Monthly Archives: July 2016

England can recover under Sam Allardyce

Sam Allardyce Sunderland

Allardyce is set to get the job he has always wanted. Source: Sky Sports

While not official until Sunderland come to terms with the move and get the compensation they feel they deserve, Sam Allardyce is set to become the new England manager. News that fills some with anger, some with apathy and some with delight, Allardyce could be the ideal man that the national team need in a moment of crisis.

Before we all get a little too high-and-mighty about our national squad, remember that we have just had the worst World Cup campaign for a long time and were humiliated by a far smaller nation in the European Championships. This is a time where a side on the edge of a younger generation that will need a big lift, the former Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United manager is the perfect person to perk up their spirits and give them a sterner jaw.

By now, we all know what Big Sam brings to the table. Stability, the capability to get the best out of his players and the capacity to grind out those results when they are needed. It’s not always pretty and his style is often criticised but he has yet to not get the job done.

That’s also to mention that Allardyce is not a tactical genius, he will set the team up to be as solid as they can and to get the ball forward quickly. He showed last season with Sunderland that he does not need a big target man to work his system, Jermaine Defoe showed just that, and on evidence from the European Championships he is not outclassed by many on the current international scene.

However, there has been evidence that players do get on his side. He has never been relegated from the top flight, keeping numerous sides up while gaining loyalty throughout his Premier League journey and there will plenty of players delighted to see him take the reins.

pulse-sam-allardyce-best-xi-sunderland-cele

If he can get them going and grind out results, maybe we might see more scenes like this. Source: Premier League

He also had great endorsments from the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, you will struggle to get someone better than that, and he’s been desperate for this job for so long. He will give his all, he will not be afraid of making any difficult decisions and as previous evidence shows, it will not be long before the players are fully behind him.

We are also in a generation where top managers do not really see international jobs as the pinnacle. Many are more enthralled by the best club positions in Europe and with that being the case, Allardyce will not be out of his depth as many naysayers feel he will be.

The FA’s decision to skip young options like Eddie Howe, Gareth Southgate or even Sean Dyche was also a wise move. Give them more time to grow and gain experience, allow them the chance to fail or try their hand at a bigger club before passing the reigns down to the exciting coaching prospects we are beginning to build.

Allardyce is the man England need and the FA deserve. There has been a dearth of solid English coaches in the past ten or so years and that has led to someone who was fighting relegation to get the biggest job in the country in many people’s eyes.

It’s now his time to pick these players up from a heavy blow this summer, give them the confidence and the freedom to perform at the level they need to be at come the World Cup in two years. At least for us viewers, Big Sam will not hide from the task at hand.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

Luke Shaw will feel like a new signing to Manchester United

Luke Shaw

It’s great to see Luke Shaw take a football field again.Source: Sky Sports

It has been quite the wait but on Saturday afternoon, Manchester United left back Luke Shaw finally stepped back on to a football pitch.

Back in September, the England international suffered a double fracture of his right leg in the club’s Champions League tie against PSV Eindhoven that ended his season prematurely. It has been a long road back to full fitness, a tough one when it’s for such a long period, but United fans will be delighted to see him again.

After an outstanding season at Southampton under Mauricio Pochettino two years ago, the youngster made the big-money move to Old Trafford that summer. Many baulked at the reported £30 million figure but those at the helm in Manchester knew they were investing in a potentially world class full back in the future.

Those critics were not silenced in his first season at the club, where he struggled both for consistency on the pitch and staying on it. Despite that, many still believed that he would come good in time and with a full summer off, he would return firing on all cylinders.

From the beginning of the 2015-16 season, you could see that the enthralling attacking full back had returned. He had a spring in his step and with encouragement from then-boss Louis van Gaal, who had criticised his weight in the past, Shaw began to really establish himself again.

That attacking instinct returned, where he would fly past his winger and venture towards the by-line. His speed also allowed him to catch up defensively and on both sides of the ball, he made himself an extra weapon to the club’s arsenal that they really needed as they occasionally stifled themselves creatively.

He was the change of pace, he made something happen and he was that extra bit of spice to their attacking play.

Luke Shaw 2

This was a heartbreaking moment in what will hopefully only be a footnote in a long career. Source: Sky Sports

Just as he was starting to fly, his wings were clipped. A lot of onlookers would have said that Shaw was possibly United’s best player for the first few games of the season and were completely gutted when he was struck down on that one night in the Netherlands.

While he went to recover, United struggled to fill the void. Daley Blind was now a centre-back, Marcos Rojo was in the bad books and injuries to Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young meant that Matteo Darmain was their only real option but he needed to play at right-back.

When they did find a suitable replacement in another youngster, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, he too was struck down with injuries that interrupted his steady rise. It was a position of weakness throughout the season and Shaw’s return shores that gap up dramatically.

As for England, they have a surprising amount of interesting full-backs to choose from now. Both Danny Rose and Ryan Bertrand have impressed for their clubs but with neither really making the place in the national team their own, there’s a real chance that Shaw could be the answer in that team as well.

There’s no doubt that it’s fantastic to see Shaw back on a football field, both for club and country. Not only is he a terrific young talent that can become a star, he has shown that he has a strong mentality to fight back and he will be ready come August to show everyone what they’ve been missing.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Euro 2016 proves the gap is closer than ever before

trophysoccer-euro-por-fra.jpg.size.custom.crop.1086x702

Portugal were never spectacular but they worked hard to get all the way to the title. Source: The Star

After a bustling four-and-a-bit weeks in France, the European Championships are over and Portugal outlasted everyone to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy. Full of tactical football, defensive football and the ever so fleeting flicker of genius, it has been a tournament that flattered to deceive and revealed that the gap to the top is not as wide as many perceived it to be.

