Mourinho on all sorts, Wenger on all shapes and Allardyce on all sides – it’s Say What? time again.
There’s also space for some high-scoring Spurs as we prepare for double Gameweeks aplenty.
So, hey ho, let’s go.
Chronic Truth Fatigue Syndrome
Jose Mourinho…tough-but-fair paternalist or scowling arse-trumpet with all the emotional depth of a toddler?
Whatever your take on him, it’s telling that nobody – not even the man himself – seems to call him ‘The Special One’ much anymore.
Familiarity has certainly bred a degree of contempt over the years.
And incidents such as poking Barca coaches in the eye, falling out with the entire Chelsea squad (and their doctor) and drawing a gentleman’s body part on Luke Shaw’s forehead while he’s passed out on a sofa – metaphorically, at least – haven’t exactly helped build Brand Mourinho either.
Not being able to trust anything he says is another case in point – particularly when we’re all thrashing around trying to work out how to capitalise on Man United’s upcoming double Gameweek.
We rely on managers to give us a steer as to team selection, so we should have been at least a touch grateful to learn his thoughts on why Zlatan Ibrahimovic didn’t start against Chelsea on Sunday.
“He’s tired – very tired. I’ll try to protect him but let’s see the result. He’s on the bench and ready to help.”
The striker confirmed as much himself.
“I think the manager is right on this matter. Today, I wasn’t feeling good. I was feeling tired but it’s not an excuse.”
It’s okay, Zlatan, even your deputy, God, gave himself Sunday off.
Just when we thought we could believe all that we’d been told – and consequently wait and see on Ibrahimovic based on what part he plays in tonight’s Europa League tie with Anderlecht – Jose went and spoiled it all by saying this:
“Maybe we didn’t ‘rest’ players ahead of Thursday, we just chose the team we thought was the best team.”
So one minute your star striker’s tired, the next a man who had started EVERY SINGLE league match he wasn’t suspended for is suddenly not part of ‘the best team’ to line up against Chelsea.
But then Mourinho explained the logic behind that statement, singling out Marcus Rashford for praise after fielding the youngster through the middle in the 2-0 win.
“Marcus Rashford played fantastically well. He had a very good game at Stamford Bridge in the cup, exactly the same chance to score, because he is faster than their defenders.”
And Eric Bally and Marcos Rojo also got a Mourinho mention.
“Everybody fought really hard. Bailly and Rojo, I think they deserve a special mention because they have played in absolutely every game, non-stop, since the injuries of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.”
Rashford, at 6.5 and owned by 5.8%, has the feel of an excellent differential about him, with four starts in five and back-to-back goals.
Meanwhile United have kept three clean sheets in their last four league matches, so drafting in a defender makes plenty of sense as well – particularly for the trip to Burnley on Sunday.
But about the only thing we can rely on with Mourinho at the moment is his unreliability – and that’s not entirely helpful, quite frankly.
At least there are a couple of players we should be able to ignore with a degree of certainty. While the 6.6%-owned Shaw continues trying to rub that drawing off his forehead, Anthony Martial (2.4%) is bracing himself for a Mourinho marker pen attack of his own.
“Do I think Anthony is a player with great potential? Yes. Do I think he can play successfully for me? Yes. But he needs to give me things that I like.”
That last comment has more than a hint of creepiness about it, but we’ll leave it there.
Because, based on the inherent unreliability of everything else Jose has said recently, Shaw and Martial will probably end up starting against both Burnley and Man City.
The lesson from all of this? With Anderlecht up next tonight and a place in the last four of the Europa League on the line, we’re left with unwanted question marks hanging over many United players ahead of their Double Gameweek.
Old Man Wenger Still In Shape
At least you can rely on Arsene Wenger to keep it real.
If a change is as good as a rest, then the Arsenal manager hasn’t had a single day off in a decade or so, producing Identikit teams perfectly fit for the purpose of never quite winning the league anymore.
And yet change was everywhere in Monday’s 2-1 win at Middlesbrough, most obviously in a three-at-the-back formation he’d not used in, well, ever.
“The first time in 20 years, yes, and that shows you that even at my age you can change. I don’t know, I just felt that sometimes the team needs to believe in something new, something different, just to find a bit of confidence back. Overall I felt that it worked quite well today because we won the game.”
A win, yes – their first on the road in five attempts.
But let’s not get too carried away from a defensive point of view. The Arsenal Three still didn’t keep an away clean sheet – that’s not happened since Gameweek 21 – even though they were up against a Boro ‘attack’ that’s scored fewer goals as a team than Romelu Lukaku has managed all by himself this season.
Wenger himself was not overly-sold on the formation.
“I feel overall it is not a long-term plan, but punctually it can work.”
So investing in Arsenal defenders ahead of two double Gameweeks to come remains the preserve of the brave, or the foolish.
Investing in Alexis Sanchez, on the other hand, is still the burning question.
He broke a three-match scoring drought with the opener at The Riverside, much to the relief of the 24.7% of managers doggedly hanging onto their 11.5-priced man.
But the debate about his best position – on the left or up front – rages on.
And Wenger’s own take on it merely clouds the issue.
After Boro, he said this:
“He prefers to play wide than up front. He can get more of the ball. He has to keep the balance between providing and goal scoring.”
Earlier this season, he said this:
“I think he prefers playing as a striker. He likes the position but you know how players are. People like to play striker. He has the qualities to play there, he has good movement, he’s sharp. Maybe size-wise you could say he’s not the tallest, but he’s quite good in the air when he goes for it.”
