Sunday, 27 August 2017

A Straight Shootin' View on Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal - 27-08-2017

What a game, as a Liverpool fan especially, but even the neutrals had to enjoy this one. I said to a friend of mine as the match started, that 'this should be fun' and that we (Liverpool) need a fast start, but also that there should be goals in it, glad I was right on the goals note!

Here are my thoughts on the match and a couple of other issues around the match & result.

In the first 20 minutes Arsenal were getting sliced open at will and could easily have been 2 or 3 but we still needed to be aware as Welbeck was troubling Lovren a bit, resulting in a yellow card which was a bit of a warning. At one point I did think to myself (and asked a couple of friends), 'How many times did Gary Neville use the word 'pathetic' in description of Arsenal's defending in the 1st 15 minutes on Sky Sports commentary?' Another thing I noticed, was that the referee seemed oddly willing to hand out cards for nothing though, especially Welbeck on Moreno which wasn't worth a yellow card at all, but that ended up as a mere footnote in this game, rather than a main talking point. The goal from Firmino that Arsenal conceded from open play, was like us (Liverpool) and the goals we concede from set pieces so often, a free header from a player ghosting in with a late run.

 At this moment i'll quote a good friend of mine who said about his beloved Arsenal, 'We have been p*ss poor. Defensively we are a disgrace. No balance in midfield, Ozil, Ramsey and Xhaka are not up to it, We get exposed far too often and now it's 2-0, Wenger hasn't got a clue what he is doing' – Fair points as Arsenal started with a back 3 against a Liverpool side known for not only a fluid attack, but a lightning quick counter attack, which was shown in spades as this match played out. The other 2 points i'll reference again later about players not being up for it and Wenger not knowing what he's doing as this feeds back into a bigger issue, so stay locked for that.

When we (Liverpool) went 2-0 up, I don't think anyone could argue not only that it was coming, but that it was throughly deserved and even though people know about us on the counter attack, stopping it is a different matter altogether. In my view as a centre back for Southern Amateur League side Ibis Eagles AFC, Bellerin should have cleaned Salah's clock and did everything in his power to stop the counter, take the punishment (whether yellow or red card), but stop the goal.

Once again a friend of mine hit the nail on the head by saying about our counter attack 'Well it can be stopped if you tactically adapt to the opposition' and I definitely believe this is true as a statement. If you're playing against a side with a lightning quick counter attack, the 2nd goal Arsenal conceded showed exactly how you DON'T defend against it. Bellerin being the last man back was bad enough, but the fact he was inside the Liverpool half was legalized insanity, especially as he got left 1 on 1 with a man like Mo Salah, who to quote legendary WWE commentator Jim Ross 'Isn't quick, he's sudden', you could tell what was about to happen & Salah took a chance after fluffing his lines earlier in the match.

One thing that filled me with optimism for the season as a Liverpool supporter is that as irresistible as we're at that point going forward, we had really worked hard coming back, defending in packs and crowding guys out, especially Sanchez & Welbeck who basically had their supply lines cut and as I've said on Pitch Talk shows and videos 'starve a striker of service and he can't hurt you'.

Once again my Arsenal supporting friend was critical of Wenger, but of the players too as he said at this point, 'Wenger once again making the same old mistakes, nothing has changed at Arsenal, poor defensively, same old tippy tappy passes' and probably the most telling quote at 2-0 down was 'We look out of our depth.

Personally in regards to Arsenal & their woeful first half, I think it's the players and Gary Neville was spot on in terms of laziness of players, not tracking runs etc, Xhaka trying to play back heels to Cech under pressure with a Liverpool player breathing down his neck, that isn't Wenger's fault, that's just lazy players. My friend did reply by saying 'But all of this happened last season, nothing has been done to address these flaws, this is beyond shocking from Arsenal but we have about 10-15 games like this a season'.

As much as I do agree with the sentiments expressed above, I feel that the Arsenal board extended Wenger's contract, so that for me is where the vitriol needs to be aimed. The Arsenal board (who've had a bit of bad press recently via Stan Kroenke) seem to just sign one big money player a year, just to temporarily satiate a fickle area of their clubs fan base (Ozil, Sanchez & Lacazette to name 3 examples), when just like us, Arsenal have defensive issues that are screwing them over more often than not and to coin another phrase, every great team is built on a solid defense.

'Utter naivety & being caught over and over again on the counter' was a problem my friend kept seeing during this match and I agreed, but felt that leaving no one else back against a counter attack as rapid as ours is insanity, bur again, that isn't Wenger's fault, those players on the pitch should be aware and should have learned from the first half.

