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As the Premier League commenced last weekend, I couldn’t be bothered with a fantasy football team. Too much effort. What I could be bothered doing is scoreline predictions.
To motivate the matter, I put a simple points system in place. 3 points for a correct scoreline, 1 point for a correct outcome. So this is how I did in Week 1:
My predictions and accumulated points in brackets:
Hull City 0-2 Leicester City (0pts – Hull won 2-1)
Burnley 1-1 Swansea City (0pts – Swansea won 0-1)
Crystal Palace 1-0 West Brom (0pts – West Brom won 0-1)
Everton 2-1 Spurs (0pts – it was a 1-1 draw)
Middlesbrough 2-1 Stoke City (0pts – it was a 1-1 draw)
Southampton 1-0 Watford (0pts – it was a 1-1 draw)
Man City 3-0 Sunderland (1pt – actual result 2-1)
Bournemouth 0-2 Man Utd (2pts – actual result 1-3)
Arsenal 1-2 Liverpool (3pts – actual result 3-4)
Chelsea 2-1 West Ham (6pts)
Pretty poor start to the campaign. 4/10 correct outcomes. 1/10 correct scoreline. It’s a standard I can now look to improve on in the course of the season.
With the advent of Friday Night Football that means weekend football predictions start early and so:
Man Utd 3-1 Southampton – United really should be too much for Southampton, though I expect them to nick one in just to spoil the love Mourinho has for a clean sheet. It would be great if Ibrahimovic scored on his home league debut and it would be great if Pogba started well too.
Stoke City 1-2 Man City – The only reason I am edging it to City is because I don’t think Stoke City have improved enough to be a threat to them. It should not be easy for the Citizens, though.
Burnley 1-4 Liverpool – I wholeheartedly admit my bias towards the Reds. Even if Mane is injured their attacking options should see them get as much as they did last time out. Of course, knowing me and the typical inconsistency, Burnley will probably nab a draw.
Swansea 2-1 Hull City – Hull’s win last week was a surprise, but there’s nothing about them to suggest they will do well this season at all. I don’t rate Swansea that highly either, but there’s something about home advantage that I think will give them the three points.
Tottenham 2-1 Crystal Palace – Palace won’t have Benteke in time for this match and their striking options are poor. They’ll only score because Spurs are evidently still getting into their stride and the loss of Lloris is going to be an issue, but really the home side have more than enough for the winter.
Watford 0-3 Chelsea – I am sure Watford fans are hopeful their gaffer has the mouse to make the most of their first home game. Chelsea, however, have Conte in charge and he is already impressing me with the way he is going about his business. Their team is vastly superior and that should be reflected in the result.
West Brom 1-1 Everton – Koeman will take time to stamp his mark on this Everton team. They surely haven’t finished their transfer business because their squad looks a little light. Meanwhile Pulis at West Brom believes in effective and efficient football that promises little on the eye and delivers that little promise, so if there’s a score draw this has got to be it.
Leicester 2-2 Arsenal – The Gunners beat the Champions twice last season and it would only be fitting with so much negativity around the club at the moment for them to play well and continue their good record against Leicester. The reason I am defying that outline is because the Champions will do all in their power to ensure they don’t suffer a second defeat and make a clear statement that last season was not a fluke.
Sunderland 1-1 Middlesbrough – The Premier League is not made up of the most exciting teams in the world in one place. These two North East clubs bear that out emphatically. Boro, only just getting back up after a while in the Championship, can be forgiven for still taking their time. Sunderland, however, are once more dealing with new management and style. This apparent derby, will not on paper offer much to excite, hence this prediction.
West Ham 2-1 Bournemouth – Plucky. That’s what Bournemouth are. They exude a manner and desire that makes them hard to beat and hard to hate. Having said that, for all the investment in the side, they don’t look as good as the Hammers. Sure Bilic has a problem up front, but they should still have enough quality to win this match.
