Only Jose, Klopp and Guardiola are better than Big Sam…

December 29, 2020 0 By HearthstoneYarns

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A celebration of Big Sam
Given the debates over Sam Allardyce in the past few mailboxes, I’d like to give a Bolton fan’s perspective. I don’t think any manager in the Premierleague has come close to what he achieved with us, transforming a team that were sure-fire relegation candidates into a team that was challenging for Champions League places, finishing three points behind Everton the year they finished fourth. He did all this on a budget of essentially 0£, taking cast-offs and also-rans and making them into integral pieces of a well-oiled machine. How did he do it? He invested heavily in his backroom staff, hiring analysts who could statistically dissect the game and also improving fitness by using cryogenic rooms and the like. This allowed him to extend the longevity of players who were a little bit past their sell-by-date like Speed, Hierro, Campo etc… He was a wizard at finding gems on the transfer market, finding random guys vegetating at the bottom of a third-tier league or professional sick-notes and transforming them into world-beaters for us: for instance Ben Haim, Faye, Davies. That’s a skill which hasn’t left him I think, if you look at the impact of Khazri, Koné and Kirchhoff at Sunderland or Milivojevic at Crystal Palace.

He was also a tactical innovator, being the first to impose the 4-3-3 that became ubiquitous in the post-Mourinho era. He was never shy in reinventing player positions, transforming Diagne-Faye from a poor DM into a rock at the heart of our defence, changing Campo and Hierro from centre-backs too slow for the premier-league into mini-Pirlos in midfield, moving a jobbing center-forward in Henrik Pedersen to an admittedly also jobbing left-back. As for tactics it’s true that he often eschewed the midfield battle and looked to move the ball quickly up the pitch, with Campo’s and Okocha’s passing range being very important, as well as Kevin Davies’s ability to retain the ball or win a foul. I think he is correctly labeled as a defensive manager, but he always had some talented forwards with Anelka, Stelios or Diouf being tasked with putting the finishing touches to our moves.

Would he do well at a big 6 club? With Bolton he finished inside the top 8 four years in a row so I don’t think he is far off that level. Given time I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be successful, managers with a similar defensive outlook like Benitez and Mourinho were successes. However, if we see what happened with Newcastle (which is probably the only place where he did truly fail) and Everton, he probably would not be given any time. In many ways, Allardyce the meme has taken over from Allardyce the manager. Allardyce the meme is the pint of wine swigging, toilet-clogging Count of Monte-Bisto, the epitome of the Brexit-dad, which in many ways he has invited on himself. The meme means that he arrives with little goodwill into a club. The meme also affects the way he is perceived as a manager, where most people assume that he will alienate the flair players, try to sign old warhorses on giant contracts and refuse to play any young players. See the last mail where he is blamed for not playing enough U23 players, then naming 4 he did play (so how many is enough?), none of whom apart from DCL went on to be Everton first-teamers in the following years.

However, when the club, fans and manager are all pulling in the same direction, as was the case at Sunderland and Bolton, then it’s clear that he can take them to another level. I think the underdog mentality that he created with us really helped the players bond and they must have felt part of something special – Anelka who is well known for being unmanageable says that he is the best manager he has worked with. So much for alienating flair players.

At West Ham and Everton, he ended up trolling the fans as much as the opposition managers. Despite this, he had West Ham in 4th at Christmas after repositioning Stewart Downing at the head of a diamond in midfield, before sinking down the league when his contract wasn’t renewed. At Everton, the entire team was garbage, with probably the worst back line in the league (Kenny-Williams-Keane-Martina) and no striker. Despite having bought what seems like two entirely new teams since then, Everton have gone from eighth under Allardyce to the giddy heights of eighth then thirteenth.

