We’re Talking… Full-Backs, Over-Hyping and José Mourinho

Oh José, my old friend. You’ve actually gone and lost to Arsène Wenger. One of the few things that hadn’t been tarnished in recent years was your imperious record against the Arsenal stalwart. Well, now it’s gone I’m afraid mate. You tried to dish out some sympathetic pity to the Gunners in your post-match press conference, but let’s face it, that must have hurt. The worst Arsenal side in many a year and they do you over 2-0 with complete ease. Admittedly, you have the Europa League to think about but c’mon José, it’s Celta Vigo!

Have a Go José

A statistic was doing the rounds on Monday night that would have been more worrying for Manchester United fans than Sunday’s loss at the Emirates itself. In a table showing ‘goals scored away to top 6 sides’ Mourinho’s men sat rock bottom with zero. It’s a damning fact that epitomises one of the ‘Special One’s’ most stereotypical managerial aspects. He’s one of the best at it – going away to a rival side and suffocating the game into a 0-0 or 1-1 draw; we saw a peak example of this against Manchester City just over a week ago. It’s a tactic based on grit, organisation and discipline, but what does it sacrifice?

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Goals, José mate. When he sets his teams up to perform such an act, he nullifies their own positivity; it’s almost as defensive against his own attack as it is the opposition’s. Anthony Martial was isolated into oblivion on Sunday, and Marcus Rashford suffered a similar fate against Manchester City. The likes of Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan – who breathe creativity in their natural habitats – were playing deeper than United’s own full-backs. In what world is that how a Manchester United side play? Fergie must be turning in his director’s seat.

I can understand if your side is in the race for the title; going away to a rival and coming away with a point is a respectable result. However, for a team that is in 5th position and is supposedly not even focusing on the league, why would you not go to a vulnerable Arsenal team and attack them? United have great history at the Emirates and the larger pitch had the potential for Martial, Rashford and Mkhitaryan to thrive and tear Wenger’s three-man defence to pieces. Yet Mourinho went there for the 0-0, and got found out.

When it works, it looks professional; when it doesn’t it, looks incredibly negative and, frankly, depressing. Considering he’s been moaning about smaller teams coming to Old Trafford all season and doing a similar thing, you would think Mourinho would want to live up to this ‘all-attacking’ mould that he seems to think his team fit. If he doesn’t start showing a bit of fearlessness away from home, the chisel will continue chopping away at the exciting, dominant culture and identity of Manchester United.

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Rock Star Full-Backs 

So whilst Mourinho is chucking playmakers at full-back, the Champions League is throwing up some of the best performance’s that the position has seen in recent times. The competition’s finalists, Juventus and Real Madrid, possess two of the top three full back combinations in the world – only Bayern Munich can compete – and are highlighting the influence that the role can really have.

Out of Madrid, we have Dani Carvajal and Marcelo, and out of Turin, we have Dani Alves and Alex Sandro. Both pairs possess a very similar accumulation of skillsets and  strengths. Carvajal and Sandro are more in the role of solid full-back, with impermeable defending, intelligent ignition of team moves and faultless stamina and engines. They don’t catch the eye of the two I’m about to talk about, but I’m sure their teammates would value them as much as anyone.

Then you have the Harlem Globetrotters of the full-back role. The Brazilian duo of Marcelo and Alves have illuminated Europe with their performances this year, and have reached peaks of their already illustrious careers. Their respective teams can consider them as extra playmakers, considering their permanent residence on the corner of the opposition’s penalty box. Even when they are defending they are capable of running the length of the pitch – with or without the ball – to become a forward in a counter-attack. They’re as close to Transformers as the sport has.

Here are the heat-maps (whoscored.com) for Marcelo (left) and Dani Alves (right) in their side’s semi-final 1st leg victories against Atletico Madrid and AS Monaco respectively….

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They’re dynamic, they dictate and they threaten – playing at full-back. We all know how the role has developed over the last decade, yet you only need to look at the impact of Alves’ departure on Barcelona to witness the magnitude of the shift. They’ve not been the same since he left, no doubt. Marcelo is already causing a breeze of whispers to suggest if he could make it onto the Ballon D’Or podium. Whatever the case, watch out for Brazil in next year’s World Cup, as we get to witness both Alves and Marcelo in one team.

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Stop Hyping Our Future

So Spurs lost on Friday, all but ending their title chances and causing a seismic shift in the ‘opinions’ of football pundits around the country. Those that had been saying that Mauricio Pochettino’s side were one of the best that the league had seen in recent times were suddenly calling them gutless bottle-jobs. Sorry what? After Chelsea lost at Old Trafford the other week, experts were tearing holes in Conte’s men. Now what? Nothing but praise and fairies and greatness.

It’s a part of the football media that I really dislike. One match decides the whole direction of the footballing discussion for the next week; then that weekend changes it all again and etc. I heard an interview with Rory Smith (British journalist for the New York Times) and he said that in the USA they’re not interested in the short-term hype/crisis. With 82 NBA games per season it’s impossible. Instead they focus on the bigger picture and the more unique stories in sport. They don’t get sucked into a week-long whirlwind of hype.

The same can be said of players. Dele Alli scores a couple of goals one match, and the next week is filled with debate about whether he will move to Real Madrid and win the Ballon D’Or one day. Marcus Rashford has been compared to Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo in recent weeks by – of all people – Paul Scholes. English football’s self-righteousness is insufferable right now, and we should just let these kids develop and run their race without pushing them to the finish line. We know English players don’t react particularly well under pressure, yet every talent we see gets the same treatment.

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The Frank Lampard Men of the Week

  • A story you may have missed, but Chapecoense have won their first trophy since the horrific air disaster that claimed the lives of all but 3 of their squad in December. They won the Santa Catarina Championship – an important state tournament – with a squad of 25 new recruits and 9 promoted youth players. It’s an incredible comeback, and I’m potentially going to see their first league match of the season vs. Corinthians.
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  • Well done to Kylian M’bappé, who scored his FIFTH Champions League knock-out goal against (the best defence in the world) Juventus at the age of just 18 years old. He has more CL knock-out goals than Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Let that sink in. If you didn’t already love him, he was brave enough to face the media after AS Monaco’s exit, and put in a very mature and modest performance in front of the cameras. Imagine the hype if he was English….

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The José Bosingwa Tit of the Week

  • To the owners of Blackburn Rovers, Coventry City and, especially, Leyton Orient – you should all be disgusted by the way that you have driven three famous clubs into financial, structural and general ruin. All three clubs have been relegated from their respective leagues this season and no fans are suffering like theirs at the moment – not even you Arsenal. We can only hope that the Football League buck their ideas up and do something about it because their ‘Fit and Proper Owners Test’ is looking like an absolute farce right now. These clubs deserve better!
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  • On a lighter note, well not for Hull City, their unbeaten home record is over as Marco Silva’s men lost a crucial match 2-0. ‘Who to?’ I hear you ask. DAVID BLOODY MOYES and his ALREADY RELEGATED Sunderland team. That’s who. It now looks like you’re going down Hull, and after that you probably deserve it…

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Thanks for reading!

Image Credit

The Daily Express, The Sun, The Daily Mirror, MDR, LBIMG

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