Tag Archives: Pep Guardiola

Thiago Alcantara joins Liverpool – Who is the Spanish Midfielder?

Premier League Champions Liverpool have signed Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara for an initial £20 million, which could potentially rise to £27 million through add-ons. 

The 29-year old is in the final year of his contract with Bayern Munich, but Thiago had already made it clear to the European Champions that he wanted a new challenge.

Equally Bayern Munich have decided that they would like to recoup some of the money for some of the money they paid for the midfielder rather than risk him leaving for nothing at the end of the season. 

Thiago’s arrival at Anfield would potentially pave the way for Giorginio Wijnaldum to join his former national team manager Ronald Koeman, at Barcelona. 

Who is Thiago Alcantara?

Thiago was born to Brazilian parents. His father was a World Cup winner while his mother was a volleyball player.  He moved to Spain at a young age and at the age of 14 he signed for FC Barcelona. 

The Spanish midfielder made his debut at the Nou Camp in 2009 against RCD Mallorca. In 2011 he made his first appearance for the Spanish national side in a friendly against Italy.

In total, Thiago played 68 matches for the Catalan side and scored seven goals. He then, however, made the switch from the Spanish La Liga to the German Bundesliga, joining Pep Guardola at Bayern Munich in 2013. 

During his time with the Bundesliga giants, as well as securing last season’s Champions League trophy by beating Paris Saint Germain, he won an impressive seven consecutive Bundesliga titles, four German Cups and the Club World Cup.  

What kind of player is he?

Thiago Alcantara is a top quality deep lying playmaker that is composed on the ball and keeps things ticking over in the centre of the park. His range of passing is nothing short of phenomenal. 

The Spanish international certainly represents terrific value for the Premier League Champions, and he will certainly provide them some much-needed control in the midfield area.  

Indeed, when Thiago was 22-years-old former manager Pep Guardola has previously said that he can play three or four positions. The midfielder, however, is well accustomed to playing in a 4-3-3 system, so he would easily slot into the reds midfield. 

In short, he will give Jurgen Klopp’s side another top quality option in a vital area of the pitch. 

What do you think? Do you believe that Thiago Alacantara will be a success at Liverpool?

Premier league 2020/21: WHO CAN WIN IT?

The new Premier League season begins this weekend, unbeleivably as it seems like only yesterday we were waving goodbye to the last season.

Ahead of the 2020/21 season, we have some questions surrounding the top of the table. Can Pep’s Manchester City rid themselves of last years frailties and compete for longer this time? Or will Liverpool continue their consistency and defend their title?

Let’s not rule out the possibility of Manchester United’s continuing their progression and it would be almost insanity to dismiss Chelsea, given their spends, wouldn’t it?

Here’s how I think the teams involved in the upper echelons of the Premier League title race will play out in 2020/21…

Liverpool

The reigning champions. Jurgen Klopp’s side may have ended the season in somewhat bizarre fashion as they rather limped over the line following lock-down and title celebrations. That should not take away from the sheer dominance the Reds imparted on the Premier League.

While many people question the business, or lack of business done by the champions up until now, its my belief only minor changes are required, if any at all.

Natural left-back cover for Andy Robertson was required and has been found in Greek international Kostas Tsimikas.

One saga, which rumbles on is the Thiago Alcantara links, now joined by the Gini Wijnaldum to Barcelona rumours. Whilst many Liverpool fans may argue why not have both? I’m not sure there is room both in the current group, a squad that already boasts a plethora of central midfield options and the two players are of a similar mould.

The main bone of contention continues to be the back-up options to the starting XI. Should Klopp face a long-term injury to his front-line options the understudies may not be of a level required, although in truth that is the case of almost every team in world football. Not many can be a suitable understudy to Virgil van Dijk.

Overall, I believe Liverpool will go on to retain their title, the relentless nature in which Klopp has his squad churning out results is very difficult to keep up with week on week. Don’t be surprised by the growing influence of some of the younger players, in particular Curtis Jones, and also Naby Keita may finally find his feet in English football.

