Tag Archives: Football Manager 2017

Football’s Coming Home: World Cup 2018 – Uruguay

After Mark Noble laid a beat down on Albania,  *cough* with help from my own tactical changes *cough*, we find ourselves up against a much sterner oppositions, a team with two world cup’s to their name, one more than us! That cannot stand! Theirs are older so count for less I guess, but ours is getting a bit dusty, that’s why they hired yours truly – that and lack of other suitable candidates.

Expectations back home are raising a bit, although ITV have got Henderson on their panel and I’ve heard he’s been talking a lot of smack about me, so I’ve been mostly watching BBC. Mark Noble did little to handle national expectations, appearing on Good Morning Britain singing “Vindaloo” with a bunch of school kids from Bethnal Green lower, ending with picking up the smallest child, looking him straight in the eyes and saying “I’m gunna bring it home for you little Johnny” before crying and shouting “come on England at the camera”, sufficient to say his 20 leadership is a blessing and a curse.

Back to the hard stuff. Managing England. Having a quick look at the Uruguay team isn’t doing too much to help my nerves…

 

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Strikers aren’t bad

A look at the Uruguay team reveals something straight away… strikers ain’t bad. Cavani and Suarez can go without any introduction. Outside of those two, Gimenez and Godin form a solid partnership in central defence. Outside of those two areas, I think we are stronger, but those are two particularly important areas, especially if they play direct and bypass their pretty weak midfield. However, it’s not like we have a strong midfield.

Looking at the competition stats, Cavani is joint-second top goalscorer with four goals, one more than our top scorer Rashford. De Arrascaeta of Uruguay tops the assists, he isn’t in the above and seems to play either central attacking midfield or left wing, so I am braced for a change of formation from Uruguay.

 

 

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Well well…

With the USA somehow beating Germany in the quarter-finals, have our chances of bringing it home improved? Or have our chances of embarrassingly being eliminated by America?

That being said, we pull through against Uruguay today, I would love the USA, show ’em who’s boss (us, we are, in case you didn’t get that from our weak displays).

Anyway, getting ahead of myself here is the team for today’s game:

 

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Okay, hear me out here….

I know, not the 4-2-3-1! I feel I have to go with something different given our underperformance, but there is more thought here than that – just a little more though. Given our attacking full-backs, I figured a four at the back formation would leave our two centre-backs too exposed to Cavani and Suarez, with this, we should have an extra man, at the cost of the wide areas. For that reason, we will need a big game from both Rose and Clyne. I am hoping at the other end Alli and Kane can occupy the two centre backs whilst Lallana causes trouble for the two deep-lying midfielders. Oh, and I am hoping Noble nets an hat-trick (maybe even a double hat-trick).

I guess all we can do is see how this pans out. I think the gamble is warranted given how our tactics have faired recently, needing in-game adjustments, here’s hoping this is strong from the off. Might even surprise them…

 

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Of course

Obviously, Uruguay aren’t playing the tactic we saw earlier, instead, they are running with this 4-4-2 narrow diamond shape. It should allow us to do better out wide, but the attacking trident may cause our back three some problems, it may be worth dropping Noble back into the space, and moving Lallana further back also, but we will see.

Kick Off:

20′ – Not too much has happened. Uruguay have edged possession, I think it may be worthwhile to switch to counter to ensure some solidity.

29′ – England work a good crossing opportunity for Clyne, unfortunately, Kane heads wide.

38′ – Stones gives a silly foul away on the edge of the box, picking up a yellow card. The free kick has a little too much on it – just over.

41′ – Suarez works a shooting opportunity but Hart gets down to save.

Half-time:

 

The in-game commentator described the half as tepid, and I’m inclined to agree. We need something else, we just aren’t creating enough. To try to remedy this I am going to lean on what we did last time out: push higher, press harder, play slightly narrower to exploit the wings also. We will be sticking on counter. If there is no real change, I will be looking to get Rashford on, I will have a look at the team, maybe change the shape again when this happens.

With all that said, team-talk over, we will be getting back out there for the second half… let’s hope we win it ey?

Second-half:

53′ – We get in down the right-hand side as a sliding pass from Alli finds Clyne, he crosses deep to Kane, who’s headed is straight at the keeper.

54′ – A nice passing move from England finds Alli free, unfortunately, his shot is easily saved.

58′ – Stones is tired and isn’t having the best of games, Kane just picked up a knock. Double change? For now, Jones will come on for Stones, let’s see how Kane handles the knock.

66′ – Kane doesn’t seem to be recovering all too well, Rashford will take his place.

71′ – Not even on for that long and Rashford finds space behind the Uruguay defence, Lallana finds him, but for the third time this game we fire straight at the keeper. Better signs though.

73′ – After a long passing move starting all the way from Jones, Alli finds Rashford, free again, but he fires straight at the keeper… again.

85′ – An excellent Cavani through ball finds Suarez, free behind the England defence after a deep run, he is one-on-one with Hart, goes for the chip and…. OVER! And wide… wover.

87′ – Just before that move, Smalling picked up a twisted ankle and will have to come off. This means we will have to change shape. Oxlade-Chamberlain is on for him and we switch to the ol’ 4-2-3-1.

