Monday, 17 August 2015

What to take away from City's dominant win

In one of the most important battles for the crown of England, the dethroned king of last season that is Manchester City slayed the team that took their throne, Chelsea, 3-0. In a first half that Manchester City showed their determination to put last season behind them, Begovic kept out Aguero twice with great saves. Aguero would finally get the better of the Bosnian in the end though after a counter attack led by Raheem Sterling would lead to City patiently carving open the Chelsea defence with Yaya Toure and Aguero combining at the edge of the box. Vincent Kompany would then hurt Chelsea's chance of a comeback with a header from a corner late in the second half. Fernandinho put the sword through Chelsea's heart late on when David Silva closed down Ivanovic's clearence and it fell to the Brazilian who finished first time.

1. City show desire and passion missing from last season
The main difference in this performance and that of last season's matches against Chelsea was City showed the desire to leave their blood, sweat and tears on the field. Vincent Kompany and Elaqium Mangala both showed a great understanding and were warriors willing to battle to the end with the brute Diego Costa. Aleksander Kolarov bombarded forward and whipped devilish crosses all game, while Bacary Sagna was a shield blocking all of Eden Hazards quick stabs trying to get to Joe Hart. Yaya Toure and Fernandinho never stopped running, covering every blade of grass on the field. They were also combatant with all their tackles in their personal battle against the duo of Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic. The wide players of Raheem Sterling and Jesus Navas were always tracking back and closing down the opposite wide players, and when in attack ran directly at their man. David Silva showed that he can match his poetic nature with a darker aggressive side, and Aguero challenged for every aerial ball although he was most likely to lose out and also chased onto every through ball.

2. Raheem Sterling adds another dimension
In his home debut, Sterling showed why City invested so much in him. He adds another dimension to City's attack in the form of a direct and counter attacking option as shown in City's preseason and their opening goal. Sterling ran from his own half into Chelsea's defensive third gliding past players. From there City's attack carved open the Chelsea defence with Silva, Toure and Aguero combining before Chelsea could recover their shape. This goal was a mix of the patient, elegant City fans have come to love and a direct style that Raheem Sterling brings from his days at Liverpool.

3. With Otamendi, City's defence will be world class
With Manchester City seemingly taking the lead in the race to sign Otamendi, Mangala showed no sign of being affected by the news during the game against Chelsea. Him and Kompany were both world class in the game against the champions and shut out one of the Premier League's best in Diego Costa. With the addition of Nicolas Otamendi, City's defence will be world class and can rival that of Chelsea's. Otamendi had a spectatcular season with Valencia and helped them achieve a Champions League qualifying spot. He will add experience and composure to Manchester City's back four, and will be able to replace Kompany should he struggle like he did last season, or Mangala if he shows a lack of composure. Also with the addition of the Argentine, Pellegrini has the option to play Mangala at left back, a position he played along with centre back at Porto. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Chicharito and other signings that can assist Tottenham to top four

Last season, Tottenham won the battle but lost the war against neighbours Arsenal. They got the better of their rivals twice in the derbies with a draw away and a home win, but in the end they lost out on a top four finish, and will be gracing the Europa League again for another season.

Having finished six points out of the top four last season,  Tottenham showed glimpses of how good they can be on their day. They famously beat the future champions Chelsea 5-2 after being behind by two, and beat Arsenal 2-1 at White Hart Line with one of their own Harry Kane scoring the winner. With the right signings, Tottenham can build on last season and battle in the Colosseum of football, the Champions League, instead of the overshadowed fight pit that is Europa League.

