Advertisements

Manchester City to add Spanish wingers after Pellegrini’s arrival?

Last season one of the recurring weaknesses of Manchester City’s attack was the lack of width, pace and variety. This was compounded by some errant finishing but often the out of form strikers would have little opportunity to get a few shots on goal. This was because their attacking patterns were too one-dimensional. If they couldn’t rapidly pass their way through the middle of the opposition they were left without a Plan B. Although full backs Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy provided some attacking width they don’t possess the kind of guile or creativity they needed out wide.

Roberto Mancini’s first choice team often featured David Silva and Samir Nasri as the supposed width but they were usually given license to meander infield. Both of them have the natural compulsion to play in behind a striker and occasionally drift wide, rather than being out wide all of the time. With them drifting in, Carlos Tevez drifting back from his forward spot and with Yaya Toure getting forward from midfield, the sight of four or five City players within the width of the penalty box, but just outside, was not uncommon.

With this in mind, they are being strongly linked to Spanish winger Jesus Navas and versatile attacking midfielder Isco, believed to be main targets for expected new manager Manuel Pellegrini. They are logical connections to make, with Isco having emerged as such a desirable prospect under Pellegrini at Malaga and ,Navas a consistent menace for Sevilla who have run in to financial difficulties and may be willing to sell their prised local boy.

Isco

Isco is very much reminiscent of Santi Cazorla of Arsenal, his ex-teammate. Indeed, when Cazorla left last summer, Isco assumed his vacated central position and took on the mantle of the main playmaker for the Malaga side, which despite financial troubles reached the Champions League quarter finals and the top six of La Liga. Isco is two footed, has excellent vision, glides around the field and this season has increased his goal tally to nine, which is pretty similar to Cazorla, and more than possible new team mate David Silva. His main asset, as you would expect from a young Spaniard, is exemplary technique and football intelligence. Like Juan Mata, he has an impish creativity but also has a bustling and direct style, which makes him a dangerous runner with the ball. The question really, is fitting him in at City.

Isco certainly has different tools to what City currently have. His powerful dribbling and improving goal getting give him an edge over Nasri and Silva. He is capable of making things happen without the need of a team-mate’s help; at times City play as if everything needs to click in to gear with everyone for it to work. He wouldn’t offer width, but he would bring much needed directness, inventiveness and pace in possession. Plus, he is on record with his admiration for the Premier League and has worked with the new probable new City boss, so persuading him should be easy enough.

Jesus Navas

Jesus Navas on the other hand, would offer width. He is a bit of an anachronism in Spain because he is more like an old-fashioned winger. He is very fast with the ball at his feet and a very skilful dribbler. He is a creator of chaos and a creator of goals. He won’t score many, none in the league this season, but he will create them. If anything, the English game should suit him more than the Spanish game. The English propensity for wide-open, fast-paced football with big spaces to roam around in should be an ideal environment for him. He is a pure right winger who would stay out wide and provide not only creativity but a constant out ball, an outlet to switch the play to.

The big questions with Navas have never been on the pitch though, it is with the homesickness that has blighted him. The joke in Spain is that he gets homesick in games outside Seville, so how is he going to cope in England? He doesn’t speak the language, and unless he brings his entire family over his adjustment to life in Manchester will be difficult. It might be reason enough for him to turn down such a move, preferring to stay in Spain.

Isco and Jesus Navas would combine to offer Pellegrini the width, pace and variety that they lacked last year. They would bring with them Plans B and C for City and surely supply enough chances for Aguero to find his shooting boots again. City can afford them both, even if the deal gets up towards £50m, but they need to invest time and effort in settling them in, particularly with Navas. If they do, it could be the jolt they need to compete for the league again next year.

Advertisements

Manchester City need fresh faces but bad decisions in the past make them difficult to get

First things first, Manchester City are not in crisis. There are 18 other Premier League clubs who would love to be in City’s position. For a club that is putting up their first title defence in 45 years to be in second place and in an FA Cup semi-final is very good going. The problem is, expectations of the club have risen exponentially with their status as the most cash rich club in England. Good early season form led us to believe that they would be able to strongly compete with Manchester United in the title battle. However, after a limp Champions League showing their league form has suffered. So, why is that, and how do they move on from here?

City have lost the exuberant sparkle that saw them score 93 goals last season including six at Old Trafford and five at White Hart Lane. They have been grinding out results, but without the extra oomph that they had last year they haven’t been able to keep pace with United. The main reason for this is the lack of flair in the team and the absence of form of the flair that they do possess.

