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Right man, right time: Why Sam Allardyce is perfect for England

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Sam Allardyce is expected to be named as the new England manager in the next 24 hours on a two-year contract.

[ MORE: Mourinho coy on Pogba talk ]  

This decision has split opinion but I believe the English Football Association have made a fine choice.

Quite simply: Allardyce is the right man for the job at this specific moment in time.

As soon as England decided to name an Englishman as their new manager, Allardyce, 61, was the standout choice.

Looking at some of the reasons why “Big Sam” is the man to rebuild England following their devastating exit from EURO 2016, it starts to become quite clear why the FA have tagged him to be the chief of a mammoth reclamation project.

Allardyce will need to instill belief, self-confidence and discipline into the Three Lions. If he heard that in the interview process he will be thinking ‘good’ because he’s done that wherever he has managed before. If anyone can restore hunger to England’s players, something which looked to be severely lacking this summer under Roy Hodgson, it’s Allardyce.

The fact of the matter is, Allardyce has overachieved with every team he has managed. Look at the facts.

He took Bolton Wanderers from the second-tier to the Premier League’s upper echelons, attracting players like Ivan Campo, Youri Djorkaeff and Jay-Jay Okocha to Lancashire. He left Wanderers in 2007 but in eight years he had transformed them with his use of ProZone and other advanced technology which allowed him to get the most out of his scant resources.

[ MORE: Everton appoint Leicester guru Walsh ]

He then had a brief stint at Newcastle United where he clashed with owner Mike Ashley but it wasn’t exactly disastrous as they were midtable. He joined Blackburn for two years from 2008-10, rescuing them from a perilous situation and finishing in the top half of the table in his only full season in charge. After that he led West Ham United to promotion from the Championship to the Premier League and although criticized for long-ball tactics by his own fans, he worked with what he had and stabilized the Hammers as a PL club, building a base for Slaven Bilic to take to the next level.

Joining Sunderland in 2015 he again showed his penchant for being a master of reclamation as he kept the Black Cats up with a game to spare after they were left in a mess by Dick Advocaat. He went back to basics and found ways of grinding out results, by being horrible to play against a clinical in attack.

Now, that’s all well and good but what does it prove? To me it proves Allardyce has got the most out of the resources at his disposal wherever he has gone.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Sam Allardyce, manager of Sunderland gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Chelsea at the Stadium of Light on May 7, 2016 in Sunderland, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

He has some simple philosophies that he shares in his autobiography and also openly speaks about in the media. He is a brash character from northern England who speaks his mind and has a presence about him when he walks into a press conference. You sit up and take notice.

From a soccer point of view, he has strong values in setting his teams up to be organized and tough to beat. Ask anybody who has watched his teams play regularly. They will tell you it isn’t always the most riveting to watch but he will get results and you will hardly see one of his teams collapse after leading. His players stand up and fight for each other and England need that now more than ever as they look to bounce back from a huge disappointment. They need to become hard to beat and not throw away games at pivotal moments.

In fact, looking at stats released by Opta, Allardyce’s teams have won 64 percent of their games in the PL when they’ve scored the first goal. He is a big believer in strong defensive performances, in protecting what you have. When you look at England’s results at EURO 2016 — giving up a late goal against Russia to draw 1-1 then losing to Iceland 2-1 in the Round of 16 after going 1-0 up — this is something they badly need.

Allardyce is also flexible when it comes to formations. He is not so rigid where he will play 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 consistently but he likes to mix it up. That shows that you have a manager who is confident in his own ability to organize players into shapes and systems because he believes they all want to work with him and under him. They often do. It is very rare you here a player speak poorly of Allardyce. He is honest and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. That is exactly what this young England team needs.

I remember sat at a Sunderland game against Crystal Palace last season where they won 1-0 thanks to a late Jermain Defoe strike. Allardyce played Patrick Van Aanholt and Billy Jones as wing backs and totally nullified the threat of Palace’s wingers Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha. He had done his homework and wasn’t afraid to tweak things as the game went on and that’s just one example of how he’s a thinking man’s coach, no matter if his gruff demeanor and penchant for chewing vast wads of chewing gum suggest otherwise.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 11: Sam Allardyce, manager of Sunderland celebrates staying in the Premier League after victory during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Everton at the Stadium of Light on May 11, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

We are talking about a man who has vast experience in game management and isn’t afraid to try new things. He’s spoken about how he has embraced transcendental meditation for well over a decade to switch off and given the stresses and pressures of the England job, he will be doing a lot more of that in the months to come.

Allardyce is called “Big Sam” for a reason and that’s not just going back to his days as a bruising central defender.

He has the ability to galvanize teams and help them achieve more than they should. He has never been afforded the opportunity to work with such a talented group of players as he will with England.

Going forward, it may not be the most exciting product to watch but Allardyce will get results. I think he may surprise a few people too because now he has great players to work with and his tactics may be slightly different than before.

