September 18, 2019

Why Luis Enrique is the best man for the Barcelona hot seat

Posted on May 27, 2014 by in Champions League

A return ‘home’
Although Luis Enrique’s boyhood club was Sporting Gijón, it was at Barcelona that the 44-year-old not only experienced his best years as a player, but also enjoyed his first success as manager. Lucho played more than 300 times for Barça from 1996-2004, and in that period won seven major honours. A club like Barça, where the style and ideology is so important, needs someone who shares those values in the dugout. Enrique the player was a passionate, aggressive type who never relented in any challenge put at his door, and those were the values he took to Barça B when Guardiola personally referenced him for the role of manager.
With Barça B he gained promotion to the second division in the 2009/10 season, before leading the team to their record Segunda points haul (71) the next. Tata Martino’s inability to take on board the values preached in La Masia meant his battle to win hearts and minds was half lost before it had even begun, but Enrique just ‘gets it’ –wearing the captain’s armband from 2002-04 probably helped.
Management style
An article recently emerged in Spain dissecting what some Barça players had referred to as ancient methods used by Tata Martino. There should be no such problems with Enrique, who is a progressive coach, never willing to stagnate or settle for second best. His work on the fitness of the players could well be the most significant change he brings to the team, especially with Barça’s lethargic demeanour all too often negating their excellent footballing ability in the season just gone. Lucho is a believer in the physical and mental sides of the game leading to success, and he brings with him a coaching team that can revitalise even the most disbelieving of individuals.
Among them is Rafael Pol, a man who will work primarily on the fitness side of training. If those who have previously worked with him are to be believed, he could have startling results in a very short period of time. A leaner, meaner, tougher Barça will be the directive from day one.
Also noted by those who have worked with Enrique has been his ability to relate and identify with players, drawing on experiences from his own playing career, and building relationships steadily within a camp. Yet in terms of discipline Enrique is a hardliner, perhaps a nod to his time spent under the tough-to-please Louis van Gaal. He has shown a willingness to accept mistakes, but only if a desire to correct the error is evident.

Playing the right way
Enrique’s style borrows heavily from the Barça traditions, but he has also shown a desire to bring more variation and directness to his team’s play. With both Roma and Celta there were spells of easy-on-the-eye football, with slick combination play and fluid movement in attacking areas. Enrique has as much time for false nines as anyone, but he knows when to utilise a more direct style of play. Possession is of course key, and he’ll be looking to repeat the kind of figures he achieved with Barça B –an average 65.9% possession and 546 passes per match.
Rotations and innovation
With Celta, Enrique kept his squad on their toes and prevented his players from growing stale by picking a different XI nearly every week. It kept players fresh, and it also kept them hungry. His ability to judge games that aren’t going well and then offering a swift, decisive reaction also improved immeasurably over the course of the season with the Galicians. Barça need someone on the bench who can read the pattern of the game; they have a ridiculous amount of talent on the field but at times even the very best players need guidance. Enrique, the authoritarian, brings that to a team.
While operating with Celta’s smaller squad, there was little hesitance when it came to innovating, and several players found themselves progressing in a variety of roles they hadn’t previously encountered, let alone succeeded in. Levy Madinda, a central midfielder by trade, was used as an interior (the widest player in a narrow midfield). Rafinha meanwhile, blossomed in a wide right role, devastating opposition defences with his pace and willingness to carry the ball forward positively.
The Roma and Celta experiences
Roma is a stick regularly used to beat Enrique, but the truth is there were forces working against him from day one during his season with the Italian side. It was a case of the wrong man at the wrong time, and Roma needed stabilising rather than radicalising, as Enrique set out to do. At Celta we were reminded why Enrique was so highly rated in the first place. There he took a team that the previous season had only escaped relegation on the final day, to the verge of the European places.
After the club lost fan favourite and top scorer Iago Aspas to Liverpool, a state of depression hung over the club, but Enrique sought to bring in La Masia product Nolito to soften the blow. The 27-year-old former Benfica man did more than that, surpassing Aspas’s goal haul of the previous season.

The value of the cantera can never be overstated at Barça, and Enrique will most likely harness the youth academy better than most. When in Rome, Enrique made the decision to have the Giallorossi youth side train beside the first team on the same schedule and with the same system. This was done with the aim of promoting a better understanding between the youth side and first team, making the eventual jump a smoother process.
At Celta he was handed a squad of 24, with half produced in Madroa, Celta’s very own production line. Upon arrival he requested a dossier on Celta’s talent from top to bottom, and witnessed a slew of Juvenil A and B games before even taking charge of his first game with the full team. Enrique also handed out four debuts to players while at the club, and progressed Rafinha at a rapid rate that showcased the full level of his potential. The young Brazilian will be at Barça too next season, and his ambition could well propel him into the first team before long.