Manchester City

The main contenders to take Liverpool’s crown, Pep Guardiola’s well furnished Man City side.

There is little doubt 2019/20 can be viewed as somewhat of a failure from a sky blue perspective in Manchester. As glorious a victory as the Carabao Cup may have been, a side comprised of such talent and expenditure is expected to finish closer than 18 points off the summit. Not to mention the dismal UEFA Champions League exit.

That, however, was last term, how about now? The arrival of Nathan Ake certainly plugs a crack in the issues faced at City, a forced to be reckoned with going forwards, just ask Watford, but defensively they were often found wanting, just ask Adama Traore. However, I’m not sure Ake is the answer, for one the Dutchman is very much a left-sided centre-back, similarly to Aymeric Laporte. On top of which, despite being a more than decent operator at Premier League level, he isn’t elite, and City are operating amongst that level.

Elsewhere, the club has seen the departure of David Silva from the Etihad, a fine servant to the football club who leaves with the knowledge he will be forever immortalised in statue form. On the field, in a more mobile capacity, Silva is likely to be replaced by the much praised but lesser seen Phil Foden.

Pep has also spent £20 million on former Valencia man Ferran Torres, a 20 year old right winger who arrives with plenty of plaudits and provides competition to the likes of Rihad Mahrez, Bernado Silva and Foden himself.

Whilst the transfer window remains open there is always the chance City could strengthen further, although the Lionel Messi links have now subsided, as things stand in the week of the season’s opening day they haven’t addressed the areas of the squad suitable to overcome an 18 point swing.

Manchester United

Despite the obvious improvement in the past six months, particularly since Bruno Fernandes arrived back in January, there are still areas of weakness at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær is learning on the job somewhat and with that there is bound to come mistakes, certainly when up against seasoned campaigners over a prolonged period.

Despite the frailties, however, it should be another year of progression for the red half of Manchester, who have already bolstered their midfield ranks with the arrival of Donny van de Beek from Ajax. One or two more signings, particularly in defensive positions and they should find themselves cutting the gap to the top two.

Chelsea

Who haven’t they signed? One thing is for sure is the Blues are set to be an enthralling watch with the attacking prowess in their currently huge squad.

Boasting the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, to name but a few, Frank Lampard’s side will give anybody a match on their day, but it’s consistency they may lack to begin with.

They shipped goals all too regularly to maintain prolonged title challenge last term and as things stand that won’t change too much, despite the arrival of the vastly experienced Thiago Silva, it’ll remain a difficult ask to breach the gap to the top two.

Any Other Contenders

Whilst the Premier League has seen Leicester City win the title against the odds, it seems unlikely 2020/21 will see another Claudio Ranieri and Jamie Vardy shaped fairy-tale, but you never know. The main protagonists would of course be Tottenham and Arsenal, although the rivals may be best focusing on breaking into the top four instead of harbouring serious title ambitions.

Outside of the North Londoners, perhaps Wolves could be considered for a tilt for a time being, however a 38 game threat seems unlikely at this stage.

With over a month left in the transfer window anything can happen (Messi), but for now it’s back to back Liverpool glory. After-all, top flight domestic titles are like Mersey Ferries, you wait 30 years for one and two come along at once….

Bayern Munich agree fee for Manchester City winger

Manchester City have agreed a £54.8 million fee for Leroy Sane to complete a move to Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich. Sane will reportedly sign a four-year deal worth around £385,000 a week.

The German international turned down a new contract with City, who had been willing to pay only around half the wages Bayern have agreed.  The Citizens ultimately decided to sell him rather than risk losing him for free next year when his contract expired.

Sane will now fly out to Munich to complete the move and will stay in Germany for the rest of the season, rather than return for City’s Champions League campaign.

A move to the German giants was on the cards last summer, only for Sane to suffer a serious knee injury during the community shield which ruled him out of action for ten months.

Despite City valuing him at an astonishing £140 million a year ago, getting almost £55 million for the 24-year-old would appear to be some exceptionally good business done by Pep Guardiola.

