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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.

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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.

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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.

Mane: Feud with Salah is over

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Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are friends again.

Sort of.

Following Mane’s angry reaction to not being passed the ball by Salah in their win at Burnley before the international break, there were concerns that the relationship between the two star forwards would impact their play on the pitch.

But speaking to French outlet Canal+ after their 3-1 win against Newcastle United on Saturday, Mane put a lid on the matter.

“With Salah? It’s forgotten,” Mane said. “Sometimes you have to say things face to face. These are things that happen in football, sometimes it happens that I am not given the pass. But we have reconciled and become the good friends we were before.”

That’s that then.

Salah posted the following video ahead of the weekend, which says it all.

Mane scored twice on Saturday to continue his stunning start to the season, so it hasn’t impacted his form. But Salah, the Egyptian King and darling of Anfield, has come out of this worse.

Liverpool fans, generally, were on Mane’s side in this disagreement and the Senegalese attacker has been applauded for his response.

Will this impact Salah’s confidence and the fluidity of Liverpool front three? Probably not.

As Mane said, these things happen in football but it does prove that despite all of the success something has been brewing behind-the-scenes at Liverpool.

Arsenal “too scared” of Watford in collapse

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Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka admitted the Gunners were “too scared” of Watford as they collapsed in the second half.

Leading 2-0 at half time thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal were totally outplayed in the second half as Watford roared back to draw 2-2 at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

Speaking after the game, Xhaka said the Arsenal players were not confident enough to see out the game.

“No-one wanted the ball. In the end we are happy to take a point,” Xhaka said. “We didn’t show our game in the second half, we were too scared… Every team in the Premier League is strong enough to score but you have to keep calm, to show good character, to be mentally strong. We weren’t today.”

If only this was a rare occurrence for Arsenal.

Under Unai Emery their defensive collapses have been frequent, and this issue even dates back to Arsene Wenger‘s final few seasons in charge.

Arsenal were their own worst enemies on Sunday.

Instead of playing the ball out of dangerous areas they tried to play short goal kicks time and time again and were caught in possession on several occasions. David Luiz gave away a penalty kick, Xhaka and Mateo Guendouzi were overrun in central midfield in the second half and in the end they were lucky to grab a point.

Trying the same things time and time again and expecting different results is just bonkers, and that is what this Arsenal squad is going.

Luiz, Bernd Leno, Sokratis and Xhaka are players Arsenal have built their defensive core around, and the same issues keep cropping up when they are in the team. Adding Luiz to the mix after losing Laurent Koscielny was a risk and it seems like a move which will backfire for the Gunners.

It is true that defenders Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney are all close to returning from injury, so when that happens perhaps we will see a newfound defensive solidity and things will improve.

Then again, it’s likely neutral everywhere will be grabbing their popcorn whenever Arsenal play this season because you’re guaranteed entertainment at both ends of the pitch.

Galaxy hammer Sporting KC; Zlatan: “I’m the best ever in MLS”

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LA Galaxy smashed Sporting Kansas City 7-2 on Sunday, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat trick then called himself the best player in MLS history.

Just a casual Sunday for Zlatan, then…

Ibrahimovic, 37, scored a hat trick as LA raced into a 7-1 lead after falling 1-0 behind early on as Felipe Gutierrez scored both of Sporting’s goals.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Ibrahimovic was typically humble after his hat trick which means he now holds the record for the highest scoring season in Galaxy history with 26 goals.

“I think I am the best ever to play in MLS. And that’s without joking,” Ibrahimovic said. “Scoring goals is easy, you just have to be like Zlatan and it’s coming.”

Zlatan is now two goals behind Carlos Vela in the race for the Golden Boot in MLS with four games remaining, and he’s now scored 48 goals in 52 games since arriving in MLS.

Joe Corona, Uriel Antuna and Sebastian Lletget grabbed the Galaxy’s other goals as they won for the first time in five MLS games to boost their chances of making the playoffs in the congested Western Conference.

With the defeat Sporting KC’s hopes of reaching the playoffs is all but over.

Check out the highlights in full below. It will take quite a while to sort through the nine goals, so set down and soak in Zlatan’s brilliance.

Mexicans Abroad: Weekend Roundup

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Taking the field in the 70th minute, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez made his debut with Sevilla, who became La Liga’s leaders following Sunday’s result.

In Portugal, despite transitioning to right back at the start of the season, Jesus “Tecatito” Corona continues flourish with Porto. The 26-year-old has two assists after five league games.

Elsewhere, Carlos Vela, who returned from injury, is on the cusp of trying MLS’ all-time single-season scoring record. To be exact, the 30-year-old needs three goals to tie the record, four to surpass Josef Martinez. LAFC has four regular-season games still to play.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli — Lozano’s second appearance for Napoli wasn’t as captivating as his first, but he did have his positive moments. On Saturday, Chucky started and played 65 minutes, recording a shot off target, 23 touches, and earning two fouls along the way.

Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers — Jimenez started and played 70 minutes in Wolves’ 5-2 loss to Chelsea. Will Nuno Espirito Santos side’s  struggles start to affect Jimenez productivity?

La Liga

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Sevilla — Chicharito is officially a Sevillista. The 31-year-old replaced Luuk De Jong in 70th minute in Sevilla’s 1-0 over Alaves on Sunday.

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — For a fourth consecutive league game, Herrera was left on the bench. At this rate, it’s difficult to say when the 29-year-old will make his debut with Los Colchoneros, who lost 2-0 to Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis —  Guardado, who recently became a father for a second time, didn’t feature in Betis’ 1-1 draw against Getafe on Saturday.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old make the 18, but didn’t take the field against Getafe.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo took the field in the 15th minute following Jorge Saenz’s red-card challenge. Celta ended up losing 2-0 against Granda.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven — Gutierrez is out with a hand injury suffered with the national team. A return date is unknown.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Alvarez started and played 80 minutes in Ajax’s 4-1 drilling of Heerenveen. The 21-year-old is, slowly but surely, becoming a fixture for  Erik ten Hag.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Things are going great for Tecatito. The right back (yes, you read that right) played 90 minutes and recorded an assist in Porto’s 3-2 win over Portimonense. It’s been a good transition for the 26-year-old, to say the least.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea started, but came off at halftime in Zulte’s 1-1 draw with KAS Eupen on Saturday.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Hector Moreno, Al Gharafa   On Saturday, Moreno started and played all 90 minutes in Al Gharafa’s 3-1 win against Qatar SC.

Juan Gerardo Ramirez Alosno, Roda JC — The 21-year-old fullback was left on the bench in Roda’s 1-1 draw on Friday.

Carlos Fierro, San Jose Earthquakes – Dressed but didn’t play in the Quakes’ 2-1 loss to NYCFC.

Carlos Vela, LAFC – In his return from injury, Vela started and scored in LAFC’s 1-1 . draw against the Philadelphia Union. The Mexican is three goals from tying Josef Martinez’s single-season goal record.

Jonathan Dos Santos, LA Galaxy – Dos Santos started in Galaxy’s game against Sporting Kansan City on Sunday.

Uriel Antuna, LA Galaxy – Antuna started in Galaxy’s game against Sporting Kansan City on Sunday.