ANALYSIS: Back-three must go to end Emery road woes

Alan O’Brien 

With six Premier League games remaining, Arsenal have already matched last season’s 63-point tally. Notwithstanding some early teething problems, few would dispute that Unai Emery has quickly swept up the mess left by his predecessor, Arsene Wenger. The Gunners’ longstanding problem with travel sickness, however, is proving more difficult to remedy. Arsenal possess only the 10th-best away record in this league. And Emery has only his own tactical uncertainty to blame. Continue reading

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ANALYSIS: Silva shown up by New Year stinker

Alan O’Brien 

They say that the thrill is in the chase, never the capture. And for Everton owner Farhad Moshiri, that old aphorism must surely be ringing true right about now. One hopes Moshiri extracted maximum enjoyment from his protracted pursuit of Marco Silva. Because now that he’s got his man, he and the Toffees are firmly stuck in a dead-end relationship. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Spurs diamond sparkles as Silva dogma shatters

Alan O’Brien 

This was Tottenham Hotspur’s ninth win in 11 away games. In any normal season, Mauricio Pochettino’s side would be runaway favourites to claim their maiden Premier League crown. But this is no normal season, and neither Manchester City nor Liverpool represent run-of-the-mill competition. Once again, Pochettino’s uncanny ability to conjure magic from comparatively puny financial resources may go unrewarded. But it shouldn’t go unnoticed. 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

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 12

Alan O’Brien 

1) Set-pieces may keep Manchester United in the hunt

Two seasons have passed since Manchester United last racked up a respectable goal-tally from set-pieces. The total of 12 amassed during Louis Van Gaal’s debut season was middling. What followed — two consecutive sevens, twice placing United second-last — was not. Continue reading