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Is Carlos Carvalhal the right appointment for Swansea City?

Jake Jackman

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Carvalhal

Swansea City appointed Carlos Carvalhal as their new manager earlier this week in a move that surprised many, as it happened just days after he was sacked by Championship club Sheffield Wednesday. Leon Britton had been in temporary charge of the Swans, but he was never likely to secure the job on a full-time basis. The Welsh club are currently rooted to the bottom of the Premier League and their new manager will have a huge task to keep them in the top-flight.

Carvalhal joins on an initial contract to the end of the season with an option of an extension. This raises questions as to Swansea’s motivations of appointing the Portuguese manager. He doesn’t have any Premier League experience, which makes him an odd choice if the club’s aims are to remain in the division. If they were giving the job to him with the aim of staying up, but were prepared to keep him regardless of their fate this season, it would make sense. He would be the perfect man to lead the club after relegation due to his recent success in the Championship.

It could be that Swansea don’t want them to tie themselves up with a manager longer than six months due to their uncertain future. That would make sense, but it sends the wrong message to the dressing room as they are already hedging their bets with their new manager. Carvalhal’s stock has been hurt by his failure this season, as he left Sheffield Wednesday in 15th position after back-to-back play-off campaigns. That could be part of the reason for the contract, but the Portuguese manager has a wealth of experience and is a good appointment.

The new Swansea City manager has had a long and varied journey to the Premier League. He has managed 16 clubs before taking over at the Liberty Stadium and that wealth of experience will stand him in good stead to attempt his biggest challenge yet. Notable former clubs include Braga, Sporting Lisbon, Besiktas and Istanbul BB. Although he hasn’t managed in the Premier League, he has managed at big clubs and for that reason, it isn’t as big of a risk as many think it is.

During the start of his managerial career, he was very much a journeyman and he didn’t stay in jobs very long. He had 15 jobs in 14 years before taking over at Sheffield Wednesday and although he didn’t win many major trophies, there were some notable achievements. Carvalhal took third-tier Leixoes to the UEFA Cup after finishing runner-up in the Taca de Portugal. He later won the Taca da Liga with Vitoria Setubal and it was these accomplishments that saw him move up the coaching ladder.

Interestingly, he took nearly three years out of the game after leaving Istanbul BB and it looked like he could fade away from top-tier management. Then, Sheffield Wednesday came calling and gave him a great opportunity to enhance his reputation in England. Foreign managers aim to manage in the Premier League and in the current game, a stint in the Championship is useful in achieving that. Carvalhal is a great example of that and BBC Sport report quotes that suggest he believes he belongs at the highest level:

“I believe that me and my staff, our place is in the Premier League. It may be my first time in the Premier League, but I was working at Sporting, with Besiktas and I played with Braga in the Europa League.

“I am a coach that if you saw my profile I will change the club, you will see that.”

The Portuguese manager clearly believes that he has done his apprenticeship in this country and deserves a Premier League job. These comments display self-belief and that will go a long way in winning the dressing room over. During his time at Sheffield Wednesday, he developed a good team spirit and a style that suited the big games. Last season, his side did the double over Newcastle United, the team that would go on to win the division.

It was in the matches against the bottom-half teams that Wednesday struggled. In the Premier League, there are no ‘easy’ matches and that could suit Carvalhal. He will rarely be trying to break down a team determined to sit deep and it could be that a step up to manage a relegation-threatened team will suit him.

That said, his Wednesday team often played a physical style and it will be difficult to replicate with his new club. Carvalhal would set up in a 4-4-2 and look to focus the majority of attacks down the flanks. Fernando Forestieri was often the deeper of the front two and the player capable of producing a moment of magic to turn a game on his head. The rest of the team were functional and hard-working, with the flair being produced by the Argentine and the two wingers. In the Championship, it worked well. However, he won’t be able to do the same with Swansea City.

The Swans have a squad that doesn’t suit any one style of football. They have moved away from the possession-based style that saw them become so popular when they first arrived in the Premier League, but they haven’t got the players to thrive in the system Carvalhal used at Sheffield Wednesday. Their midfielders are too lightweight and their wingers don’t create enough for the strikers. Furthermore, they lack a creative spark like Forestieri to link the midfield and attack.

This is going to be an interesting period for Swansea City and Carvalhal. It is a risk to appoint a manager that has just been sacked by a Championship club, but the Portuguese manager has shown enough during his career to suggest he could do well in South Wales. He will need to find a new way of playing and it will be fascinating to see how he sets his team up. Many expect the Swans to be relegated and that means that the new manager has nothing to lose. This is a great opportunity for him and it is now up to him to prove he can cut it at the highest level.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Burnley

Burnley 0-1 Manchester United: Three talking points from Turf Moor

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

Anthony Martial scored the only goal of the game as Manchester United recorded their third consecutive victory by seeing off Burnley at Turf Moor. In a game devoid of end-to-end entertainment, the Frenchman struck in the 54th minute when his right-footed shot found the net via the underside of the crossbar.

