Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 31st 2017 Contents A58 sports
guardian.co.tt Friday, March 31, 2017
Sam the man
MANCHESTER---With his brief and humiliating
experience as coach of England's national team
behind him, Sam Allardyce is back on familiar
ground in the Premier League and doing what
he does best: Turning around the fortunes of a
"Big Sam," as he is known in soccer circles,is a master at
keeping clubs in the Premier League, so it was no surprise
that Crystal Palace turned to him late last year as the
south London club plunged toward the relegation zone.
He made a slow start to life at Palace,but results over the
last month have been typical of Allardyce: Three games,
three gritty performances, three clean sheets and --- most
Palace has pulled four points clear of the bottom three.
Another team saved by Allardyce? Not quite, but he
certainly has Palace---the worst performing team in all
four professional leagues of English soccer in 2016---
heading in the right direction.
The pragmatic, no-nonsense manager has done that
by getting back to basics, starting at the back where Pal-
ace was extremely shaky under previous manager Alan
Fortunately, Allardyce had a transfer window to shake
up the squad and two signings are starting to prove their
France center back Mamadou Sakho was brought in
on loan from Liverpool, where he was out of the team
because of fitness issues and after getting a provisional
ban for a failed doping test that was later dismissed by
UEFA. Sakho has slotted into a newly formed five-man
defense and Palace hasn't conceded a goal with him in
Luka Milivojevic, a holding midfielder from Serbia,
joined from Olympiakos and has been stationed in front
of the defense for the wins over Middlesbrough (1-0),
West Bromwich Albion (2-0) and Watford (1-0), offering
It hasn't been pretty but Palace is grinding out crucial
The hard work might just be starting, though.
Tomorrow, Palace plays at first-place Chelsea in the
first game of a difficult 10-match run-in in the Premier
League that includes trips to Southampton, Liverpool,
Manchester City and Manchester United as well as home
games against Arsenal, Leicester and Tottenham.
That four-point cushion could come in very handy for
Palace, which is 16th in the 20-team league.
Allardyce is looking to rebuild his reputation that was
damaged by an ill-fated 67-day spell in charge of Eng-
land, which ended in September when he was forced out
because of unguarded comments he made to undercover
reporters posing as businessmen.
His last firefighting role in the Premier League was at
Sunderland, which he joined in October 2015 when the
team was next-to-last in the league and preserved its
place in the top flight.
Having never been relegated from the Premier League
as a manager, he has also established Bolton, Blackburn
and West Ham as top-flight teams during his 26 years
Here are other things to look out for this weekend:
The future of manager Arsene Wenger and forward
Alexis Sanchez are up in the air and Arsenal is struggling
for form on the field.
Arsenal's only wins in eight games since January have
been against Premier League struggler Hull and non-
league teams Sutton and Lincoln in the FA Cup.
The team has dropped to sixth in the league, six points
behind fourth-place Liverpool, which occupies the final
Champions League qualification spot. Arsenal has qual-
ified for the Champions League every year since 1998.
With his latest deal due to expire at the end of this
season, Wenger gave no new hints about his future plans
Thursday, saying: "It's a subject that at the moment is
not sorted completely out."
Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce gestures on the touchline, during the
English Premier League soccer match between Crystal Palace and Watford, at
Selhurst Park, in London on March 18. AP PHOTO
Survival specialist Allardyce making mark at Palace
Liverpool has established a reputation under manager
Juergen Klopp for playing well against the league's top
sides and being less fluent against the rest.
So where does Everton fit in these days?
Everton has climbed to seventh in the standings after
seven wins in its last ten games and even has an outside
shot at Champions League qualification.
Liverpool hasn't lost any of its last 13 Merseyside derbies
since a 2-0 win for Everton in October 2010.
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