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A potential England line-up
Your young players of the season piece and the high number of English winners has got me thinking about England’s potential line-up for the Euros next summer. All going well, I feel the below line-up would give most nations a good game, and there are a variety of attacking options on the bench. Given our lack of quality passers in midfield Foden could potentially end up being our most important player.
Rashford could come in for Sancho or Sterling depending on form.
I would also like to see Trent given a try in central midfield with Wan-Bissaka coming in at right-back if England are able to play any friendlies before the tournament. Central midfield and Central defence remain our weakest positions.
Why Manchester United’s full-backs don’t cross
The conversation about United’s fullbacks has got me thinking, and I wanted to write a mail more on the tactics used for it. I want to say too that I’m not painting Ole as a genius for these things, but just registering it.
Firstly, it’s right to say that just because Liverpool use fullbacks how they do, doesn’t mean every team has to (or is able to given their ability). Liverpool use their fullbacks to attack in a five with the midfielders sitting back to cover with the two centre-backs. It’s lovely, but United are different. When Shaw plays, Rashford drops deeper and wider, forcing the fullback to follow him out where he doesn’t want to go. When Shaw attacks, he almost never goes along the touchline, and it is a bit of rarity in fullback play. He makes a very straight, arrowed run to the space between the six yard box and the box – forcing his marker to go somewhere he really doesn’t want to go. It causes confusion of who should pick up who, but also creates space for Rashford to then move into.
Also, the reason Shaw and AWB’s crossing stats are low, is because they aren’t actually asked to cross. For good or for bad, United recognise their forwards aren’t great in the air but are great with the ball at their feet, so they play to maximise that. It’s also the reason for the high number of penalties United have gotten this season. The forwards are intricate and the aim is for them to either have a slick interchange of passing to create room for a shot, or for the quick footed among them to make their own half-yard for the shot. Both things suck defenders in to make a challenge, inevitably leading to penalties. United’s fullbacks aren’t great crossers, and United’s attackers aren’t great receiving them, so they don’t bother with it.
When United attack on the left, Matic slots into Shaw’s position and Fernandes drops a little lower to cover, creating an overload and defensive cover. Pogba usually stays in the same line as Fernandes. When United attack on the right, Greenwood is never told to start on the touchline because AWB is never told to make the same run that Shaw makes. AWB instead stays wider but lower than Shaw ever will, but Pogba is used as the attacker instead, because of AWB’s defensive ability and recovery. Matic stays lower when United attack on the right and Shaw is less likely to go, meaning there is enough cover for this. The tactics are player specific.
Oddly, City also do this, but in a different way. When Mendy plays, he joins the attack high on the left and crosses a lot because he has a great crossing ability and Walker stays lower. When Zinchenko plays, Walker goes higher and Zinchenko slots into midfield more. Sterling changes from wide forward to inside forward with this too. City usually dominate the ball as they do, and score as many as they do, because they attack more with six players than five; this is also the reason a lot of the time they always seem like they’re one good pass away from being cut through like butter.
There’s no point to this really, I just like tactics and think that different ways of play is what makes football interesting, so leave AWB alone.
On AWB and a need to vent
I think Aaron Wan Bissaka has probably been judged a little harshly this season. As a Liverpool fan I’m sure every Utd fan cares about my opinion, and I think he’s done OK. The difficulty, as has been mentioned – is that he will suffer comparisons to TAA for most of his career – that’s just how football works, everyone loves to benchmark and compare. What also goes against AWB is that he used to be a winger, up until that folklore day in Palace training when they stuck him RB against Zaha and he pocketed him. The fact that he has made it as a RB with little-to-no positional training is a bit damning with faint praise about his abilities as a winger. To be honest, as a winger playing at full back – his output and contribution should be a bit better than it is, but hey – it’s his first season at Utd, so he can have that as a gimme.
I’d be looking for an improvement from him next year though, third season in the PL and second in a settled back line. For me, he’s had a C+ season, but next season he needs to improve to a B-/B+ or questions will start to be asked.
Moving, on – in no particular order and by no means exhaustive, here’s a list of current things that piss me off about football:
– Feigning injury (bring on-pitch treatment into force – problem solved)
– The unproven, yet undoubted link between press/transfer rumours and betting sites
– Player ‘signing on fees’ – wtf, why do they exist? why are they not capped too?
– Agent fees – wtf why are they not capped? Scandalous
– The weird countdown to kick off some clubs seem to have – no ta
– The Ole v Frank v Arteta triple threat match currently going on
– Gareth Bale
– Pre-season shuttle runs in this absurd heat
Thank god football is back again soon! Anyone else got some gripes they want to vent?
Lee (I’m blaming a lack of fitness on the heat, when it’s probably the fact I’m 32 now), LFC
Give Tickers a Magnum
Could someone please give your wonderful writer, Dave Tickner, a cuddle? He sounds like he needs one. And maybe an ice lolly.
