Mourinho news; bye-bye 5/5 (4)

Mourinho is no longer Manchester United manager! The news has been awaited for long and finally it’s been shared.

Unless you’ve been out of this world the last few days you heard that Jose Mourinho has been relieved of his managerial duties at Manchester United. Self-proclaimed Special One lasted 2 and a half years at the helm but eventually everybody’s satisfied it’s over. Probably even himself!

Mourinho legacy

Mourinho smartly chose to take over after other managers got United fans used to disappointments.

The club had qualified for Europa League and played such boring football that even his teams would be ashamed of.

Mourinho

Shortly, he could hardly do worse then his predecessors!

In his first year he, as it turned out, rightfully targeted international success as his ticket to Europe’s prime competition, Champions League!

On the way he managed to take home additional 2 cups and by doing so made a flying start; 3 trophies and qualification to the most important competition. Job done and everybody’s cheering!

Everything was presented to be fine even if Premier league top was so far away United couldn’t see it with a binocular.

Second year demonstrated all the Portuguese’s appointment shortcomings. No attacking, sexy football. Or at least watchable! Consequently no trophies. Only reached target was Champions League qualification

Champions League second round exit against Sevilla was a warning which had to be taken seriously. But Mourinho, as usually, talked his way out of it and his tram continued with modest performances and likewise results.

He’ll always point out the trophies he’s won in his career and won’t acknowledge that times have changed and he also needs to.

Mourinho

His tricks just don’t bring important triumphs any more.

Team status

The team has its weak points which are need to be fixed but also heavily underused strengths. Quality is there, especially in the attacking area, that needs to be put in conditions to flourish.

Mourinho stubbornly insisted with negative football which isn’t suited neither to club and his history, neither to the roller-coaster at his disposal.

United’s future

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over. Club legend and scorer of one of the most important goals in club’s illustrious past.

Solskjaer

Managerial experience is missing, particularly at top level, but available group of players need somebody to let them play and not worry to much that a wrong pass will hurt manager’s feelings.

Perhaps people upstairs are trying to find inspiration in recent fortunes seen at Real Madrid and partially at Chelsea with Di Matteo’s appointment.

At this moment it’s fair to say that probably anybody would be better than the Portuguese!

Mourinho’s future

Even a conflicting character as him still has some elite suitors left in European football. Real Madrid president is keen to bring him back even if that would be an unpopular move with Blancos demanding crowd. And also with some of squad’s key figures.

Anyway it’s general knowing that Perez doesn’t listen too much and does things his way.

Mourinho

Other possible destination is Inter Milan. In Lombardi he has a divine status and virtually could return whenever he wants.

Both clubs are going thru rough patches and season could turn out non-satisfactory which usually means managerial change.

Portuguese football federation would let him in charge even part-time and without any limits. Past approaches weren’t successful but this time Mourinho could be the one to offer his services. And probably would be accepted.

There are numerous possibilities outside Europe for Mourinho but he’s a type of person that needs to be in the center of things and hardly will agree to ridiculous sums of money to settle for “big fish in a small pond” situation.

Eventually Mourinho’s adventure in Manchester ended in familiar and expected fashion. Some silverware at the beginning, little eye-catching football, a lot of controversy and public laundry washing, criticizing everything and everybody around him and inevitable sacking.

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Champions League verdict 5/5 (4)

Champions League group phase is over. Majority of the expectations and predictions have been respected however there were a lot of surprises also. But what can we expect in knock-out round?

Favourite’s performances

Favourite’s for final triumph have all passed the first obstacle. Very few of them impressed but ultimately achieved the first goal. 
Judging by what we saw till now there are only 2 teams respecting front-runner tag.

Barcelona

On paper second strongest group in competition’s first phase was group B where Barcelona faced Inter, Tottenham and PSV Eindhoven. Barca eventually secured top spot before game 6 even started which was expected. Inter’s challenging Tottenham for other progression spot was also predicted however lack of duo’s challenge to Spanish domination is a bit disappointing.

Champions League Valverde

Competition

Especially from Inter! In the double confrontation with Barcelona, the neroazzurri got a point out of possible 6 but hardly deserved even that. In both games Italians looked scared and rarely troubled the Catalan giants. Perhaps difference in class is too big however you’d expect at least a decent fight!

At times it looked as if Inter didn’t even count on any points against the blaugrana and just played because they have to.
Tottenham also got a point against Barcelona however in fairly different circumstances. Even if at Wembley Spanish representative won it was also due to a false start from the home side and individual errors. But the Spurs played some good, attacking football and even threatened to snitch something out of it.
True, Barca was going through a difficult spell beginning of October, however, Tottenham showed that they can fight it out against anybody.
In group’s last game Barca had little motivation but still managed to trouble the London outfit even with a backup starting eleven. The English side eventually got the needed result and it’s only fair that they progressed in front of Inter.

