Tag Archives: Tactics

Football Manager 2018: The Man Utd “Challenge” Part 3

Welcome back to the Man Utd challenge we are in October now and this month we have some big games including the Manchester derby in the league as well as Liverpool in the Carabao cup. At the end of the last part I said I wanted 6 points from our 3 league games and 6 points from our 2 Champions League games so hopefully, we can meet those targets. Continue reading

Football’s Coming Home: World Cup 2018 – Albania

After powering (read: scrapping) through the group stage we found ourselves a reasonably favourable draw – Albania. I say reasonably because now the stakes are much higher. We win, we meet expectations; we lose, well… I might have to move to Scotland, and I talked a lot of smack about them during the qualifiers…

So in order to play down expectations I’ve been making an effort in the UK press to talk up Albania as a footballing powerhouse, they have massive players… like… Granit Xhaka’s less good brother, that full-back who plays for Napoli, Lazio’s backup goalkeeper, Veton Berisha (a striker who wears number six? Heathen) and a few other players. I think this is something Roy Hodgson screwed up at Euro 2016, managing expectations.

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Honestly? I know three of them…

With the English public now questioning my judgement more than ever let’s get into our side. One second…

World Cup News!*

Germany beat Mexico on penalties, and Spain has beaten plucky underdog DR Congo PhD.

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WTF HAPPENED?!?!

In other world cup news, USA and Austria played out a bloodfest, a game with 11 yellow cards, 4 red cards and 28 fouls and somehow the USA pulled through (if we get through against Albania, I’d quite like a run at them).

Okay, back to England.

Not like that, we haven’t been knocked out yet, jeez.

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This formation will work this time… right?

Once again we will be going with the 4-2-3-1, I just still feel it is the most effective shape against teams of this calibre… despite that being proven wrong two games in a row. This is naive, but I don’t like to be too reactionary. With that said, if it doesn’t work out by the 30-40th minute I will change it.

For the personnel today, a few players are starting to get fatigued and so have been rotated. These players are Shaw and Stones who are replaced by Smalling and Rose. Lallana comes in for the injured Alli, and Noble for the (obviously) injured Wilshere. Elsewhere, Kane, Rashford and Stones are all pretty tired, and if possible I will look to rest them for the final part of the game (if we can). Oh, and Clyne has served his suspension so has come in for Walker.

Okay, nothing more to say apart from COME ON ENGLAND!

Kick Off:

1 – I have just remembered that Dier is pretty tired, and he is pretty much our only natural ball-winning-midfielder (because I forgot Henderson). With Wilshere out that just leaves Noble as the backup… Let’s hope Alli comes back from injury sharpish.


30 – Yup, that’s right… 30 minutes with no action. We are struggling to maintain possession but are having the majority of the shots. Lallana is heavily involved but I am going to try to allow him to come a bit deeper. I am going to move Kane to a deep-lying forward, and try to get Sterling more involved by moving him to an inside-forward. Let’s see if that helps.


Half time.

Sufficient to say, it didn’t work. That may be the most boring half of football ever played. Here are the stats:

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Snooze fest

It seems Albania are playing an ultra-conservative style, using possession as a form of defence. I think the best way to break this will be not to chase possession figures and try to best them in that stat, but instead to play a high-press counter. Trying to force a turnover and breaking up their conservative passing. The obvious danger here is a long ball over the top to their striker, he is reasonably fast but not some kind of speed demon.

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A bit too much?

I have switched back to a 4-2-3-1 and changed Kane to a defensive forward. This is bold, but something has to change in this game, we need to take the initiative. My concern here is that this may be too many instructions too suddenly, or Dier may pick up a second yellow… I will look to bring him off if I can.

Okay, second half.

45 – From the kick-off, I like what I see! We force Albania very deep with our full-backs pushing on, forcing two crossing opportunities for Rose and Clyne. Albania have no passing options and are forced to clear long.


47 – The first big chance and it falls to Kane! He hassles the last man for Albania stealing the ball, he is one-on-one with the keeper and… The keeper makes an excellent diving save. Kane really should have taken that one. From the resulting corner, Sterling meets Lallana’s delivery on the volley, but straight at the keeper – better!


55 – Barkley will be coming on for Dier, with Noble taking over the ball-winning duties. With our aggression I was worried about Dier picking up a second yellow, especially with fatigue.


60 – Sterling has had a poor game, he is replaced by Walcott – I think he is better suited to inside-forward… I believe!


65 – Corner, Walcott takes, it’s whipped in and… PENALTY! Roshi (not master, Odiese) is judged to have pushed Barkley. Mark Noble steps up…

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1-0: Mark Noble tucks home

With that goal, all I can ask for is more of the same! We have been a completely different team in this second half. It’d be so England to blow this now… (A penalty goal… please no)


69 – Another penalty! Barkley dinks a free-kick over the Albania defence who are caught unaware, Rashford pounces, chests the ball and is brought down by Armend… Armend Dallku, who will now have to make… Armends… I mean… I tried. Although he can’t because that was his second yellow and so he has been sent off… maybe he can get the beers in for the rest of the team or something.