Annnddd

Full-time:

We were better in that second half, but still 0-0… With Oxlade-Chamberlain on, I will look to use a little more width and hopefully we can create something, anything! Well… anything Rashford won’t kick straight at the keeper. It turns out we do not appear to have the fourth sub for extra time thing yet, or at all.. which is a shame, my team are knackered, and we have quite a few yellows.

 

 

 

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Sleepy, sleepy team

It has been a very tense game so far if that hasn’t been conveyed here, and I feel whoever scores takes this given the fatigue of both sides. Hopefully, that side is us. And let’s not with penalties yeah?

Extra-time (1st half):

92′ – Oh no…

 

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1-0: Uruguay take the lead through Cavani

The worst possible start, Cavani latches onto a Laxalt cross, that was allowed way too easily, Cavani finds acres of space as Jones for some reason runs away? Either way, we find ourselves 1-0 behind.

This changes everything, we are going to have to throw everything at them. Well, now I hope I’m wrong for predicting the first team to score will win…

105′ – And…

 

 

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Wilshere off

Wilshere has a Beckham moment. Picking up his second yellow with a completely needless challenge. That makes this a whole lot harder… It’s also a shame because Wilshere has been a decent player for us, I wouldn’t want him taking the fall back in England, that should be Jones and definitely not me… right guys? right?

Extra-half-time-time

Well… things went wrong really quickly didn’t they? We need to try to find a way back into this… We are going to give it everything we can in this last few. I’ve shifted back to the same shape we started the game with, but with two centre-backs. Oxlade-Chamberlain has come infield and can hopefully cause some chaos.

Let’s just see what happens… please… please score England… I’ll take penalties now…

Extra-time (second half):

107′ – A great shot from Lallana is well saved. It was goalbound for sure.

109′ – Uh…

 

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1-1: Rashford!

A nice bit of play by Oxlade-Chamberlain allows him to find Lallana, who in turns picks out Rashford who tries his best to shoot straight at the keeper, but it finds its way in anyway! We are back in this! The problem is now, do we go for it, or do we sit back? Uruguay are buckling, let’s give it a minute or two, try to grab another… famous last words…

114′ – A cross from Rose finds Chamberlain who heads well, but the keeper is equal to it. We go straight to the other end where Suarez’s shot is saved well by Hart…

116′ – Suarez is found with a through ball by Godin, he is once again one-on-one but Hart saves. Another chance squandered by the best player on the pitch. The warning is noticed though, dropping to counter.

Full-time of extra-time

Penalties. You know the thing about England and penalties right? You must do, if not here, that should fill you in, and also give me my team talk. I’ll just show the boys this video and say don’t do that, simple.

There is one thing those teams didn’t have though… Mark Noble, the secret weapon.

 

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The list

Yes, that is right, Joe Hart is one of our best penalty takers, that is how screwed we are here… I don’t want him to be taking one though with 1 finishing, not sure how much of a difference that makes, but surely Danny Rose and Chamberlain are better options. Mark Noble will be leading the takers though, if he tucks away, the team might just follow suit.

Deep breath.

Penalties:

And first up is Noble, he steps up, chest puffed, stern looking, a single bead of sweat rolls down his face…

And he misses! Tame penalty and the keeper saves to the right.

Suarez then steps up and scores… 1-0 Uruguay.

Rashford then steps up… come on England…  and for fuck sake Rashford, he kicks it straight at the keeper… well slightly to the right… but the keeper was standing there.

Cavani steps up… 2-0 Uruguay…

Just… typical England.

And Danny Rose misses! Well… this is it for Uruguay… score this and they win and also make England a meme.

 

But Pereira misses, which is just tempting to get my hopes up, but I refuse.

Dele Alli steps up… AND BLOODY MISSES!

Four penalties, FOUR! missed, has anyone had that before? Jesus Christ England… maybe that team talk made them nervous.

 

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The meme team

As Dele stands there dejected, with the rest of the England team behind crying you can just about make at me, the manager, laughing at them Big Sam style for being so England. Unbelievable, four penalties missed out of four. I just… need a minute.

m0whfg

So, I guess that is that for World Cup 2018. Not the ending we had hoped for, but maybe the one we deserved given some of our performances out here in Russia, a quarter-final is okay. We had some highs, we built up hope, we scored some goals, probably more than England have at a World Cup in a while, but ultimately what this world cup will be remembered for is Noble making a small child cry, and us missing four bloody penalties in a shoot-out.

Anyway, it’s been a good world cup for me, and I’ve enjoyed your support both on here and on Reddit. So with that said, what do you think our next step should be? Get to Euro 2020? Quit the England gig and take a club job? Go and turn Scotland into a global super power? Let me know what you think.

Till next time (where ever that may be).

38712-2

 

 

 

Four bloody penalties missed out of four… Even for England, this is a new low…

 

 

Football’s Coming Home: World Cup 2018 – Senegal

After scraping through against Iran, we play Senegal with everything on the line. The group is tight, with us in the driving position on four points, France and Senegal trail with two points each and Iran are on one point. This sets up a situation where any team can go through and any team can go out, including us if we lose against Senegal.

Looking at the other groups, and there are some interesting placings. DR Congo tops their group with Germany second; Mexico topped their group with Spain second; Costa Rica, USA and Japan also topped their groups, so in some ways, a second-place finish wouldn’t be too bad.

