Tag Archives: Manchester City

In defence of the away goals rule


Look, we’ve all been burned by it or adorded it, so let’s talk about the away goals rule in the Champions League.

For me, I’ll never forget the time Manchester United lost to Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League semi-final on away goals. Having drew 2-2 at Old Trafford, the Germans slipped through our grasps and snuck into the final in a 1-1 that will have me shaking my head for all eternity.

At least Zinedine Zidane scored that blinder in the final.

So many complain about it, while those same voices are eerily quiet when it works in their favour. With that in mind, do we really need the away goals rule? Is it really fair to everyone? Or is it just a way to avoid extra time like it’s the plague for club sides?

In the last six years, eight knockout ties have been settled by the away goals rule with at least one each year. Four of the opening ties were won by the home side, Paris Saint-Germain drew twice to Barcelona in 2012-13 and to Chelsea in 2014/15, while the other two were defeats for Arsenal at the Emirates.

Two of those four that won their opening home fixture secured safe passage to the next round, while both of the Gunners’ initial defeats could not be turned around away from home. PSG’s two draws saw them knocked out at the Camp Nou but qualify in extra time on away goals at Stamford Bridge.

In some, like Marseille’s passage in 2011/12 over Inter Milan and Arsenal’s two losses, the rule looks incredibly harsh. The Ligue 1 side won the tie in the very last second, having held on for 74 minutes before the Italians nabbed two goals only to see it slip on one mistake in the dying embers.

As for the Gunners’ pair of clashes, three goals conceded at home in opening legs killed the ties. On both occasions, they managed to score two away without conceding but alas, the away goals rule states that is not good enough.

Then again, it gives some teams their just rewards. Atletico Madrid were excellent in their semi-final over Bayern Munich last season, with their away goal coming whilst the tie was level at 1-1 and Chelsea’s excellent 2-0 win at home meant the single goal they stole from a drab affair at the Parc des Princes earned them rightful passage to the next round.

In truth, it does tend to hand the advantage to the away side in that first leg. In the 78 games played in the knockout stages in the last six years, the away side has only failed to score in the first game on 27 occasions.

58 of those 78 sides that start away have gone through. However, with seeding affording you that opportunity through qualifying top of your group, it’s not a surprise as you expect a stronger team to be heading on the plane first.

What is extremely interesting is when it comes down to the semi-finals, when the true big teams match up without a seeding advantage. Only one side that went away in the first leg has qualified for the final in the last 10 attempts, Real Madrid being the sole victor over Manchester City last season.

That shows that when it is whittled down to the crème de la crème, the law doesn’t matter. In fact, only one semi-final has required away goals in that span, which was the aforementioned Atletico win, while only one other has gone down to penalties.

In the end, UEFA are forced into a little bit of a corner. The rule is there, on paper at least, to encourage attacking play from the away sides in both legs but more often than not, it causes it in the first leg while the home side sit on anything they’ve gained in the follow-up match.

At the same time, no club wants to play extra time in midweek with a busy domestic schedule that has everyone vying for silverware too. It also tends not to matter in the slightest when it really comes down to the best of the best, so isn’t it a relatively amicable way to thin the herd early doors?

You could tweak it a little, potentially switching the seeding around to test the big teams but with clubs highly unlikely to want to force extra time and the rule needing to be applied fairly irregularly, they will stick to their guns. And so they should, It does encourage exciting ties in the long run and can keep teams in them for longer if they really give it their all.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Why video refereeing will work in football


Mike Dean did not have the best of days on Monday night, to say the least. Source: The Mirror

Somewhat lost among the regular spiel during a match day weekend of referee rants and manager meltdowns was two instances where technology in football made a big difference. In two games, Hawkeye confirmed goals that otherwise were not caught by officials pitch side.

At the Etihad, Burnley clawed themselves back into the game after Ben Mee’s header was confirmed to have crossed the line after a scramble. The other instance was even more significant, with Gareth McAuley’s header against Hull City was not denied on the line and gave the Baggies their first lead in the game.

