Tag Archives: EPL

Harry Kane, It’s Time To Go

After their latest disappointment, it is time for Harry Kane to leave Tottenham…

Harry Kane, lad, you do not need this negativity in your life. You are a fantastic player; you do not need to be dealing with this.

Now, we love loyalty here. Players building a connection with a club and supporters, sticking out through hard times to be there when the success is had, leaving as a cult hero among a community of people. That is an aspect of football that seems to be dwindling, rightly or wrongly, in this new generation. This is a very nice aspect of the sport for me, someone who supports two clubs that, in the grand scheme of the current football world, are not “big” clubs. We should love the amount of love and dedication and loyalty that Kane has shown Tottenham over the years, and he is without a doubt the most important Spurs player of this generation and one of the best to play for the club in my lifetime, if not ever.

But come on, man. You deserve so much better than this.

Tottenham’s 3-2 aggregate defeat to Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League, the latest in a long line of crushing disappointments, shows just how far away Spurs are from winning major honors. From the highs of the Pochettino era, Spurs have now fallen to the outside of the frame of main contenders, having to scrap for a Europa League place last season and possibly not finishing in a European place at all this season. They were one of the best teams in the league just a few years ago, but now they have fallen to a level where having talented players cannot save them from being largely forgettable. We are reaching the end of one of the brightest eras in the history of this club, an era that gave them a player who will likely end his career as one of the best Premier League strikers ever, and there is nothing to show for it.

Now, before you all come at me and say “but actually…”, yes, I know Spurs are in the EFL Cup Final. Yes, I know anything can happen in a cup final. While any halfway sentient living being would look at that match up and favor Manchester City and their team of football-playing terminator robots, anything can happen. And yes, I understand that, for a club that has not won a trophy since 2008 (that being their only trophy since 1991), winning the EFL Cup is progress. As a supporter of a club that has not won a trophy since 1995, I would gladly take Everton winning the EFL Cup to break that trophy drought.

But after all of these years, all of these goals scored, all of the fight and sacrifice, just an EFL Cup? Is that worth Harry Kane wasting his entire prime at this club? To have won the same amount of domestic honors for Spurs as Jermaine Jenas? To say that you have one (1) more trophy than Matt Le Tissier? And you are supposed to be one of the best English strikers ever? One of the best players in the world?

If there is one thing that was proven by that game in Zagreb, it is that the club has gone backwards under Mourinho. Tottenham’s peak, going wire-to-wire with Leicester for the title in 2016 and making the Champions League Final in 2018, is just that, a peak. They are descending down the mountain, the Pochettino highs getting further and further away as each day and each match passes. Mourinho was brought in to make this club into winners and reverse the defensive frailties that were becoming exposed under Pochettino, yet we now find Spurs out of Europe after a calamitous defensive display in Zagreb, ripped to shreds by Arsenal in the North London Derby, and falling further behind the race for European places. They are no closer to winning a league title than they were in 2016, and they have seemingly lost the traits that made them a Champions League constant under Pochettino.

This is obviously not Harry Kane’s fault. Without him, Spurs would likely be a mid-table team. But Kane’s adamant loyalty to a team that does not deserve a player of his talent is, quite frankly, ruining what could be a legendary career. Should he stay in the Premier League, it is very possible Kane will end up as a top four all-time league goalscorer, but that is about it. Will his amazing talent be overshadowed by being the “almost trophy winner”? He almost won a league title, he almost made it to a World Cup Final, he almost won a Champions League. Will this put him in the Le Tissier category of player instead of the Shearer or Agüero or Henry category? And if this admittedly fairly-ridiculous-but-not-completely-off-base take is even remotely close to being the case, then why should he stay at Spurs?

Kane clearly deserves better. He deserves to be playing for a club that is contending for league titles and European honors on a regular basis, and it is clear that Spurs are no longer that club. It is also clear that there is definitely a market for a player of Kane’s quality. Dortmund’s Erling Håland is obviously the most-wanted striker on planet Earth at the moment, but obviously only one club can sign him. Whether that be Real Madrid or Man City or Chelsea or whoever, that will still leave plenty of teams needing a striker who are unable to secure the Norwegian’s signature. And that is where Kane comes into the picture.

If it has not happened already, I imagine we will start seeing reports of Kane demanding to leave Spurs. Since he is still under contract at the club until 2024, Spurs will likely not be motivated to sell him for anything under a £120 million-plus mega deal, a world-class fee for a world-class player. The financial impact of the COVID Pandemic likely means that deal is not possible this summer for the vast majority of top teams in Europe, but it is still possible that Kane is able to pressure Tottenham to accept a lower bid. Who would be the contenders for his signature? Manchester United need a striker. Chelsea and Manchester City could be involved if they do not sign Håland. The same goes for Real Madrid and Barcelona, should Barcelona figure out how to balance their books that quickly. All of those teams, to varying degrees, would give Kane a much better opportunity to contend for silverware than this current Spurs team. And at the end of the day, Kane deserves his chance at winning trophies. He deserves to be playing for a team that is contending for league titles and Champions League glory, and right now, Spurs do not appear to be one of those teams. He has simply been wasting away his prime footballing years as an unbelievable player on a team that is at least good enough to be in conversations around top teams, but not good enough to actually be hoisting major honors or to contend on the biggest stages.

Harry, take this advice from someone who you have never and will never meet in your whole life. I know, I am clearly a very reputable voice, but still hear me out. Leave Tottenham. Push to leave the club. You have given them years and years of faithful, unquestioning loyalty and service. You are not a “Judas” figure for doing so, and there is no one on the planet that can question how loyal you have been to the club. But now you deserve to chase after the highest honors and play under the brightest lights, and at the moment, that requires leaving Spurs.

You do not owe them anything. You deserve your chance at greatness.

LATEST POSTS

Everyone Calm Down, Barcelona Is Fine…Probably…

I think…maybe…let us talk about it… So, is Barcelona in crisis? Sort of. I previously wrote a few articles about the developing issues at Barcelona. Their collapse in the Champions League against Bayern Munich last season spelled the end of the disastrous presidency of Josep Maria Bartomeu and really shone a light on just how […]

Our Singapore Premier League Team Of The Week #2

Game Week 2 saw a ton of drama unfold, with Matchday 2 and Matchday 3 of the Singapore Premier League being played mid-week and over the weekends, respectively. To stress, we are featuring the players that have been consistent over the two matches. In that sense, don’t be that surprised about the sheer number of […]

The Juventus-Ronaldo Project Has Failed

And it is time to acknowledge how far Juventus have fallen… So Juventus are out of the Champions League. In the Round of 16 stage. Again. Juve’s extra time away goals loss to FC Porto is the second time in as many years that the Bianconeri were eliminated at the first knockout hurdle in the […]

A Response to “Getting Real with United”

This write-up is in response to Vikram’s article, Getting Real with Manchester United.

