What now for Chelsea’s Victor Moses?

Chelsea have been collecting attacking midfielders over the last couple of years, which has given them a real log jam. With Mata, Hazard, Oscar, De Bruyne, Schurrle, Piazon, Marin and possibly the arrival of Marko van Ginkel to compete with, Victor Moses is possibly the odd one out. It’s a little unfair on Moses who enjoyed a really solid debut season at Chelsea, scoring 10 and making five goals. All the more impressive considering that he made 16 of his 44 appearances from the bench. By any normal measure it’s a good first season, and if Rafa Benitez was still in charge there wouldn’t be this discussion, but can he forge himself a role under Jose Mourinho or would a move to Everton under his old boss Roberto Martinez make more sense?

Jose Mourinho teams play a quick counter attacking style and play with width when transitioning to attack. In theory then, this makes Victor Moses an ideal candidate. He is one of Chelsea’s fastest players, is a direct runner, full of trickery and showed improved decision making last season. Mourinho is going to play either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 system and Moses is ideal on the right of either of those. He gets goals and under Benitez last year started to show willingness to track runners in a more disciplined defensive side to his game.

Victor Moses

All of that sounds like it could be appealing to Mourinho but there are only so many players he can fit in to the team. All of the attacking players listed above have pace. They can all score goals, they are all direct. It might be a case of Moses losing his place in the queue just because there are so many other options. Even though he cost £7m last summer they may feel his ceiling is lower than some of his rivals for a spot in the side and he’d lose his place in the hierarchy. But he’ll be very desirable.

The best place for Moses to go is Everton. This is for two reasons; firstly, he will reunite with Roberto Martinez his old Wigan manager, and that Martinez will be, in all likelihood, implementing a system in which Moses can thrive. Martinez’s Wigan played with wingers and wing backs in his endless search for width, pace and variety in attack. Moses would be a perfect compliment to Kevin Mirallas. Moses keeps wide so can play on the right, allowing Mirallas to come in from the left in to central areas with Baines providing the width on the left.

With this in mind, Everton could then look at playing Steven Piennar centrally, or if they want him on the left, Mirallas centrally. Either way, signing Moses would give Everton more options in attack. Martinez’s attacking patterns are all about variety and movement, and so bringing in Moses would help to enable that from the rest of the team.

Chelsea would probably ask for something in the region of £10m for Moses but considering all of their other options Everton may be able to get him for £8m or so, representing a small profit for Chelsea. He’d be an ideal compliment to the Everton attack and may be better served going there. However, if Jose Mourinho is impressed with his pace and skill on the counter attack he may well be reluctant to sanction him going.

How Martinez can lead Everton to the Champions League

He probably didn’t want it made public at his introductory press conference, but according to Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, one of the first things Roberto Martinez said to him was ‘I can get you in to the Champions League’. It’s a big statement of intent, but can it be achieved? For a club that has only finished in a Champions League spot once, albeit they failed to overcome Villarreal in the qualifying round, pushing on from their usual fifth – seventh dwelling is a big ask. However, it’s by no means an impossibility. Who would have thought this season’s cup winners would be Swansea and Wigan? Getting themselves above Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool and in o fourth would be a greater achievement even than Martinez’s relegation escapes and the FA Cup win. So, how can he do it?

Keeping Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas is going to be critical. They are the Everton players who are most desired by other teams, who most belong in the Champions League. Keeping them will not be easy, despite Kenwright’s assurances than no players are for sale. However, Fellaini has a release clause in his contract of around £24m, which makes him vulnerable. His physicality and tenacity have been key factors in giving Everton the toughness and multidimensional attacking virtues that have made them top-six mainstays. Although not always the most elegant on the ball he has shown he can play as a rugged defensive midfielder, or even as a second striker. Such versatility is a valuable asset. One of the questions about Martinez’s Wigan was that they had no Plan B. If passing didn’t work they couldn’t figure out another way to score. Although Fellaini is less technical than Martinez’s ideal, he is a key force for Everton and gives them a legitimate Plan B. It’s possible that Man United, Chelsea, or even Monaco, could open up the release clause.

