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

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ANALYSIS: Cuper’s Egypt pay for Salah indulgence

Alan O’Brien 

Reputations are made to be broken. Hector Cuper, the dour Argentinian who led Egypt to their first finals in 28 years, is seen by all and sundry as a negative manager. The people of host nation Russia, this tournament’s lowest-ranked side, predicted certain embarrassment — and early elimination — on home soil.

And, yet, as of Tuesday night, Russia are sitting pretty atop Group A on six points; poised to reach their first knockout phase since the collapse of the USSR. And Cuper, after indulging Mohamed Salah in a shockingly open system, is going home. Football: bloody hell. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Pharaohs undone by a cross again

Alan O’Brien 

Egypt, Africa’s perennial underachievers, must keep waiting for that elusive first World Cup win. Manager Hector Cuper, renowned for his defensive outlook, devised an almost foolproof plan to keep Uruguay out here. But a toothless attack, and a longstanding vulnerability to crosses, ultimately proved the Pharaohs’ undoing. Continue reading