Up until Harry Kane burst on the scene, Tottenham's strikers were struggling to put the ball in the back of the net. The mediocre pair of Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldaldo failed to inspire the fans with any confidence. It was only from the end of 2014 that a Tottenham striker looked lethal in the form of Harry Kane. Kane carried Tottenham and made himself a household name in 2015, but he is only one man and has only had a good half season. Plenty of players have been one season wonders, so Tottenham need another striker that can pick up the goalscoring if Harry Kane is out of form or gets injured. In a world where proven available strikers are few and far between, as shown by Manchester United and Arsenal's hunt, Tottenham have been linked with Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez. He spent last season on loan at Real Madrid, and showed what he is capable of when he is given starts towards the end of the campaign with goals against Atletico Madrid and performances like that against Celta Vigo. He is just the striker Tottenham should sign as before his loan to Spain he was a proven Premier League goal scorer and he would suit spurs style. He is much different and more effective than Soldado and Adebayor as he makes the runs in behind the opposition that lead playmaker Christian Eriksen would love. He also stretches the defence so the wide players in Nasir Chadli and Erik Lamela could cut in and exploit pockets of space. He would be a great signing to Spurs and improve their chances of a top four finish.

A position which was arguably their weakest last season, Spurs need a centre defensive midfielder. They need someone who can screen the backfour with a great passing range, positioning and tackling. Two players that are similar but contrasted by age Tottenham should target are William Carvalho and Thiago Motta. Sporting Lisbon's William Carvalho has been linked with a move to Arsenal, but so have a lot of players. The twenty three year old star shined as an anchor in midfield for Portugal recently in the under 21 Euro's. This is the role that Tottenham need as he possesses all the skills required as he has the aforementioned passing range, positioning, and tackling. Carvalho is also Yaya Toure-esque in the way that he can make bulldozing runs from the midfield into the oppositions third.
Thiago Motta is the other name that Tottenham should take note of. Spurs have been linked with the want-away PSG star. Motta is currently thirty two but celebrates his thirty third birthday this month. Although in the twilight of his career, Motta is still one of the best holding midfielders in the world and would offer Tottenham's young midfield what Carvalho couldn't, experience. Motta is a champions league winner with Jose Mourinho's famous Inter side, and from there he moved to Paris Saint Germain and has picked up multiple domestic medals. Although not as mobile as Carvalho, Motta's positioning, intelligence and passing is better. The Italian wouldn't be a long term solution to Spurs midfield, but he would push their top four prospects for the upcoming season.

Tottenham currently have four wingers in Andros Townsend, Nasir Chadli, Erik Lamela and Aaron Lennon. The latter though has one foot out the door as it appears he has no future with the club. The other three though have struggled for consistency in the Premier League. Townsend arrived on the scene when Tim Sherwood was in charge. He appeared to be a breath of fresh air but defenders soon realised his reliability on cutting in on his left and shooting from range. Chadli started last season scoring goals at important times for Tottenham, but wasn't consistent later on in the season. Lamela has arguably been the worst of the three having struggled to adapt to the Premier League since his big money move in 2013. What Tottenham need is a consistent winger. Tottenham are linked with Crystal Palace's Yannick Bolasie. Bolasie is a winger with a lot of flair, but Palace have reportedly slapped a 25 million pound price tag on him. Bolasie would be a good option as he was one of the Premier Legaue's best wingers last season, his best moment when he terrorised Liverpool in Palace's dominant 3-1 victory last season. He is known for his silky dribbling and skills, but Tottenham should only consider him for a maximum of 10 million pounds as playing for a team like Palace with the objective of avoiding relegation is different to playing with Tottenham targeting Champions League football.

Other wingers Tottenham should consider signing are Bayer Leverkusen's Karim Bellarabi. Bellarabi is a tricky player who possesses a fair amount of pace on the right hand side of midfield. He had a strong campaign for Leverkusen and has the ability to cut inside or run down the line. He started Germany's last Euro Qualifier in their dominant win over Gibraltar and managed to get on the scoresheet. This performance showed that he can take his game to another level by playing with the international side.

So far Spurs have mainly focused on improving their defence in the transfer window with their signings of Toby Alderweireld, Kieran Trippier and Kevin Wimmer. Alderweireld is the by far the best signing after having a great season for Southampton, but for Tottenham to challenge for top four, they need a conistent striker, holding midfielder and winger, and the players mentioned are just who they need.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Manchester United are making a mistake selling Di Maria

An angel by name and on the field, Angel Di Maria seems to be within a few days of swapping England for France. Although having only arrived last year for a Premier League record fee of sixty million pounds, Manchester United are happy to take a pay cut and sell the Argentine to  Paris Saint Germain, but this is a mistake.

