Chelsea is the strongest team in the Premier League!
Yes, Manchester City have a strong squad too, but, for me, Chelsea claim top spot. Their recruitment drive, in the close-season, has been second to none and coupled with their existing talent pool they have been rightfully installed as title favourites this season.
A busy Chelsea have brought in Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Felipe Luis as well as welcoming back returning loanee, Thibaut Courtois . These 4-players are, in every way, ‘world-beaters’ in their own right. Felipe Luis and Thibaut Courtois are ‘hot property’ having arrived from Atletico Madrid where they won the Primera Liga and earned a Champions League runners up medal. They were key factors in Atletico’s campaign last season and will bring both quality and confidence to the Chelsea dressing room.
Felipe Luis was one of the best full backs in Europe last season and, to the bemusement of many, he was left out of the Brazil squad for the World Cup (one of many, massive mistakes made by Luis Felipe Scolari). Thibaut Courtois cemented himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world last season and, when partnered with Petr Cech this season, you’d imagine would he would be the envy of many a goalkeeper coach in the Premier League .
Diego Costa was undoubtedbly Aletico’s meal tickets and caught the eye of many teams in Europe. Just how Chelsea managed to seal the deal before anyone else secured his services is a marvel at the job being done at Stamford Bridge. He only needed 17 minutes to make an impact with an equalising goal vs Burnley in the season opener! Bringing a massive presence up front he will be responsible for providing many a goal for Chelsea this Premiership campaign.
Chelsea have also brought back the legend, that is, Didier Drogba, who may be too old to feature at the highest intensity for 90 minutes but will still bring experience to the dressing room. He will also be seen as a key player/tutor to the newly arrived Diego Costa as he readies himself for the intensity of a Premiership campaign. Drogba will help Costa to develop as a Premier League striker – there’s no harm in learning from the ‘best’ is there?
Finally, the surprise purchase of Cesc Fabregas is a masterstoke by Mourinho. The perfect replacement for the departing Lampard, he will bring creativity, assists and passes left, right and centre. He was impressive at Turf Moor on Monday night, capping off his performance with a world class half volley assist for Andre Schurrle.
Not only have Chelsea recruited well, they have managed to retain the services of those players best suited to balance their team, alongside the new/returning recruits. Eden Hazard, Schurrle, Willian, Nemanja Matic, Dave Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill … the list goes on … will likewise be important to Chelsea is their quest for Premier League glory.
The present squad gives Chelsea a lot of firepower. Chelsea were labelled last season as a team who played ‘anti-football’ … but this year it will be different. I can see them attacking more but having the Mourinho defensive playbook in their back pocket when required. John Terry and Gary Cahill were arguably the strongest back pairing in the Premiership last season and along with Azpilicueta at left back offering ‘narrowness’ to the game, coupled with the addition of Felipe Luis, they will be solid at the back again this year. Sitting in front of the defence you will have Matic, whose job will be to break up any attacking play the opposition can throw at Chelsea with Fabregas in front of him finding passes.
Chelsea are immense this season … if they aren’t title winners then this season will be a failure.
Written by: Luke Taylor (Taylor-Made Football)
It’s been a long time since Arsenal fans have seen their side lift a Premier League title. The invincibles side of 2003/04 is a long distant memory in the minds of everyone involved with the club. Before their FA Cup success last season and the Community Shield win early this season, it had been nine year since the Gunners had lifted any competitive trophy. With stadium debts paid off and the most recent of successes under their belts, it is time for Arsenal fans to believe that their club will become one of the best in England again.
Arsenal have lacked funds with the £390million development of the Emirates Stadium, though the sales of key players over the past few seasons, most notably Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas, have disgruntled the supporters, with many calling for the heads of the board and Arsene Wenger on multiple occasions. The Black Scarf movement, the club’s biggest supporters group, organised and carried out many protests, with chants relating to spending money becoming an all too familiar sight at the Emirates.
