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

Advertisements

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: Shoddy defensive transitions blight sparkling Sarrismo

Alan O’Brien 

It’s been seven years since this fixture saw the like. Such chance-laden drama called to mind the events of October 29, 2011: the beginning of the end for André Villa-Boas at Chelsea. On that fateful day, when Arsenal prevailed 5-3 at Stamford Bridge, two high defensive lines were undone by incoherent pressing. The disorder within Chelsea’s ranks was worse, however, and Robin van Persie took full advantage. Villas-Boas, with his super-slow defensive cohort, was doomed to fail. Roman Abramovich, fingers burned, dared not risk appointing a progressive coach again — until now. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Liverpool punish Pellegrini’s haphazard Hammers

Alan O’Brien 

Manuel Pellegrini got everything he wanted upon assuming the Hammers helm. The Chilean was empowered to rebuild West Ham United’s squad from scratch, without board interference. Armed with his handpicked director of football, Mario Husillos, Pellegrini captured ten signings at a net cost of over £80 million. But two obvious questions resulted: how quickly could the newbies bed in, and how quickly could David Moyes’s boys adapt to a progressive style of football? It’s impossible to answer either just yet, but after Sunday’s opener at Liverpool the early signs are far from promising. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Magpies ill-starred as Spurs counterpress stalls on the startline

Alan O’Brien 

Rafa Benítez may be right when he says that “everything is wrong” off the pitch at St James’s Park. On it, however, the Spaniard continues to work wonders. Newcastle United coped with Mauricio Pochettino’s counterpress better than most sides will this season. Foiled twice by the woodwork, the Magpies were ultimately unlucky to emerge empty-handed. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Pogba ball progression enlivens predictable Prem opener

Alan O’Brien 

New season, same old Manchester United. By presiding over another expected-goals defying victory, José Mourinho picked up right where he left off. But luckily for him, Claude Puel’s Leicester City haven’t changed much either. Continue reading