We appear to have arrived at the point in the season where certain managers decide that the best way to upset and distract their rivals is by doing a bit of trolling. Jose Mourinho displayed a lack of gracefulness a few days ago, and now Manuel Pellegrini has decided to rub David Moyes’ nose in a mess which, to be fair to Moyes, was left at Old Trafford (at least in part) by someone else.
Tag Archives: Manchester City
20 February 2014 – 9:30 am
Throughout history there have been sporting sides with members in it who are often an after thought or deemed to not be as important as others. The headlines following Barcelona’s Champions League tie with Manchester City largely centred around Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi but there would be a good argument to suggest that their goalkeeper Victor Valdes was as, if not more, important in the Catalan’s win.
It is not something that would bother Valdes though. Throughout his career at Barcelona he has played with some of the best players in the World and yet has remained an underrated cog in a very successful machine. Once his contract ends this summer he will leave his boyhood club for pastures new and will leave behind a huge void that is yet to be filled.
Over the last 12 seasons Valdes has been Barcelona’s undisputed number one keeper but for some reason is not held in the same regard as some of his peers. He was regarded as being too error prone at points in his career and was viewed as a weak link in the Barcelona line up. The fact that he is playing at the same time as Real Madrid and Spain International Iker Casillas has limited his opportunities on the national stage but fortunately his club have always ensured he has remained in the limelight.
One of the commonly forgotten aspects of Barcelona’s play is that the neat and tidy passing (tiki-taka) is primarily a defensive tactic. It is employed to demonstrate one of football’s fundamental objectives; if the opposition don’t have the ball they cannot score. As a result Barcelona monopolise possession in nearly every game which in theory means the keeper should be relatively quiet during most of their games.
However, those who have watched Barcelona will know that despite their awesome powers in attack they can often be exposed defensively. What has kept them in important games and ensured that they have been as successful as they have in recent times is down to Valdes.
On Tuesday night for example the Barcelona number one made three vital saves with the score at nil nil. Following the sending off of Demichelis the Catalan side ran out as comfortable winners but it could have been very different if it were not for Valdes. Every summer people question why Barcelona do not buy extra defensive cover and one reason is simply that most of the defenders around are either not good enough or lack the technical ability to adapt.
All of the Barcelona back five who started on Tuesday night are more comfortable in possession than most Premier League players. People who watch Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur will be familiar with how impressive David de Gea and Hugo Lloris are with the ball at their feet and it has become a vital part of a keeper’s skill set now. It is almost impossible to know how much of this has been a result of seeing Valdes playing for Barcelona but it is likely to have contributed.
For a side that enjoys so much possession his powers of concentration have been immense – especially when you consider the fact that he may not see the ball in his own half for long periods of play. He has always been a good shot stopper and possesses lightening quick reactions when faced one on one; his bravery and courage is something that has really stood out. He made crucial saves in all three of Barcelona’s European Cup triumphs and was integral to his side on every occasion.
Valdes appears to divide many on his overall quality but the evidence is all there to suggest he is one of the finest keepers in the world and has been for a number of years. His departure from his beloved Barcelona will be another tough blow for the club but he has behaved impeccably and continues to make an outstanding contribution on the pitch.
There are always those players who for whatever reason do not get the accolades they should and Valdes is certainly one of them. However, he has played a huge part in the history that Barcelona have made in recent times and his replacement will have very big boots to fill indeed.
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia
30 January 2014 – 10:00 am
This season was always going to be one of unpredictability. With the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson the seat at the head of the Premier League managers’ table was vacant for the first time in decades. The return of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea seemingly left this seat open for him to succeed and on the evidence this season this theory would seem correct.
It has been a different Mourinho we have seen so far; a more measured and relaxed approach to his job, which is to be expected due to his experience, but at the highest level remains unusual. In previous incarnations he has confronted almost every obstacle in his path to achieve success but there is something almost uneasy about his manner since returning. He appears jovial in front of the media and almost helpful in answering every question at length.
Perhaps after his experiences in Italy and Spain he has realised the antagonism he used so frequently in the past could be eased out. Or, is it the fact that he really is the stand out manager in the Premier League and has no need to get worked up. Currently Chelsea lie in third place, two points behind Arsenal, are through to the knock out stages in the Champions League and face, arguably their direct rivals for domestic domination, Manchester City in the FA Cup.
The season started rather unpredictably for Chelsea, too unpredictably for Mourinho, and they dropped points in games where they were not expected to and suffered a lot from inconsistent performances. The normally reliable defence was conceding goals from everywhere and despite their initial intentions of playing open, counter attacking football they had to resolve the defensive frailties.
Previously under Mourinho’s management the full-backs have played vital roles in attack as well as in defence but this was the first thing he changed. Both of his full-backs have rarely crossed the half way line, especially in big games, recently. The Portuguese tactician has reverted back to his strong organisational skills and made Chelsea very difficult to break down.
Allied to this the unpredictability of the strikers he has inherited and the importance of this change in approach becomes almost a necessity. The result of this has been more consistent performances and his players are now reaching the levels of performance he desires from his team.
During recent interviews he has seemed at so much ease with life at Chelsea and particularly in the Premier League. He has been positive about opponents ahead of games, laughing and joking with officials and has clearly been enjoying himself immensely.
What Mourinho has already identified is that he, out of all the coaches in direct competition with him, is the only winner. Everywhere he has managed he has experienced success and only at Madrid he departed without tears and emotional goodbyes. With Ferguson now gone there is nobody really worth sparring with.
