Comparing Pep

When you think of a manager, you automatically think of someone who can manage people. I see the technical side of the game, formation and tactics etc as the coaches responsibility. Ferguson, Ancellotti, Sacchi, Mourinho and Clough have all built teams full of charisma. They wouldn’t always be considered fantastic coaches, although Mourinho being the first notable exception. The Portuguese manager has built his reputation by displaying his ability to assemble a winning mentality into every team he manages,

Which leads me onto another debate….Jose vs Pep.

People rightfully argue that Mourinho is purely a results oriented manager, organising his teams to get the desired result.  I am not doubting that Pep is definitely a good coach. A fantastic coach in fact. But he’s also always had a great team to work with.  The Barcelona team was the best club team I’ve ever seen so the distinction between “coach” and “manager” remains as interesting as it does blurred.

Pep owes a great deal of his accomplishments to the supremacy of the players available but should be hugely credited with the way he instills his artistic philosophy of playing the game into his teams, which for me counts heaps. Pep sets out his team to play with a certain philosophy and with results being a consequence of that style,  however, he hasn’t built a team. He hasn’t won the champions league with Porto, or indeed Inter Milan. He hasn’t taken on the task of managing a small club like Benfica or Uniao de Leiria.  I’m not saying he couldn’t, but I believe that to be held in the regard of some of the other men aforementioned in this article, he has to take on a team that doesn’t automatically have the best squad in the league.

Each manager is sometimes a victim of being painted with or tarred with the same brush as their history would suggest. There is no doubt that the Barcelona team were immeasurably talented, but a lot of them would never have become top class players without Pep, though undeniably Barcelona have been and always will be one of the big dogs in Europe regardless of which man is at the helm.

Despite the pressure to win trophies, Pep trusts youth and does not alter his philosophy. It’s a tough task to think of a group of youth players that Mourinho has moulded but let’s also not forget that Real Madrid averaged 2.5 goals under him. Not too much bus parking there…..

Pep innovation secures him the reputation as one of the world’s finest coaches but let’s see him relocate that vision to another context and test his managerial ability. A context that doesn’t come with a squad of world class players and hundreds of millions to spend on full backs alone. I believe if you gave everyone the same team in the world then Jose would come out victorious. In essence that makes him the best manager. Conversely, Pep plays the best football in the world, which is a unparalleled and consummate skill in itself…..so he edges it for me.

@Alavi_SSN

Man City vs Liverpool Preview

The international break has been and gone.  Premier League football returns this weekend and the early kick off is a mouth watering clash between two of the most exciting teams the division has to offer.  Manchester City entertain Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at Eastland’s.

Both of these clubs currently occupy the top four having both collected seven points thus far and you can be sure neither side will attempt to ‘park the bus’ in this one.

The home side have an array of attacking talent in their ranks but one area of the pitch would concern me from a City standpoint.  The heart of the midfield.

Liverpool’s trio of Can, Henderson and Wijnaldum is far more combative and if the likes of Silva and De Bruyne fail to put in a shift you could see the Red’s dominate in that key area of the park.

The City midfield certainly has the talent when in possession and if they click will be difficult to contain but I’m sure Jurgen Klopp will be aware of that.  I expect the Liverpool midfield to go out there, press and impose themselves physically on the game.

If they get that right there’s no doubt the likes of KDB and Silva will be out of their comfort zone and we’ll need to see them dig deep (something that doesn’t come naturally to them).

It can go either way but its clear to me the midfield battle will decide this one.

Team News:

Man City will be without Raheem Sterling, the England internationals red card at Bournemouth last time out means he will have to miss the visit of his former club through suspension.

Vincent Kompany didn’t feature for Belgium during the international break and there are still question marks over his fitness.  Pep Guardiola will have to make a late call and it remains to be seen whether his captain will be available for selection.

Ilkay Gundogan continues to work his way back to fitness after a long term injury but is unlikely to feature this weekend.

Liverpool welcome Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into their squad but I’d be very surprised if he walked straight into the starting XI.

Philippe Coutinho made his first appearance of the season for Brazil during the international break and is now available for selection, it will be interesting to see how Klopp deals with this one.

The German boss has a number of decisions to make going into this one. Mignolet or Karius? Alexander-Arnold or Gomez? Robertson or Moreno?

Prediction: 

I expect to see an entertaining fixture, all the evidence suggests both sides will feel they can win this.  Neither manager is known for their defensive competency and that can only mean goals.

Liverpool’s away form versus the rest of the top 6 under Jurgen Klopp has been nothing short of remarkable but equally on their day Man City are capable of decimating anyone.

Score draw for me!

@HarrySymeou

@sofasportsnews_

Terry Phelan Interview

Our host Harry Symeou was joined by Terry Phelan. Terry won the FA Cup with Wimbledon’s ‘Crazy Gang’, went to the ’94 World Cup with the Republic of Ireland and had spells in the Premier League with Man City, Chelsea and Everton. We discussed his fantastic career, what it was like to be a part of the crazy gang, his experience at the world cup and what Terry is up to nowadays 🙂

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Terry Phelan Interview

 

The Race for the Title – You get what you pay for!

