Interview with former Ipswich and England striker, Paul Mariner


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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Ruining English Football! – Part 1

This article is slightly different, its not a guide or a save, but an experiment. I’ve done this a few times and had varying success but I’m trying it again this year. The basis of the experiment is:

  • Every team in the Premier League and Championship is given a 50 year transfer embargo
  • I will view do progress updates at 10/25/50 years
  • I will look at the English Leagues, National team, European Competitions and then any other big news in the world.
  • I will make the save playable from every point I do an article for.

So after the first season, here are the standings from the top 4 leagues:

1st Season

Notice Sunderland getting relegated, and the 3 teams that got promoted from League 1!

Also in the first season:

  • Arsenal won the Europa League
  • Liverpool and Chelsea won the FA Cup and Carabao Cup respectively

Now lets do a little simulating… and see whats changed!

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Accounting for Arsene: Does Arsenal’s Fall From Grace Hurt Their Bottom Line?

Arsenal are at risk of missing the Champions League for a second season in a row. For Arsenal fans it feels like a punch to the gut and a worry for the future. For neutral fans it allows the banter to continue and a deviation from the norm we have seen for over a decade. For an accounting major like myself, I wonder what the ramifications are on Arsenal as a business. Is a deviation from millions of dollars guaranteed each season something that will hurt Arsenal?

Public companies are required to have annual reports with audited financial statements presented to shareholders. Arsenal are publicly traded but unlike Manchester United, their share price is astronomical (over $21,000 per share) and it is advised by the club itself  to not purchase shares to make a profit. Despite its oddities as a public (I would argue it is a semi-public company with a high share price and only 4% not owned by a select few people) company, it still has shareholders and therefore an annual report, where nerds like me can look at their financials!


Their latest financial data from their 2017 annual report showed revenue of over $590 million. That includes payments made from participating the Champions League last season (and crashing out in the Round of 16) of around $76 million. In the Europa League this season, they could make around $15-50 million, possibly more, depending on where they finish in that competition. Expenses for Arsenal were around $520 million. So, 590 minus 520 leaves Arsenal with a “profit” of around $70 million. The difference between Champions League income and Europa League income could be anywhere between $30 to $60 million, leaving Arsenal still with a profit, if all other expenses and revenues unrelated to participating in the Champions League/Europa League are similar.

One source of revenue negates all of that: the broadcasting revenue from participating in the Premier League. That number will rise for Arsenal around $80 million year-over-year, an addition to the already astronomical amount Premier League clubs receive from these broadcasting deals. That basically negates the loss of Champions League football. Not to mention, as cynical as it sounds, Arsenal save money by not having to pay bonuses for Champions League qualification. If you play Football Manager, you sometimes notice a clause in players contracts that qualifying for a continental competition, in this case the Champions League, allows them to awarded a bonus. Arsenal dodged having to pay that last season, and likely will avoid paying that this season.

Not to mention, Arsenal have cash, and low debt. Arsenal boast around $145 million in cash and cash equivalents on hand. In their May 2017 financial report, they mention that the club has previously fully self-insured against a season without Champions League football. The idea that they could miss out on two or more seasons of Champions League football will truly test if their “insurance” is built to last. It is important to note that the $145 million of cash does not include  cash “designated as debt service reserves.” This means that before Arsenal begin to burn through their cash (if they don’t spend that much on players), then that cash amount will not decrease until their “debt service reserves” are depleted. As of now, and according to my analysis in this article, Arsenal are turning a profit for the foreseeable future, meaning their debt will have no need to be serviced since there is no debt. Please note that player transfer fees are amortized

This article does not take into account things such as lower game attendance, higher player wages, and loss of merchandising revenue as well as other long-term factors of missing the Champions League can affect. When it comes to merchandising it appears possible marginal loss of revenue as a result of a lack of success is completely negated by Arsenal dominating emerging markets. Places where economies are growing: Asia, Africa, India, and so on are being dominated by many big teams. Out of that will come sponsors, supporters, and more broadcasting deals. Arsenal apparently do well in Africa especially in Nigeria, although I don’t have data to support that, it is simply anecdotal.

It appears mega-deals from broadcasting and globalism means that Arsenal, the world’s 5th richest club according to Forbes, are “too big to fail.” Lack of success doesn’t mean that Arsenal will struggle financially. Hell, Arsenal will likely continue to turn a profit and allow Wenger to use his often-mentioned “war chest.”

