Sam Allardyce to drag England kicking and screaming into the 20th Century

“This is football from the 19th century. Pretending injuries; cheating… I don’t know if that’s the right word; the goalkeeper taking time not after minute 70 but in the first minute; 10 defenders in the box, defenders not putting a foot outside the box. All very basic.” – Jose Mourinho after Sam Allardyce’s West Ham held Chelsea to a scoreless draw, January 2014

Sam Allardyce is a dirty word among many supporters because whenever one of his teams come to town, you know you’re going to get a game.

There is nothing fussy about Allardycian football. His teams are drilled to sit deep, soak up pressure, and to stop play as soon as the opposition cross the halfway line. Allardyce has always been the manager of teams with smaller budgets and less technical players. Thus, Allardycian football seeks to negate the opposition’s technical advantage by denying them time on the ball through tactical and rotational fouling. And they limit the time the ball is in play through all of the classic time wasting techniques. “Get a restart” is possibly the best characterization of Allardycian football as I can remember, though sadly I don’t remember where I heard it.

In the attack, there is a similar straight ahead approach: use the space granted by the opposition to attack quickly, if fouled AWESOME because that means a set play, if not, attack in limited numbers with just one midfield runner, and be ready to fall back as soon as you lose the ball.

This tactic maximizes his team’s abilities of heart and athleticism while minimizing the opposition’s technical superiority. He takes smaller, less technical teams, and gets the most out of them. In that way he is the perfect manager for England — a team that is not nearly as talented as their supporters think.

The English national team has struggled to find an identity for a few years now. In the Euros, they were trying to play technical football, to control space in possession, but they often looked lost in attack and clearly lacked the midfield general (until Wilshere came on) to move the ball forward.

Worse, at the Euros players didn’t seem to know their role or which role best suited them. Nothing epitomized this more than the fact that Harry Kane was delivering free kicks instead of receiving them. One thing I can guarantee is that every player on Allardyce’s England will know their role and Harry Kane won’t be taking any corners.

The good news for England supporters is that Allardyce is a master of playing up to player’s strengths and is a great motivator as well. His England sides will give their all for the cause and I’m sure we will get that old “British Bulldog” spirit.

It might seem as if I’m criticizing or making fun of Allardyce but Allardyce has never had great talent at his disposal. And with the English national team he will have the entire country to pick from. He will simplify England’s approach, he will organize the attack and defense, and given the talent pool he can pick from, he will have the best players he has ever worked with.

I expect to see a very similar Allardycian team to all his others: frustrating to play against, sometimes boring, but with lightning counters and powerful set plays. It’s an easy style for his players to adopt, they have been playing that way their entire lives.

As much as some fans love to hate Sam Allardyce, his England side will probably play some of their best football.


Note: I am aware of some problems with comments being held in moderation. I really barely have time to write, much less monitor comments and keep building the site out. I’m doing my best at the moment. Hang in there.



  1. That Jose quote! Ha! I haven’t heard anything that hilariously hypocritical since last night at the RNC! 🙂 But seriously… I really like the way the post ended. As I was reading through it, I was wondering what Big Sam’s teams might have been like if he’d had better resources to work with. Guess we’ll find out.

  2. I can only hope for the sake of the English football public, Sam is an interim selection. The FA is heading straight in the direction most opposite to progress.

    Good Luck folks…

  3. Yeah I don’t think so. The reason it’s tactically advantageous for his teams to do that is lack of talent. He doesn’t have lack of talent in the national team. I expect him to play a different game than you anticipate.

  4. You could be right, Tim. My initial feeling was that this choice will backfire, largely because I doubt England’s players have much respect for him. Like Hodgson, Allardyce has accomplished pretty much nothing as a manager, and the excuse that this might be on account of never had the resources only begs the question (since, presumably, if he was a better manager, he might be in charge of a club with better resources).

    Having read your post, though, I’m second-guessing myself. I agree with you that playing park-the-bus, soak-up-the-pressure, counterattacking football is a system better suited to the English game (which, sadly, is perhaps one reason Arsenal will never win a title under Wenger, love him as I do), and therefore it’s players.

    This type of play is also better suited to international tournaments, as was so amply demonstrated during this summer’s Euros. On the other hand, it’s not typically better suited to qualification games, which will see England pitted against supposedly inferior teams and expected to play more expansively, and actively break down the opposition. And even in tournaments, they’ll be given lots of the ball by lesser teams. What do you WITHOUT the ball? Ask Allardyce. What do you do WITH the ball? Ask someone else.

    I realize that’s a bit reductive, because obviously Allardyce does know what to do with the ball (lump it forward in the hopes of winning a free kick), but hopefully my point comes across.

    1. He will rely on superior talent.

      Their qualifiers are against Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, and Scotland.

