Wenger fails to capitalise on resolutely high Tottenham line

Alan O’Brien 

With a daring refusal to waver from the most characteristic of Mauricio Pochettino game-plans, Tottenham Hotspur exorcised the ghosts of November’s meek Emirates Stadium reverse.
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Pardew hubris well earned as Liverpool crash out to West Brom

Alan O’Brien 

With characteristic hubris, Alan Pardew was quick to laud his own “bravery” after this pulsating cup tie. Short of reprising that Wembley dance, the West Brom manager could hardly have reveled more in this famous Baggies victory.

But he had a point: to field a 4-4-2 at Anfield, while sitting second-bottom of the league, is certainly courageous. To not only survive a thrashing, but win, is undoubtedly a feat worth bragging about. Continue reading

Ascendant Arsenal pierce Palace lines with ease

Alan O’Brien 

It took 30 harrowing minutes for Roy Hodgson to give up the 4-4-2 ghost here. Four goals down when the stable door was finally closed, the Arsenal horse had already bolted, lived a full life in the wild, and expired of natural causes. Continue reading

Central midfield chasms result from Wenger’s latest bout of Conte copying

Alan O’Brien 

Back in August, Antonio Conte deviated from his title-winning 3-4-2-1 system for a big game just like this one. Tottenham Hotspur were frustrated, and bested, by a more conservative Chelsea 3-5-2. Its inception was designed to ensure greater defensive security against stronger sides. Yet, on Wednesday night, in another London derby, it achieved anything but. Continue reading

Burnley and Liverpool role reversal inspires late Clarets defeat

Alan O’Brien 

There was more than a touch of poetic irony about Ragnar Klavan’s late winner here. Burnley, not Liverpool, were punished for a late lack of restraint. Liverpool, not Burnley, turned aerial supremacy into unlikely glory. Continue reading

Stephens shines as compact Southampton deny moribund Manchester United

Alan O’Brien 

Bereft of confidence, and showered in sarcastic cheers on departure, Henrikh Mkhitaryan lasted only 65 minutes here. Hung out to dry, on his first Premier League start since November 5, the Armenian’s Old Trafford career looks totally unsalvageable. Continue reading

Premier League: Three tactical talking points from Matchday 18

Alan O’Brien 

1) Pacy Palace playing to their strengths under Hodgson

Turning Crystal Palace into a tiki-taka media darling is a long-held goal of chairman Steve Parish. Hence his summer decision to hire Frank de Boer, against the alleged protestations of the club’s American paymasters. Continue reading

Premier League: Three tactical talking points from Matchday 16

Alan O’Brien 

1) Hard-running Hammers consign sluggish Slaven days to memory

If Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United had greeted the champions in this manner, claret (and blue) would surely have spilled. Continue reading

Analysis: Pressing poleaxes profligate Gunners again

Alan O’Brien 

Arsenal’s vulnerability to pressing is not a new development. Way back in August, Leicester City and Liverpool combined to hit seven past the Gunners by forcing final-third turnovers. The question is: why haven’t more clubs followed their lead? Continue reading