Monthly Archives: September 2009

Portsmouth – fixed

I watched Pompey for the first time this season against Everton and they played well. Tim Howard was forced into a number of good saves and a few good chances were missed without the need of Howard’s intervention.

However, the team finds itself with the worst start to a Premiership season ever. Pointless after 7 games leads me to the conclusion that they could not have played that well in all other 6. So, does Paul Hart put the previous 6 down to the team finding its feet and continue as if the 7th was the way the team will go on to play. Or, does he think that having played well in the 7th game and taken no points requires a drastic change.

I would point to the latter because Everton were poor. If Everton had played well then I could see an argument for sticking with the team but Everton were as poor as Pompey were good.

It is clear that Pompey need to do something to make them somewhat of an enigma; difficult to beat but will have a chance of nicking a win if 0-0 in the 85th minute. Looking at the players at Paul Hart’s disposal then I think reverting the mid to late 90’s is the way to go – 3-5-2 – wing backs.

Both centre backs at the weekend are considered alongside Titus Bramble as the most culpable defenders of the Premier League. By playing three at the back there should be cover for each one and Pompey also have an overload of players in this position but not many full backs; Kabul, Ben Haim, Hreidarsson, Wilson,  Vanden Borre.

In terms of wing backs, Belhadj and the aforementioned Vanden Borre provide the obvious options but Finnan can play on the right and O’Hara comfortably do a job on the left if needed.

Another position of quantity is the centre of midfield; Brown, O’Hara, Diop, Mullins, Hughes, Mokoena, Boateng and Basinas. Pack that with two work horses and allow a creative player to roam with freedom will work wonders.

Hart also has options with his strikers. The squad is not bad in terms of quality but it is unbalanced.

Playing a 3-5-2 will confuse so many other teams in and around Pompey, teams which they should take points off. If a 4-4-2 is played then the two opposing central defenders will be taken up with Pompey’s strikers and the deeper central midfielder will be occupied with the roaming midfield player.

The two strikers of the opposing side will have to deal with 3 centre backs, one will always be spare to take a winger or on coming central midfielder. However, often the central midfielder will be taken by the holding midfielder.

Using this system Pompey will lose against teams like Everton and the other ‘bigger’ sides because the wing play will be more sophisticated than Pompey could handle. However, against teams that they should take points from, Bolton, Birmingham, Hull, Fulham etc. this system will fox the managers and the squad is big enough to keep it fresh and unpredictable. Utaka or Boetang, for example.

Pompey might survive if they make this radical change. They won’t if they do nothing.


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Massive games

This weekend see two games which will have a serious impact on the Premier League table come May.


Hull v Birmingham and Bolton v Stoke are the games that will really matter – not the London or Manchester derbies. As a percentage of total points gained over the course of a season, the three points on offer to Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United is much smaller in comparison to the other four teams mentioned above.


Hull, Birmingham, Bolton and Stoke will not be clear of relegation threats in March and, in all likelihood at least one will go down. It is a cliché to say that games are ‘6 pointers’ but the principle remains that if you win the game then your opposition has one less game to accumulate the necessary number of points needed to stave off relegation.


If Manchester United lose (for example) then they will have another 32 games in which to make up for the three points dropped and most of those will be games where three points are secured. Hull losing (for example) will reduce the number of games in which they have a realistic chance of getting three points to roughly eleven or twelve.


Could we say that avoiding relegation amounts to winning and winning the league is amounts to not losing? Did Liverpool not win the league last year because they beat Manchester United (eventual champions) twice, or did Liverpool not win the league because of home draws to Fulham, West Ham and Stoke?

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Admission of guilt?

The axe has fallen on Peter Kenyon. Unlike what is being made out by Chelsea he has not resigned – he has been sacked.

If he were to be resigning then he would not make comments such as ‘I have one more challenge in me’. Kenyons sacking indicates conclusively that he was at fault for the Kakuta incited (where Chelsea can not buy players for the next two transfer windows) and that, whilst they will appeal, it is unlikely to be successful.

He is one of footballs characters and I will miss him. Always reliable to put his foot in it, or be caught having dinner with people he shouldn’t be having dinner with.

But who to replace him? Will Chelsea, like Man City and Liverpool, look outside the sporting world or will Abramovich’s friend Arnsen be promoted again. Or, will Ancelotti have a say and give Chelsea a more Italian structure. Maybe an ex-player (think Leonardo) will take the role? Guillit? Desailly?