That is all academic though until after we play Cameroon, so let’s see the team for today’s game!

 

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Can they do it?

We go with a similar shape and tactic to that which we used against Iran, hopefully, they perform much more convincingly. Clyne misses out today through suspension so Walker steps in, Sterling replaces Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alli comes in for Barkley. Keane and Stones are fatigued, but I have more faith in them than Smalling and Jones.

So let’s get into today’s game, I’m excited to see what we can do against Cameroon (who’s capital city is… Yaoundé… had to google that one…).

 

 

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Attacking!?!?

Cameroon seem to be making somewhat of a statement with their starting eleven – very attacking! Coupled with a combative midfield three we could have a hard day here. We will have to be careful not to get hit on the break with that front three also, as I suspect they will play direct and hit those front three quickly, and look to recover the ball in the middle. The obvious weakness is the full backs, who we can look to isolate and overload. The centrebacks are solid, and let’s hope Kane is on form to handle them.

KICK OFF!

Minute eight and we have our first highlight (and news from Iran-France, that Iran has taken the lead courtesy of a Pogba OG). Cameroon hits a long, direct ball from their centre back to Babacar, who knocks the ball to Gueye. The ball is kept well and a shooting opportunity opens up for Diame who fires over from distance.

We have struggled to keep the ball so far.

Senegal are getting a few long shots as Balde fires over – fifteen minutes in.

The twentieth minute, it is all Senegal. They have a headed chance, straight at Hart. 70% possession to Senegal… we need to change something. That change see’s us switching to a counter approach, and sticking Sterling to support, with us looking to play the ball out wide, as we are having no success through the middle. We have also switched to a 4-3-3.

Just before the changes have an effect, Balde works a good shooting opportunity, saved by Hart!

Another shot by Gueye is saved by Hart… I’m not liking this.

 

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Worrying…

The stats after twenty-four minutes paint a very worrying picture…

The twenty-seventh minute comes and finally a chance for us! We maintain possession before Walker whips in a cross onto Rashford’s head – Off the bar! This chance went down as a clear-cut chance, very much against the run of play. Oh, and Dele Alli picks up an injury in the same move… He will have to come off, Lallana replaces him.

Ten uneventful minutes pass before Diouf spins in the box and cannons a shot off the bar. Too close.

 

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1-0 England: Kane, out of nowhere!

Out of nothing Kane pounces on a mistake by Gueye and fires England into the lead. It was incredibly lucky, the game has all been Cameroon, now we must capitalise and take some initiative in this game.

HALF TIME.

Not sure what to make of that… 45 minutes of mostly terrible football, barely putting a passing move together, and getting battered… but we are one-nil up – football ey?

At half-time, I am going to withdraw Wilshere as he has struggled out there today and picked up a yellow in the process. Noble will be coming on, his leadership and work-rate could help us in possession battle.

KICK OFF.

A chance for Senegal as M’Baye crosses only for Diouf to head narrowly wide.

The fifty-third minute, and England win a free-kick, Rashford fires just over (in other news, goals for Fekir and Benzema mean that France now leads 2-1)

Nearly the seventieth minute and good work from Walker results in a cross towards Rashford, it is headed away only for Sterling to pounce and… Straight at the keeper.

A minute later and a corner whipped into the Cameroon box causes trouble, a scramble results in a chance for an unidentifiable England player, unfortunately, that chance is missed.

Time for a calm concentrate shout from the touchline.

The eightieth minute and Oxlade-Chamberlain is on for a tired Rashford. He and Sterling will swap sides.

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first involvement sees him crafting open a chance for Lallana who powers a shot high but central, and fairly comfortable for the keeper.

And as time passes…

 

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Twenty Celcius in Russia?!?!

 

A good win, we slowly got more and more into the game after our goal and mostly limited Cameroon to long shots. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried for a large chunk of that game!

The change to a 4-3-3 allowed us to be slightly more robust in the middle and let us move the ball better, and whilst we didn’t win the battle for possession we created more clear chances.

Most importantly, we top our group, ahead of tournament favourites France, so I guess that makes us favourites – might as well give us the trophy now, save us some time.

As previously mentioned though, being top isn’t all ice cream and backrubs (what… that wasn’t what I… I’ll go with it), a lot of teams I’d rather avoid came second in their groups (i.e. Spain & France). Let’s see who we will be meeting next, and keep our fingers crossed that it is winnable…

And the lucky team to meet us in the next round is…

 

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I’ll take it.

Not to be too cocky about this (and this could easily come back to bite me) but I’ll take it.

France managed to get Brazil in a repeat of the ’98 final, so between the two teams from group H, it turned out extremely valuable to get the top spot. Other interesting draws include DR Congo v Spain and Portugal v Uruguay.

Next time out we get our first taste of knock-out football against Albania. Where could this end? A disgraceful exit at the callous laced hands of Albania? Or World Cup glory? Well, next time will get us closer to finding out.

Till then.

eboue-the-joker_o_gifsoup-com_

 

 

 

 

 

Football’s Coming Home: World Cup 2018 – FRANCE

And we’re back, in Russia, in the year 2018 with our World Cup opener again the favourites for the tournament, France. Our preparations have been good, the boys are confident, so let’s get into this as soon as we can before the team realises we are vastly outmatched by France and their confidence gets shattered.

