Boring boring football…

I haven’t written a blog recently. This is partly due to the fact that I have been selling and buying a new home, publishing my second book and with the whole Super league mania it felt like there was more than enough being written about football. I am now back putting pen to paper, or more accurately finger to keyboard. I feel a need to write this because I have been watching a lot of Premier league football recently as with the clocks going forward the time difference in China has become more manageable. For example a 4pm kick off in the UK is 11pm here in Ningbo. England certainly seems to be the place to watch football now with two teams in the Europa league league final and the two Champions league finalists both being British. But, honestly, I am finding the football being served up in the Premier league dull and soulless.

Analysing Passing in the Top Five European Domestic Leagues | by Jason  Zivkovic | Towards Data Science

A typicle game involves two teams persisting to try and pass the ball out from the back no matter what the opposition does. I find myself watching games that are decided by which team gives the ball away in dangerous positions the most times. Time and time again, I see defenders and midfielders giving the ball away in dangerous positions trying to overplay. I would love to see the numbers for how many goals are scored from teams losing possession in their defensive third. I would imagine it is very high! Now the quality of the passing out from the back has improved immensely in recent years but there are still a lot of defenders who would do well to stick to the mantra of head it and clear it, simply put, they look like the oppositions best attacker most games. I can remember very early on in my all too brief footballing career being told that good players know their players. In other words, there are some players you don’t pass to unless they are well away from your goal. I played for years with my mate Darren who was a very gifted footballer who happened to play in defence and he used to take all kinds of risks with very rarely any consequences. The amount of times players alongside him would try and do the same thing with comically terrible results. Rule number 2, know your limitations!

Incredibly Boring The football is - Yoda | Meme Generator

It seems all the more bizarre that ALL the teams seem to try and do it in an age when data is so readily available. It makes me question what I am seeing with my own eyes. Is there data out there that suggests that this way of playing is the only way? Because week in and week out I see teams being given chances from teams trying to overplay in defence. In an age of high presses you would think that the odd clearance or long pass out from the back would prove more effective. Don’t get me wrong I do not like long ball football, but even Brazil would occasionally hoof the ball when under pressure. This pass, pass, pass and then pass some more is so boring to watch. When Barcelona used to do it they were always probing and looking for the forward pass whereas now it seems more like passing the ball for the sake of it. Here are some examples:

The ball is passed and passed and eventually gets out wide in the final third. The forward players make runs into the box and the wide player turns out and passes it back to the full back and then back to the centre half, some times then all the way back to the goalkeeper! Cross it Man! Strikers must be puling their hair out.

The ball is passed well and the team progress quickly up field they are now in the final third and the other team are short of numbers. If the player on the ball can play the right forward pass or take on their man they have a great chance of scoring. But, instead, they turn away from the opposing goal and pass it back to the midfield who turn and pass it back to the defenders, who sometimes then will pass it back in goal. They have gone from a dangerous attack to their goalkeeper passing the ball to the defenders who are now stuck on the edge of their own penalty area. Meanwhile thousands of fans are screaming at their TV!

Passing Out at the Back - Stats Perform

I always thought that passing teams were successful when they passed with a purpose instead of just passing to not lose possession. A good player always looks forwards if possible. I would love to see the data the teams are basing it on. It is like man marking at corners against zonal. My eyes tell me that zonal seems to be less successful but this cant be the case as everyone seems to go for zonal.

I am fast becoming a football dinosaur. I want to see players with flair and personality, mistakes made by referees in the moment, not made by another referee who is watching it on a screen and still getting it wrong. It is hilarious that red cards given by VAR seem to constantly be overturned! I want to see tackles, not dangerous tackles but honest tackles made by committed players. I want to see crosses and dribbling. I want teams to live within a budget. I want to see players celebrating goals without worrying that it may be chalked off at any second by a line drawn on a computer screen at the point they believe the ball was kicked. I want fans back in stadiums and wouldn’t it be great if lot of them actually lived or where bought up in the local area. I want commentators talking about football like it existed before 1992, talking about the great players who went before. The Premier league is just the first division re branded. Jimmy Greaves is the best goalscorer ever, half of the young supporters will have never ever heard of him. I find myself now drifting in and out of the football as players try and bring up their pass percentages, that never used to happen when I was gripped by the football and literally on the edge of my seat.