All of that leaves us viewing Wenger as the new Mourinho – setting up his team with a win-at-all-costs mentality one minute, completely contradicting himself the next.
That could, however, work in our favour should he go Full Jose and start trashing Danny Welbeck in public – Sanchez’s demise coincided with the England man being handed the central striker role back in Gameweek 27.
Welbeck missed Monday’s match and what do you know, the Chilean scored.
Reach for the marker pen, Arsene – we Fantasy managers could do without Danny when it comes to Alexis and the Gameweek 36 and 37 doubles ahead.
Allardyce Happy Backing Both Sides
Back in double Gameweek 34 territory, we have Crystal Palace.
This article, in recent weeks, has been guilty of various homo-erotically charged references to Big Sam’s swimwear, so it’s a relief to get back to more/less meaty matters, and in particular the return to form of Andros Townsend.
The winger managed just one goal and four assists in 26 Gameweeks’ worth of trying. In the last six matches, he’s scored twice and set up three more.
Allardyce is delighted with the change.
“He seems to be enjoying his life again and enjoying his training and enjoying his game. He said it himself – the coaching staff have talked to him, and we changed our programmes, and everybody is moving forward positively, particularly Andros.”
Gameweek 34 has become a vexed one, with the teams enjoying doubles providing us with as many questions as answers.
United, as mentioned above, bring selectorial doubts. Middlesbrough bring a well-balanced side, as in they’re bobbins at both ends of the pitch. And Palace bring a tough schedule involving Spurs at home after a trip to Anfield.
But Big Sam’s boys can, and do, beat anyone on their day and Townsend (5.8) is marginally cheaper than Wilfried Zaha (6.0) and hugely less-owned – 2.6% compared to 15.3%.
Both will be used heavily in Gameweek 34 – on both sides of the pitch.
“They switched over a couple of times (against Leicester) and were a real big threat, both Wilf and Andros, even before we got back to 2-2. I’ll play you where I want you to go and play your best. Why say ‘I can only play this position’? ‘If I play two positions, gaffer, that’s two chances you’ve got to play me’. And what does a player want to do?
Bed Hollyoaks stars? Crash Lambos? Fill up Instagram with dressing room pics of their half-naked colleagues?
And what do we want Townsend and Zaha to do?
Play. And score. And assist.
Liverpool haven’t kept a home clean sheet since Gameweek 25 and have a number of injury worries in central defence, while Spurs have managed just two shutout in their last ten attempts on the road.
The verdict is in – players offering the strongest potential for double bubble from Gameweek 34 could well be wearing Palace shirts.
Poch Feeling The Difference
Having doubted Spurs’ defence away from home, let’s end by bigging up their attacking prowess.
It’s not hard – they’ve bulged more nets than an illegal bottom trawler in recent weeks, and that’s a fishing reference in case you were wondering.
But even a league-high 22 goals from their last seven matches isn’t enough for Mauricio Pochettino, who realises that goal difference could be, well, the difference in the title race.
“It’s so important. The only way to build that winning mentality is to always play in the same tempo and with the same focus and concentrations during 90, 95 minutes. Never give up. 3-0, 4-0 or 1-0, 2-0 – the team must forget the result. It’s important to always try to go forward, keep possession, score goals – that is the mentality that we are building in the group.”
This, of course, is music to our ears, full as they are of the sweet, goal-based songs of Alli, Son and now Kane again.
Dele Alli, who has two from his last three and five in seven, is clearly content with his role which is, he stresses, as a midfielder.
“I’m definitely a midfielder. When I start playing up top where H (Harry Kane) plays I don’t feel comfortable. I grew up watching Steven Gerrard a lot and he was a number eight so I’d like to play there but when competition is like it is you play anywhere the manager wants you to. And I can’t complain, I’m really am happy where I’m playing.”
So D is Stevie G (minus the Phil Collins CD) who is there to serve H.
And H has his eye on being the triple A CF.
“As a striker you want to be top scorer in the league, no doubt about it. I left a couple out there I probably should have scored, Lukaku has been doing well and it’s a good competition but the main thing is we’re winning games. I’ve a little eye on the run-in and if I can get a few more, we’ll see what happens!”
All of this is great news for the swathes of us owning Alli (35.3%) and Kane (14.4% and growing).
Another 48,000+ have also bought into the prodigal Son – five goals in his last four starts – this week, but Pochettino has been keen to highlight the credentials of a fourth Spur.
“He is so special. We always call him Golazo because he is capable of scoring unbelievable goals. The recognition from us is massive. He feels that we love him. He is so quiet, so calm, he is a very relaxed person but he loves football. He is a player that does not need too much feedback from the fans, the media, the people outside. He needs only to feel the love from us inside the club. I like that a lot.”
Good old Golazo, (G, to D and H) eh? Or Christian Eriksen, as it says on his birth certificate.
The Dane has been, by the standards of his team-mates, quite quiet recently, with a mere goal and three assists from the last three Gameweeks.
That perhaps explains his absence from the top 30 transfers-in this week – Kane and Son are in the top ten, Alli a relatively low key 24th.
One thing seems clear, however. We need three Spurs players in our ranks despite them only having the one double Gameweek to come. And it’s a matter of perming three from the four mentioned here.
So if you’ve got a Spurs defender still – and they’ve contributed three clean sheets from the last four fixtures – it could be time to bite the bullet and go entirely on the offensive.