Before it started, many had hoped that we would see an exciting young French team, which we saw in spurts, or the resurgence of the world champions but Germany were poor without Mario Gomez in the side, which is a statement within itself. Others thought Spain could roll back the years but they only managed it for one evening, or England to end the hurt but they instead decided to inflict more of it.

There have been a lot of criticism for the lack of high-level coaching in international football and that’s entirely justified. The difference between someone like Antonio Conte of Italy, who took a underwhelming side on paper and made them look like a powerhouse that could even switch formations at a whim without losing much, to Marc Wilmots of Belgium, who turned a superstar team into a disheveled bunch of Sunday footballers, was incredibly stark.

download

Spain disappointed and were outclassed by two more tactically aware sides. Source: ESPN

What also stood out was the difficulty of the bigger sides with prominent talents struggling to break down an organised defence. Germany, France, Spain, Belgium and England were all lacking ideas against teams that set up shop to stop them from scoring and the lack of ideas were startling at times, with some getting lucky and some bombarding the opponent until they finally allowed one to trickle home.

That’s also being a little unkind to some of the smaller nations in Europe that showed exactly why they qualified and that they can go with the best of them. Iceland were so well drilled, Wales’ counter-attacks were often so efficient, Hungary were not afraid to have a go at anyone, they all showed off that they have much more than people gave them credit for.

Attacking prowess was really at an all-time low in this tournament, with even star number nines struggling to have a big impact. A lot of teams leading up to the tournament looked short of strikers but even the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane, who have had fantastic seasons at club level, failed to make a huge impact.

In fact, only four strikers made the top 10 goalscorers list, which would include Antoine Griezmann, Alvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud and Mario Gomez. Others like Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale were used as forwards but aren’t natural central players that we have seen in years gone by.

livefootballscore-22

Wales epitomised this tournament with their hard work and can-do attitude. Source: indianexpress.com

Instead, it was defences that reigned supreme and some of the real standouts of the tournament were centre backs. Leonardo Bonucci was sensational as both a custodian at the back as well as a creative force, Jerome Boateng showed how much he’s grown in the past year as a frighteningly athletic defender and Pepe reminded everyone that even though he picks up the bad reputation as a diver, he is also a world class centre back.

Overall, it was entertaining and had its moments but Euro 2016 never really burst into life the way many hoped it would. There were some standout games and some heroically memorable performances but it never quite pushed itself over the average barrier it set itself from the off.

Shamefully, this tournament will also be marred by fan unrest at the start of the tournament and the scenes we saw at the end of the England and Russia game in Marseille. On the other side of the coin, many won’t forget the scenes of both Republic of Ireland fans and Northern Ireland fans gave, especially the latter rocking stadiums about a striker that never saw a minute of play.

It will be remembered for a long time though, reminding everyone again what you can achieve in football. Even with a lower standard of player to choose from, even against some of the best in the world and even when your star man is out for the count, you can still pull something a little special out of the bag.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kevin Durant makes the Golden State Warriors a sporting powerhouse

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs

Durant is in the top three best players in the league and he’s joining one of the other two, it’s that big. Source: slamonline.com

Two days ago, the internet shook as Kevin Durant revealed his destination for his NBA future.

He chose the Golden State Warriors.

In a move that makes the beaten NBA finalists look more like the Monstars from Space Jam, the whole NBA stood with their mouths open to the news. Why would Durant do this? How will they all get the shots they need? But more importantly, who can stop them?

The first question is pretty simple, KD is determined to win. Some will take a chop at him for joining another bunch of superstars, which he has every right to do and some will call it “weak sauce” that he joined a team that beat his Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs.

That series was really the only chance that OKC could convince him to stick around long term and even then, with Russell Westbrook’s future up in the air with or without the small forward, it was a difficult sell. The Warriors can win now, have a good-to-great-to-MVP player in every starting position and adding him almost guarantees a ring somewhere down the line.

The second question is absurd, as they all know the real key in basketball is to get everyone involved. The benefit they have now is that they have at least four excellent players that can take over the game in a pinch should they find themselves on an off night.

klay-draymond-stephen

These three will be delighted to add a fourth big name to their roster. Source: nbabayarea.com

Steph Curry, the reigning two-time MVP, can rain threes as can his splash brother Klay Thompson. As seen in the playoffs, Draymond Green can get it going as well so to add a player that averages over 27.4 points in his career can only be a good thing, even if on some nights he doesn’t put up 25 shots.

The biggest question is that final one and it’s a tough one to answer as there isn’t a clear way to stop them. They have so much range with a smaller unit, able to shoot from absolutely anywhere and with a number of very good options that can all score heavily even when contested.

Someone would have to come up with a stellar defensive performance for four quarters that at least kills some of their three-point threat and then emulate the Cleveland Cavaliers and crush them in the paint where they struggle the most with the smaller line-up. Even saying that, it would have to be a superhuman effort to deny them when they are all locked in and even if one or two aren’t, they have at least another two to lean on.

Adding a player of Durant’s calibre to any team would be a shot in the arm. He was the top average scorer in the playoffs with 28.4 points per game, was third in scoring in the regular season and the 2014 MVP has really bounced back with a vengeance from his injury-ravaged 2014-15 campaign.

When you put him in the mix with a championship-chasing team that could feasibly win it without him, that creates a scary prospect. This is a team no one will look forward to facing next season and should they go on to win it all, this could be a dynasty that could dominate the basketball world for years to come.

Tagged , , , , , , ,