Interview with former Ipswich and England striker, Paul Mariner

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Paul Mariner is one of the finest strikers to ever play for Ipswich Town, scoring 96 goals in 260 appearances, winning the FA Cup and UEFA Cup in the process. Paul also played for the England national team 35 times, scoring 13 goals. In his professional career spanning for over 20 years, Paul made 555 appearances for Plymouth, Ipswich, Arsenal, Portsmouth and various teams in America and Australia, scoring 179 career goals. He was part of the greatest era under Sir Bobby Robson and brought major success to the Suffolk side before moving to the capital to play for Arsenal. He later went into management with Plymouth and MLS side Toronto FC. Dictate the Game were fortunate enough to interview Paul. we asked him about his time in Ipswich, his managerial career and if he had any regrets in his career.
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My Top 10 Football Bucket List

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Football has provided us with some amazing memories, from the infamous “AGUEROOOOOOO!!!!” in 2012 to “The fans are on the pitch, they think it’s all over…it is now!” in the 1966 World Cup Final, but it has also provided us with some amazing stadiums from Wembley Stadium to Emirates Stadium in England to Camp Nou to the Bernabeu in Spain.

Here are the top 10 from my Football Bucket List, in no particular order.

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Lets head to South America – Venezuala

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Do I have time?

Taking charge of a club that is already two thirds through the season is always a challenge, it’s even worse when said club are bottom of the table. I never had that worry though, with manager José Nabor Gavidia heading to Fortaleza, he left the side in an incredibly promising position.

I’ve taken over Estudiantes De Merida while they sit top of the Venezualan Copa Tracki, after winning the opening stage of the season, with only one game left of the closing stage, it puts us in good stead to finish top once more. Securing a 3rd place finish has meant we qualified for the 2018 Copa Libertadores.

I don’t officially take charge until the start of the 2018 season but I’m working with the players and the club to establish a relationship with the squad ready for next year.  We lose several players during the off season but due to the clubs continental qualification, options should come flying at us.

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A Revitalised Ipswich?

Last season was a disaster for Ipswich Town Football Club. They finished in their lowest league position since the late 50’s. The fans had enough of both owner Marcus Evans, and manager Mick McCarthy. Many were expecting manager McCarthy to walk at the end of the season, but this didn’t happen. And he lead them into the 2017-18 season, where things are actually going okay at the moment….

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Burton vs Sunderland: A match review

 

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Sunderland fans in fine voice

The fixture doesn’t sound exciting on paper, but this game was huge for both sides, I’d say especially big for Sunderland who haven’t won a league game since the beginning of August, Sunderland had to win this, we couldn’t do with a draw and we certainly couldn’t lose. 1600 Sunderland fans travelled down to Burton, thanks to my trains being delayed multiple times I arrived a couple of minutes before kick-off.

I managed to get a spot available at the front of the stand, I was especially looking forward to Burton because it’s one of the few grounds left with terracing in league football. The away end was very loud, and I think without sounding arrogant we felt like we were going to win that day, it was just a matter of when we would score.

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Sunderland looking for the opener!

The first half was pretty poor  and forgettable by both teams, Sunderland almost scored with Grabban taking a shot which was saved by Burtons keeper Stephen Bywater. Burtons probably best chance of the game came to Marvin Sordell who fired wide. The majority of Sunderland fans were happy with the performance so far but knew we needed to win.

 

Second half Sunderland were the far better team, and the away fans knew it and sensed it was a matter of time before we’d score, the second half was very eventful even without talking about the football, within 15 minutes it had gone from drizzling to sleet to snowing! Coleman decided to make 3 very important changes with Mcgeady, McManaman and Mcnair all going off for Vaughan, Gibson and Asoro. Gibson really has improved so far under Coleman, early days but if he continues with these performances a lot of Sunderland fans will forget about his drunken comments and many terrible performances under Moyes and Grayson. 85th minute Sundeland get a corner, a poor clearance led to Cattermole flicking it to Vaughan who slot it past Bywater, cue bedlam in the away end, limbs everywhere as they like to say, just pure mayhem, we were cold and wet but we didn’t care, Sunderland had taken the lead!