An interesting roll of the dice came from Arsene Wenger in the form of taking Alexis Sanchez & Oxlade-Chamberlain off (my Arsenal supporting friend wasn't happy about Sanchez coming off) and I was similarly perplexed. I could understand Lacazette & Giroud coming on & Oxlade-Chamberlain off, but Sanchez coming off too was odd when chasing a game, as Sanchez had nothing to feed on at all. I thought Arsenal would offer more threat with Sanchez on if he gets service, and Ozil is a supply line, so could see why he wasn't taken off, plus he's another big money player, it was a shame (if you support Arsenal) that his performance was abysmal...

 Martin Tyler at one point said on commentary what I said to my friend half an hour before, about players taking individual responsibility and somewhat ironically, Holding did to Henderson, what Bellerin should have done on Liverpool's third goal, cynical challenge, but stop the attack, but in terms of decision making during the match overall, it was too little too late.

Our 4th goal, to quote legendary wrestling manager Jim Cornette was 'slicker than whale sh*t in an ice flow' & Salah's ball was begging for Sturridge to bury it (which he did as he's deadly when he's fit) and also at that point I made mention of the fact that Roberto Firmino was putting in a lot of defensive work

Final thoughts on the match - Big game, big win for us today, all around brilliant punishing a woeful Arsenal side, there are the obvious standout attacking performances, but Firmino tracking back all game, Moreno doing well and Emre Can running things was tremendous, all helped shut Arsenal out. Sanchez got no service and Welbeck looked lively initially, but again, the lack of service as the game went on stifled him too. Post match thoughts - I said to my friend that the media will make a lot of the Sanchez reactions, (after the goals and after he came off), Ozil will get it in the neck again, Cech was the only one who can say he really did anything, but the 10 in front of him let Arsene Wenger and him down with an utterly limp, lifeless performance. Thierry Henry for me, in the post match analysis on Sky Sports tried to give the players an easy excuse, by basically saying no wonder players want to leave after a match like that, but for me, players are the ones who go on the pitch and make the impact, so that's a moot point. You can't say; oh, things are going wrong, but I'm not going to give any effort to help change things' and still complain that you want to leave because things aren't moving forward.

Jamie Carragher (who yes, is a hero of mine) was spot on (in my view) with his comments on a lack of ruthlessness at Arsenal, spreading from the board right down to the playing squad and Henry did have a good point piggy backing on that about everyone at that club, from the players, to Wenger, to the board, being in a comfort zone and everything being 'nice' at the club.

To me, In regards to Arsenal if you look further than the repetitive (and in all honesty, utterly boring) Wenger out rhetoric that certain 'media outlets like to perpetuate, it's not hard to see what is really going on, but like in general life, most people are focused on the wrong thing, not saying Wenger isn't at least partially responsible, but there are bigger forces at work. The stagnation and/or decline of a club is never down to just one person, it's always a combination of factors & people. In regards to my beloved Redmen Liverpool, we looked impressive against an abject and abysmal Arsenal and our only real worry throughout the match was Lloris Karius on the ball, but fortunately, he literally had nothing else to do, but going into the international break after 3 games, things are good, but we need to tighten up at the back as better sides could really expose us at the back, especially on set pieces.

I'm Straight Shootin' LJA...And that's my opinion!!!

Follow me on Twitter @sslja -

Give me a like on Facebook -

Follow Pitch Talk on twitter @pitchtalk -

Add us on Facebook -

Thursday, 3 November 2016

FIFA vs Poppies & deflection from a bigger issue

First of all I'd like to say that my stance is that not being able to wear poppies on a football shirt or an armband, is a problem for 1 hr 30 minutes, is actually prohibited by rules of the game and for me is nothing but a deflection tactic to the real issues, which I'll go over below.

Secondly, this blog will discuss an issue where politics and football overlap, which (as i've mentioned on Pitch Talk Live #ptlive shows) is never a good thing.

Now, with that being said, the fact that homelessness is a real societal issue that can be so easily solved, but fact that the powers that be and their greed perpetuate the problem should be a massive source of consternation to all, not the wearing of a poppy on an armband or a football shirt for one match.

Homeless charity Crisis ( on their website define being homless as; 'At worst, homelessness can mean sleeping rough on the streets.