It’s all gonna be alright, buddy. PSG will find a way to f**k up their Champions league campaign; the “new” season will start soon (unless it’s started already – I’m not quite sure as I’m a Spurs fan and they appeared to have finished their 2020 campaign in about January); Russia’s new vaccine / Olympic “special sauce” combo will be the silver bullet to kick Covid 19’s arse; a coup d’etat in early 2021 will then see Boris and Pritti replaced by Ben and Jerry, with Mr Whippy installed as Defence Minister; and then we just have to wait until next summer to watch England bow out of Euro 21 in glorious semi-final defeat. Probably on penalties. Y’know what – it’s even supposed to rain tomorrow and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier about that fact in my life!
And in all seriousness, if anyone else is having those moments/ddays where it all feels like the absolute absurdity of the world is getting too much, give the Samaritans a ring on 116 123 and talk to someone. Let’s be sure to look out for each other, whichever football season it is.
Chris Bridgeman, Kingston upon Thames
The doom and the gloom
Look, I enjoy the dystopian parallel dimension that John Nicholson inhabits. Really, its refreshing, it gets the inner sense of harumph going…all in all just really good material to drop the kids off at the pool to.
But has this man never heard of “promoting from within”? I don’t know I feel like that’s a pretty normal thing that goes on in the every day world, I think (now don’t quote me on this since there’s actual studies) that it might even help with the company culture? Who knows. (Sociologists.)
It’s not a fad, the man bun was a fad (for those of us with long hair who keep it in a bun it was just our time to shine) just like Ke$ha was a fad with teenage girls. All these kinds of articles do is make people feel like “yea! They took our Jobs!” and then without thinking they scurry to Tweeter to multiply and fester… it’s not dialogue or logic based its more feral.
As much as I enjoy reading ABU365, I mean F365, I feel like maybe a little more sense of realism wouldn’t hurt Mr. Nicholson’s ‘ticles.
We all saw the South Park episodes about ‘member berries and how harking back to a time past is actually just counterproductive to the human race. Be better, AB…F365!
N.V.M. (maybe knowing where the toilets are won’t keep 7 Bayern goals out but it helps to know where to go for a cry afterwards)
PEH could be leader Spurs need
Pierre Emile Højbjerg is exactly the type of understated signing Spurs need. It’s not a signing that will get most excited, although I am sure it still warranted a yellow alert bar on SSN. I’ve seen enough of him to know he will offer qualities that don’t really exist in the starting 11 and that was only further emphasised when I listened to his interview upon signing. Talk is cheap and all that but you can tell, that when some people talk they mean it, and PEH is one of them.
Who leads in our team? Yes, we have a shouty Eric Dier when he plays, which is far too often and despite what us proud, chest thumping, God Save the Queen singing, shouty Englishmen believe – shouting does not = leadership. At least not on its own. You can see Toby organising at the back as best as he can but imagine trying to organise Serge Aurier as he aimlessly wanders around the pitch in his inexplicable free role. Disheartening, right? Winks, neat and tidy. Not inspirational. Sissoko running in very straight lines for 60 yards to then do nothing. Leading by example, no. I have been loving Le Colso and I can imagine him getting really irritated at what the players around him do at times but I don’t get the feeling he is going to Roy Keane them along to victory. And Harry Kane, as tantalisingly wonderful (and often injured) as he is, is not our leader. His individual brilliance just means we rely on that more and expect that of him. Does he make others around him better? Not for me, Clive. Most of the team will watch him bang goals in, wondering why he is doing it in a Spurs shirt. Long may that continue but unless we have an outstanding season with some trophy action, we will lose him in a year anyway.
So yes, I welcome PEH and his obvious leadership qualities. He may not be the marquee signing we desperately lust after (because they always work out so so well; Tanguy £54m, Sanchez £36m, Sissoko £31m, Soldado £27m. That is our 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th most expensive signings. Ever. A total of £148m for very very little return) but for someone who has just turned 25, he already is very experienced and has the qualities you really want for someone playing in that area of the pitch. £15m represents a cheeky bit of business too. I predict that money spent will have more of a positive impact than the £148m mentioned before.
We are Spurs though so lest we not forget, our DNA is to be a bit shit.
Glen, Stratford Spur
To Will Ford, who wonders why Lampard hasn’t been ‘given more leeway’.
Will. He’s been nominated for manager of the season. For leading Chelsea to a spot below where they finished last season, and winning zero trophies. Don’t you think that’s leeway enough?