Mason’s Comeback – FM18 #1


Mason Bradshaw (far right) started his management career at just 24

Mason Bradshaw shocked the world last year when he announced at just the tender age of 24, he was to start managing – and he proved the critics wrong by managing in Scottish Ladbrokes League 2 as Stirling boss (although he did only last 10 games) before finishing his career at Ards, before retiring from management due to personal circumstances, since being revealed due to his fiancee being pregnant with twins… now Mason is back!

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The Relationship Between Ball-Winning Midfielders and Trequartista’s


Not many publicly available tactics include trequartista’s. It could be an issue of relatability, as they aren’t commonly used in English football. It also doesn’t help that their most notable trait, in the in-game role description, is their lack of tracking back. It all culminates in the idea of a ‘luxury’ player, who uses his intrinsic skill to do what he wants, and when he feels like it; this eschews everything about English footballing traditions, where the sign of everyone tracking back and running is often enough for commentators to conclude that the manager is doing their job.

Is this a fair summary of their role? No, not at all.  Unless you’re from the school of thought that believes that tackles are the only plausible demonstration of ‘true’ commitment.

Trequartista description.png

Their similarities to an advanced playmaker are crucial, as the latter role is commonly used among FM players. They’re expected to penetrate the gap between the opposition’s midfield and defence. To do this, they stand in a more advanced position than other midfielders, assigned by their instruction to roam from position, and thread through more risky passes when they receive the ball. If they have an attack duty, they also ‘dribble more’, which can exacerbate opposition players’ dilemma of whether to close them down and leave space behind, or wait for them to drive forward and execute their plan. In other words, advanced playmakers are primarily creative players; every action they take on the ball is directly designed to either set up an attacking move, or unsettle the opposition’s defensive shape.

Trequartista’s are similar, except their movements off the ball are also designed for the same purpose. The benefits of this ploy are not restricted to when the team attack.

Everton v Roma.pngThis screenshot is a prime example of how trequartista’s movements into channels affect opposition defenders. Even with five Roma defenders facing three Everton attackers, they’re all so far behind the midfielders and in a heavily constricted shape. As the Everton attackers are solely designed to be effective out-balls and exploit gaps in Roma’s defence, they take up the entirety of the defenders’ attention. This causes the midfield three to drop off Everton’s midfield, and Everton’s full-backs to have a superlative amount of space to roam forward. If the trequartista’s vacated these positions off the ball to press, then Roma players may have felt incentivised to take more risks going forward, knowing that the same persistent threats might not have been in position and ready to pounce on any lapse.

As someone who sets up and engineers attacking moves on the ball, and creates space for the team off it, a trequartista can thrive in many systems, provided the team is built around his speciality. The role description itself says: “The rest of the team need to carry him when defending, but use him as the main outlet when attacking”. For the team to win the ball back, and create space in an attacking sense, the trequartista needs players that do a lot of closing down around him. Furthermore, he’s likely to need more attacking support than someone like a target man or false nine would. Unless you have a human demigod on steroids, a trequartista as a lone forward in a defensive formation seems unlikely to work, because he will have little ammunition to create breakaways himself. After all, his role is not to hold the ball up. Also, the opposition are likely to be able to intercept the ball before it reaches him. In the right system, however, trequartista’s can almost single-handedly spring the team up the pitch, by roaming around every hole in the opposition defence.

Ball-winning midfielders.pngThis is where ball-winning midfielders come in. Everyone knows what they do: kick a football. Along with having lungs, legs and a brain of course. Saying ‘win the ball’ is too easy. As they have ‘close down much more’ and ‘tackle harder’ on their player instructions, ball-winning midfielders seem to be the antithesis to trequartista’s, in that they do the much-needed leg work. While that admittedly explains the main aspect of their usefulness, at its absolute essence, it doesn’t begin to demonstrate their full impact.

Because ball-winning midfielders have one core function, like trequartista’s, they can be flexible with their positioning and fill in where needed. On the ball, they’re utility players who simply support attacks and are ready to pounce when the ball is lost, when they’re on a ‘support’ duty. Ball-winning midfielders are likely to stay near attackers, while also maintaining their defensive purpose.

