Why Sam? Why?

Sam Allardyce lost his job as the England manager after just 67 days in charge. He leaves after being at the helm for 1 game, quite extraordinary.

Allardyce and the FA partied company after a newspaper sting recorded him openly discussing ways to get around the ban on 3rd party ownership of players, chasing 400k pounds for guest appearances, making fun of the previous manager, criticizing his employers on their project management when rebuilding the national stadium and also having a dig at Royalty and the role they play in the FA.

Did it all really warrant the guy losing his job?

As much as I think the FA are far from perfect I believe in this instance they had no option but to relieve Allardyce of his duties. The FA see themselves as the governors of the beautiful game and want to be seen as whiter than white. They value their reputation and want no scandals. Allardyce was filmed advising on loopholes for a rule implemented by the FA to stop 3rd party ownership of players. To also be filmed speaking derogatively about your employers with regard to money matters and then about the Royal family who have ties to the FA meant there could be no reconciliation and they had to let him go.

Over the past 30 years the role of England football manager has become one of the most scrutinized jobs outside of politics. The press in the UK have relentlessly targeted the national team boss, delving into his private life, the private lives of his family and at times crucified them with regards to football (warranted at times!). The pressure within that job must be unbearable at times and those who take it on are very brave, although getting a few million quid a year will probably ease the pain.

Sam Allardyce knew all this but the England manager job was his dream role. He’d waited his whole career for this, all those years battling to save relegation at club level had paid off and it was his chance to shine for his country as a manager. He believed he could be the one to end the 50 years of hurt. The smile on his face during his unveiling was great to see, a man who had fulfilled his dream.

So why oh why did he put himself in the situation to be stung??? I think we are all baffled by his judgement. He was earning 3 million pounds a year as England manager, he’d been a premier league manager for over 10 years, he is a very wealthy man. So why chase 400k for doing a guest appearance for a foreign firm (fictitiously created by the newspaper). It must just be pure greed. It has to be. The press have no morals but they will say their job is to uncover corruption, although to be fair Allardyce did say he would have to discuss any payment given with the FA so there was no corruption unveiled just downright stupidity in being so loose tongued with strangers when you have such a high-profile job.

Big Sam has some history though with regard to scandals. Both he and his son were accused of taking transfer “bungs” during the mid 2000’s, an accusation that Allardyce denies. I think after this current debacle we could be forgiven for suspecting that the 2006 accusations might have some truth in them.

Reports suggest he has received a 7 figure pay off which is remarkable for losing your job due to your own stupidity and 67 days work so I can’t have too much sympathy for him really.

Is Sam a big loss to the national team? Probably not. The game he managed against Slovakia was same old same old so I didn’t really envisage a footballing revolution during his reign, although the FA did state that he had brought an enthusiasm to the team off the field and during training that had not been see in a long time.

Who takes over? Well it looks like as long as Gareth Southgate doesn’t lose every game during his 4 game “trial” he should get the job. He fits the bill after “Sam gate” in that he’s a good guy with no dodgy history and will probably go along with what the FA wants. To be fair he’s also a young manager who has done all his top coaching badges and overseen the U21’s for a while and done well so why not give him a chance. I’d like to see someone like Glenn Hoddle come in as an adviser to Southgate. Hoddle’s footballing philosophy fits international football better than club football. I honestly believe that if he hadn’t been fired for his religious beliefs in the late 90’s England may well have won an international tournament by now so being alongside Southgate might prove a masterstroke but will the FA bring in someone they once fired? Probably not.

I believe England currently have some very talented young players who if managed correctly could do well for the national side over the next few tournaments.

Pity for Big Sam that he won’t be there to oversee it but his stupidity cost him that privilege.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilshere epitomises the English mentality

When Jack Wilshere signed for Bournemouth it was a surprise to most. At first glance I thought, yeah he’s looking for regular first team football and should be the first name on the team sheet at Bournemouth if he’s fit so this gives him the best chance of getting back into the England setup.

But then on reflection I came to the conclusion that it was a cop out and epitomizes the mentality of an English professional footballer.

Wilshere had the opportunity to sign for Roma or AC Milan, these aren’t little Italian clubs, these are giants of European football. Even when fit he would’ve had to have performed week in week out to get in the team at both clubs. Roma are always challenging for silverware and while Milan have dropped somewhat over the past decade they are still a massive club with worldwide exposure.