A rich vein of form followed by a week of “abysmal” results. Manchester United were unbeaten in 19 games in all competitions since their 0 – 2 loss against Burnley in late January. United were then brought back to earth after their 1 – 3 loss against Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinals. It seems like everything is going into a rut, but that is not the case. There was a point when United fans turned on Ole after back-to-back losses to Liverpool and Burnley left them 14 points off third-place Leicester City. United were far off the pace at Match Week 24, but somehow, Ole managed to galvanise the team after the losses. This was also certainly aided by the signing of Bruno Fernandes and the break, which saw crucial players coming back from injuries. United are far from perfect, but many forget that they are still a work in progress. Many of the problems that United fans bemoan about show that they have certainly forgotten where we came from.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

Vikram’s points are valid, and these are the issues that many United fans are frustrated with. The Bruno-Pogba combination have been influential and integral to United’s unbeaten run since the resumption of the league. There is no doubt that Ole has been reliant on Bruno and Pogba for creativity, and there may seem to be no plan B at the moment. However, before Bruno’s arrival and during Pogba’s absence, Rashford was the creative force and scored important goals for the team. At that moment, it seemed like the form of Rashford plastered over the cracks of United’s jarring lack of creativity. The “creativity” in midfield came in the form of Pereira and Fred, and we could see how United were unable to finish teams off during the first half of the season. It seemed like teams that sat back and defended could force a draw because there was no one in midfield that could seek the final pass. A midfield that used to lack creativity was suddenly jolted into life when Bruno and Pogba entered the first team. It is no doubt that when teams shut Bruno and Pogba down, as seen from the games against Chelsea and Southampton, they would nullify United’s attacking prowess.

However, I believe that mistakes and fatigue played a part in United’s dip in form rather than a lack of plan B. Unluckily, their other source of creativity, Marcus Rashford, has been suffering from a dip in form ever his return. Martial and Greenwood have also been sources of creativity too but have been over-reliant on the Bruno-Pogba partnership. Nevertheless, we cannot take away the impact of Triple M (Marcus, Martial and Mason. Cringe, I know but I COINED THIS). Their individual brilliance at times have terrorised defenses and had changed the complexion of games when creativity from midfield was largely lacking. The attack need to find that spark again and be consistent so that they are not too reliant on Bruno and Pogba.

An Improved Defense

It is true that United’s defence needs to be sorted out. Maguire has been full of mistakes, but theres no doubt he has been integral in shoring up the defense. He has been one of the best centre backs for United since Fergie retired. This season he completed the most number of passes, has the most aerial battles won, most clearances and most interceptions. There have been costly mistakes, but these mistakes have been magnified because of his price tag (which he is not responsible for). I agree with Vikram’s assessment of certain players. Rojo and Jones need to be shipped out, but his preference for Bailly and Williams seem to stem from a few of their standout performances. Personally, I do not rate them as highly. Williams could be suffering from a poor run of form as well but he has not entirely impressed since the resumption of the league.

To say that Chris Smalling has been our best defender largely neglects the defensive stability brought about by the Lindelöf and Maguire partnership. They are not perfect, but they are the best that we have. Smalling has played well in Serie A, but the league plays at a much slower pace than the EPL. The Englishman would make a great squad player, as he is defensively sound but still prone to the big mistake. The new look United have benefitted from a stable back four and has kept 13 clean sheets in the league this season, almost twice from last season as they kept only 7 clean sheets. Eric Bailly is good, but he is not a stable force in the back four. He can be great, but his concentration is lacking in some games, which makes him inconsistent.

Not the Finished Article

Quality outside of the Red Devils’ first team is embarrassingly meagre. A strong bench is needed to turn the game around, and it is important for fans to understand that United have been getting rid of the deadwood and bringing in fresh faces either through transfers or from the youth setup. It is fair to criticise United on this aspect because none of the second-string players have brought anything to the table. These include Lingard, Mata, James and Pereira. Even with a plan B, I do not have the confidence of playing these players to change the game.

United seem to need four more signings to challenge for the title again. Ole does have some tactical nous. We have seen how he adapts the way the team plays against the opponents United are up against. Now that United are stronger, Ole set the team up to play with more possession, have fluidity in their attacking movements and use the midfield double-pivot to remain stable at the back and to control the midfield. To prove that Ole is tactically astute, we can look at games against Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs and Man City. Many times Ole had out-thought great tacticians this season and have been consistent at outsmarting seasoned managers. The Norweigian “PE teacher” does have a flair at managing United and has been an integral in its rebuild.

Lastly, I do believe Ole could be the man to bring United back to the glory days. However, to expect the Norwegian to amass 98 to 100 points or winning 32 games, could be a little unrealistic. It would be a mammoth task for Ole to emulate the managerial success exemplified by Guardiola and Klopp. Does United need to eventually find a successor for Ole to take the club to the next level? Only time will tell, but his system has worked so far.

Liverpool’s 30-Year Wait for Premier League Glory

Firstly, I would like to congratulate Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp and his players for their first ever Premier League title for the club. It has been a long await title and many fans have waited too long for this to happen. However, their EPL glory is shaped by a few factors that will be further delved into. Liverpool’s impressive record this season is not a fluke and they were unlucky to not to have won the title last season but credits to Manchester City. The Sky Blues’ title charge last season was a mark of a true champion retaining their title. This season, however, was quite abysmal by their standards.

Change from Within

On the 15th October 2010, the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) had purchased Liverpool, who had finished a paltry 7th place in the 09/10 EPL season. The club was mired in debt and were only a day away from going into administration before FSG bought the club, revealed former Liverpool FC managing director Christian Purslow. Liverpool were tipped to be the next Leeds United as the Reds would have to sell their players to clear their debt and would have suffered a 12 point deduction. At that point in the season, Liverpool were still in Matchweek 7, garnering 6 points from 7 games and were languishing in 18th position in the league table. This was one of the lowest points of the club’s history. Nevertheless, an unlikely saviour came in the form of John W Henry, FSG’s principal owner.

The FSG purchase of Liverpool was the most crucial part of Liverpool’s road to being a footballing powerhouse again. The group was integral in raising commercial revenue, broadcasting revenue and matchday income. Moreover, they have increased Anfield’s seat capacity and made enhancements to the stadium which has also attracted more sponsors and become a place to hold other events. The group has also focused on partnering with companies around the world to increase the club’s presence and image globally. On top of that, the group had laid a foundation and a system that, in a way, goes against the trend of clubs buying their way to footballing success.

Mike Gordon was also important in getting Liverpool out of turmoil when he became FSG president and was in charge of decision-making at Anfield. He is said to be “most directly responsible for the day-to-day activities” of the club and had identified Jurgen Klopp as Brenden Rodgers’ successor. Gordon felt that Klopp was more suited for FSG’s system because the latter had worked with a sporting director in Germany for most of his time in management. This was crucial because Michael Edwards, Liverpool’s sporting director, was a vital figure in leading Liverpool’s transfer committee. Edwards had led the reformed and data-led recruitment with Gordon and Klopp all having important input in the players that they target.

