Tag Archives: Louis van Gaal

What do Manchester City’s rivals do to react to Pep Guardiola’s arrival?

Now that Pep Guardiola’s arrival at Manchester City has been announced, what do his opponents have to do to match his clout? How do they deny the Spaniard from gaining glory in his first season? Here’s a look at their main competition (yes, for the time being, I’m excluding Leicester City) and what they need to improve.

Manchester United

Will it be Van Gaal? Or Giggs? Or even Mourinho?   Source: The Guardian

Will it be Van Gaal? Or Giggs? Or even Mourinho? Source: The Guardian

Old Trafford will have eyes on them all summer as they could go in a number of directions but the best advice is to go one way as soon as possible and back them to the hills.

If Louis van Gaal remains, which is the most unlikely outcome it seems, allow him to complete the process and build a very strong team for next year. If it’s Jose Mourinho, give him the funds to make the moves needed and allow him to have some control as to not restrict him completely and hinder any positives he could make.

Should Ryan Giggs be promoted, which should be their manner of thinking, give him the keys. Allow him to express his tactical ideals, allow his passion for the club to come out in every game and watch the squad quickly rally around him. From then, improve the youth set-up again to match City’s and while it’s a risk, if Giggs performs well, it could set up a great city rivalry for years to come.

Chelsea

Hiddink will likely not stay, his successor is a vital decision.  Source: Sky Sports

Hiddink will likely not stay, his successor is a vital decision. Source: Sky Sports

It is vital for Chelsea to find the right man to succeed Jose Mourinho, back him to make the right moves and get them back on track.

Whether that be Guus Hiddink, someone like Antonio Conte or a Diego Simeone, they need to make sure he has enough clout to get this team back to where it should be. Some will need to be moved on, there will be a need for another defender as well as potentially a centre midfielder and even an extra attacker.

Get him in place early so he can plan out, which is a worry if Conte is the choice as he has Euro 2016 to deal with. Bring through some of their interesting youth talent, get the squad playing football again and get back to challenging for Champions League football at a very minimum. They have the financial ability to compete with City, they just need to bring through their own players to get a little ahead.

Arsenal

Wenger will need to spend a little and make up a lot.  Source: UEFA

Wenger will need to spend a little and make up a lot. Source: UEFA

This one is maybe the toughest to judge but with a few key players, they should be able to challenge Guardiola’s City.

Wenger can’t sit down on this one and not buy an outfield player again. They desperately need a quality defensive midfielder with the ability to begin attacks, someone like William Carvalho would be ideal but there are a few more out there.

Buy a more reliable partner next to Laurent Koscielny as well as an extra young forward behind Olivier Giroud and they should contend again. He then simply needs to keep them running all season long, fix some injury issues and make sure they can stay the course. They have more in place than anyone, therefore they should be the one’s able to compete on the pitch the quickest.

Liverpool

Klopp needs to geggenpress the club into backing him and him alone.  Source: The Telegraph

Klopp needs to geggenpress the club into backing him and him alone. Source: The Telegraph

The Anfield club need to back Jurgen Klopp all the way in the summer to make the squad fully competitive next season.

It has been pretty clear since the German’s arrival that the squad does not have enough quality or depth to really challenge on a number of fronts. A cup victory will give them European football but should they miss out at all, it could give them another false image of a squad just about good enough to cope.

Back his ideas, allow him and only him to clear the squad while bringing in what he needs to make Liverpool at least challenge for the top four again. From there, if he has a nice solid base, he could certainly challenge for the Premier League and be a real threat to Guardiola’s Manchester City, we could be in for some exciting encounters between the two again. Don’t expect too much too soon, Klopp needs the time to turn the ship around.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs, hold on to this man. Tightly.  Source: ibtimes.com

Spurs, hold on to this man. Tightly. Source: ibtimes.com

The memo for Tottenham should be hold on to everything you have as the vultures will begin to circle in the summer.

There is no doubt that they have a quality manager, who looks likely to stay unless a Spanish giant has a vacancy, a good first-team squad that actually has a surprising amount of depth. They have some very good young, English players mixed with some solid foreign exports with Premier League experience, which is invaluable.

Unfortunately for them, that means that other clubs will be looking, especially with the home grown quota in mind. The likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Eric Dier are not only quality players but big commodities that those struggling to meet them on their own will pay a tidy price for them. Keep them if they can, or at least get plenty for them, but regardless of that, keep searching and growing until they don’t struggle to hold onto that calibre of player, because they can compete.

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When is the perfect time to sack a manager?