In 2015 Government statistics showed that 3,569 people slept rough on any one night across England - this is over double the number counted in 2010
Local agencies report 8,096 people slept rough in London alone throughout 2015/16  - A six per cent rise on the previous year, and more than double the figure of 3,673 in 2009/10
However, the problem of homelessness is much bigger than that of rough sleeping' (Source -

Soldiers off the Street ( is a charity that tries to re-house ex service personnel and the Daily Mirror in 2013 claimed that 1 in 10 homeless people were ex-service personnel (9000 people) (

This is a real issue that the government, especially Theresa May need to focus on, not whether or not armbands with poppies on are worn during a football match.

People like Theresa May need to focus on running the country instead of taking swipes at the powers that be in football. This isn't a new thing, the rules are there and have been there for a while that World governing body Fifa have a ban on political, religious or commercial messages on shirts, and poppies, (even though it's an emotive subject for some) count as a political message.

As said, this isn't a new issue, we discussed it on our #ptlive show back in 2011 -

Sad thing is though, that most people don't read beyond the sensationalist #parisiticmedia headlines that only serve the purpose of deflecting from the real issues instead of informing and empowering people.

War is a horrible thing, but many countries are affected by it and if you open the floodgates for one, you must do it for all and a free for all situation is never a good thing. It's definitely an emotive subject, just look at the way James McClean is treated for choosing NOT to wear a poppy on his shirt each year, but rationale at some point must kick in.

In my view, People fighting this hard to wear a poppy on a shirt or an armband for a football match, should be fighting just as hard to help solve the problem of homelessness for troops and people in general.

If England, Scotland and Wales want to defy the poppy ban, then they'll have to take the consequences for breaking the rules that have been there for a long time, but for me, this is all deflection and once this is over this year, either we won't hear about it until next year, or it'll take another 5 years to become an argument again and more bandwagon jumpers like Theresa May will use it as a way to get themselves some public favour...

United, we are a force, divided we are nothing and the powers that be would rather keep us non-existent, than see us thrive & move forward... and as much as I criticise Fifa on a daily basis (on #ptlive shows & general conversation), they're right in this situation as the rules are clear.

I'm Straight Shootin' LJA...and that's my opinion!!!

Follow me on Twitter @sslja -

Give me a like on Facebook -

Our official website -

Follow Pitch Talk on twitter @pitchtalk -

Add us on Facebook -

Join us Live Every Monday Night from 8pm-10pm (UK Time) for Pitch Talk LIVE show @

Monday, 26 September 2016

Corruption in football, Allardyce & a broken English reputation

Corruption in British football involving the English #fa & the England manager, we've discussed corruption for years on Pitch Talk Live #ptlive shows (links available upon request), so for us (especially yours truly) the Telegraph’s revelations of a sting operation involving England manager Sam Allardyce are not a surprise at all.

We've said on #ptlive shows for years and discussed in detail about how corrupt FIFA, UEFA and our own English FA are (check out for numerous corruption in football special feature segments) and we’ve always said that sh*t would hit the fan at some point (I was waiting for the day personally). Hopefully this latest scandal is the beginning of the dissolution of the good old boy networks i’ve always been critical of at FA level…

FIFA were the first to get exposed but we knew it wouldn't be the last. Circumventing rules isn't new, when FFP was first suggested we said straight away that the bigger clubs would find loopholes to get around them, so Allardyce speaking on the Telegraph newspaper sting about circumventing third party ownership rules isn’t a new thing, it’s more of a who thing, as in, who are they talking about in terms of players. Remember, as we discussed on a #ptlive show in May 2015, agents have been deregulated by FIFA, so Allardyce's comments about getting agents on board plays into what we discussed about deregulation potentially leading to a 'wild west' of agents with any Tom, Dick & Harry getting into that sector and young players development not only being hampered, but neglected totally, but even that is only part of the problem.

Panorama bung scandal documentaries done on behalf of the BBC & Channel 4 Dispatches documentaries on buying football clubs (just to name 2 examples), these stings have been done before on multiple occasions. Harry Redknapp, Sven Goran Ericsson, Bryan Robson have all been stung at some point before and those are just in relation to British clubs/people, don't get me started on FIFA & UEFA or we'll be here all night.

Some say this Telegraph sting with Sam Allardyce hurts the integrity of our FA/English football’s reputation, i’d disagree on that because to me this is another in a long list of things that have damaged the integrity of English football. Our FA, those in & those around it have compromised the integrity of english football for many years, for many reasons including the callous destruction of the grass roots game, the loopholes in the homegrown rule, half baked rules for the development of the game including the suggestion of Premier League B-teams in English Football league, the very public brownnosing of Adnan Januzaj that was utterly embarrassing & sent complete mixed messages to young domestic talent, the lack of BAME representation at the top levels of the game, the list is endless.