The best thing about being last means we can sit and watch the rest of the games, I love an international tournament, so many games on TV that you don’t usually get in the season save for the odd FA cup weekend (thanks, Sky/BT), it is summer (maybe not for Qatar 2020…) so the games have a different ambiance in the build up. Also, the whole country is rooting for the same team, and hoping that maybe this is the tournament… maybe this is the tournament

 

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Maybe…

Before this starts sounding like a Snickers advert, a few things. For the World Cup, I will be mixing up my normal formula, instead, bring a live play-by-play commentary of what is happening coupled with images. For this reason, I will be going game by game for the time being. Hopefully, you enjoy this new format, if not let me know and I will switch! Also, LET’S GO WIN THE BLOODY WORLD CUP! IT’S IN THE BAG!

Oh wait, the other thing was results elsewhere… I got carried away. Nothing too interesting happened, no real upsets, Japan beating the Ivory Coast 4-1 jumps out, but apart from that, pretty standard. In our group Iran and Senegal drew 1-1 which may or may not be a good result for us… I’m going to go for yes.

 

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It got us a draw…

Going with the 4-3-3 for this which earned us a draw in our friendly against France. I’m putting a lot of hope into Rashford and Oxlade-Chamberlain to cause problems on the break with their direct running against Tolisso and Digne in the French full-back zones, these appear to me as weak areas in an otherwise supremely impressive French team. France is the favourite for the game at 6-4, we are 13-8 so the bookies think we have hope.

COME ON ENGLAND!

Off we go…

So… the first attack of the game Coman latches onto a through ball by Benzema, Coman crosses and…

 

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Benzema: 1-0

 

Few eventless minute pass before Pogba sets for a french free kick on the edge of the box, shooting straight at Hart. We need more.

This is quickly followed by a free header from Varane at a corner. Luckily for us, this is well over.

Time for an in-game team talk – encourage.

It seems to have had little effect and quickly we reach to 40th minute with just one shot on target – one shot at all! France has had seven shots with two on target. Kante picks up the ball on the edge and shoots harmlessly wide. If we can make it to half time at 1-0, sweeping changes may well be needed.

Just after, 41st minute, Coman latches onto another Benzema pass before beating Hart… luckily for us, it hits the post and Hart collects.

Promising signs in the 44th minute as we patiently work the ball down the right, an interchange between Clyne and Chamberlain produces an opportunity for Clyne, which he fires straight at Lloris winning us a corner.

Nothing comes of the corner and now it’s half time. Time to shout a little at the team, and look at the tactics.

I have decided to remain on the counter, but re-shape the 4-3-3 into this:

 

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Standard… but still counter

 

Hopefully pushing Lallana and Dier slightly on will encourage greater pressure on the ball and allow more support of Kane. Chamberlain has also been put on an attack duty, hopefully, to get at his full back. If further change is needed I may look towards Callum Wilson, he is a different type of forward than Kane, maybe even complimentary… 4-4-2 maybe…

Let’s get on with the second half.

50th minute comes quickly, but as it does excellent passing football down the right allows Chamberlain to cross, but slightly too far, Rashford recycles, passing to Shaw, who goes infield to Lallana, he picks out a nice little through ball to Harry Kane who is now one on one… MISSED! Kane’s Tottenham team-mate Lloris denies him with a low save to his left. Opportunity squandered.

From the corner, France counter, leading to Martial firing just wide from distance.

Great play in the centre frees up Shaw down the left who is fed by Rashford, he crosses to Kane who escapes his marker, who then fires wide. England looking the more likely at the minute.

Before we know it, the 70th minute rolls around. Time for changes, we will be making two like for like changes, Barkley for Lallana and Walcott for Chamberlain. We are doing okay, if nothing changes in the next ten, we will be going more attacking and throw the kitchen sink at them.

Well…

 

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Rashford: 1-1

 

Barkley, fresh on the pitch, feeds Kane who’s run drags the defence out of position, Rashford takes advantage running into space, Kane feeds him and Rashford does not mess about, smashing home. 1-1.

Straight from kick off England attack again. Walcott carries forward, drops the ball back to Barkley who passes into Kane, before letting Rashford free, as he begins to shoot Tolisso gets a foot in. Corner.

Nothing comes from the corner. Apart from England brilliantly pressuring Martial into a turnover as he attempts to break.

Last 10 minutes and I am reluctant to make changes, we are on top of this, I, for now, will keep faith in the eleven out there.

This faith almost instantly pays off as Walcott picks up on the right edge of the box, squaring up his man before playing the ball to Rashford, he plays it to Barkley who’s shot is deflected onto the post.

France carves out a shooting chance for Pogba on the edge of the box – straight at Hart.

And that is that, 1-1.

 

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Decent result

I’ll take it. A 1-1 draw against the tournament favourite. The second half, in particular, was particularly encouraging, we created a lot more than France, but we were, unfortunately, let down by our first half display. I was maybe a little too hesitant to make changes before the half and this may have cost us attacking opportunities.

The scoreline is a repeat of England v France in Euro 2012, but we played much better than Roy Hodgson’s side. It is also a draw against France for the second time and given their squad I will take this as encouragement that we are doing the right thing.