Predicting is not an exact science when it comes to the Premier League. From my predictions from this weekend I expect to get 5 correct outcomes and possibly 2 correct scorelines giving me a points total of 9 points.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
Sesame Street. Arguably the greatest educational tool of my life. The songs helped a great deal. You don’t have to agree with the order, you just have to love remembering the songs themselves. Good times.
C. L. J. Dryden
In the last blog post I shared the views of Robbie and Spencer regarding the appointment of Sam Allardyce as the new England manager. Here are my initial thoughts on the matter.
Recently I finally got round to watching the documentary Alan Shearer put together reminiscing about Euro 1996 when football was coming home. Among other things during the hour of a love letter to yesterday, what was apparent was how that England team were full of leaders – Neville, Southgate, Adams and Pearce were leaders and that was the back four! Add to that Ince and Shearer himself and that’s the majority of the team being outstanding leaders on the pitch. Seaman was a capable leader in his own right too. Terry Venables nurtured a strong team that got the team a penalty away from the final.
Twenty years later and the state of play as far as the England side is concerned is very different. Some looked at the squad and were mildly glad of the attacking threat, but beyond that there was little in the squad in the way of motivational or exemplary leadership. Unsurprisingly when such qualities were called for in scoring goals and winning matches, England fell short. The accusation could be made that this was reflective of management that likewise came up short when it came to motivational or exemplary leadership.
So a country wailed again at their failings at tournament football when it mattered most. The thing about football is that it’s a matter of expectation. In the past, expectations have been slightly overhyped where England were concerned. One of the few achievements of the Hodgson time in charge of the national team is he was very successful at lowering expectations. It was amusing, the team would qualify for the tournaments relatively comfortably but there was something about the mediocre aura of Hodgson that never allowed you to aspire too much. One or two optimists thought England could make the semi finals of this year’s tournament, but the overriding feel was that it was realistic to expect this team to make the quarter finals. That England failed with such ignominy to even make that left some looking glum. As Hodgson left the question surrounded his replacement.
As someone who has never been that excited about the national team, my observations and musings on the side was based on what is to be reasonably expected from anyone taking on the challenge. The appointment of Sam Allardyce as the new England manager filled me with an overwhelming sense of ‘meh’. Is he really the best England can come up with? If the remit was not limited by nationality then the answer would surely be ‘no’. If the remit was to identify a man who could enthuse, galvanise and motivate a group of players to achieve something beyond themselves then the answer would surely be ‘no’.
It is clear that the remit that mattered was nationality. Not aspiration or ambition. Certainly nothing about a system and identity that would run throughout the system. The remit based on the appointment was about which manager can make the team difficult to beat and play to a clear system fit for purpose in its immediate context and no further. Fans of the national team should not be excited at this appointment. This is not a progressive appointment. Hodgson was a mediocre manager who did well with mediocre sides. The argument about Allardyce is he has been unlucky because he has never had the chance to play with the bigger teams. Yet those big teams were very clear that Sam Allardyce was not the best choice to win. He was a more suitable choice to merely survive. In essence, Sam Allardyce is a mediocre manager who has done well with mediocre teams. He did well at Bolton to make them a decent mid table side. Outside that, though, the teams he took charge of were of that standard anyway. Even the job at West Ham was to get a mid table Premier League club back to being a mid table Premier League club. That he managed that would be an encouraging sign for a mediocre national side. If that’s what England expects, then congratulations.
It’s not even about critiquing his ‘style of football’. Allardyce is committed to playing functional and relatively stable football that will look to contain the threat of the opponent whilst maximising opportunities to get the ball forward as quickly as possible. That doesn’t have to be the long ball all the time, but it is not the football to get anyone excited or be a threat to the better nations in a tournament setting.
Of course it is a case of ‘wait and see’. The quality of England players is at an interesting stage. The Spurs contingent, despite a disappointing tournament, are on the way up. There are sufficient points of hope for the two year cycle towards the World Cup. Maybe Allardyce can do something that suggests he can deliver the goods. What those goods look like now, however, will be something that Allardyce is responsible for in terms of cultivating expectations through the selection and performance of the teams in this two year cycle.
