire.
Westy (think I might go watch some free kicks now, no point in working on a Friday)
Changing The World
I wrote into the mailbox (and was published) a week ago to complain about the Premier League not using the referee spray next season but now they've done a u-turn and it will be used next season in the Premier League after all.
And they say one man can't make a difference...
Simon P, Dublin
Headlines I want to see in the 2014-15 season (in order of likelihood):
Oscar Nomination - Chelsea's Brazil star on PFA gong shortlist.
How Much Dead Wood Would Ed Woodward Chuck? - United's underperforming stars face January clearout.
Dutch Oven - LvG's Temper Hotter than Fergie's Hairdryer
Rodgers: It's Hammers time - Liverpool boss ready for West Ham Wembley semi.
Herrera: The Drog that beat you - veteran striker ghosts past United new boy to net winner as Chelsea overcome European hangover.
Emre Can; Emmanuel Can't - Liverpool ace nets winner to sink Spurs; Adebayor philosophical after dire performance
Roo Better? Roo Bet! - Wayne finally turns up for England.
RvP & LvG AWOL in LPG BMW SUV.
Chris (excited now), Manc
All Hail The Badger
Overjoyed to open up the quiz and find a picture of Gerry Francis. His unswerving loyalty to THAT haircut should receive much more publicity/condemnation/commendation (delete as appropriate) than it currently does.
Andy (I got 8/20 and I'm ruddy chuffed), London