Next up we have Iran and then Senegal, games we should win. This could easily turn into a goal-scoring shoot out between us and France if we both perform to our standards.

Anyway, that is all for today, I have tried a new presentational style (especial for the World Cup) let me know if you would like me to continue it. The idea is to give you a bit more of the action, bring you the goals (made GIFs for the first time… I need to improve on those) and a little more tension. If you preferred the old style let me know, as that enables me to bring more games at a time, but less of the action, and is what I will be doing after the World Cup to help us get through them quicker.

Till next time.

lescott

 

 

 

 

Football’s Coming Home: More Tactics

First things first, I hired a new assistant: Pat Rice. The ex-Arsenal assistant accepted the role and brings a wealth of experience to us. He also will handle arranging friendlies which is pretty great. His first arrangement is a friendly against France which is a great idea, cheer Pat! And Lithuania, which meh… So a long one today.

Whilst waiting for the first set of friendlies I have had job offers from Bournemouth, Leicester, West Ham and Everton. Needless to say, I rejected them all in order to focus on the England gig.

For the call-up, I have decided to experiment (a little). Welbeck and Hughes are out for Oxlade-Chamberlain and NOBLE! Yes, Mark Noble. I decided to try the experienced Hammers midfielder as a backup midfield option. Hopefully, his developed mental traits give him the edge on Hughes – also, he has had a great season at West Ham.

 

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Noble’s mental stats are decent, plus the penalties could come in handy…

The first friendly, as previously mentioned is France, the tournament favourites and our group-mates (is that a term?). I will be testing out our more cautious, counter-attacking system in this match. We have tried this out in the past to not too much success, but we haven’t played any team of France’s stature, and these are the teams the tactic is built for.

So, here is the lineup and tactic:

 

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4-3-3: Simple, but maybe effective…

With this shape, we are looking to counter attack but also make some use of our full-backs. Dier is ideal in this shape to play an anchor, which will help break down oppositions attacks whilst we sit in shape, and then allow our full-backs to charge on as we counter. Henderson will be our all action man in the middle, and Lallana will look for space to break out. Rashford will hopefully combine with Vardy, whilst Sterling stays wide to supply support. This is all of course in theory. We have a few players down for just 45 minutes action so there will be a lot of rotation. Let’s see what happens away in our night in Paris Saint-Etienne.

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I’ll take it

We did okay, France had twice as many shots as we did, but most were from distance. Our first half performances were very even, but I was forced to remove Dier from his anchoring role due to club restrictions and replace him with Noble, who was much more comfortable as a deep-lying playmaker on defend, which he did okay with but Dier seemed a lot more effective. Up top, Rashford was quite poor, as was Vardy, but Sterling performed well carving himself out a few opportunities. We had the only clear-cut chance of the game which came via Rashford in a scramble following a corner, he hit the ever present Kante. Smalling picked up the man of the match.

Overall, pleasing stuff. I will give this tactic another shake in our game against the Netherlands, I think it could serve us well. Henderson picked up a knock and so is out for the next game, so in comes Ward-Prowse. Now, Lithuania, again, but in sunny Lithuania, which I suppose might be nice… apparently they have nice potato dumplings.

 

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West Ham fans rejoice!

 

I am giving Noble a start after his substitute appearance against France if only to test his versatility, his ability to play most midfield roles might be very useful in the tournament, though I am somewhat concerned about his technical ability. Elsewhere, Ward-Prowse start, Wilshere see’s a start in a more advanced role, Walcott is on the wing, Kane start, and the back two are rotated. This is the same tactic we used last time out against Macedonia, let’s hope for a similar result.

 

 

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Bit nippy

 

It was cold out there, there was even snow, but luckily we were comfortable. Pickford’s hands must’ve been freezing after having only one save. Our first goal came after Clyne worked well down the right-hand side before delivering a perfect cross for Rashford to tuck home. This was followed up by a penalty as Walcott was fouled in the box as he looked to latch onto another cross, Noble stepped up, and on his first England start, stuck home as cooley as well… Pickford’s hands. Noble ended up captaining the team, which was odd as it is only his second cap, but he has done enough to get himself into contention. Rashford got man of the match.

With that result, we have also set an England defensive record, not conceding since we played Scotland in September 2017, it’s now nearly April 2018, a long way from conceding five against Northern Ireland – catenaccio.

We are approaching the squad call-up for our last two friendlies, and then, the world cup. Before doing this, I had a quick look at the premier league, to see who is winning it, and whilst that is not done yet (I will bring you the final result), I noticed this:

 

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Interesting…

 

Callum Wilson has torn it up this season, throwing himself firmly into contention given the misfiring of other strikers (Vardy and Welbeck…). Also, I will give some thought to Cresswell who has the second most player of the match awards, but he has some tough competition in Rose and Shaw.

But before a choice can be made…

 

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So close…

 

Arsenal nearly clinched it, but Man U had a bit too much.  Elsewhere, it was good to see Brighton hold on with Knockaert racking up the assists. Anyway, back to my business, the selection.

 

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Wait… I’ve made a mistake here…

 

It was only when we went to get on the plane I noticed… there was no Jordan Henderson. I asked Pat Rice, where he was, thought he might just be in the bog, but not, I completely forgot Jordan Henderson… our fucking captain.