However, this move would be a disappointing end to Sane’s City career that appeared at one time to be heading for great things at the Etihad after he was crowned PFA Young Player of the Year in 2018.

Sane, was understood to be shocked to be left out of Joachim Low’s German World Cup squad- at the time a move that was quiet baffling- after his magnificent contribution of 10 goals and 15 assists to the record breaking City side, who became the first to break the 100 points barrier in an English top flight season.

In his total appearances of 90 games for City in the Premiership, he has scored 25 goals with 28 assists in a side that has won 68 times, with only nine defeats.

Sane, certainly looks likely to become one of the key components of Hans Flick’s German machine. Not only will the German Champions have the likes of Thiago, Javi Martinez and Alphonso Davies in midfield, they will be now able to throw Sane into the mix as well.  Ultimately, City’s loss looks to be Bayern’s gain, with the German champions squad for next season enhanced by the signing of Leroy Sane.

Already this season Bayern’s strength in depth of their squad is frightening. Enough already to secure the Bundesliga title and the possibility of the Champions League, which is still up for grabs. Adding Sane into this quality squad will only see Der FCB continue to dominate German football for the foreseeable future.

 

Chelsea defeat Manchester City, help Liverpool clinch first Premier League title

“You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

The famous anthem for Liverpool has been around since April 27, 1963, after the club’s FA Cup semi-final defeat against Leicester at Hillsborough. Apparently, Chelsea got the memo and helped guide Liverpool to their first ever Premier League title by defeating Manchester City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

 Entering the match, the Blues were considered the underdogs against the two-time defending champions of the league. A loss for the South London-side would have not only been detrimental in their quest for a Champions League spot but would also mean that Liverpool fans would have to wait to celebrate.

For the opening half-hour of the match, the visitors dominated possession but were unable to capitalize on any chances. 

After Kevin De Bruyne’s free kick was cleared away by the Chelsea defence, a mix-up in the back between Benjamin Mendy and Ilkay Gündogan caused Christian Pulisic to punish the defence with his pace and slot the shot past Ederson in the 36th-minute. 

This goal helped the American’s former manager at Borussia Dortmund, Jürgen Klopp, and The Reds get one step closer to clinching the title as pointed out by The Black and Yellow.

 

The Citizens tied the game up in the 55th-minute courtesy of a De Bruyne free kick that goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga had no chance of saving. This happened due to Riyad Mahrez being fouled by N’Golo Kante just outside the penalty area.

Two minutes after the De Bruyne goal, Raheem Sterling had an opportunity at a counter-attack goal but was denied by the post, giving Liverpool fans a chance to breathe.

In the 71st-minute, Pulisic seemed to have an easy chance to get his second goal on the night but was denied by Kyle Walker, who, slid across the goal line to keep the game even at one.

 Four minutes after that incident, Ederson and the defence looked to have had more goal line stops after shots from Tammy Abraham and Pulisic were denied. However, VAR awarded The Blues a penalty and Fernandinho was shown a straight red for handling Abraham’s final shot in the sequence. This caused Willian to score from the spot, helping Chelsea get a crucial three points and securing the title for Liverpool.

 

Frank Lampard and Chelsea, who have now accumulated 54 points for the season, take on Leicester City in the FA Cup quarterfinals on Sunday before returning to league action on Wednesday at West Ham United. Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City will face off against Newcastle United in the FA Cup on Sunday, before hosting the newly crowned champions on Thursday.

What is going wrong at Arsenal?

In years gone by the defensive woes that have plagued Arsenal would surprise many. Now it’s commonplace, and there are many fans bemoaning the lack of improvement in the last three to four years. The same soft underbelly is hurting them and defensive mistakes seem to never go away.

The return to the Premier League has probably left most, if not all Arsenal fans wishing it had never come back. Their 3-0 defeat to Manchester City was gifted to their opponents on a platter by David Luiz ( a real symbol for the defensive woes) and plenty of fans were straight on his back.