Why are English footballers so reluctant to play abroad? The majority choose to stay in the comfort zone of the Premier League. I honestly believe that if Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes would have gone to play for a European giant for a period of their careers they would have become even better players. They would’ve had to fine tune their game to adapt to another playing style which would have benefited the English national team also. I understand some guys just don’t want to up sticks and move their families abroad away from family and friends but come on, these are millionaires who could fly their families in every other week and Europe isn’t a big place with regard to air travel. A sportsman’s career is short and can be ended at any time due to injury therefore why not take on a challenge even if just for a short time and go test yourself at a top European club?

Italians have always been reluctant to play abroad but they have the excuse of the fact that the Italian national team has still won World Cups and got to European Championship finals so the players staying at home hasn’t really affected the national team’s ability to challenge. England don’t have that excuse. We have reached 2 semi finals since 1966 which is an appalling record. If some of our top players had played abroad for just a small amount of time I’m sure the national team would’ve seen the benefit.

The reluctance of English players to play abroad makes me ask the question……is it basically down to the fact that they aren’t good enough and wouldn’t be able to adapt to other styles of play? Maybe that is the case but as it stands we as the public and the players themselves will never know!

 

Euro 2016

It’s finally here!!! The European Championships start today in France and it should be a fantastic tournament. I probably won’t speak to my wife for just over a month now which she’s probably happy about! On a personal note I’m really excited as my son is now 8 and loves his football and this is the first tournament that he’ll be really into which I’m excited about.

With UEFA extending the number of teams from 16 to 24 we as fans get more games but will it be to the detriment of the Euros quality wise? It could be. I always thought the Euros were actually better than the World Cup as you had 8 then 16 outstanding European teams competing whereas now with 24 there are some “lesser” teams involved which is great for those countries fans but might mean there are one or 2 heavier defeats for teams and more predictable results than in previous Euros.

With the tournament being held in France, security is a concern. Following the terrorist attacks in Paris last year there has always been a concern that something might happen during this football tournament. The French security authorities are doing everything they can to minimize the risk but unfortunately the risk factor can never be zero so the fans travelling to France need to be vigilant. French authorities have told local restaurants and bars not to show games on TV so that they get all the fans in one place within the designated Fanzones which will then be easier to secure. My concern, especially with some of the idiotic England fans is that they get drunk and think they can take on 10 men even with machine guns and so end up in very vulnerable situations. Surely even the football dunces can grasp the fact that its not other football hooligans they need to worry about but potential terrorists who won’t just sing songs back at them! If the fans listen to the Authorities they will be ok.

Back to football matters and I don’t really feel there is an outstanding team in the tournament. There are some very good sides but not one you could say was in the class of France 2000 or Spain 2012.

I personally believe only 3 teams have a chance of winning it though. France, Germany and Belgium. I don’t think Spain or Italy can win it despite being great tournament teams.

France being at home are my favorites for the title. I don’t think they are a fantastic side but in Pogba, Griezmann and Lloris they have 3 world class players and a bunch of very very good players. They aren’t the greatest defensively but with the home support I believe they will be lifting the trophy in Paris in July.

If France and Germany avoid each other in the knock out stages then they would be my 2 finalists.

Germany are obviously the World Champions and have some fantastic players but they haven’t been great since the world cup. Having said that the Germans are one of the greatest tournament teams in football history so regardless of qualifying or friendly results I think we’ll see a strong German showing again.

Belgium are a strange outfit. They probably have on paper the strongest squad in European football but they appear to find it difficult to gel as a team. I was disappointed with them in the last World Cup and they have been a bit iffy in the friendlies leading up to this tournament. Vincent Kompany will be a big miss for them but the squad is still pretty formidable. If they can click as a team then they have a real chance of winning it. In Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne they have 2 match winning talents. I think they’ll make at least the semi finals.

The holders, Spain, are nowhere near what they were 4 years ago when they were hailed as the greatest international team the world has ever seen. I always believed that Xavi was the main man and now he has retired there is a big hole to fill. Del Bosque has left some big names out of the squad and selected some young up and coming talent especially in midfield but I think this tournament will come 4 years too soon for them and I see them making the semi finals at best.

Of the others, I don’t think Italy and Portugal are as strong as they used to be but will still make the knock out stages.