Burnley tried in vain to force a leveller but could not find a way past David de Gea, as their winless run extended to seven Premier League matches. United, meanwhile, have maintained their grip on second spot but remain 12 points drift of runaway leaders Manchester City. Here are three talking points…

United pass another away-day test

Despite rumours of unrest at Old Trafford, United are now unbeaten in eight Premier League matches. While their hopes of reeling in Manchester City may be remote, Jose Mourinho’s men are red-hot favourites to finish as runners-up. That would be a huge improvement on last season – their first under Mourinho – where United finished sixth. It was only their success in the Europa League that guaranteed them a place in the Champions League.

The Red Devils are definitely progressing and the expected arrival of Alexis Sanchez would give them another dimension. In particular, their away form will please Mourinho. This was United’s fifth victory in their past six Premier League games on their travels, a run that is helping to keep the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool at bay.

Burnley is a notoriously tricky place to visit, but United withstood the physical threat of the hosts and just about had enough to claim all three points.

Burnley are feeling the effects

When looking at the table, Burnley’s position appears to be very comfortable. In eighth place and with 34 points to their name, the Clarets are all but guaranteed to be playing Premier League football again next season. That would have been manager Sean Dyche’s priority and he can feel satisfied with the job he has done.

Nonetheless, this is a difficult period for Burnley, who have not tasted victory since they beat Stoke City on December 12. Scoring goals has been their biggest problem, having drawn a blank in four of their seven-game winless  run. The Clarets are not renowned as being free-scoring – they have found the net only 19 times this season – and rely on a solid defensive foundation.

Perhaps the exertions of their promising start have taken their toll on a settled side. The challenge for Dyche, who had been linked with the Everton job during the height of Burnley’s success, is to ensure his players do not fall into the trap of thinking they have nothing to play for.

Martial is making rapid progress

The Frenchman began the campaign out of favour at United, but he has regained his place in the side thanks to a series of consistent performances. His output has been productive, too. His goal against Burnley was his third in a row, taking him to 11 for the season. Allied to his seven assists, Martial is beginning to fulfil his immense potential.

He cut a frustrated figure at being kept out of the starting XI by Marcus Rashford – there was even speculation he might be on his way out of Old Trafford. But Martial said all the right things publicly and is no longer in the ‘supersub’ category. Competition for places will only intensify if and when Sanchez’s switch from Arsenal is completed.

But the former Monaco starlet should not fear the Chilean’s arrival, but relish it. He has proved he can be a trustworthy player for United. Like Luke Shaw, he is another to have benefited from some stern words from Mourinho, who will soon have an embarrassment of attacking riches to call upon.

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Bournemouth

West Ham 1-1 Bournemouth: Three talking points from the London Stadium

Rob Meech

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Hernandez
Photo: Reuters

West Ham United and AFC Bournemouth extended their respective unbeaten runs with a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium. Both clubs have climbed away from the relegation zone in recent weeks and this was a keenly-fought encounter between two evenly-matched sides.

Following a goalless first half, the Cherries broke the deadlock through Ryan Fraser after a breakaway, only for Javier Hernandez to equalise for the hosts 64 seconds later. A share of the spoils was a fair reflection and means West Ham and Bournemouth, 11th and 12th respectively, have identical records from the past six Premier League matches. Here are three talking points…

Future looks bright for both clubs

Just a month ago, the outlook was markedly different for both West Ham and Bournemouth. At Christmas, the Cherries were in the bottom three and the Hammers were not much better off. But the eventful 3-3 draw between these two teams on Boxing Day proved to be the start of an unbeaten run for each, which has given both real hope of avoiding relegation.

Such is the congested nature of the bottom half that it only takes a couple of victories to change the complexion on the table. Both clubs have won two and drawn three of their previous five fixtures, which has been enough to put clear daylight between themselves and the drop-zone.

This game, much like the corresponding fixture at the Vitality Stadium, suggests neither West Ham nor Bournemouth should be in serious trouble at the end of the campaign – if they can maintain their form. Equally though, David Moyes and Eddie Howe will be aware that complacency is not an option.

