Is John Stones a good defender?

John Stones with Pep Guardiola

I was listening to the “world class” Alan Shearer and Phil Neville discuss this point yesterday and decided to do my own little piece.
On the face of it I can see why Stones get’s so much stick and typing this I can vividly recall careless back passes from Stones that have led to goals or almost led to goals but I will say I still rate him. The potential is there but the problem is with those that are currently being asked to mentor him in the centre of that defence; Otamendi, and Kolarov. I ask myself how Pellegrin ended up with Mangala and Otamendi in the first place and they didn’t come cheap!

Let’s be honest Otamendi will not get game time in the centre of the defence for any of the top 6 teams. His anticipation is pants and he spends so much time diving in tackles and not reading the game, also let’s not forget his penchant to play act instead of getting on with things. City have never looked a solid outfit in the centre of defence without Kompany and it was the same in the Mancini and Pellegrini eras. City have got to make a decision on Kompany’s fitness issues and his replacement, only when that is sorted will Stones begin to find his feet and comfort in the centre of City’s defence. I think it’s asking a lot to expect a young centre back to be the calming influence in that deer in headlights City defence who are very easily spooked at the moment. That back four consisting of Otamendi, Kolarov, Clichy and Sagna is spent and with a keeper that is battling confidence adapting to the PL Stones was always going to have problems playing the way he plays under Pep.

Stones is not your typical English defender known for their no nonsense displays usually summed up as ; kicking the ball to row Z, dangerous tackles interpreted as crunching or full blooded, leaving your foot in to let your opponent know you are there, jumping in front of shots, head bandage wearing with a bit of blood, chest banging aka showing passion, the list goes. He doesn’t come across as one of this type so he isn’t going to be the cup of tea of many English fans and pundits. Giving the right partner in the centre of defence in the mould and calibre of Kompany Stones will come good.

Return of the Old Arsenal

Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring his team's second and winning goal against Arsenal Photo credit OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring his team’s second and winning goal against Arsenal
Photo credit OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

I have just finished watching the City Arsenal game at the Etihad and can’t say I have seen a poorer Arsenal second half performance than what I have just watched in a long time, it’s like they all stayed in the dressing room after half time. I was chatting to a friend over in the middle east during the game and he was saying the losses have coincided with Mustafi’s absence, which I agreed with to a point but his absence can’t be responsible for the lack of bravery from Arsenal and how they fell apart like a two dollar suitcase. There were so many bad displays in that half if I listed them this would end up being a very very long blog.

I spotted a similarity in the loss at Everton and today’s loss at the Etihad; once the pressure and aggression was ramped up by Everton and City today the Arsenal boys went hiding, they weren’t brave and didn’t fight, Coquelin looked like he was alone in the midfield as Granit Xhaka couldn’t manage with the pace. I am here listening to Thiery and Graham discussing both goals being offiside or not on Skysports and honestly that’s not the issue if you ask me. Arsenal taking anything away from this game would have certainly masked the mental deficiencies in this team and I don’t know how Arsene fixes that. They were second to everything all over the park in that second half, and there can be no excuse for physically dropping off because of the Champions league participation as Arsene is trying to imply in his post match conference referring to playing Basel in CL before these away games because City too have been involved in the Champions league.
I can’t say I am surprised because over the years and being an Arsenal fan who has been scarred so many times you know Arsenal have these kind of performances in their locker but a part of me was hoping it was a thing of the past. You can’t always win but you have to leave everything on the pitch and I can’t say I saw that today, they left it all in the dressing room at half time it seems.

I try not to join the angry brigade and doom sayers after a loss or two especially when it comes to Arsenal, proclaiming the season is over but honestly where does the team go from here after losing both games in very similar circumstances? The manner in which they lost both games is familiar like every season since the invincibles and it seems to me the old fragile Arsenal tag will continue lurk around Arsene’s present team regardless of winning streaks and continuously ending up with nothing, until he himself sees it as an issue that needs to be addressed and fast.