If I were a betting man then it might be an ex-Chelsea player who has had dealings with Ancelotti in the past.

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Manchester City

Mark Hughes has done a wonderful job at Manchester City. People will argue that if they had all that money then they could do as goon of a job but they would be very much mistaken.

Firstly, Hughes has gone an entirely different route to Erikkson when he had Thaksin Shinawatra’s money. Sven bought good players (Elano, Petrov, Giovanni (although he was useless at Man City), Jo (see Giovanni) but none had played in the Premiership before. The start was always going to be good but tough games came up and the players became unstuck.  Hughes has purchased players that have all played in the Premier League and in some cases won the title. Only Robinio (not Hughes’ signing I suggest) doesn’t fit the bill.

City are playing well great going forward and a bit culpable at the back, but that will come with time. A victory against Arsenal is a launching pad for a title challenge. I will suggest, however, that there most important game of the season, next week at Utd, will define their season.

Win it and they’ll not come anywhere near winning the league. Lose it and they have a chance. Yes, that’s right. If they win then they will feel unbeatable – 5 wins out of 5 and two against teams people said they could not beat. However, this is the feeling that will derail their season when they go on the inevitable run of bad form. Individual players will start to feel like individuals and not part of a team. This will hamper any chance of success.

As Chelsea have proved this season it is important to fight to the final whistle and City players will take on individual chances in those final minutes if chasing the game rather than pass to a better placed teammate. An elaborate theory I know but it’s what did for Hull last year. They thought they were invincible and crumbled after a few tough games. If you feel you are better than your teammates then you will become selfish and City have the players to get to each other.

If City lose to Utd then it will be an expected defeat, albeit not a nice one but an expected one. The next game will then be one that they must win to get back on track, this will force the team to become a team more than a victory will.

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Lee Dixons Tactical View

You’ll note that Dixon has echoed my earlier thoughts on Birmingham City’s striking issues,  .

Good work Lee. Hopefully now Alec McLeish will listen and Benitez will start scoring points for my Fantasy Team.

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Argentina v Brazil – review

Not quite how I expected the game to pan out but the right result anyway (see earlier post).

Argentina will qualify for the World Cup as even if they finish fifth in their group the play-off is against Saudi-Arabia or Bahrain (I think). The fundamental problems are there for all to see:

  • The centre of the defensive is not organised. Think how many games Terry and Ferdinand played together compared to constantly changing Argentina two.
  • There is no width. Maradona played a 4-4-2 in the first half and the wide men rarely troubled Maicon or Santos. Playing a 4-4-2 against a 4-2-3-1 leaves no room for anyone to create in the middle of midfield.
  • Don’t use a 4-3-3 with Tevez, Auguro and Messi as the front three. There is no direct striker to poach; no Etoo, Drogba, Fabinano etc. Play Milito!

Brazil, however, looked comfortable without really impressing. I think their number 7 position (outside right of a front three) is proving problematic. Elano and Ramierez are not making it their own but I’m sure Dunga has enough options.

P.S. Odds on both Adriano and Ronaldo going to the World Cup? I’d take Ronaldo simply for his presence – best footballer ever.

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Striking whilst the iron is hot

Fabio Capello is lucky to have a few options when selecting those to play in the forward roles for England. The obvious starter is Wayne Rooney and is considering to be the obvious starter for very justifiable reasons.


However, who will play alongside him against Croatia and who will play alongside him in future matches. I think that against Croatia Mr. Capello will stay with the tried and trusted Emile Heskey. This is for the simple reason that victory will bring qualification for South Africa 2010 and qualification now will afford England twenty one months of preparation. This includes an away trip to the Ukraine who might have a play off place to play for. There can be no better test than playing a country in need of a win at their home stadium.


After Croatia, however, I would drop Heskey like a stone. His performances for England and Aston Villa have shown why he has only scored seven international goals in upwards of fifty performances. The argument of “he brings others into play” is nonsense because every international footballer should be able to recognise when it is right to play the ball, hold it up for others or go in alone.


I have been searching for a statistic to show how many games Aston Villa have won with Heskey starting and how many they’ve won without (since obviously he joined in January). Basic logic tells you that as Villa’s season tailed off horribly after January the statistic cannot reflect to well on Heskey.


England should have Carlton Cole and Jermaine Defoe groomed for the World Cup, barring any massive failure in form or fitness. Heskey should be considered a stop gap; thank him for his work but move him out to pasture.

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