Q & A conducted by: Siddesh Iyer Follow @Sid10RedDevil
Image credits: Josh Follow @VintageAntoine7
John Dykes is one of the most popular sports broadcasters worldwide and currently is the lead anchor for The Premier League’s content service. His popular ” Up Close” series saw him conduct long form interviews with football celebrities such as David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer, Michel Platini and Sir Bobby Robson. In this busy festive period of the season, we at All Out Football had the golden opportunity to conduct a Q & A session with him. Excerpts from the same are as follows:
Q. As per the standings at the time of this busy festive period in the Premier League, what would be your take on how the season has progressed and whether there would be any major surprises in the Top 6 slots in the future?
John: At the the start of the season it looked as if Everton might upset what we expected to be the “predictable” Top 6. Now they’re just one of a few clubs (Southampton, Watford, West Brom, Leicester and Stoke may be the others) who are looking to finish in seventh and be the “best of the rest”. As for the Top Six themselves, it’s just a question of who finishes where. United got off to a flyer, City then stormed it before Liverpool took their turn and now it’s Chelsea who look unstoppable. Okay, so they must be hot favourites right now but I like the fact that Arsenal and Spurs are really classy outfits on their day and the other three aren’t going to go away either, so a prolonged blip (no matter how unlikely that currently looks) for Chelsea could yet lead to a wide-open title race.
Q.Who would you rate as the “Signing of the Season” based on the performances so far?
John: I know this question traditionally applies to players (and I’ll get to that in a moment) but Antonio Conte is looking like an excellent “get’ right now. As for the players. I think we knew N’Golo Kante would be good and the same applies to Sadio Mane and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. My two surprises choices would be Idrissa Gueye and in top spot, Joe Allen
Q.What do you see as the main contributing factors to Antonio Conte’s success story in the Premier League so far? Is it only his innovative 3-4-3 formation? Or something more than just that?
John: It’s a lot more than that but if you want to start with that formation, it’s the flexibility and adaptability of the players that matters most. Costa’s workload has been immense, Kante does the work of two players without the ball and Azpilicueta and Luiz thrive in a three. Conte deserves credit for bringing Alonso in to do a specific job and for recognising that Moses could do likewise. The real plus for Chelsea has been no European football for the first time in ages. So, plenty of time for Conte to work with the players and apparently the work they are doing at Cobham is super-intense – just look at the fitness levels, Costa especially, plus they are so well drilled tactically, which fosters that in-game adaptability I mentioned earlier. They’ll never have a better chance of cruising to another Premier League title but they’ll really miss Steve Holland when he goes full time with England in the summer. He has been an unsung hero at that club as they chopped and changed managers but continued to win silverware.
Q. Being a die-hard Manchester United fan, I would like to know your views as to what innovations can Josè Mourinho bring about to get United back into the Top 3 slots?
John: As I speak to you, ahead of the Boxing Day games, United have only lost two of the last 20 games in all competitions, so there’s a resilience there. Mourinho has been unlucky with injuries all along: Shaw and Bailly have been missed and Mkhitaryan was just making them click when he got hurt. With him fit and the rest contributing a few more goals to take the heat off Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they can put a solid run together through to the end of the season. Finishing in the top three will be tough though and it will need one of Liverpool, Arsenal or City to fall away badly. United play Arsenal and Spurs in the space of a week in May. If they’re still in the hunt, that could be the defining moment of the season.
Q. Finally, what further initiatives can the Premier League take at the ground level to popularise itself in countries where football is still not the Number 1 sport?
John: Well, I can’t speak for the Premier League but I know they engage in loads of grassroots and community activities already, having seen their coaching courses first hand. To be honest, you’re probably talking about India in particular when you are describing a country where football isn’t number one, right? There’s no point in trying to depose cricket there as number one but I think football can co-exist very comfortably with cricket. Just look at the generation of cricket superstars from Dhoni onwards who are massive football fans and who incorporate football culture and habits into all aspects of what they do on and off the pitch. Elsewhere in the world (America?) the Premier League (and its clubs) just need to keep doing what they’re already doing so well: delivering an entertaining experience to as many fans as possible and then maximising the ways in which they can engage with the league.
We, at All Out Football sincerely thank John for his professional views as expressed above.
Do you share John’s thoughts? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!