Samir Nasri

David Silva, their impish creator in chief, has been playing football solidly for six years and it is starting to show. He still looks elegant and stylish but he is missing the sharpness and zing of last season. It has bubbled up at times; it’s just the consistency that is lacking. Sergio Aguero hasn’t looked fully fit since his opening day injury. Maybe he was rushed back, maybe he is just a bit hesitant but like Silva he has lost his X-factor. He has looked amazing at times but again, the lack of consistency is frustrating. He is the complete package as a forward, the best in the league in full flight, but this season he hasn’t reached those levels enough. Similarly Carlos Tevez has flickered and started the season in superb form, but hasn’t brought it to every game. Samir Nasri has looked disinterested; perhaps as Roberto Mancini himself alluded to, he has taken his foot off the pedal after wining the league last year. This foursome helped City to play free-flowing attacking stuff last year but for various reasons they haven’t clicked this year.

The issue with this is that beyond the famous four the creative cupboard is bare. Mancini doesn’t have another option to bring on, so when he substitutes one of them the team’s flair quotient drops every time. James Milner, Edin Dzeko and Gareth Barry are good workers but don’t unlock defences. City were beaten to the punch in the summer on Eden Hazard and Robin van Persie, both of whom would have offered Mancini extra creativity and goal threat. They also would have brought hunger and desire to win their first Premier League title. Mancini was openly critical of the club’s transfer activity, and rightly so.

He was delivered Jack Rodwell, an injury prone grinding midfielder, Javi Garcia, another grinding midfielder and the much-maligned Scott Sinclair, a pure winger that doesn’t fit City’s system. Mancini had already shown he didn’t use wingers, which is why they sold Adam Johnson. So they sign an inferior version? They already had Yaya Toure, Milner and Barry and at that point Nigel de Jong, as worker midfielders. So they two inferior versions? You see the issue?

Jack Rodwell

The lack of clarity and apparent lack of planning was a surprise considering City seemed to have shed themselves of the money-wasting tag with the buys of Aguero, Silva and Yaya, who formed the core of the championship side. But they’ve had these issues before. The likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robinho and Roque Santa Cruz were bought for huge sums then sold at a steep loss to get them out of the building. Joleon Lescott, Milner and Dzeko have been good players for the club but cost just under £90m combined. That £90m would have got them Hazard, van Persie and Thiago Silva.

City can afford to spend that kind of money and it not to come off. Or at least, they could before they got big. They had to pay a premium to get players to come to them in their rush to the top. Now that they are, they have to deal with the impending Financial Fair Play regulations to compete in their new Holy Grail, the Champions League. The bad deals of the past hang around like a bad smell. They show up not just as huge losses but in huge contracts and leave a stain on their FFP sheet.

What this means is that the club has a small squad of very highly paid players. For a lot of this season they’ve had young players that they wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the first team filling up the bench. Having to dump the signings they wasted so much money on means they haven’t built any squad depth. They are perpetually chasing their tails, replacing what they sell rather than adding to the squad.

This summer is an important one for Manchester City. They’ve got an immensely talented team, and a manager who has shown he can win consistently, but they need to find a way to get him more depth and more attacking flair if they are to get back to winning the league. The problem is, they have hamstrung themselves with some poor decision making and prioritising in their rush to the top. If they re-find their transfer coherence, and there is no reason that they shouldn’t considering they built a league winner on the market, then they have got the financial resource to get back to winning the league.

You can read more by Max at the thefootballspace.com

Manchester United vs Manchester City, Arsenal vs Tottenham and the transfer battles for Europe’s best this summer

After going head-to-head in the 2011-12 Premier League season, the nation;s top five clubs are ready to do battle off the pitch and in the transfer market this summer. Here are the top five transfer wrangles expected between the Premier League big boys.

Eden Hazard – Manchester United vs Manchester City

Ligue 1 Player of Year Eden Hazard has been all over the media this week after announcing that a move to one of the Manchester clubs was on the cards; there is no doubt that the two fierce local rivals will be desperately fighting over the highly-rated 21 year-old in the coming days.

A dramatic last-day finish meant that noisy neighbours Manchester City were crowned 2011-2012 Premier League champions and considering their quest for world domination, many believe the Belgian starlet will favour a move to Roberto Mancini’s men. However, the young winger could find it hard securing a consistent first-team spot, with David Silva and Samir Nasri already occupying attacking midfielder positions. United however will look to the starlet to reinvigorate an ageing midfield if he moves to Old Trafford.