So this world cup is off to a good start.

You might notice, I also called up Jon Toral thinking I was smart nabbing him from Spain. Turns out, he isn’t that great, and it meant I forgot Henderson… the bloody captain. God dammit!

Life moves on. Wilson and Noble make it, wait no I’m still not over the Henderson thing, let’s just play Holland.

…Oh god, the media are going to kill me…

I called up Toral and Noble instead of…

Fuck sake.

Actually moving on, the world cup odds are in. We are placed at 18/1, which isn’t great, but if I was you I’d whack a tenner on that. I mean… ignore my incompetence, I’m sure it will pan out, we have Mark Noble.

The International League draw was made, which sort of replaces friendlies, we have drawn Italy and Sweden, which is okay I suppose.

So, Netherlands…

 

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We have no BBMs…

 

As promised, we are testing out this tactic against a reasonably strong side who didn’t qualify for the world cup, which makes them seem not that strong, but don’t doubt how bad we can be.

We now have no box-to-box midfielders and tonnes of playmakers so Alli can fill in adequately – he has long legs. Oxlade-Chamberlain is in hopefully he can justify his selection. I hope to give Wilson some minutes too. Let’s do this.

 

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Jordan who?

 

 

What a performance! Completely dominant, creating chances left and right. It took until the second half to score but we missed two clear-cut chances in the first half. Our first goal, however, came about in lucky circumstance. A long clearance from Clyne managed to evade the Dutch goalkeeper, Vermeer, who had came to head the ball, Kane latched on and tapped into an open goal. Following this, a cross from Shaw was about to be met by Chamberlain who was dragged down giving us a penalty, Rashford dutifully tucked home. After this, a fine passing move was capped off by Rashford following a defence-splitting Kane pass. For the fourth, Walcott beat three men on the right-hand side before delivering an excellent cross to debutant Wilson, who had lost his marker, who tucked home. Finally, fine play from Rashford allowed him a pull back to Wilshere, whose shot was parried to Walcott who tapped home.

Overall an excellent performance, and an encouraging one for the 4-3-3 going forward. Next, Cameroon.

 

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Experimental

 

We have tried this shape (3-4-3, 5-2-2-1, 5-2-3?) once before against Peru, we won 5-0 that time out. It really enabled our full-backs to get forward and could be very useful in the tournament against teams of Cameroon’s or Peru’s ilk. So let’s give it a second test and see how we perform.

On the pitch, I am hoping to get a closer look at Noble, Wilson, Jones and Barkley in this final friendly… Let’s go.

(Mark Noble to captain the side, West Ham captain?!?! It’s coming home!)

 

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Maybe excitement was premature.

 

A pretty unconvincing performance, I don’t think we will be carrying the 3-4-3 into the tournament, instead, I think I will opt for the 4-2-3-1 in these type of games, although Dier offers me the flexibility to switch to this shape on the move. In the game, not too much happened, before the 92nd minute when Chamberlain beat his man down the right-hand side, charged to the edge of the eighteen-yard box and delivered a bullet cross to Wilson who produced a side-foot volley from close range to take the win. That’s two in two now for Wilson.

That’s it. Preparations complete. We know our tactics a bit better now, we know our main two (4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1) with a bit of flexibility if needed (3-4-3). We’ve made mistakes and discovered some useful new players, and it all comes to ahead next time as we head into our crucial first game, against tournament favourites – France.

Au revoir!

TO GO WITH AFP STORIES ABOUT ZIDANE's RE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Football’s Coming Home: Tactics Tim – e

Last time out, we managed to qualify for Russia 2018 after a string of decent results and a well-fought draw against Slovakia. So that leaves us to get ready for a summer in Russia, but it only being October means we have a way to go. To break up this time, we have a couple of friendlies, I will also have a look at the three tactics I will be trialling ahead of the world cup. We also have the world cup draw to look forward to, let’s hope it’s kind…

So first selection for the friendlies… it is the exact same as last time, why? Well, two reasons. Reason one, we are only playing Peru and Macedonia, reason two, I forgot to bring a couple of players I wanted, such as Sturridge.

Apparently, the media had a campaign for me not to choose Glen Johnson? Maybe if he transferred to Barcelona, but don’t worry media, it didn’t cross my mind. There also is some criticism regarding my selections of Rashford over Deeney, and Hughes over Noble. Well, media, you are as just wrong, please stop.

With the media’s dagger successfully ignored its time for tactic test one against Peru:

 

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3-4-3 kinda

First up, we have the 3-4-3 kinda, the idea here is to make the most out of our dearth of full-backs and centre-backs. We also have two strong attacking midfielders in Lallana and Alli, if this gets the best out of them we could look to use this shape against teams of a similar stature. The idea tactically is to load the middle of the pitch and then allow our full-backs to exploit the space out wide which should be created by the central overload – in theory, let’s see in practice what happens.

 

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I love it when a plan comes together

 

The stats might not quite reflect the result, but on the pitch, this tactic worked perfectly. For the first goal, Walker broke into the box from the right before his deflected shot found the back of the net. The next goal once again saw Walker involved, this time crossing for our other full-back Shaw to head home. Alli then powered home from the edge of the box from a Kane pass. Alli then returned the favour, passing to Kane just inside the box who powerfully picked out the top corner. In the second half, Walker was once again involved crossing for Kane to head home.