 

 

Mourinho’s Cowardly Defence of United Fans

Fellaini and Jose Mourinho Getty Images
Fellaini and Jose Mourinho Getty Images

Yesterday Jose secured his first League win at Old Trafford in a while and this time 1 goal managed to do it against Spurs. Just like last week Marouane Fellaini came on as a late substitute with United leading 1 0 and some United fans felt it was justified to boo him, which was cowardly in every way.
Fellaini doesn’t select himself to be on the bench neither does he sub himself into the game, the manager does that, their anger should have been directed at the manager and not Marouane. Then you had Jose at the end of the match justifying the boos from those sets of fans which in my opinion is also cowardly as it comes across he wants to be on the good side of these fans, I can’t see Sir Alex justifying his substitute being booed in any way. At no time should a manager justify the booing of his players especially when one is singled out for being called upon by the manager and I am amazed that he took that stance. In essence he is defending people who are second guessing his judgement instead of his player who he expects to run through brick walls for him. I hope the Fellaini dude is alright because no one deserves that from their fans or manager.

Klopp and Pep are finding our that no matter how fast and furious your play is, if you don’t have a good goalkeeper and defence it will bite you in the bum now and again . Pep set up in a suicide manner against Leicester without his best striker or centre half pairing and he deserved that result, that was totally self inflicted in every way.  De Gea and Cech together in goal would have struggled with that set up in front of them. As for Klopp and Karius I like to think he is still settling in, I mean De Gea had problems adjusting in the beginning so I will still give him some time. After the weekend results Liverpool, City and Spurs are doing their very best to drag United back in.

Finally Arsene and his  boys came back from a goal to beat Stoke and Bellerin is so good for Walcott they work a treat down that right side. It was also great to see three different goal scorers without Sanchez’s name on the score sheet, means goals goals from everywhere in the team. It’s that time of the year when football comes quick as it’s mid-week games week, Everton away is next. That reminds me sort out the fantasy league, catch you guys later in the week.

Sanchez proving Arsene right

Alexis doing damage at West Ham
Alexis doing damage at West Ham

Arsene was ridiculed in some quarters earlier in the season for making Sanchez a striker, most interpreted it as him not wanting to splash the cash especially by that Morgan dude who never ceases to let us know at the slightest opportunity that he has Arsenal shares. This weekend Sanchez more than Justified Arsene’s decision to play him upfront as he has been doing most of the season scoring goals. His all-round performance against West Ham together with the hattrick was a thing to behold, and when you see tweets like this from one of Arsene’s most annoying antagonist, yes that Morgan dude again;

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One is  grateful he has absolutely nothing to do with footballing decisions at any club let alone Arsenal. To think he ever thought Fellaini was world class???
Whatever it takes to keep Sanchez Arsene do it! The Ox had a good game, if he can get his decision making better he will be one heck of a player. Coquelin continues to impress me in the middle and with Cazorla needing surgery I still believe Wilshere was hasty going to Bournemouth where he has been ordinary. All in all a good weekend for the boys in red, they still remain unbeaten in the Premier League and now lie second behind Chelsea.
 Chelsea continue to surmount every obstacle before them, City being the latest one scaled. It’s now 8 straight wins, bagging 24 points in the process which has rocketed them to the top of the table.  Conte has got it right and with no European distractions I think they will take some stopping.
Meanwhile the former “special one” has now become the drawing one, the 1-1 one or the fighty one as I call him is still making excuses all over the place with another draw at the weekend, it’s his default position as long as they continue to draw. When they begin to win he will start taking responsibility. It’s Spurs next week at Old Trafford and I am thinking those consecutive draws could be interrupted by a loss with Pochettino  coming into town.
My fantasy league has been infused with a bit of Jose magic it seems and I have stalled the last two weeks, the West Bromwich trio in my team worked a treat the other week though.
Congrats to Gareth Southgate on his England appointment and I hope the British media, fans, the FA and everyone concerned gives him time and let him do his job.

 

Another Week Another Change

PRemier League is here again!

Another game weekend and it’s another change at the top of the table with Chelsea replacing Liverpool at the top of the league table, I have a feeling that’s not the last time we are going to see a change at the top. Chelsea seem to be the form team right now, 6 straight wins and no goals conceded and it gladdens me that David Luiz is at the heart of that miserly defence. I get a break from the over exaggerated phrase ” if Terry was there they wouldn’t have conceded that” from the pundits particularly on Skysports. They seem to be averse to anything that breaks the mould of a “typical English defender”.

