Who Stays and Who Goes for Spurs?

With the end of the season approaching, it is time to look at who should stay and who should be sold at the end of the year, and who may not give Spurs a choice in the matter.  We’re going to try to break down what may happen in the Summer.  Readers should note, however, that everything could change if Tim Sherwood is replaced during the Summer.

Here is the official roster from Spurs’ website and an analysis of each position

Continue reading Who Stays and Who Goes for Spurs?

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Thoughts on David Moyes’ sacking

After a pitiful 2-0 defeat to Everton, which mathematically denied Manchester United Champions League football for next season, David Moyes has officially been sacked and Ryan Giggs is taking over as interim manager.  Louis van Gaal is the bookmakers favorites to take the job full time after his World Cup campaign with the Netherlands finishes.

Normally I’d be fully against sacking Moyes, since many clubs tend to capitulate when faced with a bad performance.  He has a 6 year contract so there would be a substantial compensation package in order (although it’s small change compared to what Manchester United make annually).  But I think that in the end, United are saving themselves from an immediate expensive mistake and in the long run, it may be the best course of action for all parties involved.

  1. David Moyes didn’t have an explicit vision of where he wants this club to go.  Yes, it’s one thing to have bad results and finish midtable, but with a clear plan for the future. Last year, Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers finished in 7th.  This year, they’re on pace to win the league though because Brendan Rodgers was attempting to institute a philosophy of passing, pressing, and building play up in a more progressive style.  With David Moyes, he lacks identity as I wrote about earlier here.
  2. Which brings us to the point about the money.  Regardless of who took over Manchester United, it was obvious that Sir Alex was getting way more out of this team than normal so reinvestment would always be necessary; however, entrusting a manager with £150 million and no vision, is a recipe for disaster especially with Financial Fair Play set to take shape. The scale of failure would be humongous especially for a manager who was most successful when he was minimizing the risk or could point to serious constraints that held him back.  Yes the players do need replacing, but not to that magnitude with the right man in charge.
  3. Moyes’s objective was to qualify for the Champions League at the bare minimum. United should be in the top 4 or still well in the chase for it by putting serious pressure on Arsenal and Everton.  Instead, United have shown little second half improvement despite a couple of big wins against midtable sides who don’t have much to play for and horrible results against the teams above them.
  4. Finally, and this is the most crucial point, there were several signs that Moyes didn’t believe he was the right man for the job.  He’d frequently use words like “try to” and “hopefully” and seemed to accept mediocre performances.  From stating that Liverpool were favorites at Old Trafford, to wanting to “aspire to be like City” after a 3-0 defeat, to saying United “controlled the game” at Everton despite losing 2-0 and creating no chances, Moyes really dug himself into a hole.  It’s one thing to lose a game or two with bad luck (i.e. Stoke away, Spurs at home) but losing 3-0 at home to your two biggest rivals with misguided tactics, no real plan of attack, and constant tinkering just makes it look like Moyes was trying too hard to be something that he fundamentally is not.

Favorites for the job/What should we expect?

The big favorite for this job, and most likely candidate is Louis van Gaal.  He has had success with Barcelona and Bayern, but has shown he can succeed with traditionally midtable outfits like AZ Alkmaar.  In terms of temperament and management style, he’s very similar to Sir Alex Ferguson’s authoritarianism. His style of football fits in with a United side that likes to take risks late on and his commitment to developing young players.  Adnan Januzaj, Shinji Kagawa, and Juan Mata will all thrive, while Robin van Persie will have familiarity with him.  The prospect of Dutch style, total football at a club like Manchester United is something that’s desperately needed if United want to be competitive not just in the Premier League but also with the Bayerns, Barcelonas, and Real Madrids of the world.

While I agree Moyes had to go, and van Gaal would be a better manager, United are definitely setting themselves back a year. Chelsea in year 2 under Jose Mourinho will have a top class striker, Manchester City under Pellegrini will have continuity and most of their players at their peak.  Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers will likely be the defending champions and will reinvest to add squad depth to keep up with their Champions League commitments.  A league title therefore looks difficult; however, by setting themselves back a year and getting a manager like van Gaal, United are at least minimizing the risk of several expensive mistakes this summer.

