An interesting league was printed following Steven Gerrard’s comments about Everton after their draw in the Merseyside derby a few weeks ago. Which teams play the most long balls? Well at last we can sing “we are top of the league” but I struggle to really see how such a league can be put together. What distance must a ball be kicked to be classed as a long ball and in which direction for it to count?
When the likes of Gerrard or Paul Scholes hit a 30-yard pass across the pitch to a teammate, the pundits rave about their vision and ability to pick out a player so far away. If Mark Noble hits a forward pass to Andy Carroll over the same distance the inevitable “hoof” cries go up.
Also is a cross from the wing into a crowded penalty area count towards the long ball statistics or what about a defender running towards his own goal who decides to kick back to his own goalkeeper from virtually the half-way line ? The league certainly makes interesting reading and shows the top three places going to the three newly promoted sides. What makes this even more interesting about this is the reputation of the “West Ham way” along with the acclaim received by both Southampton and Reading regarding their outstanding displays throughout last season in the Championship.
What I really think is that unless you have the finances to buy the top players from Europe and beyond in the way that Man United, Man City, Chelsea and to a lesser degree Arsenal and Tottenham can, then the style of football played needs to be more varied. Many newly promoted sides have played superb football in the first half of the season (remember Blackpool) only to be sussed out by teams after a while. Their lack of top quality players meant that they were not able to change their style of play so it all ended with relegation.
Celtic proved there are more ways to skin a rabbit with an incredible performance in beating the mighty “tippy, tappy” Barcelona and dare I say Chelsea proved their ability to change tactics to beat both Barcelona and Bayern Munich in winning the Champions League even if it was less inspiring. The league table shows Everton in joint third, confirming Gerrard’s thoughts, with West Brom in 5th yet both of these teams are being praised for their performances resulting in their best starts to a season in many years.
I truly believe that Sam seems to have got things right most of the time and the displays against Fulham and QPR were hardly the results of hoofing the ball forward. Perhaps occasionally some assistance from a second striker like Maiga to benefit from some of the knock downs and flick ons from either Carroll or Cole would help but who am I to tell Sam what to do? I really believe that Sam knows best.