Despite being one of the most revered English clubs and being in close competition almost every season, Arsenal have never really established themselves as the Premier League’s crowning glory. Over the 22 years that the new format was introduced, the Gunners have only managed to lift the title three times, with Manchester United lifting the trophy ten times more than their league rivals. The tides are slowly changing, with Manchester United seemingly slipping away from the top two or three clubs in the division, having finished a lowly seventh last time out. The era of Sir Alex Ferguson is over for them, meaning a period of transition, one which the Gunners can capitalise on.
Since the beginning of last season, Arsenal appeared to stop becoming a ‘selling club’. The Gunners smashed their transfer record by almost 300% to sign Mesut Özil in 2013, who was key to the ending of the trophy drought. Youngsters are also continuing to play a bigger part in the Arsenal setup, with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and new signing Calum Chambers all under the age of 24. Wenger has stuck to his guns with his youth policy, and as the players develop, it seems to be paying off.
So far this summer, Arsenal have spent close to £70million on new players, Alexis Sánchez taking up the majority of the spending so far, coming in as Arsenal’s second-most expensive player behind Özil. David Ospina, Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy have also come into the club for a total of around £30million. With the Arsenal squad seemingly having more depth than ever, do Arsenal have what it takes to finally be crowned Premier League champions again?
Many would suggest that there is still one lacking quantity in the Arsenal squad, with the club not signing a recognised striker since the departure of Thierry Henry in 2007. Since then, Robin van Persie took over as the main striker along with Emmanuel Adebayor, though both have since left the club. Olivier Giroud has been the only striker with some experience to play up front for the Gunners in the last few years, having won a Ligue 1 title with Montpellier months before joining. The likes of Mario Balotelli, Wayne Rooney and Karim Benzema have been linked in the past couple of years, but Wenger has not made his move. Some may argue that Sanchez is the man to play at striker for the Gunners, or possibly Theo Walcott, though the club seem to have made it clear that Giroud will carry on as the main striker, with Yaya Sanogo getting a bigger part to play as well through the season.
The club have lacked a real leader in the side, a tough midfielder, one who is not afraid to get stuck in. The times of Patrick Vieira leading out the sides at Highbury have long passed, along with every Arsenal captain since. The team is calling out not only for a leader, which they appear to have in Per Mertesacker, who took up the vice-captain role recently, but a versatile holding midfielder to provide a barrier for the defence, one with strength and the ability to prevent opposition players from getting around them. For the fans, Javi Martinez of Bayern Munich seemed to be the standout player, the name on everybody’s lips. The player was linked strongly in the early weeks of the current transfer window, but with an injury that’ll keep him out for most of the season, a move soon seems almost impossible.
To sum up, as with most fans, the general consensus is that one world class striker and a holding midfielder with the ability to play further back when needed is all that the team needs to once again win the Premier League. With other title rivals strengthening in key positions, the Gunners need to act fast if they are to stand any chance of winning the title as early as this season.
Written by: Tyron McGee (@TyronAFC)
Ozil’s absence evident & No place for Jack
A German-less Arsenal started their season with a 2-1 home win against a resilient Crystal Palace, Aaron Ramsey scoring the winner with minutes to spare (why do I get the feeling I’m going to be hearing that a lot this season?) An unconvincing performance, but a wins a win, right?
So, the games talking points. Arsenal fans, you’re going to love, and hate what’s to come.
Arsenal started with a 4-1-4-1, Arteta in a deeper role, anchoring in front of the defence to orchestrate. Thus, allowing Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey more freedom. Giroud wasn’t 100% fit so Yaya Sanogoal started upfront.
When asked about working with Wilshere in midfield as a two further up the pitch, Ramsey had this to say :
“For me and Jack, that’s not our preferred positions, we like to get the ball slightly deeper and then drive forward and play off the likes of Ozil, our game becomes a lot more fluid then.”
Notice, ‘play off the likes of Ozil.’ I, and most certainly the players on the pitch noticed the German’s absence, Arsenal’s play in the final third was sluggish and lacked tempo. The attacking quartet needed someone to link up with, today I saw slow build up play with 4-5 touches from each player, whereas an Arsenal side with Ozil ensures quick, one/two touch football. To put it short, they needed a body to play too, you can say Sanogo/Giroud can provide that, but it’s a body to hold up play, not a body that’ll work to interchange passes in between the lines.