When Di Maria arrived at Manchester United, he was coming off a stellar season in Spain where he spread his wings and flew Real Madrid to La Decima. Within his first five starts for his new club, the Argentine had scored three goals.  Although not dominating every game, Di Maria ended 2014 with Manchester United as one of the Premier League's best and as a member of the World's Eleven. Whatever highs Di Maria had in the first half of the season though, he had equivalent lows in the second half. 2015 has been highlighted with low confidence, a red card in the FA Cup against Arsenal for diving and then tugging at the Referees shirt, and losing his manager's faith.

In his last season as a Galactico, what seems to be forgotten is that Di Maria struggled at the start of the season. He was behind Gareth Bale in the first team and was public enemy number one in the Spanish media for performing antics such as grabbing his crotch when getting substituted. Di Maria had one foot out the door, similar to his present scenario, but he chose to stay and forced his way into the first team. The rest is history as he had season of his life. What this shows is Di Maria has adversity and can rebound when it appears there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Few would have chosen to stay in the same circumstances with the arrival of the most expensive player in the world, but he did. He also proved the naysayers in the media wrong with all the pressure on him. This isn't easy and shows that next season Di Maria has the mental strength to rebound and return to his tantalising best.

What made Di Maria so good for Madrid was playing in a consistent environment. Ancelotti had one system; a 4-3-3. Last season though, it would be almost impossible to consistently name the lineup Louis Van Gaal would put out. With all the signings Van Gaal has made this transfer window though, it appears that he has come up with a basic formation and starting eleven. Last season the Argentine played up front, in the midfield, on the wings and in defence as a wing back. This inconsistency contributed to his poor form in the second half of the season. Playing Di Maria consistently either on the wings or in midfield should produce results. In all the environments he has thrived in, such as Real Madrid and the Argentina National Team, he has played in a consistent formation and position. So should Van Gaal have consistent tactics, Di Maria with his quality will definitely improve on last season.

Although United have made some good signings this transfer window, none are of the calibre of Di Maria. Bastian Schweinsteiger is currently in the twilight of his career and doesn't have the box-to-box fitness of the Argentine. Memphis Depay was prolific in the Netherlands, but is currently unproven in the Premier League and is mostly potential. Schneiderlin is a good holding midfielder but isn't as effective going forward. Depay and Schneiderlin are also new when it comes to the Champions League. Given United are challenging in four competitions, keeping players of Di Maria's quality should be inevitable. Although he may start the season on the bench, having a player of Di Maria's quality to turn to if you need to bring him on or for squad rotation is a sign of great squad depth.

Another factor that selling Di Maria to Paris Saint Germain is a mistake is the price. United are on course to make a loss in selling Di Maria to PSG and cheaper than his true value is. They shouldn't be pressured by the French champions into selling cheap though given their strong finances and financial fair play position. If they do decide to sell Di Maria, which appears likely, they should aim higher as the current deal PSG are offering for one of the best players in the world is low compared to what he is worth.

Ultimately selling Di Maria would be a mistake for Manchester United. The player showed in his first half season in England he can be a class above the rest when on form, and if United want to be at their best again, he is the type of player who can carry them forward.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Sydney FC re-sign Player of the Year Milos Dimitrijevic

It was arguably the club's biggest week. Sydney FC had just put in brave performances against Premier Legaue giants Tottenham Hotspur and champions Chelsea. The supporters emotions though were mixed. Whatever highs they had from the thrilling games disappeared as it appeared player of the year Milos Dimitrijevic was unlikely to ever grace the Allianz Stadium again after the club moved on from stalled contract negotiations.

Now though, Milos Dimitrijevic has stunningly completed a u-turn and signed with the A-League runners up on a two year deal.
'I'm really happy to be re-signing for Sydney FC,' the midfielder said, 'I thought long and hard during the off season about where I wanted to play my football and I am happy I have made the right decision'

Dimitrijevic, who made 4 assists and created 53 chances last season, also spoke of the impact working with Graham Arnold had for him staying.
'Working with Arnie again and competing in Asia were huge drawcards for staying.'

