The solution to Manchester United’s midfield.

It has been obvious for a while now that Manchester United are in dire need of a midfielder. I’m still astonished at how they managed to win the league with out of form wingers and only one consistently, reliable central midfielder.  I suppose it speaks volumes about the quality of Sir Alex Ferguson and Michael Carrick.

United’s current options in midfield do not provide a balance between defence and attack. Tom Cleverley is a player whom I rate, but don’t see as anything more than a squad player, playing now and then.  Much like Joe Allen’s role at Liverpool. Anderson is one who splits opinion.  He’s often the subject of light-hearted fat jokes and a comical suggestion for the solution to United’s problem.  It’s almost like people have put him in the same category of footballers as Emile Heskey, who just get mocked for being a poor player at a big club.  I actually think Anderson is another good squad player to have. Perhaps he hasn’t been value for money, and he might carry a bit of excess weight, but he is talented. I think, given the chance, he will be able to recreate some of the creativity he displayed in the 2007/08 season (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z7VaZGEkVs).   Again, though, he is not an adequate partner to Carrick.  Phil Jones is excellent cover for defensive midfield which he proved in matches against Real Madrid and Everton, keeping Fellaini and Ronaldo (relatively) quiet.  My worry is that Phil Jones could become a victim of his own versatility in the way that he will never get a string of games in the same position and therefore never nail down a position in the England or Manchester United team.  Centre back is his ideal position, for me.

Thiago  Alcântara’s transfer to Bayern Munich was understandably heartbreaking for United fans, after being linked with the Spaniard for such a small fee.  Thiago would have slotted in alongside Carrick beautifully and excelled in a deep-lying, creative role in which he would play week in, week out.  Unfortunately for Reds, however, he decided to join former coach Pep Guardiola at the European champions.  In the Telekom Cup, in which Bayern, Dortmund, Hamburg and Mönchengladbach play their pre-season matches, Thiago has looked comfortable and dangerously efficient alongside Toni Kroos.  He may have jumped ahead of Kroos and Gustavo in the pecking order to start alongside Schweinsteiger and Martínez, which could signal a potential exit for the Brazilian, Luiz Gustavo.

This brings me onto my next point, that Luiz Gustavo is United’s best option.  He ticks all the right boxes; young enough at 25, retains possession well with a completion rate of 93% of his passes [Sqwawka], offers a great balance between defence and attack, has developed under one of the best managers around, Jupp Heynckes and last but not least, he would be relatively inexpensive.  Furthermore, with Sandro returning to fitness and Hernanes being a starter at Lazio, there will be competition for the final central midfield slot next to Paulinho, behind Oscar, in the Brazilian national team. This is another reason for Gustavo to join United, it would benefit four parties; United (new starter), Brazil (more players getting regular club games), Bayern (money), and Luiz himself (game time).

Many newspapers have been running stories claiming Manchester United have submitted a second bid for Cesc Fàbregas.  I don’t see this happening.  Firstly, from Cesc’s point of view, there is no reason to leave. Winning the Premiership with United would be no easier than winning La Liga with Barcelona next season, he’s situated in the beautiful city in which he grew up and he starts the vast majority of matches contrary to popular misconception.  He also plays in a much more advanced, attacking position, a ‘false winger’, if you will, at Barcelona. The more disciplined role at United would not appeal, I imagine. Secondly, why on earth would Barcelona sell such a brilliant player after having just lost Thiago, leaving one back up to Xavi/Iniesta; the inexperienced Sergi Roberto? They would reinvest the money, but who, of the same quality, is available?

For these reasons, I see Luiz Gustavo as the solution to United’s midfield problems.

By Reuben Pinder, @ReubenPinder.

The Biggest Problems Of Brazilian Football Ahead OF 2014

Breaking The Catenaccio

Football in Brazil has been going well in recent years, improved finances in the Brazilian leagues has meant the clubs have been able to keep hold of their star players and spend more money on transfer targets.