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Honeyman celebrating the 2nd goal

 

Three minutes later, a brilliant run from Asoro dribbled into the box and crossed to Honeyman, who tapped it home, cue more limbs as Sunderland surely had surely won their 2nd game of the season. The celebration this time was more relief than anything, still though some Sunderland fans were tense and nervous, they’d seen Sunderland slip before and they could do a ‘sunderland’ and implode with minutes to go. After a few minutes extra time, the ref blew his whistle, Sunderland had won! Chris Coleman came onto the pitch, pumping his fists in the air, gesturing and yelling to the Sunderland fans to roar his team off, which they did do.

 

It’s going to be a long season and as of writing Coleman has won one and lost two, the Reading match was very poor, and I hope we play far better against Wolves, we need to beat fulham, I think we can count the Wolves game out as an  probable lost.

On the Burton performance however I think we played like a good, poor Championship team, we need to continue playing like that if we’re going to stand a chance of stopping up, I’d also suggest to our owner to get his wallet out for the window, I trust Coleman alot but he’s not a miracle worker, he can only do so much with this team, give him funds and I think we’ll stop up, if not, I can see it being dark days for Sunderland, and I fear we could be relegated a long time before the season ends.

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Coleman celebrating his first victory as Sunderland manager

 

My FM18 Journey Part 2

So after the last post, we’ve finish pre-season and started the season. The rest of pre-season was fairly straight forward and I wanted to crack on and get into some real fixtures. Here are the remaining results and the goalscorers in all the games:

Pre-Season

Regarding transfer activity there was little; we managed to bring in a new striker Hassan, and also Henrik Bjørdal and Ben Hall went to Aberdeen and Hamilton respectively on loan.

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How My Teams Keep Clean Sheets

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In wider football, there seems to be a conception that players and teams are less able to defend than in previous eras. “Defending is a dying art” according to Sean Dyche, who added: “You can ask coaches across the country, the one thing they are struggling for is defenders who can defend and want to defend.” His has not been a lone voice.

The pertinent distinction is between those who can defend and those who want to, because traditional defending is not seen to be as synonymous with clean sheets as it was previously. Recently, 28-year old Hoffenheim manager Julian Nagelsmann remarked that he is “not too keen on tackles”, before elaborating that he prefers “pressuring the opponent into a mistake, that we cut off his angles so that he makes a mistake when he tries to find a team-mate with a difficult pass”. There is a lot more to defending than making tackles, winning duels and heroic saving blocks in the penalty box; defending is about the team’s overall behaviour and structure on and off the ball.

ygfddGoing to my Everton save, the on the ball aspect should be emphasised. They average by far the most possession in the league, 60.67%, over 5% above the next contender, Chelsea. They also have the highest pass completion ratio, passes completed, fouls against and, perhaps surprisingly, the joint lowest dribbles per game. I make constant tactical iterations depending on in-game patterns and general musings, but establishing control in the centre of the pitch by recycling the ball is a long-term strategy, as opposed to just a tactic.

If defending is about keeping a shape, attacking must be about disrupting it. And what better way to do that than catching a team in possession, when they are transitioning to attack, and out of their defensive positions? To minimise the chances of that happening, you can either take the Tony Pulis approach of making your team highly structured, never allowing players to roam from their positions and putting all the onus on the opposition to break you down, or maintain a more fluid shape but take extra care not to lose the ball until you’re in a position to press as a unit. Yeah, this sounds simplistic, but implementing it has many more nuances. The former must be excruciating to play against when implemented well and can be extraordinarily efficient when you have a go-to way of scoring, such as set pieces. However, it can also fall apart with one lapse of concentration, which must be exhausting for players to avoid when they are doing all the running without the ball. It is physically and mentally draining, and can leave the team chasing shadows for ninety minutes when this catch-all strategy is not producing that one necessary outlet or set piece.

