DaveyPitch

A Gaming Journey

New site

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Well, I finally decided it was high time to get my own site so I can not only have full control over the blog, but somewhere I can use for testing websites I want to build. This will almost certainly be the last post I make on this blog here, so if you happen to have an RSS or some other way of keeping an eye on things here, point yourself over to www.daveypitch.co.uk if you want to keep on following my random ramblings. Hope to see you all there!:)

Written by David Pitchforth

July 9, 2010 at 12:02 pm

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Fixing the England problem

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I imagine this will be one of thousands of blog posts around the country today regarding England’s exit from the World Cup yesterday. Perhaps surprisingly, I’m not all that bothered about us actually going out of the tournament, as I never expected us to even get close to winning it. There are just too many countries out there who are far better than we are (compare our team man for man against Spain for example, and only one player from our team would get into theirs in my opinion, and that’s Ashley Cole ahead of Capdevilla), and I didn’t believe we’d stand a realistic chance against them. What does bother me, and what’s prompted this blog post, is the manner of our defeat.

Now, I’m not overly bothered about the scoreline of the game, nor the fact that we were well beaten. The problem is that we were well beaten by a team that is young, inexperienced, and full of many players who wouldn’t get into the England team. They beat us by playing as a proper unit, whereas we played like a bunch of individuals. This is where I lay the blame solely at Fabio Capello’s feet. Great coach he may be at club level, he needs to find a way to turn a bunch of very talented players into an even more cohesive team. I honestly believe that we can have a very realistic shot at winning Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, but only if the correct work is done now. While I’m only a fan and therefore possibly not as knowledgeable about the game as Capello is, below are some of the things I believe we need to do to be ready for a proper shot at glory in 2012.

1) Plan two years in advance. This seems quite an obvious one, but I think it needs to be said anyway. We have a number of older players in this England squad, and come 2012, they’ll only be two years older. Look ahead, and if people may well be too old in 2 years, start looking at replacing them now. This will likely mean an end to the international careers of players like David James, David Beckham and Jamie Carragher, while someone like Frank Lampard, who will be 33 in 2012, may well be left out as well. It may seem cruel to dump them straight away, but my thought is that if they’re not going to be able to help us try and win the trophy, they shouldn’t be used to help us get there. Get replacements in now, give them an entire qualifying campaign to get used to international football and get settled in, and let them earn their place in the team. Don’t use older players now and then realise they need replacing 6 months before the tournament begins. It’ll only hinder us in the long run.

2) Stop using square pegs in round holes. This really refers to only one player at the moment – Steven Gerrard – but it’s another valid point and needs to be made. Just like when Man Utd cut Rooney’s game in half when they stuck him on the left and put Ronaldo in the middle, you do the same with Steven Gerrard when you push him out on the left. He’s not, and never will be, a left-sided midfielder and when you put him there I truly believe you’re killing his game. Not only that, but it has a real knock-on effect on Frank Lampard as well, because as Gerrard naturally comes into the middle to get involved, he takes up the space that Lampard would normally use. If you play a naturally left-sided player in that position, the space in the middle of the park will be free for whichever attacking midfielder is there.

3) Build the team around the few world class players we have. While I think England have a good number of top players, I think we only have three genuinely world class players – Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, and Ashley Cole. While Ashley Cole is a full-back, and by nature will only play one position and not need to be told how to play, both Rooney and Gerrard can play is different positions and getting the most of them is key. Both are the kind of players who can win you a game on their own, as they have proven time and again for their clubs, so I think you need to build the team around the two of them playing in their best positions. That means playing Gerrard in an advanced midfield position behind a lone striker, a role Rooney has already stated he prefers. Why, when we have two proven match winners in the team, are neither of them playing in their best positions? It makes no sense and seems so obvious I’m really questioning why a manager of Capello’s ability can’t see it.

4) Have the balls to drop big name players. England managers, for probably the last 8-10 years or so, have all tried to come up with a solution to playing Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard together in the England team. Both are exceptional players domestically, and so I can understand why managers try to figure it out, but none of them have been able to do so successfully. The reason why seems pretty obvious to me – they both play exactly the same position, so they both struggle to make room for the other, and then both struggle to play their normal game. The answer to the problem can be found by looking at other teams in the World Cup. Look at Spain for example. They have Cesc Fabregas available to them, a proven world class player, who would get into virtually any team in the world. However, in the midfield role that he plays, they have Xavi and Iniesta, two players who are both slightly better than he is. Do Spain change things around to accomodate Fabregas? No, they keep him on the bench and bring him on if they need to make a change. Argentina do the same, with Sergio Aguero on the bench as he can’t get a game ahead of Messi, Tevez and Higuain. This is exactly how I think England should work. Rather than playing Gerrard on the left and crippling his game, or forcing Lampard to play deeper, simply play one of them in the advanced midfield role they love, and put the other on the bench to bring on when we need him. My personal preference is for Gerrard to play and Lampard on the bench as Gerrard has more to his game.

