Bowen's Bullet Diving Header & Pochettino Struggling

27th September 2023

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So West Ham left Anfield at the weekend with zero points, which has been a familiar story for the Hammers throughout the years. It was praise for Darwin Nunez who put the Reds in front and Diogo Jota got on the score sheet again despite it being a scrappy goal. It was an important goal as at 3-1 it settled the game. Jurgen Klopp has smiled more in the last six weeks than he did in the last six months and all seems well at Liverpool. But let's focus on the losing team and their first goal- step up Jarrod Bowen. 

Bowen's goal was a beauty to put it into simple terms, and it was also a rarity with a brilliant diving header. The art of the diving header seems to be dying out. Diving headers used to be fairly frequent especially in the 1970s, 80s and 90s but for the past 15 years they have really tailed off. Headers in general over the past five seasons have died off too with roughly only 15% of goals in the Premier League coming by the head. So why is this? Why aren't we seeing enough amazing diving headers anymore? One reason could be that overall tactics have changed if the manager is not prioritising crosses into the box that would be an obvious problem. There is also the possession game and if you're good enough or playing poorer sides you may opt for the possession game crowding out midfield more, so less crosses there. The offside rule coupled with VAR reviews probably have put players off, a brilliant looking diving header could end up being offside as you extend your body out at the last minute. But what must also be putting players off is their health and safety. While diving headers look beautiful a boot to the face can be the outcome and there has rightly been investigations into head injuries. It is good to note that in England head injuries are taken seriously and even what appears to be the most insignificant head injury is treated as serious meaning that a player would definitely miss the next game.

All of that aside we can also blame the player for another reason. Let's face it, a diving header is a technique, and it's a harder one. Time and again we have seen the ball set up well for a diving bullet header and instead the player has opted to stick his foot out. It can be quite boring if that prod of the foot doesn't end up being a goal. However with a diving header even if it doesn't result in a goal it still looks impressive. Of course goals are all important not witnessing missing diving headers, but there is a uniqueness to the art of a diving header. It is sadly missed and one has to wonder if the diving header is nearly an extinct art because of how players have been trained in the modern age. A diving header doesn't evoke a multi-millionaire footballer with Ferrari's in the garage, a diving header evokes a player who will give everything to the side and try to score a wild goal just like he was on the school football pitch. Some diving headers feel like they are travelling at a thousand miles an hour and some are directed so well by an angle of the ball that the ball feels like it is travelling in slow motion before nestling into the goal net. So yes Bowen scored a goal at the weekend and his team didn't even win but it should be celebrated and it evoked golden memories of Jurgen Klinsmann, Keith Houchen (in the 1987 FA Cup final) and Marco Van Basten, so thank you Jarrod.

Mauricio Pochettino is valued highly in England after he turned around the fortunes of Southampton and led Tottenham to a Champions League final. Tottenham also played some of their best football under him in a generation. Now he is back in the Premier League at Chelsea and has got off to a nightmare start as after six games the Blues lie in 14th place, have won just once and are 13 points behind league leaders Manchester City. Pochettino of course shouldn't be judged just yet he is working with so many new players and those players are finding their feet with different set ups, different tactics and a whole load of newer players who were signed this summer. Chelsea have taken that gamble and signed many youngsters with the potential to be world stars which does remind you of what Arsene Wenger tried to do at Arsenal. As we know this worked well in Wenger's first 10 years with the club but spiralled out of control in his last ten. 

It has come to light this week that Pochettino has adapted man-management confidence training with certain players. This is that after the official training is over he picks out one player to stay behind and work with them. On reflection there seems little wrong with this but was it the best option for Pochettino to go public with this to the media? The latest player to be called in after training is Mykhalio Mudryk, the Ukrainian was born when perhaps the greatest Ukrainian player of all time, Andriy Shevchenko was a star at AC Milan and Mudryk signed for the Blues for £60m at the beginning of the year (this is set to rise to £88m with add ons). Mudryk looks like one of the fastest players currently playing football but it is true that he has so far been a letdown. As a winger perhaps he isn't expected to score goals but he has zero for Chelsea after 22 games. He isn't assisting either and the fact is if you take away his pace he has been a real disappointment. Step in Pochettino who has invented a game where he plays against the player by trying to hit the crossbar from outside the area. So far apart from one draw Pochettino has won every contest to the point where Mudryk has confessed this is affecting his confidence and he doesn't want to play this game anymore. This story feels quite cringeworthy and Pochettino's tactics smack of Glenn Hoddle's final days as England manager. Chelsea are a circus on the pitch and it feels like that may be extended to the training pitch too as Pochettino clearly under stress tries to find a solution to the Blues problems. Football management isn't an easy job and Pochettino will have to come up with answers soon, and in this world it will have to be very soon.

Chelsea are currently 201.00 to win the Premier League which is astounding and certainly wasn't in the script when Todd Boehly spent £400m over the summer. But even a top 4 finish can be had at 7.00. While nobody would believe that Chelsea could be relegated this season their odds to do so are shorter than to win the league at 151.00. The Blues not to win a major trophy this season could be the best choice but they are 1.20 to do so, but if you could make that into a double or treble that could end up being a decent accumulator.

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