Manchester United vs. Bayern: David vs. Goliath all square after one

Bayern Munich vs. Manchester United

One team has won its domestic league with 7 games to spare. The other is in 7th and on the brink of no European football next season. One team has played in the Champions League final 3 of the past 4 seasons.  The other has reached its first Champions League quarterfinal in 3 seasons.The most decorated young manager in the modern game vs.  a manager still trying to find his way.

This had all the makings of a total mismatch verging on humiliation, as opposed to being a genuine battle between European heavyweights.  So when Manchester United managed to come away with a 1-1 draw actually feeling a bit hard done, it was a rather pleasant surprise for Manchester United fans around the world.

First Half: Bayern dominate

No one really expected Manchester United to try and play an open, possession oriented game against Bayern.  But Bayern were able to effortlessly string passes together and created a few dangerous moments early on.  Rafinha bombed forward down the right to overlap with Robben allowing the latter to cut inside.   Kroos always had an out-ball towards that side as Welbeck stayed forward and Rooney dropped onto Lahm.

Fellaini and Jones were often the ones winning the ball back though but too often gave it away so United never really established possession.  Robben and Ribery had a lot of space to run into, but no one was available to pick up from their cutbacks or crosses as Muller struggled against Vidic and Ferdinand.

Welbeck

Danny Welbeck tends to shine on big European nights.  Last year he was probably the best attacking player against Real Madrid in both legs and this year he was a menace for Javi Martinez and Jerome Boateng.  He had a goal chalked off in the first 5 minutes for a high boot and he tried to chip Neuer 1v1.  He also applied pressure on Neuer as he attempted to pass it from the back.  Overall, he’ll be disappointed he didn’t get a goal but he’s definitely showing signs of improvement.

Second Half: Kagawa’s introduction a calculated gamble.

At the restart, David Moyes made a bold attacking move in bringing on Shinji Kagawa for a supposedly injured Ryan Giggs. Kagawa MNUvFCB-02instantly brought a bit of stability to United and they subsequently kept possession better:  39% in the second half as opposed to 22% in the first half.  This created a much more open game and the best chances fell to United on the counter-attack.  Rafinha didn’t overlap as much, probably due to tiredness, but perhaps because of Kagawa’s combination play with Rooney and Welbeck.

On Bayern’s side, Mandzukic’s introduction was important as they chased the game.  He’s a more classic striker, as opposed to the more mobile Thomas Muller. His knockdown led to Schweinsteiger’s equalizer.  Bayern had spent a lot of energy playing on the front foot and dominating possession so at 1-1, they seemed rather content to preserve the draw and the rest of the game was fairly subdued.

Implications

United have really saved their best performances for the Champions League. So far, Moyes has lost just once in the Champions League and has guided the team farther than in each of the previous two seasons.  Manchester United showed some real guts and determination that would make any football manager happy.

That being said, a 1-1 draw isn’t all that good.  It leaves United with a chance, but they have to get at least a goal in Munich meaning they have to be more open.  This plays into Bayern’s hands as they can patiently pass it around and draw United out of their shell, even if they won’t have Bastian Schweinsteiger or Martinez.  Dante’s a more natural centerback and Gotze is a more direct attacker.  United will have to be wary of Bayern’s movement, but they have to be a bit more adventurous going forward.  After all, this is the only chance United have of playing in the Champions League next season.

United were far brighter in attack when Shinji Kagawa came on as they could keep possession (relatively) better.  They will have Patrice Evra available after serving his one-game suspension, although his positioning sometimes makes him a liability.  Rafael could potentially be fit next week, but Jones put in a good shift against Ribery.  Definitely some decisions for Moyes to make.  He’ll rue the missed chances by Welbeck, but he can also count himself lucky that Bayern didn’t go ahead early.

Making £150 million+ of transfers worth it for United Part 1/3: Midfielders

This is part 1 of 3 in a series about transfers Manchester United should make if they want to become a genuinely competitive force in England and Europe again.