The transfer market has gone bananas.  Cast your mind back to 2006 and the sum of £38m could buy you one of the world’s most prolific strikers – Andriy Shevchenko.  Fast forward to the 2010/11 season and that kind of money would bring you…Andy Carroll!

The latest Premier League TV deals and an influx of wealthy foreign ownership have contributed to a transformation in the football landscape nobody could have foreseen.  July 2017, and the previously mentioned sum of £38m isn’t even enough to sign half of Romelu Lukaku.

The money men at City have spent in the region of £133m on full backs, Romans Chelsea have laid out a further £119m and the idea of FFP (Financial Fair Play) is beginning to seem like a fairy tale.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…You get what you pay for.

Arsenal smashed their transfer record this summer with the acquisition of French striker Alexander Lacazette.  The Gunners are known for keeping their cards close to their chest and although the fee was officially undisclosed it was believed to be around the £50m mark.

Having splashed the cash on Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi before him, the Gunners are still not competing financially with the likes of Manchester City, United and Chelsea.

To put it bluntly, the Arsenal specialize in second rate signings. The game’s elite players demand the kind of wages that would blow the Gunners wage structure apart.  The power is with the seller and Arsenal’s reluctance to be held to ransom and pay a premium means they’re being left behind.

The same can be said for Liverpool.  Another club who’s fan base are desperate for premier league success.  Ownership who seemingly won’t pay the top dollar and a manager who’s inability to defend will ultimately cost them.

Tottenham Hotspur have exceeded expectations for two seasons now, but that won’t continue.  The financial burden of a new stadium and the move to Wembley will see Mauricio Pochettino’s side struggle to compete on all fronts and I’ve yet to mention their lack of transfer activity.

Throughout recent history, with a few anomalies of course, there has been a clear correlation between the title winners and the most dominant in the transfer market.   The title race will be between the top 3 spenders and the sooner the Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs fans accept this, the better.

So you can rest assure, the Arsenal Fan TV melt downs will be back next season, the Spuds will end up heartbroken and the Scousers will still be talking about 2005!

@HarrySymeou

sofasportsnews.com

Check out the latest episode of the SSN Podcast!

Steven Caldwell Interview

With Jesus sidelined can Aguero work miracles?

This is a difficult one for me. My favourite premiership manager dropping the player I regard as by far and away the best footballer in the Premier League. Then the player who replaced him gets injured. Let’s have a look at what this means for City as they take on Monaco tonight…

Injury

Gabriel Jesus faces up to 3 months out of action after scans revealed he fractured his metatarsal. The Brazil star picked up the injury as he battled for a cross with a Bournemouth defender, and limped off just 15 minutes into Manchester City’s 2-0 win last week. No doubt, this is bad news for both the player and Guardiola. Jesus has undoubtedly been in fine form for City, with 3 goals and an assist from his first 3 starts, not to mention his consistent desire to do exactly what Guardiola wants when he does not have the ball.

The 19-year-old is able to play anywhere across the front 3 with pace, skill and quick feet. At Palmeiras, Jesus chipped in with 12 goals and five assists from 27 appearances helping the Sao Paulo club to their 1st Brazilian championship in 22 years. Add to that, a call up to the national team and 5 goals in his first 6 games. Interestingly, Guardiola clarified “He’s not a typical winger down the line, like Raz [Raheem Sterling] for example or Jesus Navas, who makes the actions for the crosses.”

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Life with Aguero

Guardiola admitted last week that he was not certain Aguero would remain at City beyond the summer, despite senior sources at the club insisting they want him to stay, the Argentina striker will now be crucial to the club’s hopes of finishing in the top 4 and success in the Champions League and FA Cup this season.

Against Barcelona Pep Guardiola explained dropping Sergio Aguero very simply “I want more midfield players today and that’s the reason why. We come here to try to win the game, I know how important Sergio is for us, but I want more midfield players in the middle.”. Barcelona went on to win that game and many backed them to win regardless. Sergio or no Sergio.

Forgiveness was bestowed upon Pep as, after all, who else would be better placed to at least attempt to beat Barcelona at their own game? Let us not forget Nolito who has not enjoyed an outing for City since the Boxing Day 3-0 victory at Hull, when he came off with the score goalless just before the hour.

He’s got more movement than Aguero,” says Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville. “Aguero is a sensational player but you can see already that Pep Guardiola is taking this more in the direction of the team he wants. Maybe Aguero isn’t quite a fit for him.” More than anything, it’s his work rate (or lack thereof), which is why Jesus was getting the nod.

Aguero vs Jesus

In Jesus’ first league start at West Ham, his energetic display was reflected by the fact that he made 72 high-intensity sprints. Aguero has matched that in only one of his 18 Premier League appearances this season. Jesus also covered more ground in that game (10.88 km) than Aguero managed in an appearance this season or indeed last. Against Swansea, the 19 year old topped it by running 11.12 kilometres. Tactically, it comes down to the midfielder bringing more fluidity to City’s defending and attacking play. The Brazilian averages 23 per cent more sprints per 90 minutes than Aguero and runs 16 per cent further, which has led to praise from Guardiola “He never stops putting people under pressure.” The Brazil Argentina rivalry seems to be continuing!

