In the Firing Line? – Dan Raywood blog

Today in football, West Bromwich Albion fired their manager. So what some of you may say, football managers get fired all of the time? Well there are two factors to this that make it interesting.

Firstly, the former manager Tony Pulis has never got a team relegated. The team is skating close to the edge this season, but the likelihood of relegation looks slim bearing in mind the manager’s past capabilities.

The second factor is the appointment this summer of Gary Megson, who served as manager of WBA many years ago and this summer returned to the club as assistant to Pulis.

So why is this interesting? Well Pulis will likely get another job and do a satisfactory job at another club, although a move to Wales looks likely. What about WBA? They could go with someone completely different and the fans will be left figuring out what will happen – will the new manager play a different game, more open and attacking and get the club relegated? If so, what does that make the fans think of the consistency of Pulis?

Also, did the appointment of Megson undermine Pulis? Was the intention all along to remove the head coach and replace him with a fan favorite?

It’s all so hard to tell when you’re on the outside, but in the case of football management as with other professions, the supporters are the customers in this case and the returning legend is seen as the saviour. With a short transfer window opening in just over a month, West Brom’s fortunes could stay the same, improve or get worse, and if things do get worse, the fans will long bear in mind that Pulis was never relegated as a manager.

 

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NLD – Now (the) League (table looks) Different – Dan Raywood blog

So it turned out to be one of the most one sided, well from a goals perspective anyway, north London derbies for years. The result leaves the red side of North London happy and the Wembley tenants of Spurs less than happy.

In a way, you could see it coming. Great results and performances against Liverpool and Real Madrid were followed by a scraped win against Crystal Palace, and Arsenal unbeaten team aside, a team needs to have an off day at some point.

Apparently today was one of those days. Spurs looked disorganized and only Hugo Lloris played well in my view. The majority of the game was played in midfield or in Spurs’ half, and then the Arsenal offense had figured out how spurs were going to play and used that in their own tactics: playing through the middle and on flanks against two left backs who did not have the strength of Rose and Aurier.

Spurs will go back to the drawing board ahead of the away game against Dortmund on Tuesday night. Arsenal now find themselves in the top four a point behind Spurs, and without the distraction of a champions league tie ahead of them. Spurs will just be glad that they have already qualified from the champions league group, and can focus on giving Son, Llorente, Foyth and a returning Eric Lamela (played today for the under 23s) a chance to get some game time.

As for me, I’ll be looking forward to the rest of the weekend and glad I got so many chores done during a dismal game.

FA Premier League Predictions – Week 12

The international break is over and fans can put their qualification woes behind them and concentrate on the league. It seems a long time ago that we were enjoying week 11, well that is unless you were a West Ham or Arsenal fan of course, but safe to say a new manager for the Hammers brings new hope…oh yes maybe not, they appointed David Moyes. Im sure Hammers fans must have been so thrilled at the prospect of the man who took Sunderland down being appointed as manager of their club.

Anyway, week 11 was not as good as previous as I managed only to chalk up four correct results and nothing else. Week 12 might prove a little easier as we see the North London derby in the lunchtime kick off, Palace and Everton meet up in the battle of the two strugglers, Man City travel to Leicester in some of the key games amongst Liverpool looking to get a win over Southampton. So lets see how well I do this week.

  1.                                  Arsenal     2-2 Tottenham         Arsenal suprise and hold rivals
  2.                       Bournemouth     2-0 Huddersfield    Cherries net a home win
  3.                                Brighton     1-1 Stoke City           All square on the south coast
  4.                                 Burnley      2-1 Swansea City    Dyche’s men do it again
  5.                      Crystal Palace      2-1 Everton             Doom again for the toffees
  6.                       Leicester City      0-2 Man City           City stroll to another win
  7.                             Liverpool       3-0 Southampton   Reds cruise to storming win
  8.                               Man Utd       2-2 Newcastle Utd  Rafa ruins Pogba Ibra returns
  9.                               Watford       2-0 West Ham          Watford ruin Moyes start
  10.                          West Brom       2-2 Chelsea               Chelsea held at the Hawthorns

Going for some interesting predictions this week. Crystal Palace look to start a winning run whilst in the north London derby, it looks certain to be honours even in a surprise turn of events. Rafa Benitez returns to Old Trafford to spoil the party of the returning Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the United squad

Having struggled to get a win against the Saints in their last four attempts, Liverpool lok certain to net a big win as the combination of Mane and Salah proves too much for their south coast visitors.

Never Appoint Your Heroes – Dan Raywood

UEFA Nations League

Has there even been an idea as more pointless and unecessary from a  football governing body? I guess not and never will….don’t be silly of course there is. Not only do UEFA wish to kick this tournament off in 2018, but FIFA are looking to expand itthey intend on inviting nations from other confederations. Why? Why look to expand a competition that has not even kicked off yet.