Champions league Messi

Barcelona displayed ruthlessness but also diminished Messi-dependance.
When the Argentine was absent Suarez took the responsibility to guide the attack and team forward. And delivered!
Coutinho occasionally showed why Barca splashed top-dollar for him and also Dembele provided glimpses of his talents.
Arthur slotted nicely in midfield, displayed quality and personality.
He’ll never be the next Iniesta but a reliable performer for years to come. With Rakitić, Busquets and Vidal completing the midfield first choices it’s another area without particular concern.

Weak points

Defence is another story! Catalans were never admired for defensive stability and it’s the team’s weak point.
The whole team has to defend, no doubt about that, but Barcelona conceded 5 goals in groups stage and nearly all of them were scored within a few meters from goal.
Last example was last night’s equalizer; Lucas was left all alone in the center of the area while 3 players were closing Kane. It can be argued that the result meant nothing to Barca but it happened for the umpteenth time.
Bad organization and communication! And apparent lack of concentration late in the game.
In the last 3 matches Barcelona allowed opposition to score in the last 10 minutes. 2 of those goals cost them 4 points. Nothing to worry about in terms of qualification, even if it wasn’t secured yet.
Certainly something to work on.

Juventus

Never mind the last group game Juventus showed impressive ability to win and dominate games.
When Juve wants and needs they deliver! Admittedly, group competition wasn’t of the highest caliber however until qualification wasn’t achieved quality, organization and strength in depth were demonstrated.
Manchester United managed to overturn the result in Turin in closing stages but those few minutes can’t outweigh everything good showed up to then and after that.

Champions league Allegri

Italian serial champions’ biggest advantage in strength in depth. For every position, there are a least 2 valuable alternatives! Starting from the goalkeeper, proceeding through defence, midfield and attack, quality all over the field!
But they also have one weak point! And that’s themselves!
Demonstration of that is internal defeat against Man Utd. Match completely dominated, chances created, everything under control however somehow managed to spurn it all in the final few minutes.
Anyway until Ronaldo, Dybala, Douglas Costa, Mandžukić et al are there you can never write them off.
Following other European heavyweights aren’t having the best of seasons, this is Juve’s great chance to finally get their hands on the ultimate prize.

Undecided

Manchester City

Guardiola assembled a fearsome squad and developed trademark playing style which has always brought results.
Nearly without competition in domestic league rightfully tipped as one of the candidates for final victory.
However, in international fixtures, things aren’t going as smoothly as you’d expect.

Champions league Guardiola

Opening day home defeat to Lyon followed by a last-gasp win in Germany against Hoffenheim exposed team’s weaknesses.
Apart from easy double wins against Shakhtar all other matches were perhaps too tight considering City’s squad and manager.
Without doubt nobody’s’ wish for the next round however considering group phase struggles, surely there is some hope.

Disappointments

Liverpool qualified from the toughest group, predictably on the last day with a dominant display, nevertheless hardly strikes fear in opponents! Particularly on the road!
Last season’s finalist seems unable to compete in international competitions as a visitor.
Ever since last April’s showing in Rome, through the final in Ukraine and this Autumn’s showings, Liverpool is a welcome guest.

Champions league Klopp

Not only in terms of result but also regarding personality and overall performances.
Up to a point understandable submissive outings in Paris and Naples but utterly disappointing game in Belgrade raises questions on the Reds’ actual strength and competitiveness!

Bayern Munich is the other giant, although qualified as group winner, who isn’t living up to its glorious past. At least in terms of performances!
A lot isn’t functioning as it should, Bundesliga standings show it clearly, but still, you’d expect more from such an experienced and talented group of players. 

Champions league Kovač

Possibly the amount of experience is one of the problems anyway this Bayern isn’t causing any sleepless nights to managers across Europe.

Real Madrid eventually topped group G but it’s miles away from the side that dominated Europe the last few years.
Besides the much publicized Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo departures, taking away 2 corner-stones of recent triumphs, the team lost its hunger for success! It’s visible in the so-called small games as in direct confrontations.

Champions league Solari

 It speaks loudly that CSKA Moscow ended this year’s European path victorious in Madrid. Out of 7 points gained in total, 6 of them came against European reigning champion.

Champions League proceedings

Next round’s draw will be held next week.

Group winners are seeded teams and can’t play each other in the round of 16. This also means that second, expectably deciding, game in the first knock-out round seeded teams play at home.