Both almost seemed like the norm, which is why there was no real talk about it. So, if that has significantly helped football, why can’t video evidence be used to aid referees in a similar manner?

There’s no getting away from it, Mike Dean had a bad day at the London Stadium on Monday evening officiating West Ham United versus Manchester United. Sofiane Feghouli’s red card is very harsh (it has since been rescinded), Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal was offside in both phases and with a couple of unpunished fouls, along with a deliberate handball that was given but no booking, it almost turned farcical.

Now avoiding the silly talk about Dean’s enjoyment of the limelight or how he seemed to never recover from the early red card, which all are slightly unfair shots at his character, let’s talk about how we can assist them. Without video evidence, none of these debates would have been brought up in the first place but with them there, there shouldn’t really be an excuse from the footballing hierarchy not to use them.

It would not take a dramatic amount of time to check them, the videos are available for TV companies in a heartbeat and after a few different angles, 95% of decisions are fairly clear cut. With an experience, official either at the game or a team based somewhere, it should be something that any major league or international competition could start quickly.


This goal would not have stood if it wasn’t for Hawkeye in football. Source: The Sun

There have been a few trials at international friendlies, with incredibly interesting results. It was used in France’s 3-1 win against Italy and with the use of VARs (video assistant referees), they helped make sure a Djibril Sidibe challenge was not worth a red card within 10 seconds.

10 seconds. That’s all it took.

Some commentators say that the managers should have challenges as well, similar to the system used in the NFL. If they get the first challenge right, they get to keep it but overall over the course of the game, an NFL coach can only make a maximum of three challenges which is dependent on that first call.

Mixing that in with the referee being able to check things that quickly and it could turn things that can completely change a team’s season into the norm. With everything checked quickly and then given an extra time to look at them because of a challenge would completely clear any doubt over the referee’s decision, although some will still refuse to accept it.

The old guard will argue that the game’s gone to pot and with machines aiding it now, it’s not long until it’s completely out of pub talks forever, but they’ll soon get over it. The sport is continuing to modernise, even if it’s still vastly behind some sports in certain areas, and finally implementing these ideas would really help.

In fact, it will really help the officials the most. For how scrutinised they are, they can only give what they have seen on the field and especially when you only get one shot at it, then it’s almost a thankless task to have an absolutely spotless game.

This needs to happen as soon as FIFA and The FA can get it off the ground. It might seem a little hyperbolic but people’s jobs are at stake in this results-based business and the fact that it could change from the wrong decision should not be a factor in 2017.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

No one has an answer for Chelsea’s dominant 3-4-3

Watford v Chelsea - Premier League

Conte has turned Chelsea into a ruthless offensive machine. Source: The Indian Express

After a muddling start to the season, people began to question whether Chelsea could recover from an abysmal season. With the same failings, as last year happening again, doubting that Antonio Conte really the savior and looked more like just another pretender to the throne.

However, five games on, five wins and everyone is purring at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are a roaring lion that are putting everyone else in the division to the sword at the moment, so what has changed?

First of all, the 3-4-3 formation has really brought the best out of this group of players. The favoured formation of Conte back at Juventus, it allows both attacking full-backs and wide players without too much danger of being caught on the counter attack.

How it works like that should be pretty clear from the setup, three centre-backs and two defensive-minded central midfielders hold the fort. The two wing-backs are encouraged to join in with attacking play, allowing a former winger like Victor Moses to be a success as almost an extra wide player rather than some tasked with simply defending and joining in when they can.

With that behind them, it allows the three forwards to sit high up the pitch without any stringent defensive responsibilities. Keeping the likes of Eden Hazard and Pedro up the field has caused defences nightmares, freeing them to counter-attack and run at will, with devastating results.


Hazard has rediscovered his devastating form. Source: The Telegraph

Especially in Hazard, who has been reborn under Conte and this formation. Five goals and an assist in his last four fixtures shows how being further up the pitch more often has affected him and with his confidence flowing back in his veins, he has returned to his scarily impressive best.