Shinji Kagawa – Manchester United vs Arsenal

The Japanese winger has been a key part of Jurgen Klopp’s Bundesliga-winning side, getting 13 goals and 11 assists for the German champions this season. With interest from Manchester United and Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund will find it hard to keep their 23-year-old star-man, who is out of contract next summer.

Kagawa has already admitted his willingness to move to England, with a commercial value attached to the Asian superstar for his next side also. United are frontrunners for his signature, however Arsenal are also keen and have a recent track record of buying players from Dortmund.

Edinson Cavani – Chelsea vs Manchester City

Uruguay international Edinson Cavani has had a fantastic season for Napoli, impressing both domestically and in the Champions League, where he found the back of the net against both Manchester City and Chelsea. Both Premier League giants are interested in bringing the South American hitman to England, although City seem to be focussing more on capturing Robin Van Persie as their new attacker. The homegrown pair will be joined in the race by Serie A champions Juventus.

With the supposed exit of Ivorian veteran Didier Drogba, Cavani could be the perfect replacement, and having already shown ability in Europe, he could be exactly what Chelsea need if City purchase elsewhere.

Jan Vertonghen – Arsenal vs Tottenham

Another example of Ajax’s outstanding and prolific youth system, centre-half Jan Vertonghen is currently being fought over by north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham.

Although rumoured to have already agreed personal terms, the White Hart Lane outfit could miss out on the 25 year-old defender due to the Eredivisie champions’ inflated asking price.

It is obvious that Harry Redknapp is intent on strengthening the defence, and the Belgian centre-back would be a perfect addition to the squad. However countryman Thomas Vermaelen is eager to tempt his international comrade to the Emirates, and Arsenal are still in the hunt.

Robin Van Persie – Arsenal vs Manchester City

2011-2012 Premier League top goalscorer Robin Van Persie has attracted serious interest from newly-crowned champions Manchester City, after scoring 30 league goals and winning the PFA Player of the Year award.

With one year left on his current deal, keeping the Netherlands international at Arsenal will be at the top of Arsene Wenger’s priority list this summer. However, with a natural desire to win trophies at the biggest clubs in the world, Van Persie may be inclined to make a move north to join former team-mates Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure and Samir Nasri.

Currently undergoing contract talks, the coming weeks will be vital in seeing what the future holds for the Arsenal hero. Money may also be a key issue; Arsenal are willing to shatter their wage structure and offer £130,00 per week, whilst City are thought to be eager to almost double this at £250,000 per week.

By Jacob Tucker

England vs France: The key battles in this Euro 2012 grudge-match

England have been drawn against old enemies France in Group D of Euro 2012, and the clash on June 11th will have a major bearing on each side’s chances of progression in the tournament. With a month to go before the nations do battle the Three Lions are slight favourites, but it should be a close encounter. With Sweden and Ukraine in the pool also, both teams will look to get an early advantage in the competition.

With the domestic campaigns drawing to a close in the Premier League and Ligue 1, Laurent Blanc and Roy Hodgson will have their squads for the tournament all but decided, with a few decisions potentially still to be made. Les Bleus coach has named a strong looking provisional squad, with a raft of English-based players included, whilst the West Brom man has revealed that he will name his contingent on Wednesday.

Despite the full tournament squads yet to be announced, the main players for both sides are known and will play a key role in deciding the outcome of the encounter. France have a good blend of young talent and experienced heads, and their strength lies in central midfield and in a couple of talented individual attackers. The battle for possession in the centre of the park will be a key element to deciding the outcome, with Blanc able to choose from Yohan Cabaye, Yann M’Vila, Alou Diarra and Morgan Amalfitano in the heart of his midfield. Scott Parker will have a role to play in breaking up the French passing game, whilst the likes of Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard will look to mix it with their opponents.

French matchwinners include skilful wingers Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri and Hatem Ben Arfa, whilst the goalt-hreat will be provided by Karim Benzema. England’s full-backs must monitor the widemen carefully, with a big responsibility falling on Kyle Walker, Micah Richards or Glen Johnson’s shoulders to shackle Bayern Munich superstar Ribery. The centre of the English defence will also be wary of giving Benzema space, as the Real Madrid man is one of Europe’s form strikers currently.