His importance is undervalued, once he’s back, Arsenal will be a very big threat.
Now, on to Jack Wilshere..ahh yes, England’s greatest talent since Paul Gascoigne. In reality, a player living off a performance he made 3 years ago.
He wasn’t necessarily bad today, but he wasn’t good either.
Now I’ve got nothing against Wilshere, but right now, I don’t think he’s fit to start in Arsenal’s eleven. I ask myself, where does he fit in?
After the game, Jamie Carragher and Jamie Redknapp discussed Jack Wilshere. They, like me, were very critical of the 22-year-old.
Carragher – ‘Jack wilsheres biggest problem is Aaron Ramsey.’
Redknapp – (Replying to Carragher’s comment) ‘I think you’re being kind, Jack Wilshere’s problem is Jack Wilshere. He’s not performing, there’s no excuses for this young man anymore.”
As we all know, once Ozil returns he’ll go straight back into the side and Wenger will opt for the 4-2-3-1 formation. So, there’ll be two midfielders with Ozil ahead of them, this is how it’ll look -
- Arteta – Sits in front of the back four, plays the ball about, dictates the tempo of the game. Averages 90%+ pass accuracy.
- Ramsey – Box to box player, the engine. Covers 10km+ a game. Picks up the ball from deep and moves forward with it, engaging as many players as possible around him. Frequent goalscorer.
- Ozil – The creator, finds gaps in the defence and exploits them.
Now on to Wilshere, where does he play? Let’s break it down to its simplest form. He doesn’t have the accuracy nor discipline to play in Arteta’s role, he can’t take Ramsey’s place as his physical attributes and goalscoring prowess aren’t up to scratch and evidently, he’s not as creative as Ozil.
Arsene can use Wilshere as a wide attacking midfielder, but why would he when he has the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Walcott and Chamberlain to his disposal? For me, it’s a no brainer; Jack Wilshere is Wengers utility player to cover any of the 3 positions in times of squad depletion.
If you want a more in depth analysis of why Jack Wilshere doesn’t really fit into Arsenal’s eleven, check out this article from @_TheTwelfthMan – http://blog.umaxit.com/2014/07/24/jack-to-the-future-a-midfield-renaissance/
Jack Wilshere should be doing what Aaron Ramsey in doing right now, he’s still only 22-years-old but he’s got a long way to go. Has he drastically improved since that performance against Barcelona? No. A certain Paul Scholes says the same thing -
Paul Scholes – ‘Jack Wilshere came on the scene and looked a top young player but he has never really gone on. He needs the characters like Vieira next to him to take him to the next level. He doesn’t look any better player now than he did when he was 17.’
To finish, I might be completely wrong. Who knows, if one of Arteta/Ramsey/Ozil sustain a long term injury then Jack will be Arsene’s go-to man, and he may well have the season of his career. Nevertheless, I still don’t think he has a massive part to play, yet.
Thanks for reading.
Written by: Dafydd Jones (Dafydd’s Column)
How nice is it to have Premier League football again? It was great to be back at the Emirates and I’m really happy to be making the trip to Goodison on Saturday. It’s one of my favourite grounds in the UK, and I’m glad I FINALLY get to experience a matchday there.
This week, I made the mistake of naming Angel Di Maria a “World Class” player. That led to a barrage of abuse about what does-and-doesn’t constitute as “World Class”. I argued the term could describe anyone at the top of their game, the elite 50 players in the sport, and isn’t just reserved for the best in every single position.