As I said on one of our recent #PTLIVE special feature segments on our show, When you have corruption at the very top, don't be surprised if it's evident elsewhere and at every level of the game... From Claus Lundekvam talking about spot fixing during his days at Southampton in the 90s, to match fixing in Champions league matches from 2009 (see Debrecen’s GK v Liverpool fc), to El Salvador being approached to fix a game v Canada a few short weeks ago.

This is disappointing but nowhere near surprising because as we've said for years, to get rid of corruption in football, you'd have to literally stop the game, or to borrow the title of a tune from Nas’ 2001 album; Stillmatic... Destroy and Rebuild.

More stuff will hit the fan and more people will be thrown under the bus, but unless swift and decisive changes happen, it’ll keep happening. On Pitch Talk LIVE back in 2011 (and on other occasions) we called for Interpol to investigate FIFA and that eventually happened in 2015, hopefully that will happen in regards to this level of corruption in British football.

I wouldn’t hold my breath on that happening though, because just like i’ve said about FIFA & UEFA, too many people are making kickbacks on this corruption to want to ruffle feathers and they’ll do everything to stop proper investigations & nothing will change as it’ll blow over and the #parisiticmedia will move onto the next story and leave this in the rear view, which is why i’d like to see an independent entity clean this utter mess up, because how can you take the FA seriously, when they won’t take the scourge of corruption seriously…

One of the other sad things about this for me is the fact that us fans are the ones getting constantly shafted, whether directly or indirectly, immediately or eventually, whilst those at the top generally get off scot free in these situations with a slap on the wrist and a giant payoff and us fans are again left questioning our love for a game riddled by corruption and greed.

Unless people are brought to justice and held accountable for their actions, they’ll keep on happening and if all our FA do is come out and make a ‘statement’ about this and don’t take swift, draconian action, then i’ll have to quote HBK Shawn Michaels again and say ‘If I wanted crap out of you, i’d pick it out of your teeth’ to FA Chairman Greg Clarke and co.

Some serious sh*t is about to hit the fan and on a personal note, don't say we didn't warn you :-)

I'm Straight Shootin' LJA...and that's my opinion!!!

Follow me on Twitter @sslja -

Give me a like on Facebook -

Our official website -

Follow Pitch Talk on twitter @pitchtalk -

Add us on Facebook -

Join us Live Every Monday Night from 8pm-11pm (UK Time) for Pitch Talk LIVE show @

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Pedestrian buildups & sloppy defending = Defeats

Straight Shootin’ LJA would like to take a few of minutes of your time to focus a bit on 2 of the big games this past Saturday (24th September 2016), Manchester United 4-1 Leicester city & Arsenal 3-0 v Chelsea.

Manchester United 4-1 Leicester City - 
Just for the sake of full disclosure, I was hoping Man United would get beaten soundly as you know that Jose Mourinho would have had a bitch fit, but I digress. The reigning champions were humbled at Old Trafford and it wasn’t by accident. Like I said on a recent Pitch Talk live show, for the money paid for Paul Pogba, I’d want him influencing every game he's in, helping his team get back into the champions league in the process and i'm expecting a ballon d'or winner inside 2 years, because if world record fees are being paid, i’m having world class expectations.

Credit to Pogba though as he was impressive in this match…at last, he pinged a quality ball that Ibrahimovic blasted high, wide & butt ugly, was defending in the 2nd half and scored a quality header to reopen his Man United account, this is the start of the sort of impact most are expecting for £89m.

The Smalling header for the 1st goal, free header and a very poor goal to concede because if you're man marking you have to stay tight to your man, looking at Robert Huth as directly culpable there.
Generally, Leicester looked sluggish as hell as they were sitting deep and letting runs happen rather than closing down and stopping United from playing, already in direct contrast to last season and a repeat of what happened recently v Liverpool who put 4 goals past them. 2nd and 3rd goals, again, sloppy defending, Morgan and Simpson switched off, 1 on marking and the other from a quick corner and Pogba’s header for the 4th, as good as it was, was icing on the cake in a comfortable victory for United and looking at all 3 goals, 3 of the back 4 have to hang their heads in shame at how poorly they were defended.

This season Leicester (so far) haven't got that surprise factor any more, the onus is now on them to break teams down and because of this, teams now expect what they’re bringing. Also, they now lack the infinite energy of N’golo Kante running their midfield from deep, which allows other, more attacking players to unleash themselves creatively. Mahrez & Slimani looked lively in flashes early on, but Vardy was starved of service, which will cause any striker problems.