If you look at the ELO coach ratings, which ranks managers according both to how much they improve clubs, and the quality of the teams they manage, he ranks as the 65th best coach in history, above Wenger or Matt Busby, despite never being given the chance to manage a big team. He’s probably not as good a manager as Mourinho, Klopp or Guardiola, but if you lump him in with Moyes or Pardew, you are making a mistake, he’s vastly superior to the rest of the British managers. He’s definitely a cut above Lampard, Solskjaer, Arteta, Sherwood, Moyes, Hughes and others who have been given a chance to manage a top 6 club despite being outside of the elite manager merry-go-round. There’s no doubt that he’d be a much better manager for Arsenal than Arteta is right now, but it’s also true that because of the meme they’d probably prefer to rip their eyes out than admit it. This is also true for Sean Dyche, who is doing an impossible job at Burnley yet never in the frame for jobs at clubs with more budget. No top 6 club would enjoy having either Allardyce or Dyche appointed, but in truth they should.

Rather than the doom and gloom that seems to herald his appointment in whatever club he arrives these days, West Brom fans should instead be delighted that they have appointed an excellent manager. And if he manages to keep you up, which will be no easy task given the squad, I think he is much more than a firefighter and we can hopefully see him in the future repeating the feats he achieved at his previous clubs, qualifying both Bolton and West Ham for Europe.
TFF, Paris

Top ten Premier League players of 2020

Bring out the Baggies
I hope this doesn’t come off as a poor loser (or drawer, or whatever it’s called), but once Liverpool scored against West Brom, why even bother for a second or third goal? With all eleven Baggies firmly entrenched in their own half, why not just let Alisson and Fabinho stroke the ball across the backline for 20 or 30 minutes, or even the whole second half if the other team refuses to come out of its shell?” I understand Klopp values entertainment on par with results, but in that type of match, surely your fans will forgive you a half off to rest and rejuvenate?

All that said, isn’t football wonderful? I never understand people who think there is only one way to play, and this fan of Rafa and his result against Juventus away in the European Cup in 2004-05 thinks a defensive masterclass is up there with the best things to watch, and may even be better than a 7-0 win. So well done West Brom even if I think you are capable of more stirring stuff like Fulham took it to us. The period after the goal showed you have some exceptional quality in your team so hopefully Fat Sam strikes a balance in the games to come against your relegation rivals.
Niall, Denver


Lampard out
Lampard should be sacked because from a expirience level he is not qualified for the job.

This is a man presented a top level job for what reason exactly? It’s not like he even got his club into the Premier league. He got to the championship playoffs and celebrated like he gained promotion…then failed in the final. Typical behaviour from a novice. The Chelsea players have 0 respect respect for Frank’s views as a manager. They respect what he did as a player that’s it.

Frank Drogba Terry and Co all had a part to play in their managers at Chelsea being sacked. They looked at Andre villas boas as someone out of his depth when he was in charge. However, AVB had management pedigree under his belt coming into the Chelsea job… Yet Frank thinks he now can stroll in to Stamford Bridge or any club for that matter and command respect. He is tacticaly out of his depth and is not even worthy to manage a league 1 team.

But because he is white, English top ex player jobs are gifted to him. I’m not sure why he has gone so long at Chelsea with not even a whisper in the media of him being sacked. This is world record in history of Premier league. Can you imagine if this was Jimmy floyd hasselbaink or Drogba. They be getting messages on social media day in day out begging for their sacking.

Frank openly blames his PLAYERS who He selects in defeat. When HE is the problem. He can have all the coaching badges he wants. He is not experienced enough to be a manager of a club like Chelsea. He has not earned the right like a Scott Parker, a Eddie howe, to be a manager of a Premier league team. So why is he here? We are used to big name managers at club. Experienced managers. When Frank gets sacked, I want to see where he ends up as in my opinion this guy is not good enough to manage in the football league period.

Michael Newman


Seven reasons to axe Frank
Opening the mailbox on Monday morning felt like Christmas Day, probably because the majority of the UK had woken up to a blanket of snow and I just love the festive season, I am sure many a reader and contributor would laugh at me if one of the more controversial contributors had written in today, that would hardly be a great Christmas present, but anyway, moving on, I saw the “Seven Reasons Why Chelsea Need To Sack Frank Lampard” headline and thought I would give my rational perspective on each point, since I appear to be known for that, though listeners of my Podcast would bring up my Ngolo Kante opinion back in the Summer.

1. Difficult one for me to call on this, as I have seen a variety of tactics used throughout his tenure, some have worked wonders, others have not, so I am going to avoid this point as I don’t feel I can give a fair angle on it.