Additionally, teams from same countries can’t be paired. Those parameters can help us guess some of the possible clashes we’ll watch in February.

Seeded teams:
Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, Paris SG, Porto, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Juventus.

Other qualified:
Atletico Madrid, Tottenham, Liverpool, Schalke 04, Ajax, Lyon, Roma, Manchester United.

Potentially mouth-watering pairings could be Barcelona vs Liverpool, Real Madrid vs Manchester United or Juventus- Atletico Madrid.

Regular phase didn’t offer any stand-out candidate however crucial part is yet to start and everybody will have the chance to fight for it.

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London derby – Football review 5/5 (2)

The London derby

London derby seems to be a constant fixture in Premier League. With 7 clubs from English capital in the league, it’s easy to understand why.

However, this weekend took place North London derby, Arsenal versus Tottenham, over 100 years of fierce rivalry between neighboring boroughs.

With Chelsea’s rise in the last 2 decades other hot derbies are taking place in London but given the short history, it still can’t get the same pedigree.

London derby of managers

In total Arsenal has an upper hand in head-to-head count with almost 20 victories more than Tottenham, 82 to 63 with 51 draws. 20 vs 12 in Premier League.

Gunners have advantage also in trophy collection with 3 Premier League titles and 13 FA Cup, among other, while the Hotspurs tasting success 8 times in FA Cup with no Premier League winners medal to show.

But fortunes have changed recently with Tottenham placing above the arch-rivals last few years and participating regularly in the Champions League. Building an international reputation in the process.

Meanwhile, Arsenal took too long to part ways with a manager who brought a lot of honors to the club but ultimately couldn’t keep up with game’s evolution. Once regarded as a trend-setter, in later years couldn’t quite make it work.

And once Wenger couldn’t catch the famed Champions League spot it was time for fresh ideas. Please enter Mr. Unai Emery.

New manager same old story?

Taking over from a manager after 20 years is an arduous task itself. Taking it in a club in constant spotlight where results must be achieved is another thing. Check further North, in Manchester, for additional explanation.

London derby strikers

Anyhow Emery had a few details working in his favor. Firstly, he can hardly do worse than his predecessor. At least lately.
Secondly, inherited squad has a lot of talent.

Thirdly, after his adventure in Paris, he’s used to demanding crowd and dressing room full of stars. He’s used to volatile characters and big egos which need to be addressed adequately.

Oh, and he also won things. Taking French championship for granted, he’s had some success with Sevilla. International. Three in a row to be precise! It was in Europa League, second European competition but still, nobody else did it.

So, an undoubtedly talented bunch of players with international pedigree and a manager in the same mould. Match made in heaven!

Well, not at first. First points came only in match-day 3 in another London derby, against West Ham.
That opening two games were against defending champions and one of the contenders wasn’t helping the Spaniard settling in.

Big against small

But Emery survived heavy criticism and continued with his ideas. The team was playing better and better but more importantly getting results.

London derby
Schedule didn’t offer first class opposition until beginning of November and Unai had time to asses material at disposal and find some kind of balance. A run of wins followed before Liverpool came to town.

Arsenal was coming from a draw in another London derby, against Crystal Palace. Who, by the way, has a better defensive record.
Winner-less big match against the Reds carried two messages; Arsenal can compete against the best. But can’t win in direct confrontations.

Reds challenge was the first maturity test. After suffering loses against other two title contenders a draw was a step up. A baby step, but still up.

Third draw in a row came in Wolverhampton. Discontent between fans and pundits was loud again.
Defensive phase still leaves a lot to be desired but at least they don’t have problems with scoring.

Second attack in the league behind well oiled Manchester City has to mean something.

Tottenham test

Another month of fine tuning before next maturity test – London derby against high flying Tottenham. But this time Arsenal passed it, cum laude!

London derby fight

The Spurs were in red-hot form! After completely outplaying Chelsea the weekend before and doing the same to Inter in midweek no doubt Tottenham was the favorite. Especially considering Arsenal’s struggles when facing top opposition.

But Emery and his team learned their lesson by now! Relentless pressing, high line, and speedy attacks surprised Pochettinho’s men. Arsenal took control from the kick-off and never let it go.

Early lead was just reward for a strong start. It came from a penalty converted by Aubameyang after Vertonghen’s handball.

The mantra “who doesn’t score, concedes” once again proved correct. Totally against the run of play Tottenham equalized thanks to Eric Dier. And also Bernd Leno who let a seemingly innocuous header somehow squeeze in on the near post.