An example of better recruitment strategy could be seen in Nabil Fekir’s medical with Liverpool. I have rarely heard of players failing medicals and this one came as a surprise because the deal collapsed at the last minute. Although there were some controversies surrounding the authenticity of Fekir’s vulnerable knee (which caused him to “fail” his medical), it also proved to show that the club knows what kind of player they want and who fits into the ethos of the club. This means that players who do not meet the expectations of the Liverpool team can and will be sold or not signed at the last minute. The clear structure and communication among the hierarchies have been essential to Liverpool’s rise to glory. The system works and have seen the Reds turn into a powerhouse in Europe. This is in contrast with teams like Manchester United as they have been struggling to string together good signings after the retirement of David Gill. Liverpool’s model could be the solution to many clubs’ woes.

From Raw Potential to Title Winners

The days of selling Luis Suarez and buying Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli, Alberto Moreno and Lazar Markovic are long gone. Gordon’s mistakes in his early career at The Kop has seemed to transform Liverpool’s transfer strategy.  Klopp has managed to turn raw potential into world beaters. The signing of their front three, Firmino, Salah and Mane have all drastically improved since arriving in Anfield. FSG’s early Liverpool side are a far cry from the current team which boasts quality in almost every position.

Klopp’s style of play has also changed from when he first managed Liverpool till now. His earlier Liverpool side were reminiscent of his Dortmund team. Relentless pressing and attacking with high energy and intensity. His current Liverpool side still presses high and with energy but they also have more control of the game. The Reds impose themselves on the game and have come out on top on every department which is why they have been able to win most of their games this season.

Turning Points in the Season

At the point of writing this article, Liverpool had only lost two games. One against Watford and the other against Manchester City. They had been on an impressive 44-game unbeaten run in the Premier League that started after their loss against City on 3 January 2019. Only Watford, before the break in the season, has managed to garner three points against Liverpool. This season was rather disappointing as no team really managed to challenge Liverpool. Even Leicester City’s impressive form at the start of the season could not be sustained as no team has managed to mount a surmountable challenge to the champions. It was very clear from the earlier part of the season that this year could really be Liverpool’s year.

A Season of Rebuilding

On the other hand, I have a theory that Liverpool’s success could be down to having no close challengers. I know, obviously. But let’s unbox this a little further. Last season saw Liverpool leading the table with a 10-point gap from Man City but the Reds never managed to recover from the defeat at the Etihad stadium on 3rd January 2019. It seemed as though the Liverpool side are not able to keep their lead on the EPL table as Man City was putting pressure on them. Therefore, Liverpool are doing well this season because there is no one there to challenge them.

Despite the successful Premier League season that Liverpool are having, they have been lucky in terms of the quality of the league. Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspurs and Arsenal have all lacked the quality to put up a challenge to Liverpool’s imposing team. Even in the clash of the titans match, Liverpool won at Anfield against a strong Man City team.

A good indicator of the dip in quality of the EPL this season would be seeing The Kop struggling to defend their European crown. Although it must be acknowledged that Real Madrid are the only team to defend their UEFA Champions League cup twice. Liverpool’s overall performance in the Champions League have not been convincing either. Their narrow win against Red Bull Salzburg, losses to Napoli and PSG in the group stages and their eventual crashing out against Atletico Madrid have shown that the Reds are beatable.

What else for Liverpool to Conquer?

The true mark of a champion would be to effectively defend their crown. In this case, Liverpool can cement themselves into Premier League folklore if they are able to defend their title in the 20/21 season. The Reds have the potential to win more than one trophy next season should their scintillating form continues.

I understand Klopp’s desire to rotate and rest his first team but somehow it also seems that he did not care for the FA Cup and League Cup this season by fielding a fairly weak side against Chelsea in the FA Cup and Aston Villa in the League Cup. It may be a show of faith in Liverpool’s youth but it could also mean Klopp prioritising the Premier League and Champions League. However, after their first title win in 30 years, I want this Liverpool side to push themselves by retaining their title and go above and beyond in more than one competition. A league title and FA Cup double, three Premier League titles in a row (in which no other team in the EPL era has done other than Manchester United) or even a Champions League and Premier League double could cement this Liverpool side as a legendary team.

Shelf-life of the Team

Every football team has its cycle of successes and downs and this is attributed to the shelf-life of the team. Once a group of players reach a certain age, they tend to decline in terms of their football quality. The average age of this Liverpool’s starting XI is 26.7 years old but the core of the team’s age ranges from 26-29 years old. These are the prime years of the team and could see a decline in superiority if Klopp does not continue to add more quality younger players into his side. However, this speculation can be quelled when players are replaced well and Klopp has done a great job of identifying talent.

To end off, Liverpool’s wait for Premier League glory was due to a myriad of factors and most important of all came from within the club. By changing how things used to work, the Liverpool name has become one to fear again in England and in Europe. The Reds did the hard work early in FSG’s acquisition of the club and had weathered bad days but their faith in the system and manager has reaped benefits as they are now Premier League champions again.

Arsenal vs Manchester City Match Preview

The English Premier League is back and fans around the world will be treated with a clash between two sides that play attractive football. The resumption of the EPL would mean that Liverpool will most likely win the title with two games to win. However, there is still much to play for even if the title is almost wrapped up. The fourth place is still to play for and the relegation battle is still a close one. After the dreadful results left behind by Emery, Arteta and his team will be looking to turn their fortunes around and fight for the elusive champions league qualification spot. With City, the season is definitely over for them with Liverpool 25 points ahead is poised to win their first ever league title in the Premier League era. The season could turn out worse for City should their two year European ban appeal be denied which could mean that a fifth place finish for any team could mean qualification for the Champions League. That aside, the clash between Arsenal and Manchester City would be an intriguing game by two very offensive sides.

Starting XI

Arsenal’s Predicted Starting Xi

Arsenal’s strongest XI: Leno; Bellerin, Luiz, Mari, Tierney; Xhaka, Torreira; Pepe, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette

A 4-2-3-1 formation has been Arteta’s go-to ever since he took charge of the Gunners. This has been the most popular formation in the Premier League as it gives teams possession and control while being defensively solid. With a double pivot of Xhaka and Torreira, Arteta can let his speedy forward line to penetrate City’s defence.

Manchester City’s Predicted Starting XI

Manchester City’s strongest XI: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan; Bernardo, Aguero, Sterling

Guardiola’s most preferred formation is a 4-3-3. With Aymeric Laporte returning to training, it seems like City would have a full squad for their clash against Arsenal. City would surely be favourites going into this game. With the full squad and a long break, Guardiola’s team will be prepared for the Gunners.