That attacking ability combined with a strong core has been a force no one has worked out how to unlock. Teams seem to allow Chelsea to push further and further up field, overloading four and even five man defences with too many bodies as they recycle possession in your half to start it all over again.

It was good against Hull City and Leicester City but the real statement of intent came against Manchester United. After an early goal, they absolutely dominated the Red Devils by keeping possession and the two wingers in narrow positions bamboozled a four-man defence.

Forced to bring their wingers back to help, United were essentially left with a six-man back line that could not counter attack in fear of giving Chelsea too much space in the final third. The Blues never let up, continuously pushed and repeatedly found space in dangerous attacking areas to grab four well deserved goals.

Worryingly for everyone else, they seemed to do even more in their 5-0 thumping of Everton at the weekend. As they continue to settle and find a rhythm in the new formation, they are finding even more exploits against teams that are even looking to set up as a counter.


Moses has really blossomed in his new role and has finally found a home at Stamford Bridge. Source: The Telegraph

With Ronald Koeman playing a 5-3-2, he looked to match Chelsea in the key areas and make sure his team were not overloaded when Chelsea were in possession. Instead, the slick interchanging of passing in the final third killed them off, Conte’s men have simply created a great understanding quickly of this formation and add confidence to that, you can see the results.

It was fast-flowing, unselfish football at its best. All they did was shock and awe Everton with their passing play, not allowing them a moment’s rest and without an outlet to get the Toffees further up the pitch, Chelsea simply picked them off at will.

So how do you solve the riddle? Do you attack at will, hoping to overpower them? Do you defend like your lives depend on it? Do you try to counter through the wide areas left exposed when Chelsea push too far forward?

It’s quite possibly a mixture of them all but much like anything in world football, eventually someone will work a worthy counter. The two-game run against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City will be the biggest test that will really show if this formation makes Chelsea title front-runners or just another within an ever-increasing pack.

What it has been is a breath of fresh air. It’s always interesting to see something a little different in the Premier League and Conte has done that, with a thoroughly interesting formation that has left his opponents perplexed, at least for now.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Has The FA Cup lost its magic?

Oh Trophy, we art thou magic gone?  Source: The FA

Oh Trophy, we art thou magic gone? Source: The FA

In the wake of Chelsea’s 5-1 win against a Manchester City side littered with a number of debuting young talent on Sunday afternoon, a debate has begun as to whether the FA Cup has lost some of it’s magic.

The short answer is yes. The long answer is to follow but it’s also not really that surprising that even the oldest club competition in the world has lost a little of its shine, but it’s due to a number of factors.

Starting with the media and the hype of the competition, the moving of games for TV hasn’t helped at all. Place like the BBC are desperate to air an all-Premier League tie like the one on Sunday but with both teams also in Champions League action, neither were happy with the news.

The fact that the next round will very likely be competing with Premier League games, along with Football League games, means that some attention has been drawn away and can make a league like the Championship look like a mess. Some teams have played 29 games, some have played 32, which is going to cause a pile up of fixtures for a team.

The youthful Manchester City squad came under scrutiny.  Source: Sky Sports

The youthful Manchester City squad came under scrutiny. Source: Sky Sports

The competition itself hasn’t adapted out of stubborness and calls that it would harm it, but stagnating it hurts just as much. Replays are a nightmare for schedulers despite the money-rolling opportunities for smaller clubs, which is literally the only benefit other than for the fans of said club.

As I’ve already mentioned, scheduling them on a weekend also doesn’t seem to work when there’s league fixtures on too. Why not move them to the mid-week, when they’ll be appreciated more, or in a more drastic move, change the league fixtures to a mid-week?

It works in literally every other big European country. Spain, Germany, France and Italy all have their big club competition in the week, two of them even have two legs and the fact that the League Cup already does it means it shouldn’t be too big of a shift, especially as that finishes in late February.

We can still have it start on a big Saturday in January too, much like the Coupe de France does, before moving to a mid-week schedule before the final on it’s own Saturday. It may mean the semi-finals have to be away from Wembley as that would be a scheduling nightmare but it would help give the competition more prestige.