Demari Gray got an absolute belter as a consolation goal but to quote edge and christian from the WWF Wrestlemania 16 post show interviews - 'it's a lot easier to get to the top than it is to stay there' and ironically, that was said after their first title win (WWF tag team titles), so I thought that would be an apropos #OWR to drop here. Leicester have already lost 3 games, which is all they lost last season, so it’s crucial for them that they get it together, or they could end up like Chelsea last season…an awful title defence.

Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea - 
The omens looked ominous considering Chelsea's recent record against Arsenal but in hindsight, it looked like Wenger's 20th anniversary in charge of the side was the perfect ammunition for the Gunners to blow Chelsea away.

Even though Arsenal were dominant in the early exchanges in terms of possession & attacking intent, poor defending comes under the microscope immediately as Gary Cahill dithering on the ball for the 1st goal (similar to the game v Swansea) & Eden Hazard not tracking his runner properly on the 2nd goal shows how sloppy Chelsea are at the back against stern opposition.

About 36/37 mins into this match, Steve McManaman had a proper go about how slow Chelsea were building up and to me I thought… fair do’s. Playing across and back is easy to defend against as it allows your opposition to get set again, 3/4 backwards and/or square passes before you get into the opponents half is really easy to read and defend against. Also, looking further up the field, your striker/s could be in acres of space, but if the ball takes 5 minutes to get forward the space gets closed down before that ball ever gets played, so you basically end up nullifying your own attack, making it easy for your opposition and just like against my boyz Liverpool, Costa got isolated.

For Arsenal’s 3rd goal, look how quick that break was, forward passing all the time and more importantly, quick forward passing. Arsenal got onto the front foot and had the Chelsea defenders turning back towards their own goal, which (speaking as a centre back for SAL side Ibis Eagles AFC) defenders hate doing.

2nd half, Arsenal looked like they could have got another couple but players were getting in each others way, players were in acres of space but delivered poor crosses, but because chelsea were sitting so deep, there was no real chance of Arsenal getting caught on the counter attack, again, pedestrian buildup, allowing Arsenal to get their shape back ended up meant Chelsea not only had to be intricate, but absolutely postage stamp accurate in terms of passing to end up getting in a position to test Petr Cech. One example that finally happened was a great pass from David Luiz that set Michy Batshuayi in around 84 minutes in but unlike Alexis Sanchez, the young striker couldn’t finish the job, 1 shot on target all game has to be concerning, even at this early stage of the season for Chelsea & especially Antonio Conte.

Food for thought for the last 2 Premier League title winners, on a day where both were shocked and humbled in equal measure and were both beaten by 3 goal margins.

Don’t get me wrong, both winning sides deserved their victories and the margins of those victories were fair reflections of the games. Arsenal were ruthless and slick to say the least and i’m taking nothing away from them or Manchester United (as a Kopite you know that burns me lol) but I always look at the defending first on goals.

I'm Straight Shootin' LJA...and that's my opinion!!!

Follow me on Twitter @sslja -

Give me a like on Facebook -

Our official website -

Follow Pitch Talk on twitter @pitchtalk -

Add us on Facebook -

Join us Live Every Monday Night from 8pm-11pm (UK Time) for Pitch Talk LIVE show @

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Call it Right... But get it Right

We are only two weeks into a new season, and already, the mistakes are still being made by match officials. They are making easy decisions look very hard and it is affecting the outcome of the games. I have always believed that a good referee is rarely seen during the game and does not bring problems on himself. A lot of the referees I have worked alongside over the years, always told me to never go looking for trouble, as it will always find you if you do. I am not a lover of the showman referee and never will be, as it is a trait in a referee that I hate.

Like many other supporters I sat down to watch all the live football over the past weekend and in fairness I really enjoyed the games. I cast my eye all over the games to pick topics for my usual weekly blog for the boys at Pitch Talk and I was not to be disappointed. I have picked out two referees and two big decisions to discuss and try and unravel where I see it was called wrong.

The two men involved in the decision making were Craig Pawson and Mr.Showman himself Mike Dean. What you have to remember with these two, is the fact that they’ve been around along time now and should not be making these mistakes.

I will start off by having a look at the ultimate showman of referees; Mike Dean, and his performance in the Stoke City v Manchester City game. Well not so much his overall performance but one utterly unbelievable decision he gave when awarding Stoke City a second half penalty when Sterling was adjudged to have fouled Ryan Shawcross. Now I know there is a directive to players this season about holding players in the penalty box. Referees have been instructed that if this happens they are to award a penalty and it is something that is long overdue. The pulling and pushing has been going on now for a few seasons and it is about time it is cut out. But on Saturday Mike Dean got it totally wrong and awarded a penalty when in fact it should have been a free kick out. At no time in my opinion did Sterling foul Shawcross, it was clearly the Stoke player who was the aggressor and the referee called it totally wrong.
You can always tell from players reactions and in this case, the reaction was utter astonishment showing on their faces. As I said earlier, as a referee you should not going looking for trouble but on Saturday Mike Dean brought his problems all on himself by trying to be center stage on the penalty decision, totally bad refereeing in my opinion.

