Gary Neville

Gary Neville’s Managerial Career is Fascinating for the Neutral

Ears were pricked in England when footballer-turned-pundit Gary Neville was announced as the new manager of Valencia in early December and the ex-Manchester United right-back has certainly got people talking – although not particularly in a good way.

The appointment of Neville by the Spanish giants was an intriguing one considering the reputation Neville had earned for his analysis on Sky Sports’ flagship Monday Night Football show in which he dissected the weekend’s football with on-the-pitch adversary but off-the-pitch friend Jamie Carragher. Could he live up to the hype? Had Sky Sports produced the next big thing in management? Had a future England manager been found?

So far, the answer is an unequivocal ‘no’. The current England coach has guided his first club to a grand total of zero wins from his first eight league games, suffered defeat at home to Lyon which resulted in Los Che exiting the Champions League at the group stages and in his most recent game, Barcelona annihilated the 2004 La Liga champions 7-0 at the Nou Camp in the Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg.

Twitter was awash with criticism for Neville, citing that punditry is a lot easier than being a manager, which alluded to a Jose Mourinho quote when Neville was initially unveiled as the Valencia boss.

“On the bench, you cannot stop the video, touch the screen and make movements happen.”

Neville’s standing as a pundit is expected to take a hit as a result of his poor start to life in management with the fickle nature of the football fan quick to jump on his failings, but the reality is that Neville was and is the finest footballing mind that we have had on T.V for a long while, possibly ever.

Having only retired in 2011, Neville’s inputs are fresh and genuinely insightful and this should not be forgotten purely because he has as yet failed to practice what he preaches. Film reviewer Mark Kermode cannot act and X Factor judge Simon Cowell cannot sing. Neville could play and pundit, and his managerial career is still young.

What is fascinating about Neville currently though is his press conferences as he is still behaving like the man of Monday night.

"On the bench, you cannot stop the video, touch the screen and make movements happen."

“On the bench, you cannot stop the video, touch the screen and make movements happen.”

This is incredibly refreshing to the fans and to the media who are so accustomed to tired cliches and empty statements, but Neville is genuine box office, even if it is due to unfortunate circumstances.

Following Wednesday’s walloping at the hands of Barcelona, Neville was seething at his squad and commenting like he was pointing at a tactics board as opposed to being sat at a desk while being peppered by the world’s press.

“I won’t sleep well tonight, I didn’t like what I saw, the Valencia fans didn’t deserve that tonight and we’ve got to recover incredibly quickly,” Neville said

“I wish the (Real) Betis game started in ten minutes, it’s going to be a painful three or four days. I know that. (This is) one of the most painful experiences I’ve had in football, they happen, I had some as a player, and now I’m experiencing some as a manager, but belief in myself is fine, I’ve got no problems with that.”

When asked whether he was considering resigning, a flat “no” was the response as the chewing gum in his mouth seemed to be masticated a little bit more intensely and the stare started to glare much like the only club manager he ever worked for – a certain Sir Alex Ferguson.

He was also quizzed on what he would have made of the result had he been a pundit, and, after a minor display of annoyance doubting the originality of the journalist’s question he responded:

“I would have been critical. I sit here as a coach and I won’t go into detail like I would if I was a pundit, but that was a really poor performance from us tonight. Forget the scoreline. Tonight for some reason we went back a step, a big step.”

It is now up to Neville that his next step is a forward one with a much-needed win against Betis on Sunday, otherwise the step after that could be one back into the Sky Sports studio with Carragher.

Arsenal must toughen up to become a top side again

As a result of their 2-0 loss away to Chelsea on Sunday, Arsenal have now gone 14 games without being able to defeat a side in the previous season’s top four.

Eden Hazard and Diego Costa provided the goals while the away side did not even fashion a shot on target at Stamford Bridge.

Arsenal have been bullied by the top sides in recent seasons. Chelsea have notched eight goals and conceded none in the last two meetings between the sides, Liverpool romped to a 5-1 win at Anfield last season, Manchester City won 6-3 at the Etihad and even David Moyes’ under performing Manchester United side took four points off their old adversary in the 2013/14 campaign.

Many suggest the reason behind this is that Arsenal get out-thought in midfield, esteemed pundit Gary Neville labelled them “confused” after their 3-0 loss away at Everton in April.

“Arsenal become so confused by it, if you’re going to defend in a four-four-two system you need legs and you need discipline, everything this Arsenal team didn’t have.

“They don’t understand how to defend a cross, they don’t understand the fact that when a left sided player goes across to the left side, the midfield player comes across.

“This is why Arsenal will never move forwards playing attacking players with attacking mindsets”

The likes of Patrick Vieira, Ray Parlour and Gilberto Silva who were all so prominent in the 2003/04 “Invincibles” side are long gone and have been replaced by a new brand of midfielder who play a with a delicate passing style.

Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are the three players most likely to provide bite in the middle but Wilshere is too often sidelined and it is no secret that Wenger is looking for a new defensive midfielder.

Happier times: Arsenal haven't quite been the same since Viera's departure.

Happier times: Arsenal haven’t quite been the same since Viera’s departure.

Sami Khedira and William Carvalho were both heavily linked to a move to the Emirates but neither signed on the dotted line at the North London club.

Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have all added top class defensive midfield players in the shape of Nemanja Matic, Fernando and Daley Blind respectively.

Arsene Wenger’s outfit are already nine points behind the league leaders only seven games in, only two of which have been won along with four draws.