Chelsea and Spurs face off next week at the Bridge, the form team versus the only remaining undefeated team in the Premier League this season. As an Arsenal fan I am a bit  conflicted but would rather a Chelsea win I kinda like Conte, he almost makes the boys in the blue more likeable since the “fighty one” moved up North to Manchester.
Talking of the fighty one it was ironic to hear him talk about respect before the Arsenal game. I am not sure he knows what that is even if it hit him right in the face! I could go on about this but there really is no need, the internet is awash with this irony when it comes to his antics in every league he has been in.
Yaya came back with a bang scoring two goals in City’s win at Crystal Palace, makes Pep look like he got it right with the timing of his re-introduction after the very belated apology, lets hope Yaya has his employee his mouthy agent on a tight leash going forward. Yaya’s value is directly related to his pitch playing time unlike his agent who just needs a phone and contacts.

I don’t know where Pochettino keeps getting them some other Harry scored for Spurs at the weekend on his debut, the guy has a thing for developing youth. It’s Monday night football today and I have three West Brom players in my fantasy league, don’t know what I was thinking!  It’s gameweek 13 next week here’s hoping Arsenal get back to winning ways.

Jack Wilshere’s Gamble not paying off

jackw

It was interesting to watch England’s friendly against Spain and see how fluid and resilient the midfield was without Jack Wilshere. There was a time when Jack wasn’t in the team the commentators would bemoan his absence and I can’t say I remember the commentators doing that today because there was no need to. I
was actually thinking to myself how the midfield looked solid without Dele before I spotted Jack on the bench where he spent the entire match.

Moving to Bournemouth because he was snubbed by Big Sam for an England call up looks more shortsightedness than foresight to me with every passing game week . I have watched him play at Bournemouth and he has looked quite ordinary to me.I can understand his need to play but he was coming back from injury and was always going to come off the bench till he was deemed fit to start and in an Arsenal team with a great track record for injuries he was always going to get a chance to stake his claim to a starting spot at some point in the season. I would have expected him to have stayed and fight for his place.

Reading this interview  I found this bit telling;
There were a lot of midfielders and the manager brought another one in,” he added. ‘I’d been injured for a while, and I was thinking I was at a stage of my career where I needed to play.”
Sounds like Granit Xhaka being added to the fold probably made him doubt his chances of playing even more.

Time will tell if going to Bournemouth is the right step and maybe I am being shortsighted by calling it a shortsighted move but with Adam Lallana in good form for club and country and Dele Alli to return I honestly don’t see a space for Jack in the England starting eleven at the moment, a major reason why he left to get game time at Bournemouth in the first place. He was in the squad this international break and didn’t feature in either game.

Beginning To Feel A Lot Like November

Bellerin

Apologies about my hiatus I have been having issues with my host server which took a while to resolve but I like to think such a blogging drought has now become a thing of the past.

What a time to be returning; the international break! With all the anti-Trump hysteria going on I was hoping for more but sadly there is not a lot happening football wise apart from the fact that it is really beginning to feel like November for Arsenal even on an international break. Alexis and Hector, are reported to be injured with some sources saying that Hector will not be available for the rest of November. I am crossing everything possible that it’s a horrible rumour and Hector won’t be out for that long. Alexis on the other hand is still being kept back by the Chilean FA with the hope that he could play the next international match which the professor hasn’t taken kindly to.
My own thought though is Alexis’ responsibility to himself, you should at least be able to say I can’t play if it is going to jeopardise your availability long term.

What is it about November and Arsenal?  I know they have a win and a draw since it started but these reported injuries feels like here we go again, especially knowing that Arsenal are facing “the one that likes to fight his players” on resumption from the international break.
Looking on the bright side it has been reported that Hector has extended his contract with Arsenal, although it hasn’t been confirmed by the club.

It was just important I touch base with you guys as soon as I could even though not a lot is happening, hoping I have not been completely forgotten. I plan on introducing a podcast, any ideas on what you guys feel it should be like or about?

Rooney’s criticism is ridiculous

Rooney

I always marvel at the short term memory of fans, pundits and journalists alike. Wayne Rooney is 30 and he doesn’t have the same “superpowers” he used to have. How many last minute goals has Rooney scored to win games and eventually the cup or title for Manchester United in the past? People can’t expect the same level of performance they are used to from Rooney, also Iet’s not forget he didn’t pick himself and the position he played in the last few games. I certainly think the reaction to Rooney borders on disrespectful and very short term memory, then fans wonder why players leave for the highest bidders.