As you can see, the plan to get the full-backs involved worked almost perfectly (Shaw could have got an assist I guess…). The front three also combined well although Lallana didn’t create as much as I expected him to. One change was made to the tactic before the game, I accidently had Henderson as a BBM, I then changed this to Ball Winning Midfielder to add better stability to the middle. One concern is that Peru is not really representative of a team at our level, and so we should not read into this dominant result too much.

Next up Macedonia, and the tactic will be:

 

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Ol’ reliable

 

We are pulling out the old 4-2-3-1 that served us well in qualifying. The reason? It has already proven successful at breaking down lesser teams, something that has been something of an Achilles heel of the England national team at major tournaments lately (Iceland, Costa Rica, Algeria, USA). The plan in this shape is to control the game, Wilshere’s role is to sit deep and dictate, Henderson will hassle higher and carry the ball forward. Walcott will look to push beyond the defensive line and cause problems for his full back, hopefully, allow space for Clyne to push into to deliver the cross. On the other side, Rashford will support Welbeck, with Shaw exploiting the space he vacates.

Again, that’s the theory, let’s see how it pans out this time.

 

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It still works!

Should have seen this one coming, the tactic has still got it. Rashford struck first, following Walcott’s attempt that cannoned off the post. Welbeck then did a Messi, like this, but against Macedonia instead of Real Madrid. Welbeck then scuffed a Clyne cross into the path of Rashford to add his second. Followed by Rashford completing the hat trick from a Lallana pass.

Nothing to really learn here that we did not know already. Whilst it is unlikely a team as weak as Macedonia will be in our group, I believe this tactic will be effective against teams such as Nigeria, Algeria, USA, Denmark or Japan, teams we could realistically find ourselves up against in the group.

Speaking of teams we might draw in our group, here is the group stage draw, in which we have been put in the fourth pot, alongside Albania and Romania… esteemed company. Looking at the other pots, there is a real mix of strength, with pot one being the strongest with Argentina, Brazil and Germany in there, but also Austria and Russia… Anyway, to the draw:

 

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Not the best, not the worst

 

Not catastrophic. France will be a tough, tough game (tournament favourites), their squad has a huge amount of quality and this will be a game we will need to prepare for, potentially I will look to play a 4-3-3 here and hit them on the break. Iran and Senegal should be games we can look to win, and I will try to play on the front foot with the 4-2-3-1, maybe the 3-4-3 against Senegal once I have a closer look at them.

Elsewhere, Brazil may have the easiest group ever with Albania, Egypt and South Korea, and group A has three Spanish-speaking teams… and Russia.

I have looked to set up pre-tournament friendlies against Holland and Cameroon, which should be a closer representation to our group stage opponents and let us see where our tactics stand. Any suggestions for tactics? Let me know before we meet next at De Kuip for our game against the Dutch, tot de volgende keer.

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Football’s Coming Home: TAKIN’ CARE OF BUSINESS

As mentioned last time we have Scotland and Malta coming up before the crucial double header of Lithuania and Slovakia. Today, we will just be covering the minnow matchups, but first, important news about my upcoming holiday.

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Good, now I can have a beer.

Good news! We are going to Morocco in 2022 (hopefully, might fuck it up). Morocco has pretty awesome food, so that’s nice. Plus fewer slaves and that, although I’m no Morocco expert so can’t say for sure. Chamakh is from there, so I know that too, that and food – I know enough to get by on the mean streets of Casablanca.

Also, club protests? I imagine it looked a little something like this in the Bayern camp:

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Onto business, the squad call-up is pretty much the same as the last few times. Only exceptions are Smalling and Sturridge who are injured, in their place Keane and Welbeck.

Side note –  the U21 side lost in the finals of their tournament to France, so let’s not speak of them.

The team for the game against Malta will look like this:

 

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Don’t not win.

A few players are a yellow away from suspension so have not been risked from the off. Although Dier and Walker start and are both at risk of suspension. Malta shouldn’t pose too much of a threat, but if they do, we have some great options from the bench. Malta looks to be lining up with five at the back, so switching to two up top might be a great option if we struggle to break through.

 

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Straight forward

 

 

We never really had to get out of first gear in this game. Early goals from Sterling and Rashford made this game a cake walk. The only downside to an otherwise straight forward away victory was Harry Kane’s injury, the severity of which means he will be out for five weeks (also, hopefully denting Spurs’ league title defence). Sterling earnt himself the man of the match, Vardy also came on for Kane to excellent effect grabbing a goal and an assist.

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Okay, so onto Scotland at Wembley with no Harry Kane with Callum Wilson his replacement. The starting eleven will be much the same as the previous game, only exceptions will be Clyne for Walker, Wilshere for Ward-Prowse, Henderson for Keane with Dier shuffling to centre-back, and of course Vardy for Kane.

Before the game, I received a match report which pretty much read: We need to watch Leigh Griffiths as he scored in their last game against Lithuania. Great work scouting team… great work.

With that tactical nugget firmly lodged in my mind up with all the other important football stuff (if in doubt, kick it out; put the fast kid up front and lump it; and of course, don’t fanny about with it at the back) we head into the game.