The debate raged until I asked you, my followers, to name your “top 10 players in football” – You did. It was a fantastic response – So much I couldn’t count all the votes in one lunch break! Here are the results:
1) Cristiano Ronaldo
2) Leo Messi
3) Luis Suarez
4) Gareth Bale
5) Thiago Silva
6) Manuel Neuer
7) Zlatan Ibrahimovic
8) Arjen Robben
9) Yaya Toure
10) Neymar, Jnr
World Class is any elite player, it isn’t just the 10 names listed above. It’s any player who wouldn’t look out of place in a Champions League final. Totti is World Class, Aguero is World Class – At the moment, Ramsey is World Class. It can’t be defined by form or previous successes. It’s merely a recognition of the highest order, and to refer to the original point: Di Maria is “World Class”.
Next: Malky Mackay
“Don’t sack Mackay, Malky Mackay, I just don’t think you understand, ‘cause if you sack Mackay, Malky Mackay, you’re going to have a riot on your hands.”
The Cardiff faithful chanted that song – to the tune of Achey Breaky Heart – for over 20mins after their defeat to Liverpool in December 2013. Their manager who led them to the promised land of Premier League football was on the brink of being sacked. The Welsh supporters rallied to show their support.
Nine months later – A jobless Mackay is about to be named as Crystal Palace manager when the Bond-Villian-Supremo; Vincent Tan unleashes one of the most damning dossiers an ex-employer could. Featuring an exchange of offensive text messages from Mackay to various colleagues.
On the evening on the 21st August, The LMA have released a statement denying all allegations – but confirming two isolated incidents in where Mackay “let off steam in some text message banter” to friend, Iain Moody.
This is not the view of anyone at Umaxit, let me say that now, this is entirely my own opinion so get over to @_the12thman if you want to have a pop.
I have sympathy with Mackay, I really do. Yes, what he said was COMPLETELY inappropriate… But he was saying it to his friend. The pair may happen to share a particularly twisted sense of humour, this is “locker room talk” again…. Just like with Keys and Gray. These footballing professionals spend their lives living in a testosterone fuelled environment, isolated from a liberal society and defined by their ability to “out-banter” their team-mates. It’s unfair to judge that in a public domain.
What we have here is a recipe for bad publicity:
- A dollop of bitter ex-chairman
- 2 scoops of “locker room banter”
- 1 sprinkle of wrongly thinking his text messages were private
- A dash of his own twisted (perhaps Glasgow) dark sense of humour
- Mixed together by a hungry media platform desperate for a bit of gossip
Do you watch Family Guy? South Park? American Dad? Have you chuckled at the Frankie Boyle out-takes? At what point does laughing at this level of comedy become inappropriate to make your own jokes?
I work in a company where there are 80% women, the CEO of this company once taught me a valuable lesson, one of many that has stuck by me: “The notion of being offended is entirely the decision of the offended individual. You cannot impose your humour onto another under the guises of jest.”
Food for thought, people. What needs to be taken from this is that just because YOU think it’s “banter” doesn’t necessarily mean others do. Or am I wrong?
……..Over and out.
Written by: Mark Britton (A View From The Stands)
Follow Mark: @_the12thman
It had been a rough twelve months for Manchester United players and fans alike, but as they walked out onto the pitch to line up against Gary Monk’s Swansea side, a sense of optimism permeated the Old Trafford air. New manager Louis van Gaal: the spark ready to ignite this smouldering United side back into life. Sadly, the footballing world is a fickle one, and after ninety minutes and a 2-1 loss, the tendrils of despair have seemingly already begun to wrap themselves insidiously around Red Devils fans’ hearts.
It is clear that van Gaal’s side needs work before it can contend for the Premier League title, and all but the most deluded of fans would admit to this. The switch to 3-5-2, van Gaal’s preferred formation with his Netherlands side, is all well and good, but the defensive standard at Old Trafford is coming under some much needed scrutiny. After offloading Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra over the summer, United fans would have expected to see reinforcements arriving through their gates. Granted, van Gaal captured Southampton’s highly fancied youngster Luke Shaw for somewhere in the region of £34mil, but already he has been confirmed to be out for a month at least, and the rest of the defensive options leave him with slim pickings.
