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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Premier League Tactical Review

In this new segment I will look at some of the key tactical detail from the weekend’s Premier League action.

Man City 2-1 West Ham: City’s narrow midfield meant they controlled possession but struggled for width

City lined up in their familiar 4222 system and played very narrowly as a result. As a result they played fairly slowly and mostly in front of a West Ham side which was selected primarily to contain City despite there being little riding on the game. Man City completed 485 passes, 92 of which were played by Yaya Toure.

In fact, Yaya dominated the game for City but other than one burst which resulted in a goal he was happy to get the ball and move it on. Considering his renown for lung busting runs through the middle of the pitch he actually only attempted 3 all game. He received the ball from his team mates 95 times, all over the pitch, but on pretty much every occasion he shifted the ball on to a team mate.

mancinfyaya

Yaya’s ability to get around the entire pitch to make himself available to receive the ball can be seen on the left and his overwhelming influence can be seen on the right. We can also see how deep and narrow City became by the amount of time the ball spent in the middle of the field with only Samir Nasri providing any attacking width. The full backs were also unusually restrained because of the defensive discipline of West Ham’s wingers Matt Jarvis and Ricardo Vaz Te.

clichywesthamzabawestham

Zabaleta in particular was more preoccupied with his defensive duties against an improved Jarvis. There is a clear shortage of his usual trademark runs forward and the total lack of touches between the edge of the box and the touchline is very unusual for him. On the other side Clichy got forward a lot but most of his passes in dangerous areas are backwards because he was getting in to crossing position and there be no one in the box, rather a ring of Aguero, Tevez, Silva and Nasri around the edge looking for a pass to feet.

This pattern meant City kept getting up to the West Ham box on the left before having to work their way back out again. This slower tempo has been a problem for them all season and it’s telling that the moment of quick football that they played saw them scythe through West Ham for Aguero’s opening goal with a succession of quick passes in the box between Nasri and Silva.

Newcastle 0-6 Liverpool: Newcastle’s unbalanced midfield was the root of their problems

Newcastle got this all wrong with the team selection. Alan Pardew chose to play a 4231 system with a midfield of Perch, Tiote; Sissoko, Cabaye, Jonas. It certainly has a lot of industry and strength which presumably Pardew wanted in order to overcome the tricky attacking trio that Liverpool fielded. However, it was completely unbalanced.

Cabaye is not a number 10. He doesn’t have the speed of foot or thought to play so high up the field. He is a top class deep lying midfielder because he has a good range of passing and also makes tackles and interceptions. He is a key organiser deep in the midfield as he can start attacks for Newcastle and stop them from the opposition. Playing deeper also compensates for his lack of creativity. He is an excellent technician but his passing game is too simple to play at 10.

Compare his action map to Liverpool’s 10 Philippe Coutinho;

coutinho tooncabayepool

Both of these are playing the exact same role for their team but look how differently they played it. Cabaye isn’t playing the position that Pardew deployed him to. If you ignore the corners that he took he only completed one pass in to the penalty box compared to Coutinho’s six. Coutinho also held his position much better than Cabaye. The young Brazilian remained central, allowing him an easier connection with an unusually disciplined Daniel Sturridge who thrived up front. Cabaye is roaming all over the pitch but what he did most was drop back in to his usual position. If you look at the area around the D of the Liverpool penalty box he didn’t have any involvement. It meant that Newcastle posed no attacking threat.

A comparison of Newcastle and Liverpool’s final third passing shows the difference in approach further.

pooltoontoonpool

Newcastle started their attacks from much deeper than Liverpool. This was for a couple of reasons. The afore mentioned tactical indiscipline of Cabaye but also because of the lack of technical quality in the Newcastle midfield. Perch and Tiote in deep were up against Lucas and Steven Gerrard who both possess a much more dynamic passing game. Perch for example, completed only 13 forward passes all game compared to Lucas’ 43. The Liverpool roles are quite clearly defined, Lucas is the possession recycler, retrieving and moving it simply, which allows Gerrard to play more expansive passes to make most use of his superior range.

gerrardtoonlucastoon

This meant Liverpool had a multidimensional attack and they could play their passing football much nearer to the Newcastle goal. The inability of Newcastle’s midfield to move the ball in a significant way meant they had to resort to longer aimless balls and they hardly posed any threat.

Aston Villa 6-1 Sunderland: Villa play on the ground on the right and in the air on the left

This Villa thrashing came completely out of the blue but Paul Lambert won it by tactically out duelling Paolo Di Canio. Villa focused their ground based passing down the Sunderland left and their aerial attack down the Sunderland right, with both moves designed to exploit Sunderland’s weaknesses.