Benitez never had his feet under the desk.  Source: Bleacher Report

Benitez never had his feet under the desk. Source: Bleacher Report

With the sacking of Rafa Benitez yesterday, it seems like there is no better time to look at when it is the right time to dismiss a manager of a football club.

For starters, it should be a difficult decision not done on a whim. Several disappointing results can sting but things can change dramatically in two months’ time and snap decisions have more often than not had pretty dire consequences.

At the same time, when problems arise that may not be fixable, you cannot fear pulling the trigger when change is needed. Even if it’s not seen on the outside or there is an opportunity to get someone better, clubs shouldn’t fear in making a short-term negative decision for a long-term gain.

In the case of Benitez at Real Madrid, it seemed like a marriage doomed to fail from the start. Taking over from a hugely popular coach in Carlo Ancelotti and seen as a poor choice by the fans, the former Liverpool boss was always walking on a tightrope from the minute he walked through the door.

He didn’t seem to have full control of the team, his style clashed with the players at his disposal and people called for his head at the first sign of trouble. Now, with no more options available, Zinedine Zidane takes control much sooner than expected and is thrown right into the deep end.

Van Gaal is on thin ice but if he turns things around, other clubs should take notice.  Source: The Telegraph

Van Gaal is on thin ice but if he turns things around, other clubs should take notice. Source: The Telegraph

Timing a firing can be so difficult, when the pressure to get results is high but the space to bring in new ideas that can work so limited. Without a break like the rest of Europe, where it seems like a logical time to change things, managers have to simplify things before gradually adding their own spin, which takes too much time.

Take a look at Chelsea sacking Jose Mourinho, who had clearly lost the effort of his team and could not find a way to fix things but was then sacked just before the hectic Christmas period. Whether it was right or wrong, Guus Hiddink had little time to fix things and only now does it seem like they are clicking into gear under the Dutchman.

The one to watch will be the rest of Louis van Gaal’s reign at Manchester United, when many other managers would have been dismissed immediately after a fourth loss and a dismal display against Norwich City on Boxing Day.

They may have picked up a few points since then and could be back on the up, if he recovers and creates any kind of success this season or even possibly next season, it may show that sticking by someone might be the best option.

Short-sightedness tends to come with those at the bottom, as we have seen with constant Sunderland managers over the past few years but without a plan in place, teams sink. Newcastle almost fell after not having a plan after Alan Pardew and Norwich took too long to swing the axe on Chris Hughton a few years ago, giving the job to a man who brought them down and was sacked six months later.

Sherwood is prime example of a team rushing a decision without a plan.  Source: The Telegraph

Sherwood is prime example of a team rushing a decision without a plan. Source: The Telegraph

Another example of that poor forward-thinking was the hiring of Tim Sherwood, an unproven manager that ended up saving Aston Villa on the virtue that other teams were worse. He then had a pretty poor summer, the team was not tactically prepared and now Remi Garde is running around in January to fix all the problems he created.

Some sackings felt needless, such as when Mauricio Pochettino took over at Southampton or when Quique Sanchez Flores became the Watford manager, but both have shown why that decision was made. They both had plans, they have a tactical nous that brings the team an identity they can follow and in the long run, both have worked very well.

In the end, long-term ideals need to take much more of a prominent standpoint over possible short-sighted advantages. Bringing someone in to save the club does not mean that same man can take you forward, therefore the thinking has to be that he can deliver for many years rather than for just this season, as it usually leaves a club in a mess.

There may never be the “right” time to sack a manager. The off-season would be much easier, much like in other sports, but with the risk of relegation or not succeeding so high, owners feel compelled to do something as soon as they spot a problem.

What needs to happen is for them to get it right in the first place, a man who will add structure to the entire organisation and build rather than a fire-fighter because, in the long run, that short-term thinking always lands clubs in trouble.

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Van Gaal lays foundations that future managers must build on

Louis van Gaal has laid the defensive foundations of which entertaining attacking play can be built on, but probably from someone else.  Source: The Guardian

Louis van Gaal has laid the defensive foundations of which entertaining attacking play can be built on, but probably from someone else. Source: The Guardian

Many people have rightly claimed that the footballing philosophy that Louis van Gaal has brought to Manchester United has made them a dull, relatively predictable attacking team.

While the ideas he has put in place, centring around structure and possession of the football, have helped solidify a leaky defence, it has in turn stifled the attacking flair of which Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams were fondly remembered for.

With that significant comes criticism, rightly or wrongly, for the direction that the team is going in under the Dutchman. Many question whether it will win the club anything and even if it does, whether it would have been worth watching the mundanity of it all.