Following the two views on the matter in the last post, here’s a good balanced view on the matter.
C. L. J. Dryden
Sam Allardyce is the new manager of England. He had his first press conference in the role yesterday. His announcement has evoked a range of reactions.
Robbie is not that impressed at all by the appointment.
Spencer offers an alternative perspective. Take a look. I shall have my own say on the matter very soon indeed.
C. L. J. Dryden
I really enjoy watching videos on the Ball Street channel. This debate is one of the reasons why – it’s good fan-led content. The subject matter itself is something I might come back to in the run up to the start of the season. Until then, however, I recommend you check them out. Enjoy.
C. L. J. Dryden
The European Championship has come to a close following last night’s victory by the Portuguese over the French. Here are my initial thoughts.
- Though some have complained that it’s been boring, I don’t agree, especially comparing it to other international tournaments in the last 30 years. It won’t go down as the best or most memorable international tournament, but it was an average one.
- The format for this tournament overall was good … if you like to see minnows reach the knock out stages. Personally I think it drags out the tournament unnecessarily and does not promote exciting attacking football.
- It’s strange to view a tournament where there are no stand out individuals. There were some who did well for themselves especially like Payet in the first part of the tournament, but overall no individual made this his tournament. Indeed most of the bigger players were underwhelming – that includes Bale who did well with the occasional set-piece, but didn’t take the tournament by the scruff of the neck as a player of his calibre could have.
- While no individual particularly made it his tournament, the focus of the team came to the fore. Some really solid team formations and displays decorated affairs. Iceland, Wales, Italy and in the final Portugal were great examples of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. That did not always make for ‘exciting’ football as those conditioned on the Premier League would observe, but it made for good viewing if your football tastes are a lot more European.
- Italy had a very good tournament despite getting knocked out by Germany. Especially in the light of what was expected of them. Their pacing through the tournament was exemplary. Their game management was exemplary. It was disciplined, tight, functioning properly and great to watch.
- A number of teams can be very disappointed with their performance in the tournament. The level of disappointment is fair considering the talent and quality available. As Italy knew how to make good use of their resources to manage a tournament well, these teams were poor in the use of their resources in capitulating at the earlier stages.
- The level of refereeing overall was good. The point of the guys on the goal-line remains questionable, but the officiating otherwise was fine.
- Portugal winning the tournament is a bit odd, but highlights the way you play tournament football. It’s not about playing the best football, it’s about doing what matters most at the key stages. In the final, as it turned out, losing Ronaldo to injury worked in their favour. They were solid defensively, the pressure was off them, they had a very positive and eager outlet in Nani. The winning goal was worthy of winning a game of football, scored at the right time of the game and thus deserving of winning the game.
- Meanwhile the hosts have only themselves to blame. All their major opponents had been eliminated, Portugal should hardly have posed a greater threat. Yet when it mattered most they were left wanting. Their key men in Pogba and Griezman did not produce good performances. Their game lacked dynamism and they left it too late to make the necessary changes. It’s a big missed opportunity too, because they really made the most of the home support up to that game, but it goes to show that in tournament football it’s what you do when it matters most that makes all the difference.
- One good thing that should also come out of this tournament is that with the possible exception of a player or two, this tournament will not lead to a rush of clubs splurging on players on the basis of their performances at this tournament. Hopefully clubs will have the sense to see that it was the team as a unit that impressed. To get the same outcome would require clubs to have managers who can create systems to fit those players – that will not always be the case. Thus clubs will be far more sensible in their transfer dealings this summer … Who am I kidding, right?
There is a nation I have not mentioned by name in this blog – that is deliberate. I will deal with England soon! Meanwhile I am grateful for the Euros this year. I enjoyed it more than I did four years ago. The anthems were a source of enjoyment. I felt the BBC edged it in terms of television presentation, though Slaven Bilic is a hero of punditry following his ITV appearances.
The Euros are good as well, because they are football in what would otherwise be an arid wilderness bereft of the game I love. With August thankfully being just round the corner, it won’t be long before the season starts and there is a lot to be fascinated about for what we are about to receive.