Noble steps up again, well I say steps up, he bloody darted from the half-way line, I thought it was Walcott for a second. Actually, here is just how much he wanted this penalty:

 

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He bloody wanted that ball.

 

With that, Noble steps up to the spot, having already dispatched one today. Will he go the same way?

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2-0: Noble slots home again

The run didn’t tire him out! Noble calmly puts the ball in the goal and completes the major scoring objective of football. He goes the other way this time and just like last time, picks out the top corner! England have a penalty taker?!?!?


70 – With the second of the game added, Kane will be coming off. His replacement, Callum Wilson, will surely be hoping to grab himself a goal here.


83 – But it is Albania who come forward, with their first shot on target of the game. Mavraj meets a free-kick with a meaty header, only for Hart to tip over.


87 – Walcott is found by a Clyne throw in, he turns, beats his man and lays off Lallana who’s shot is well saved.


88 – A nice interchange between Lallana, Wilson and Walcott see’s the latter get rolled through on goal. Not quite one-on-one, as he is closed down, firing wide from just inside the box – not an easy chance, but should’ve been on target.


And that is that! Full time at the… Samara Arena (Samara?). Mark Noble picks up the man of the match, my changes come off and England are through to the quarter-finals.

 

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Deserved winners

A lot better than in the first half huh? I can see why Albania got this far, if we hadn’t worked out what they were doing with that possession, they could have easily nicked a goal from a set-piece or taken us to penalties. We turned round the possession battle by forcing them to try to do something with it, and whilst that wasn’t the main objective, it shows how we unsettled them, forcing them into multiple mistakes such as the Kane chance, and of course the penalties.

Overall a good win, but I must work on getting us ready for the game, our first halves are always very shabby, and adapting on the fly is going to let us down sooner or later. Just takes one team… with a really good striker… a team like…

 

 

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Uh oh.

A team with two very good strikers, you might have heard of them… Suarez and Cavani? No? Well, they’re like Callum Wilson, but a lot better.

Uruguay is current world number five, so a tough team to be sure, but we knew we would have to face one eventually (although we played France already, the same France who just knocked Brazil out with a 2-0 win). it would’ve been nice to get a slightly less brilliant team, but I think we can do something here… at least try to, we can’t do any worse than the 2012 World Cup, can we? We probably can… but faith, faith in Mark Noble will pull us through.

And we will have to put that faith in Noble because Dier’s suspended…

Till next time.

England-v-Peru-International-Friendly

 

 

*The colours of World Cup News were chosen as an apology for calling Senegal, Cameroon all throughout the last article. I’m not that sorry, you should have less similar flags, but still…

Football’s Coming Home: World Cup 2018 – Iran

After a well fought draw against France, we have a must win game against Iran. For the last two games we have to work on the assumption that France will beat both Iran and Senegal, and so to offer ourselves a glimmer of hope of finishing top (and theoretically giving ourselves an easier draw in the knockout round) we must win both also.

On paper, this should be an easy game for us, but on paper, Iceland was an easy opponent at Euro 2016 and well… I thought I erased that memory but no, it’s back again.

Having a quick look at the Iranian national team there are a few players I recognise: Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Dejagah (formerly of Fulham) and Azmoun (Rostov). These are players you may have heard of, but hardly superstars.

 

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Iran has 21 UNESCO World Heritage sites

 

As you can see, we should win… should. The narrow formation suits us, hopefully allowing our wingers, in the 4-2-3-1 shape we favour, to occupy the full-backs creating space for our overlapping full-backs. As I don’t really have much else to say about the team, did you know that Iran has a rich cultural history, boasting one of the oldest civilisations on Earth dating back to around the 4th Century BC? Well, luckily Wikipedia did.

Now we have had a look at the opposition, worked out our approach to the game, and learnt something about our opposition, I guess there is nothing to do but sit back and drink some of this Russian white wine… this clear, strong Russian white wine.

 

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Success!

After waking up, hungover with Mark Noble singing bubbles over the hotel balcony to a bunch of bemused Russians in central Moscow (probably making the front page of the sun), we better get to team selection.

There is some slight weariness in the ranks following the France game, so slight rotation has been required, bearing that in mind, here is the team to face Iran:

 

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11 players, all with different names!

Mark Noble recovers from a two-day hangover to make the starting eleven, replacing a tired Dier. Wilshere (he was injured before the tournament, going to assume hangover also) and Barkley replace Lallana and Alli, with Rose also coming in for Shaw. Kane is on 90% condition, I will keep an eye on this with a decent replacement in Callum Wilson on the bench.