Impressive Fraser continues his resurgence

Bournemouth’s upturn in results since Christmas has coincided with a revitalised Fraser. The Scottish winger, affectionally known as ‘Wee Man’ by Cherries supporters, now has three goals and one assist in his past four appearances. His finishing has noticeably improved this season and he took his goal against West Ham with aplomb, firing the ball past Adrian after a defence-splitting pass from the returning Junior Stanislas.

Furthermore, Fraser’s improved stamina has enabled him to be effective for longer. Previously, the 23-year-old began to flag towards the latter stages and he was often replaced. But a better diet has paid dividends this campaign and he is rapidly becoming a key figure for Howe. Fraser has pace to burn and a directness that gives the team something different. Now though, he is having a real impact in games and his five Premier League goals are second only to Callum Wilson in the scoring charts.

Can West Ham afford to let Hernandez leave?

Speculation has surfaced in the past few days that Moyes may be willing to sell Hernandez, who only joined the club last summer. His arrival under Slaven Bilic was hailed as a real coup, but he has fallen down the pecking order since Moyes took the reins, with the former Manchester United supremo preferring Marko Arnautovic up top.

Hernandez though, has a creditable career goalscoring record and underlined his predatory instinct at the London Stadium. Only a minute after the Hammers had gone behind, the Mexican popped up in the right place to poke the ball past Asmir Begovic. It was Hernandez’s fifth Premier League goal of the season, all of which have been scored from inside the penalty area.

With Andy Carroll expected to be sidelined for a month through injury, West Ham’s striking resources would be depleted further if Hernandez is allowed to leave. While he may not offer much outside the box, as he illustrated against Bournemouth that he is the ideal man to call on when a goal is needed.

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Arsenal

Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace: Three talking points from the Emirates

Rob Meech

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Arsenal
Photo: Reuters

A barnstorming first-half performance against Crystal Palace saw Arsenal record their first victory of 2018. Nacho Monreal, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny and Alexandre Lacazette all scored in the opening 22 minutes to stun Crystal Palace. Arsenal could not add to their tally as the visitors stemmed the bleeding and replied with a late consolation through Luka Milivojevic.

This was a much-needed victory for Arsenal, whose ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League have taken a blow in recent weeks. Palace meanwhile, have been in impressive form since Roy Hodgson took charge, but this defeat has checked their progress. Here are three talking points from the Emirates…

Mesut Ozil steps up in Alexis Sanchez’s absence

With Alexis Sanchez’s move to Manchester United rumoured to be nearing completion, this was a chance for Arsenal supporters to see how the team might shape up without him. Sanchez was excluded from the side that lost to Bournemouth last weekend, but his absence was hardly felt here.

That might have had something to do with the return of Mesut Ozil from injury. The Germany international was influential throughout, particularly in partnership with the rejuvenated Jack Wilshere. Ozil is sometimes accused of drifting in and out of games against top-quality opposition, but when he is given licence to express himself without defensive responsibility, there are few better players to watch in the Premier League.

Although he failed to get on the scoresheet, Ozil showed Gunners fans that there can be life after Sanchez. It should not be forgotten that Ozil is another Arsenal player in the final six months of his contract. Tying him down to a new deal must be a priority for the club.

A reality check for lacklustre Palace

After losing their first seven Premier League matches – without scoring a goal in the process – relegation seemed nailed on for Palace. The appointment of Hodgson was largely derided, but the former England boss has had a remarkable impact in a relatively short space of time at Selhurst Park.

Survival is by no means guaranteed, but such has been their upturn in form that it is hard to imagine the Eagles being sucked back into trouble. It says a lot about their progress that many thought an upset might have been on the cards. Palace, however, were left shell-shocked after Arsenal’s four-goal burst.

When the Gunners click, they can be irresistible. Palace fans need not be too alarmed, even if their defending was lax. In fact, they should be heartened that their players did not capitulate in the second period, with the game effectively over. Although Milivojevic’s goal was too, little too late, it was just reward for a much-improved second-half performance.

Lacazette issues a timely reminder 

With a 3-0 advantage after just 13 minutes, Arsenal were in cruise control. But it was Lacazette’s goal, rounding off a superb team move to make it 4-0, that would have provided the biggest cheer. After hitting the ground running following his big-money transfer from Lyon last summer, the 26-year-old had endured a goal drought that stretched all the way back to December 2.

With questions being asked about his form, amid speculation that Arsenal are set to launch a raid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, this was a timely reminder that Lacazette has plenty to offer. His overall record of nine Premier League goals from 24 appearances is more than respectable for a newcomer to the English game.

Lacazette will hope that his goal against Palace can be the catalyst for another scoring run. Without Sanchez, the burden rests more heavily on the France international and if a move for Aubameyang does not materialise, he will have a big part to play in Arsenal’s push for the top four.

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