Everton v Man utd.pngIn this screenshot, Manchester United had just won the ball. This means the three Everton trequartista’s were not yet in position to discourage their opponents from breaking forward. However, the quick, aggressive counter-press here prevented Isco from being able to manoeuvre the ball into space and forced Manchester United’s three central midfielders to spread out in deep positions. Ball-winning midfielders often prevent the back four being engaged on counter-attacks; this removes potential glaring gaps for the opposition to exploit, and a probable goal-scoring opportunity if the engaged defender’s challenge fails. While my sweeper keeper and ball-playing defenders play the ball out of the back, and my wing-backs roam forward, the ball-winning midfielders shuffle everywhere to stop them being exposed in quick breakaways. In other words, they make the transition between attack and defence relatively seamless, which is so fundamental in a possession-based tactic.

Here’s how that move ended up nine seconds later:

Everton v Man utd 9 secs later.pngWith the trequartista’s back in position, Manchester United’s defenders were hesitant to roam forward. As the ball-winning midfielders would not allow Isco or his midfield partners to rest in possession, while also ensuring centre-backs Mammana and Keane could hold their positions, Isco could only embark on a desperate run out wide and win a throw-in. In that screenshot, it’s notable how all three ball-winning midfielders are occupying Everton’s right-hand side so aggressively, allowing a lot of space for cross-field balls. Ultimately, provided that the back four are in position off the ball within a few seconds of the ball being lost, that’s a risk worth taking, because the ball needs to be won quickly and consistently for the opposition to be threatened by the presence of the trequartista’s. Put simply, by not having set positional and attacking duties, the ball-winning midfielders ensure my midfield cannot be bypassed by the counter-attacking team at any time in this tactic. Although it wouldn’t work without the three trequartista’s for attacking support, or a similar substitute.

When building tactics, it’s often crucial to consider the relationship between creators and facilitators. Would a midfield playmaker under Pep Guardiola work as effectively without the selfless runs of the false nine’s, floating wide players, or inverted wing-backs? If every part of the team has a completely distinct role designed only for their area of the pitch, which isn’t part of a collective purpose, then few players are likely to be able to use their particular skill to its full potential. Roles such as the trequartista can be invaluable, but their unique attacking and defensive instructions could be incongruent with the team’s tactics if they aren’t accompanied by facilitators in an attacking and defensive sense.

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Millwall vs Sunderland :A match review

I had been looking forward to this match all season, for years when you said the words ‘I’m going to The Den this week’ would strike fear into every parent and anyone who knew what Millwall were like. Known for their hooliganism and violent fans, they had a and still have a reputation in the football league. Fortunately they’re q shadow of their former selves  they’re not longer what they once were. Instead they were last known for sticking the v’s up at Leicester fans in the FA cup last season.


Obviously had been watching too many Danny Dyer dvds

I’m particularly scathing of Millwall because I was expecting a good, hostile atmosphere. Instead I got a half empty stadium (Yes I know it’s ironic I a Sunderland fan talk about half empty stadiums) and angry teenagers in Stone island gear waving rude gestures towards us. Pretty much pantomime stuff really, very disappointed. However the 2000 odd away support were loud as ever, on a cold, snowy Saturday with delays everywhere up and down the country I thought it was outstanding


Singing from Kick off all the way to the end, the away following is one of the few things left to praise about Sunderland currently.

Anyway as the team news was announced, everyone was questioning why Steele was playing, mind you all 3 of our goalkeepers are absolutely awful so it’s basically try and pick the best of the worst really. Still though, I thought Steele was the worst keeper we had



Sunderland started off kind of nervously I think, Millwall were comfortable with the ball, but as the first half went on, we saw more and more of the ball. Managed to win a couple of corners  On the 31st minute, a nice one two from Oviedo to Mcgeady on the edge of the box. Oviedo took the shot. Goal! Limbs everywhere in the away end. The home fans didn’t like this and proceeded to boo.


Sunderland have scored a goal away!! 


At half time, I was counting in my head how many points we’d need to stop up now. Yes I was probably getting overexcited, but I was trying to stay positive.

The second half we played awfully, we kept sitting back and eventually the inevitable happened. Couldn’t clear a Millwall corner properly, Hutchinson tapped it in and scored. Millwall fans instead of celebrating charged towards the ends of the stands to wave more rude gestures towards the Sunderland fans


After that we didn’t really threaten Millwall at all, Steele had an amazing game, and made quite a few important saves. However Sunderland are down. Our defence has cost us 6 points in two weeks (technically 9 if you include the Villa match from Tuseday ). We cannot be playing for a draw any longer. We need to go out and aim for 3 points. We’re 4 points behind (5 if you include goal difference ) Barnsley and I can’t see where our next win is going to come from.

I’d be happy with a draw if we were comfortably safe, but we’re not. We’re on the verge of league one football next season. It’s the beginning of the end