Craig Pawson is another official who has come under the microscope before and on Sunday in the West Ham United v Bournemouth game he had a big call, that I feel he got totally wrong. Sam Byram in my opinion should have been sent off for two yellow cards in quick succession. Byram was guilty of first barging his opponent to the ground and within seconds took down another Bournemouth player, the first foul was a yellow card and so was the second. Referee Pawson only blew on the second foul as he was trying to play an advantage, but in my opinion he should have shown Byram two yellow cards. If he was going to book the player for the second challenge there is no way he could close his eyes to the first challenge. Trying to play an advantage was ludicrous as it was always going to get him into trouble, he should have just blown on the first foul and no one would have had anything derogatory to say or write about. Whilst reading this you have to remember Craig is a FIFA referee, and in my opinion this was a decision that he should have got right.

Well there we have it, only two weeks into a new season and the bad decision making continues. It is really now imperative that the powers to be take the referees aside and have a strong word with them as bad decision making costs games. It is a real worry that it is guys who should no better are making such ridiculous decisions. We may have to look for divine intervention this season so that things are put right, but please do not hold your breath. It is going to be a long season and I am looking forward to enjoying every game as we roll along. What we do not need to see is bad refereeing on a regular basis, which causes controversy. It would be great if one weekend we are talking about great refereeing and not the total opposite.

So until I blog again for the boys at Pitch Talk enjoy your football and let us hope next week I am not blogging about a bad refereeing decision made against your team. Until then " Ciao "

Monday, 15 August 2016

The end of the road for Alberto Moreno?

Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool, sounds in theory like a rip roaring game and it was an entertaining watch, but as a Liverpool supporter there's 1 person I have to focus on... Alberto Moreno. Myself and one of my housemates were saying (literally 24 hours before this match) how disappointed we were that Flanno (Jon Flanagan) has gone out on loan (to Bournemouth as mentioned on #PTLIVE August 8th 2016 episode) as Flanno is miles better in terms of positional sense, composure and basically every area that's important as a full back.

The only bad thing was his injury last season, which sadly, has slightly hindered his progress and probably resulted in the decision to send him out on loan to get regular game time. For me, Al Moreno is our version of a David Luiz, liability who shouldn't be played at the back as he's as bad positionally as Micah Richards (another player i've criticised on #ptlive shows before).

I'm maybe a bit over critical/harsh on defenders (in the eyes of some) generally on the Pitch Talk live shows that I cohost, BUT Moreno embarrasses me as a Kopite and a defender at Southern Amateur League level with ibis Eagles AFC as he gets the utter basics wrong.

In the 1st half of this match he went up for a header he should have left to Ragnar Klavan and yes he recovered to slide in on Ramsey and concede a corner, but that was a warning. Later in the 1st half he gave away one of the clumsiest penalties you'll see this season by fouling Walcott, who fortunately had Mignolet pull his fat out of the fire by saving the penalty Moreno gave away. That was a second warning and basically foreshadowing what was to come shortly thereafter.

The Walcott goal, is sadly perfect case in point and a damning indictment of Moreno's shortcomings. As a back line (no matter what level you play) when you clear the ball, you press out as a unit, as a back 4, not you press out and are 10-15 yards further forward than the rest of your back line and leave a gaping chasm behind you, that can be (and in that case was) exploited.

Gary Neville came out with a spot on quote 'having Moreno in your side is like starting a goal down' and in all honesty, it pains me that I totally agree with that statement. I said to friends of mine subsequently on WhatsApp and on Facebook (somewhat in jest) that Moreno tried twice to give Arsenal the advantage deliberately!

If there's 1 thing that drives me up the wall (apart from Jose Mourinho's public persona) it's poor defending and Moreno (as much as I hate to single out and bury individual players) needs replacing and sharpish.

I'm glad we beat Arsenal on the opening day of the season, but frailties are still clear for the world to see and hopefully Jurgen Klopp, like Vince McMahon in relation to Stone Cold Steve Austin in the WWF in September 1998 going into the Break Down: In Your House pay per view event (yes I had to crowbar in an #OWR), has a master plan in regards to our left back position, and I don't mean having James Milner (as versatile as he is) play there all season!