The issues stem further than simply David Luiz however. Despite his dismal performance, mistakes have always been in his DNA and with their other defenders not really up to scratch, you have to wonder what Arsenal’s recruitment system is doing.

The Brazilian is also set to sign his one-year extension, albeit as a 5th choice centre-half, if talks go smoothly. This ultimately shows how Arsenal are seemingly content with average players.

Aside from that there seems to be attitude problems at the club, issues that were brought to light by Neal Maupay in his post-match interview after Brighton’s 2-1 win.

The centre-half position has been a real issue for the Gunners and for several years they have failed to replace what is a glaring issue. Pablo Mari was brought in on loan in January but he’s only played two times and picked up an injury against Man City.

Sokratis had the potential to be an excellent addition but has proved inconsistent too. The same issues have also affected Shkodran Mustafi, who was solid at Valencia but has struggled in London. It seems as though no matter who they sign, the deals don’t work out.

The higher-ups at the club also have to take responsibility for the clubs failings, fans were crying out for defensive reinforcements this summer but the club spent £72 million on Nicolas Pepe instead.

While fans were pleased, you have to sit and wonder why they couldn’t have spent that on their defence. Kieran Tierney was a decent signing for £25 million but one man won’t be able to fix the issues they currently have.

Mikel Arteta said from the start he had a lot of work to do when he joined the club, and the Spaniard was certainly right on the mark. His starting lineups against Manchester City and Brighton weren’t convincing and the mystery surrounding Mesut Ozil is confusing as ever.

He hasn’t started either games, they surely needed him against Brighton but he was nowhere to be seen. The decision to bring Luiz on has to rest with Arteta but even he couldn’t have predicted the ‘disasterclass’ his player would’ve produced.

He has a lot to do with this squad of players, and he needs quality to be able to play the style of football he wants. Whether the club back him is another story.

Charlie Nicholas stated for Sky Sports:

“Wednesday was what I expected. The one scenario I did not expect was the team that Mikel Arteta picked. Mesut Ozil was dropped – he has been dropped before in these types of games. He went for youth and he can see where the future is,” 

Nicholas continued:

“I do not see it as a massive debate or crisis for Arsenal. They are ninth for a reason. There is a reason behind just the nine wins from 29. Over the last five or six years, Arsenal’s defence has been poor, not average, but poor. How a team can let this go on for so long is mind-blowing.

“They spent around £8m on David Luiz, who has won the Premier League and the Champions League. The craziness is that he was better than what was already there. That should show those players just how bad it is and also how bad it is for Arteta.

“There is nothing to say that it will take years. The board and owners do not have years as the crowd will turn on them if they do not identify that the defence is everything. It is the area that matters right now. If they do not address it they will get further and further away from it. This is a must. Whoever you must sell, the funds must go on defenders, and you start building again.”

Arteta will need time but the Emirates has become a toxic place over recent years and whether time is even a factor here is another question altogether. They played City with the mentality of a side scrapping around the relegation places rather than a team competing for titles.

The club very much needs a change in the way they think if they are to progress, in other words being a ‘big club’ with actions instead of pretending to be like one.

A lot of issues come down to Stan Kroenke and his mismanagement of the club. They had hope when Sven Mislintat joined the club as Recruitment Chief to try and revolutionise the way the club approached the transfer market.

The German had great success at Borussia Dortmund but things didn’t quite work out well for either party. Their Director of Football Raul Sanllehi has come under fire recently, with some of their signings under-performing.

Many fans are discontent with Kroenke’s reign and a lot feel there is no clear plan for Arsenal moving forward. They’ve taken a chance in a promising young coach in Arteta and if he’s anything like his former boss Pep Guardiola then they have a great coach at their disposal. However, he needs the support of a stable board and you have to question whether Arsenal have that at the moment.

The post-Wenger Arsenal was supposed to be one of promise and endeavour. Many neutral fans did say to be careful what you wish for and it looks like there could be more truth in that than first thought. Without a revamp in the board we might not see Arsenal improve much over the next couple of seasons.