It’s no secret that Guardiola loves his strikers playing a pivotal role in the first press. Getting the ball back as quickly as possible means the opposition can’t get the build-up play going. Guardiola explains “You know that when their defenders have 3 or 4 seconds … then the ball will be good,” explained Guardiola. “When the strikers are the best defenders and the defenders are the best players in the build-up then you are a strong team.”

I’m not going to lie, I love that theory.

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Serg towards the Title & Champions League

Guardiola has form having done something similar at Barcelona with Samuel Eto’o ,dumping the Cameroon striker on the strength of a “feeling.” But for now, Aguero has been given a lifeline. As I mentioned in the intro, Sergio Aguero, in my eyes, is still the best footballer in the league. There could be worst replacements coming in for Jesus and that must be some salvation (sorry) for Guardiola.

Alavi

sofasportsnews.com

Spurs vs City (Preview) – sofasportsnews.com

It’s the game of the weekend at the Etihad when in form Tottenham visit Manchester City. Spurs are looking to record their 4th win in a row against Manchester City, the type of run they have not enjoyed since pre Sheikh Mansour’s Millions.

It’s fair to say that Man City are struggling for form but it would be silly to overlook them given the attacking players at their disposal. Pep Guardiola conceded the title in his post match press conference last week but I don’t believe a man with such resolute faith in his playing style would really accept that hope of turning things around to be top of the pile at the end of this season is gone. City players will know what this game means, and I’m not expecting them to have thrown in the towel.

From a Tottenham perspective, this game has a sense of de ja vu from the corresponding fixture last year. It falls a couple of weeks earlier in the schedule but comes off of the back of an impressive Christmas period and a win would mean being strongly considered as part of the title race for the second half of the season.

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That day Spurs came away with a 2-1 win via a late Eriksen winner which prompted a full length Klinsmann dive across my living room. The subsequent title challenge lasted longer than bruises and the Spurs camp will be confident in igniting another attempt at chasing down the league leaders into the latter weeks of the season.

They have every right to be confident given their recent form, and will buoyed further by City’s comparative struggles. You look at the Spurs team really right now and there is no obvious weakness in terms of the individuals filling spots 1-11.

Manchester City are still favourites for the game and I would not expect them to be as impotent with their possession as they were at Goodison Park last week. Spurs’s job will be to frustrate City and I thoroughly expect Spurs to take the game to their opponents.

Danny Rose and Kyle Walker have received a large share of the plaudits for their performances this season and are responsible for a high proportion of Tottenham’s attacks. Their average positions in the West Brom victory were so advanced they were in line with Harry Kane, but they’ll need to be a lot more wary of the attacking threat posed by City’s front four and may need to be more selective about when to maraud forward.

For City, it’s true they’ve had some poor results lately, but it’s also fair to say certain things haven’t quite gone their way. Narrowly missing a couple of chances in the Chelsea game and being denied a penalty last week at key times in the game that could have made things simpler. Writing them off at home would be foolish. It would not be surprising at all if it all came together on Saturday and they pick up the time of win that I’m about to predict for Tottenham.

Spurs must feel though they can snuff out the attacking threat as they did against Chelsea recently and exploit the clear weaknesses in defense. If the first goal goes to Spurs you could easily see the confidence drain away from the back line, particularly Stones who looks like he wants to be anywhere else but the spotlight. The key to this game could be how courageous Spurs are in committing the full backs forward.

Getting them into the attack could see them overpower Cities ageing counterparts, whilst in doing so could play into City’s hands and support their counter attack which is the strongest part of their game currently. Big performances again from Wanyama and Dembele should allow Spurs to take this gamble and play their own game despite being away from home. Fernandinho will be a big loss for City in the middle of the park, and the immobile if still talented Toure could struggle for the required intensity levels.

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I expect Fernandinho to be missed a lot more than Vertonghen and suspect Dier and Wimmer may be assigned to double up on Aguero when City play their intricate short passes around the box to make up for the Belgians absence.

Despite City’s breathtaking best still being better than Tottenham’s it has not been seen too often this season, and in the league it has not been produced against a side of Spurs’ quality. If Spurs play to their best I expect them to win this game  as it will both nullify City and still pose a threat to the struggling back line, whilst City will not be able to outclass Tottenham for 90 minutes without those defenders coming under some spells of pressure. There is no reason to suspect Spurs will not turn up for this game.

Weighing it up, given the form of the two sides and their respective strengths it’s too good an opportunity for Tottenham to pass up, and there’s not enough current grounds for me to not suggest a Tottenham win away. Especially if that first goal goes Spurs’ way. The crowd could silence, the defence will get nervy and Spurs are in rampant mood to punish any indecision.

If City do lose this, then the white flag Pep offered last week will be waving faster than before, and there will be no further doubt that Spurs will be marching on to another exciting title chase.

I’m not overly confident but there is absolutely no reason not to be hopeful and a lot less to fear for Spurs than they can offer themselves.

Prediction: 1-3 Tottenham 22/1

Dan De Luca

sofasportsnews.com

Pep – The Complete Manager/Coach?