England? Quarter finals at best again I’m afraid. I see a lot of pundits getting excited about England’s chances of winning it. Yes they have some exciting players especially up front but with a dodgy defense and a so so midfield I don’t think they have a chance of lifting the trophy. If Roy Hodgson gives up on his obsession with accommodating Wayne Rooney then England may have a chance of the semi finals. The formation he selected against Portugal was just bizarre and at one point Kane and Vardy were playing like wing backs just to be able to play Rooney as the striker. I would leave Rooney out. Kane or/and Vardy have to be the main strikers this tournament. I don’t think Rooney is good enough to play midfield at an international tournament and is only slightly better in the number 10 role just behind a striker. Rooney for me is a striker and that’s the only position he can play and we have better options in that position. Do I think he will leave Rooney out? Not a chance and that’s why I don’t see England going beyond the quarters, in fact I can see a last 16 exit if the team revolves around Rooney.

It’s great to see Wales and Northern Ireland back in there and with the Republic of Ireland qualifying it was almost a full house of UK and Irish teams but unfortunately (I say that with a massive tongue in my cheek!) Scotland let the side down and bombed out!

Surprise package? I’m going for Slovakia, they have some solid players and added into that is the brilliant Marek Hamsik who can change a game. Not saying they are going to win it but I think they could produce a shock result or 2 which might be bad news for England and Wales. Having said that if Wales can keep it tight then I also see them producing a shock due to the magic of Gareth Bale. What at first glance seemed a pretty easy group for England I suddenly see as slightly “iffy”.

Star players? I see 3 guys who could well light up the tournament. Antoine Griezmann, Kevin De Bruyne and Anthony Martial. I think the best player in the tournament is Gareth Bale and if he clicks for Wales then anything can happen provided they keep it tight at the back but that might prove difficult.

Cristiano Ronaldo is obviously in the Portugal squad but he’s been struggling with injuries lately and even though he scored the winning penalty, he didn’t look himself during last months Champions League final. He still scores lots of goals but is becoming less of a threat outside the box. He’s an all time great and if he’s 100% fit then he might do something special as I think this will be the last major tournament we will see him in at anything like his peak.

All in all I think it promises to be a tournament to remember for all the right reasons. Football really is the beautiful game and these major tournaments are so special that I feel like a kid again waiting for it to kick off.

Enjoy guys!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Premier League Review

So baring the re-arranged Man Utd v Bournemouth fixture, another Premier League campaign bites the dust.

To say it’s been epic would be an understatement. Sure some will say the actual quality has been lacking but I think that can only be aimed at the so called big guns. Most other clubs have improved greatly and played decent football, so is it a case of the big guns just playing the same while so called smaller clubs improve and show less fear? I actually think it is and I believe we’ll keep seeing new members of the top 4 appearing almost every season going forward.

Leicester winning the title will change sport as whole, not just football. This might sound dramatic but whenever an individual or a team are struggling or thrown to the scrap heap they will be reminded of the Leicester story and how a bunch of bargain basement and rejected players collectively pushed each other to heights they didn’t know existed. Teenagers released by clubs will think of the Jamie Vardy story and not give up on their dreams. Players in their 30’s being told they are past it will think of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth. Established pro’s who are released by big clubs will remain positive and think of Danny Drinkwater and how he became a 10 times better player away from Manchester Utd. Managers will be inspired by Claudio Ranieri and how he truly concentrated on creating a “TEAM” in which each and every squad player knew their role and didn’t deviate.

I believe if Ranieri can convince this team to stay together then there is no reason why they can’t be pushing for a top 4 place again next year and actually perform respectively in the Champions League next season. I think Leicester are still vastly underrated despite winning the title by 10 points. They have been amazing and their story will be told for generations to come.

Others that showed great progress are Spurs, West Ham and Southampton.

Spurs capitulated after the 2-2 draw at Chelsea which ended their title hopes but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that they were in the title race almost to the end and played some fantastic football along the way. They have a top class manager in Pochettino and some of the most exciting players in the Premier league. Harry Kane and Dele Alli were brilliant along with Moussa Dembele and Erik Dier. If fact you could go through most of the Spurs team and give praise for an outstanding season.

West Ham were a bit up and down at the end but maybe the emotion of leaving the Boelyn ground caught up with them but they still had a shout of a champions league spot towards the last few games which shows they had a season to be proud of and they also played some very attractive football. Dimitri Payet was outstanding and made a mockery of his 10m transfer fee. He deservedly got back in the French squad and is a player I look forward to watching in the Euros.

Southampton came up the league like a bat out of hell after Christmas. Everyone knew they had some good players but before Christmas they were struggling. Since then only the Champions have better form and if the season was another 6 games they could well have finished in the top 4. If they can keep hold of Ronald Koeman as manager then they could well be one of those so called smaller clubs pushing for a top 4 place over the next couple of seasons.