5) Stop playing people who are clearly not fully fit. Yes, I’m looking directly at you Wayne Rooney. It’s obvious to all that there is something wrong with Rooney (and Torres at Spain as well), and he’s either not fully fit, or still carrying an injury. While a fully fit Rooney can win the game on his own, a clearly struggling Rooney was nothing but a liability, unable to do the things he usually does that make him so special. I don’t care how much of a talent someone is, if they’re not fit, playing them is a waste of a shirt as they can’t put in the work required. Hell, be prepared to change your system if necessary. Rather than play Rooney up front on his own, why not go for the proven Spurs pairing of Crouch and Defoe? The height of Crouch and the pace of Defoe would worry any defence, certainly more than a half-fit Rooney ever will.

6) Be prepared to make formation changes as well as personnel changes. Fabio Capello has had an extraordinary career based on the 4-4-2 system, and 30 years ago he would have been the ideal man to manage England as all the teams still used that system. Nowadays however, very few teams play a rigid 4-4-2 formation, so by using that formation internationally you’re asking your players to play in positions that may well feel alien to them. There are numerous formations we could use depending on the opposition (some of which I’ll talk about below), but sticking to a rigid 4-4-2 makes us predictable and easier for the opponents to come up with an effective strategy to defend against us.

7) Drop Emile Heskey. Seriously, just stop picking him. Bringing him on for Defoe when you need goals is quite simply the most ludicrous tactical decision I’ve ever seen. Peter Crouch can do everything Heskey can, only he can do it better, and he can score goals as well.

I honestly don’t think any of the above points are particularly clever or radical, but many of them seem absolutely essential to me and yet they’ve not been worked out by a succession of England managers. I know a lot of the above points will be shared by many England fans, so either we’re all wrong, or one of us should be made England manager.

Like many fans I’ve got my own views on the team we should be playing, and the formation we should be playing in. I’d actually have a few different teams and formations in mind depending on the opponents. I don’t think England are good enough to always pick the same team irrespective of the opposition. We need to realise that some teams are better than we are, and react accordingly. Just as teams like Fulham pick teams to go to Old Trafford to frustrate and counter Man Utd, so England must pick teams according to the opposition we’re playing. Below I’ll detail some of the teams and formations I’d consider picking if I were the England manager, with a distinct nod towards 2012 in mind.

Formation 1 – 4-4-1-1

GK: Joe Hart
RB: Glen Johnson
CB: John Terry
CB: Rio Ferdinand
LB: Ashley Cole
RM: Theo Walcott
CM: Gareth Barry
CM: James Milner
LM: Joe Cole
ACM: Steven Gerrard
FC: Wayne Rooney

This would likely be my default starting team and formation. Gerrard and Rooney will both have the option to roam and swap positions, which influenced my choice of wide players. Both Walcott and Joe Cole are both very capable of playing in the middle, so if Rooney drops deep, Walcott can sprint through, while Joe Cole can happily cover Gerrard’s playmaker position. Milner has proven for Villa he’s an excellent centre midfielder, and his ability to play wide makes him very useful if either of the wide players moves out of position. Barry will be used as a traditional holding midfielders, and the full-backs will be encouraged to push on whenever possible.

Formation 2 – 4-4-2-Diamond

GK: Joe Hart
RB: Glen Johnson
CB: John Terry
CB: Rio Ferdinand
LB: Ashley Cole
RW: Aaron Lennon
DCM: Gareth Barry
LW: Adam Johnson
ACM: Steven Gerrard
FC: Wayne Rooney
FC: Peter Crouch

I know I said about putting Rooney up front on his own, but I’d use this formation against weaker teams as I’d expect them to sit deep and in numbers, making Rooney’s job even harder. With Crouch up front as well it’ll occupy defenders giving Rooney more of the room he needs. In this formation I’m asking both Adam Johnson and Aaron Lennon to play as traditional wingers, hence picking them over Joe Cole and Theo Walcott. I want them to get the ball, to commit the full-backs, and get crosses in. With Crouch in the middle any good crosses to him will always be a potential goal threat, and England can have Gareth Barry sitting as a proper holding midfield player, covering the defence and providing extra protection against any counter attacks. I don’t want to see him anywhere within 40 yards of the opposition goal.