The tournament will be the third competition for European nations and will see four sports for the Euro 2020 finals, most likely going to the lower nations in the European football family. The idea is to replace all the meaningless friendlies that take place inbetween the International qualifiers. The games will be played between September and November 2018 and the final four in the following summer.

There will be four leagues A-D with Leagues A and B containing 12 nations, League C containing 15 and League D containing 16. Each League will be split into four divisions. There will be promotion and relegation between each division within the leagues with the winners of each division playing for the opportunity to stake an early claim for a Euro 2020 finals place.

The competition will have 6 match days starting in September 2018 Match Days 1 (6-9) and 2 (9-12) with Match day 6 between 18-20. The finals taking place between 5-9 June 2019. This means that nations will also have a chance of taking it easy in the qualifiers if they have already especially as the Euro 2020 qualifiers will run from March 2019 to March 2020.

The format has been highly criticised as it gives a means of allowing the lesser European nations who would not usually stand a hope in hell of qualifying, a spot in the finals. Not only that teams who had already been knocked out of WC 18 qualifiers a chance to purposely lose games in order to drop down into the lower league and have a better chance of qualifying. Are lesser nations really worthy of taking places in the finals? Not really. We only have to look at the standard of some of the nations that make it to the World Cup finals.

The reality of it all in a way of course is money. These games will no doubt get tv coverage advertising and other commercial opportunities as it rolls into the European Championship qualifiers. If they really wanted to end pointless friendlies then they could easily just restrict the number of International weeks outside of the qualifying rounds.

With the introduction of the European League, it will surely reduce the opportunities for non European nations to play European opposition, it is quite possible that there could be regional competitions and even no doubt a lower nation World Cup featuring all the nations that couldn’t win in the proper one as we all know that where there is a competition there is a money opportunity. They could probably trying and build up San Marino v Malta, but we all know that would be a tedious borefest.  I’d rather go watch an Ismithan League game

I won’t be looking forward to one little bit, I’m sure not many others will especially when there will be clubs concentrating on European competition and wanting to keep players fit and available.

 

 

They All Count

After a fantastic performance against Real Madrid in mid week, the next game was always going to be a challenge to meet the same excitement.
As it turned out, the early Sunday kick off against Crystal Palace was my first Spurs game of the season and one that found me initially surprised to find that it was an early kick off, but ultimately delighted that I got my afternoon back.

At the time of writing, I’m heading back home from the game and it’s about an hour and 10 minutes since full time. That’s why I don’t go to many games in truth; it’s great that Spurs stayed in London but the journey home is a chore.

As for the game, well Spurs made several changes from the team that conquered the European Champions and saw a debut for goalkeeper Paolo Gazzaniga as well as continued presence of Aurier, Winks, Son and Rose – who you may seem to be from the second string of the first team squad.

All in all, the game was relatively uninspiring and not full of incident. Palace have had their challenges on and off the pitch so far this season, and with a vocal traveling support and the strength of Zaha, Cabaye and ex Spur Andros Townsend, they have the potential to succeed and stay up this season.

For Spurs, it was a laboured performance that didn’t see Harry Kane at his best, saw Son miss an absolute sitter and generally saw good performances from Sissokho and Vertonghen. Man of the match for me was the impressive Davison Sanchez, but that is an example of how well distributed the ball was and how cool he was under pressure.

This won’t be my last visit to Wembley, but I’ll be delighted when the team return to Tottenham as while Wembley does suffice, every fan knows that this is a temporary situation and while Spurs can produce some classy performances, there are games they will have to scrap for and as the headline says, sometimes you have to do that as all of the points count.

Two out of three ain’t bad – Dan Raywood

Spurs have qualified for the champions league knock out stages for the second time, having suffered a Wembley headache last year that concluded with Dele’s sending off against Ghent in the Europa League.

That all seemed like a long time ago last night though, as Spurs swept away the holders Real Madrid 3-1. Was it one of the greatest nights in the club’s history? Probably, but combined with an absent performance by Madrid there will be many who will not consider this to be among the great performances.

After all, against Inter Milan in 2010 Spurs were facing a good side and with an in form Gareth Bale, they swept the Italians aside. Compared to the team that Spurs played a few weeks ago in the Bernabau, last night’s team looked disappointing – Kroos was a shadow of the player he was in Madrid, Sergio Ramos almost spoilt the night with some petulant efforts against Dembele and Harry Kane struggled to get past the last man and seemed to lack pace.

Yet no one will consider those facts in history, and remember that Spurs played Real Madrid off the pitch and with some excellent performances across the 11, this should go down in history for the right reasons.

On a positive note, Spurs have now qualified for the knock out stages with two games to play, and can focus on the league campaign and getting performances back on track. A week ago we were bemused after being beaten by West Ham, a week later we conquered the European Champions. It feels good say that!