So what of the “Big Guns”? Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea.

Arsenal achieved their highest finish since 2005 so can it be classed as a successful season? Most say no as they believe the title was there for the taking but I disagree with that as I see Leicester as an outstanding side who are worthy champions. Would Arsenal have been closer to them if Wenger had signed some outfield players in the summer transfer window? Maybe but they would had to have been of a different make up to the usual suspects Wenger goes for (Sanchez aside) who are pretty to watch but ultimately don’t have the fight to win titles. Wenger has to change the characteristics of the players he signs otherwise I don’t see them winning a title for a long time.

Jurgen Klopp has definitely improved Liverpool and got certain players to finally look the part but lets not kid ourselves that an eighth place finish is anywhere near good enough. The Europa League became a priority but that is still no excuse for such a poor placed finish. Having said that I believe Klopp is the best thing to happen to Liverpool for a long long time and with a few signings this summer I see them challenging for the title over the coming seasons.

Louis Van Gaal has taken some stick this season due to his rigid style of play but if they win the re-arranged game against Bournemouth and triumph in the FA Cup Final against Palace they could end the season with a 5th place finish and a trophy which might appease some fans. I have the feeling the Utd board do not want to change the manager again so if LVG can get his hands on the FA Cup I see him still being in the managers seat next season. Do I see them as title challengers? No, the fear factor has gone from Old Trafford and might not return for a long time. Since Ferguson’s departure they have signed some big name players but they still haven’t challenged for the big honors as teams don’t fear them anymore. It could be a good few years before they are champions again.

With regard to Manchester City, I actually disagree with a lot of the pundits who blame the club and Pep guardiola for the clubs poor form following the announcement in February that Manuel Pelligrini would be leaving the club in the summer. Pelligrini has won a title and a couple of cups in his time there but I look at some of the signings he’s made and he has to take some of the blame for his team not really challenging for the title 2 seasons running. The 2 center halves he signed, Mangala and Otamendi for a combined 70m pounds beggars belief. You then add in Fenando and Fernandinho and you have 120m pounds spent on pretty much run of the mill players. I think Rahim Sterling has talent but following his 49m move from Liverpool you can’t really say he has been a success can you? Despite that City still have a few match winners in Aguero and De Bruyne so under Pep, City will be close to the title next season.

As for Chelsea? What a disastrous campaign. The worst defense of the title in Premier League history. What went wrong? Obviously the players stopped playing for Mourinho which resulted in his sacking in November. Gus Hiddink returning to the hot seat did see them become harder to beat but they were still a million miles from the team who strolled to the title the previous season. Antonio Conte will come in in July and stamp his mark straight away. Some will be off loaded and I’m sure he’ll make some signings, although with no European football next season it could make his effort to attract the really big names very difficult indeed. I still expect them to be title contenders next season.

Of the relegated teams I can see all 3 challenging to come straight back up.

If Newcastle had sacked Steve McLaren and got Benitez in earlier they would have stayed up. Toon went the last 6 games unbeaten and will be desperate to persuade Rafa to stay on and hope it’s just one campaign in the Championship.

Aston Villa were awful and their fans will be fearful of them becoming another Leeds Utd and never getting back up but a club of Villa’s size and stature will still be able to attract the quality of player they need for life in the Championship so I do see them returning sooner rather than later.

Norwich are a Premier League YoYo club so will keep a good nucleus of the squad that played this season and will more than likely make at least the play offs next season in the Championship.

Leicester becoming champions has been the greatest story in Premier League history and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching them. They made sure that the 2015/2016 season is one that will never ever be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Premier League Predictions

This could be the round of fixtures that sees Leicester City crowned Premier League Champions!! Quite an unbelievable scenario. It would be one of the greatest stories in sporting history…..but it’s not done and dusted just yet.

Here’s how I think the fixtures will turn out:

Saturday (3pm BST kickoffs unless stated)

Everton v AFC Bournemouth

Everton’s season is in danger of becoming a really poor one. The agonizing last minute defeat to Man Utd in last weeks FA Cup semi final will have taken a few days to get over. Everton only showed up for the 2nd half but then showed what a good side they can be. They have some very good players but it doesn’t look as if Martinez can get them all firing together. His time may already be up but I think they’ll win this one.

Bournemouth are safe and that is a great achievement. They will be hoping to pick up at least one win to finish the season off on a high.