Was Pellegrini's team disrepectful or a sign of the times?  Source: soccernews.com

Was Pellegrini’s team disrepectful or a sign of the times? Source: soccernews.com

The cup’s importance has also dropped below the league for pretty much any team. Hull City of the Championship made 10 changes because promotion is much more important to them than a cup run and rightfully so, they aren’t likely to win it and the money they’ll get from going up will be enormous.

Big teams have to rotate at least because of how much are on their plate but even smaller Premier League teams do as they want to stay away from relegation. It’s always difficult to balance it correctly, the likes of West Ham have probably shown it the best, but the very top clubs have to make sure they make the Champions League and that means there tends to be an impact.

So how do you change things? A stipulation on having a certain amount of “first-team” players is absurd. It’s slightly insulting to those who do start, a club would simply promote them if they didn’t meet the criteria and it will promote teams keeping a large squad together.

A Champions League place is an interesting thought but too much of a risk to the co-efficent. The fact that it could have been won by Wigan a few years ago shows you how it could drastically harm the English league and no other country does it.

In the end, something needs to give. Manuel Pellegrini’s side was clearly a message to say that something needs to be done. It has a little bit of dust on it but with a few little shakes of a duster, it could become as good as new.

Tagged , , , ,

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.


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.


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.


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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What will Pep Guardiola bring to Manchester City?

Pep Guardiola will finally come to England next season. Source: The Sun

Pep Guardiola will finally come to England next season. Source: The Sun

I am going to bookmark this piece with the fact that, for all intents and purpose, the deal bringing Pep Guardiola to Manchester City was arranged a reasonable while ago. My previous piece speculating where he could go mentioned that City was his most likely destination and in the end, it seems like no one else stood a chance.

In many ways, from a completely objective and unbiased point of view, the blue side of Manchester was on paper the best choice he could make. They’ve been desperate to secure his services since 2012, as detailed in yesterday’s press release and have essentially been setting up the club ready for his potential arrival in the future.

They brought in the likes of Txiki Begiristain, they poured a lot of money into improving the academy to the point of being some of the best facilities not just in England but in all of Europe. That’s even without the well established squad full of international footballers, a slowly growing reputation across the globe and the financial clout to compete with anyone in the transfer market for the very best player.

This, City's youth academy, is one of the main reasons Pep is joining the Blues.  Source: Manchester Evening News

This, City’s youth academy, is one of the main reasons Pep is joining the Blues. Source: Manchester Evening News

Transfers will be his first port of call and while there will be some crazy names linked with the club, it’s more likely to be realistic. He may target some interesting young talent in England, be on guard Tottenham fans, and while there will be huge Lionel Messi and Neymar rumours, they are enormously unlikely because of their price tags.

As for people leaving, he’ll gleefully clear some of the deadwood and some will simply not fit his style. Yaya Toure is almost guaranteed to go, Wilfred Bony is another likely to find the exit but expect a few surprises, he may get something extra out of Fabien Delph.

His tactical style will be a little different to what some are used to, he does have a possesion based style but the high pressing essentially keeps the ball in the opponents’ half and causes swift but short counters. It’s something City have looked to copy in the past but to get the man that will help them cleverly break down teams that sit back should give them an extra couple of wins a year at least.

Could Yaya Toure be on the move this summer now?  Source: goal.com

Could Yaya Toure be on the move this summer now? Source: goal.com

The club really hope he brings the culture of youth to the team and breeds through the next level of world class talent rather than purchasing them from others. They hope that the next Class of ’92 or much like the conveyor belt at La Masia, they can grow on their own and sustain success with extra players from the transfer windows.

Pep calling this a great challenge is a bit of an odd statement, he literally couldn’t ask for better circumstances to be successful. However, others have blown it at big clubs and with his kind of record and respect, there should be no doubt that he can bring them silverware.

City believe Pep is the final piece to their puzzle, that he will not only bring success but bring the culture to the club that should set them in good stead once he leaves. The Spaniard has guaranteed that everywhere he’s been, to go to England and really put a club on the world map permanently might be his greatest achievement yet.