More and more players are deciding to at least prolong their stay in Brazil rather than moving to Europe.

Neymar is a good example of this, yes he may have left to Barcelona at the young age of 21  but this is much longer than a lot were expecting. He has been in the spotlight for many years and if Brazil had still been in the position it was ten years ago Neymar would have jumped ship and left when he first entered the spotlight. One of the major influences for him staying must have been the sponsorship deals he was receiving due to the new financial power of the league.

Football in…

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Selhurst Park to Stamford Bridge but What Is Next For Victor Moses?

A rather happy looking Victor Moses but will he be this happy next season? @HuwAreYa discusses.

A rather happy looking Victor Moses but will he be this happy next season? @HuwAreYa discusses.

Last year, it was the dynamic duo of Hugo Rodallega and Victor Moses that kept Wigan in the Premier League. So impressed with his efforts and performances, Chelsea swooped and a long pursuit resulted in Moses moving to London from Wigan for an alleged £7m. But just how has he fared after what could be described as a dream move for many, and also, with the recent arrival at Chelsea of Andre Schürrle, what does the future hold for Moses.

If you’d ever watched Victor Moses at Championship level, you’d have known the kid was special. In a similar way to Wilfried Zaha this season, Moses’ pace and quick dribbling meant he was a handful for the defences across England’s second tier. A few years later, he finds himself at the Europa League Champions surrounded by big names and big wages. Roberto Di Matteo was a big admirer of the Nigerian and it is believed that he was the man who hammered home the idea of signing him to add him the depth of squad he desired. Moses couldn’t save Di Matteo’s job, nor could anyone and he found himself under the unpopular regime of the unpopular “Interim One”. Interestingly, it was the arrival of Rafa Benitez that seemed to kick start Moses’ Chelsea career.

Up until Benitez’s arrival at Stamford Bridge, Moses spent a great deal of time warming the bench along with fellow summer signing Marko Marin. However, uncertain of the defensive capabilities of the Oscar-Mata-Hazard trio, Moses was employed and with positive effect. Moses grew into his Chelsea career as his game time increased. He provided exquisite balance on the wings with Eden Hazard and Chelsea began to look far more secure.

The form continued even when Chelsea’s perhaps didn’t but then the turning point in his season came, AFCON.

Pre AFCON, Moses looked a good addition to the squad but post AFCON, he looked far more Wigan than Chelsea. His form plummeted and never quite reached the heights that he had in the Premier League before AFCON. His only saving grace was his excellent scoring record in the Europa League, a competition which even Torres managed to look world class in. All in all, it’s been an up and down season for the winger, but with age on his side, he should develop into a better player for club and country.

Then comes the question of his future.

Andre Schürrle arrives as an exciting, quick and young winger with international pedigree for £17.5m. This throws Moses’ Chelsea career into to the box of uncertainty. Same position, arguably better, high promise, and for the fee paid, Schürrle doesn’t seem like a signing who will sit on the bench. Moses may well find himself behind Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Oscar, Andre Schürrle and Kevin de Bruyne in the pecking order for next year and that looks bleak. Moses is a player with high potential but will not improve without game time.

Could a departure be on the cards for him? Perhaps, but I don’t see it. Everton have been linked – probably due to Moses’ former manager Roberto Martinez taking the reins at Goodison. Rumoured £10m transfer fee, I’d be tempted as it’s a profit on a possible part player but more than that needs to be considered. I’m sure many of you are aware of the Premier League registration rules. 8 home grown players must be in the squad of 25. A home grown player (HG) qualifies as someone who has spent 3 years training in the UK between the ages of 16-21. Moses qualifies and helps fill these spaces in the registration. Selling him means a British replacement would be needed. I’d say this isn’t wise. Any half decent English player will go for an excessive price and whilst this hasn’t been a problem for Chelsea since 2003, it will be given new Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

All in all, I believe that Moses won’t be sold this summer and has his part to play at Chelsea. With age on his side he stands a chance but up against his colleagues, he will need to press on and improve drastically. Like all Chelsea fans, I am hoping Mourinho can work some magic and help him improve because he could potentially be an important asset for the club. I don’t see him as a starter at Chelsea, more as a rotation option and someone who supplies good depth. He’s decent, but if he thinks he can play for a top club then he must improve. But hey ho, this is just my opinion. Not right, not wrong, just my opinion. One thing is for sure, once that blue shirt is on, I’ll give him my endless support, regardless of how good I think he is.