Both Johnny Evans and Rafael da Silva have also been ruled out – both through injury and falling out of favour – leaving just Chris Smalling and Phil Jones as first team defenders. With the injury list growing longer, van Gaal was forced to give Tyler Blackett his first team debut, and also play Jesse Lingard at left-back. Blackett gave an impressive performance, but a switch in formation for the second half, and an injury to Lingard, found Ashley Young playing in the full-back position. For a club of Manchester United’s standard, this is unacceptable, and he was at fault for Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurðsson’s winning goal in the 72nd minute of Saturday’s opening league fixture. Van Gaal has been clear that he needs reinforcements, and it seems that he isn’t being given the reassurances from the board to do so. This has led to United fans being understandably frustrated, for the second year running, at their clubs’ lack of movement in the transfer window -some even calling for the heads of the respective members of Glazer family.
Yet: Manchester United fans should remain optimistic. Why? First of all, their side are showing progress already under van Gaal’s tutelage. The mood about the camp remains upbeat – much more so than it ever did under David Moyes – and the players seem hungry to turn things around. Even if it was ‘just pre-season’, the football has improved and there has been some free-flowing passing moves that have given fans glimpses of what this side are capable of. Even against Swansea they looked a threat going forward – it was merely the defence that proved the problem. As far as reinforcements go, surely the executive board cannot ignore the fans’ fury and the ever-approaching threat of their side slipping into mediocrity? It seems hard to imagine that a side of this world-wide acclaim and with such a rich history will be allowed to continue to drop out of contention, but fans must remain patient: van Gaal’s project will not be rushed. It may take time before his side become a real threat.
With just eleven days left until the transfer deadline, expect a flurry of action from the Manchester United camp. We can see the early murmurings of that already: Marcos Rojo is already in Manchester completing a medical ahead of his £16mil move from Sporting Lisbon, and the rumours surrounding players such as Angel di Maria and Arturo Vidal are refusing to go away. Van Gaal is an experienced manager who knows what he needs and United fans worldwide will have their fingers crossed that he is given what he wants. The Red Devils will face a tricky fixture against Gus Poyet’s Sunderland side this weekend and even this early on it seems like a must-win fixture. It is of course early days and as van Gaal has already said it only matters where you are come May. Yet if van Gaal does slip to a second successive defeat, already the vultures will circle as the fabled Deadline Day approaches. After a disappointing season, all those involved at Old Trafford will be keen to ease the early anxiety, and despite the obvious need for patience the football world spins on a more fickle axis than ever before. A win for Sunderland this weekend could already begin to see van Gaal’s grip slip out of his control.
Written by: Ben Johnson (Drifted Offside)
Aside from Chelsea and Manchester City, it seems that the Top Four places in the EPL are up for debate as much as ever. Arsenal, many claim, won’t challenge simply because they’re Arsenal. Tottenham have an exciting new manager and a talented squad, but are generally expected to finish 6th or below. Everton have secured new players, yet the face the challenge of the Europa League and like Spurs have a bright manager who could just surprise us all. Manchester United have made a lot of noise about transfers without dealing with problem areas and find Ashley Young still as a starter, something that surely questions any chance of a top 4 finish. Chelsea and City are likely to be the top 2 (unless Arsenal finally strengthen their central midfield) so we can leave them out of this look at the Champions League challengers.
The Post-Suarez era begun with a Premier League victory over Southampton (insert very poor joke about the number of players bought here) and Raheem Sterling earned himself a place in the uMAXit team of the week. Whether the additions with the Suarez money will be enough considering the extra games to be played is an uncertainty, can Emre Can and Lazar Markovic settle in to a new league quick enough to help the side push for top four again and prove their 2nd place last season was no fluke. So, Rodgers will have to rest Steven Gerrard at some point this season which may see the first test of his ability to rotate his squad and maintain efficiency.
Ultimately, the fear of ‘doing a Tottenham’ in the sale of their star man looks likely to become a reality. With such a loss and having to compete across four fronts after their light workload last season it seems a great leap for Liverpool to keep up with the others and a title challenge is inevitably a long way off. If fitness doesn’t become an issue the rest of the window will be more telling than anything else. Still believed to have money to spend, the fourth spot will increase in likelihood the less fronts they are left to fight on, perhaps an early Champions League exit could assist a fourth placed finish.