I'm Straight Shootin' LJA...and that's my opinion!!!

Follow me on Twitter @sslja -

Give me a like on Facebook -

Our official website -

Follow Pitch Talk on twitter @pitchtalk -

Add us on Facebook -

Join us Live Every Monday Night from 8pm-11pm (UK Time) for Pitch Talk LIVE show @

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

England, #Euro2016 Elimination & a 25+ year problem

Now that the dust has settled...just a touch, let's look at England v Iceland and why we were dumped out of Euro 2016, by a side from a country with a population comparable to the amount of people you see at Champions league winners parades for individual domestic sides in England.
I could go with what I like to call traditional #parisiticmedia rhetoric, blaming players for not performing, blaming the manager for selection and poor tactics etc but I'm not going to go for the easy fix...why? More on that later.
Fact is, as we've discussed on Pitch Talk shows and videos, the latest major tournament elimination for England goes so much deeper than just an overrated but underperforming squad, or a manager not utilising the players correctly, it's the good ol' boy networks that aren't letting talent be developed and coming with half baked ideas to try and win tournaments.

Case in point, Mr Greg Dyke, the head honcho at the FA (or to give him his official title, Chairman of the FA) coming out in 2013 and saying his targets for England were to get to the semi finals of Russia 2018 and win the Qatar 2022 world cup, which is all good in terms of having targets, but like we discussed & asked on Pitch Talk live, how was he going to get to that ludicrously overly ambitious target, (that in all honesty, probably sounded like delusions of grandeur even to a tabloid headline writer) and the ideas were abysmal.

First, was the Premier League B-Teams in the football league idea, utterly terrible and does nothing but keep even more of a monopoly at the top of the game, which of course would be music to Richard Scudamore's ears as he hears cash registers ringing, but is like nails on a chalkboard for the rest of us fans.
The second half baked idea was more recent and was Premier League academy sides being allowed to compete for a season (as an experiment/1 year trial) in the recently rebranded Football League Trophy (now called the EFL Trophy).

To me, these 2 ideas are bad enough in terms of showing the utter ineptitude and narrow mindedness that needs to be totally eradicated from the powers that be in football, but these are just recent examples and I believe the mediocrity of the England team at major tourneys has gone on for 25+ years, and by mediocrity I mean the fact that the last time we reached a semi final of a major tournament was 20 years ago this summer and we've missed out on 2 major tournaments in that time (yes i'm including Graham 'Do I not like that' Taylor's tenure leading up to missing out on USA 94).
Another couple of examples of reason why we can't develop and thrive as a footballing nation are politics/good ol' boy networks, and football development (or lack thereof).

Politics, in my view, never mix well with football, just look at the Pitch Talk Rant of the Week where we discuss David Cameron talking about Sepp Blatter & murky politics years ago, hell, look at Sepp Blatter just in general, but i digress, the politics i'm referring to are all internal at the FA/Premier League level.
I've always maintained that Theo Walcott was on the plane to the 2006 world cup in place of Darren Bent purely because David Dein had stroke (to borrow some pro wrestling vernacular & drop an #OWR) at the FA at the time, as he hadn't kicked a ball in the Premier League, but Bent at Charlton was one of the highest, if not the highest scoring Englishman in the Premier League and that was 10 years ago, remember, Dein was Vice-Chairman of Arsenal & the FA at the time... no coincidence.

Fast forward to Euro 2016 and similar situations in relation to selection (I feel) raised their head again as Jack Wilshire was picked in the initial 26, then the final 23 man squad to go to France, but Danny Drinkwater who was a major cog in the Leicester City title winning side missed out.

This was made even worse not only by the fact that Wilshire had 1 single start for Arsenal (in the final game of the season) after being injured ALL SEASON, I repeat... INJURED ALL SEASON, but it was apparently stated that Theo Walcott (who is consistently inconsistent) wasn't included as he didn't play enough...

I'm not throwing people under the bus to scapegoat, i'm just saying that these decisions sound like they're being made and directives are coming from a lot higher up than the manager, but he's the face of it, so he takes the bullet for it, Hodgson quitting straight after the embarrassing Iceland defeat was somewhat of a surprise, but not much as he basically jumped before he was pushed as Greg Dyke, just DAYS BEFORE THE MATCH, basically buried Roy by saying he wasn't sure if he'd renew his contract. If I was in that position i'd have had my resignation letter drafted whilst thinking 'I can't wait to tell Dyke to s*ck it' as I walk out whilst dropping the microphone during the post match press conference.