Gunners didn’t absorb equalizing shock when they were surpassed! Son was released on goal and brought down in the box. Penalty which Kane transformed without any issues!

Déjà vu! Arsenal playing and creating chances but unable to complete the job and paying the price. Just on the stroke of halftime.

New manager new story

This is not the same Arsenal anymore! This Arsenal has grown and knows how to react when punched in the face.

More importantly, has a manager who admits his mistakes and corrects them immediately.

London derby subs

Wasteful Iwobi and timid Mkhitaryan remained in the locker room. Decisive Ramsey and Lacazette joined the fight.

Within 10 minutes after the break result was there. Bellerin found Ramsey in space. The pass wasn’t perfect but the Welshman somehow managed to deflect it just enough to serve Aubameyang.

Aurier allowed Gabon striker just a few centimeters and it proved costly. Auba smashed the ball in the corner and reinstalled parity. Only in terms of result because Tottenham was dominated throughout the whole match.

Perhaps last two nearly perfect games took a huge physical and emotional toll on the Spurs. Could be that Emery surprised his counterpart with a propositive setting and 3 man defense.

Whatever it was it’s hard to believe that the same team dismantled one of the contenders just a week ago. Tottenham looked disinterested and lacking concentration in key moments.

Arsenal took advantage of another black-out in Hotspurs’ defense and with a bit of luck took the lead again.

Ramsey caught Foyth in possession on the halfway line and served fellow substitute Lacazette. The Frenchman adjusted the ball and with a slight deflection found the bottom corner.

To put the game beyond doubt this time the Gunners needed just additional few minutes. Torreira found himself facing Lloris and finished expertly to give the home side a 2 goal cushion.

London derby goal

With Tottenham not threatening too much little Uruguayan’s first goal in Premier League seal the deal.

London derby justified the expectations and served us a real spectacle. It’s a shame that only one team played to its potential. And let’s not forget the small matter of Ozil’s absence.

The other derby

Right after the London derby, another one was played in the Beatles’ city. Reds hosted Toffees.

With Everton pushing for high places after a few seasons in the wilderness, it was a balanced affair.
And when it looked that there will be no winner Everton’s best player decided otherwise. Unfortunately for Everton’s fans not to their likening.

Liverpool derby Pickford

Last Liverpool’s assault ended with Van Dijk slicing the shot on the edge of the box and the ball flew towards the goal in a looping trajectory.

Even the Dutch defender turned around to re-take his position before the ball was anywhere near Pickford. Everton’s keeper followed the flight closely and decided to catch the ball instead of punching it over the bar.

Intervention wasn’t successful as the ball was bouncing on the crossbar and refused to go out. Origi was as surprised as everyone seeing the ball falling on his head with no defenders around him and Pickford picking himself out of the net.

Such a gift won’t go to waste! The Belgian striker thanked and accepted.

This goal is even harder to explain then Tottenham’s performance.

Sorry United

Manchester United did it again! Disappointed his fans! Southampton is languishing in relegation zone and didn’t manage a single victory in its own back-yard this season.

United nearly allowed the hosts their first internal joy but for two Rashford moments of craft and served golden chances to Lukaku and Herrera.

Mourinho

True, Mourinho has great problems composing the defensive line however if Southampton can’t be beaten with a personnel crisis, who can?

As the world is upside down Mark Hughes was sacked after the game. Internal draw against one of the biggest clubs in the world!

Of course, we all know that the sacking was due to all other results, not his one. However, it makes an impression; relegation strugglers fire the managers after home draw against Manchester United!

United’s problems are much deeper than just lack of central defenders. In fact, Matić and McTominay didn’t do to bad in the back three with Jones. Problems are further up the field and particularly in midfield.

Pogba looks to be playing in a game of his own, Fellaini can jump and win headers. Herrera can run the extra mile but who’ll bring the ball in dangerous areas?

Why was Fred bought? If he can’t play against relegation candidates in full emergency when can?

And next opponent is in-form Arsenal. What will The Special One prepare for this game? We’ll find out very soon but I’m not sure United’s fans will be pleased.

Elsewhere

Manchester City continues with routine wins and Fulham with routine defeats. Albeit against redemption-seeking Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Ranieri

New manager Claudio Ranieri already proved that he can dig a team out of the abyss and lead it to glory. Fulham won’t repeat Leicester City’s fairy-tale but staying up is possible.

Newcastle and Huddersfield Town lost important matches at home against West Ham and Brighton respectively in salvation battle. Same did Burnley away to Crystal Palace.

No London derbies in Premier League’s midweek fixture, therefore, all eyes will be at Old Trafford for Arsenal’s visit.

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