Almost everyone today has attributed Manchester United blitzing Leicester to Rooney’s absence because it freed up Pogba, short sighted stuff if you ask me. Let’s remember that Fellaini didn’t play either and to this “Einstein” he was the dude hampering Pogba from doing a good job in the middle.
It’s only the 6th game but I definitely think it’s too early to confine Rooney to the dumps, he might not dominate games like he used to do but he still has a lot to offer the United team.

I remember in that average win against Hull recently it was Rooney that delivered the assist for Rashford. Lets be careful that we are not trying too hard to retire Rooney it’s really not an issue to give a 30 year old some time off on the bench.

Blame the Ref, the Players, and Luck but not Mourinho

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Jose Mourinho still doesn’t get it and I doubt he ever will as long as he continues to see himself as the most important parameter in any event.  If his fall at Chelsea taught him anything I assumed it would have been how not to publicly criticize your players.

In last week’s loss to Manchester City Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, were not up to the task according to Jose but very little to do with how he set up his team, Contrast his response to how Pep Guardiola handled the postmatch Bravo culpability questions.

Fast forward 1 week to yesterday’s loss against Watford, the referee, players and luck were all responsible for the loss this time but certainly not him, Luke Shaw got particular mention for not doing his job on Jamat. The last time I checked a manager is responsible for the team line up and how they are set up, something Jose hasn’t got right this season.
Like most of us I am an armchair pundit, never managed a team but common sense dicates that if you throw yourself under the bus for your players they will do the same for you. I am not against having a go at players they are not babies but there’s a time and a place.

It’s only 5 games in and Jose is already tossing his boys under trains and buses after losses, I am curious to see what happens if the heat gets ramped up any further.

Jose you can’t fire 11 players but you can get rid of one manager. It’s early days but he needs to learn from the Chelsea debacle very fast and someone should please tell him Fellaini next to Pogba is never going to work. Why buy a Ferrari and use it to tow a Fiat Punto all over the place?

Manchester United apparently won the transfer market but it takes a lot more than expensive buys to win matches.

Pogba and Jose the right fit?

Paul-Pogba

Pep drew first blood in an exciting Manchester Derby and I am still bemused by people who continue to doubt his management credentials and ability to win things playing the Pep way in the Premier League. So far it’s 4 in 4 and he has been to Stoke on a rainy day and Old Trafford too without the compliment of his full squad if I may add.

I was surprised to see Pogba playing in the CDM role in the derby a role he struggles with if i go by his performances there at the Euros.  Fellaini alongside Pogba in midfield in my opinion negates all the attacking attributes Pogba possesses, he is better in an advanced position where he is not shackled with too much defensive responsibilities. For Pogba to be all he can be he needs to know that he can play how he likes to play and not be berated when he makes errors, herein lies the problem with Jose as his manager.
Jose does well with finished attacking articles and makes the most of defensive talent/potential , but he is not the man to make the most of young promising attacking talents as his go to mantras are defence and discipline.  John Terry was 23 going on  24 when Jose took over at Chelsea, Michael Essien was 23 going on 24 when Jose got him from Lyon,  these two are just examples of young defensive minded potential that developed to be great at it under Jose. I also remember Varane who everyone raves about now was given his first team opportunity at Real by Jose although Zidane was responsible for his recruitment. Contrast that with Mikel Obi who broke out in the same youth tournament as Messi and was second only to Messi at that tournament. I wonder what would have happened to Mikel if he had opted to stay at United under Fergie instead of going to Chelsea where his attacking instincts were curbed under Jose as a 19 year old. I look at Arjen Robben who did well under Jose but struggled with the defensive work ethic at Chelsea but thrived at Bayern. Then you have Hazard who did well initially then lost his zeal under Jose but looks like a new player under Conte because Kante and Matic are dealing with the defensive side of things.

Paul Pogba has talent although not 89 million pounds worth of it, time will tell if the choice to go back to Old Trafford being managed by Jose  in his bid to someday win the ballon d’or is the right one.