ANALYSIS: ‘Tinkerman’ off the wagon as West Ham win again

Alan O’Brien 

Claudio Ranieri all but banished his “Tinkerman” moniker upon leading Leicester City to improbable heights in 2016. The over-rotation of his Chelsea tenure gave way to consistency of selection at the King Power Stadium, much to the surprise of Ranieri’s many media detractors. But tinkering, apparently, is a habit that’s hard to break. And, much to West Ham United’s delight, the Italian very much fell off the wagon at half-time here. Continue reading

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ANALYSIS: Over-elaborate Eagles miss their chance again

Alan O’Brien 

As soon as news of Wilfried Zaha’s absence filtered through, this result had fait accompli written all over it. Crystal Palace have lost the last 11 Premier League games Zaha has missed, after all. But Tottenham Hotspur were anything but fluent in victory here; again. And Palace, if they were not so insistent upon playing into their visitors’ hands, could well have made them pay.

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ANALYSIS: Unbalanced Arsenal outgunned by pacy Palace

Alan O’Brien 

Only five Premier League sides have conceded more shots, on a per-game basis, than Arsenal. No Premier League club has outperformed their expected-goals tally more than the Gunners either. Nonetheless, Unai Emery’s side remain in fourth, having extended their unbeaten run to eight games with an extraordinarily fortunate draw at Selhurst Park.

It’s fair to say therefore that in the Spaniard, Arsenal may have found themselves a lucky general. Emery’s work-in-progress transformation holds great promise, but well-worn vulnerabilities still persist. Crystal Palace are just the latest side who failed to prevail upon them fully. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Reasons to be cheerful persist for luckless Hammers

Alan O’Brien 

Shorn of nine senior players, West Ham United nonetheless edged out Leicester City prior to Mark Noble’s ill-judged lunge. That the Foxes required a massive last-minute deflection to restore parity speaks highly of Manuel Pellegrini’s hamstrung Hammers, whose growing cohesion confers great credit on the under-fire Chilean. 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: 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