Allardyce’s beliefs of strong defense first will always remain but now he has the job he’s craved, let’s see if he can repair a damaged England side by going back to basics. Right now, he is perfect for what they need.

Championship playoff final: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

Fulham - Brentford
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Fulham – Brentford: Which West London Derby combatant will lay claim to a place in the Premier League at the end of Tuesday’s Football League Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium?

We can hardly wait to find out, as the 20th berth in the 2020-21 Premier League season and 22nd spot in the Championship will be decided after the richest game on earth.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europe ]

Kickoff is at 2:45 pm ET Tuesday at Wembley Stadium.


Key players

Fulham leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 26 goals were the joint-most in the Championship and more than three times as many as Tom Cairney, second amongst the Cottagers. He’s healthy for the first time after missing the semis with a hamstring injury.

Brentford’s Ollie Watkins scored the same amount of goals as Mitrovic, tying for the league lead, and he’s joined by Said Benrahma’s 17 goals (fifth in the league) and Bryan Mbeumo (eighth). The latter have combined for 16 assists, too. The Bees can sting.

Their seasons

Brentford won a even-straight league games to surge into the mix for automatic promotion but lost their last two, meeting Fulham on 81 points.

As for the Cottagers, Fulham finished the season on a seven-match unbeaten run which included five wins

Their playoffs

Brentford overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit to oust Swansea City in the semifinal, while Fulham’s first leg win was enough to outlast Cardiff City’s strong second leg in their semi.

Odds and ends

Brentford beat Fulham twice, 1-0 at Griffin Park and 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

The Bees are favored to win the match at +108 odds, while Fulham carries +265 odds of a win.

Prediction

Mitrovic’s availability is huge for a Fulham side hoping to break down the league’s second-stingiest defense. Brentford feels like it’s the superior side but Fulham has been here and Cairney even scored the goal to beat Aston Villa in the 2017-18 playoff final. That experience is an X-factor, but we’ll still call Brentford 2-1 winners.

How to watch Fulham – Brentford

Kickoff: 2:45 pm ET Tuesday
Stream: ESPN+

How will Premier League clubs fare in Europe this month?

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Nearly five months is a long time to wait between rounds of a tournament, let alone legs.

Welcome to the 2019-20 UEFA Champions and Europa Leagues, where the competition continues this week after a long, pandemic-inspired delay.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europa ]

Who is best set up, aligned, prepared, and built for success?

There are certainly different questions to all parts of that question. Let’s dive into it.


Chelsea

Status: Down 3-0 to Bayern Munich after first leg at home
Next match: 3 pm ET Saturday at Allianz Arena

It’s not happening. We don’t like sounding definitive, especially with Christian Pulisic involved, but Bayern Munich conceding four times in a 3-goal loss at home seems bonkers even after a couple of weeks without game action.

The Blues are capable of scoring against anyone, yes, but this would be a bigger turnaround than even Liverpool versus Barcelona.

Longest of long shots.


Wolves

Status: Level 1-1 with Olympiacos after first leg away
Next match: 3 pm ET Thursday at the Molineux

Should Wolves get past Greek powers Olympiacos, they’ll face either Sevilla or Roma in a real scrap to meet the semifinals.

Wolves feel capable of beating anyone in the field, but this path is far from easy. Still, both Wolves and Manchester United can feel grateful to be in the top half of the bracket, with Inter Milan, Wolfsburg, and Shakhtar Donetsk in a dangerous bottom half.

On a round-to-round basis you wouldn’t vote against Wolves. Over a month, though, they feel less likely than the Manchester sides.


[ MORE: Big moves for Arsenal? ]

 

Wolves news
PIRAEUS, GREECE – MARCH 12: Mady Camara of Olympiacos FC is challenged by Joao Moutinho of Wolverhampton Wanderers (Photo by UEFA – Handout/UEFA via Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Manchester City

Status: Leads 2-1 over Real Madrid after first leg away
Next match: 3 pm ET Friday at the Etihad Stadium

We know Pep Guardiola and his array of weapons are capable of beating anyone in the world, and Sergio Ramos’ suspension from the first leg is wonderful for City. Ramos is having one of those “Ballon d’Or if defenders could win it” seasons.

Having two away goals from the Bernabeu is even better. The bottom half of the UCL bracket, however, is a gauntlet and nothing like the top half. City would love to see Lyon hold off Juventus, but a win over either brings either Napoli, Barcelona, Bayern or — miraculously — Chelsea in the semifinals.

It’s a huge ask but this is a huge team.


Manchester United

Status: Leads 5-0 over LASK Linz after first leg away
Next match: 3 pm ET Wednesday at Old Trafford

United would have to self-destruct in order to miss out on the Europa League quarterfinals, where they’ll be favored whether they meet either Istanbul Basaksehir or Copenhagen. The semifinals will be even tougher, as Olympiacos, Wolves, Sevilla, or Roma.