Sanchez, Chambers and Debuchy but still in dire need of a tackling central midfield player to partner Ramsey. After the shambles against their rivals last season, the biggest weight is still on the shoulders of Wenger – even after his impressive summer so far – to deliver another signing and not humiliate his players with such suicidal big game tactics. The high line with Mertesacker and more injury worries could cripple the entire season again, although I would happily put a couple of my pounds on Arsenal to get top 3. Injuries are the consistent trouble for Arsenal and damaged their charge last season losing the genius of Ozil and sensational Ramsey for key months.
Sami Khedira is the ideal man to join Arsenal and add to the formidable midfield options at their disposal. Olivier Giroud and Yaya Sanogo may seem light up front, but the goals that should be provided from Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott should subsidise enough to make the Gunners far too strong for the other competitors. Koscielny and Mertesacker certainly the most secure of defensive partnerships in the league (aside from Cahill and Terry) and a squad of a different calibre to the others in this piece.
Roberto Martinez is certainly the nicest man in the world, unfortunately that doesn’t guarantee Champions League football all that easily. The long-term injury to Ross Barkley has dented some of the joy from the permanent signing of Romelu Lukaku, while Christian Atsu and Kevin Mirallas will add some crucial pace to their attack. As strong as the squad is looking, they are seeming thin considering the Europa League matches to come and the dreaded Thursday-Sunday routine throughout the season. Martinez seems a logical successor to Wenger and the next year or two may well be an upcoming audition for the Arsenal managership. A team of great cohesion and a stronger squad than many would have predicted during the loan reliance of 2013/14.
This year will be a challenge for the Toffees and hard to see much more than a Europa League finish again at best. Surely the evergreen Sylvain Distin will have to come to an end sooner rather than later and the test of John Stones to step up and prove his worth as a Premier League ball playing centre back. As far as a top four chance goes, it’ll take something near superhuman from Lukaku and a potential golden boot winning performance or the failure of sides much more financially powered.
The first to jump the Southampton ship was Mauricio Pochettino and he is now charged with blending together the huge investment from last summer and stamping his mark on the side as he did so brilliantly at Saints. The shrewd signing of Ben Davies should at least mean Danny Rose isn’t playing as regularly and limit some of the suicide defending yet a striker who can score 15+ goals a season still not guaranteed with Adebayor and Soldado spending a great deal of time looking inept, at best. Thankfully the Tim Sherwood affair is over and maybe Nabil Bentaleb won’t play every single minute of every game this season with the quality of Sandro and Paulinho enough to dominate most sides in the centre.
Next season will be Pochettino’s target for success and despite their opening day win over West Ham (I think everyone wanted Pochettino to beat Allardyce) this will be the rebuild season and the time to find the best of Paulinho, Lamela and Soldado most notably. Christian Eriksen may attract bigger clubs if he continues to carry the side quite how he did at times last season, but the lack of any team cohesion will take time to fix and top four should be just out of reach.
No one expected it fixed immediately (no one sane anyway), but the performance against Swansea – and the line-up was downright concerning. The presence of Tyler Blackett in the defence alongside Jones and Smalling further highlighted the need for at least two new defenders to be added. Wayne Rooney as captain is neither here nor there when the side still lacks so much balance it is near cringe-worthy to watch so short of ideas in possession and Juan Mata yet to get near replicating his best form at Chelsea. Van Gaal’s job may be yet tougher than even he had imagined and with all suggesting a failure to reach top 4 could lose a huge amount of money from Adidas, he may be concerned already. The performance was the weakest of any of the top 7 and the rest of the window should dictate the sort of expectation United can have for their season.