Broady’s prediction: 2-0

 

Newcastle v Crystal Palace:

Newcastle are still in there with a chance to beat the drop. Benitez has them playing with more steel as was showed at Anfield last week when they came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2.

Palace had a great win at Wembley and now have the FA Cup Final to look forward to, but they haven’t yet guaranteed their Premier League status for next season so they can’t take their eye off the ball in this one.

I think Toon just edge this one.

Broady’s prediction: 2-1

 

Stoke v Sunderland:

Stoke are having a shocker! What could’ve proved to be their best Premier League finish could turn into a middle of the road season. They are leaking goals for fun but surely that has to stop as they are a good side.

Sunderland are starting to play well at the business end of the season. With last weeks draw at home to Arsenal they climbed out of the relegation zone which will have been a massive boost for them.

I see this being a tight game.

Broady’s prediction: 1-1

 

Watford v Aston Villa:

Watford are another club who’s season is freefall, but as long as they beat the drop they will be ecstatic. They have been good to watch and no one has really given them a pasting.

Villa will be just going through the motions now and the club will be planning for life in the Championship next season.

Broady’s prediction: 2-0

 

West Brom v West Ham:

Credit to Tony Pulis and West Brom at White Hart Lane on Monday. They gave 100% in that game even though the players could’ve been forgiven if they’d had their minds on the end of the season and their holidays but they didn’t and probably cost Spurs any chance of the title.

West Ham are still in the fight for the European places and so need to get a result. They are a very good side and I see them getting at least a draw here.

Broady’s prediction: 1-2

 

Arsenal v Norwich: (5.30pm BST )

Another season, probably another top 4 finish for the Gunners. Arsene Wenger would have you believe that this is success. For me for a club of Arsenal’s size, stature and finances I don’t think it’s good enough. They have some fantastic players but have no “edge” to their game which is why they don’t win titles. Wenger’s teams from 98-2005 had that edge but he went away from that template and they have looked lightweight for the past decade.

Norwich will be feeling the pressure of dropping into the bottom 3 and even though Arsenal are not in great form, this is tough game for the Canaries to get anything from.

I see a comfortable Arsenal win.

Broady’s prediction: 3-0

Sunday:

Swansea v Liverpool (12pm BST)

Swansea were appalling against Leicester last Sunday and quite probably handed the title to the Foxes. Their work rate in that game was none existent but they will be playing Premier League football next season so I suppose the club will be relatively happy.

Liverpool’s first half performance against Newcastle was superb and it looked like they were going to carry on the succession of wins but the 2nd half they were casual and paid for it which could cost them a top 6 place unless they step it up again starting at the Liberty stadium.

Prediction: 1-3

 

Man Utd v Leicester (2.05pm BST)

Will the dream become a reality at Old Trafford for little Leicester City? I really hope it does as it would be unbelievable to see a club of that size win the title at the home of the Premier Leagues most successful club. Leicester were ruthless against Swansea last week. Most pundits had them down to drop points in their first league game without Vardy but Ulloa proved his worth with another 2 crucial goals. Riyad Mahrez came to the party with a fantastic performance and credit must again go to the manager previously known as “the tinkerman” who brought in Schlupp for Albrighton knowing without Vardy the team needed some extra pace from midfield. Their squad is vastly underrated.

Man Utd are finishing the season in good form and the way in which they beat Everton at Wembley in the FA Cup Semi will have given them an extra lift. There is no way they will want Leicester winning the title on their patch.

Utd could possibly have the highest possession percentage ever seen in this game! Leicester will let them have the ball and then look to hit them hard. I also see the 2 nightclub bouncers, Huth and Morgan doing their best to “rough up” the 2 young Utd forwards. Utd have been coming in from the flanks with great success recently but with Simpson and Fuchs as Leicester’s brilliantly disciplined full backs they might not get the same joy from those areas.

Broady’s prediction: 1-1

 

Southampton v Man City (4.30pm BST)

Saints had a good win at Villa last week and are a tough side to beat at St Mary’s. This team has the potential to be a regular top 6 or 7 fixture in the Premier League but will Ronald Koeman be their to oversee that? I have my doubts.

City are another side that are finishing the season relatively strongly and will have gained confidence from the battling 0-0 champions League semi final draw at the Eitiad on Wednesday night.

I think this will be a decent game to watch.