The Sunderland left was manned by left back Danny Rose with Seb Larsson on the left of the midfield. Rose is a converted left winger who is still learning the defensive side of his position and Larsson was playing out of position. He is usually on the right or central and despite being put on the left he spent a lot of time wondering centrally. This meant that the inexperienced Rose spent a lot of time exposed to the rampaging right back Matt Lowton, Momo Sylla drifting right from his central position and Andi Weimann who kept discipline and width on the right of the three man attack. Everything came down the Villa right and Sunderland couldn’t cope.

westwoodsunderlandvillasunderland

Villa play maker Ashley Westwood’s pass direction is indicative of this tactical plan to attack the weak Sunderland left as most of his passes were sent that way.

The second part of the Villa staretgy was to attack Sunderland in the air on the right. Right back Phil Bardsley and winger Adam Johnson were identified as aerial weaknesses and duly attacked.

bentekesunderlandguzansunderland

Villa keeper Brad Guzan almost exclusively kicked the ball long and left to target Christian Benteke. Benteke was fouled 5 times and won 5 headers in aerial battles on the left. Villa kept this strategy up and it allowed them a second dimension to their patient passing on the right. It stretched Sunderland wide open and led to the rout.

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Analysing the Transfer Gossip 30/04

There’s always plenty of transfer talk throughout the season. So how much of it makes sense, and how much of it is just rumour?


Manchester United will have to battle Paris St-Germain to recapture Cristiano Ronaldo, 28, after the Ligue 1 leaders made Real Madrid a “substantial offer” for the forward.

ronaldo

Full story: the Sun

What’s the story? This should read ‘Manchester United will NOT have to battle PSG for Cristiano Ronaldo’. If he ever did leave Real then PSG isn’t an option if Man United are also bidding. Or perhaps Chelsea?
Does it make sense? All the talk in Spain is that Ronaldo has a return to United in his plans at some point. It makes perfect footballing sense for them. Obviously it does for PSG given his quality, he could get 50-60 goals in Ligue Un. Not convinced it makes sense for Real unless he really does want out.
Is the price right? They paid £80m and he’s only got better. But, also older. So it should be the same. I’m sure Real would agree he’s been worth every penny.
Will it happen? minus infinity/10 – PSG: more chance of man landing on Mars tomorrow. 7/10 – United: It’s a possibility and they need to if they want to win the Champions League any time soon.


Tottenham plan to offer £6.5m for 21-year-old Blackpool winger Thomas Ince, who has scored 18 Championship goals this season.

ince

Full story: Daily Mirror

What’s the story?
Ince has had a decent year in the Championship and is naturally being linked to the Premier League. Spurs might well be in the market for a forward.
Does it make sense? Not for right away. Ince simply isn’t ready for Spurs. He’s a good prospect but it’s way too big a jump from Championship to Champions League contender. The only way it works is if he’s happy to sit and learn for a year or if they loan him to another Premier League club for a season.
Is the price right? It’s clearly a lot for someone with no top flight experience but he’s a young English forward so it’s probably the going rate.
Will it happen? 6/10 – only if he’s happy to go out on loan and show what he’s got.


Bayern Munich want Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, 26, because target Robert Lewandowski, 24, is expected to join Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund.

Luis-Suarez-Liverpool-vs-Fulham_2877412

Full story: Metro

What’s the story?
The talk for a while has been about Bayern wanting either of these two and after the Gotze move it’s not hard to see why Dortmund would rather sell the next prised asset to anyone other than the Bavarians.
Does it make sense? Obviously Suarez is excellent but I don’t get why Guardiola wants to decimate what is already the best team in Europe. Where does he fit? It’s hard enough to find room with Gotze coming in.
Is the price right? This would be massive for Liverpool. If they sell him he’d be yet another player sold in his prime after Xabi Alonso and Torres and wouldn’t exactly sit with their stated ambitions on the top four. He’s maybe worth £40m or so but in many ways Liverpool can’t afford to sell him.
Will it happen? 4/10 – I can’t see Liverpool selling, but I said that about Alonso.


