ANALYSIS: O’Neill’s fishes out of water flop again

Alan O’Brien 

Speaking on Monday afternoon, Martin O’Neill rubbished suggestions that several players played out of position throughout Saturday’s deadlock with Denmark. “The only player we had playing in a position where he doesn’t normally play is Cyrus Christie, and he was man of the match,” he said. Perspective, of course, is all relative; Christie, in the eyes of most, looked all at sea in an unfamiliar central midfield role.

Awarded man of the match for, presumably, exacting Ireland’s only shot on target, the Fulham full-back was one of four square pegs crammed into round holes against the Danes; Callum O’Dowda, Harry Arter and James McClean the others. Their number dwindled to three against Wales on Tuesday, but they still let their side down — thrown to the wolves by an incompetent manager long past his sell-by date. Continue reading

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ANALYSIS: Dreary Denmark deadlock does weary Irish fans no favours

Alan O’Brien 

“We want to be on the front foot,” Martin O’Neill insisted to Sky Sports before kick-off. “We have certain players here who I think will adjust. This is an opportunity while we’re playing at home to go on the front foot.” Continue reading

PREVIEW: O’Neill likely to play into Hareide’s hands again

Alan O’Brien 

Having experimented with 3-5-2 in three of the Republic of Ireland’s last four friendlies, Martin O’Neill looks likely to give the system its competitive bow on Saturday. Age Hareide, mastermind of Denmark’s 5-1 triumph in Dublin last November, must be licking his lips. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Cavalier Cottagers leave no-one minding the house

Alan O’Brien 

To say Fulham went all-in during the summer would be something of an understatement. Promoted as the Championship’s top passers, the Cottagers faced a stark choice: stick to their guns, with the same players, and go straight back down; stick to their guns by signing a whole new side at great expense; or foist a more defensive style on a squad wholly unsuited to such. In the end Slavisa Jokanovic plumped for option two, spending upwards of £100m before the transfer window slammed shut. But, two months on, the Serbian is still no closer to moulding Fulham’s 11 newbies into a cohesive unit. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Sturridge stunner seals similar systems stalemate

Alan O’Brien 

Daniel Sturridge may never score a more unlikely goal, but the parity his stunner restored certainly felt more than earned. This is a different Liverpool, far removed from that which failed to beat a ‘Big Six’ side on the road last season. Tottenham Hotspur had already been vanquished on foreign soil before the Reds extracted this late, late point at Chelsea. Still unbeaten, Jurgen Klopp’s troops are now genuine contenders to Manchester City’s seemingly untouchable throne. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Hardy Hammers hamper Hazard

Alan O’Brien 

Statistics can be misleading. Jorginho’s 180-pass haul in this stalemate, a Premier League record, prompted plaudits from all corners of social media. West Ham United risked ridicule by gifting the ex-Napoli playmaker his freedom. But there was method to the Hammers’ madness. And, in the end, they were all the better for it. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Wasteful Wolves let unthreatening United off the hook

Alan O’Brien 

José Mourinho has never lost back-to-back home league games as a professional football manager. But only some familiar Wolves profligacy kept that enviable record intact on Saturday afternoon. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Counterattacking Hammers finally break their duck

Alan O’Brien 

Old dogs don’t tend to take kindly to new tricks. So, at the age of 65, Manuel Pellegrini was never likely to be parted from his obsession with a “big-team mentality”. But chastening defeats to Liverpool and Bournemouth, suffered right at the beginning of his nascent West Ham United tenure, must have given the Chilean pause for thought. Evincing a slightly more reserved tactical outlook, the Hammers were unlucky to go away empty-handed from subsequent engagements with Arsenal and Wolves. Everton, unbeaten but brittle, represented the perfect opportunity to turn that luck — provided Pellegrini did not revert to gung-ho type. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Diamond blights Tottenham’s fading title hopes

Alan O’Brien 

As far as win percentage goes, Mauricio Pochettino has every other modern-day Tottenham Hotspur boss beat. But, at the start of his fifth season in North London, the Argentinian appears no closer to breaking his silverware duck. Neither World Cup fatigue nor stadium strife have helped the 46-year-old’s cause. Errors of judgement and tactical inconsistency, however, have proven far more costly.  Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Welsh wave of the future engulfs old-fashioned O’Neill

Alan O’Brien 

Martin O’Neill loves to wallow in nostalgia, to recall the halcyon days when his performances were beyond reproach. Criticisms directed his way are tetchily deflected by references to a time when success came easy to the Kilrea native. That time is long gone now, however, and almost everyone except O’Neill knows it. Yet the FAI, in their infinite wisdom, have gifted him the luxury of two more lavishly paid years to figure it out. How kind of them. Continue reading