Bill Kenwright and Roberto Martinez

Keeping Leighton Baines is more important but could be just as difficult. There is no more consistent player in the league than Baines and his attacking forays from left back in tandem with Steven Pienaar or Mirallas give Everton as good a flank as any team in the league. Baines is a good defender but it’s his attacking output that is staggering. He gets goals and assists as if he’s a winger. For Martinez this is vital. He plays with extreme width; his 3-4-1-2 system at Wigan was designed to space the pitch out as much as possible. Baines could be unstoppable as the left wing back if Martinez brings the system with him. He’s wanted by Moyes at United to replace a possibly Monaco-bound Patrice Evra though.

Kevin Mirallas is the final jewel in the crown but keeping him should be easier. He was arguably Everton’s best player in 2013, regularly putting in performances of devastating thrust in attack and started to score more and more goals. Everton’s attack was their weakness last year, so keeping a major livewire threat in Mirallas is key. Martinez needs pace and width in attack, which he offers in abundance.

Buying a striker is the next most important task. Nikica Jelavic and Victor Anichebe are not strikers who can propel a team in to the top four. Whatever money Everton have, they need to throw it in to getting a proper striker. If Man City are willing to let Edin Dzeko go they could push hard for him, they could get involved in the Christian Benteke bidding or even look at a move for Michu. One way or another, they need a forward who can get them 20+ goals, and be reliable. They can get one for the £15m club record the brought Fellaini to the club, but without one they won’t have a chance.

Combining solid defence with sophisticated attacking play
is the key to Martinez’s possession-based system working for Everton. The defence was good last year, rarely conceding more than once in games. That can be left alone. What does need the Martinez touch is the attack. Everton have been increasingly fluent over recent years so it’s not like he’s inheriting footballing philistines but his tactical set up evolved over his four years at Wigan so might be hard to teach straight away. Everton were excellent at Goodison Park under Moyes but never great away from home. If Martinez can get them dominating possession and playing with the creativity they need, matched with the inherent will to will and desire infused by Moyes and Phil Neville it will be a potent combination.

Lastly, they need luck. If Spurs keep Gareth Bale and Arsenal recruit strongly it’s going to be very hard to overthrow them. They need to be flawless in the transfer market themselves, hope others make errors, and allow Martinez’s brand of football time to bed in. They have the winning, tough mentality, and if they can combine that with added attacking flair the top four is in reach.

Wigan Athletic and the possibility of last-day roulette

Last season, with just nine games left in their Premier League campaign, Wigan looked doomed to relegation. And then something amazing happened. Winning seven of their last nine matches, the Latics turned the formbook on its head.

A run that included wins over Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle meant Roberto Martinez had yet again worked miracles, maintaining his side’s place in the top flight for an eighth-successive season.

It is for reasons such as this that when you look at Wigan’s current lowly position you still assume they will get out of it. You assume another seemingly impossible run will be masterminded. And you already picture owner Dave Whelan’s euphoric grin on the final day.

James McArthur celebrates for Wigan

But this time it could be different. Because this time the team – arguably the strongest Martinez has had in his time there – are only showing glimpses of what is needed to survive. And that is despite the fact that they are currently clear of the relegation zone, if only on goal-difference.

Where last season they were unified and steadfast, particularly in those final few games, this year they are yet to keep a clean sheet at home.

And while it is wrong to paint a mere tiff as anything more than that, Saturday’s altercation between Emerson Boyce and James McArthur would have been a worrying sight for Martinez, even if publicly he said otherwise.

The disagreement came about following one too many misplaced passes. But that in itself is a concern, as Martinez’s Wigan have always tried to play football the right way. It is an ethos that should have seen them finish higher in the past, but one that may see them relying on the failure of others to survive this season.