That was a great piece written by Will Ford today. It really hit all the right notes with regards Lampard and his public perception. Even as a Utd fan I was a big fan of Lampard, he spoke well, apparently has mensa level intelligence, seemed quite smiley and always looked like the good guy next to the colossal bell-end that is John Terry. His record was great, rarely injured, a mainstay at club and international level, top scorer for Chelsea and even won another league with a brave and intelligent move to Man City. Thumbs up all round Frank. But I have found myself disliking him since he took over Chelsea and I couldn’t quite work out why, and Will Ford nailed it.
We don’t like people who have already had a great time of it, receiving even more preferable treatment and opportunity than they already have, especially when it is matched with a snarky arrogance we rarely if ever saw as a player. Being the new darling of England, receiving massive amounts of slack from the press while Ole and co have their backs against the wall consistently, just grates on people. I am sure people will also wish Pirlo makes an absolute hash of the Juve job that he just strolled into off the back of a grafter like Sarri being bombed out, despite a Scudetto in the bag. In the tough times we live in, it just plain gets on people’s tits, a personification of the rich getting richer while the “poor” get pilloried or fired.
A tip of the cap to the fine mail sent in by Jan regarding AWB. He is a fabulous defender, unfairly criticised because he does the “boring” bit exceptionally but isn’t a chart topper at the job he wasn’t signed to do. It’s like criticising a hammer for not being a saw, despite the fact this hammer is actually able to do quite a bit of sawing if you look up the stats. And I now see the Pirlo Lampard article has dropped, so off I go to read that.
Rowan, Red Devil Dub
Addiction does not make you a lesser man
Just wanted to write a quick reply to Donp lfc. I get you’re sticking up for Henderson as an lfc fan. Heck I even agree with most of what you’re saying. However, to describe Gascoigne, Merston and Best as lesser men is just incredibly insensitive.
Having an addiction doesn’t make you a lesser man. It means you are not well. Just because it’s a mental health issue doesn’t make it any less of an issue.
So sure, you can compare them as footballers. Sure you can say they have different qualities but let’s try not to make light of serious mental health issues like addiction.
Bernard (I’d say Henderson for FWA player of the year and De Bruyne for players’ player of the year sounds about fair) MUFC
A lot of words on Crystal Palace
A look at Palace’s potential summer strategy. Slightly different to Football365’s Five Players to Build Around and Five Players to Ditch because as ever with Crystal Palace, the answer is a bit more complicated.
Last summer, all ten out of contract players, in the lower reaches of the depth chart, left the club. On top of this, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, a genuine revelation, was sold to Manchester United for £50m. The other notable departure was Alexander Sorløth, who was allowed to go on loan to Trabzonspor with a commitment to purchase at the end of the season. He promptly became the top scorer in the Super Lig and was rumoured to have attracted the attention of Real Madrid. This is perhaps the most Palace thing ever. Neither of these players were directly replaced; the notable arrivals were forward Jordan Ayew (who was previously at the club on loan but joined permanently for £2.5m), midfielder James McCarthy (£3m from Everton) and centre-back Gary Cahill. Though many, including F365, criticised the lack of ambition, in terms of sensible, low-cost signings all three proved to be excellent value for money. Two loan signings proved disappointing: Victor Camarasa didn’t start a single game, and Cenk Tosun was injured after just five appearances. This left the Eagles with the oldest squad in the Premier League, as well as one of the shallowest, forced to focus on defensive solidarity and maximising returns from limited chances. This approach worked to an extent, as Palace ground their way to midtable when the season was halted, with 39 points from 29 games. Optimists saw the possibility of challenging for Europe, although just four points from 27 after the restart saw them eventually finish 14th, but in no danger of relegation. Palace registered their lowest ever goals scored tally for a season (31) and were the first team to survive the drop having scored two goals or fewer in every game of the season.
Generally, the squad and their performances were solid and unspectacular: nine players logged more than 50% of the available Premier League minutes and had an average Whoscored rating of 6.77. For a team with such an anaemic scoring record, it’s perhaps surprising that the two highest-ranked players were attackers: Wilfried Zaha (6.98) and Ayew (6.93), both from 37 starts; the only other player to feature in that many games was midfielder James McArthur (6.81, tied for fourth), a man recently described by Matt Woosnam of the Athletic as “the best player Palace have had for years”. No players particularly disappointed, though Andros Townsend found himself increasingly marginalised as the season wore on ending with a single goal and assist. Christian Benteke was far from prolific (two goals, one assist), but he won an average of 6 aerial duels per game and took a team high 1.7 shots per game, which tied him with McArthur on 6.81. Besides scoring, the Belgian did a lot right and in a different system may have yielded better results.
As usual with Palace, things are a mix of good and bad news. The good news is that an overhaul is not required, as just three players are out of contract: third choice goalkeeper Stephen Henderson did not make a Premier League appearance and Ryan Inniss was on loan at Newport County in League Two, which just leaves Scott Dann. Now 33, injuries have restricted playing time for a centre-back who played a huge part in the Eagles establishing themselves in the Premier League. I’d expect a side with ambitions of a top half finish in the Championship to be interested, and I wouldn’t rule out a reunion with Neil Warnock at Middlesbrough.