Form

Some Premier League clubs have been setting up friendlies to warm up with the resumption of the EPL in a few days. Arsenal has had two friendlies with Charlton Athletic and Brentford. Both games have been played behind-closed-doors and were not telecasted. Arsenal won 6 – 0 comfortably against Charlton Athletic with Eddie Nketiah scoring a hat-trick, Aubameyang and Lacazette getting on the scoresheet as well. The win against a relegation-threatened team should bring about confidence for the restart of the EPL. However, they were beaten 2 – 3 by promotion-chasing Brentford. It seems like Arteta’s side are still unable to resolve their leaky defence, which is worrying as their next game is against Manchester City.

On the other hand, Manchester City has opted to have friendlies amongst their first-team players. They certainly have enough depth and quality to play friendlies among themselves. The scoreline of the friendly is unknown but it may well look like a tougher friendly Arsenal has had since most of City players can walk into any Premier League teams. Even Mourinho said that Man City’s “B team” could be contenders for the EPL.

Players to Watch

Most of the battle will revolve around the midfield. As both teams like to keep the ball, it would be a mammoth task for Xhaka, Torreira and Ozil to match the quality and intensity of City’s De Bruyne, Rodri and Gundogan. Torreira will be important in breaking up play and disrupting City’s rhythm. Keeping De Bruyne at bay could neutralise an important cog in City’s attack but there are other City players that could change the game on their own such as Bernado Silva. Apart from that, City’s fullbacks have the pace to join in and support the attack. In a counterattack, Walker has the ability to pace down the right side of the field, quickly bringing the ball to the forwards.

On the other hand, it is imperative that Xhaka plays his best game against City. He has the ability to spread the ball well if he is given time and space, neither of which you can get when playing against City. With a calmer head and better coaching from a former Arsenal midfielder in Arteta, Xhaka could play a pivotal role in making the Arsenal midfield click. Apart from Xhaka, Arteta has to deal with Ozil disappearing in games like this. There is no doubt that Ozil is a world class player with an eye for a pass but his nonchalant body language on the field often makes him the scapegoat for his side’s losses. On his day, Ozil can change the face of the game and dismantle City’s defence with his crucial passes.

Master vs Student

There is no doubt that the upcoming match will be a test for Arteta to see if he has the capabilities to be a top-flight manager. Tactically, Arteta is a greenhorn as Arsenal is the first top-flight team he has managed. The lack of experience would surely put Arteta at a disadvantage but he will certainly put up a fight against his former boss on Thursday. The restart of the season would mean both teams have full squads available to choose from and each will be fully prepared. The match will certainly be a tactical battle student and master but Pep has to be ready for any surprises from Arteta as the latter might know of a few weaknesses in Guardiola’s tactics.

Predictions

Everything about Arsenal’s backline screams 2 – 0 down inside 20 minutes. However, I like Arteta’s managerial style and would give him some credit for improving this Arsenal side since his first few games in charge. I do fancy Arteta’s chances for a win given that their defensive frailties have been resolved. However, a rejuvenated Man City after a long break would be difficult to beat. This game would most likely end 2 – 1 with Aguero and Bernado Silva on the scoresheet while Aubameyang would pull one back for the Gunners.

At this stage of the season, a Manchester City win would only delay the inevitable, which is Liverpool lifting the trophy. The Sky Blues second-place finish would see them through an automatic Champions League qualification (should they manage to overturn their Champions League ban). However, this would mean that no EPL team has ever managed to win the Premier League three times in a row other than Sir Alex Ferguson.

A win for Arsenal would bring them closer for a place in the Top Four with Chelsea currently occupying it with 48 points. It would be a mammoth task for Arteta to compete for a Top Four position with the Gunners languishing at 9th, making them dark horses for Champions League qualification.

This game might not be a clash of the titans but both sides will display attacking flair with both managers to challenge one another tactically. This could be a close game with end to end action but a little quality would decide this fixture and it looks like Manchester City will come out on top.

Check out our other content

Latest Posts

Aurelio Vidmar to BG Pathum United? Who Should The Sailors Turn To?

Disclaimer: I do not want Vidmar to leave the Sailors I stumbled across this article thanks to our pals at Lions Of Asia, and I think it is worth addressing. Yes, this may just be nothing more than the work of some journalists churning material for the rumour mill. However, let’s assume that this is […]

Jesse Lingard and the Story of Second Chances

How Jesse Lingard’s rise from the ashes is the feel-good story of the season in the Premier League… We all undoubtedly know who Jesse Lingard is at this point. The English attacking midfielder has seemingly been in the world’s eye for years now, and not necessarily for the right reasons. The kid from Warrington, a […]

The Rory Winters Story Part 1: The Beginnings

To many in Singapore, Rory Winters is a an unfamiliar name, but his footballing story may be relatable. Rory was part of the English footballing system since he was 7 years old and he played professionally until he was 23 years old. He played semi-professionally since then, and then retired from the game 3 years […]

Our Singapore Premier League Team Of The Week #4

Game Week 4 saw Matchdays 5 and 6 unfold, and what a week indeed! It was goals galore in both matchdays with Tampines slotting 7 past Young Lions and Lion City Sailors racking up 8 goals against Geylang International. In this combined team of the week, we have a pretty diverse line-up from a range […]

Loading…

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Has De Gea become a liability for Manchester United?

De Gea has been undroppable ever since he established himself as one of the Premier League’s top shot-stoppers. If there were any doubts, his heroics in the 18/19 EPL season, which saw him save 11 shots in the second half against Spurs, should cement his status as a goalkeeper of high calibre. The United hierarchy rewarded De Gea’s performances by making him the highest-paid player in the squad in 2019. With the high salary, one could expect De Gea to at least maintain his high levels of performance and consistency.

However, his performances this season have been nothing but abysmal. According to Opta, “since the start of last season, no player has made more errors leading to goals in the Premier League than David de Gea (6)”. Most of his errors have come against smaller teams like Watford, who have been in a relegation battle this season. When United are competing against smaller teams, they dominate possession for most of the game. Smaller teams are comfortable employing the low block against a United team that becomes toothless against the low block tactic. With United dominating possession most of the game, they become susceptible to counterattacks. This could mean De Gea, who has nothing for most of the match, could have certain lapses in concentration that has resulted in as many as six mistakes. De Gea has shown that he is capable of maintaining his concentration with magnificent saves from previous seasons, but it appears that he could be at the start of a decline.

Support for De Gea is essential to his performances, especially when he is low on confidence. However, with his deteriorating mentality and concentration, Solskjær must be ruthless in his decision-making. De Gea needs to be dropped or sold. De Gea’s blunders have caused United to drop precious points in their quest for a top four finish. Should the Reds boss continue to put his faith in De Gea? So far, Solskjær’s loyalty to the Spaniard has been misplaced.