With all that said, let’s hopefully go and grab those three points.

Pre-game: noticing Iran are playing a 4-3-3… so that full-back overload might be off… let’s stick to it, see how it goes regardless.

Kick off.

A slow start, it is not until the sixteenth minute that we get our first action of the match. A throw in down the right from Clyne finds Barkley who passes to Noble, Noble to Wilshere who lets loose…. and tipped over by the Iranian keeper. The first shot of the game.

Straight after that highlight, in the eighteenth minute, Barkley finds Rashford, who feeds Chamberlain, his shot his blocked, falling to Kane, who’s shot is once again blocked.

The thirty-first minute quickly approaches, quick interchange sees Rashford letting fly – straight at the keeper.

Wilshere and Kane both have long distance efforts in the thirty-third and thirty-fourth minutes. Wilshere way over, Kane’s effort is tipped over. Still, the game is all England, no efforts so far from Iran, but can we make the pressure pay?

And…

 

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1-0: Chamberlain picks out Rashford to tap home

Just what we needed. The pressure pays off. Tenacious work down the left sees Rashford win the ball from the Iranian right-back, he then passes square to Barkley, who passes to Noble, Noble carries the ball forward and passes to Chamberlain who works some space before feeding the ball into Rashford‘s path for a tap-in. 1-0 England!

And just like that, it’s half-time. An okay half, we have dominated, but that is to be expected. Iran are defending solidly and deep, this has contributed to them not registering a shot yet. We can expect more from them in the second half, but as they chase the game, hopefully, more chances will present themselves for us.

Second half.

As the fiftieth-minute approaches, Kane will be withdrawn. He has been ineffective so far today and needs to be rested ahead of the game against Senegal. Callum Wilson will enter the fray.

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1-1: Azmoun scores for Iran

Danny Rose steps out of position allowing Iran a simple ball down the ring wing. The winger is closed down by Keane, who has to leave his man free in the middle, he (Azmoun) taps home with Iran’s first shot of the game…

Change after the goal: Alli is coming on for Wilshere who is not fully fit following his hangover.

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2-1: Rashford again.

Well, that was quick! Rashford once again wins the ball back, the ball finds its way to the fresh-legged Alli who crosses for Rashford, who made his way into the box to net his second of the game. 2-1 England!

We need now, to make sure we do not cede this. I will be looking to shore things up by changing from Control to Counter in around five minutes.

Before this can take place, we have a corner, which eventually leads to a headed chance by Rashford, which is not taken – to be fair to him, it was a very difficult chance and we do well to win another corner. From the subsequent corner, Barkley works a shot, which flys over the bar.

Another attack works its way down the left, the ball is crossed to Wilson who cannot meet it, the ball is recycled by Alli, who plays the ball to Rashford, but unfortunately, the shot is blocked.

Although we are on top, I am taking the time now to make two changes. Firstly, we are going to look to play slightly more conservatively and make ourselves less vulnerable to the break by playing on Counter, but keeping our tempo low, and our passing short, making sure that we retain possession in a safer manner. Secondly, we will be replacing the tired (and booked) Clyne with Walker (please don’t pull a Tottenham on me…).

Following a long throw, Iran work a shooting opportunity from the top of the box, Hart saves comfortably, but is this a warning sign that I have gone too defensive?

Further proof of this as our attack fizzles out, and Iran plays a long through ball, the shot at the end of the move is tipped over by Hart. This is why we went more cautious, to stop counters!

From the touchline I shout a calm concentrate, I’m not really sure how to shout calmly though…

And then…

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A win is a win…

It was all over. That was much closer than I expected it to be. We were incredibly dominant throughout, with Iran scoring from their first shot and not registering their second until after the eightieth minute. The increased pressure at the end was almost solely my fault for not trusting the players to hold out controlling the game, maybe that confidence was rattled by the Iran goal coming from nothing, but it could have cost us, and our approach to closing out games is something I will have to think about – do I go defensive, or go with the ethos of “it ain’t broke…”?

Anyway, three points in the bag, can’t complain too much. On top of that, we were able to rest some of our players in order to have them fresh for the Senegal game in four days time.

Speaking of Senegal…

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Interesting…

Senegal managed to hold France to a draw leaving both teams on two points. This means that a draw will take us through to the knockout round, and a win will guarantee us top spot in the group, however, a loss likely eliminates us. A great situation to be in, albeit, somewhat risky. Before the Iran game, I would have been convinced of our success in this game, but I was not convinced by our performance out there today. I still think we are favourites, and will likely look to control the game but we cannot afford to be too blase as we almost found out today.

But for now, that doesn’t matter, we got the three points, and now, in my estimations, are favourites to top the group. Will we? I guess we will find out next time.

Till then.

marcus-rashford

 

 

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