I opted for a fourth placed finish based on a successful remainder of the window, Ashley Young as a wing back simply doesn’t deserve Champions League football. Van Gaal has talked the talk so far and walking the walk may take some time, with the defensive players in the side so off the quality required they can’t get enough quality ball to their world-class forward men. The excitement of fans at pre-season fixtures epitomises the misleading nature of such matches and Manchester United could do a lot worse than signing James McCarthy rather than hopelessly chasing Arturo Vidal.
Its all about the managers. The top 7 all have men more than capable of taking their team to Champions League football next season three exciting young managers take on four highly-decorated (not so much Pellegrini) men who we can be sure to entertain us on and off the pitch. A managerial showdown to play in the best competition in sport.
Written by: Sam Cox (Cox’s Corner)
Since early July, It has come to the surface that Louis van Gaal will be Manchester United’s manager, but only after he guided Netherlands through the World-Cup. For those of us who weren’t quite sure what to expect from van Gaal, a stage like the World-Cup would be the perfect way to find out.
With such a young and inexperienced Netherlands side, LvG stumped past the numerous critics’ prediction that Netherlands would struggle to advance from Group B, a group which consisted of Chile, Spain and Australia. However, in the opening game of Group B, LvG humiliated the defending champions Spain, in what was a 5-1 thriller. Suddenly the critics had begun to change their assumptions and LvG praise was out there in abundance.
A week later, to the amazement of every critic, LvG had steered his Netherlands side out of Group B, winning the group with a perfect record and nine points in the bag. Progress was being made.
Eventually, Netherlands made the semi-finals of the 2014 World-Cup, where they went out to Argentina on penalties – an unfortunate way to leave the competition. However, they altogether finished an overall third after beating the hosts, Brazil, in the third-place-playoff.
As a whole, a very successful tournament for LvG. The pressure had piled up on him, as many were looking for proof that LvG was in-fact the right man for the job. But for him, as he has said before, he puts more pressure on himself to succeed than other journalists and fans.
The World-Cup had ended, and LvG gave himself a whole 3 days off until he had to take over the reins at Man United. Some would say committed. Johan Cruyff would say, “He must have a screw or two loose”.
No-one can deny LvG of the commitment, dedication and passion he gives to the game, and it really shows on the pitch. The RvP iconic diving header epitomises this. The image of RvP signalling out his manager to join in the celebrations spoke volumes about the relationship LvG commands with his players. LvG respects his players, and his players respect him.
Manchester United’s pre-season tour was veering closer, with only Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera as the new signings, a lot of fans were worried that this tour may come close to a failure. With the teams such as Real Madrid, Roma, Inter Milan and LA Galaxy – you wondered how a team who finished 7th last season, would hold their own against these top-flight teams.
However – United ended up holding their own, and doing so, won the International Champions Cup. The Red Devils showed their width when going forward, with the new and improved 3-5-2 formation. LvG’s men looked a threat to any team with their fantastic array of passing. Contrary to that, with no additions added to Manchester United’s backline, they looked rather shaky, and with matches about to become even more competitive, it could leave them conceding goals and consequently having to chase the game and outscore the opponent.
So, what can Louis van Gaal bring to Manchester United? Why was he brought in, for what purpose?
It is now aware to everyone that Louis holds a strong and bold philosophy,
“The characteristics come back to my point on vision. You have to play as a team and not as individuals. That’s why I’m always going back to the vision, then the team, and then which players fit in my system, a 1-4-3-3, because I’m always playing that. If a young player can do it, then I select him. If it’s an older player, it doesn’t bother me; it’s not the most important factor. Age is not important.”
The one they call the Iron Tulip has reminded people that he was indeed the one who improved and kick-started the careers of Xavi Hernandez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Andres Iniesta, David Alaba and Thomas Muller. That’s some feat.
What Louis will bring to Old Trafford, is a sense of hope, a sense of ambition and for the players to have no fear whilst playing in front of the 80,000 Old Trafford faithful. He is a commander, a leader – people will listen and respect what he says because of his prestigious accolades, what he’s done to the game and how he’s done it.