Broady’s prediction: 1-2

 

Chelsea v Tottenham (8pm BST)

What a game this is!!! Obviously Chelsea have no silverware to play for but with the incentive of stopping Spurs winning the title, I see them playing their best game of the season in this one. Eden Hazard finally came out of hiding in the Bournemouth game last week and could play a major role in this one. I have been very impressed with Pedro in the 2nd half of the season and see him being a big time player for the Blues next season.

Spurs started great against West Brom on Monday and to be fair created enough chances to win the game convincingly but the pressure of the title played a part in allowing West Brom back in it and that Dawson goal has more than likely ended the title challenge… but you never know

This will be a cracker.

Broady’s prediction: 2-1

 

So if my predictions come true we will see Leicester City crowned champions on Monday night! I think most of football would celebrate with them.

 

 

 

 

 

What is going wrong at Barca?

Having been eliminated from the Champions League following their 2-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid, Barcelona lost their 3rd straight league game at the weekend, the first time that has happened in 13 years. After going 35 games unbeaten in all competitions earlier in the season what has gone wrong for the Catalan giants?

Messi stopped scoring:

Regardless of how brilliant Neymar and Suarez are, Lionel Messi is still the main man and when his boots stop firing then whole team suffers. Barca’s poor run coincides with Messi’s worst goal drought for nearly 6 years although he did break that drought with a goal against Valencia in the 2-1 defeat. They will be hoping the little magician can now get back to business as usual.

Catalan Doubt:

It’s well known that while Catalonians are passionately tribal they are also of a fragile mindset and doubt is known to creep in after initial setbacks. While most of the players are not native Catalonians the club as whole will have started to question themselves following the 2-1 home defeat to Real Madrid which started the rot. Since then they have only won 1 game and that was a tight 2-1 win against 10 man Atletico. They need to regain their belief if they are to finish the season on a high.

Defensive issues:

The attacking trident of Neymar, Messi and Suarez has been hailed as been as good an attacking force as the game has ever seen and while that may well be the case, that trident has maybe been masking some real defensive issues within this Barca side. When you have 3 of the top 5 players in the world playing up front for you, you might have the tendency to not worry too much about what is going on behind them. Barca will feel that no matter how many the opposition score, with those 3 up front we’ll score more, but this mindset comes unstuck when the front 3 have a loss of form all at the same time which is what has happened. This situation has exposed Barca’s defence as being vulnerable and teams are going at them. As an attacking force, Dani Alves and Jordi Alba are wonderful wing backs but defensively they can be got at. Gerard Pique is a world class defender and in my opinion has carried Javier Mascherano for a while. Mascherano was a wonderful defensive midfielder for Liverpool and Argentina but as a center half I think he’s there for the taking and when Pique has a loss of form it highlights Mascherano’s deficiencies at center half.

Great XI but no squad:

Manager Luis Enrique didn’t use a substitute during the 2-1 defeat at the Nou Camp on Sunday which tells me he doesn’t think the guys on the bench have much to offer even when the team is losing at home. The first choice XI on their day are a wonderful side but when one or 2 run into a loss of from have they got any other options to be able to change things to stop the rot? It doesn’t appear so. Following Sunday’s defeat to Valencia Luis Enrique reacted angrily during the post match press conference to suggestions that he has a squad with no depth.

Can they turn it around?

With both Madrid clubs taking maximum points during Barca’s poor run in the league, the pressure is mounting on the Catalonians especially following the Champions League exit. Ironically the Champions League situation might work in their favor in the race for the La Liga title. Barca can now put more emphasis on La Liga, although they are still involved in the Copa Del Rey and have a tough tie against Sevilla but the Copa Del Rey doesn’t bring the pressure and intensity that the 2 Madrid clubs will face in the Champions League semi finals.

At some point all 3 of their superstar forwards will start scoring again but will the games have run out by then? We shall see.

 

 

 

De Bruyne the key for City

Man City v PSG (Tues 7.45pm GMT)

Crunch time for City today. The club have been building up to this game for 8 years. They have a real chance of progressing to the Champions League Semi Finals for the first in their history.

And the competition could be opening up nicely for them! Real Madrid are in real trouble (pardon the pun!) in their tie against Wolfsburg, Barcelona conceded an away goal last week in their 2-1 win against Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich take a slender 1 goal lead to the Stadium of Light in Lisbon when they face a very useful Benfica outfit.

We could realistically have a semi final line up of Man City, Wolfsburg, Atletico Madrid and Benfica.

I doubt it though as I’m pretty sure at least one of the big 3, Real, Barca or Bayern will progress.