Stats Zone Premier League Striker of the Season 2013/14

Posted on May 27, 2014 by in English Premier League

Stats Zone Premier League Striker of 2013/14: Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Well, you weren’t really expecting anyone else now were you? Put simply, the Liverpool striker enjoyed one of the greatest individual seasons in Premier League history. The Uruguayan’s 31 goals in 33 games levelled the haul achieved by Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United in the 2007/08 campaign– albeit having played one game fewer.
Suarez wasn’t quite the sole source of Liverpool’s impressive title bid last season, but his explosive goal getting more than compensanted for the Reds’ woes at the other end. He even missed the first five games of the season after chomping Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic the previous term, but was utterly brilliantupon his return.
The Uruguayan’s finest game of the season is debatable, of course, but just try arguing his four-goal haul against poor Norwich at Anfield. His quadruple accounted for all but one of Liverpool’s goals on Merseyside in a 5-1 victory, and produced the only instance of a player netting as many in a game last term. Unsurprisingly, he also recorded the most shots on target of any player in a game (6), crafted the other goal for Raheem Sterling and carved out another 3 opportunities on top of that.

It’s about this time that we’re supposed to reel off the men who ran him close for the Stats Zone Striker of the Year gong, but realistically nobody else stood a chance.Daniel Sturridge’s 20-goal haul was a superb achievement for the man cast aside by Chelsea in January 2012, whileSergio Aguerowould have almost certainly ran Suarez close had injury not curtailed his blistering start to the campaign.If you’re interested, Hull’sYannick Sagbo was the striker (25+ games) who boasted the best shooting accuracy (78%);Olivier Giroud trailed Suarez’s 181 shots with 112;Peter Crouch won the most aerial duels (247), but Christian Benteke and Wilfried Bonynetted the most headed goals (5).

Thanks to


Stats Zone Premier League Games of the Season 2013/14

Posted on May 27, 2014 by in English Premier League

Most passes in a game: 1192
Arsenal 2-0 Hull City, 4 Dec 2013
For those who love what Xavi calls the “pum, pum, pum, pum” of passing, the place to be was the Emirates, back when the advent calendars remained relatively pristine. The Gunners, who scored in the second minute of each half, piled up 803 passes (721 completed), the Tigers a hardly shabby 305 of 389.

Fewest passes in a game: 544

Stoke City 2-1 Aston Villa, 21 Dec 2013
Less than a fortnight later, with the advent calendar a plundered shell and Christmas drunkenness all around, Stoke and Villa concocted the Premier League’s most pass-free game of the season. The Potters’ passing improved notably this season but they contributed just 186 completed passes (of 286) to this unseemly scrabble, while their guests were worse, with 158 out of 255. Might have been better to go Christmas shopping.

Most unblocked shots: 33
Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea, 3 Feb 2014
Shooooooot! The summit meeting at the Etihad, renowned in retrospect as a Mourinho masterclass in defence, actually provoked the highest total of unblocked shots, of which City had 19. The hosts’ problem was accuracy: of their 24 shots in total, only 3 were on target, whereas Chelsea got 6 of their 18 on target.

Most shots (inc. blocked): 44
Newcastle 0-3 Sunderland, 1 Feb 2014;
Sunderland 0-1 Everton, 12 Apr 2014
Heck of a season for the Mackems, who were also involved in the two matches with the most shots in total. Up the road at Newcastle, they won 3-0 despite only having 16 shots to their neighbours’ 28 (10 of which were saved by Stats Zone Awards Goalkeeper of the Season Vito Mannone). Just over two months later, they had their own barn-door day with 24 fruitless shots on Tim Howard’s goal; even Everton’s winner was an oggie off Wes Brown.

Fewest shots: 9
Aston Villa 0-0 Southampton, 19 Apr 2014
Strikers, look away. Southampton’s trip to Villa, which also produced the fewest unblocked shots (7), featured a home side who apparently couldn’t hit a cowshed with a brass band – looking at the Stats Zone screen, at least two of their six efforts may have produced throw-ins – and a Southampton side so timid that they restricted their three shots from an area the size of a tea towel.

Highest overall pass completion rate: 89.9%
Man United 3-1 Hull City, 6 May 2013
An evening of firsts (goalscoring debutant James Wilson) and lasts (final Old Trafford appearances for Nemanja Vidic and Ryan Giggs) also produced a pleasingly high percentage of accurate passing – and, as in the game at Arsenal which produced the most passes overall, Hull played their part. The Tigers completed 449 of their 511 passes, while the hosts connected with 583 of their 637. Well done, everybody.

Lowest overall pass completion rate: 62.7%
Stoke City 2-1 Aston Villa, 21 Dec 2013
You lot again?

Most fouls: 40
West Brom 0-1 Southampton, 17 Aug 2013
Maybe it was a refereeing directive that didn’t reach anyone but Kevin Friend. Or maybe this opening-day encounter was just as “scrappy” as almost every match report calls it. Whichever, when Mauricio Pochettino’s side turned up to face Steve Clarke’s Baggies, they acted like anything but Saints, committing 25 of the 40 fouls given by Friend. None of them mattered as much as one of the game’s last infractions – Youssouf Mulumbu’s 89th-minute foul on Luke Shaw which led to recent goalscoring England debutant Rickie Lambert striking from the spot.