Dimitrijevic will look to have another stellar campaign after he sweeped the club's end of season presentation. He left the gala with Player of the Year, Players Player of the Year and Club Members Player of the Year.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Keeping Pedro should be Barcelona's number one priority

A player that seems to have been consistently lighting it up in the shadows of other superstars his whole career, Pedro is reportedly on the brink of a move away from Barcelona to Manchester United. This is a move that makes sense on Pedro's side considering his quality and lack of game time, but for Barcelona it is a transfer that can be questioned for multiple reasons.

Pedro has played for Barcelona his whole career. He developed through their famed youth academy, and entered the first team for the first time in the 2007/08 season. Since then he has achieved great success with the Catalans having won multiple titles. He opened the scoring on the Champions League final in 2010 against Manchester United, and has become a regular in Vincent Del Bosque's Spain squad. Despite all this, he is mostly known for his role as a squad player for Barcelona.

Although not as talented as Lionel Messi, Neymar, or Luis Suarez, Pedro's role for Barcelona is just as important. Whenever called upon from the bench Pedro is reliable and adds something else to the game. Against Juventus in the Champions League Final, he was brought on late in the game but still managed to make an impact as he set up Neymar to kill the game in the last kick of the ball. This highlights the quality that Pedro offers off the bench. Few teams can turn to their bench consistently and have someone of that calibre always ready to deliver.

What makes Pedro so good when he plays is his intelligence, pace and selflessness.  Pedro's football intelligence is as good as any others. Pedro's footballing intelligence is due to the prestigious academy he came from. He is very technical in the way he makes intelligent runs in behind and always makes himself available to his teammates. His pace is what allows him to make those runs as he is usually a step ahead of the defence. Those qualities make him good, but it is his selflessness that make him stand out. Pedro always has his head up looking to play others in rather than taking on the shot himself. Although he isn't at the Belgian's level, Pedro is like Eden Hazard in this way that he takes more joy in setting up a teammate after cutting in than taking the shot like Ronaldo. His selflessness also shows in his industry as he always tracks back and covers Danni Alves who likes to push up higher than the average fullback.

The transfer ban that Barcelona has on them at the moment is also a reason to not sell Pedro. If Pedro is allowed to leave, a simple question is raised, who will replace him? No one can be brought in to replace Pedro if he leaves until January. That leaves bringing up less experienced youth academy players or leaving his role to the hot prospect Munir. This is less than ideal as Munir is only eighteen and is not yet at the quality of Pedro, and Barcelona isn't in need of funds so letting Pedro go would be weakening themselves.

Ultimately selling Pedro would be bad business for Barcelona. Few players today seem to be content with coming off the bench and mainly being a squad player, but Pedro seems to be one of them. This, his quality and Barcelona's transfer ban mean that keeping Pedro should be Barcelona's number one priority this transfer window.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Manchester City's youth highlight of preseason

In recent years, Manchester City and youth players haven't been mentioned in the same sentence positively. City though have been trying to change that as they have put a lot of money into their academies and facilities, and this preseason has shown their efforts are paying off.

In their preseason tour of Australia, Manuel Pellegrini has given the chance to many young prospects. Before the tour, City fans may have known Marcos Lopes and Zuccilini, but may not have known the names of players like Brandon Barker, Manu Garcia, and Kelechi Iheanacho. They all put in great performances in the friendlies against Adelaide United, Melbourne City, and Roma, and should be names to remember for City supporters.

While staying up the Gold Coast in Australia, City played against Adelaide United and Melbourne City. Against Adelaide Brandon Barker shined the brightest as he controlled the game with his silky dribbling and touches. He showed great football intelligence and opened the scoring for the Citizens when he cut off the left wing. Bruno Zuculini scored the second for City with a nice volley from a Clichy cross. Iheanacho also showed his talent as he ran the Adelaide defence ragged all night. The game against their sister club, Melbourne City, proved tougher but the youth this time played alongside established Manchester City starters Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri. Brandon Barker again was always a threat on the left, constantly turning his man inside and out and carved out several chances for his teammates, notably one for Nasri in which the Frenchman was too casual. Iheanacho again never gave the defence a chance to breathe, and Zuccilini set up Nasri for the winning goal in Brisbane.