De Gea has not shown loyalty to United either. He goes where the money is. At 28, he is supposed to be at the peak of his career. Instead, his poor performances with the national team during the 2018 World Cup and with United seem to encapsulate his diminishing concentration. Money has been a big motivating factor in him staying at United, with his flirtation with Real Madrid leading to the United hierarchy giving him a wage increase. One might even argue that his abysmal performances with Spain during the World Cup have essentially diminished his chances of playing for Los Blancos. This would mean that staying with United would be his best option, as he has already received legendary status as a goalkeeper and he is essentially guaranteed a first team place with the highest wage in the team.

Solskjær should consider shipping De Gea out of Old Trafford and turn to Dean Henderson, who is currently on loan at Sheffield United. Henderson has 10 clean sheets this season, ranking him second for most clean sheets in the Premier League. His performances have helped Sheffield United to 7th on the league table and just two points off Manchester United. At 23, Henderson could benefit being at United and being a regular starter. This would ensure stability and longevity in defence. Starting Henderson would be in line with Solskjær’s philosophy of having a young and hungry team challenging for the title. Considering this is Henderson’s first season playing in the Premier League, it could mean that he could just be having a wonder season. However, he has been consistent for Sheffield United and he has the potential to be world-class in the near future if he is developed well. Shipping De Gea out could prove to be a big gamble but I believe that this could be an opportunity for Henderson to have a break on this promising United team. Rebuilding from defence would certainly provide a sense of foundation and create longevity with a young backline. Ultimately, the decision lies with Solskjær but getting Henderson into this young United team could prove fruitful in the long run.

What the K-league opener has taught other leagues

I missed football, and many elements of the K-league opener has reminded me why: Artificial fan sounds, a somewhat sluggish affair, and a wild moment when a 41-year old legend scores. The K-League opener has reminded football fans what we’ve been missing out on – the beautiful game. I don’t even watch the K-League but the chance of catching any new football was too good to miss out on. Thankfully, the opener was streamed for free on YouTube and certain things stood out for me, which I feel the rest of the footballing world could learn and benefit from.

The artificial fan noises broadcasted around the stadium do help create the atmosphere for the viewer that there are fans around the stadium. I couldn’t catch the match from the start, so when I did drop into the stream, I was under the impression that a designated section was allocated for a group of fans. It was only much later did I realize that the noises were artificial. It did significantly alter the game experience for me as a casual fan and this is something that European teams should look to incorporate if or when their seasons resume. I remember viewing highlights of the clash between Manchester United and LASK and the lack of ambient noise made it come off as a training session instead of an actual football match.

Seeing 41-year-old Lee Dong-gook grab the winner for Jeonbuk in the 84th minute was something special to see. I remember watching Lee play for Middlesbrough in the Premier League more than a decade ago. The veteran striker failed to score a single PL goal during his time at Boro but managed to pull off a near-post header from Son Jun-ho’s corner. It was a heart-warming moment to see an absolute legend who could still muster a fine performance despite his age. By contrast, Bluewings forward Adam Taggart was quiet that night. His display paled comparison to his exploits in the 2019 campaign. The former Fulham and Perth Glory forward was sensational upfront for the Bluewings last season, banging in 20 goals in 33 league appearances.

At the same time, the match between Jeonbuk Motors and Suwon Bluewings also demonstrated how match fitness would be an issue for some time to come. Two months is a long time out of the game and even though players can maintain their overall fitness, they need playing time to build up their match fitness. The opener was a sluggish affair which is a far cry from the high standards that these teams have consistently put in over the years. Perhaps Taggart was experiencing a lack of match fitness and in due course, we could see more goals from the Australian international.

While the global pandemic has forced the K-league to postpone the start of the season, many other leagues, that were in the midst of their seasons, had to undergo an indefinite suspension. The momentum that players, like Man United left-back Luke Shaw, had been riding on has been disrupted. Therefore, it is a tough ask for players to immediately continue the fine form they exhibited before the leagues’ suspension. Fans need to understand this and not overly pressure their club’s players. Instead, we should cherish the fact that football is back.

With the Bundesliga’s official resumption around the corner (May 16, 2020), the K-league’s commencement of their season has brought hope for me that football may soon return to many parts of the globe. Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating for football matches to take in countries where the coronavirus is rampant. Safety should be everybody’s concern and people should co-operate with their respective governments so that the disease gets controlled and hence, stringent measures can be lifted. Korea has done a remarkable job in controlling the disease after it rampantly spread across the country. The return of football to Korea represents the light at the end of a long tunnel. Containment and quarantine policies around the world have robbed us of sporting events and many other activities. Even with the resumption of football, it might not be entirely the same with the absence of fans and the inclusion of more substitutions each match.

What now for Karius?

Loris Karius has just terminated his loan with Besiktas and his spell with the Turkish giants has been far from smooth sailing. In March 2019, the German stopper sought legal action after months of unpaid wages and in April 2019, the issue of unpaid salaries resurfaced again. Enough was enough for Karius. He pulled the plug on the loan after completing the majority of the deal. I applaud Karius’s actions. You need to stand up for yourself when you’re unfairly treated. Clubs should pay their players on time and since it’s a contractual obligation, there is no excuse. Yet, even though Karius’s actions are commendable, he is caught in a real pickle.

Most Liverpool fans despise him and they were happy when he left the club in August 2018. Alisson Becker had arrived at Anfield and he was to assume the number 1 spot in the team. The truth is, Alisson’s arrival from AS Roma signalled the end of Karius’s place in Liverpool starting line-up. More importantly, it confirmed that management had not forgiven him for his howlers against Real Madrid during the Champions League Final months before. Karius was responsible for two of the three goals that Madrid had scored that match. While Bale’s spectacular overhead strike was virtually impossible to save, the other two goals were rookie errors. Alisson was brought in because Liverpool had a team of world-class players in every position except for the goalkeeper one. Besides Karius they had options in Simon Mignolet, who was decent at times but also highly unreliable.

Karius was not always bad. He was fairly good that 2017/2018 season. In his 33 appearances, he kept 17 clean sheets. He exemplified moments of brilliance, uprooted Mignolet, and established himself as Liverpool’s first-choice keeper. However, he also made grievous errors that cost his side the match – the most unforgivable one coming from the Champions League final. Liverpool fans were fed up with Karius by that point, and the club’s decision to sign Alisson indicated that so too were the board. As a Manchester United fan, I hate to admit that since his arrival, Alisson has been spectacular in goal for the Reds. It is gut-wrenching for me to say this but I feel that he has been a better goalkeeper than David de Gea for the past two seasons.There is no way Karius is going to replace the Brazilian international.

So what then? Where does Karius go from here?