The need to avoid being caught when transitioning from defence to attack, while maintaining a healthy long-term playing style, is precisely why I do something very uncommon: use players in standard roles with no individual instructions. Screenshots of my three tactics, as of now, are below.

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While I sometimes experiment with duties, the standard roles with no added player instructions are rarely deviated from. Building around the alchemy of the team rather than individuals, while having relatively consistent line-ups and tactics, creates a synergy between the team’s parts. A collective understanding of what teammates are going to do with and without the ball. To me, this aspect of communication dictates a player’s reaction to their teammates’ action, which is far more important than what that action actually is. It is no surprise that I change team and set piece instructions more than anything else, as they are merely short-term tactical components of a long-term strategy.

With this framework in place, I specifically base my defensive approach on balancing the need to disrupt the opposition’s build-up with stopping them scoring.

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hyA team’s mentality is essentially how risk-averse they are. This explains why Everton become more cautious in their tempo, width and passing directness on the ball, along with their defensive line and closing down off the ball, in line with their mentality becoming more defensive. On the ball, I let them take some risks in their passing directness and tempo on the controlling tactic, because each player is likely to know where their teammates are and what they are going to do. More than likely, the opposition won’t disrupt our build-up until the final third if they’re a weaker opponent sitting back, and if they do the opposite, we are likely to create chances in the spaces they vacate. By not asking the team to exploit an area of the pitch, pass unexpectedly into space, run with the ball, or create overlaps or underlaps, they are unlikely to become systematically imbalanced through players vacating their positions or performing unnecessary actions. The tactic allows them to be more expressive and roam from positions, but that’s only meant to be utilised on a case-by-case basis.

Off the ball, the instructions emphasise closing down, because my objective is for the team to regain the ball as soon as they lose it. They’re relatively risk-averse on the ball so that they’re in position to recover it. The other instructions are there in case the initial press doesn’t work; they can stay tight and foul their opponents rather than letting them get past. My defensive line is relatively deep for two reasons: to account for the different types of strikers Everton will play against, and to counter-act the offside trap being there. Everton don’t play with strikers, mainly because there is no standard role for them, and in the past my teams’ moves have often broken down between midfield and attack. That said, strikers stretch defences and give the team an edge of unpredictability. Although the offside trap itself might be unnecessary considering how deep the defensive line is, I always play Football Manager as if I am giving the team these instructions in real life. Without that addition, they might take tight marking too literally! Furthermore, while width only affects your shape on the ball, I avoid stretching my team to avoid the repercussions of losing the ball in isolated areas.

Obviously, there are multiple ways to keep clean sheets and achieve similar objectives. Some managers focus on player instructions and keep team instructions to a minimum. To some extent, understanding those player instructions and how they interact with each other involves a level of complexity that I haven’t fully understood. On the other hand, team instructions are more overarching and it is almost impossible to have a defined way of playing without using them. Similar difficulties are faced when trying to prevent team and player instructions overlapping and conflicting. I let players express themselves and roam from their positions so that their natural moves can be accommodated in some way without pigeonholing their overall game or over-complicating the tactic!

The most important things to take from the article are the objectives of defending, along with the importance of team communication and synergy. Getting the latter two right will generally make your team more coherent and risk-averse regardless of your tactics or strategy. Often, however applied, simplicity can connote a great awareness of how complicated each element of the game is; every tactical change will have many indirect consequences and spill over effects.

The Life of Dario IV

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I – What happened next?

We’ve spent the past few days analyzing the past 6 games and trying to determine the successes and the negatives, the defensive coach, Seb Button, has spent a long time strategically working plans for each defensive player but not all of them seem to be paying to much attention. The opening game was a huge success, but the players need to understand that this is a very tough, very strong league & we won’t win every game, but we will throw everything we can at our opponents to try.

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