The game against Roma though is the match in which the City youth stole the spotlight from established first team players such as David Silva, Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure. Marcos Lopes, Zuccilini and Iheanacho especially stood out. Marcos Lopes had the ball glued to his feet whenever in possession and left Roma players in his dust. He also showed the flair that made him City's youngest first team goal scorer. Zuculini showed great intelligence and composure when on the ball. Iheanacho though was the stand out performer of the night as he led the front line over star strikers Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic. He hunted down every loose ball and stalked the defenders. This was examplified when he netted City's second goal after chasing down a wayward Ashley Cole pass and having the composure to slot it past De Sanctis.

The preseason tour of Australia showed City's youth development is as good as any other in the world. Players such as Brandon Barker, Marcos Lopes, Zuculini and Ihenacho show that City don't just have to spend Sheikh Mansour's money to have good players.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Why Sterling will be a great signing for City

After Raheem Sterling's first match in sky blue, Sterling's football talent finally took the mic away from his agent after months of talking in City's preseason win over Roma. Although just a friendly, Sterling showed why City paid as much as they did for him and why he will be a catalyst for their title challenge this season.

In a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground, all eyes were on Sterling. On his first touch of the ball apart from the kick off, boos rang around the stadium and it seemed to surprise Sterling as much the commentators as he tripped over the ball. He got straight back up though and carried on with business and won a corner. A few minutes later Iheanacho gave City the chance to counter attack and split the Roma defence with a sublime ball to Sterling. Sterling had the option to square it across goal to a partner but took his chance and scored his first City goal. Pjanic would go on moments later to score a stunner. Iheanacho would go onto equalise for City after a majestic but unintentional assist from Ashley Cole. Two minutes before time Ljajic again equalised for Roma with a nice free kick. City would then go on to win in a penalty shoot out due to Joe Hart's heroics.

What Sterling showed in this game is his pace and direct running will give City another dimension. 
Last season against Bayern, where City luckily beat the Bavarians, and against Barcelona in the champions league round of sixteen, City started with David Silva and Samir Nasri on the flanks. They opted to counter attack both teams, but this tactic was doomed from the start with these two on the wings. Both are world class players on the wings in the premier league, but only when City dominate possession. In this circumstance they can disregard the responsibilities of an ordinary winger of stretching the opposition and tracking back, instead being able to roam into the middle and not have to worry to much about running with their back to the opposition keeper. Against Bayern and Barcelona though, they had different roles and had to stretch the game and run with the ball. Both lack the pace and movement of a true winger, so when City broke away, they were not able to stab both teams on the counter like a Chelsea or a Real Madrid. Against Roma, Sterling was a constant thorn in the opposition defence as he ran at defenders but still played with the City philosophy of quick passing. Sterling's counter attack goal in the game highlights how in big matches against the bigger teams in the Champions league, he will be an asset and worth the money. He will give City the direct style they were pretending to have against Bayern and Barcelona and give City pace in the side.

Jesus Navas was crucified last season for his performances. While he wasn’t as bad as he was made out to have been, he is one dimensional in the way he only runs to the byline and crosses it. Rarely he cuts inside and roams into other areas of the pitch to make a difference. In the second half, when Sterling was off and Navas was on, City were much less of a threat. In the first forty five, Sterling was constantly swapping flanks, coming inside and out, while in the second half Navas only ran in one direction and took all shots on his right. Sterling is an upgrade in this sense as when deployed on the flanks he can run to the byline, cut inside or roam into central positions so the City attack will be more dynamic.

If this match was a highlight of what Sterling will do next season, City fans can rejoice. While his individual play was terrific, his link up with his teammates was just as good. Sterling's cohesion with the team, especially David Silva was mouth watering the whole first half. The two constantly proved difficult to read and it's players like Silva who bring out the best in others. With Silva, Sterling will definitely settle in better and seamlessly fit into the first team, and hopefully help City towards the Premier League trophy.