PSG were disappointing at the Park de Princes last week. City were awful defensively with the Fernando error as bad as you will see, it reminded me of watching a local league game in Barnsley!! Going forward they looked dangerous with Kevin De Bruyne being the main man. Had he been fit all season I think City would’ve been a lot closer to Premier League leaders Leicester in the race for the title. He looks world class and you have to shake your head as to why Chelsea ever let him leave!

If City can defend better and get De Bruyne in the game I see them winning this game……just.

In the other Tuesday tie we see Real Madrid trying to claw back a 2 goal deficit against German side Wolfsburg. I have a friend who is a keen Real fan and he said the game in Germany was as bad as he’s ever seen Real play. I think they were too confident, took Wolfsburg lightly and paid the price. We should see a different Real today but I wouldn’t count Wolfsburg out completely as with Julien Draxler they have the ideal foil to hit Real on the break and get a priceless away goal.

Predictions:

Man City 2-1 PSG

Real Madrid 3-1 Wolfsburg (Wolfsburg to go through on away goal)

What do you reckon?

Let flair flourish through playing

Following the death of the great Johan Cruyff I decided to go online and read about his football philosophy.

His philosophy was based on the fact that the most talented individuals should be the focal point of the team and a teams training session should be built around them.

That got me thinking about kids football and how they are being coached.

From what I’ve seen the majority of coaches are teaching young kids to be “functional” even at a very young age. I see training sessions based on positioning and passing which might well create successful “teams” but will also produce a million and one clones who all play the same. I’d bet my bottom dollar you won’t see many 8-10 years being drilled to pass and hold their positions in Brazil. I read that up until 12 years of age a local Brazillian coach will hardly say a word at training sessions and the session will be predominantly based on the kids just playing, no drills. This type of coaching will allow those kids to try things and work out what works and doesn’t work for themselves. Glenn Hoddle has said that he doesn’t believe in coaching 8 year olds with drills as they should be allowed to become at one with the ball so that by the age of 10 they feel the ball is just an extension of themselves. I for one as an England fan wishes Hoddle was still involved with the national team. I believe if he hadn’t been sacked by the FA the England team would’ve gone close to winning a major tournament.

Of course there needs to be strong tackling defenders and midfielders in football but by allowing kids to try things at a young age you will get strong tackling defenders and midfielders who can also play and are extremely comfortable on the ball.

I’m of the thinking that if Johan Cruyff had been born in Accrington instead of Amsterdam he wouldn’t have got anywhere near the level he did. He would’ve been drilled to be like all the other lads and would probably have become disillusioned with the game.

Chris Waddle and Glenn Hoddle were 2 of the most gifted individuals England have ever produced yet Ray Wilkins got more caps! They both had to move abroad to get the recognition they deserved.

Waddle says that when he moved to Marseille it was like being released from prison. The manager told him to stay in the opponents half and he needn’t defend, on Marseille losing possession he had to just focus on getting his energy back ready for when they regained possession. In England he would’ve been told to run like a madman to get the ball back.

We all love watching football but if we are being honest, apart from the select bunch of world class players there is a real much of a muchness around especially in England. I think until we see kids coaches allowing flair to flourish over functionality we’ll see more and more clones coming off the conveyor belt.

Less drills and more skills, just allow the kids to play!

 

 

Premier League Predictions

It’s the business end of the season and for the majority of clubs draws are no longer any good, only wins will do which should make for an exciting round of fixtures.

Saturday:

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West Ham v Arsenal (12.45)

This should be a cracking game. Both sides need the 3 points to push for the Champions League and the Premier League title respectively.

West Ham have been helped by the rescinded red card of Cheik Kouyate and should be at full strength. Dimitri Payet will again be the main man for the Hammers, what a season he’s had, what a player he is. He’s brought a new dimension to this West Ham side and his individual brilliance could again prove to be the difference.

Arsenal are looking good again, albeit when the pressure has eased somewhat. They are still in the title race for the moment but will probably have to win every game from now until the end of the season, which I don’t think they will.

Broady’s prediction: 1-1

 

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Aston Villa v Bournemouth (3.00)

Villa are already doomed and the club appear to be in turmoil. The owner wants to sell but can’t find a buyer and the team can’t buy a win.

Bournemouth’s performance levels have dropped a little after all but securing their top flight status for next season so this could well end in a draw.

Broady’s prediction: 1-1

 

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Crystal Palace v Norwich (3.00)

Palace are surely due a win, they are a decent side but things haven’t gone in their favor since the turn of the year. They have a few players back so might finish the season positively.