That’s something that crucially lacked when the Glazers and Sir Alex Ferguson appointed David Moyes. Lets compare the two
Moyes – 1 x Division Two Title, 1 x Division One playoff
LvG – 1 x Champions League, 4 x Eredivisie Titles, 1 x KNVB Cup, 2 x UEFA Super Cup, 1 x UEFA Cup, 2 x La Liga Titles, 1 x Copa Del Rey, 1 x Bundesliga, 1 x DFB-Pokal & 1 x DFB Supercup.
Hardly a close contest.
Yes, you can argue that Louis is older and has been a manager for several years longer than David Moyes, but Moyes isn’t so young. At the age of 51, and spending 10 years with Everton, I would have expected a better collection of titles than a Division One play-off medal and a Division Two title.
What bides with winning all of these major league titles and cups, is the experience that comes with that. Louis has been in the football business for decades, and knows it inside out, which will help United bounce back to their best and compete within the top four of the Premier League.
Tactically speaking, Louis is always trying to out-master his opponent by continually trying to figure out a new formation that will cause a spark. LvG has stated many times that he wants to implement the 3-5-2 formation next season, which may seem complicated at first, but let me break it up.
The 3-5-2 formation is the attacking version of the 5-3-2 formation, which I presume Louis will change to when he turns to defending. The attacking 3-5-2 is setup with 3 centre-backs, 5 midfielders and 2 strikers.
With Manchester United — the three centre-backs will be (assuming that no new additions arrive), Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Preferably, and I know Louis has been looking into the market for it, a left-footed centre-back is needed.
The 5 midfielders consist of two wing-backs, two central-midfielders and an attacking playmaker. The wing-backs will be part of the 5-back-defence which will be rotated to defending and encompassing the opposition.
For the Red Devils, the most obvious wing-backs to choose would be Luke Shaw, the latest arrival and Rafael. However, Rafael is currently injured and Antonio Valencia didn’t have the most impressive of pre-seasons. So, with Ashley Young firing himself into contention on the tour in the States, he looks the obvious choice for the right-wing-back role. Luke Shaw’s injury may see LvG chase of Marcos Rojo crack up a notch.
The two-central midfielders will be Ander Herrera and Darren Fletcher, the new vice-captain. The only two midfielders that contain the right attributes, with Michael Carrick injured. Manchester United are short of options in that department, and something Louis van Gaal definitely needs to think about before the start of the season – which I’m sure he is.
The attacking playmaker, central to the play behind the midfielders and in front of the opposition defence, running the lines so to speak. We all know that Manchester United have a lot of number 10’s, four in fact in Juan Mata, Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney and Adnan Januzaj. However, I believe the boss will use Wayne Rooney to partner Robin van Persie to spearhead this formidable attack.
Juan Mata is the ideal candidate for the number 10 role, something Louis van Gaal spotted right from the off. He has similar attributes and weaknesses to Wesley Sneijder, who excelled in this formation under LvG. It should be a pleasure to watch the Spaniard patrol the pitch with liberation and freedom, like he did at Chelsea, which is what Louis wants to see week-in-week-out.
Only two positions left in this formation, with both being a striking role. Wayne Rooney, recently being appointed the captains armband will be the first name on the team sheet, with Robin van Persie being the next in line. However, RvP has a tendency of picking up an injury mid-season, so who would come in to replace him? Danny Welbeck.
Under David Moyes, Welbeck was used as a wide-man, but I think Louis will want to utilise Welbeck’s pace, agility and skill through the middle which is alway guaranteed to cause defences trouble.
In defence, the two wing-backs will drop back to make a flat 5-back formation with Juan Mata also fading back into midfield to support Ander Herrera and Darren Fletcher. Essentially, it’ll look like a 5-3-2 formation whilst Manchester United do not have the ball.
In summary, Louis will provide his eccentricity, peculiarity and devotion to the game to help Manchester United become the formidable force they once were. Through the hard-work, ambition and tactically-sound philosophies, I do believe that they will strike fright into other teams once more and Old Trafford will reintroduce its fear-factor.
Written by: Liam Canning (Offside Liam)
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