The flipside of the settled squad is that 14 players will be out of contract in 2021, at which point those players will have an average age of 31. There is minimal chance of most of these players being sold for a fee, especially in the cases of high earners like Benteke and Mamadou Sakho. Moreover Roy Hodgson, who sets a new record as the oldest manager in Premier League history with each passing day, is also out of contract at the end of next season.
Optimistic fans will hope for a similar effect to that seen in North American sports, where teams overachieve as a group, a last hurrah before they disperse. Of course it’s likely that several affected players will be offered new contracts anyway, but a large number have something to prove. Either way, it underlines the importance of starting to build for the future.
Mostly, what the club need to do is use the current group of veterans as a solid core around which to add younger players who can bring some excitement to the team. 20-year-old right back Nathan Ferguson is a good start in this regard but needs to be the first of several. Jeffrey Schlupp’s absence seemingly makes a big difference to the attack, despite averaging 0.9 shots, 0.5 key passes, and 0.8 dribbles per game during his time at Palace, all three of which would put him outside the top 100 for Premier League last season. This is not a healthy position for a team with ambitions of thriving in the Premier League. In this respect, links to QPR’s Eberechi Eze and Bright Osayi-Samuel, plus Florinel Coman (about whom I am not an expert) of Steaua Bucharest make sense. McArthur is Palace’s “best player” because he works incredibly hard in attack and defence; now is the time to recruit someone younger to play alongside him and share that load. However, reducing the average age of a squad isn’t simply a case of replacing everyone over 30 with players ten or more years younger, as recruiting players in their mid-20s will still have a positive effect. That’s why links to Ryan Fraser (26 and out of contract at Bournemouth) and Ollie Watkins are encouraging, although Palace are hardly alone in their admiration of the Brentford forward.
As usual, there’s the question of Zaha. The Ivorian has a superstar quality that means he is at his best when the team is built around him and his strengths, where he is given freedom to exploit the inside forward channels, whether he starts out wide or as a second striker. However, 2019-20 was a season of structural discipline and pragmatism. Though no one would accuse him of slacking, it’s understandable a player in his late 20s would want to play at a higher level where he would be able to express himself. As unlikely as it seems, a move to Paris Saint-Germain or Serie A would favour all parties – Zaha would get European football and Palace would not run the risk of their former star returning to haunt them. Both sides of the coin have their disadvantages, and the club has to decide whether they will risk losing their best player, or risk keeping him while he’s unhappy; if they cash in, they need to make sure that a viable replacement is available, and they aren’t put off too much by the same frustrations as Zaha. Currently, rumours abound that the Eagles are interested in Ismaila Sarr, although this seems like a bit of smoke and mirrors, with the Watford man in the equation for clubs weighing up a bid for Zaha. However, it’s encouraging that the club seem to be saying that they will not need to sell players to fund a bid for Sarr.
The main question for the future of the club still concerns the manager. The club needs to decide fairly soon whether Hodgson and his stodgy tactics are the way forward: do they provide the best template for keeping the current star players happy and attracting new recruits, or would someone else be better; alternatively, is the stability that Hodgson undeniably brings yield better results on the field and in the transfer market more appealing than the uncertainty of an unknown new boss. With their relative statuses, it’s understandable the club would allow their manager to retire on his own terms, but they need to make efforts to revitalise the club before things go from stodgy to completely stale. I realise there’s a lot of variables in play so I’ll stop before I turn completely into Chidi from the Good Place.
Recent times have seen teams get comfortable in Premier League midtable and attempt to tread water, only to eventually be overtaken by upwardly mobile promoted sides: Stoke City are probably the starkest recent example of a side who hit the glass ceiling: they didn’t move with the times or have the finances to challenge for European places, and in standing still, ended up going backwards. They became increasingly conservative in their playing style and couldn’t keep up. This year’s promoted teams do not look like being pushovers, and without significant investment in the squad, Crystal Palace look like dangerously like relegation candidates.
The Isle of Man is back
Bit of a promo for non-league footy I’m afraid. Not sure if you were aware but FC Isle of Man, formed in the last 12 months and due to play in next season’s North West Counties League, are playing their first match on Saturday against Guernsey FC in a friendly. As there are no covid restrictions here the game will have a crowd and will be the most attended football game in the British Isles this weekend.
They have just launched their kit, and the goalies top is a thing of beauty to raise awareness of prostate cancer. You can have a look at it here. Jeff Stelling would love it.
Anyway, wish us luck and if anyone wants to watch the newest team in the English league system live, with a real crowd as opposed to piped crowd noise, you can buy streaming access here.
John (Isle of Man)