I watched Norwich beat Toon last week and they showed a lot of desire in that game and that quality might keep them up but I think Palace will finally get a 2016 win.

Broady’s prediction: 2-0

 

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Southampton v Newcastle (3.00)

Saints were unlucky not to get a point against Leicester last weekend. A few calls went against them but they are a good side.

Newcastle are in real trouble, they have some good players but don’t play as a team and maybe Benitez doesn’t have enough time to change that.

Broady’s prediction: 2-1

 

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Swansea v Chelsea (3.00)

Swansea probably need one more win to ensure safety which I’m sure they will get in the remaining games but not in this game.

Chelsea are on a long unbeaten run in the league under Gus Hiddink and I think they will continue that run with a win.

Broady’s prediction: 1-2

 

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Watford v Everton (3.00)

These 2 sides are safe and in mid table mediocrity which for Evertonians that must be very disappointing. They will both have one eye on their upcoming respective FA Cup Semi finals so I see this being a low key affair.

Broady’s predication: 1-1

 

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Man City v West Brom (17.30)

With Kevin De Bruyne back City suddenly look a different proposition. He is a fantastic player and is the first City signing since 2012 to really change the team, with him back I see them finishing the season strongly.

West Brom are West Brom, pretty dull but relatively solid, a typical Tony Pulis team.

Broady’s prediction: 3-0

 

Sunday:

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Sunderland v Leicester (Sunday 13.30)

What a game this is! If Leicester win this game then I think they win the title. They have been doing just enough lately which is what Champions do towards the end of the season, another 1-0 would do very nicely but I think they might do better than that this week.

Sunderland also have to win. They are a decent side and this is a difficult game for the foxes.

I think Leicester might go for it a bit more this weekend and flex their muscles to make sure they get what I believe will be a defining 3 points.

Broady’s prediction: 0-2

 

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Liverpool v Stoke: (Sunday 16.00)

Liverpool got a fantastic result in Germany on Thursday against a brilliant Dortmund side. Dejan Lovren is starting to look like a top line center half and his partnership with Sahko could flourish under Klopp.

Liverpool are starting to show some consistency and I believe with some additional summer signings they will be a very very dangerous outsider next season.

Stoke have had a good season and are pleasing on the eye under Mark Hughes but I think Liverpool at Anfield might be a bit too much for them.

Broady’s prediction: 2-1

 

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Tottenham v Man Utd (16.00)

This is another must win game for both teams. If Leicester win in the earlier game at Sunderland I think the title race is over but Spurs won’t think that and so they will go all out for the 3 points at White Hart Lane. They played well in the 2nd half at Anfield last week despite Dele Alli having a very quiet game. Harry Kane is on fire and his turn and finish was world class. Spurs are a very very good side.

Utd players should have all left the field with a swag bag after the Everton game as they robbed the Toffees of 3 points. They didn’t play well at OT but Anthony Martial is a special talent and proved the match winner. They are still in the mix for 4th place but I don’t think they’ll get anything from this game.

Broady’s prediction: 2-0

 

Torres Red?

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Barcelona will take a 2-1 advantage to the Vicente calderon for the 2nd leg of the Champions League Quarter Final next week but did they get a helping hand from the ref or was Fernando Torres’ 2nd yellow card justified?

After seeing it a few times I think Torres was slightly reckless, especially being on a yellow and in the Nou Camp, Barca do tend to get any borderline decision go in their favor there, but there’s the other argument that these days any foul seems to be deemed a yellow card which in my opinion is spoiling games.

The Torres red card had a massive bearing on the outcome of the game as Atletico then had no outlet to aim for after parking the bus from the first min to the last. With Torres on they would have soaked up the pressure and then aimed for him on the break as they did for the goal which el nino took like the Torres of old.

Luis Suarez again showed that he, along with Aguero, has a valid case to be hailed as the worlds best out and out center forward. His 2nd goal tonight was a sensational header. The power he generated was incredible and he is heading towards 50 goals for the season. The 75m he cost Barca looks a bargain. Suarez was a lucky boy though and should have probably seen red during the first half but again Barca get those calls at home.

Messi and Neymar were again ok but not at their best. 2 games now without a goal for Lionel, it could spark a major inquest! To be fair it’s not easy when a team of Atletico’s quality parks the bus for the whole game. Simeone is a very good tactical coach but he could eventually get football stopped!

Should be an intriguing return leg. I’d go for another 2-1 win for Barca.