With such a small squad, Martinez has successfully utilised tactics and formations that have reaped rich rewards, most notably last year when Shaun Maloney excelled as a playmaker and Franco Di Santo began to understand what he could do.

Yet despite the introduction of Arouna Kone – their most consistent goal-threat since Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts – they could fall short if plucky late comebacks and last-minute equalisers are not turned into wins.

Of their remaining 10 league games, seven are winnable. And the Wigan who ended last season would achieve that with ease.

But it is their next four that are crucial, as an away match at QPR is sandwiched between home games against Norwich, Newcastle and Swansea. It is a run they are more than capable of navigating, and if they are at least nine points better off afterwards, this article is all but redundant.

Then again, it could all come down to Wigan against Aston Villa on the final day; and what better time than that to keep their first home clean sheet of the season.

Wigan’s destruction of Newcastle shows that the Latics belong in the Premier League

Wigan put on a show on Saturday to all-but-secure their Premier League status for another year, and delighted the DW Stadium and onlookers in the process. A 4-0 win over Champions League qualification hopefuls Newcastle mixed a determined and dogged defensive approach with sublime attacking play, and Roberto Martinez’s men were good value for their comprehensive victory.

With Newcastle undoubtedly the surprise package of the season, and Alan Pardew crafting a team of rough-around-the-edges players into some of the most sought-after stars in the league, the victory is all the more impressive. The first-half showing by the hosts was nothing short of masterful, as Wigan were quite simply too good for their Tyneside opponents.

A Victor Moses brace and goals from Shaun Maloney and Franco Di Santo gave the home side an unassailable lead, and in truth Wigan could have scored more in the first 45. The win sends Wigan up to 16th place and 37 points, three ahead of the bottom three, and three adrift of the holy grail of 40.

Wigan’s escapology act from last season had the club’s fans on cloud nine, but this season seems to be even more of an achievement. Given the fact that the Latics were bottom of the pile not too long ago, and faced a stern fixture list, Martinez and his team should be proud of their end of season heroics.

Five wins in the last eight games has lifted Wigan above their relegation rivals, with three points against Liverpool at Anfield, at home against Manchester United and at the Emirates against Arsenal, along with yesterday’s triumph, sticking out in the memory. The Latics could already be safe, but one win from their last two games against Blackburn and Wolves, will ensure Martinez’s men stay in the top flight for another year.

The manner of the afore-mentioned victories, and Wigan’s play for the majority of the campaign, is the real standout point. Martinez has urged his troops to consistently get the ball down on the deck and play football, even against their supposedly superior opponents, and this must be admired. When a team goes into a spiral of bad results, like Wigan have this season, there is a temptation to try and get the ball forward in a direct fashion rather than keeping possession, and the Latics have resisted this urge for the majority of the campaign.

The likes of Victor Moses, James McCarthy and Maynor Figueroa have all been excellent, and the cash-strapped side may have a battle on their hands to hold onto their best players. Like Wilson Palacios, Antonio Valencia and Charles N’Zogbia before them, the chance to play for a bigger club could be too good to resist.

Looking forward, there could be a few changes at the DW Stadium this summer, and the club’s fans will hope that Wigan can get off to a better start next term. Despite their heroics in escaping relegation through end-of-season wins over the last couple of years, the team will hope to not leave it so late next term, and secure their Premier League status well before the last five games. A sensible summer in the transfer market and a continuation of Martinez’s positive attitude could well see Wigan as more than relegation escapees in 2012-13.

Published – Soccerlens

Hitman Rodallega stifled by Wigan’s lack of creativity

Wigan Athletic currently sit rock bottom of the Barclays Premier League, and looked doomed to Championship football next season, however, if they are to stand any chance of survival they must increase supply to their diamond in the rough, Hugo Rodallega.

The Colombian striker has shown glimpses of genius in his two and a half seasons in English football, but has struggled to produce the form and goals he is capable of this season as The Latics have lacked creativity and the necessary enterprise to conjure up chances for him. The striker cuts a forlorn figure and is clearly frustrated at the limited and poor service he has to endure; it is obvious that the powerful hitman has outgrown his struggling Wigan team.