West Ham will try to buy Everton striker Nikica Jelavic, 27, after deciding the £17m fee to make 24-year-old Andy Carroll’s loan move from Liverpool permanent is too high.

jelly

Full story: Daily Mirror

What’s the story? Well, West Ham have had success reviving the fortunes of one Merseyside striker who had lost his way therefore they want to do it again?
Does it make sense? No. Carroll fits their system perfectly and just needed a team to play to his strengths in order to thrive again. Jelavic doesn’t and wouldn’t. This has bust written all over it.
Is the price right? It’s hard to see why anyone would pay any more than £7-8m given this season and the fact that he lacks redeeming physical qualities that Carroll has.
Will it happen? 2/10 – Maybe at another club but this doesn’t seem like an Allardyce signing.


Arsenal are preparing a £10m bid for Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, 23, to replace the injury-prone Abou Diaby.

morgan s

Full story: the Sun

What’s the story? Interesting. Very interesting. Arsenal have a huge deficiency deep in midfield with a variety of bits and pieces players manning an increasingly important area of the field. Schneiderlin has had an excellent first season in the Premier League and at just 23 has plenty more talent to develop yet.
Does it make sense? Yes. I really like the idea of this. He’s young enough to pique Wenger’s interest and has the added benefit of being better than what they have and technically sound.
Is the price right? Southampton are going to be an interesting club to watch this off-season because Pochettino might want to stamp himself on the club to justify his appointment so he could be open to making more moves than he needs to. £10m is probably more than his ‘true worth’ but it seems a good price for both.
Will it happen? 7/10 – It very easily could but hardly set in stone.



West Ham are set to sign Romania defender Razvan Rat, 31, on a free transfer this summer.

razvanrat

Full story: the Guardian

What’s the story? West Ham have had a revolving door policy at full back with neither Joey O’Brien or Guy Demel really cementing the spots as their own. Rat has international pedigree and has performed well in Europe at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Does it make sense? A little bit. He’s probably a marginal upgrade but once you factor in the fact that he’s never played in England and his age it’s not really worth it.
Is the price right? I guess it might make sense to have a go for free but I don’t see the point.
Will it happen? 3/10 – It could do but I’m sure it’s worth it


Galatasaray want Manchester City left-back Gael Clichy, 27, and the Turkish club are also lining up a £12m bid for Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben, 29.

robben

Full story: Daily Mail

What’s the story? Galatasaray either have a lot of money or are on the verge of meltdown depending on what you read. They need upgrades to kick on in Europe next year.
Does it make sense? City aren’t about to sell Clichy and even if they did is Turkey where he wants to go? Robben is an interesting one. Talk in Germany is that Guardiola doesn’t want him but if he’s going at £12m it would be inexcusable for Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool not to be getting involved.
Is the price right? £12m for Robben is about right given his wage and injury history but it has to be worth the gamble. He can win games on his own against any opposition. Sure he’s frustrating but he has magic in his boots.
Will it happen? 0/10 – if these two become available, which Clichy won’t, I can’t picture how they’d end up in Turkey given the interest they’d garner from elsewhere.


Stories collected by the BBC Gossip Column

Donkeys Team of the Weekend

The Weekend Awards – Liverpool’s half dozen

The Weekend Awards are a somewhat serious, somewhat tongue in cheek affair in summary of the best and worst of the Premier League. Touch and go at top and bottom so here’s what stood out.

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Highlight of the Weekend

Liverpool show they are more than just Luis Suarez + 10 others

Yeah, Newcastle aren’t great but they did finish 5th last year so it’s not like Liverpool have just put 6 past the 2007/08 Derby County team. Without Suarez a lot was expected of Daniel Sturridge and I tipped him to be successful on the Premier League Stock Exchange and so it proved. Thrust in to his preferred central spot he scored two, including one special one, of which more later. He ran rings around the defence and opened up a whole world of space for Player of the Week Coutinho to run riot in his most impressive display of many since arriving in January. The rejuvenated Jordan Henderson looked great in midfield as did Gerrard and Lucas. Is this the real Liverpool or is it the one that drew 0-0 twice in a row against West Ham and Reading? The great frustration for their fans.

Lowlight of the Weekend

Reading 0-0 QPR

This game was an embarrassment for both football clubs; the players, management and most importantly, the fans. Fair enough, you’re going to draw 0-0 from time to time, particularly two sides which lack a proper goalscorer. But what cannot be forgiven is the lack of application and any sign of quality and purpose that both sides were blighted by. This wasn’t the lively Reading that have pushed big teams at the Madjeski this season. Both teams seemed to be playing an end of season friendly to prepare for next season and it was a disgraceful ‘effort’.