2. Man Management, I would disagree to a point, he certainly knows how to deal with personalities, take the Marcos Alonso situation last season, that was dealt with instantly and since then I do not believe he has featured for us, but if Aravind mentioned the loss of Ziyech and he is spot on there, when Hakim plays we are a different team, however we should not need to rely on his talents against a very poor Arsenal side.

3. The Callum Hudson-Odoi situation I feel is a complicated matter, this year we saw the flouting of Lockdown Rules by Callum and even though the lad has talent, I feel Lampard will favour the image of the club, the discipline factor over anything else, however the counter to this would be “What about when Mason Mount broke Self-Isolation Rules with Declan Rice?”, perhaps that comes into the Man Management point he was making, when CHO plays he does often make a difference.

4. 100% agreed, almost everyone was shocked, from Chelsea fans to FPL managers when they saw not just Reece James but also Ben Chilwell both in the starting XI after they were apparently suffering from injuries that would rule them out for two weeks or maybe more, it was the wrong call to play them, we do have players in reserve who can fill their places, of course neither Emerson or Azpilicueta can provide what James and Chilwell do, but I am not a fan of playing someone who is not fully fit, not worth the risk long term if you aggravate the injury.

5. Timo Werner, my view on him is simple, Zlatan once said “You bought a Ferrari but you drive it like a Fiat”, that is Lampard and Timo right now, Timo is a top class forward, I dont particularly want to see him tracking back even though he has a top class engine on him, I want to see him being the focal point of the attack, I know he did well thriving off Poulsen at RB Leipzig, but Tammy is not Poulsen, give him a run at being the main striker and see how it goes, but right now he is being wasted on the wing as it doesn’t work for the team as a whole

6. Nothing to add here, I see his point.

7. 100% agreed again, this season has shown how open the league is, apart from Liverpool who even with what should be a season hampering injury crisis have carried on and been quite incredible, fair play to them may I add, this looks like “Their Time” and it is testament to the players, the club and Klopp with his coaching team, but back to Chelsea, Top 3 should be a certain, the inconsistency is there from the likes of City, United and Spurs, yet we are just as inconsistent, maybe worse, yet on paper we have maybe the third or even second strongest squad.

What do I feel going forward? Well I have always been someone to back the manager always, but i do think as a whole Frank is not the man to take this side forward in the long term, I could be wrong, very wrong, will have to wait and see.
Mikey, CFC


F365 Says: The table doesn’t lie, Chelsea are no better than Villa 


Frank the keeper killer?
I’m shamelessly ripping off one of the better known podcasts here but I strongly recall at Kepa’s nadir that his career stats pre Chelsea and post, showed a strikingly similar downturn to that of the Derby 2018-19 keepers pre and post working for Lampard. The thesis is that Lampard’s “managerial playing style” places undue incremental pressure on the keeper, leading to previously reliable glovemen turning into clanger machines.

I find it therefore fascinating that Mendy – lauded a month ago as being the missing piece, seems to be going much the same trajectory as the afore-mentioned Kepa.

I don’t derive any great pleasure, our mob has had its share of dodgy keepers in the last 30 years. I still get nightmares about 2018.

But I will wager that Michael Edwards for a small fee, would be able to already explain to Chelsea ownership what is causing this pattern. Until they fix what increasingly seems like a fundamental structural issue, 4th is best case.
Aussie Red


Mourinho and change
Football is a fickle game. Three weeks ago we were top of the league having comprehensively beaten our bitter rivals leading my Gooner friend to admit he was as worried about Jose bringing Spurs to the title as he was Arteta bringing Arsenal to the Championship. Three weeks later, both thoughts already seem quite silly.

Like all Spurs fans, I was devasted to see Pochettino go but it was coming. The Champions League run aside, our league form in 2019 was inconsistent at best and Poch was evidently unhappy. When Jose came in I said to myself I never expected Jose Mourinho to be the manager of Tottenham given his rate of success and the lack of ours, but also that I wouldn’t be anything other than delighted to have him as manager given his rate of success and the lack of ours – the 2008 League Cup is the only trophy I’ve seen since becoming a Spurs fan. But here we are 13 months later, with Jose in the twilight of his career where things have been OK – Good with a lot of inconsistency. It’s not that I want Jose gone – he’s one of the most successful managers of all time, we might as well buy into him for a while and hope he can get some trophies out of a talented and hungry squad – but his stubbornness in his beliefs and his system may cost him.