@HuwAreYa – Chelsea fan.

Be sure to share this article and I’d love to hear your feedback via comments section on here or on Twitter at previous mentioned username. Thank you for reading!

The Colloquialism of “Legend” in Football

“Legend” is a term banded about much too often nowadays. It seems to have lost its original meaning, and instead is simply a word used to describe someone who is funny or kind, or buys you a pint down the local.

The word “legend” has been somewhat colloquialized to an extent where the usage of it as a noun does not match and dictionary definition of it. Here are the closest two definitions:

1. A popular story handed down from earlier times whose truth has not been ascertained, whether partially or fully.

2. A person whose fame or notoriety makes him a source of exaggerated or romanticized tales or exploits.

We can see that neither of these fit the bill. A “legend”, at least in footballing terms, is a man who played with distinction, a man who was a class above the rest of whom he played with and against – whether that be in actual technical ability, humbility and pride, or outstanding leadership. To fit the definition of “legend”, a footballer would have to be either fictional, and not currently alive, or his deeds would have to be fictional.

An example could be Edison Arantes do Nascimento; or more familiarly, Pelé. Why is Pelé considered a legend? Is it because he won three the Jules Rimet (The famed World Cup) with Brazil, in 1958, 1962, and 1970? Is it because he scored 1,281 goals over the course of his career? Partially, yes. He is the third highest scorer in the history of international football with 77 goals in 92 matches between 1957 and 1971. He ranks third behind Ali Daei of Iran and Ference Puskas who played for Hungary and Spain; these stats are all very well, but good stats don’t make you a good player. His “legendary” status was attained through his style of play. He was primarily a very deep-lying forward (the same way in which Wayne Rooney is now). He was explosively fast and powerful, with a habit of scoring truly outstanding goals. His athleticism was beyond what was considered the norm back then – when the ball was a big, heavy lump, formations were either not deployed or were very lax, and defenders were not as willing to get stuck in. Sensational volleys, flicks, tricks, and bicycle kicks – what Pelé did was simply not done. Imagine a striker with the pace of Theo Walcott, the class of Dimitar Berbatov, the skill of Thierry Henry, the heading ability of Cristiano Ronaldo, and the finishing prowess of Ruud van Nistelrooy. That’s a man about half as good as Pelé. Really. I think it’s safe to say that puts his sheer ability into perspective.

Pele Bicycle Kick

Famed acrobatics by Pelé

But was he a “legend”, in the literal sense of the word? No. We are aware of what his abilities were. They are not a general folklore; a campfire myth. Pelé is not romanticized to such a degree which makes his accomplishments implausible. He, as a footballer, can not be wholly ascertained, but that is only because the modern age has  not seen a player quite as good as him – it is not because there are doubts about the truth of his manner. Therefore, he can not be considered a legend. A footballing great, yes. One of the best of all time, undisputedly…but a legend? Not in my book. Or the Oxford English Dictionary, for that matter.

There is one man, and one man alone, who I would consider as a legend of football. Godfrey Chitalu of Zambia. Is he as good as Pelé? I don’t have evidence to judge that, but it is highly unlikely. Chitalu does match the primary aforementioned definition of “legend”. Should I remind you? Of course….

On the 13th December, 2012, The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) said it would approach FIFA about obtaining recognition for striker Chitalu’s little-known feat of scoring 107 goals in 1972 – This move came after Lionel Messi broke Gerd Mueller’s record of 85 goals scored in a calendar year. The problem is, FIFA refused to investigate it, as they hold no official records for goals scored by players in domestic competitions – meaning that, with little to zero help from football’s highest governing body, the Zambian FA had little chance of their claim being officially recognized. This means that Chitalu’s supposed feat is one for which the truth can not be fully ascertained, at least – especially since he is unfortunately no longer alive.

