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The Ostrich Rant – What Does It Reveal About Nigel Pearson?

The Boot Room

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What’s the difference between Nigel Pearson and an ostrich?  No, this isn’t the opening line to a terrible joke.  Perhaps more worryingly, it’s a genuine question.  The answer?  Not a lot of difference, if you believe the Leicester manager’s bizarre post-match rant after his side’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Chelsea on Wednesday night.  Because, you see, just like an ostrich, Nigel Pearson is ‘flexible enough’ to get his head in the sand.

Ok, ok – a strange way to start things, I admit.  Perhaps it’s better if some context is provided.  Part way through his post-match press conference, Pearson was commenting on his pride in his players and their remarkable recent turnaround in fortunes.  Despite being bottom of the table for the majority of the season, Leicester had managed 4 straight wins on the bounce heading into the Chelsea game – something their manager rightly praised.  He was particularly proud of them for achieving this despite having to endure what he described as ‘criticism and negativity’ for much of the season.  When asked by rookie journalist Ian Baker to specify exactly what criticism he was referring to, Pearson began his rant, claiming Baker must have been ‘on holiday’ or ‘in the clouds’.  He claimed Baker must be ‘stupid’ for not being aware of the criticism he felt Leicester had faced.  He further berated the young journalist, implying he wouldn’t be flexible enough to bury his head in the sand like an ostrich, unlike Pearson.  Following this exchange, Pearson stormed out, leaving the room of journalists bewildered.

Quite a surreal chain of events, I’m sure you’d agree.  But what does it say about the Leicester gaffer?  What could drive him to respond to a relatively innocent question in such a strange manner?  There’s no doubt Pearson and his players have been under considerable pressure, particularly since Christmas, with relegation an ever-present threat.  Perhaps an indication of just how poor their season has been is the fact that their recent four-game winning streak accounts for 50% of all matches won by the Foxes this season, contributing to a meagre 31 points on the board so far.

For me, however, it reveals something about Pearson and, possibly, more managers that they wouldn’t necessarily like you to believe.  It’s obvious from his post-match comments that Pearson believes his players have been given a hard time by the media.  It was, of course, Pearson himself who raised the issue of this supposed criticism without prompt.  But, in order for him to feel this way, Pearson is going against the age-old adage that managers and players ‘never pay attention to the papers’.  He has obviously held a finger up to the wind at various points this season, trying to sense the general feeling about the club and, perhaps more accurately, his  own management skills.  Such practice exposes Pearson and, perhaps the entire footballing profession, as the perennial little-white-liars we all already know they are.

Moving on from that, however, the rant only adds to the already-impressive rap sheet Pearson has built over the season.  There was altercation with a Foxes fan which got him a £10,000 fine and a touchline ban, in which he told the fan to ‘f*** off and die’.  Then there was the bizarre dugout clash with Crystal Palace‘s James McArthur, in which he pinned the player to the floor by his neck, later claiming it was all in good fun.  And, finally, his confrontation with the Match of the Day pundits, in which he accused them of making ‘a mountain out of a molehill’ over the McArthur incident.

The ostrich rant only serves to further Pearson’s reputation as a somewhat combative personality with ideas not always entirely based in reality.  The journalist’s line of questioning, far from being indicative that he was ignorant of Leicester’s criticism, was merely an often-used tactic in the world of football writing to get Pearson to say something ‘quotable’.  But defending the journalist isn’t really the point.  What’s more appropriate to point out, perhaps, is that, for a team who have had such a poor season, I can’t actually remember a team getting such an easy ride from the media.  Time and again, Leicester City’s players have been praised for playing well despite losing, with many wondering how exactly they have come to find themselves in their current predicament.  This praise has, rightly, continued following their recent upturn in fortunes and many are holding their breath to see if the Foxes can achieve the notoriously near-impossible feat of surviving relegation despite being bottom of the table at Christmas.

It’s, of course, possible that Pearson may not be as irrational as some of his actions would suggest.  As previously considered by Arlen Pettitt in a piece on Pearson for The Boot Room in February, he could be employing the well-used and often-effective ‘siege mentality’ tactic.  It’s a plausible enough explanation and one I would rather was true than the alternative that big Nige actually believes what he’s saying.  Whatever the reason for his shenanigans, Pearson and Leicester have, at the very least, provided us with some of the most memorable moments of the 2014/15 season, even if most of them have been off the pitch.  And yet, they may save their most memorable moment for last.  They may just pull off an escape worthy of Houdini, meaning that, despite everything, it will be on the pitch that a lasting memory is made.

The Boot Room is a football analysis website, bringing original and creative content to the fans of the English Football League.