At least to me, he has three options:

  1. Playing Backup
  2. Another Loan Move Away
  3. A Transfer Away

Playing Backup to Alisson (and potentially Adrian)

Would Karius be content with playing backup to Alisson? Honestly, I don’t think so. Karius is only 26 and while he has many years ahead of him before he retires, he would want some consistent game time. At Besiktas, Karius played 31 games this season and 35 games the previous campaign. He is used to 30-game seasons and he may get restless adapting to life on the sidelines.

Yet, Liverpool boast a wealth of options that they can remain competitive in almost every competition they play in. Squad rotation is vital for the squad and Karius represents a decent option for cup and less important Champions League fixtures. Moreover, as we have seen this season, Alisson could potentially get injured, which could marshal Karius into the first team once again.

However, Karius has to compete with Adrian for the backup spot. Or would he? When Alisson got injured, Adrian was fielded instead and his performances have been inconsistent. He has become a walking meme to some extent. If Karius is content with playing second fiddle to Alisson, he may very well have a chance due to some abysmal performances by Adrian. Just take a look at the Spaniard’s howler against Atletico Madrid that resulted in Liverpool crashing out of the Champions League (which they are reigning Champions of). Adrian appears to be past his peak and a move back to Spain may suit him best.

A loan move away to stake his claim for the number one spot

Playing second fiddle seems like a stretch in all honesty only because Karius would probably be unhappy. How about another loan move then? His loan spell was alright but wasn’t spectacular. He needs to prove his worth some way which is why moving on loan to another Premier League side might be ideal.

I have taken some inspiration from Dean Henderson’s loan at Sheffield United. Moving to another Premier League club allows your parent team to assess your performances against the same opposition they will play weekly. Foreign leagues may either pale in comparison in quality altogether or emphasize a different playing style from the immensely physical and fast-paced approach taken in the EPL. Henderson has pulled some top-draw saves against other premier league sides and has more clean sheets than David de Gea. In fact, Henderson is joint second in the league alongside none other than Alisson and Schmeichel with 10 clean sheets. His performances this season have given Ole a real headache on what he needs to do. The United boss is now blessed with multiple quality shot-stoppers. Still, there is only one goalkeeping position on the field and Ole has a good headache on his hands.

Based on Henderson’s model, the ideal way for Karius to be back in the squad is if he pulBased on Henderson’s model, the ideal way for Karius to be back in the squad is if he pulls a string of fine performances for another Premier League club. A move to a club like Wolves or perhaps a team like Bournemouth would be good for the German. That’s because even if he does well, he could always choose the third option. At the end of his loan, he could seal a ….

A transfer away to start afresh

Instead of staying to win a starting place at Liverpool, where he is unwanted, why not seal a permanent move to a club that actually wants to play you as their starting goalkeeper?

Karius has been poor at times, but he is not an awful player as what many of us make him out to be. He has been crucified for his howlers and by continually bringing it up, Liverpool fans have not allowed him to grow and learn from his past mistakes. Perhaps he needs to cut ties with the Merseyside club entirely. If he wishes to stay in England, a transfer to an ambitious Championship team just like Kiko Casilla (who went to Leeds) would be an excellent move in my opinion. It gives his time to shed his past while establishing himself in a lower league, which has relatively less pressure than the Premier League. Karius could reinvent himself and either become a club icon or move to greener pastures once he has made a name for himself.

The Liverpool dream had turned into a nightmare and Karius’s loan to Besiktas was nothing more than a temporary reprieve. It is up to the German to decide what is next for him. He could try to fight for his place by sticking around or through a loan or move onto greener pastures to start a new chapter in his footballing career. Whatever decision he takes, what is certain is that his time at Besiktas is officially over and it would appear that it is over for good. Liverpool fans would be anxiously awaiting what happens next and many will be praying he doesn’t stick around.

On the New Premier League Hall of Fame

My thoughts on the creation of the Premier League Hall of Fame, as well as my thoughts for who the first inductions should be.

Back in February, the Premier League announced their plans to create a Premier League Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame would “recognize and celebrate the exceptional skill and talent of players who have graced the competition since its inception in 1992.” The first two inductees into the Hall of Fame will be announced during a special ceremony on March 19th, while a fan vote will be created to help finish out the remainder of the first ever Premier League Hall of Fame class. According to the release, all eligible players must be retired, and when considering their candidacy, only their Premier League career can be considered.

So I have a few thoughts. For starters, I really like the concept. As an American, I am very familiar with the idea of a hall of fame, with every major American sports league having one, and the status coming with being a hall of fame athlete is incredibly significant. While other Americanizations of the Premier League, including a playoff system to decide the champion and an all-star game, are a bit tacky and unnecessary, I do really like this concept. The Premier League has played host to a laundry list of incredible players, and having one site to view all of them and their career achievements would be very cool.

An interesting question to explore is whether players will be inducted wearing the shirt of a team of their choosing. In the Baseball Hall of Fame in America, inductees are enshrined on plaques showing images of them wearing a baseball cap bearing the logo of one of the teams they played for. The logo on the cap is decided by researchers working for the Hall of Fame, in conjunction with the players, who try to decide where the player “made his most indelible mark” during his career. This would be an interesting discussion for the Premier League, and it could lead to some interesting controversies for certain players. For some players, it is completely obvious. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are obviously going into the Hall of Fame eventually, and they would go in wearing Liverpool and Chelsea shirts, respectively. It becomes more interesting with other players. Does Robin van Persie go in wearing an Arsenal shirt or a Manchester United shirt? Does Cesc Fabregas wear an Arsenal or Chelsea shirt? Would Alan Shearer wear a Newcastle or Blackburn shirt? Which shirt would Jermaine Defoe wear? It is an interesting facet added to the discussions, and the potential of how they could incorporate club colors, either picking one club to enshrine the player with or displaying them at multiple stages of their career with every club they played with, could give the displays some added character.

Now I do have several more questions. Will this be a physical hall of fame or just one in concept? Would it be a physical building in London or Manchester, similar to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York for example, or would it just involve a ceremony and being put on a list somewhere? Would there be a requirement about the amount of seasons the player must have played in the Premier League, or would there be a preference for induction to players who spent longer in the league? For example, Luis Suarez was a brilliant player, but he only played for Liverpool for three seasons. Now in those three seasons he won a PFA Player of the Year award and was generally an unbelievable player, but would his limited amount of time in the league restrict his candidacy for the Hall of Fame? Should his limited amount of time in the league restrict his candidacy? I am sure as this hall of fame is being established and we set a precedent for inductees, many of these questions will be answered, but for now, they are worthy questions to ask.