Rodallega has scored seven league goals this season, not an especially impressive return but the men who are supposed to create chances for him must harbour a lot of the blame for this, and Wigan’s dire predicament. Charles N’Zogbia sporadically can offer quality supply to manufacture chances for Rodallega, whilst young midfield dynamo James McCarthy has grown in stature with every game he gets. Unfortunately for Rodallega and Wigan fans, apart from this the Colombian would-be goalscorer does not have the quality around him to contribute considerable quality service to create chances.

Roberto Martinez has instilled a footballing mentality into his Wigan team, and has implored his side to get the ball down and pass it; the problem is that Martinez just does not have the personnel to successfully execute this gameplan, and Rodallega suffers due to this. The sale of Antonio Valencia to Manchester United for £16 million may have made good financial sense for the club given the fact the signed him for less than £5 million, but it has left Rodallega bereft of service. Valencia’s pace and quality of delivery helped Wigan sustain and prosper in the Premier League; without him they lack incision.

Put Hugo Rodallega into the Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United team and he would be one of the league’s leading scorers. The Colombian is your stereotypical centre forward; big, powerful, strong and fast, good in the air and he has an eye for goal. The South American is certainly still learning his trade but he has the potential to be an excellent player and has all the raw assets to cause Premier League defenders headaches on a weekly basis.

So what of Hugo Rodallega’s future? Wigan, in all honesty look doomed, and if a host of Premier League clubs aren’t keeping tabs on the striker, they should be. Newcastle have an Andy Carroll shaped hole in their attack, and could do worse than offer Wigan £10 million for Rodallega. Sunderland need a partner for Asamoah Gyan and Rodallega is of the Darren Bent mould, and would be an excellent addition at the Stadium of Light. Teams like Everton and West Ham, provided they stay up, would be lucky to have the Colombian heading their frontline come the start of the 2011/12 season. The striker wouldn’t look out of place in a top six side’s squad either and if they are clever, the bigger teams could grab a potential 20 goal a season striker at a budget price.

Wigan look likely to be playing Championship football next season but Hugo Rodallega won’t be, as The Latics demotion should trigger interest in the Colombian from other Premier League clubs and teams abroad. If Roberto Martinez had more creativity in his team Rodallega may well have contributed the goals to fire them out of danger, but Wigan’s relegation will benefit the striker as he will thrive from improved service at his new club next season.

Published – http://www.caughtoffside.com/2011/03/09/hitman-rodallega-stifled-by-wigan%E2%80%99s-lack-of-creativity/


Relegation dogfight intensifies; the contenders facing the drop

Let’s face it; obviously no-one wants to get relegated, but a relegation scrap can be as exciting as the race for the title, and this year there are an added number of clubs in the mix to be demoted to The Championship. The cost of relegation from the Premier League is a massive one financially and emotionally; a club can lose up to £40 million worth of television money, attendances can drop, your best players will look to jump ship in order to retain Premiership football and well, there’s the heartbreak if you’re a fan of a team that finishes in the bottom three that will spoil your summer. 40 points has been stated as the expected target to survival; so who are this year’s relegation threatened clubs, and what chance do they stand of staying up?


Mick McCarthy’s men sit bottom on goal difference at time of writing on 25 points, and can blame a terrible away record for their current predicament with only one win and five points away from Molineux this campaign. They have looked more of a threat at home, and gave their season a shot in the arm with a historic 2-1 win over leaders Manchester United a couple of weeks ago. Wolves fans will know they missed a glorious chance to steal a march on fellow bottom feeders West Brom  in their last outing,  the Baggies grabbed a injury-time equaliser. Wolves actually have a fairly good fixture list for the run-in, with only Spurs of the top six teams yet to play. They face Blackpool at home this weekend, and must win if they are to stand a chance of avoiding Championship football next season.