Fewest fouls: 9
Manchester United 2-2 Fulham, 9 Feb 2013
One of the season’s most peculiar games, in which Rene Meulensteen returned to Old Trafford with a line-up best described as “solid” and Fulham escaped undefeated for only the second time in 51 years… somehow. The Cottagers produced as many fouls (6) as shots; at the other end, United used their 75.4% possession to rack up 31 shots and a startling 82 crosses… but still allowed Darren Bent to steal a point with an injury-time equaliser.

True cost of a Premier League season ticket in 2013/14

Posted on May 20, 2014 by in English Premier League

These comparison tables are a real eye opener. Man United are feeling the pain after so long at the top. Thanks for for this.

The annual Football Value League Table examines how much season ticket holders paid per win and per goal on home turf over the 2013/14 season.
Rivals United have taken a hit since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. After coming second in the Value League last year they have plummeted seven places in the table to 8th in 2013/14; their supporters paying £79.22 per home win, £35.45 more per win at home than they did last year.
After a disappointing season all round, Fulham are not only facing up to relegation but have also suffered the ignominy of coming bottom of the Value League. The Cottagers won just five of their league games at home in 2013/14 (26 per cent), meaning Fulham’s season ticket holders will have paid a whopping £128 for each win at Craven Cottage – or £26.67 for each goal.
Read on for the full information – and check out theChampionshipprices, too…

INFOGRAPHIC The true cost of a Championship season ticket

From: General

How UEFA will dictate Man Citys summer transfers

Posted on May 20, 2014 by in Champions League, Man City

Manchester City’s summer transfer dealings look set to be complicated. Even without the club’s€60 million fine and trimming of next season’s Champions League squad to 21 playersfor breaching Financial Fair Play regulations, Manuel Pellegrini already had enough plates to keep spinning with his current squad.
Firstly, he will need to resolve the uncertain futures of Edin Dzeko, Samir Nasri, Micah Richards, James Milner and Aleksander Kolarov, all of whom are all approaching the final 12 months of their current deals. Milner’s situation in particular could prove troublesome, after reports on Monday suggested that the England man could be keen to leave the Etihad this summer.
Dzeko is enjoying his most prosperous season for the club since joining from Wolfsburg for £27m in January 2011. He has compensated for the drastic loss of form experienced by Alvaro Negredo and there would be no shortage of takers should he become available. Samir Nasri, a £24m purchase, has also experienced a renaissance under Pellegrini after falling out of favour under Roberto Mancini. Both are believed to have commenced contract talks and the club will be keen to tie them down before the World Cup, where Nasri won’t be this summer.
Kolarov has provided stiff competition for Gael Clichy this term and Pellegrini appears to be a fan of the versatile Milner (which makes the 28-year-old’s unhappiness worrying). But Micah Richards has already stated his desire to leave for first-team football and resuscitate his international career. He has yet to feature under Roy Hodgson and, as things stand, is a long way from adding to his 13 England caps. Whether or not Richards will be allowed to leave depends on City’s ability to name eight English players in their next 25-man squad, which looks highly unlikely at present.

UEFA regulations state that all English clubs in European competition can name a maximum of 17 foreign players. City have space for one more and appear to have their heart set on Porto centre-back Eliaquim Mangala, who could well become a household name at the World Cup. Of their English contingent, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry (currently on loan at Everton) and Richard Wright (yes, he’s still there, look it up) are all set to depart when their contracts expire at the end of next month, Richards wants to leave, Milner too, while Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell remain on the periphery. That leaves Joe Hart.
So if you’re English or ‘home grown’, you know where to send your CV, because Manchester City will be forced to set their sights on players that spent at least three years over here during their formative years. It leaves Milner in a very strong position with regards to negotiating new terms on his £80,000-a-week deal, and may result in them holding on to Richards for another year before letting him leave for nothing in 2015. Now their Champions League squad has been cut, the need to sign players of a suitable standard is more pressing than padding out the squad with fringe players.
It also means they may have to part with some of their foreign players to make room for home grown players. Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley may tickle their fancy, but if they need to reinforce a different position and cannot identify a suitable candidate from these shores they will have to sell, buy a replacement for a player that does not require replacing, plus the player they actually require. So if they wanted to sign Bacary Sagna, who will see his Arsenal contract expire shortly and has been linked with a move to the Etihad, the move could involve a chain of four transfers to facilitate it; the Frenchman’s capture, the sale of Richards and one of their foreign players, then the signing of a home-grown replacement.
Their acclaimed academy may yet bail them out, but that would require fast tracking the likes of Marcos Lopes, Karim Rekik and Emyr Huws, and whether that would aid or hinder their development is another matter. However they decide to tackle the situation, they look set to endure a difficult summer. With no one to blame but themselves for the punishments and stipulations forced upon them, a lack of foresight would appear to be their toughest opponent in the near future.

From: General