Dear Alan, these are the new names for you to crib up on

The Match of the Day Debate

With his comment, last weekend, that "no one really knows a great deal" about Hatem Ben Arfa, the French international who scored for Newcastle United last week, Alan Shearer released a wave of criticism which cannot wholly be explained by the desire of rival media organisations to bash the BBC.

Match of the Day has been a curate's egg this season. The revamped title sequence is possibly the best thing on TV after Mad Men. That is when the show is played frame-by-frame. But too often, when the analysis comes on, fast-forward may as well be used.

Being an effective pundit is a difficult art. MotD's audience is a wildly disparate one. Some have just come in from the pub, some are children. While some appreciate incisive tactical analysis others just want goalmouth action. What may be "bleeding obvious" to one viewer can be informative to another.

However, in the last few years the level of tactical debate has increased in the English game with newspapers and rival broadcasters committing resources to it. Viewers have become more sophisticated tactically. They have the right to expect "experts" to have done their research, to be entertaining and informative. The pundit should be telling the viewer something they did not appreciate with their own eyes.

To my mind David Pleat, Jimmy Armfield and Graham Taylor are the best at this of the regular pundits. Each now operates largely on radio where, incidentally, Mark Lawrenson's relaxed style is best appreciated. Lee Dixon has been a breath of fresh air to MotD and Gordon Strachan's return to management was a loss to punditry.

As a rule, ex-managers are better, which is hardly surprising as they have studied tactics for a living. Shearer is good on assessing the ability of a striker, and what he needs from team-mates, but when it comes to areas outside his own playing experience he is no more relevant than the bloke in the pub.

Punditry is like management. Past playing success confers instant respect, but that soon dissipates if it is not matched by performance in the new job.

Shearer’s cut-out-and-keep guide

David Silva (Manchester City)

Typical modern Spanish player, quick-footed and a neat passer. Can play on either wing, in midfield or off the front man, but struggling to nail down a place at Manchester City. Signed from Valencia's but not to be confused with their other David, Villa. He's the goalscorer who's now at Barcelona. Born in Gran Canaria.

Ramires (Chelsea)

Brazilian midfielder but avoid references to 'jogo bonito', 'beautiful game', etc, as he is more like David Batty (albeit a very athletic version) than Kaka having modelled himself on Patrick Vieira. Signed from Benfica for £17m.

Pablo Barrera (West Ham United)

Fleet-footed Mexican winger capable of playing on either flank. Tends to produce his best form from the bench, when opponents tire, which is how Mexico utilised him in the World Cup. This is his first club outside Mexico.

Asamoah Gyan (Sunderland)

You must remember him? Missed the last-minute penalty for Ghana in the World Cup quarter-final, then scored in the shoot-out. Generally played his best football for Ghana, also shining at the African Cup of Nations. Less impressive at club level, so his signing is a gamble at £13m. Excellent front-runner.

Raul Meireles (Liverpool)

Played in the hole at Old Trafford but don't be misled, he is a box-to-box midfielder capable of filling the holding role. Plays for Portugal (where you play golf) and signed from Porto for £11m. Good passing range and a decent shot.

Antolin Alcaraz (Wigan Athletic)

Paraguay has forged a reputation for producing central defenders and Alcaraz, a late developer, is adding to that. Quick and strong with leadership qualities. A threat at set-pieces, as Italy discovered in the World Cup.

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