Jose is stubborn and single-minded we all know this, but he’s also got a fantastic understanding of the game and is clearly very intelligent. Surely he can not watch back the tapes of games where we’ve dropped points and see that sitting back on a 1-0 lead for the majority of the match, continually giving back possession and allowing teams to attack us has cost us as often as it has been successful. As F365 said about the Wolves result “the equaliser was not inevitable but predictable.” Stubbornness and single-mindedness can often stop you from seeing flaws in your beliefs, I’m sure we can all think of examples in our own lives where we have resisted change only to eventually try it and see that actually it was ok. Change is to be embraced. Try it, Jose. Please! I want you to be as successful for Spurs as you want to be for yourself. I’m not asking for a radical change to the gung-ho days of ‘Arry, we can be defensive if that’s what you want. But can we stop kicking the ball away, inviting pressure on ourselves, try to keep it a bit more, and kill teams off given that we have players who are capable of doing so? I hope so, but probably not. We might scrape 4th place and a trophy. Which I admit would be a success.
Fionn, Dublin. (Lover of commas and hyphens)


Embrace the dog fight
I may the strangest Arsenal fan out there, but I was disappointed to see us move ever so slightly away from the relegation dog-fight with the win over Chelsea. As happy as I was to see a decent performance, and as thrilling as it was to see Martinelli back, WIllian nowhere near the team, and the youngsters finally given a proper chance, I’m wholly apathetic about the prospect of spending the rest of the season in mid table anonymity. While some people may find the race to finish in EL places enough of a draw, for me it is neither her nor there. So what if we’ve won a few EL matches against teams we’ve never heard of before, we’ll still go out against the first proper side we come up against! Languishing in mid table anonymity is so pointless. Give me a proper relegation dog-fight over becoming just another Burnley, please.
Rob (Does Sean Dyche dream of Arteta’s lego hair?)


Kane’s collapse
I’ve written in about this before but here we go again.
Sunday saw another dive from Harry Kane to try win a penalty in the last minutes of the game against Wolves. Same gambit once more – stop suddenly, wait for contact, sprawl on floor with arms outstretched, look at referee.
It seems the only thing that’s going to stop him doing this is if he is booked, but just how obvious do his attempts at cheating have to get before this happens?
A, Dublin


Debt spend > net spend
Another very, very, very long letter from Donough trying to explain away his going after others for what he considers a w*nky metric – Net Spend – by using an equally w*nky metric – percentage of revenue.

While you do mention debt in your first email you didn’t mention the over £1B spent servicing said debt over the years since takeover. So while it is now only just under £500m (and that isn’t the full debt load, just the debt loaded directly in the club and not the financing of the rest of the Glazer debt to finance their takeover) – it is a significant factor preventing Utd putting the funds to other use. The point is that after expenses Utd lost money. So that would mean selling someone rather than buying someone, no? If we are to use your measure to determine ability to spend.

In reality, I think others use the Net Spend metric to show the quality of the clubs acquisition capability and the value placed on the club overall. Hence clubs being able to either buy at a reasonable price, sell high or both – as Utd once did.

Regardless of metric, what is impacting Utd is that they are not the clear draw they once were. OGS is not a draw they way Guardiola or Klopp might be (although not doing bad), not being in the CL is a negative and couple with a lack of a clear scouting/acquisition strategy does not bode well for the future. Utd can chuck a lot of that mountain of cash at players but not a great strategy when you end up with players on £390k a week the you still end up finding 55% to play elsewhere. Utd still have by far and away the largest wage bill in the league and significantly more there City or Liverpool who arguably bace better squads. Utd really need to offload players. Might even improve their net spend 🙂

In the meantime, just hope the one shining light, Fernandes doesn’t get hurt. Without him Utd would be half the team they are now.
Paul McDevitt