Now there are issues I have with this set up. For starters, I do not like having a purely “Premier League” Hall of Fame. The Premier League has only existed since 1992, it is merely a single nearly 30-year-long era that makes up the 100+ year history of football in England. It seems a bit weird to simply celebrate one era of this long history, especially when we still count club honors won before 1992. Football, after all, was not invented by Sky in 1992. This ties into my second issue, as there is currently already an English Football Hall of Fame, which is ran in conjunction with the National Football Museum in Manchester. While this hall of fame has mostly recognized British and Irish players, it has also recognized important foreign players, including Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, and also recognizes influential male and female players throughout the entire history of professional football in England, not just during the Premier League Era. Expanding this hall of fame into one large, comprehensive hall of fame would probably be the most effective way in actualizing this concept. The final issue I have is the perceived restriction set by the league to only allow players into the hall of fame. Personally, I do not think that players are the only ones who encapsulate the concept of “hall of fame worthy”. Managers should absolutely be included as well. Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger would be certain inductees, and names such as Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez, and Kenny Dalglish would most likely join them. Those off the football pitch should also be considered for a spot. For example, it would be really fitting and really cool for Martin Tyler to be honored, since his commentary of Aguero’s title-winning goal in 2012 is so synonymous with the Premier League. Limiting entry to only players seems too restrictive.

Ok, you sat through this long post wanting to hear about who I thought should be the first inductees, so now it is time to discuss.

The Premier League announced that the first two inductees will be announced later this month, while the rest of the class would be voted on later this year. Since we do not know the size of the entire class, I will use the approximation of American football and baseball hall of fame classes to say there will be eight first inductees.

The first two honorary inductions into the Premier League Hall of Fame is an incredibly simple decision. The first two will, most likely, be Thierry Henry and Alan Shearer. Thierry Henry was arguably the most talented player to ever play in the Premier League, with his incredible combination of pace, technical ability, and ruthless goalscoring touch setting the world ablaze. He was the crown jewel in the Arsenal Invincibles team, considered to be one of the best teams in league history, and earned his own honors along the way, winning PFA Players’ Player of the Year twice while finishing runner up in the Ballon d’Or race in 2003. Alan Shearer remains the all-time leading scorer in Premier League history. On top of that colossal piece of history, he can add a league title with Blackburn Rovers, three Golden Boots, two PFA Players’ Player of the Year awards, and a third place finish in the Ballon d’or race in 1996. Both of these players are guaranteed to get into the hall of fame in the first class, and I think they are the first two honorary inductees.

The one player who can challenge that claim, and the only added difficulty in this decision, is Ryan Giggs. Giggs was the Premier League’s ever-present fixture, having played in 22 successive Premier League seasons and having made 632 Premier League appearances, a record that has since been surpassed by Gareth Barry. He remains the league’s all time leading assister, having racked up 162 during his career, and the most successful Premier League player ever, having won 13 league titles, all with Manchester United, during his career. His remarkable consistency for nearly two decades was incredible. He is the only other player who can stake a claim at being one of the two first inductees.

The next six inductees are more difficult to decide, and I have tried to consider candidates from the entirety of the Premier League era in order to avoid recency bias. John Terry and Dennis Bergkamp seemed fitting inductees for this first class. John Terry is arguably the best center back in the league’s history. He was a constant at the back for Chelsea, being the leader of the defensive unit that conceded only 15 goals in the 2004/05 season, earning him PFA Player of the Year, and his longevity allowed him to be effective at the back for the Blues for another decade following that incredible season. He was considered maybe the best center back in the world for the latter half of the 2000s, making the FIFIPro World XI for five consecutive seasons. Bergkamp was a fixture in the Arsenal attack for over a decade, forming strong partnerships with fellow club legends Ian Wright and Thierry Henry. He scored plenty of goals during his early days in North London, then adjusted his style of play to become more of a provider for Henry in his later years with the Gunners. His silky-smooth dribbling ability, calmness on the ball, and knack for scoring incredible goals made him a fan favorite, and he was a crucial part of three title-winning Arsenal teams, including the Invincibles. It seems fitting that Bergkamp and Henry go into the Hall of Fame together.

Speaking of fitting that they go into the Hall of Fame together, it makes so much sense for Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Paul Scholes to all go in together. For over a decade, every Premier League fan debated which of these three was the best midfielder in the league. Lampard had a goalscoring ability that has not been seen from many center midfielders since his retirement, becoming synonymous with Chelsea during their golden years and leading them to several league titles and a Champions League title. Steven Gerrard is Mr. Liverpool, playing for the Reds for his entire career, scoring incredibly important goals and being influential in some of Liverpool’s greatest ever moments, including their famous comeback in Istanbul. Paul Scholes was not as active of a goalscorer as his two counterparts, but he was so important to how those mid-2000s Manchester United teams performed. He was a one-man engine room, dominating the midfield and playing the passes that linked the midfield to the attack. What he lacks in stats he makes up for in sheer tangible ability and importance, as well as the amount of trophies he won with United. They are all the three undisputed best center midfielders in Premier League history, and it is probably fair to not enhance debate by separating their inductions.

If I had two honorable mentions, to round out the list to ten players, it would be Roy Keane and Peter Schmeichel. Keane is arguably the league’s greatest ever captain, being the talisman in midfield for Manchester United for the latter half of the 1990s into the 2000s. Peter Schmeichel is arguably the league’s best ever goalkeeper, being phenomenal between the posts for United in the 1990s and being considered the best or among the best goalkeepers in the world during that decade.

Picking a first induction class is difficult, especially when I limit myself to only eight players. I recognize I left out several big names. The likes of Keane and Schmeichel, as well as David Beckham, Petr Cech, Rio Ferdinand, Eric Cantona, and Ashley Cole all did not make the cut for me. I’m sorry, it’s a difficult decision to make. Undoubtedly, all of those names above, as well as other big names that I failed to mention, will make the hall of fame eventually, but it is a special distinction to be the first hall of fame class. If there are only eight spots to fill in the first class, I would cast my vote for those eight players. Regardless of outcome, I am excited for the introduction of a Premier League Hall of Fame, and I will be watching closely to see how it is implemented and hope to one day pay the site a visit.

Manchester United’s decision to let Ashley Young go makes little practical sense

Under Ole, Manchester United have evidently embarked on a more youth-centred policy. This approach was evident with the club signing Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James in the summer and the promotion of youth team players like Brandon Williams, Mason Greenwood and James Garner to the first team. Furthermore, since his arrival in Dec 2018, Ole has gradually culled the older players from the first team – with Fellaini, Herrera, Smalling, and Sanchez all departing the club. Ashley Young appears to be the next senior player to be axed by the Norwegian. Inter Milan have reportedly agreed a $1.3 Milion dollar move for the veteran right-back. Even though most Manchester United fans would rejoice at this decision, I think Young’s transfer is a poor piece of business (for United) and could have long term impacts on the squad.

Yes, It makes some sense to cash in than let him go for free

I agree that the decision to let Young go is a financially sound one. Ashley Young is no longer the 25-year-old spring chicken he once was. After eight and a half seasons of mixed performances at Old Trafford, he is 34 years old with his contract expiring at the end of the season. The opportunity to sell him now not only injects a bit of cash into the club but also frees up the wage budget by a bit.