Tagged , ,

A look at Pep Guadriola’s Premier League options

Pep Guardiola, a wanted man.  Source: The Sun

Pep Guardiola, a wanted man. Source: The Sun

On Sunday, Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola revealed that he will be leaving Bayern Munich at the end of his contract, which also happens to be the end of the season. There has been numerous links to the Premier League in the past and with it looking increasingly likely that he is about to move, here’s a look into some of his future options.



Chelsea could certainly be a real option of Pep, to follow in his rival’s footsteps. Souce: NBC Sport

Starting with the only team that currently has a managerial vacancy, Chelsea would look like the ideal opportunity for Guardiola.

The positives are that it’s a club who have won recently, they have plenty of interesting youth players that he may want to intergrate in to his style and they already have a few of his former players in their ranks. The likes of Cesc Fabregas and Pedro will certainly be pulling him towards London

Their style will not have to change too much and with players like Oscar at the club, it should be relatively simple to implement his ideas. Getting the best out of the likes of Eden Hazard should not be a tricky task, getting the best again out of Diego Costa in his system may be another challenge entirely.

The worry for him might be the perceived ‘player power’ at Chelsea and that despite his incredible tactical nous, his training methods of getting everything out of players could wear thin on some. If it brings plenty of success, then they will be quietened quickly and the hope will be there that he has plenty of allies in that dressing room already.

Although, even that did not save Jose Mourinho. And be prepared for more anger at the medical staff if he hits any injury curses like he has at Bayern.


Manchester City

A deal to manage City may already have been agreed.  Source: zeenews.india.com

A deal to manage City may already have been agreed. Source: zeenews.india.com

Manchester City are the club that has the Spaniard has been linked with the most and for good reason, the Citizens clearly see him as their final cornerstone in making them win it all in Europe.

The club have made sure they have laid out their best plans, with a revolutionary youth setup ready to go and former Barcelona man Txiki Begiristain in there as director of football. Pep would be their centre-piece, where they would finally get the recognition in Europe they feel they deserve.

Implementing his ideas should not be too different either, with so many interesting attacking players that suit how he wants to play. His issue will be shoring up the defence, something that he hasn’t nessasarily had to do before but shouldn’t be put beyond him.

The main issue is there is already a man there but also whether it’s the right fit for him. It certainly looks like it should and everything is in place, with the potential to make yourself a legend of a ever-growing club, but he has so far taken control of teams with a history of longevity.

City have the added factor of they already have a decent manager, who can still win a few things this season. If he manages the league, gets far in the Champions League and possibly wins a domestic trophy, it will be harsh to kick Manuel Pellegrini to the curb.

However, with reports that he has already signed a deal and combine that with Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge stating he already knows his next move, this looks like his most likely destination.


Manchester United

Manchester United would be the hardest job for Guardiola, with assembly needed.  Source: The Standard

Manchester United would be the hardest job for Guardiola, with assembly needed. Source: The Standard

A relatively attractive post for any manager in the world, would Guardiola want to oversee a still growing team?

The pluses is he will add to what Louis van Gaal started in a possession and defensive standpoint. Adding his high-pressing and work rate to that should help lift what is still a talented United squad to the next level, along with plenty of young players he can mould.

This would also be reportedly the job he ideally wants, the challenge of being the first to really succeed after Sir Alex Ferguson and even following a high profile manager in Van Gaal. Again, that’s just reported so take with a huge grain of salt and he’s certain to be proud of managing any of the clubs mentioned.

The issue will arise from the fact that this would be the first club he is rebuilding a little rather than advancing or continuing recent success. That’s not to say United are particularly poor squad or that none of their players have won things in the past, it’s more that this may require a little more time than the others to improve.

The other is from the fact that Van Gaal is still there and could likely still be there in the summer. It could even be the case that he’s immediately replaced by Jose Mourinho but given that Pep has already come out to say he is leaving Bayern, United’s movements in the next few weeks should suggest their likelihood in getting him in.