Pep Guardiola, described by many as the best manager/coach of his generation.   Having won six league titles in seven seasons, two champions league trophies, four domestic cups and countless other honors during spells in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich it’s no wonder he is held in such high regard.  The Spaniard possesses a CV like no other and when his imminent arrival at Man City was announced many predicted instant success and Premier League domination.

After all, the world’s top manager/coach was on his way to take over arguably the most talented squad in the Premier League and with the financial muscle the Manchester Club boast it sounded like a match made in heaven.

Pre-season I predicted on the sofasportsnews podcast that Pep Guardiola would have a difficult first season in this league and whilst I anticipated a transitional period even I have been surprised at how poor his side have been.

I put it down to a number of reasons…

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The Premier League is like no other…

You hear it all the time; this is the most competitive league in the world.  The Premier League’s astronomical TV deals in recent seasons have contributed to a more level playing field; we are in an age where the likes of Crystal Palace (17th) were able to spend in excess of £30 million on Christian Benteke.  Compare that to La Liga where the 17th place side, currently Valencia, a far bigger club than Palace find themselves in financial freefall.

Aside from the financial aspect there is a real cultural difference.  There is a greater tolerance to physicality in this division and this is evident when the English clubs participate in European competition.  The mid-table clubs, the likes of West Brom and Stoke are able to close the gap in class by turning the game into a scrap at times, playing on the physical boundaries and ruffling a few feathers.

I’m not criticizing these clubs but there is no doubt they provide a headache the likes of Pep having only managed abroad would not have faced in the past.  This approach, this threat and style provides a totally new problem for the Spaniard and no wonder he is struggling to come to terms with it.

Philosophy…

I admire someone who sticks to his philosophy but when things aren’t quite going your way its imperative that you can adapt.  Pep clearly has a way of playing and even his biggest critics would have to admit it is beautiful football and demonstrates how the game should be played.  I call it ‘Fantasy Football; and his Barcelona side are perhaps the greatest team of my generation.

Pep Guardiola will embed his philosophy, stick to his guns and no doubt go on to be very successful at Manchester City but is he wrong to persist with something that clearly isn’t serving its purpose?  We have seen him attempt to change the formation a couple of times this season with no success but his reluctance to stick with anything new and embed it is a consequence of his reluctance to divert from his principles.

My issue with Pep is that whilst I admire his philosophy I’m not sure that he knows how to play any other way, in this league to be successful you need to have a little bit more in the locker and I’m beginning to question whether he is the ‘complete’ manager/coach we all believed him to be.

Players & Recruitment…

Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and David Silva are some of the leagues finest attacking talents and are capable of playing the ‘Pep’ way but it’s clear for all to see there is a real lack of defensive quality.  Vincent Kompany continues to occupy the treatment room, Nicolas Otamendi has been poor and John Stones is a £50 million disaster.  I haven’t even mentioned the likes of Kolarov, Sagna and Clichy who have been nothing short of shocking!

Much has been made of Pep’s decision to let Joe Hart go. Claudio Bravo’s awful performances and constant errors are as clear as day and that decision has already caused some City fans to question Pep’s judgment.  Failure to strengthen defensively is proving his downfall and with Kompany’s injury record, Stones’ inexperience and the incompetence of the rest of his defenders that’s an unforgiveable mistake.

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Pep has already conceded that City won’t win the title this year.  There was always going to be a transitional period and that doesn’t concern me.  His first 7 months on the British Isles have been a steep learning curve and the media can be very unforgiving.  He will get it right eventually and become the complete manager/coach, I firmly believe that.

The mighty Pep Guardiola has a lot to learn about the Premier League and was never going to dominate this league instantly!

Harry

@HarrySymeou

sofasportsnews.com

EPL Round up – Week 13

Burnley 1-2 Man City

Another exciting weekend of EPL action kicked off with Burnley hosting title chasers Manchester City at Turf Moor.  Sean Dyche’s side took an early lead through the former Spurs midfielder Dean Marney, a lead the home side fully deserved having made an impressive start to the game.  It wasn’t long before the EPL’s hottest striker Sergio Aguero arrived at the party and with goals on 37 & 60 minutes his brace proved to be the difference.

Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland 

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool faced a stubborn Sunderland side at Anfield this weekend and 75 minutes passed before they finally broke the deadlock.  Belgian striker and substitute Divock Origi broke the Sunderland resistance with around about 15 minutes to go and a late penalty sealed the victory as James Milner calmly dispatched.

Chelsea 2-1 Spurs

In the days late kick off, in-form Chelsea entertained a Spurs side fresh off the back of their Champions League exit midweek.  Many predicted Chelsea to cruise through this one but that certainly wasn’t the case.  An impressive first half performance from Spurs capped by a fine strike from Christian Eriksen had Antonio Conte’s men with their backs to the wall.  Pedro’s curling effort leveled it on the stroke of half time and from then on Chelsea’s superiority was clear for all to see.  Victor Moses’ goal just after the break proved to be the winner and propelled the West Londoners back to the top of the pile.  With Spurs having suffered defeat there are no longer any unbeaten teams in the division.

Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth

The Gunners ended their run of three straight draws with a far from convincing win at the Emirates.  Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side will feel hard done by and probably deserved at least a point from the game.  Some contentious refereeing decisions left the cherries feeling aggrieved, Alexis Sanchez’s brace and Theo Walcott’s header were enough to seal the points for the Gunners and ensure they kept in touch with the leaders.  This Bournemouth performance was further evidence that Eddie Howe is a fine manager and has a bright future in the game.

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Man Utd 1-1 West Ham

Jose Mourinho stole the headlines once again when he appeared to lose it on the touchline and was subsequently sent to the stands for the second time this season.  Man Utd got off to the worst possible start when Diafra Sakho gave the hammers the lead just 2 minutes in.  Summer signings Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic combined to draw the home side level around about 20 minutes later but neither side were able to take all three points.  Yet another frustrating result for Jose’s side who now find themselves 8 points behind the current top 4.

Game of the Week:

Swansea 5-4 Crystal Palace

Bob Bradley celebrated his first win as Swansea manager but oh boy did they leave it late!  Two goals in stoppage time from Spanish striker Fernando Llorente turned the game on its head and ultimately decided this 9 goal thriller.  It looked as though Palace were going to return to South London with all 3 points when Benteke netted on 84 minutes but sadly for Alan Pardew it just wasn’t to be.  Having invested heavily in the squad over the summer there is no doubt Alan Pardew will now be under immense pressure.  Both sides find themselves in the midst of a relegation dogfight and it’s no surprise with that sort of defending!

Elsewhere…

Watford suffered a home defeat at the hands of Stoke.  A Gomes own goal and Mazzari’s refusal to shake Mark Hughes hand post game were the major talking points.  Ronald Koeman’s return to St Mary’s was an unhappy one as his Everton side suffered a 1-0 defeat.  Debutant Josh Sims impressed for the Saints and he may be a player to keep your eye on for the future.  Hull City managed to salvage a draw versus an in-form West Brom side leaving both slightly frustrated.  Champions Leicester City  needed a couple of penalties to deny Middlesbrough a win at the King Power.  Leicester’s form may have completely changed this season but the dodgy penalty awards they were getting certainly haven’t, check that out on MOTD.

Click on the image below to listen to the latest episode of the sofasportsnews.com official podcast.

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Harry

sofasportsnews.com

EFL Cup – Betting Tips! (Wednesday)

Liverpool, Arsenal, Newcastle, Hull and Leeds all secured their places in the last 8 of this season’s EFL cup.  There are three more places up for grabs and tonight see’s arguably the clash of the round with Pep’s Man City travelling just down the road to neighbors Man Utd.

A Manchester derby on a Wednesday night is always a treat no matter what the competition and with both managers being questioned at the moment it promises to be a fine encounter.  Elsewhere we have the small matter of a London derby with West Ham taking on Chelsea at the London stadium and Southampton entertain Sunderland at St Mary’s.

Betting: EFL Cup

Manchester United:  31/20   Draw:  5/2   Manchester City: 19/10

West Ham:   15/4    Draw:  16/5   Chelsea: 3/4

Southampton:  2/5   Draw: 19/5   Sunderland: 17/2

Odd’s from Bet365 online…(subject to change)

De Luca’s Tip: “Southampton will win most likely but with the value being so tight I’d back them at -1.

Man City at 19/10 is the best value, especially if both managers go with weakened sides.”

Alavi’s Tip: “For me, backing Chelsea at almost even’s is the one!”

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Sofa Sports News

The Most Exciting Title Race in Years! EPL Week 9 Review.

EPL Week 9 Review

After another weekend of unpredictable results this is shaping up to be the most exciting title race in years.  Of the top eight only Liverpool and Chelsea were able to take all three points from their respective fixtures.

Jurgen Klopp’s side continued their fine run of form with a narrow victory over West Brom.  Having been held to a draw vs Bourinho’s United last Monday the title talk around Anfield had somewhat evaporated, at least temporarily.  Saturday’s victory which ultimately drew them level on points with both City and Arsenal has set the Liverpool band wagon rolling once again.

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Are Liverpool EPL Title Contenders?

Any team joint at the top of the EPL must be considered as contenders.  However, let’s not forget it is only October and so if I was a Liverpool fan I wouldn’t be getting carried away just yet.  Sorry Liverpool fans but I just can’t see you going the distance for a number of reasons.  Two dodgy keepers, the inability to defend any form of set piece and a lack of strength in depth will ultimately cost you.

The Return of the Special One…

Jose returned to the bridge this weekend and prior to kick off it was all about him, just the way he likes it.  Having gone to Anfield last week and parked the bus it was pretty obvious he was going to try and do the same thing in the hope of avoiding defeat.

I’m a huge critic of his ‘anti-football’ approach especially when you are the manager of such a prestigious club and spending hundreds of millions of pounds on ‘top players’.

Nothing pleased me more than to see his game plan go out of the window inside a minute and their vulnerability was clear for all to see.  Chelsea continued to stick the knife in on their old boss and were far superior in every department.

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“I know you sold me the wrong Pogba”

In a poor attempt to deflect the headlines away from his teams awful performance Jose reportedly whispered in the ears of Conte something to the effect of “you don’t celebrate like that at 4-0.  You can do it at 1-0, otherwise it’s humiliating for us.”