C. L. J. Dryden
Wowsers, it’s been a while since I last wrote about football – the game I love. There has been tons I could have written. That Leicester City story. That whole thing at Arsenal again. That Tottenham collapse. That mediocre season by Manchester City. That shambles at Chelsea. That inevitably disappointing season from Liverpool. As for England at the Euros … maybe I will write on that at some point.
Of all the fascinating aspects to write about, however, I was tickled to write about Mourinho at Manchester United. What a story. Oh the things I could write. This crops up particularly in the light of his first press conference recently. I watched it and thoroughly enjoyed it.
For the benefit of this article, let me set the record straight here and now. I am a big fan of Jose Mourinho. I acknowledge the aspects of his character and his career that rub people the wrong way. He is not a saint and I don’t agree with everything he has ever done. I am a fan of his, however, for the same reason I became a fan of Liverpool Football Club. I became a fan because at the time (1986) I was not bothered about local team, I wanted to follow the best team. Liverpool didn’t play the prettiest football or have the most glamorous players, but they did the one thing that attracted me to them – they won.
There have been managers who won before. Brian Clough made a habit of it for a few years. Don Revie gained a reputation for getting Leeds United into the habit for a few years too. However, with the exception of George Graham, the next guy to get greedy for trophies was Sir Alex Ferguson. For obvious reasons I was unlikely to start a fan club to that guy, although I readily acknowledge him to be the best in English football. Now the next contender for being into the trophy winning thing as a manager was Wenger. His football was refreshing, competing with United was great and the winning thing garnered my admiration.
Then came Mourinho. He had done it at Porto, he said he could do it at Chelsea, so he did it at Chelsea, he said he could do it at Inter Milan, so he did it at Inter Milan. By that time he had my attention. However he left Chelsea the first time, he was a winner and established Chelsea as a side that now expected to win. He took the winning mentality to Inter, Real Madrid and then back to Chelsea. Criticise all you like and sometimes justifiably, what is undeniable is that more than most of his peers, the man is a winner. I love that. That’s why I am a big fan of his.
There is no denying either that his second stint at Chelsea ended up worse than his first stint. Yet he still emerged with the reputation of a winner. He is a winner.
Manchester United used to win. They used to win the trophies that mattered. They competed for the trophies that mattered. They were a side that were set up to win like no English club before them. Success was intrinsic to their make up. So when Moyes didn’t get the memo, he was rightfully dismissed. Louis Van Gaal talked a better talk and had the bombast and bravado to suggest he could make the change, but essentially he himself failed. The FA Cup win was a noble gesture that came far too late. The season by United standards in performance and position was just not good enough.
The talk of the manager’s position for the best part of the season highlighted just how far the club had declined from its previous imperious position at the top of English football. They relieved LvG of his duties and looked for his replacement. Guardiola was committed to City. That left them with the man who apparently had been desirous to get the job for years. You can’t blame him either, in many ways they are made for each other. They are both committed to winning. United were stubborn and stupid not to have appointed him when Sir Alex retired, but it’s all turned out the better especially for Mourinho. They need each other, but Mourinho has won something significant in the last three years whereas United can hardly crow over winning the FA Cup even if it is a trophy they had forgotten how to win for the best part of a decade.
Mourinho’s first press conference was just the tonic for a club designed to win. Not for him the talk of making the top four. Not for him the conservative and cautious approach of just doing your best and hoping that was enough. He was clear in his desire to aggressively pursue everything there was to win. That sounded more like the Manchester United way that Ferguson had written into the fabric of the club far greater than even Busby had managed in his time at the club.
The petty types looking for their scraps to feed the feuds of Mourinho can talk about his digs at others. Yet the bigger picture is that the man has set himself the challenge of doing at United what he has consistently done in his career – win.
Whether he can do it is the issue, but I much prefer watching this unfold than the mediocre efforts of his two predecessors. It makes for more compelling viewing of the game I love to watch.
C. L. J. Dryden