Formation 3 – 4-2-2-1-1

GK: Joe Hart
RB: Glen Johnson
CB: John Terry
CB: Rio Ferdinand
LB: Ashley Cole
RW: Theo Walcott
DCM: Gareth Barry
DCM: Owen Hargreaves
LW: Adam Johnson
ACM: Steven Gerrard
FC: Wayne Rooney

This is my formation to be used against stronger teams, such as Spain, Brazil and Argentina, teams who will dominate possession against us. By having two defensive midfielders in place, the aim is to frustrate the opposition as much as possible, denying them space in the middle of the park. Gerrard will likely play a little deeper than usual, but still given license to roam. The two wingers will be used as outlets for counter attacking, Walcott especially with his lightening pace. As the team grows in confidence, assuming we don’t concede, Barry can push a little further forward leaving Hargreaves to act as primary cover for the defence.

I know my teams above are making some assumptions, such as a return to form for Theo Walcott, and a return to football for Owen Hargreaves, but I think the formations that I’ve picked give England a lot of freedom. With intelligent players in the team like Joe Cole, players can swap around for a short time in the game, making it harder for the opposition to work on a solid plan to stop us (fancy man marking Gerrard out of the game? Try following him to the left wing and leaving a lovely gap in the middle for Joe Cole to exploit). Some notable subs for me with this team would be Jermain Defoe, Darren Bent, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Frank Lampard, Jack Rodwell, Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonglahor (as you can tell, I generally like pacy players).

One problem we have, which was brutally exposed by Germany last night, is a total lack of pace in defence. Without Rio at the back we really struggled, both for pace and for organisation. Hopefully Rio will be fit for the next two years, but if not, we need to try and find a way to combat pace from the opposition. My personal solution would be to simply tell the defence to sit an extra 5-10 yards further back, and let the defensive midfielders do as much as they can.

I don’t know how well any of this would work should someone actually come in and try it, but let’s face it, it can’t be any worse than what we’ve had to put up with from England for the past 2 weeks. The qualifying campaign for the 2012 European Championships start in a few months, and the sooner we start making steps in the right direction, the better off we’ll be in 2 years time.

Written by David Pitchforth

June 28, 2010 at 11:47 am

Posted in General Stuff

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Time to admit the obvious

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Yup, I think it goes without saying that I’ve blatantly failed the 1 a day challenge, considering I’ve not posted anything for over a month now. I’m not quite sure how it got away from me so much, but it’s way too far now to consider trying again. The further behind I got, the harder it seemed to be to try to catch up, until it got to the point when I realised I had effectively failed the challenge, and now I just needed to admit it to everyone else.

I’m not sure if the style of the challenge is what beat me, or whether it was simply a lack of time that did it. I don’t think I’m built for lots of small-ish posts done every day. I seem much better at getting longer posts done once a week/fortnight where I can dump my brain over everything that’s happened in that time. If people are going to attempt the challenge again next year I may well try again however, this time from the start with everyone so it doesn’t feel like I’m playing catch-up from the very start.

Things are busy in work today so I won’t get a big post done. I’m off work for the next 10 days after today, so I’ll find some time to get a big post done updating you all on what’s been going on the past month or so, with gaming, sports and poker thoughts certainly in there somewhere.:)

Written by David Pitchforth

April 1, 2010 at 11:10 am

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Blog a Day 41 of 365 – New office

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We moved into our new office today in work, me and the other 2 IT Techs. It’s so much nicer than our old office, which was in the basement of the main building in the school In our old office, we had no windows, no carpet, no door for ourselves, and we were next to the photocopying room which meant we got a lot of traffic by our room. Our new office is in a completely different building, one of the newest in the school and has everything the old office doesn’t. Our new office is on the 2nd floor, with a window with a great view of greenery and scenery. We have a door for ourselves, which actually locks, a nice carpet, and some custom built benching with plenty of room for the 3 of us to work on several machines at once. It’s going to take us a while to get settled in properly, half of our stuff is still in boxes, but it’s already much nicer than I thought it would be. It looks like the school has given us a great office, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Written by David Pitchforth

February 22, 2010 at 9:33 pm

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Blog a Day 40 of 365 – What a great result