United are being tipped to spend big this summer to correct their major problem areas (back four, and central midfield). But there remains a lot to be asked of Moyes and the type of football he would want to play given such a large “war chest.”  After all, buying even five of these players would cost at least £150 million (roughly $250 million) and you don’t spend that type of money unless you’re sure you can challenge for the title.

I posted earlier about how Moyes needs to have a clear football identity.  He doesn’t have to play tiki-taka like Barcelona, but he has to be able to show that he can evolve with the times.  Even if he gets all the players he wants (he probably needs five or six of the ones listed below), his wing overloads and cross-first strategy won’t work if no one is getting into the box.  Getting United’s strikers to repeatedly head the ball is akin to putting ranch on pizza: some people may like it, but for many others it’s a gross misuse of what they’re intended to do.

 

Central Midfielders

This is the biggest need for United by far, and one that hasn’t been addressed for several years.  United are relatively fine in attacking positions and even in wide areas they have good options in Januzaj, Valencia, and Zaha (back from loan) among the ranks.  They are made to look worse because no one around them is willing to do the dirty work.   Here are some different central midfielders that could be genuine targets.

William Carvalho (Sporting) is a defensive midfielder who, while not the most ambitious of passers, isn’t afraid to put in a tackle and shut down attackers.  He’s got a strong frame and can be converted into a destroyer to muscle out players.  Carvalho has that elegance of Carrick in top form, but also the ability to sweep up much like Xabi Alonso.  Unfortunately Carvalho on his own wouldn’t fix all of United’s midfield problems.  United will more likely need another midfielder who can drive forward and add a more positive attacking dynamic.  He could be tempted to join United, given that Sporting are paying him very low wages (reportedly around £5000 per week). To put that into perspective, Wayne Rooney earns £5000 in just under 3 hours.  Portuguese clubs are notorious for how much they demand for their players and Carvalho has a £37 million release clause.  Given how much United need this position though, it’s money well spent.

william-carvalho
Carvalho doing work against hated rivals Porto. Imagine him breezing past Yaya Toure

Sami Khedira (Real Madrid) is in somewhat of a race to become ready for the World Cup after a torn achilles in November.  He’s been a regular in Jogi Löw’s Germany side since 2010 and was a regular starter at Real Madrid for the past few seasons.  He doesn’t score many goals but he is unafraid to bring the ball forward and pass it.  More functional than stylish, he can put in a few tackles, run forward and allow other creative players to shine.  The closest equivalent to him in the Premier League is Jordan Henderson of Liverpool.  Would he want to move to Manchester United without Champions League football or try to regain his place at Real Madrid, who have done pretty well without him? Because of his injury there could be questions about how good he will be. After incentives and other compensation, United could attempt to lure him with a £25 million offer.

Ilkay Gundogan (Dortmund) is an electric playmaker who has a fantastic work-rate, is good on the ball, and can score goals; a characteristic typical of Dortmund. He can play as a holder yet make bursting runs forward. In other words, Gundogan would be the perfect foil for a Carrick (or William Carvalho)  Unfortunately, like Khedira, he has had  a long-term injury and there could be worries of reoccurrence.  The Bundesliga is fairly physical but not as demanding as the Premier League.  Borussia Dortmund won’t want to part with him still, because they will lose Robert Lewandowski to Bayern so United would have to pay the reported release clause of £24.8 million in full, even with such a high injury risk. It’s a situation they should monitor closely however since it’s believed Gundogan is open to a move.

As electric as his kit
As electric as his kit

Toni Kroos (Bayern) is the best of the lot in terms of versatility. He can play a holding role, he’s calm in possession, accurate with his passing, and has many Scholes-esque qualities in that he can make late runs into the box to get goals.  His goal at Arsenal last month was just an example of some of his impact; however, I am very skeptical that we’ll get him.  Kroos might have mentioned England as a possible destination, but it could just be a bargaining ploy to get him a better wage deal at Bayern.  Pep Guardiola highly values him still and will try to do everything he can to keep a player of his quality.   The Bayern hierarchy seem confident of keeping him anyways, but if there’s a chance United need to seize it.

Total Spent: £37 million (Carvalho) + £25 million (Khedira or Gundogan) = £86 million