Goal of the Weekend

Daniel Sturridge (1st) vs Newcastle

For the second week in a row it is an excellent Sturridge finish from a sublime pass which wins this. Coutinho robbed Ben Arfa on the halfway line, sauntered forwards up towards the Newcastle box whilst Steven Taylor ran away in panic and then flipped the ball up and over him straight to Sturridge who steadied himself before lashing the ball in to the roof of the net. Beautiful and savage in combination.

Really?! Moment of the Weekend

Figueroa and Robles lax play costs Wigan

You’re in the drop zone, you’re against Spurs, you’ve got Gareth Bale hounding you in your own penalty box. Do you a) smash the ball out to safety? or b) try and play your way out? Well unfortunately for Wigan Figueroa and Robles chose the latter. Robles had two chances to pump it away, Figueroa one, and neither chose to. In the end the denouement was humiliating for Robles who tried to chip it over the onrushing Bale but just kicked it straight at him and it flew in to the net. Oh dear.

What are you doing?! Moment of the Weekend

Bacary Sagna goes in to meltdown

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It was bad enough that Sagna had lost a sloppy ball to Robin van Persie by under hitting what was already a difficult ball to play correctly, but then after van Persie had been shown wide by Per Mertesacker Sagna launched a sliding tackle in to him from behind with the inevitable result of a penalty which was slammed home. A moment of zero danger against a lack lustre United suddenly became a disaster and cost Arsenal two precious points.

Most Deceptive Result of the Weekend

Everton 1-0 Fulham

This was deceptive because Everton should have absolutely battered Fulham. The likes of Fellaini missed easy chances against a Fulham team that seems to be on an early summer holiday having secured safety. Everton might well have steam rollered Fulham and yet somehow nearly squandered even what they had.

One man team of the Weekend

Romelu Lukaku vs Southampton

Lukaku is the answer to Chelsea’s problems if they will just realise it themselves. He was dominant against Southampton and was responsible for all three goals as West Brom surprisingly won 3-0 at St. Mary’s against an in form Southampton unit. He ran the recently decent Saints defence ragged.

Best Refereeing Performance

Robert Madley – Southampton vs West Brom

Making his debut in the Premier League Madley had an outstanding game, and contrary to idiotic commentary, a game he would dream of. He gave three red cards, all of which correct. He had a goal given when the ball crossed the line before being hacked out and allowed for a positive flow to the game.

Whilst I’m here, why wouldn’t the referee have wanted to give three red cards? If anything, it showed that he wasn’t intimidated by his new surroundings and made correct decisions. Who cares how many reds he dishes out if they are all fair? He had an excellent game.

Most Bizarre Team Selection

Alan Pardew vs Liverpool

Pardew picked a five man midfield, all of whom are most comfortable in central areas. So who offers the quality and width? Bafflingly, despite this Newcastle were still carved apart centrally at times and despite picking only one attack minded player his team shipped six. No less startlingly in his pre-match summary ESPN commentator Chris Waddle descirbed the team as ‘well balanced’. Uh huh…

Chelsea don’t need a new striker, Romelu Lukaku is the best young one in the world

Premier League Team of the Weekend 29/04

Premier League round-up: each game in a sentence

This weekend saw some clarity descend on the relgation battle, with Reading and QPR going down and Wigan looking in trouble but the scrap for a coveted top four place looks even more complicated than ever.This segment will offer some quick fire analysis of each game from top and bottom of the league.

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Man City 2-1 West Ham Man City dominated possession for the majority of the game but other than two bursts resulting in goals posed little to no threat, seemingly content to tap the ball around in front of West Ham to conserve energy for the upcoming FA Cup final before another terrible error from Joe Hart who’s standards have dipped worryingly this year.

Everton 1-0 Fulham Everton again rolled over a willing victim at Goodison to leave fans wondering what might have been if they had been able to pick up more points away from home which might have seen them in the top four race more prominently but it was another tidy showing.

Southampton 0-3 West Brom This came completely out of the blue as West Brom destroyed a Southampton team which had been on an unbeaten run which has sealed their spot in the league next year led by the rampant Romelu Lukaku who continues to outshine the incumbents at Chelsea.

Stoke City 1-0 Norwich Turgid beyond belief.

Wigan 2-2 Spurs This game showed the strengths, weaknesses and eccentricities of both teams as they gave away daft goals to make things difficult for themselves but displayed good attacking purpose and genuine endeavour to secure a point which is little help for either of them and could exemplify their seasons if they finish 5th and 18th respectively.

Newcastle 0-6 Liverpool Liverpool are a strange beast and the supposedly one man team absolutely crushed Newcastle without their main man Luis Suarez displaying a rapid, slick, technical style of play which promises much for next season, particularly the continued mesmeric form of Coutinho, because they will be without Suarez for the first six games of the next campaign.

Reading 0-0 QPR Both teams showed why they deserve to go down in a game that was staggeringly short of quality and purpose.

Chelsea 2-0 Swansea This could have been 4-0 or 0-0 and somehow ended up 2-0 after what Swansea manager Michael Laudrup described as ‘two minutes of madness’ which allowed Chelsea to beat Swansea for the first time this season but the Welsh side showed no signs of giving up happily in mid table to make a real game of it.

Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United For the first 20 minutes United looked like a side that had nothing to play for as Arsenal went through them like a hurricane but some inexplicably bad decision making in attack and defence from Ramsey and Sagna respectively meant they squandered what looked like a clear win which could badly handicap them in the fight for a top four finish.

The Premier League Stock Exchange

In this new feature for The Football Space we will be tracking the ups and downs of players, managers, clubs and everything else associated with the Premier League. We will look at who should be bought, held, or sold based on how they are expected to perform and how much press coverage they are expected to get in the coming days and weeks. Sometimes it will be a lesser know ‘share’ to jump on early, sometimes a more obvious one to make a solid investment.

Buy:

Sergio Aguero Aguero hasn’t been what he was last year due to injury but his strike rate and propensity to score spectacular goals hasn’t left him. City are coming in to an important end to the season and he is their talisman. Mancini needs a strong finish, particularly an FA Cup win, to keep the doubters away from his door. Aguero is back from yet another little injury and if he can recapture the form he showed in scoring that wonder goal to win the Manchester derby at Old Trafford he could be set for a run of goals to get him in form for the cup final where he would get all the headlines.

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Daniel Sturridge With Suarez banned this in an ideal opportunity for Daniel Sturridge to show why Liverpool paid £12m for him in his favoured central attacking role. He looked lively after coming on against Chelsea last week after a few rotten games but he needs to consistently score goals to close out the season for Liverpool if they are to have any hope of getting ahead of Everton in the league. He’s got talent, but does he have application?

Eden Hazard Hazard is in sensational form at the moment showing exactly why he deserves to be on the Player of the Year shortlist. Whilst Mata has been elegant and effective, Hazard is starting to regather his destructive form of the early season, and right when Chelsea need him to be. They are in an intense battle for a Champions League spot and closing in on the Europa League final so he has plenty of high profile games to catch the eye. Even if you bought Chelsea last week there’s plenty of attention and possible success to go around.

How did last week’s buys fare?

Gareth Bale Man of the match in a devastating display to beat Man City took him straight to favourite for Player of the Year. Very successful.
Linesman No real controversies but some good decisions which were highlighted on TV. Success, more of a slow burner.
Chelsea Caught up in the Suarez affair and then a European semi final win on Thursday. Very successful.


Hold:

Arsenal I suggested holding them last week and I would advise the same again now. They are sneaking along quietly having scrambled in to 3rd and are not necessarily expected to beat United this week. Just hold steady and you will get your fourth place.

Arsene-Wenger_2426560

Tony Pulis Stoke’s result against QPR was deceptive because they should have lost. However, it’s seen them move away from immediate relegation danger with Wigan’s travails. Don’t be tempted to buy in though because the fundamental underlying issues have not been addressed. No need to sell because they will surely unjustly escape now and keep Pulis in the job.

Romelu Lukaku Every time Lukaku plays he causes chaos. He looks like he is possessed of trying to impress Chelsea to lead the line for them next season. West Brom have some good games to come and he might well look for one last scoring tear to stamp his authority over Stamford Bridge. So, buy right? Well, no. The problem is that Clarke doesn’t start him in every game, so just as you invest some faith he’ll suddenly not be figuring. There’s also the very real possibility that Chelsea could decide to go for Falcao, or even Ronaldo and he’d be stuck on their bench too. A star in the making, so let it play out.


Sell:

Manchester United United have had their fawning praise, they’ve had their title winning moment, they’ve got the top scorer in the league. So why sell? Because it won’t get any better, they will move out of the spotlight now as the focus moves to the battle for the top 4 and to avoid the drop. They’ve got everything nicely settled up. The price is a high as it could be for them and it will plummet as they take a back seat for a few weeks as the fringe players get a game or two.

