Connect with us

English Premier League

The top five worst attempts at defending from a set piece



Poor old Daley Blind. His devastatingly handsome face was at risk of being temporarily disfigured as the ball hurtled towards it. Instinctively, he did what any self-respecting milquetoast would do and ducked out of the way, allowing the ball to gently glance off his visage rather than crash into it at full pelt. Fortunately for him, Manchester United went on to beat Crystal Palace 2-1.

But Blind is certainly not the first to be found guilty of a dereliction of duty when defending his own goal. What should be a very simple task – stand there and head or kick the ball away from the goal – is one that has caused a surprising number of players more than a few problems. It seems only fitting to acknowledge, nay celebrate such scaredycatness:


Samir Nasri (for Manchester City V Manchester United)

Rather than castigate Nasri for this moment of pure cowardice, perhaps he should be congratulated on his daring foresight in seeking to reinforce the wall from behind, rather than extend the width. From his point of view, he sized up the situation and felt that with Robin van Persie about to blast one, the defensive wall required buttressing – hence his decision to creep behind the wall and stick a toe out in the hope that it would provide just as much an obstacle as his whole body. Either this or he was playing a rather daring game of Hide and Seek with the chap in row Z.



Youssouf Mulumbu (for West Bromwich Albion V Arsenal)

At first glance, this doesn’t look so bad. After all, Olivier Giroud has strained his neck muscles and got a fair bit of power behind his header. As for Mulumbu, he has admirably stood his ground and will not be prized from the near post. But herein lies the problem: so desperate is he to carry out his duties and defend the aforementioned post, his brain seems to have been unable to compute the notion that he can actually move – even sticking a leg out might have had the desired effect of providing an obstacle to prevent the ball hurtling into the net. Although Mulumbu does an admirable job of defending the tiny space between his body and the post, Giroud selfishly opts to direct his header towards the big space to Mulumbu’s left, resulting in the West Brom midfielder making a statue seem positively hyperactive.


Kieron Dyer (for Newcastle United V Barcelona)

We all switch off on occasions and daydream wistfully about that time we scored a vital brace from left back in a crucial under11s game that resulted in a nomination for Player of the Year. But to do so while in the Nou Camp is probably not the time to do so. Dyer can only watch helplessly as the ball trundles off his foot and over the line. At this moment, he springs into life to point out that the ball clearly didn’t cross the line – ‘how could it? I was standing right here, I’m the nearest and it was my job to prevent the ball crossing the line.’ If only Kieron Dyer’s little legs had displayed such animation just a few seconds earlier, he might have avoided this troublesome little pickle.



Thomas Ince (for Derby County V Birmingham City)

Another one from drawer marked ‘attacker asked to defend’. Thomas Ince seems so preoccupied with something else (which pie to have for tea? Bourbon biscuit or Custard Cream for afters?) that he seems to have some sort of existential crisis, resulting him being only able to waft a weak and limp thigh in the vague direction of the ball before it meekly creeps past him and nestles into the net, dealing a crushing blow to his team’s chances of escaping the Championship. Those things on the end of your legs, Tom – those feet type things – they might be a decent tool for hoofing the ball away from the goal, rather than those clumsy old thighs.



Nigel Worthington (for Sheffield Wednesday V Manchester United)

It’s a goal most football fans have seen – a crucial one in the modern history of Manchester United. Staring down the barrel of a home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday and into added time, Alex Ferguson’s men score two to claim their first Premier League title – their first in 26 years. But Steve Bruce’s equalizer (he also scores the winner moments later) is entirely avoidable from an Owls perspective. He is at least 14 yards out and the header lacks pace. Sure, it’s looping and arching threateningly towards the top corner but it’s easy to miss that Nigel Worthington is stationed on the post. The replay from behind the goal is enlightening as it shows Worthington taking time to nail his teapot stance, just in case he is required to perform the actions to the ‘I’m a little teapot’ song at a children’s birthday party. Either that or his display of nonchalance is breathtaking as he casually stands there, making faces at his goalkeeper, Chris Woods, as if to say, ‘must I really take time out of my busy day to make an effort to get that? Surely you, as a goalkeeper, will be doing something about this incoming effort – after all, you ARE a goalkeeper, aren’t you? It would be terribly inconvenient if I were required to move. I am a vastly experience Northern Irish international by the way – I really do have better things to be doing, like my coaching badges.’


Just a little bit of effort, Nigel and whole landscape of the Premier League might have looked entirely different from the United hegemony that followed.

Still, if you need a turn for a children’s birthday party, you know who to call.


Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract

The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.

He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.

Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.

It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.

Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.

“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.

“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.

“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”

Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.

Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.

They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.

There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.

This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.

Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.

Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.

This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.

He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.

A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.

Continue Reading

Manchester United

Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line

The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.

Rob Meech



Luke Shaw
Photo: Getty Images

The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.

Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”

The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.

Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.

From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.

Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.

Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.

This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.

But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.

In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.

Continue Reading

English Premier League

Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week

The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.



Photo: Getty Images

With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.

Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.

In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.

Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.

The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.

Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.

This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.

If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.

Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2017 The Boot Room.