West Ham United

Signing Yaya Toure is not enough to gain support for West Ham board

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Photo: Getty Images.

West Ham United are believed to be close to appointing former Premier League winning coach Manuel Pellegrini as their new manager, and reports indicate that it could lead to a coup signing in his former player Yaya Toure.

The Telegraph make the claims as they say that previous talks between the Hammers and the free agent broke down, but the appointment of the Chilean would smooth matters and may make a deal more feasible.

In truth, the signing may not actually impress West Ham fans all that much. They have grown used to the signing of players who were dominating the game five years ago and are now past their best. The signings of Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Patrice Evra over the past year have shown as much with mixed results.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

The board are desperately seeking a way to get fans back onside as discontent grows and fans accuse them of not spending sufficiently to back their team and the signing of such a high profile player of immense quality may satisfy those wishes.

That may be the plan, but Yaya Toure made only two Premier League starts in 2017/18 and such a record bares terrifying resemblances to the likes of Andy Carroll, commanding a high wage whilst spending more time in the stands watching on than actually making an impact.

Toure could provide a spark and excitement, there’s no denying that he would be an invigorating addition, but he is not the long-term solution that the club require as fans cry out for players with potential and already at their best. His signing would be a mere distraction.

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Liverpool

Liverpool target Besiktas’ Anderson Talisca would add superb attacking depth

The Brazilian has recorded 28 goal contributions in Turkey this season.

Max Cohen

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Anderson Talisca
Photo: Getty Images

After Besiktas’ 5-1 home win over Sivasspor on Saturday, manager Senol Gunes strongly hinted that star attacker Anderson Talisca would be joining Liverpool this summer.

The possible signing of the Brazilian midfielder would be a superb acquisition for Liverpool, adding depth and quality to the club’s star-studded attack.

According to FourFourTwo, the Besiktas manager confirmed Talisca would be leaving the Turkish club for the Premier League after two years on loan from Benfica.

And Gunes dropped a massive hint that put Liverpool as the possible frontrunners in attaining his signature ahead of Manchester United.

“He might be rivals with Cenk Tosun,” Gunes replied when asked about Talisca’s English destination.

Of course, former Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun plays for Everton– leading many to jump to the conclusion that Talisca is headed to Anfield instead of Old Trafford.

(Photo by Ozan Kose/Getty Images)

The signing would represent a strong statement of intent from the Reds, as Talisca has enjoyed a stunning two seasons at Besiktas and is a burgeoning attacking talent.

In 47 appearances this season, the 24-year-old was involved in an impressive 28 goals, scoring 20 and assisting eight.

And the Brazilian’s past form shows this fantastic season is not a one-off. In 2016/17, Talisca bagged 17 goals and six assists, despite only featuring 33 times in all competitions.

While some might argue that the Turkish Super Lig has a poorer defensive standard than the Premier League, Talisca has proven his worth in European competition as well. In his time at Besiktas, he has notched five Champions League goals, as well as two goals and four assists in the Europa League.

The Brazilian youth international would add impressive offensive depth for Liverpool, as the Reds look to seriously challenge for the Premier League next season.

The purchase of the prolific attacking midfielder would be an ideal first step in assembling a squad that could bring Anfield its first league trophy in over two decades.

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Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham have already identified Eric Dier’s £25 million replacement in Wilmar Barrios

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Photo: Getty Images.

Losing first team regulars may not be a complete surprise to Tottenham and Mauricio Pochettino, and that may why be reports are indicating that the coach has already lined up an alternative to Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama should either move on this summer.

The Sun say that there is still interest in Dier, who will be at the World Cup with England, whilst Wanyama’s struggles with injury may mean that Pochettino looks elsewhere for the role of midfield enforcer.

They believe the target to be Boca Juniors’ 24-year-old holding midfielder Wilmar Barrios, a Colombian international who plays alongside Spurs’ Davinson Sanchez at international level.

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The youngster has become a key man in the Boca Juniors side but, perhaps unusually, has not caught the attention of many in Europe. Barrios has, though, developed a reputation as one of the best players in South America, particularly in his position, as he has become a linchpin protecting his back four.

That is protected in his very impressive stats, which show that he makes on average three tackles per game and 2.8 interceptions per match, compared to the 1.8 tackles and 1.3 interceptions for Dier playing in a very similar role.

Barrios’ intelligent reading of the game has drawn comparisons to Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro, with both men guilt of diving into tackles on occasion despite all of their many strengths.

He may be raw, with no experience of playing in Europe, but at £25 million he could prove to be a bargain and Mauricio Pochettino’s return home to go on a shopping spree could provide a long-term solution to the holding midfield role which seems as uncertain as ever after the 2017/18 season.

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