      Talent covers up a lot of flaws.

      Where he might stumble is in the group stage. Again, this is supposed to be a place where 0-0 draws don’t work and if they get a tough group, they could finish third.

      But for both, I expect him to do exactly what Portugal did: focus most of his time on set plays and scoring off set plays. He will get a set play specialist in to deliver crosses and live or die by set pieces.

      1. That means he will need to resurrect Kevin Cyril Davies to get on the end of those crosses.

        1. Nah. Davies wasn’t actually good in the air, he was just an irritant. Andy Carroll will probably play as well as Kane.

  5. After Brexit, England’s FA keeps the trend trying to negate globalization and go back to the ‘good old days’ by appointing a manager straight out of the 70’s. Seriously thats the best they could get?
    On the Arsenal front, i’m beginning to worry cause i’m starting to consider RVP and Balotelli as plausible options now that it appears we won’t spend much on a striker. Guess i’m getting desperate.

    1. Agreed. Although I didn’t like his approach against Arsenal in those days, with the benefit of hindsight I can grudgingly appreciate it.
      Thought the article rounded things up nicely – I think he will certainly make his mark on the squad and give it some much needed direction, even if it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

    2. Yeah loved is too strong a word but they were certainly expansive and entertaining when they wanted to be. And that Bolton side with Okocha, Campo and Anelka shows that he can manage talent. Allardyce is also more forward looking than people someone’s assume. I think it’s a good pick for the FA, especially given the alternatives that have been named.

  6. My major criticism of English players at the Euros was that spending all year training and playing with guys like Dembele, Ozil, and Mahrez has given some of them ideas above their station.

    Not gonna deny the impulse to laugh at Allardyce’s appointment, but it’s undeniably a smart move for *this* generation of players, as Tim explains so well.

  7. Going completely off topic but is it just me or is dortmund doing excellent transfer business this window ?

    1. Exactly. Dortmund get help from this stats too, looking at their recent recruitment and their dribble happy players.

      On that note, have seen that link Tim? What do you think of the Packing stats?

      1. I loved that article because it again explains why Özil is great but under appreciated by ALL the EPL pundits. I also liked that it gives insight into Wenger’s tactical mind with the Xhaka buy.

        The article points out why England failed and why Allardyce will be another failed coach because I don’t imagine he has the sophiticated knowledge to address the article’s criticism.

      2. Dude. That article is great. It explains everything about Wenger, Arsenal, Özil, and why England will continue to fail. Thanks for sharing.

  8. ” And with the English national team he will have an entire country of mediocre talents to pick from”.


  9. As a few people have mentioned already it probably makes some sense to go for the more practical style. The current group of players aren’t great so why pretend like they’re going to be playing expansive intricate football.

    Another thing I do find interesting is if it’s true that they went for Arsene first then it doesn’t really seem like they’ve any great overall vision or plan for the England team. Arsene and Allardyce are pretty far apart in style and philosophy.

    Man it’s sad that that a team as big as Portugal, with one of the two best players in the world, gets applauded for basically giving up and just playing percentage football. If it’s fine for a team like Portugal to just play like average journeymen then where does it stop? Pretty soon the Euros will consist of Germany trying to play actual football and every other team just accepting they’re not as good and setting out to not lose.

    1. France came to play but as is so often the case, they came to rue those missed chances.

  10. I recognise the “get a restart” cry from the Tuesday Club podcast hosted by Alan Davies.

    1. That was a pretty good finish by the way. Arsenal really needs him to step up this season

  11. “angering readers since 2008”. what prompted the change from “intelligent rationalism”?

  12. there’s a certain amount of pride that went into appointing an english manager. the bottom line is neither sam allardyce, nor any other englishman has the requisite pedigree to manage this team to anything other than mediocrity. regardless, pundits and other personnel in the english media lead a movement to get behind the manager and hold on to this false hope that england are a great football nation.

    despite the lack of pedigree, allardyce could have success if he maximizes the english talent. that, coupled with sticking to a sound plan and a lot of luck could see him go down as one of the greatest english managers. we’ll see.

  13. The fact is that England beat all 4 Euros semi-finalists in the last 12 months playing Arsenal-style possession football including Wales at the tournament itself. At the last two major tournaments they have achieved the same as Spain. The talent pool that Allardyce can select from is far greater than Coleman has available. Team cohesion and organisation can be improved but in a tournament of 6 games luck will inevitably play a part.

  14. I don’t want to start believing it yet, but there seems to be a bit of steam building up behind the possible transfer of Mahrez to Arsenal

  15. Excited to hear about Mahrez rumor today. Then depressed to hear there was nothing in it. Then read about Higuain joining Juventus, and United making an improved offer for Pogba.

    Arsenal always manage to do a spectacular job of signaling their ambitions.

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