Despite his side being horrendous and Chelsea completely out playing them he still had to make it all about him come the end of the game.  He had an issue with the current Chelsea manager celebrating?  That’s rich coming from this man…

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Jose slides on his knee’s in celebration during his Real Madrid days.

City without a win in five…

Once again individual errors cost Pep Guardiola’s side dearly and John Stones’ decision making doesn’t seem to have improved just yet.

City were held at home by an in-form, well organised and resolute Southampton side.  Credit to the Saints but there’s no doubt the blue half of Manchester will be somewhat disappointed with the nature of the goal they conceded.

It appeared to be a mix up between Stones and Vincent Kompany but none the less a goal that could have been avoided had a bit of common sense been applied.  It wasn’t to be City’s day in the end but the results around them gave them some breathing space, a draw this weekend wasn’t as damaging as it could have been.

A constantly changing formation and  a lack of confidence are certainly contributing to City’s bad run but there’s no need for an over reaction, they are top of the EPL!

Arsenal & Spurs stutter…

Neither North London club were able to take all three points this weekend and I would put it down to both suffering from a Champions League hangover.  It’s been years since Spurs have been able to use that excuse!

Spurs failed to dazzle at the vitality stadium and Bournemouth could have nicked it late on. Perhaps the biggest talking point was the moment of madness from Moussa Sissoko where he appeared to throw an elbow at Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter.  The Frenchman was lucky not to see red and I expect him to face retrospective action in the coming days.

I was at the Emirates on Saturday and the Gunners were simply off the boil.  A leggy Arsenal side struggled to create as many openings as they would have liked against a stubborn and well organised Boro side.

The absence of Santi Cazorla in the middle of the park was a big miss for the Gunners.  He plays a vital role in Arsenal’s midfield, a player who is so good at both collecting the ball from the defence and play making from deep was always going to be missed.  The man who normally makes us tick wasn’t in the side and it disrupted our fluency in possession.

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Arsenal missed their deep lying playmaker on Saturday.

It’s worth noting had it not been for Petr Cech Arsenal could have ended up losing that one.  Adana Traore was a constant threat down the right hand side and its hard to believe that he spent last season sitting on Aston Villa’s bench!

Boro were good value for the point.  Both North London clubs suffered a minor stutter but it’s nothing to worry about at this stage, I expect both to be there or thereabouts come May.

EPL Results:

Bournemouth 0-0 Spurs, West Ham 1-0 Sunderland, Swansea 0-0 Watford, Leicester City 3-1 Crystal Palace, Hull City 0-2 Stoke, Burnley 2-1 Everton, Arsenal 0-0 Boro, Man City 1-1 Southampton, Chelsea 4-0 Man Utd.

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Harry

Sofa Sports News.

Pep Beaten At His Own Game

Barcelona 4-0 Man City

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick for Barcelona last night as they beat Manchester City 4-0 in Champions League, while both teams were reduced to 10 men on Pep Guardiola’s return to the Camp Nou.

Messi’s hat-trick came courtesy of 3 well taken strikes of that magical left foot, which leaves many fans (myself included) convinced we are watching the greatest footballer of all time. He now has 16 goals in 15 games against English clubs , notching up his 37th career hat-trick.

As Rio Ferdinand correctly stated after the game “we are lucky to still be watching him at his peak ” before joking that he wouldn’t have minded an off night where he scored a handful of goals.

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There were times when City did get going – the shot count on target for example eight to six in Barcelona’s favour. Guardiola’s decision to introduce Agüero with only 11 minutes to go was slightly perplexing given Barcelona had lost two of their key defenders in Jordi Alba and Gerard Piqué to injuries in the first half

But Guardiola said he selected an XI without a recognised striker in an attempt to match Barcelona in midfield and prevent them from establishing their customary dominance. It’s funny that the critics of Mourinho’s defensiveness on Monday night that caused such a backlash in comparison will inevitably go quiet on this one …..
In the end, though, City produced error after error ranging from Fernandinho’s slip that allowed Messi to get his 1st goal to the loose pass from Ilkay Gündogan that found Luis Suárez, who laid on Messi’s third.

However , mistake of the match came on the 52nd minute from Claudio Bravo, which led to the goalkeeper’s red card. I respect that Bravo was attempting to play the pass, although I’m sure SSN host “row z Harry ” would not have approved of the attempt! People will always like different styles of football ….but I doubt any city fans will justify Bravo’s antics.

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Pep’s Approach

Guardiola’s starting formation could best be described as 4-1-4-1 or a 4-1-5 at worst. Adopting a “man for man” press , City’s spare man was effectively goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
Though Bravo is often seen 25 yards off his line to form a passing triangle with his centre-backs, it proved costly this time for City

When City had the ball, Pablo Zabaleta, the right-back, stepped up and inside into midfield, alongside Fernandinho. John Stones, the central defender, too, was encouraged to step up and so were the more advanced central midfielders.

The 3 man defence created when Zabaleta moved forward has it’s positive and negatives. A major positive of a three men defence is to out-muscle and out-number teams which have a hefty midfield .

I guess the lesson for Pep is that if you do try and play Barcelona at their own midfield possession game then don’t lend a helping hand with a catalogue of errors. In the end , ironically , Pep was beaten at his own game at the Nou camp. The one started by Cruyff and mastered by himself. Football is a funny old game.