Some would also argue that the amount of money that United have spent in the last two summers demands trophies. That others have spent similar or less and have achieved results, therefore the same should be said of this current crop of players at Old Trafford.

However, some are forgetting what he inherited. The end of the Ferguson era saw the Moyes era and he simply could not lay the foundations that would stand the club in good stead not just in their immediate future but for many seasons to come.

They went backwards, without a real plan in attack or defence and with a squad that was waning, he could not put enough in place quickly enough to make a stark change.

In came Van Gaal, in came big changes to personnel and for a brief moment, it worked. The autumn was solid but it lead to a relatively bleak winter that saw United begin to dip in form. Unable to defend and with a lack of potency up front, they stagnated.

Then, there was a sign of real life.

United's 3-0 win against Spurs, with Rooney's "knockout" goal, was the real standout performance of last season.  Source: The Mirror

United’s 3-0 win against Spurs, with Rooney’s “knockout” goal, was the real standout performance of last season. ┬áSource: The Mirror

A 3-0 performance at Old Trafford against Tottenham Hotspur was a real marker of what this team can do. There was a real energy when the ball was played forward, the team pressed high and were rewarded with quick counters in the final third that Barcelona have proved in the last few years can be so deadly.

It didn’t require a huge amount of possession, with only 52%, and despite having 11 shots on goal, only three were on target. They all ended in the back of the net, a pretty regular symptom of the new Manchester United, of which that if they tend to work a goal-scoring opportunity, it at least ends in the back of the net.

And again, it was built of the solid defensive play from earlier in the season. Spurs failed to have a shot until the 89th minutes, the on-fire Harry Kane was completely anonymous and they build on top of that with a high-press, quick attacking game.

It lasted a few games before the team ran out of steam. In came a few more signings in the summer, some extra youthful injection as well as some real solidarity in midfield and other than potentially a real solid centre-back, it was the summer the team were begging for.

From the start of the season up until now, the team haven’t set anyone alight.

Van Gaal’s tactics in most games are set up almost not to lose or concede, which seem much more sensible when you consider the plights of Chelsea but seem outrageous when you can’t be adventurous away at Leicester City, a team that have been on quite the run but aren’t the most formidable defensive team.

Instead, they tried to stop the Foxes entertaining attack and for the most part they did, it did not end in a win but the team that was set out, with three centre-backs and two defensive midfielders, although Bastian Schweinsteiger did become more advanced once they went behind.

United were abject against Leicester, bar a solid showing from Schweinsteiger.  Source: Manchester Evening News

United were abject against Leicester, bar a solid showing from Schweinsteiger. Source: Manchester Evening News

What one can learn from these displays is that Van Gaal is at least providing a foundation of which the team can build from. No one wanted to join with Moyes in charge, he has attracted young talent that will grow with the club and their attacking flair will come to the fore at some point.

The defence can now defend properly and if Luke Shaw wasn’t injured, the back line might never have changed all season. Daley Blind has held his own, Phil Jones has impressed when fit and Chris Smalling has been a revelation. If Matteo Darmain can rediscover his confidence, it’s a good unit that is now finally protected by a solid defensive midfielder with good interplay skills in Morgan Schneiderlin.

They have the best defence in the league, conceding 10 goals in 14 games and in an era when defending has become an afterthought for some teams. It’s impressive when heading into the season, people thought they desperately needed a centre-back but all they needed was a firm structure and a bit of consistency.

While it’s clear that he’s restricting the attacking players, which is only more frustrating when you look at the talent and how some performed at the back end of last season, they have a solid backbone. Either Van Gaal will eventually let some of the reigns loose as his team continues to hold off others or someone else will make it so, much like at every other club the 64-year-old has been at.

Barcelona and Bayern Munich are both lauded for their attacking flair but what is also forgotten about, especially under Pep Guardiola, is the fact that they don’t concede many goals either. They had a basis, of which attacking play was then build upon and then the success would come.

It might be difficult to tell at the moment and a little inconsiderate to ask for people to wait for this to work but at least there looks to be a plan. Other teams spend in hope, as have United, but it’s with the intent to advance the team for the foreseeable future.

The days of traditional wing play and counter attacking football is gone, at least for the time being. The club are doing what every other rebuild should do, rebuild from the back and then move forwards, then you can create a team capable of winning silverware on a regular basis.

Whether it will be Van Gaal at the helm when that does happen is unlikely but United fans should not fret too much, the foundations are at least laid for a real identity to be placed upon them sooner rather than later.

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