Glenn Hoddle column: Arsenal and Liverpool woes, England squad, Bruno Fernandes vs ‘Big Six’ and top four race

Glenn Hoddle
·8-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

From the upcoming England squad to the race for the top four, here Standard Sport’s columnist Glenn Hoddle answers your questions and picks out the player he will be watching closely this week.

Jay asks

Arsenal keep making mistakes every game - even senior players. Is that something Arteta can ever coach out of them, or is it just down to talent?

"No, I think it's a bit of both. I think you cannot coach it out of them, but you've got to make teams aware of where you're going over the line; when is there a risk where it becomes threatening to your goal.

"I think that's where modern-day football - and it's great to play on the pitches and have the system and play out from the back, the new rule about the ball not having to come out of the box for goal kicks, and playing out from the back - that's fine, that's great, it can bring on the game.

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Getty Images

"But there's so many clubs, not just Arsenal, there comes a time when when is it a real, a real genuine risk of your own goal being at threat? I've seen loads of goals this year being given away, goalkeepers trying to pass balls out from the back, Alisson's done it for Liverpool, [John] Ruddy did it for Wolves, Arsenal [against] Burnley... there's nothing wrong in playing the ball long at times when it has to go long.

"You cannot coach it out of them, but you can make them aware that they're going over the line. You do that in training maybe or with videos. You say 'look, we got away with it but I don't want us playing in those circumstances, it's too risky, we will come unstuck,a dn it'll be a big game possibly'.

"That's what you do, that's where you work at it. You can't say 'ABC, that's exactly that' because things change on a pitch in split seconds, but that becomes part of the ethos of how you play. Are you going to play from the back, or are you not going to take those risks? I see teams at the bottom of the League still trying to do it, and they overdo it, and that fascinates me - don't give your opposition an opportunity."

Jon asks

Where has it all gone wrong for Liverpool? Can Klopp blame six home defeats in a row on injuries?

"No. Yes, there's been 19 different combinations of centre-backs which is a problem. Any club would have that as a major problem because it's a very important part of the pitch, but you cannot lean on that. He's had enough time - I'm looking at Klopp thinking 'hang on a minute, go with something a bit different’. You're going to have to try and play a little bit different, maybe change the shape a little bit, but they're just playing the same way Liverpool have played the last two or three seasons but with lesser players.

"Not because it's their fault, but these younger players are not ready. These players are not real centre-backs, it's not their fault, it's just the process of where they are as pros. In years to come, some of them will be excellent centre-backs I'm sure, but he's thinking 'let's just play the same way as we played with the success.' Sure, when everyone's fit that's going to work, but not at the moment.

POOL/AFP via Getty Images
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

"The other thing is slightly, just slightly, it's human nature and that's what happens when you've got the pride inside you that you just want to get the best out of yourself every training session, let alone every match. They've slipped off, they're not playing as if it's the last game they're ever going to play on this planet, and that's the attitude you've got to have sometimes if you're going to be a successful footballer and then a successful team.

"They've been successful, of course they have, they've been brilliant, but I see a team taking a few liberties here and there, I see a team playing a little bit too expansive. This was early on in the season, even before they had the injuries. Get back to the attitude of 'how would I play if this was my last game on this planet, if the world was going to stop the next day?'. That's the attitude you have to have and I'm sure they will elevate their performance. It's not just down to the injuries, there's a few reasons why and for what they've got to do to get back on the horse."

Lisa asks

Who'd you like to see given a chance for England this month that maybe hasn't had one so far?

"Sam Johnstone. I like him - he's been an excellent goalkeeper. [Dean] Henderson has done well, if he gets more games obviously at United he's going to be pushing. [Jordan] Pickford - lately he's had more solid games.

“There's also a few strikers out there doing well. I think the lad at Villa, [Ollie] Watkins, is worth having a little look at, I really do.

"I think he deserves it the way he's been playing. You can never have enough good centre-forwards in and around a squad just in case you get injuries and things change.

"Off the top of my head, those two goalkeepers and Watkins."

POOL/AFP via Getty Images
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Ant asks

Bruno Fernandes defended his 'Bix Six' record before the City game. How did you personally feel playing against other 'big' teams?

"I think that was the question mark about him. In the (derby) he got off to a great start for his confidence, he's put the penalty in first thing, and played a real good team game.

"He defended well, got back into positions, there were other players better than him for Manchester United but he did a decent job, he wasn't outstanding, but he kept the ball for his team and without him, United wouldn't be in the position that they're in at this moment in time.

"He's dragged them along to this position. Today, hopefully for him, that will break the sequence because he hasn't managed to do it against the top teams at this moment in time."

Danny asks

If you had to pick a top four right now (with Man City champions) who gets in?

"That is so difficult, if I knew that I'd be down [the bookies]! It's a good question but I don't think it's one that any pundit could answer or any manager - I don't think any manager of those teams could give a really solid answer.

"I think United are putting themselves in the position that they are gonna have to trip themselves up and it doesn't look like they're gonna do that - not with that away record, so they're putting themselves in position.

"Leicester are still inconsistent, they've had injury problems and got away with a late extra two points against Brighton.

"I think West Ham is a real interesting one. Can they continue this run? They've got a nice balance between attacking football and defending well, they can defend really solidly but they can also break out. Since [Jesse] Lingard's gone there he's doing great, he's given them another dimension. [Said] Benrahma, they've got some offensive players - if they keep [Michail] Antonio fit, they could actually sneak in there.

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Getty Images

"Everton, maybe Everton might just be a little bit too inconsistent, I think Tottenham might just be a little bit inconsistent. Chelsea look very solid at the moment, they look as if they could get into that top four.

"There's so many clubs, and I think that's going to be the most exciting part of the Premier League this year. I think Fulham might be quite exciting to see whether they can get out.

"Those two places, third and fourth place, is going to be an absolute bunfight, it'll go to the wire. There's games in hand people have got at the moment, if they win them the complexion of the top four will be completely different in three weeks' time, so it's a fascinating finish."

My player to watch this week is...

"Gareth Bale on the Thursday night against Zagreb. He's started to play well, came off against Fulham but that was tactical. I think he'll start, I hope he starts, I want to see him continue against stiffer European competition.

“I think for Tottenham's future and his future it's the little run of better form that he's had, if he can continue that, it's got to be great for him and great for Tottenham."

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