Alavi

Sofa Sports News

Spurs vs Man City Preview

It may not be 1st vs 2nd by the time kick off comes around on Sunday, but going into the weekend the top two sides and only two remaining unbeaten teams going head to head at White Hart Lane is the stand out fixture of game week 7.

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This fixture last year, almost a year to the day, marks the game that everything changed for Tottenham. A 4-1 victory over city that day was the first performance that perfectly demonstrated the style Pochettino had spent the past 15 months implementing and the confidence and ability of the side grew and grew from that point.

Tottenham were boosted that day by the pre match news that neither Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, or David Silva would be in the starting line up. The same will almost be true tomorrow with the exception of Silva starting instead of an injured Kevin De Bruyne, which this season is classed as a boost as De Bruyne has firmly established himself as the clubs outstanding playmaker.

Manchester City have started the season like a train, again, similar to last season, and its hard to pick faults in their displays and the way they have seamlessly adapted to a new manager. The only chink of light for Spurs is perhaps that the away performances have not been as solid, everyone beats Stoke these days, but 3 were just shipped to Celtic and despite dominating at Old Trafford there were plenty of opportunities for the home side to score that were ultimately not taken. The Swansea game last time out wasn’t a dominant display either and Spurs will hope that that City turn up on Sunday.

For City’s injuries, it can’t be overlooked that Spurs are missing big players too. Harry Kane’s absence is an undoubted blow and whilst Jannsen clearly has a lot to offer, so far he has not been able to offer goals and that is a big concern for tomorrow especially when I do feel that City’s defence is still currently there to be got at. It’s still not clear whether Dembele will start and it will major blow if he doesn’t as this game more than ever the big mans control in midfield will be required to stem the inevitable waves of City possession.
Rose, Dier also doubts, and new signing Sissoko missed last game concussed. Sissoko is still very much settling in to life at the Lane but i’d like to see him fit for this one as his long strides and pace running from defence into attack will be a great benefit against a side such as City who like to spend long periods on the front foot.

A big plus point for Manchester City this season has been the upturn in form of Raheem Sterling. Last season in the first half Sterling was involved in everything City did and could easily have put the game beyond Tottenham. There’s no way this time he’ll be as wasteful and for Tottenham to do well Sunday a much improved defensive full back performance will be needed from Kyle Walker, and on the flip side, Sterling will need to his job in tracking Walker as he overlaps and joins in Spurs attacks in what will be one of the games key defining battles.

Heung-Min Son has been knocking goals in for fun this season but he’s not a player i’d like to be over-reliant on going into this one. A solid all round display with no passengers is a must if we’re to get a result here. As well as a slightly leaky defence, a question mark still must hang over Claudio Bravo who has not been properly tested since his calamitous debut and with Alderweireld lurking at set pieces and the back four still not settled, between the two Spurs will definitely have opportunities. We will need to be more clinical than we have been thus far.

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All said, if City are allowed to play to their best they win, and Spurs will have to be a lot tighter than the recent home game against Liverpool. If they can find a way of using Wanyama and Dembele effectively to cut of Aguero’s supply then there’s no reason we can’t find the goals required to win the match. Spurs are more than capable these days of winning and thus making it 3 in a row against City. After a great start to the season it’s a great opportunity to see what this years side are made of.
Some good value
CITY WIN & BTTS 7/2
ALDERWEIRELD TO ANYTIME 12/1 (OR FIRST 33/1)

Official Podcast – Premier League Matchday 6 Review!

On this edition of the Podcast we discuss Sam Allardyce’s slip of the tongue, Arsenal’s victory over Chelsea, the demise of West Ham, Man City’s impressive form and Danny Simpsons comments around shirt-pulling and holding in the penalty area.

As well as our usual La Liga and Serie A round ups!

Also available for download on iTunes, please don’t forget to rate and share our podcast!

Fortune Favours the Bravo as Guardiola gets big wake up call!

Fortune favours the Bravo as Guardiola gets big wake up call

Whilst Manchester City were deserved winners of the much anticipated derby, there were two men very lucky to end on the winning side. Claudio Bravo, and Pep Guardiola.

The Chilean turned in one of the worst debut displays from a goalkeeper I can recall and with it left a black mark on his new manager’s copy book.

Guardiola’s big statement to announce his arrival at the club was to ruthlessly castaway fan favourite, long time number 1 Joe Hart and bring in Claudio Bravo. So keen was he to make clear how much he rated the keeper higher than England’s number 1 that he didn’t even wait for Bravo to sign before making Hart play second fiddle to Willy Caballero.
The message clear, to play the perfect football with which he is associated Bravo is the better fit, Hart nowhere near the grade.

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Whilst Hart is by no means the perfect goalkeeper those who felt his treatment by the Spanish manager harsh will feel a lot stronger this evening.

I’d predicted a 3-1 win for City prior to the match and the game played out almost exactly as I’d expected. City have more of their big players already established within the club and got off to a fast start, before United rallied and left themselves exposed on the break countless times having pushed forward once regaining a foothold in the game. It wasn’t only a killer 3rd goal missing from City’s performance though. Although Otamendi put in a good display, defensively at times they looked stretched and their new number 1 threatened on a handful of occasions to ruin the Old Trafford party.