His closest rivals are Manchester City this season and Manuel Pellegrini is something of an unknown quantity in terms of winning trophies. Despite an impressive career in management thus far he has won nothing of note in Europe. However, he does not seem like someone who would get into a verbal brawl with Mourinho so could be best to himself.
His response to Arsene Wenger’s criticism over the sale of Juan Mata to Manchester United caused no reaction. The comments from Wenger have not shown the Arsenal manager in a good light and Mourinho’s shadow casts long over the Frenchman. He has never beaten a Mourinho side and the latter’s disdain for Wenger during his last spell at Chelsea will not have been forgotten.
Against Liverpool recently Brendan Rodgers was shown to still be very much the apprentice and Manchester United are focusing on the top four rather than the title. With Tim Sherwood still unproven Spurs are unlikely to contest a title run in too which leaves Mourinho as the heir apparent.
During his tussles with Ferguson it was always clear that Mourinho had the ability and the drive to succeed in management at the highest level. He was the biggest and best rival of the former United manager’s and spurred him onto build another side which eventually won the Champions League.
Mourinho will dine at the head of the table for a long time in England unless a rival can break the cycle and become a genuine challenger again. If Chelsea win the league this season it could be the start of another dynasty.
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia
20 January 2014 – 9:45 am
Manchester City scored their 100th league goal of the season on Saturday against Cardiff City and whilst much of the praise has gone to their strike force it could be argued that David Silva has been the key component. It cannot be a coincidence that his return to form has resulted in the sides’s magnificent form of late.
In a side that boasts so much attacking ability it is always going to be tough for one individual to really stand out. With Sergio Aguero’s brilliance, allied with Alvaro Negredo’s wonderful debut season in England and Edin Dzeko’s remarkable goal return, Manchester City are treating most of the other teams in the Premier League with disdain. They have scored six goals against Arsenal and Spurs, four against Manchester United and many, many more against seemingly everyone else in their path.
The freedom the new manager Manuel Pellegrini has allowed them to play with has certainly had an impact and the confidence level of the players has had a massive affect. The return to form of Aguero, Silva and Yaya Toure cannot be overlooked either; whilst none of them had bad seasons last time out they fell well below the standards they have set themselves previously.
The spine of the team is often talked about in football and those three are essential to City. Two years ago when they won the title all three had stunning seasons but last season due to injuries and possibly complacency they struggled to reach those levels. Toure could often be seen strolling through games and Aguero lacked fitness at crucial stages and the season was one of underachievement.
There is no doubt that Silva can also be looked at for under performing last season. He simply didn’t look fit enough for large chunks of the season and he looked burnt out. With his International obligations as well as competing with City on both domestic and European fronts he just didn’t have the energy levels to reach the top of his game. His passing was not as precise as normal and his movement was laboured and predictable.
However, this season he seems fully fit and has been running the strings in City’s midfield. His ability to play in between the lines in the opponents half of the pitch means he is incredibly tricky to pick up. As he drifts around he pulls the opposition defenders with him which in turn creates space for his teammates. With the pace that Pellegrini has available to him this space can then be exploited by the likes of Jesus Navas, who is also having a superb debut season in England.
With all of their pace and physical prowess a diminutive playmaker in Silva’s mould becomes the final piece of the puzzle. Having three strikers all in form and all scoring goals is very rare thing but City have managed it thus far. When you then through in Fernandinho and Toure as the midfield enforcers, who are both physically and technically outstanding, Silva becomes the integral part of the side.
His strength on the ball for someone so small is phenomenal and since arriving in the Premier League he has become more physically tough. The way in which he shields the ball against several defenders at once is very impressive and he rarely squanders possession. In recent games he has been everywhere on the pitch which makes him so hard to defend against, especially when he arrives late in attacks.
At this moment it is almost inconceivable to think that City will not become Premier League champions for the second time in three seasons. They appear to have overcome their erratic away form and are simply steamrolling everyone in their path. The plaudits have been going to their strikers of late but it is Silva who is making the difference. If he can remain fit and in this form until the end of May it looks like being another memorable season for ManchesterCity.
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia
7 November 2013 – 9:30 am
How could Josep Guardiola possibly improve a side that has just won every trophy possible the season before? Why does a coach who has lead the best players in recent times to unprecedented success at Barcelona really deserve that much credit?
11 October 2013 – 4:00 pm
Whilst the majority of the Champions League debate focuses on who will win it, Viktoria Plzen are 10,000/1 outsiders to lift the most prestigious of Club Trophies. But should they really be that big, or even bigger, or are there teams who have even less of a chance than their odds suggest?
19 August 2013 – 9:30 am
The 2013/14 Premier League season got under way this weekend and one player in particular continued from exactly where he left off last time round. Manchester United’s Robin van Persie delivered a master class in centre forward play at Swansea on Saturday and his form could be the difference once again for David Moyes’ new side.
8 August 2013 – 10:00 am
In 25 days and 13 hours time, the 2013 summer transfer window will “slam shut” across Europe’s top leagues. A few associations close their windows earlier in the day and a couple hang on for an extra hour or two; but on September 2nd 2013 there will be a huge sigh of relief that the whole thing is over.
24 July 2013 – 9:30 am
Sam Byram, 19, Defender, Leeds United and England
5 July 2013 – 9:00 am