Boring Football Boring Football everywhere - ToyStorys | Meme Generator

Jose Mourinho: Why won’t Spurs fans climb onboard?

 I haven’t written a blog for a few weeks as I’ve been finishing writing my sequel to Eye on the Ball, I am hoping to release it in June. In that time there have been a few things that have caught my eye, but the continued slide by Tottenham has been the most eye catching. In December 2018 Manchester United released the following statement:

Manchester United decided to sack Jose Mourinho because they were unhappy with a lack of progress in form, style of play and development of their young players.

I remember reading this and thinking that it was fair comment. I now look at Mourinho at Spurs and think it is pretty much valid now too.

There are a number of reasons why I have always thought that Mourinho was a bad fit for Tottenham. Below are just two.

Spurs, who’ve dropped 10 points from a winning position, rank third on that unenviable list, with only Brighton and Sheffield United dropping more.
  1. Style of play- Spurs history
Image result for tottenham to do or die

I have always seen Spurs, and ManchesterUnited, as having a certain amount of history with regards to the way they play football. They have been teams that play with flair and look to attack. Their history is littered with players like Hoddle, Ardiles, Waddle, Gazza, Ginola and I could go on. They have attracted a particular fanbase due to this too. Fans who enjoy football for being the beautiful game. Old Trafford is called the Theatre of dreams and Tottenham’s motto is “To do is to dare” like all teams they demand success but how they get it is important too.  Mourinho has a style alien to both those clubs. He looks to get an early lead then sit back and defend it. Against most opponents his first instinct is to stop them from playing rather than look at what his side can do. The majority of fans at these clubs will not accept that. Against the top five maybe, but not week in week out. Trying to see out games against clearly inferior opposition does not sit well at these clubs, in fact Rot Hodgson lost his job at Liverpool for that exact reason. The problem he has at Spurs is also the quality of the player. The defence they have now is nowhere near the level of three or four years ago. If you look to defend for long periods of time, you can’t make mistakes. The current squad is littered with mistakes. When he was in his prime at Chelsea and Inter Milan part of his strength was the fact he got  world class players to sacrifice themselves for the good of the team. Mistakes were few and far between, they could also go back through the gears and get important goals when needed. For this Spurs side they struggle to change mentality from defence to attack. They need a manager who will develop them and trust them. Improving them so that they get the most from them. Mourinho is not that sort of manager.

They call this a master class, but 41 shots? All you need are a couple of deflections or a mistake.
  • Development of players

In 16 months can you name one Spurs player who has improved? Pep Guardiola has thrown money at his defence but when you look at his players their development is clear. Sterling and Foden two great examples. Mourinho is the opposite. Look at the plight of Deli Ali. Throughout his career Mourinho has fallen out with players. At the previous clubs he has been able to discard these players as they have spent fortunes bringing in new players, at Spurs he cannot do that. Look at him now turning to Ali and Bale against Manchester City. Imagine how much stronger the Spurs squad would be right now had these two talents been managed properly and had their match fitness been at the level it should be with a decent run of games. It’s very hard for players to get to their best levels when they are in and out of the side. His recent policy of rotating the defence has not helped either.

I hope it is not too late for Mourinho to change. He is good in the transfer market, but normally on bigger budgets (he spent 380 million at Manchester United and left them at 8th place). If he could be old Mourinho against the top sides and in big matches and be more expansive against the other teams he could still be a real asset at the club. If he doesn’t alienate them in the meantime! Just one more piece of food for thought if you are a Spurs fan. Harry Kane is 28 now and yet to win a major trophy…

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