Going the other way, new boss Hodgson will be without his talismanic forward Wayne Rooney due to suspension, and has key decisions to make in attack. With Darren Bent still on the sidelines with injury and on the borderline of missing out, no other centre forwards shout out as sure things. Hodgson will consider the likes of Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe, Andy Carroll and maybe even Peter Crouch to lead his line, but the English attack will be limited due to Rooney’s absence.

The eventual England squad should have pace to burn however, with widemen Ashley Young, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon all with the necessary speed to harry the French defenders. There is also a case for Paul Scholes’ inclusion to add a bit of creativity to the side, but Hodgson will look to his wingers to provide the necessary penetration.

The game is sure to full of natural pride and passion, but England must compete with the technical abilities of the France side to get a result. The odd goal may well decide this game, but it should be an exciting and enthralling match.

Published – Ghana Soccernet

With Tevez, Aguero and Balotelli staying, is there room at Manchester City for Edin Dzeko?

Manchester City have played some scintillating football over recent weeks to retake the top spot in the Premier League, with only 180 minutes between them and their first top-flight title since 1968. One of the reasons for this upturn is seemingly the return to the team of Carlos Tevez, and his relationship with countryman Sergio Aguero. However, with Mario Balotelli still in the picture also, what does the future hold for Edin Dzeko?

The Bosnian has had contrasting fortunes during his time at the Etihad Stadium. A slow goalscoring start after his £27 million move from Wolfsburg back in January 2011  saw the eastern European forward go without hitting the back of the net until late April, and had the club’s fans questioning his purchase. However, a blistering start to 2011-12 saw Dzeko leading the City line and scoring important goals to power the club into title contention. The 26-year-old bagged four goals in the 5-1 demolition of Tottenham at White Hart Lane, and scored twice against rivals Manchester United in the 6-1 derby rout at Old Trafford.

There is no doubt of Dzeko quality, if he is given a run of games and is in the right mindframe. Strong, mobile and good in the air, the Bosnian has proven that he can score goals in the Premier League. Roberto Mancini will want four strikers at his disposal, and Dzeko would certainly provide an able deputy to the Argentinean pair and a man to throw on if your team is in search of a goal.

However, amongst a squad of big egos and personalities, Dzeko’s attitude, or lack of it, can go unnoticed. On a fateful night in Munich when Tevez refused to come off the Allianz Arena bench, Dzeko had started the game but cut a petulant and abusive figure when removed by Mancini in the second half – this was slipped under the carpet in light of Tevez’s misdemeanour.

On numerous other occasions this term Dzeko has made his frustrations clear, and he is clearly not a fan of the squad-rotation system. The Bosnian seems to need to be the main man, like he is at international level, to excel, and constantly being in and out of the team breeds frustration and inconsistency.

With Aguero, Tevez and Balotelli all stating that they want to stay with City over the last fortnight, it is evident that there is no room for Dzeko. Mancini would like to keep him, but will not play him enough to satisfy the player. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dormund have been credited with an interest, but City are set to make a considerable loss on their initial £27 million investment.

One feels that Dzeko has been a victim of City’s style and personnel, with Tevez, Aguero, David Silva and Samir Nasri all smaller players that want the ball to feet and to knit intricate interplay. The bullish Dzeko is seemingly not an ideal fit to the Premier League leaders, and will most likely be sold at a discount price by City this summer with the Financial Fair Play ruling in mind.

Published – Soccerlens

Manchester City take the Premier League initiative, but did Sir Alex Ferguson get United’s tactics wrong?

In a tight and nervy encounter on Monday night, Manchester City took the initiative in the Premier League title race with a 1-0 win over rivals and current champions Manchester United. The noisy neighbours are now equal on points with the Red Devils, but are top due to their superior goal difference and have destiny in their own hands. United have slipped up in recent weeks, and failed to really test Joe Hart in the derby clash; did Sir Alex Ferguson get his tactics wrong?

Against a City side containing the attacking talent of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Samir Nasri, United opted to pack the midfield in a 4-5-1 formation. Although admittedly this limited the hosts to sparing opportunities on goal, it also shackled United’s attacking ambitions and meant that the champions have given City the advantage without really testing their title rivals in the clash.

Wayne Rooney started by himself in attack and largely cut a forlorn figure, as limited support saw the visitors’ main attacking weapon isolated, frustrated and ineffective. Nani played on the right flank and was the closest player to the England international, but the pair failed to effectively counter-attack, and the Portuguese winger failed to majorly contribute or create chances for the lone striker. One feels that Sir Alex had adopted the blueprint of previous seasons in away Champions League fixtures, where Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were left to try and hit teams on the break; unfortunately Nani does not have the ability or clinical touch in the final third of his countryman, and United’s attack proved toothless at the Etihad Stadium.