Chitalu

A Turkish newspaper reacts to the claim of the FAZ

In summary, Pele is a special, wondrous player, but not a legend; whereas Chitalu was not as good, but is a legend – well, not him, that is somewhat of a hyperbole itself, but his achievements at least, are legendary. Controversial, I know. But it’s an angle, a perspective. It doesn’t have to be agreed with by anyone, I simply feel that a distancing from the core of the subject offers a better ground for analysis.

This leads me on to my next point: here, briefly, you must shelf my idea that “legend” is an incorrect term… I want to consider the footballers of the present, and whether any of them can be true greats of football history – such as former stars by the names of Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, Maldini, Moore, Beckenbauer, Maradona, and Best. These men are just a few examples of footballers held in reverence by most. But can they be matched? Look at some of today’s players – the likes of Giggs, Pirlo and the newly-retired Beckham are undisputed legends – you just can’t argue that they are not. However they are not really the focus of this; I mean the slightly younger players – Ronaldo, Messi, Casillas, Schweinstiger, Lampard. Will they be held in the same high regard as those who have gone before them? I just can’t see it. Now, is that a lack of relevant perspective on my part, or is it a matter of truth? I’m inclined to think that the former is correct – and that I am unable to distance myself from current footballing affairs in such a way that I can grasp a more telling angle. It’s a shame – but in a way, it’s the reason why life as we know it is exactly that… as we know it. If everyone could spearate themselves from something to such a point where they could realistically contemplate plausibilities for various situations, decisions would change. Nobody would take risks. You may have answers to the somewhat rhetorical questions I have raised – but before you come down on me with heavy criticism for stating such abstract, controversial ideas, think about it. Are you really any more right than me? Do you have proof that any footballer will be as warmly recieved by our future counterparts as past players are by us? I can assure you that the answer to that is no. However if you would like to further my somewhat philosophical detailling, please do get in touch via email at vantagefootball@hotmail.co.uk

By James Browning- @JamesBrowning96

Follow @Vantage_Futbol on Twitter!

I’ll get you in the Champions League

St Domingos

Roberto Martinez has started his reign as manager of Everton with a promise to get Everton in the Champions League.

Roberto-Martinez

At a packed press conference, new Everton manager, Roberto Martinez has spoken about his ambition to build on the years of progress under David Moyes.

Bill Kenwright promised funds for Martinez to build on the already strong squad in place and confirmed that he will not be welcoming any moves from Manchester United for any of Everton’s players, simply stating “apart from one with an escape clause (Fellaini) others are not for sale”.  He also explained to the press that none of the players had expressed a desire to leave the club and was not expecting any to do so.

The Everton Chairman spoke about the extensive search that has ended with the recruitment of Martinez, explaining that every Evertonian would have been convinced of Martinez’ credentials if they had…

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Ballack: a nearly man or an undisputed midfield genius?

TOKNOWTHEGAME.COM

The former Chelsea and Germany midfielder says farewell to football in Leipzig on Wednesday – but what will his legacy be?

On Wednesday night, in Leipzig, a former international will say goodbye to football. He won four Bundesliga titles and three German Cups. He won the Premier League title with Chelsea and three FA Cups. He represented Germany 98 times and was their captain for several years. Yet, somehow,Michael Ballack will perhaps always be seen as a loser.

There was an arrogance about Ballack that – as he missed out on one major title after another – led to a lack of sympathy. The 2002 Champions League final, with Bayer Leverkusen, was lost to Real Madrid. A month later, Ballack almost singlehandedly took Germany to the World Cup final but, suspended, had to watch from the stands as Brazil won 2-0. Four years later, Germany lost to Italy after extra-time in the World Cup semi-final…

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