If you were to ask most United fans, they would be happy to see him leave the club. Young has produced moments of sheer brilliance (remember the goals he scored against Arsenal). However, he has also produced god-awful displays during his time at United, which has often cost the Red Devils matches.

Yet, I can’t but help wonder why the club is selling Young at this juncture, midway through the season.

Ashley Young has been a loyal servant to the club and whether you like him or not, is a role model at United. Having joined in 2011, Ashley Young is one of a handful of players have Premier League winners medal with the club. [The others being Phil Jones and David De Gea. Though, Mata and Matic won the Premier League with Chelsea]. He has the experience of what it takes to win trophies. Every locker room needs characters like that to help guide the younger players and ensure that their heads remain cool in difficult situations.

More importantly, young Manchester United players should take grasp the chance to learn how Ashley Young successfully reinvented himself as a full-back. Young single-handedly prolonged his time at Manchester United when he successfully converted to a wing-back under Louis van Gaal (LVG). Van Gaal staunchly believed in the 3-5-2 formation during his time at United and Young would have been shipped out if he could not fit that system. Even though Young gets a lot of stick from United fans, in all fairness, Young played well most of the time as a wing-back under LVG. Young’s presence at the club symbolizes the notion of perseverance and reinvention. It motivates players not to give up and look at different ways to reinvent themselves to fit Ole’s system better.

Besides the symbolism, it makes no practical sense to let Young leave. Manchester United are fraught with injuries in defence, and Young helps to plug the gaps in the back. While Diogo Dalot is now fit and Aaron Wan-Bissaka is the starting right-back for the club, Luke Shaw is still out injured and has been injury-prone. Brandon Williams has slotted into the left-back position nicely but who do United have as back-up options? Marcos Rojo is out injured. While Dalot could play as a left-back, what cover is available for Wan-Bissaka? Timothy Fosu Mensah is out and has been out for sometime now. He can’t be expected to start weekly straight away after such a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Amidst such an injury crisis, Young offers much-needed depth in the full-back department because he can play either side.

Man United need versatile players in such a fixture-congested season. Besides Perreira, who can be deployed virtually anywhere in midfield (albeit to varying degrees of effectiveness), Ashley Young is probably the only other “utility player” at United. He can be used anywhere along either flank (be it as a full-back, wide midfielder or winger). This is important since United are still involved in every major competition they have taken part in. Besides the Premier League, the club is also playing in the Europa League, League Cup and FA Cup. The fixtures will undoubtedly pile up, and the Red Devils need to rotate their squad to limit fatigue. Young offers a solid back up option and can start both Europa League, and FA Cup matches as United focuses on securing a Champions League spot in the League.

Also, and quite frankly, what is 1.3 Million Pounds to a club like United – what is the real reason behind axing Young? The club doesn’t appear to be making any signings this January, and there has been no serious attempt to blood in academy prospects (who can play in the RB role) like how Ole has incorporated Brandon Williams into the first team. So why not wait till the end of the season, utilize his experience, and give our captain a proper sendoff. As a fan, it is frustrating to see a lack of recruitment when we have little squad depth. It becomes even more frustrating when the club prioritizes the sale of players that are not “deadwood” but arguably essential members of the squad. Just saying, it would make more sense to prioritize the sale of Matic, Rojo, Phil Jones over Ashley Young.

Addressing Manchester United’s Inconsistent Form

There are two things that Manchester United has been consistent in this season: Inconsistent form and their policy in playing youth. With the departure of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, Manchester United started the option with a thin frontline. Martial’s injury was a blessing in disguise as it thrust greenwood into the first team, and he has benefitted immensely by gaining more playing time. However, it also highlighted how limited United’s options are upfront. At times, Daniel James and Jesse Lingard have played upfront. Even though Rashford has filled that void, he has been most effective when he’s deployed as wide forward.

It’s not just the lack of options up front but also the consistency of the players. Don’t get me wrong, Martial and Rashford are exceptional talents but they fail in consistently delivering. It’s as if both players suffer from “Theo Walcott” syndrome, where they put in quality performances and pick up momentum by notching in goals and then suddenly fire blanks. The recent goalless draw with Wolves in the FA Cup 3rd Round is yet another episode of United’s inability to piece together several good performances.

The main issue is that Manchester United lack quality in creating chances – we don’t have enough playmakers. Juan Mata is past his prime and is a bit-part player at best. With the ridiculous wages he’s on, he has never really justified his contract extension. Jesse Lingard has never really recaptured his incredible form in the 2017-2018 season and has been simply dreadful this season. Pereira has shown glimpses of brilliance but has been so inconsistent that he should not be the first player on the team sheet. Paul Pogba is the only quality first-team player who creates chances but has been out injured the whole season. Rumors of his exit have been prevalent all season but even if he stays, the club needs more depth in that department.

The only player that has been consistently creating chances is Daniel James, who unsurprisingly has registered the most assists for United in the league this season, with 6. While Daniel James has been effective as a support-winger, he would be more effective as an inside forward with his electric pace. His 3 goals earlier in the season demonstrated how he could convert chances if he’s in the box. The problem is he rarely gets into these positions primarily because he appears to be the only player making chances in Pogba’s absence.

Image by jorono from Pixabay 

Besides a Central Attacking Midfielder, Manchester United needs to reinforce in central midfield with a holding midfielder. McTominay’s injury is a major setback for United simply because he has been Manchester United’s only saving grace in that holding midfield position. There is a major disparity when McTominay is in the team and when McTominay isn’t in the team. Fred is ineffective without McTominay by his side and Matic, like Mata, is no longer the dependable player he once was. James Garner is promising but is still raw. He is definitely one for the future but United need to reinforce their holding midfielder position.

Reinforcements are necessary but only the right kind. Manchester United cannot fall into the same trap they did under Van Gaal where his signings were solid on paper but on hindsight, were mostly panic buys that did not fit the squad or system that van Gaal played. Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger spring up to mind as quality players who floundered at United. The club has done well in the Summer transfer window and must ensure it maintains a recruitment policy that supports the strategy and tactics of the manager.

In the quite possible event that Manchester United fail to make any signings this January transfer window, Ole has to ask himself what Manchester United can realistically achieve. If a top 6 finish is unlikely, Ole should concentrate on youth development and instead focus his efforts in the Europa League – a certainly achievable feat. Mason Greenwood has progressed well and so has Brandon Williams, perhaps more opportunities should be given to academy prospects. After all, the club deviated away from its youth policy under Mourinho and its decline in fortunes has prompted promising local talent to switch to the Blue side of Manchester.

Regardless of the direction Manchester United takes, change is necessary. One should not be disillusioned by the long unbeaten streak last season. Manchester United has failed to replicate similar form for whatever reason – unless drastic improvements are made, Ole will face the sack (as much as I hate to admit it).