City were so comfortable before the keeper gifted a goal when flapping at a deep cross, and later almost gave away a goal then a penalty and red card in correcting in his error. It was a reckless challenge and a big foot on the ball helped him get away with one. There were more flaps at crosses and even when the balls were gathered it was surely uncomfortable viewing for the travelling fans. He was even caught dithering on the ball when trying to pass it out, unable to execute the very attribute he was signed for.

For Pep, his credentials as a coach are tough to question, and his ability to impose his style on the sides he has managed demonstrate his ability. He will need to install some confidence in his new goalkeeper and fast.

The premier league is regarded by many as the best league in the world but for those who aren’t rose tinted that accolade is granted for excitement levels rather than technical ability. If Pep Guardiola thinks he will be able to turn up here and Tika Taka his way to league titles playing out from his own 6 yard box he is mistaken, and a lot of the sides whom will present him with a tougher more physical away opponent than he faced today will have been very enthused by what they saw, which was an opposing keeper whose weaknesses will play straight into their hands.

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Claudio Bravo provided this game with a lot of unnecessary excitement but the lack of technical ability will have a lot of Manchester City’s fans scratching their heads about the events of the transfer window. Pep still has 4 wins from 4 and won’t therefore be concerned but this will need to be a one off. He will not want to suddenly be questioned and have opinions divided due to a goalkeeper who proves to be a backwards step in a risk he just didn’t need to take.

As for tonight though, a puff of the cheeks, a chance to rethink some strategies and two men very lucky to be the toast of Manchester.

Continue reading “Fortune Favours the Bravo as Guardiola gets big wake up call!”

Jose vs Pep – Manchester Derby Preview

Jose vs Pep Manchester Derby Preview 

The Story so far…

United have made a great start so far with three wins out of a possible three, leaving it late against Hull. Mourinho has galvanized the mood around the club. Manchester City haven’t exactly had a bad start either scoring at least 2 goals in 6 of their last 7 matches in the Premier League

Team news…

Mourinho will have most of his first team players fit aside from a couple. Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, is a major doubt, as is Luke Shaw. Fellaini picked up a back injury whilst on Belgium international duty, but reports indicate he should make the game. On the plus side, Marcus Rashford has had a great couple of weeks both internationally and netting the match-winner against Hull. I expect the Midfield and front six to be Pogba, Fellaini; Martial, Rooney, Mata; Ibrahimovic

Aguero’s suspension is the obvious blow for the away side. Star midfielder De Bruyne doesn’t look at his best, though Raheem Sterling seems to have rediscovered some magic following the largely unfair blame placed on him at the Euros.  The question is whether Pep plays Nolito in a central role or opt for 19-year-old forward Kelechi Iheanacho. It’s a tough one. I’d personally go for Nolito but Pep is a risk taker and Iheanacho starting wouldn’t surprise me.

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Tactics…

Guardiola’s tendency to involve his full backs more during the buildup, his use of a lone pivot and the choice of creative central midfielders is already similar to that of his previous teams. The likes of Clichy and Sagna are much more involved in the buildup rather than being an outlet. Fernandinho is the sole defensive player and has excelled thus far. His job is to help his side build from the back, controlling the tempo and then dropping back to cover when one of the centre backs advance with the ball. David Silva has been used in the Iniesta role so far and the Spaniard has taken to it really well. My favourite Premier league star is proving he is far from finished at the top level just yet. The lone forward has the license to drop deep, with Nolito and Sterling’s roles resembling that of Villa and Pedro at Barca.

Mourinho identified the lack of a physically imposing centre back at Manchester United. In came Bailly as well as a midfielder to help in quick transitions and drive the team forward- Paul Pogba. Mourinho likes his defenders to give the ball as quickly as they can do the more creative players and attack with powerful box to box midfielders. You don’t tend to see the sidewards possession build up that Pepe loves, instead using Ibra to hold up play and act as a target man

This will be a fascinating contest- power vs possession, with one manager believing if you keep the ball the other team can’t do anything, and the other believing you risk conceding if you take too long to create a chance. Mourinho mentioned in his autobiography “Whoever renounces possession reduces the possibility of making a mistake” and “whoever has the ball has fear”..

Marouane Fellaini, if fit, will be instructed to stop David Silva. He has done a very good job so far in breaking up the play, and Silva vs Fellaini (or the replacement holding Midfielder) will inevitably play a key part in determining how the match unfolds.

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Pep vs Jose…

Matches played: 16
Guardiola: 7
Mourinho: 3
Drawn: 6

Betting and SSN predictions…

Ibra is 5/4 to score anytime or get a 0-0 at 9/1.

The bookies slightly prefer United, which I presume is based partly on Aguero being suspended. However, the predictions below show what a tight game this is, between most people’s two title contenders and top 2 coaches in world football.

www.williamhill.co.uk

Alavi: 1-1

Deluca: 3-1 City

Harry: 1-0 United

Andy: 2-1 United

Pos: 2-1 United

Image source: www.metro.co.uk

Alavi

Sofa Sports News