Arsenal would be an unlikely yet very intriguing move.  Source: IB Times

Arsenal would be an unlikely yet very intriguing move. Source: IB Times

The most unlikely candidates but potentially the most intriguing, it’s not hard to imagine Pep being incredibly interested in the manager’s job at the Emirates if it became available.

They absolutely fit his style, probably better than any of the other clubs. They have an emphasis on possession, they have some quick, creative players that work well in the final third and that he can get to press the ball.

It’s another that he’s reportedly very interested in, being the successor to a great manager and it’s another club with recent successes (although only in the FA Cup) that he likes to build on as well as an established history within the English game.

The obvious and major issue is that it’s highly unlikely that Arsene Wenger will leave or retire this season. He’s a superb manager that could win a few things this year again and the tiny hope might be that he wants to go out on top should he win the title.

He would also need to find a more suitable defensive midfielder, as he has with Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso/Philip Lahm in the past. He needs someone to hold and to play neatly, along with the potential to split the defence and he won’t even get that from Francis Coquelin, despite his recent quality displays.


Overall, Pep is a great manager that will likely improve anyone he goes to. He speaks great English, so communication will not be an issue and he’s likely to bring entertaining football once he gets to grips with things.

My advice to any fans of a club that get him is trust him. He may slightly infuriate, like playing the best full-back in the world in central midfield (even if it works), but he brings a balance and a style that can be altered to create continued success if and once he leaves.

Tagged , , , ,

Fabian Delph showing money isn’t everything

This photo would have look rather silly had he moved to Manchester City.  Source: Aston Villa Club Website

This photo would have look rather silly had he moved to Manchester City. Source: Aston Villa Club Website

In an almost unprecedented move, Fabian Delph rejected the advances of Manchester City this week to remain at Aston Villa. That’s despite the two-time Premier League champions matching his buyout clause and offering a bumper contract, Delph stays to play regular football with the team he’s grown with.

At the initial news that he was due to have a medical with the Sky Blues, even I started thinking about the same old cliches about others that have made similar moves to the same club. Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair, Adam Johnson and to some extent James Milner all moved to the Etihad believing that it would be a big step in their careers as first-team starters and national team main-stays.

However, it never really worked out for any of them as they might have hoped.

Scott Sinclair would have helped, he also suffered from a poorly advised move.  Source: Birmingham Mail

Scott Sinclair would have helped, he also suffered from a poorly advised move. Source: Birmingham Mail

Rodwell and Sinclair never really broke into the side, Johnson was always going to be an impact player and whilst Milner had the most success, he was the most frustrated after performing well yet still not earning a regular spot in the starting eleven. All have now moved on and while it’s also clear that some have never reached the heights expected, most of them had their careers stunted at Manchester City.

That is not to say that this article is just to attack the methods of the blue side of Manchester, other than Milner there weren’t signs that the others were quite at the level required at the club. The rules on home-grown talent also force Manchester City into a corner, buying English players for the sake of filling quotas and depriving other teams of good starters or even key players.

They are also caught in a middle ground between their recent success and their own academy catching up to them. Having to pay a premium for strong English talent, like they have with Raheem Sterling, is their only real way to move forward with the home-grown status whilst they wait for their impressive academy to produce quality products.

Delph will hope that regular first-team action will boost his Euro 2016 hopes.  Source: Aston Villa Club Website

Delph will hope that regular first-team action will boost his Euro 2016 hopes. Source: Aston Villa Club Website

That being said, it was still very tough for Delph to not only turn down the money and potential silverware but also admit to himself that at his current level, he won’t be getting the game time that he needs. It’s sometimes difficult for a player to remove themselves like that and have real foresight, especially an international and it’s incredibly refreshing.

He’s staying loyal to Villa and it’s great to see, many other young English players should follow his example. Get reassurances at your new club that you’ll be played, stay that year longer to grow in a smaller side and then allow your progression when you feel necessary.

It’s moves like this that will improve the quality of the national side in the future, rather than harshly sticking to rules that don’t end up benefiting anyone.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,