Call me a conspiracy theorist if you want but I think the problems with our nation as a footballing entity (as well as a nation in general, but that's another story) run deeper than a 23 man squad and a manager making poor tactical decisions.

The lack of quality we're producing is a major concern and this is about football development. The grass roots game, by which I mean football you aren't paid to play, for example; park football, Amateur football (For those who don't know I play for Ibis Eagles AFC in the 14Fourteen Southern Amateur League) etc has been disgracefully betrayed during this period, with the closing of open areas, free/municipal pitches where young players (especially those from impoverished backgrounds who can't afford coaching classes) honed their craft. If kids have nowhere to experiment and hone their skills, how can you produce the next generation of talent? Nathaniel Essex aka Sinister genetically producing the perfect footballer from the dna of the legends of the game? (I loved the X-Men animated series from the 90s & Wolverine & the X-Men from 2009).

Anyway back to the story, to me, this is completely backwards considering guys like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Gascoigne, Paul Scholes, David Seaman, Gary Lineker etc, who are considered some of England's greatest ever players, started by honing their skills in schools, kicking a ball against a wall, or at a local park/rec ground with jumpers for goalposts or an open/free pitch, but the FA gives minuscule amounts of money and support to help that game not just survive, but thrive and progress, and development is all about developing talent, nurturing and making the talent better isn't it?

I could go into facts and stats behind the decline in the grass roots game and the paltry, patronisingly small amounts of money divided around a huge cross section of the game by an obscenely rich elite in football but we've done it on many Pitch Talk Live shows and the fact is until the above 2 reasons are sorted and huge cultural shift happens, the same failings will continue to happen.

Sadly, until the powers that be cure their own seemingly terminal case of rectal cranial inversion, get rid of the good old boy mentality which predicates short termism over having a long term plan and sticking to it, we won't succeed as a nation, which is why I am such a fan of what we mentioned on Pitch Talk Live about China's 34 year plan to become a football superpower by 2050.
We need a long term plan because the powers that be running English football don't have one, any manager going into the England job is basically hamstrung because there is no plan and because there is no plan we're doomed to fail.

As 2 examples of potential solutions, as much as I am ultra critical of Sepp Blatter, his 6+5 rule if implemented right, in theory may have helped, but there are so many other rules that would need closing as well, it's a legal and administrative nightmare. The home grown rule in the Premier League would need closing as that contains a gaping hole, making it about as useless as a chocolate teapot, just like FIFA's residency rules to me are as useless as making a condom out of tissue paper.

In terms of a proper solution, a long term plan including PROPER FUNDING for grass roots football and proper support (as we've discussed on Pitch Talk Meets interviews) for that area of the game need to be implemented and monitored in terms of where the money is going. The term 'grass roots projects' (that is thrown around more freely than the words 'world class' and 'legend') is so vague that it means bugger all to anyone but to those running & ruining the game, whilst lining their own pockets and keeping their friends in positions of power.

Scudamore and the Premier League could give less than a damn about the future of the England team because the Premier League is all about cash and greed, in my humble opinion, but the FA need to work with them to help the England team succeed, but to do that, they need to change their own culture to focus on the we we we, rather than just me me me. 

England as a football team at senior level really remind me of a lyric Barry White song that my old friend Spoonface and Black Legend did a cover of 'You see the trouble with me' and like the last part of the chorus, England... 'this girl's gonna drive me crazy'.

The FA on the other hand (especially Greg Dyke, who I've never been overly impressed with), remind me of an HBK Shawn Michaels line whenever they come up with a 'plan/s' to revolutionise English football, and that line is 'If I wanted crap out of you, I'd pick it out of your teeth'.

As much as I could go into more detail, I don't want to send anyone to sleep, so let me clear my throat and encapsulate.

In terms of long term planning & execution, Spain have reaped the rewards, Germany are currently reaping the rewards (after we gave them the kick up the backside they needed in 2001 to start it off) and England aren't beyond repair, but it'll take a complete culture shift, committal to the formulation & execution of a long term plan (20+ years ahead) to repair the damage done over the last 25+ years.

Football is my microcosm of society as i've said for many years and just like in wider society, we're a lot stronger as a unified force, than we are as a divided one.

I'm Straight Shootin' LJA & that's my opinion!!!

Follow me on Twitter @sslja -
Give me a like on Facebook -
Our official website -
Follow Pitch Talk on twitter @pitchtalk -
Add us on Facebook -
Join us Live Every Monday Night from 8pm-11pm (UK Time) for Pitch Talk LIVE show @