Prediction – relegated


The Seasiders have been a revelation in their first season amongst English football elite, with Ian Holloway instilling a passing football mentality and great work ethic to his team. Blackpool started the season well and up to Christmas showed no fear to record some memorable victories. However 2011 has been more of a struggle, and there are signs that Holloway’s men are running out of steam. However the Seasiders caught Tottenham daydreaming of European glory in mid-week, and claimed an invaluable three points that puts a buffer between themselves and the team in the bottom three. They have performed better away from Bloomfield Road than at home, and need a few more wins to secure safety. The game against Wolves at Molineux is an important one, and if they can escape without defeat should be safe.

Prediction – safe

West Ham

West Ham are a big team in big trouble; they currently are on 25 points and sit one place above Wolves on goal difference. They were bottom at Christmas, which is always an ominous sign, but will be boosted by a good win in the FA Cup in midweek. If they are to stay up they need to win home games, and have six of their last eleven at Upton Park. The defeat at home to Birmingham a couple of weeks ago was a massive blow to their chances, and Avram Grant’s men are staring into the last chance saloon. The fact that the Hammers’ board have backed Grant to lead them to safety should unite the London club, and they have their next two games at home against Liverpool and Stoke, which they need to capitalise on if they want to be playing in the Premiership when they move to the Olympic stadium.

Prediction – safe, but only just


Alex McLeish has done an excellent job at Birmingham given the limited resources at his disposal, but the Scot has one huge problem; his team does not score enough goals. The Blues have only found the back of the net 25 times in 26 games and must start converting chances to avoid being dragged back into the mire. Their form at St Andrews should be enough to keep them up, but McLeish will not be able to rest easy until his team win a couple more games.

Prediction – safe

Aston Villa

Villa are too big a club to go down surely? Right? Wrong. Gerard Houiller’s men have had a terrible first season post Martin O’Neill and are sitting precariously in 16th on 30 points. The Birmingham club have lacked bite in the final third and some flimsy defending has cost them points, drawing too many games and losing their proud home form from seasons past. Houiller has spent big to bring in Darren Bent in January, and the responsibility lies on him and fellow England men Young, Agbonlahor and Downing to get them out of this mess. Vitally, Villa have still to play West Ham, Wigan, Wolves and West Brom, which should decide their fate.

Prediction – safe, but still a very poor season for Villa


Wigan have been one of the most inconsistent sides in the league this year, at times looking to play good football and young players showing potential to compete at this level, but mostly they have lacked direction in midfield and leaked soft goals. Roberto Martinez’s men are sitting in the dropzone in 18th, and alarm bells must be ringing around the DW Stadium. To boot, The Latics have one of the toughest run-ins, with their next two games against Manchester United and City, and still with Tottenham and Chelsea to play. To stand any chance of survival they must work together to grind out results, which at this stage are more important than the brand of football Martinez wants them to play.

Prediction – relegated, and may finish bottom

West Brom

Roy Hodgson has taken on a tough test, and will need to utilise all his managerial experience and know-how to avoid perennial yo-yo side West Brom from dropping back to The Championship. The Baggies are sitting in 17th place, one point ahead of Wigan and home draws against fellow strugglers Wolves and West Ham in their last two games have not eased pressure on the club from The Hawthornes. West Brom have a tough run in, and if they are to avoid the drop must continue their relatively strong home record, and will need the fans to get behind them, Adrian Chilles and Frank Skinner included.

Prediction – relegated

So in my opinion it will be the three W’s, West Brom, Wolves and Wigan who will face the agony of relegation and the heavy upheaval of trying to wade through The Championship to make it back to English football’s top tournament. A lot will depend on the games the struggling sides play against each other, but this season’s fight for survival should provide a very close and enthralling finale to the 2010/11 season.

Published – http://www.caughtoffside.com/2011/02/25/premier-league-relegation-dogfight-contenders-facing-the-drop-and-predicted-outcomes/

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