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A great performance and a great result for Everton against Man Utd on Saturday. I was sceptical going into the game as we don’t usually do too well against Man Utd, but for once not only did we beat them, but we did it by outplaying them. When most teams outside the top 4 beat Utd they do it on the back of a solid defence, stopping Man Utd playing proper football, and getting a single goal and defending it with their lives. Everton didn’t do that, taking the game to them and trying to outplay them, just like we’ve done recently against Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea. It was a tremendous team performance, even more remarkable because we were missing two of our best performers this season in Fellaini and Tim Cahill. Without Fellaini in the team I was worried we’d lack a physical presence in midfield, but it seems having 5 talented midfielders playing (Osman, Arteta, Donovan, Pienaar and Bilyaletdinov) meant that we were able to keep possession better, denying Man Utd their usual mountains of possession which they can use to break teams down. Man Utd can possibly point to their midweek exertions in Milan, coupled with the fact they were missing a few keys players of their own (Giggs, Ferdinand, Vidic), but it would be harsh on Everton to suggest they were the reasons we won the game. Even Alex Ferguson himself admitted they were outplayed in the second half of the game. If we can continue to play like this for the rest of the season, we definitely have an outside chance of grabbing a European place. We’re currently 7 points behind Liverpool in 5th place, with a game in hand over them, so it’s unlikely, but I know David Moyes will push the team to go as far as they can.

Great to see Jack Rodwell come on and do so well. I mentioned in my blog a few days ago about my hopes for him, and it was good to see him come on and play well, scoring the goal that sealed the game for us. It was such a well taken goal, showing great composure to place the ball in the corner rather than simply lashing at it. If I were in that position I definitely would have just tried to put my foot through the ball, hitting it as hard as I could, but he showed great maturity to slot it away nicely. Hopefully as he returns to full fitness he’ll get more game time and we can see more goals like that from the youngster before the end of the season.

Written by David Pitchforth

February 22, 2010 at 8:50 pm

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Blog a Day 39 of 365 – New toys are always fun

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The new laptop that I ordered on Tuesday evening arrived yesterday, and it’s oh so lovely. Even though a friend in work has a very similar laptop which is the same size as mine, I still wasn’t quite ready for how big it would feel. At 18.4″ it’s one of the biggest laptops you can get, and I think just about still fits the description of “laptop”, as it just about fits on my lap when I’m sitting on the couch. It’s really well specced, and after I upgraded to Windows 7 (which took longer than I thought, roughly 3 hours or s0), one of the first things I did was to load up Fallout 3 and see how well it runs. I’ve been after a proper gaming laptop for a while, so I can enjoy playing some good PC games on the couch so I can still talk to the wife, rather than hiding away upstairs in our spare bedroom/office. Needless to say I was very happy when it auto-detected my settings and set Fallout 3 to High Quality. I’ve transferred my save games from the PC and loaded them up, and I’m really impressed by just how well the game runs, even out in the Wasteland, everything is smooth and looks just fantastic. I definitely need to get some more demanding games to really give the laptop a test. May download the demo of Crysis as that’s meant to be an absolute beast, so that should be a great test.

This laptop really make a difference to my days in work as well. Usually on my lunchtime I’ll just faff around on the internet, but now I can load up a game and spend a good solid hour playing something fun. No matter how badly my morning has gone, a game always cheers me up and considering the way things have been in work recently, this laptop may well save me from saying something to someone that I’d likely regret later. It’ll also no doubt make people jealous when they come into the office and see this shiny beast sat on my desk, so that’s a good thing as well😀

Written by David Pitchforth

February 19, 2010 at 11:22 am

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Blog a Day 38 of 365 – Toothache is a bitch

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I’ve become quite bad at getting this done lately, missing another day yesterday, though I feel I have a pretty valid excuse this time. On Wednesday night, I had really bad toothache for some reason, and it kept me awake pretty much all night. Even though I took some painkillers, which eventually kicked in around 4am, I still couldn’t get to sleep properly. I think I ended up dropping off around 5:30am, and my alarm went off a little over an hour later to get up for work. If things had been quieter in work I probably would have rang in sick and just stayed in bed, but things had to get done, moving a lot of our kit into our new office (which we move into on Monday), and just getting lots of various small bits done. I was pretty useless all day as you can imagine, so my brain was in no fit state to get a blog post done. Thankfully I went to bed pretty handy last night and had a great nights sleep, so I’m feeling much more human today. I’m going to try to get several blog posts up today in an effort to catch up with everyone else who have already done nearly 50 posts!

Written by David Pitchforth

February 19, 2010 at 10:23 am

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