Tag Archives: Mauricio Pochettino

Luke Shaw will feel like a new signing to Manchester United

Luke Shaw

It’s great to see Luke Shaw take a football field again.Source: Sky Sports

It has been quite the wait but on Saturday afternoon, Manchester United left back Luke Shaw finally stepped back on to a football pitch.

Back in September, the England international suffered a double fracture of his right leg in the club’s Champions League tie against PSV Eindhoven that ended his season prematurely. It has been a long road back to full fitness, a tough one when it’s for such a long period, but United fans will be delighted to see him again.

After an outstanding season at Southampton under Mauricio Pochettino two years ago, the youngster made the big-money move to Old Trafford that summer. Many baulked at the reported £30 million figure but those at the helm in Manchester knew they were investing in a potentially world class full back in the future.

Those critics were not silenced in his first season at the club, where he struggled both for consistency on the pitch and staying on it. Despite that, many still believed that he would come good in time and with a full summer off, he would return firing on all cylinders.

From the beginning of the 2015-16 season, you could see that the enthralling attacking full back had returned. He had a spring in his step and with encouragement from then-boss Louis van Gaal, who had criticised his weight in the past, Shaw began to really establish himself again.

That attacking instinct returned, where he would fly past his winger and venture towards the by-line. His speed also allowed him to catch up defensively and on both sides of the ball, he made himself an extra weapon to the club’s arsenal that they really needed as they occasionally stifled themselves creatively.

He was the change of pace, he made something happen and he was that extra bit of spice to their attacking play.

Luke Shaw 2

This was a heartbreaking moment in what will hopefully only be a footnote in a long career. Source: Sky Sports

Just as he was starting to fly, his wings were clipped. A lot of onlookers would have said that Shaw was possibly United’s best player for the first few games of the season and were completely gutted when he was struck down on that one night in the Netherlands.

While he went to recover, United struggled to fill the void. Daley Blind was now a centre-back, Marcos Rojo was in the bad books and injuries to Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young meant that Matteo Darmain was their only real option but he needed to play at right-back.

When they did find a suitable replacement in another youngster, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, he too was struck down with injuries that interrupted his steady rise. It was a position of weakness throughout the season and Shaw’s return shores that gap up dramatically.

As for England, they have a surprising amount of interesting full-backs to choose from now. Both Danny Rose and Ryan Bertrand have impressed for their clubs but with neither really making the place in the national team their own, there’s a real chance that Shaw could be the answer in that team as well.

There’s no doubt that it’s fantastic to see Shaw back on a football field, both for club and country. Not only is he a terrific young talent that can become a star, he has shown that he has a strong mentality to fight back and he will be ready come August to show everyone what they’ve been missing.

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Tottenham Hotspur – The Barcelona of the Premier League

Pochettino has created a top team in North London.  Source: ibtimes.com

Pochettino has created a top team in North London. Source: ibtimes.com

Yes you read that title correctly. No, I haven’t suffered a mental breakdown and yes, I have been watching the Premier League this season.

The fact of the matter is Tottenham Hotspur are the club in England that play the closest to the Spanish giants everyone holds up as one of the most impressive teams in football. However, it may not necessarily be for the reasons you usually associate with the Catalan side.

Spurs’ best attribute this season has been their stern defence. They’ve conceded just 20 goals this season in the league and despite just nine clean sheets in 26 games, they have only allowed more than one goal twice.

It’s pretty impressive and while some will pin it down to their Belgian centre-back pairing of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, along with their world class goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, the real difference has been in front of them. It’s the manager Mauricio Pochettino’s use of Eric Dier that has really helped them become a sterner unit at the back.

The defender-cum-defensive midfielder had been utilised in a number of positions last season but it’s his role as the protector that has pushed his game to the next level. He doesn’t venture too far forward and even slots in as an extra defender as the full-backs push on.

Dier's positional move has really improved the team.  Source: Sky Sports

Dier’s positional move has really improved the team. Source: Sky Sports

That movement, although simple, gives them an extra body against counter attacks and allows his centre-backs to close down the space as he uses his defensive instincts to cover. Much like Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano do at Barcelona, they almost create a 3-5-2 as the full backs push on to give them the width that allows their creative players more space in more dangerous areas.

The two CBs also act in a similar way to what Gerard Pique does, as they are both quick on the ground and proficient with the ball. Both Vertonghen and Alderweireld are capable passers, even switching play on occasion and it’s a real asset to the team.

Speaking of the full-backs, the club’s use of their four players in those positions on both wings has been very impressive. They rotate them when they can to keep them fit, which keeps things competitive and has pushed four solid players to become even better, as well as becoming a real important part of their attacking play.

In an even stranger stat, both right backs (Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier) have a goal and an assist while both left-backs (Danny Rose and Ben Davies) have two assists. They are allowed to get forward and create chances in Pochettino’s team, with Trippier showing a few weeks ago how much freedom they have.

Even with possession on the opposite flank, Trippier found himself in the opposition box to score. It was reminicent of Dani Alves or Jordi Alba at Barcelona, who are more advanced more often that most full-backs for any team, contributing mainly in an attacking sense with the knowledge that they have cover from those three defenders behind them.

Rose, along with the other full backs, have been key for Spurs this season.  Source: The Express

Rose, along with the other full backs, have been key for Spurs this season. Source: The Express

Pochettino does come from that class of Marcelo Bielsa pupils, along with the likes of Pep Guardiola, which is probably why his style emulates Barcelona. They like to win the ball high up if they can, they like their full-backs to provide the width and their defensive midfielder to have the discipline to stay back.

And while they don’t have the attacking potency of Barcelona, their forward players have been allowed to create and cause havok. Harry Kane is no one-season wonder, Dele Alli has been a revelation, Christian Eriksen has continued to grow and Erik Lamela no longer looks like an expensive mistake.

All that is gelled by quietly one of their best players in Mousa Dembele. The Belgian is a real workhorse, going from box to box and be involved as much as he can on both sides of the ball. He keeps them ticking with his 89.5% pass completion, he’s added three goals and he’s the perfect foil to the balance that any side needs.

When rotation is needed, the likes of Heung Min Son and Nacer Chadli have contributed as well and along with the full-back depth and the form of Kevin Wimmer in Vertonghen’s absence, they have plenty of talent in their squad. It means they’ve sneaked games they used to lose and it’s a great credit to the side that Pochettino has created in his just-under two seasons there.

Tottenham can absolutely win the league, they have enough to do it but the real thing here is they can really build something here. The one issue is keeping every single piece they can in the summer, or at the very least finding the right replacements and the little additions, with a move to a new stadium on the way along with the influx of TV money, they could make themselves a permanent top four fixture.

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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.

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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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