In midfield, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Ji-Sung Park fought to limit City’s creative players, and in fairness the hosts’ usual free-flowing play was not evident as a result. However, in possession the quartet failed to keep the ball for any lengthy periods of the game, and the South Korean in particular was guilty of giving the ball away on a too frequent basis.

Most of City’s joy in attack came down their right flank, as Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta found space against Patrice Evra, with the midfield quartet failing to get out to help their colleague. The selection of either Ashley Young or Antonio Valencia instead of Park would have levelled out the midfield, providing more cover out wide and still allowing United to play three in the centre of the park. Valencia has been one of United’s standout performers this term, whilst one of Young’s strengths is to come off his wing and pop up in central positions, in support of Rooney; although both came off the bench, neither was given sufficient opportunity to influence the game.

Ferguson’s frustrations were evident as he clashed with counterpart Roberto Mancini on the touchline, but the Scot’s annoyance was probably down to the ineffective nature of his team rather than the antics of the Italian. United fans will be hurting after City completed the season double over them, but to be beaten without providing an attacking threat or putting their opponents under any concerted pressure will make the blow doubly hard to take. With Young, Valencia, Danny Welbeck, Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez all on the United bench, such a defensive team selection suggests that Sir Alex played for a draw, or, unlike any United team of recent years, was wary of going toe-to-toe with an attacking opponent.

City have by no means won the title yet, as a trip to Tyneside to face Champions League qualification candidates Newcastle will test Mancini’s men. However, United’s relinquishing of a seven-point lead at the top of the table at the business end of the season will have the powers that be at Old Trafford scratching their heads, and suggests that the Red Devils’ usual collective superiority over the division is no longer apparent.

Published – Soccerlens

Does the senior player exodus at Arsenal make them a selling club?

The Cesc Fabregas transfer saga has rolled on throughout this transfer window, and must be an unwelcome distraction to Arsene Wenger in his preparations for the 2011-12 season. As negotiations between Arsenal and Barcelona continue, it looks like the Spaniard will return to his homeland. With Samir Nasri’s future unclear, and Gael Clichy opting to swap the Emirates for Eastlands, are Arsenal becoming a selling club?

Much has been made of the way Wenger has ran the club since the Frenchman took over from Bruce Rioch in 1996, with his thrifty approach to the transfer market and commitment to nurturing young talent delighting and frustrating Gunners fans in equal measure. The London outfit have a competitive, but regimented wage structure that is not as lucrative for the players as that of their major English or European rivals, whilst the discovery of prospects and sensible approach to recruitment is preferred to excessive splurging.

Wenger runs Arsenal as a business, and it should be applauded as the Gunners are financially stable and live within their means. Nonetheless, in the current era of fantasy football where sides such as Manchester City, amongst others, are willing to use wealthy owners to buy their way to success, Arsenal are in risk of being left behind.

Despite being there or thereabouts, Arsenal have not won a trophy since their FA Cup victory in 2005. Fans are getting annoyed with their lack of success, whilst players watch on as their equivalents at other teams get paid more and are more successful. But does this pragmatic approach adopted by Wenger make Arsenal a selling club?

The loss of Gael Clichy will be a bitter pill for the Emirates faithful to swallow, as their long serving left-back left the club to get paid more in Manchester. Fact. Nasri has rejected a new £80,000 per week contract because he is frustrated at the lack of competition success – and the Manchester clubs, who are both eager to sign him, will potentially double that wage. In the last year of his contract, Arsenal are under threat of losing the ex-Marseille midfielder for nothing this time next year.

This is not an all of a sudden occurrence. Mathieu Flamini left the Gunners to get paid more at AC Milan, as did Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure to move to Manchester City. Although these players’ temperaments and attitudes may be questioned, it is no doubt that the financial limitations in place at the club are the reasons why these established internationals, and some of the current crop, have looked to leave the Emirates.

The North London club are not in the wrong here, it is the money men who are destroying the integrity and even playing field of the game. Hopefully Fifa’s new financial fair play ruling will go some way to reinstating football related reasons as the primary motive for transfers, but in the meantime Arsene Wenger must accept that his club face losing their best players to other clubs who are willing to break the bank for their signature.

Published – http://soccerlens.com/fans/does-the-senior-player-exodus-at-arsenal-make-them-a-selling-club/

%d bloggers like this: