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Three signings to win Manchester City the league title next season

Liverpool sign Toure from Manchester City – a step forward or back for the Reds?

Liverpool’s transfer market success rate has been more bad than good for a couple of years, and so fans of the Reds will be wondering if Kolo Toure is going to be more Philippe Coutinho or Stewart Downing. On the surface, it looks like the latter but before writing it off completely, it is best to try to understand the logic behind the move. Reports abound that Martin Skrtel could be joining Rafa Benitez at Napoli, so is Toure an upgrade on him?

Toure is 32 years old now and the raw physical ability that he relied upon to compensate for weaker positional play and a proneness to horrible errors is naturally fading. The first thing you think when you see this signing is that he has obviously being brought in to replace Jamie Carragher, to add experience to the Liverpool defence. That could be true, but if it is, it’s a big mistake.

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Analysing the Transfer Gossip – 15th May: Rooney, Cavani, Isco and more

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?

Manuel Pellegrini will take Malaga midfielder Isco, 21, with him to Manchester City if he gets the job vacated by Roberto Mancini.


Full story: Metro

What’s the story? Isco is one of the top young players in Europe and could well be the next Silva, Mata, Cazrola type to come over from Spain and flourish in England. City have lacked cutting edge this season either because of abject finishing or a lack of guile and he would bring invention and goals.
Does it make sense? Absolutely. Pellegrini is the manager that has moulded him so far so a reunion would be good for Isco whilst he finds his feet in England and he offers a multidimensional threat.
Is the price right? Cazorla cost £15m or so and the financial situation at Malaga is barely any better so they’d find it hard to turn down anything approaching £20m.
Will it happen? 6/10 – This might depend on what Real Madrid have got in mind but if he does come to England City would the most logical destination.

Bayern Munich sporting director Matthias Sammer insist the Bundesliga champions have no interest in signing Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, 27.


Full story: the Guardian

What’s the story? Obviously. Bayern don’t need Rooney
Does it make sense? No. Bayern would essentially be signing him for his name. What’s the point in that?
Is the price right? He’s worth about £30m but that’s way too much for Bayern to be adding a squad player at.
Will it happen? 0/10 – He’s not going to Bayern barring some extraordinary collection of circumstances.

Chelsea are ready to fight Manchester City for Napoli striker Edinson Cavani, who has a £52m buyout clause in his contract with the Italian club.


Full story: the Sun

What’s the story? It was thought that Falcao was Chelsea’s first choice but talk of an unlikely move to Monaco for the Colombian has heated up so Cavani is the next name on the list.
Does it make sense? Falcao or Lewandowski would make more sense but Cavani isn’t a bad third choice. The only thing with Cavani is that he likes wondering back to get involved in the play which Chelsea wouldn’t need him to do. The other two are more comfortable as penalty box dwellers.
Is the price right? Napoli have no reason to sell for less than the release and other than a cheaper deal for Lewandowski it’s either Cavani or Falcao. Or Lukaku.
Will it happen? 6/10 – It’s hard to commit much more than just above 50:50 but he might be their only option of the major strikers.

Inter Milan sporting director Marco Branca has hinted that he wants to beat Tottenham to the signing of Spain forward Alvaro Negredo, 27, from Sevilla.


Full story: talkSPORT

What’s the story? Negredo is a bit of a gossip column institution and yet has never left Sevilla. He’s a good solid striker which both teams chronically lack.
Does it make sense? Spurs have been linked with Damiao and Higuain who are better but he’s a good finisher and would enjoy the supply from Bale.
Is the price right? £16-18m is the range. It’s an awkward price really. If they went about £4m higher they are in Higuain range. If you’re going to spend that much you may as well go to the top of the tree.
Will it happen? 5/10 – Spurs: He’s not a bargain which is how Spurs have shopped lately. Higuain would be on sale like a Dempsey, van der Vaart, Lloris. 5/10 – Inter: Do Inter really have this much? They’re supposedly looking more to their highly regarded youth squad.

Liverpool want Spain Under-21 international striker Cristian Tello, 21, from Barcelona as part of any exchange deal involving keeper Pepe Reina, 30.


Full story: Daily Mirror

What’s the story? To me it’s odd that part-exchange doesn’t occur more in football. This would make sense though. Tello is well thought of but with the stars in front of him in the Barcelona first team and the soon to be ready Deloufeu in the youth team he might be odd man out. He’s still managed 7 goals and 4 assists in limited league game time this year.
Does it make sense? Yes. Rodgers doesn’t seem committed to Reina and it would be hard to turn down a move from Barcelona, his childhood club. Tello could add his pace and dynamism to Liverpool’s bubbling young attack.
Is the price right? This would mean Liverpool getting a small cash payment or even a straight up swap.
Will it happen? 7/10 – It makes sense for both sides but it’s an unusual deal so hard to pin down too firmly.

West Bromwich Albion are chasing Anderlecht striker Dieumerci Mbokani, 27, as a replacement for on-loan Chelsea frontman Romelu Lukaku next season.


Full story: Daily Mail

What’s the story? Well, they’ve had success with one big quick ex-Anderlecht striker, so why not try another?
Does it make sense? Yes. Mbokani is big, quick and strong as well as being a tidy finisher. Ideal for the Premier League.
Is the price right? West Brom could afford a £6-7m type move. Not bad for a striker who has scored a goal a game in Belgium. More than a certain Cristian Benteke did.
Will it happen? 7/10 – West Brom have done well shopping in Holland and Belgium before and are capable of off the radar type moves such as Yacob, Mulumbu and Olsson so this could be up their street.

Aston Villa are ready to make a £4m move to sign former Essex League striker Dwight Gayle, 22, from Peterborough, who are understood to want a bigger offer.


Full story: Peterborough Telegraph

What’s the story? Aston Villa spent last summer sifting through the lower leagues to see what they could find. It’s been hit and miss but they haven’t spent much on the policy. Gayle took to the Championship with ease and is very quick. He’s red raw though so spending £4m on him is a big risk.
Does it make sense? It’s one thing getting midfielders and keepers from the lower leagues but strikers have it much harder. Gayle is a little like Jermaine Beckford who scorched the Championship straight from non-league before not really doing much at Everton.
Is the price right? No. They didn’t pay much more for Benteke.
Will it happen? 5/10 – It will depend almost entirely on what happens with Benteke and Weimann.

Tottenham and Fulham are on standby to battle it out for Udinese-owned striker Matej Vydra, 21, if Watford fail to win promotion from the Championship.


Full story: London Evening Standard

What’s the story? This has nothing to do with if Watford are promoted or not. Udinese don’t sell players below their value and might even feel like Vydra could do a job for their first team next season. This is Vydra’s first full season so Udinese were loaning him as much to see what he could do as to help sister club Watfrod.
Does it make sense? Vydra is too raw to be of any use to Spurs right now. Unless Watford go up it’s hard to see him in the Premier League next year.
Is the price right? Udinese don’t really do one season and sell so they’d have to get an offer that blows them away. Bare in mind he cost £2m when he was only 17 and they don’t do tiny profit.
Will it happen? 1/10 – There’s a remote but basically minute chance.

Stories collected by the BBC Gossip Column

Man City sacked Roberto Mancini as much for off field reasons as on field performance


Man City pulled the plug on the Roberto Mancini era as swiftly as it began. Before anyone sheds any tears, remember that Mancini was near enough moving in to Mark Hughes’ office when Hughes was called upstairs for a meeting. The sacking has received a mixed reaction but if anything the majority have come down on the side of it being unfair. They point to his FA Cup win in 2011 and even more so, his Premier League win in 2012. They point to the fact that he wasn’t given the players he wanted this summer which left him with a thin squad. The counter argument is that he’s failed for two years in a row in the Champions League, lost the FA Cup to soon to be relegated Wigan and not put up a resistance in the title defence. He’s spent hundreds of millions of pounds and wasted a lot of that. The main reason though, could be that his personality just didn’t fit with how ownership wanted to portray the club.

Both of these have their merits, so let’s look through the main objections one by one.

The ‘Objectives’ The official reason that Mancini has been sacked is that he missed almost all of the targets given to him in pre-season by the ownership. Like, you know, in a real business. Those objectives were;
– Win the Premier League
– Reach the knockout phase of the Champions League
– Win a domestic trophy
– Play exciting football
– Qualify for next season’s Champions League
– Increase the reputation of the club

The Premier League title defence Mancini hasn’t been sacked because he didn’t defend the Premier League but because he didn’t even get close to defending it. If they were still in the race coming up to this weekend he would of course still be in the job. Even if City had finished runners up but had taken it right down to the wire and forced Man United to win it rather than letting them win it unopposed it would be a much different proposition to sack him.

The Champions League failure Now, this is by far the most harsh of the objectives that Mancini failed on. City’s group included finalists Borussia Dortmund, semi-finalists Real Madrid and a very dangerous young Ajax team. Even before the campaign started it looked like a huge ask to get out of the group. Again though, it’s not because they didn’t get out of the group but how. City didn’t win any games and their three points was the lowest ever recorded by an English champion. On top of this, they didn’t even look capable of winning games. City were completely outclassed both technically and tactically. Mancini never made an impact with Inter Milan in Europe and looked similarly out of his depth at City. It does take time for clubs to adapt to the Champions League, see Chelsea, but there weren’t any signs of promise that they could win the one competition that the ownership most desire.

The FA Cup loss This is really a compound reason, not a cause in itself. There is no way he would have been sacked just for losing the FA Cup final but on top of the Premier League showing and especially the Champions League showing it looks much worse. City were expected to coast to the cup win given their lowly opponents and make it a third successive season with a trophy. The real issue with this point, is that Mancini was already under intense pressure leading in to the final as news broke that he might be sacked before the final. Even if they’d won it he probably would have gone because of the first two points but that he didn’t win it, and they put in a really poor showing which looked to be physically embarrassing for ownership, was the final straw.


Tactical inefficiency and under performing players This is really the root cause of all of the above. Last season City won the league on the back of Aguero’s goals and the creativity of Silva and Nasri behind him. Sometimes Aguero was partnered by Dzeko and late in the season by Tevez which saw an explosion of goals. They looked formidable. This season though, Mancini has rotated his strikers around which hasn’t allowed them to gain any momentum. Last season Aguero was the striker and his support cast revolved around him. This season he was injured in the opening game and then rushed back and has only shown fits and starts of form. Silva and Nasri have not been any where near their levels of last year and in a desperate search for form have both wandered ever more centrally which has made City narrow and congested.

Mancini tried his much maligned 352/343 system to try and inject some width in to the team which did create more chances than the 4222 but the strikers were missing too many chances. What would really have helped City would have been a true goal scoring midfielder such as Frank Lampard or even Eden Hazard who they supposedly wanted in pre-season, to add a different dimension. He had some good ideas but he didn’t implement based on his personnel. He seemed to be forcing his tactical shapes.

Poor transfer market operation This one isn’t Mancini’s fault. He was not given any of the players he targeted in pre-season. He needed the pace and direct threat of Eden Hazard and was given Scott Sinclair. He needed the dynamism and goals of Danielle De Rossi and was given the stogy Javi Garcia. He needed the goals of Robin van Persie and was given nothing. He certainly has spent a lot of money whilst at the club which has counted against him. Signings like Kolarov, Dzeko and Balotelli who have proved anything but value and hamstrung him this year.


The club’s reputation To me, this might well be the key reason. The owners are using Man City to promote Abu Dhabi to the world. Pride and honour are big things in the middle eastern culture. Indulging Mario Balotelli and publicly, and continuously, questioning the owners, as Mancini did, are not what they had in mind. In the end, Mancini didn’t represent that kind of man that they wanted to represent their club.

It is telling that they have turned to the quietly effective Manuel Pellegrini rather than trying to pursue the bombastic Jose Mourinho. They want a manager to respect them, to respect the club and to be successful. They want, in effect, their own Sir Alex Ferguson.

Wayne Rooney wants to leave Manchester United but is there anywhere for him to go?


With the big news coming out of Old Trafford that Wayne Rooney supposedly wants to follow Sir Alex Ferguson out of the door to avoid a reunion with David Moyes most of Europe’s big clubs are being bandied about as possible destinations but are any of them realistic. In a Transfer Gossip Analysis special, I will break down the possibilities for each of these clubs. Here’s a team by team countdown on where he is apparently heading:

The Favourites

Bayern Munich


What’s the story? Bayern are supposedly the team that Rooney wants to join. The German behemoth have reached three Champions League finals in four seasons and with the arrival of Pep Guardiola, Mario Gotze and possibly Robert Lewandowski in the summer look ready for a dynastical domination of Europe. All very attractive for Rooney as he looks for a pay rise ‘new challenge’.

Does it make sense? No. Not even slightly. Not even microscopically. For a start, an already incredibly strong Bayern Munich attack has been bolstered by Mario Gotze who looks likely to be joined by Borussia Dortmund club mate Robert Lewandowski. One of the reasons that Rooney is unhappy is apparently that he wants to play as the central striker again. At Bayern he would be behind Lewandowski for certain. Then there’s also Mandzukic and Gomez who have 36 goals between them for the club this season and cost over £40m. On top of this, there is a lot of chatter about Guardiola wanting Luis Suarez too.

OK, so maybe he plays behind the striker? Guardiola plays a 433 rather than the current Bayern 4231 so he’d be in midfield. But we don’t want that right Wayne? OK, so if Guardiola played a 4231 at Bayern Rooney would be eyeing up the role behind the striker. Only, they’ve just spend £32m on Mario Gotze to play there, and they have Thomas Muller and they have Toni Kroos. How are they all getting game time?

The final nail in this coffin is that Rooney’s playing style doesn’t suit Guardiola in any way. He doesn’t have the fleet feet to play around the box as an attacker which would mean that if he somehow displaced Lewandowski/Suarez he’d be reduced to box dweller. A job he wouldn’t be as suited to as Mario Gomez. Maybe he could play in the Iniesta type position but surely the red hot form of Ribery and Robben keep them in consideration?

Is the price right? It seems he would be £30m. Now, Bayern have a lot of money to spend but do they want to spend this much to sign Rooney and play him out of position?

Will it happen? 4/10 – He really doesn’t suit Bayern’s style and doesn’t fill a need. However, if they can’t get Lewandowski or Suarez then he could rise to the top of their list. Dortmund and Liverpool are making the right noises about not selling but the Lewandowski move has a level of inevitability.

Paris St. Germain


What’s the story? PSG can certainly afford to pay challenge Rooney as he wants. They have a huge budget and are intent on muscling their way to a Champions League trophy. Winning it there, possibly with David Beckham, who Rooney never played with at United, is an interesting proposition. The catch is whether he will consider them to be a big enough club for him.

Does it make sense? Possibly. The only way this makes sense though is if Zlatan Ibrahimovc forces his way out as is being rumoured in Italy. He apparently wants to right his wrongs at Juventus. Whether or not the Old Lady can afford him is quite another matter. If he did go then PSG would have a gap in the lead striker spot. One that they would want a proven talent and big name to fill. Step forward Wayne Rooney. Supported by the pace and creativity of Pastore, Lavezzi and Lucas Moura he would have manna from heaven in terms of supply. Something Ibrahimovc has exploited this season. The other advantage for PSG is that Rooney is a winner and works hard on the pitch, an example that he could set to the rest of the forwards against Ibrahimovic’s somewhat laconic style. If the big Swede stays there could still be room for Rooney though in front of Lavezzi perhaps.

Is the price right? PSG have shown over the last few years that spending big money doesn’t phase them and the kudos they’d get from signing Rooney from Manchester United might be hard to resist even with the Financial Fair Play issues it would cause.

Will it happen? 6/10 – It’s a good spot in terms of his fit and PSG can pay him and United but would he view it as the step down that it is?

Real Madrid

real madrid

What’s the story? 2nd in La Liga and a Champions League semi-final for Real but the departure of Jose Mourinho could see wholesale change. Real love nothing more than a big name signing and are presumably the club that Rooney is eying up as worthy of his talents.

Does it make sense? There’s an interesting caveat to this: if Manchester United are interested in getting Cristiano Ronaldo back. If Ronaldo goes there will be a huge whole which Rooney would go some way towards filling. If they don’t sell Ronaldo there is still possibly a spot for him. Real don’t tend to sign players they need but players they want. Rooney would offer something different to what they have. Higuain and Benzema are completely different types offering finishing and pace. They are reliant on the supply of Ronaldo and Di Maria. Rooney could actually supply Ronaldo as he did at United which could, if you can imagine, make Ronaldo even more dangerous. Rooney would be able to play as a false 9 or an orthodox 9 depending on the new manager’s tactical preferences. He could also be able to compliment Neymar if Real win the race to sign the young Brazilian.

Is the price right? Since when do Real duck out of paying £30m for a player they covet?

Will it happen? 8/10 – To me, Real are the best footballing fit. The challenge for United would be justifying selling a second star to Real in a matter of years. Are they willing to lose face in such a way? If they sell Rooney to PSG they can say it’s for the money. If it’s to Real it’s for the prestige theoretically which would put them in a difficult position.

The Outsiders

Barcelona Barcelona are an interesting option but with Messi holding court as the false 9 and the likes of Iniesta, Pedro, Alexis and David Villa in the forward positions there would be plenty of competition. It’s hard to see how Rooney’s style would fit in without compromising the freedom of Lionel Messi which just can’t happen. They could afford him but must surely be looking to upgrade the defence which caused their annihilation by Bayern Munich. Also, they seem to have their eye on Neymar instead.

Man City/Chelsea There’s zero chance of United selling Rooney in England. Not only would it create a strom of controversy that would overwhelm the new manager but selling a star man domestically says a lot about your standing in the pecking order. See Arsenal for details.

Anzhi They certainly have the money to ‘challenge’ Rooney. In fact, they could challenge him beyond the dreams of Avarice. Does he really want to go to Russia though? Even for all of that challenge? He could run wild in Russian alongside King Samuel Eto’o and would give the club genuience legitimacy in the manner that Ibrahimovic gave to PSG last summer.

Juventus Juventus could emerge as a surprise candidate. They’ve dominated Serie A for two years but got outclassed in Europe as they were unable to pose Bayern enough attacking threat. Rooney would address this and he has the tactical flexibility to play in Italy. The question would be whether Juventus could afford the fee and wages considering they have Fernando Llorente arrving but having settled in to their club owned Stadium and with a Champions League under their belt they might feel like doing something. A real dark horse to watch out for.

Borussia Dortmund
Now this would be a stunner but they’re going to need to replace Lewandowski and Gotze and Rooney could do either. If he really does want a challenge then being part of the exciting Dortmund project would offer that. If he wants to be challenged in terms of how he spends his wages then this isn’t for him. He’d be the main man though and could take Marco Reus to new heights as he did with Ronaldo at United. He works hard and fits the team ethic.

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Analysing the Transfer Gossip – 25th June Part Two: Cavani to Man United? AC Milan, Liverpool and more

Premier League Team of the Weekend 06/05

Quick Fire Premier League Round up

This weekend of Premier League football wasn’t as goal filled as last week but there were crucial results at top and bottom. This is quick fire round up of each game in a sentence.


Fulham 2-4 Reading Relegated Reading put on a goal scoring show against a Fulham side who were equally uninterested in defending to produce a game high on entertainment but low on quality with a distinctly ‘school’s out’ feel, although if Wigan and Sunderland win their game in hand they will only be two points off the drop zone suddenly.

Norwich 1-2 Aston Villa Villa continued their recent good run to claim another key win which has taken them to 40 points and barring some catastrophic turn of events against them are surely now safe but for Norwich their lack of goals has seen them slide very slowly towards trouble and are now just three points above Wigan who have a game in hand on them.

Swansea 0-0 Man City Despite having FA Cup final places to play for it was another dull showing from City who couldn’t find a way to crack a resilient Swansea defence and when they did carve an unmissable opportunity Edin Dzeko found a way to miss it.

Spurs 1-0 Southampton SuperBale to the rescue for Spurs yet again as his team mates found no way to score against Southampton with the Welshman double marked against his old side but one little mistake from Saints allowed him to wriggle in to some space and cut in from the right before the inevitable long range wonder goal to ask the question of where Spurs would be without him.

West Brom 2-3 Wigan Athletic Wigan’s blueprint for escape requires a talisman and at the moment that is Shaun Maloney who produced another fine display to lay on two goals to get Wigan right back in the fight to stay up with a drifting Swansea arriving at the DW on Tuesday as their game in hand.

West Ham 0-0 Newcastle West Ham continue to look solid if uninspiring, the Sam Allardyce staple, whilst his old club Newcastle made four changes from last week’s tactical debacle which gave them more balance but they look racked with nerves and couldn’t find a way past the West Ham defence.

QPR 0-1 Arsenal Theo Walcott scored after 20 seconds but Arsenal didn’t pose anything like enough of a threat thereafter against a QPR team which has shown it will wilt under even the slightest of adversity and in the end Arsenal were fortunate not to squander a win which would have cost them a top four spot.

Liverpool 0-0 Everton Liverpool continue to sway from one extreme to the other as they have now recorded three 0-0s in their last five games, a period in which they’ve scored eight, and again looked very dangerous but once they didn’t score in the first 30 minutes a blank looked inevitable as the confidence they must surely have gained from beating Newcastle 6-0 vanished and Everton should have won but for an inexplicably disallowed goal for Sylvain Distin.

Man United 0-1 Chelsea The Man United second string showed none of the fight or quality that they were expected to and gave a wobbly looking Chelsea an easy ride but despite this it still took Chelsea all of the 90 minutes to eventually crack them with a Juan Mata grubber finding it’s way in to the net for a win which, if backed up with another against Spurs on Wednesday, will see them in the Champions League next year after all.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Analysing the Transfer Gossip 25/04

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?

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has agreed to return to Chelsea and will be joined at Stamford Bridge by Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, 27.


Full story: Bild (in German)

What’s the story? I think Chelsea would be better off trying to bring Ronaldo from Madrid but Falcao is an exceptional talent. As ever, I don’t think Chelsea should give up on Romelu Lukaku and I hope that they don’t but Falcao would grace the Premier League.
Does it make sense? He’s a superb player so it does but it would be such a shame for them to give up on Lukaku and presumably Courtois who would be part of the deal to get him.
Is the price right? It’ll be £52m or some kind of package involving Courtois. It’s a lot to spend on a position they arguably don’t need in the new climate of financial fair play
Will it happen? 8/10 – Bild broke the Gotze news so it seems credible.

Neymar’s father and agent says the Brazilian forward will head for Europe next year with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea leading the £50m chase for the 21-year-old.


Full story: Daily Mail

What’s the story? Neymar has always said that he won’t play in England so we can rule Chelsea out. He’s an interesting one. Clearly a supremely talented player but as yet unproven outside of Brazil. Indeed, his record against top footballing countries for his national team is average. How good is he really?
Does it make sense? If he’s as good as is said then Real or Barcelona would be good homes.
Is the price right? It’s so hard to say. It’s probably his ‘true’ value but then it’s the same as a Falcao or Cavani who are both proven in elite European leagues.
Will it happen? 9/10 – Barcelona: It’s a good fit for him. He can sit back and bed in behind Messi and Iniesta and find his feet. 7/10 – Real Madrid: His style would suit Real but is there room for him and Ronaldo in the same team?

Manchester City winger Scott Sinclair, 24, will seek a loan move next season unless manager Roberto Mancini is sacked.


Full story: Daily Mirror

What’s the story? Sinclair’s move to City was so transparently about quota filling that only Sinclair and his agent seemed unaware. Either that or they didn’t care when they saw the cheque.
Does it make sense? He doesn’t fit their tactical set up so should never have been signed and is wasting away on the bench so yes.
Is the price right? City could loan him, but they may as well just sell him and move on.
Will it happen? 10/10 – Loan or permanent, he’s gone

Fulham are set to sanction the £4m sale of goalkeeper David Stockdale, 27, to either West Ham or Hull, to fund the Cottagers’ move for Roma’s Maarten Stekelenburg, 30.


Full story: Daily Express

What’s the story? Fulham keep getting linked to Stekelenburg despite him being of the same standard as the incumbent Mark Schwarzer. Stockdale is the back up and would be sold for first team football.
Does it make sense? I don’t get the keeper move for Fulham, it’s not a big enough upgrade, if at alll, to justify the money they would have to spend. West Ham have Jääskeläinen in situ and he is having a great year. Stockdale is at Hull on loan so if they go up it’s a logical move.
Is the price right? Stekelenburg will cost £5m apparently, Stockdale is probably worth half that. Although, Jack Butland cost Stoke £3m with no Premier League experience which Stockdale does have.
Will it happen? 10/10 – Hull: it looks like they will go up so he should stay there

The Gunners are also interested in Hamburg’s 28-year-old goalkeeper Rene Adler after being priced out of moves for Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet and Asmir Begovic of Stoke.


Full story: Daily Mirror

What’s the story? I had Mignolet on a list of five goalkeepers that Arsenal could sign but unless Arsenal are being extremely tight I doubt they’ve been priced out. Adler was once a wonder boy but his star has faded and isn’t as good as Begovic and certainly not as good as Mignolet.
Does it make sense? Arsenal have been too cheap about their keeper for many years and it has cost them so they would be better off just addressing it properly.
Is the price right? If they’re not willing to spend at least £10m for a top class keeper they will just have to bounce from average solution to average solution.
Will it happen? 7/10 – It shouldn’t, because although he’s decent he’s not in the calibre of the above 5 or Begovic, but he’ll be cheap enough. Another bodge job.

FC Basel’s Austrian defender Aleksander Dragovic, 22, is ready to snub a move to Arsenal and German side Borussia Dortmund to join Everton.


Full story: talkSPORT

What’s the story? Dragovic has been outstanding in Basel’s Europa League run and domestically and is a big imposing presence in the middle of the defence. He’s one to watch and could become really special.
Does it make sense? Yes, at the moment. However, if Dortmund sell one of Hummels or Subotic then he could possibly start on a potential European champion. A move to Everton would be great for him though, a chance to prove himself in a less high pressure environment where he might end up becoming really good.
Is the price right? £6m or so which could prove to be a real bargain.
Will it happen? 7/10 – Everton: He’d be perfect for Everton and they would be perfect for him but it depends if they can find the money.

Everton boss David Moyes will battle Manchester City for the £10m capture of Leeds defender Sam Byram, 19.


Full story: the Sun

What’s the story? Byram is considered to be one of the top young players outside the football league, a right with boundless energy. More than a passing resemblance to Dortmund’s Lukasz Pisczek which should be an attractive proposition.
Does it make sense? Move to City and sit behind the world’s best right back who is still in his mid 20s or go to Everton and immediately start every game? Byram should ring Scott Sinclair and see how well a move to the bright lights went.
Is the price right? It’s obviously too much for a player without Premier League experience but young+English = expensive. It could be worth it though.
Will it happen? City 6/10: Will he learn from others who have made this mistake? 7/10 – Everton: If they can find the money for Byram and Dragovic they’ve got the right of that defence sorted for years to come.

Stories collected by the BBC Gossip Column

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