The question here is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has shown some tactical acumen but also failed the Red Devils in the FA Cup semi against Chelsea. United really should be able to out-perform anyone left, even Inter Milan, but will Solskjaer outduel Antonio Conte or even Sevilla’s Julen Lopetegui?

Predictions, odds for Champions League, Europa League knockouts

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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League resume this week and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City and Chelsea still in the Champions League and Manchester United and Wolves among the favorites to win the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for Premier League clubs in the coming weeks.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League Round of 16 second legs will take place before mini tournaments begin.

Man City lead Real Madrid 2-1 from their first leg in Spain, while Chelsea trail Bayern 3-0 as they head to Germany for the return game. Man United are all but in the quarterfinals, while Wolves are favored to make the Europa quarters too.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch all of the fixtures in the USA.


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Round of 16 (August 7-8)
Friday, August 7: Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid (2-1)
Friday, August 7: Juventus 2-1 Lyon (0-1)
Saturday, August 8: Barcelona 3-1 Napoli (1-1)
Saturday, August 8: Bayern Munich 2-1 Chelsea (3-0)

JPW’s Europa League predictions

Round of 16 (August 5-6)
Copenhagen 1-2 Istanbul Basaksehir
Wolves 2-0 Olympiakos
Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Rangers
Shakhtar Donetsk 1-3 Wolfsburg
Basel 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Manchester United 3-1 LASK
Inter Milan 3-0 Getafe
Sevilla 1-3 Roma


Champions League betting odds

Round of 16 (August 7-8)
(-139) Manchester City v. Real Madrid (+320). Tie: +340
(-230) Juventus v. Lyon (+650). Tie: +340
(-150) Barcelona v. Napoli (+400). Tie: +300
(-250) Bayern Munich v. Chelsea (+650). Tie: +410

Quarterfinals (August 12-13)
(+200) Atalanta v. Paris Saint-Germain (+120). Tie: +285
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+133). Tie: 220

Outright winner
Manchester City (+350)
Bayern Munich (+365)
Paris Saint-Germain (+450)
Atletico Madrid (+700)
Atalanta (+950)
Barcelona (+1100)
RB Leipzig (+1500)
Juventus (+1700)


Europa League betting odds

Round of 16 (August 5-6)
(+155) Copenhagen v. Istanbul Basaksehir (+180). Tie: +235
(-134) Wolves v. Olympiakos (+390). Tie: +260
(-162) Bayer Leverkusen v. Rangers (+410). Tie: +310
(+135) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Wolfsburg (+185). Tie: +265
(+155) Basel v. Eintracht Frankfurt (+155). Tie: +275
(-455) Manchester United v. LASK (+1200). Tie: +550
(-143) Inter Milan v. Getafe (+385). Tie: +285
(+110) Sevilla v. Roma (+270). Tie: +230

Outright winner
Manchester United (+160)
Inter Milan (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+700)
Wolves (+800)
Sevilla (+900)


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Round of 16 at home venues; Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: Here at NBCSports.com

Reports: Arsenal offers huge deal to Aubameyang, chases Partey, Coutinho

Arsenal transfer news
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Thinking about the resurgence of several big name Premier League sides makes the 2020-21 season tantalizing idea. Could Arsenal become a title fighter?

Manchester City, statistically-speaking, was already the most productive team in the league and Liverpool’s team an absolute monster of intensity that seemed to will good fortune on their rare bad days.

Manchester United was second only to City in Project Restart while Chelsea produced as many chances as any team now named City and now has better finishers. Tottenham improved as well — health can be a tactic in that it helps as much as any manager.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europa ]

What about Arsenal, though?

The Gunners now have a shiny trophy for Mikel Arteta’s resume after the former midfielder led the club to a record 14th FA Cup.

Arsenal is said to be offering Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a contract that pays nearly $327,000 per week in a bid to convince the superstar that another year of the Europa League is fine.

A report from Football.London says that Arteta believes Aubameyang and a trio of other moves could help him replicate the 4-3-3 often implemented by former club Man City.

The report says that Arsenal is ready to recruit Willian, Thomas Partey, and Philippe Coutinho to supplement what’s already at the Emirates.

Arsenal is in a tricky situation because of how much promising young talent there is, but Arteta will have learned a thing or too from how Pep Guardiola convinced Phil Foden to buy into a longer development. And winning cures plenty.

Who would fit in the 4-3-3? Arsenal has a tremendous 1-2 punch in goal between Bernd Leno and Emiliano Martinez, and piles of questions at the back. William Saliba finally arrives from Saint-Etienne and Pablo Mari will return, too, while Arteta used Shkrodan Mustafi, David Luiz, Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sead Kolasinac, Calum Chambers, and Cedric Soares this season.

The middle part becomes a lot easier with Partey joining Granit Xhaka and Co.