Luis Suarez Have a guess why? See you in October Luis.

suarez

Fulham Fulham have never been in the relegation battle, and never been in the European battle. They’ve quietly gone about their business and secured Premier League football for another season. They have four games against teams with nothing to play for so they will be buried on the last page of sports news and at the end of Match of the Day. They’re not a big club and don’t get embroiled in controversy. It’s time to move stock away from them and in to the relegation and top 4 battles.

How did last week’s sales fare?

Swansea Swansea were involved in a wonderful game with Southampton but were still last on highlights shows. Come back in the summer when most of their squad will be in the sights of other clubs. Success.
Santi Cazorla Cazorla had a decent game against Fulham but has been shoved out wide left where he has less of an impact. Success.
Reading Reading are down and even given how crucial Norwich’s win over them was they still didn’t get themselves in to focus. Everyone has given up on them. Success.

Analysing the Transfer Gossip 26/04

There’s always plenty of transfer talk throughout the season. So how much of it makes sense, and how much of it is just rumour?


Pep Guardiola is set to sell winger Arjen Robben, 29, when he takes charge of Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in the summer.

robben

Full story: Daily Mail

What’s the story? Guardiola needs to find room for Gotze and any other new signings and the feeling is that Robben’s dribble no pass style won’t mesh.
Does it make sense? Meh. Robben is capable of destroying any team on his day, as Barcelona witnessed on Tuesday, so getting rid of him doesn’t make a bundle of sense really. I get that he doesn’t really fit the Guardiola style but why get rid?
Is the price right? He’d still be worth a fair chunk and they surely wouldn’t be short of takers. Someone like Man City or Arsenal could easily be tempted by a go at £15m even given his age and injury history.
Will it happen? 5/10 – I’m not convinced they want to sell him but if they do they won’t be short of takers.


Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas believes winger Gareth Bale, 23, will remain at the club if they qualify for the Champions League.

bale

Full story: The Guardian

What’s the story? For obvious reasons Bale is about as exciting a proposition to buy as there is in the game right now. However, if Spurs get to the Champions League he will surely be happy to stay at the club where he is adored.
Does it make sense? Any amount of protestation to the contrary won’t stop chatter about him leaving, another year outside the elite competition may well be one too many. But, Levy is a very tough negotiator and will surely not take less than market value.
Is the price right? Falcao, Cavani and Torres – £50m. Therefore, a 23 year old multi dimensional Bale is worth more.
Will it happen? 3/10 – Probably not this summer, but if they don’t show signs of pushing on to win the league it will be very hard to keep him.


Swansea captain Ashley Williams insists he is focused on the Welsh club despite reports of a move to Arsenal.

williams

Full story: Sky Sports

What’s the story? Williams has been linked with Arsenal and Liverpool because of his solid displays this year.
Does it make sense? Absolutely not. I can’t be clearer on this. Arsenal do no sign 28 year old players, much less players who are not an upgrade on what they have. Chico Flores has probably been better than Williams this year as it happens.
Is the price right? £6-8m or so. Tooooo much.
Will it happen? 0/10 – Zero chance.



Udinese defender Medhi Benatia, 26, wants Manchester United to make a bid for him this summer.

benatia

Full story: Metro

What’s the story? How many players wouldn’t want United to bid for them? Benatia has improved immensely at Udinese and the centre of the defence is a question long term.
Does it make sense? Kind of. I feel he makes more sense for Chelsea, but he’s a good player.
Is the price right? Udinese are hard to buy from, so it could reach £8-12m depending who else gets involved which is about right.
Will it happen? 2/10 – This doesn’t strike me as a Ferguson type signing.


Barcelona are interested in signing Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels, 24, and Santos’s 21-year-old attacker Neymar.

neymar

Full story: Marca

What’s the story? Barcelona might feel the need for a refresh despite cantering to La Liga and the Champions League semi-finals. Rumours of their demise are greatly exaggerated. It’s a better season than Manchester United who are receiving all kinds of praise…
Does it make sense? To an extent. Hummels is world class at centre back and would be a massive upgrade. Can Neymar mesh with Messi? I’m not convinced but it could be unstoppable.
Is the price right? Neymar could be £50m or so which is too much for someone unproven outside of the Brazilian league which although good, isn’t the Champions League. If Dortmund lose Gotze and Lewandowski as it looks will happen I can’t see any bid short of £25-30m even tempting them to sell Hummels too.
Will it happen? 8/10 – It’s Barcelona we’re talking about


Stories collected by the BBC Gossip Column

Champions League Team of the Week

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