 

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Routine

 

A reasonably comfortable win moves us three points clear of Slovakia who managed a goalless draw with Lithuania. In this game, Scotland had me briefly (very briefly) worried, when they equalised in the 52nd minute. This followed a first half where we dominated but only took one chance. The man who scored was, of course, Leigh Griffiths, who my centre-backs lost track off allowing him in behind, a mistake from Hart then allowed him an empty net. Our goals came from a variety of sources. A well worked first goal between Rashford and Sterling opened the scoring, following the equaliser Dier powered home, Wilshere scored a fantastic free-kick and Oxlade-Chamberlain powered home a back post header. John Stones also took a penalty won by Welbeck, surprisingly Stones has 15 penalty taking… but he still missed kicking straight down the middle, where the keeper remained rooted. Overall good performance, shame about their goal, but we move on.

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Ziggy Stardust Gordon played again today, looked into his profile, plays for Jagiellonia in the Polish first flight. I have more respect for him now, a much higher level than the SPL, and playing abroad like Oliver Burke and Ryan Gauld… something I wish more English players would take the chance to do (although, hasn’t really worked out for any but Burke and he isn’t in the Scottish national team in game for some reason…).

Next time, we have the crucial double header plus a friendly against Cyprus. After that, we will hopefully be preparing for our first shot at the big one. Till next time.

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Football’s Coming Home: Oh no, and a Few Goals

After the big win against Slovakia last time out, the Three Lions are looking to all but secure our spot in Russia with the June game against Slovenia, followed by a double header of whipping boys Malta and Rugby team, Scotland. After that, we will face the perhaps crucial games against Lithuania and Slovakia. Today we will face Slovenia and a friendly against a bunch of guys from some place.

In other news Jose Mourinho doesn’t like me due to apparently ignoring his request – I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I also care very little.

Also, I have yet to attend a game to watch any England players. I mean… why bother when I can illegally stream it online. This, however, did not go down to well with the journalist.

The media are also starting to mention Crouch and Defore in contention for call-ups. I thought football manager was meant to be realistic? This is so…

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Ah, well… you win this time FM… but not call up is coming to either of them barring a massive injury crisis (fingers crossed).

In the world rankings, we are now above Wales who have slipped to 15th as we have held onto 12th. These rankings are soo pointless. What isn’t pointless is the premier league, and at the end of the season the table looks like this:

 

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God freaking damn it.

I rescind my previous point, the premier league is pointless and all that matters now is international football. Also, the fact Tottenham didn’t bottle it is completely unrealistic…  this is truly the darkest of timelines.

Enough nonsense, into the important stuff – international football.

Alongside our games against Slovenia and the team I have not yet named, and will not yet name, and will ultimately disappoint you when I say it, the U21 team are playing in the championships, so we will see how the young’uns get on.

Getting to our squad, my assistant tried to call up Charlie Austin over Theo Walcott… is he looking to get that sack? Because that’s how you end up getting the boot around here. Blasphemy.

Into the game against Slovenia, here is the squad:

 

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Slovenia draw a lot…

 

 

We have gone with our more attacking setup, not repeating our previous mistake against Slovenia. Walcott is on the bench for Oxlade-Chamberlain after the impressive performance against Slovakia has earnt him a place in the team. Kane is in for Vardy because at some point he has to become prolific for me. Also, Butland is in for Hart. The team looks good, we should have comfortably more than enough. Let’s do this.

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I guess we can call this one a success.

An excellent win, and an excellent performance. Our full backs really seem to be growing into this system and that showed with Clyne notching up a goal and an assist, and Rose grabbing a goal and two assists and the man of the match award. Elsewhere, my selection of Oxlade-Chamberlain seemed justified as he put out a strong performance, similar story for Kane.

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We could have gone three points clear if Scotland held onto Slovakia, they had been holding them to 1-1, and of course screwed it up – thanks, Scotland. We do however have a +18 goal difference compared to Slovakia’s +4.

Now a friendly against the mystery men… VENEZUELA! I told you you’d be disappointed. They were yellow like brazil… and have… Rondon maybe? Let’s hope they don’t come here and have a go at our parks and film it for Hugo Chavez… I won’t be accepting no cheques (on camera).

As I intend to do for all our smaller friendlies I will just bring you the result and explain my changes. Pretty much, we will just be playing the same shape as last game, very exciting. If we lose, right to jail, if we draw, believe it or not, jail.

 

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No jail

 

Another friendly, another interesting game. I should really cover them in more depth, but ultimately they are pretty irrelevant. Daniel Sturridge impressed with four goals, a mixture of finishes, I hope to see more of this from him as he, Vardy and Kane battle for the starting striker spot. Another assist from the fullback position is promising, and Walcott had a decent game. Defensively, we were often caught out by Venezuela’s 4-4-2, with both our centre-backs being dragged by their two strikers. Also, the direct style of Venezuela caused us issues in the first half, conceding early. Ultimately though, our style pulled through.

For only two games, there was a lot to get through today. Next time out, we will be playing Malta and Scotland, hopefully, this will mean a lot of goals to bring you. After that, we have crunch time as we go up against Slovakia, away, and Lithuania at Wembley. Until next time.

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