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English Premier League

Changes required at Manchester City



Manchester City’s crushing 4-2 defeat at the hands of neighbours and fierce rivals Manchester United on Sunday demonstrates just how far City have fallen over the last 12 months, and is a clear indication that changes need to be made at the Etihad to ensure that City are in a position to challenge for the title again next season.

You don’t have to think back too far to when Manchester United and Louis Van Gaal were being vilified in the media. The former for being a shadow of the side that used to sweep all before them domestically, and the latter for being a clueless manager who had little more in his playbook than a hit and hope long-ball strategy that was anathema to all United had stood for over the last two decades.

Since then, the tables have turned. United are being praised in all corners for their confident style of play, and seem to have stumbled upon a winning formula on which they can build even further for next season. Van Gaal has gone back to being the tactical genius he was lauded as being in the media, before those same people turned against him and wrote him off as a managerial “has been” who belonged in the 90s. How quickly things change.

Manuel Pellegrini seems to be bearing the vast brunt of most of the criticism being cast towards his team, as seeing as he is the man who picks the players and devises the tactics, it is understandable as to why that is the case. However, to blame Pellegrini and Pellegrini alone would be folly and counter productive to City and what their owners are hoping to achieve. There are far more issues to be dealt with at City.

The first of these is that there is a distinct lack of style whenever the side plays. Of course, when you have an abundance of World Class talent at your disposal, occasionally everything will click nicely into place and the team will play beautiful football. This doesn’t happen often enough at City however, and the reason is that they play as eleven individuals rather than as a team. There is no style of playing that you can attribute to Manchester City. Arsenal play a possession based, neat passing game. Chelsea are solid, difficult to break down and quick on the counter attack, whilst Liverpool go for all out attack. Manchester United have been pilloried at times this season due to their perceived long-ball style of play. It may not be attractive, but at least it is a style that can be attached to them – albeit for parts of this season only. How do City play though? I can’t explain it myself. They are so reliant on individual brilliance that the team ethos suffers as a result.

Both Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho, usually at odds with each other and at one another’s throats, have agreed categorically that what matters most in football for success to be achieved is the team ethos. Both have stated that they believe too much importance is attached to individual brilliance in the modern game, and Manchester City is a nearly perfect example of how this is a fact.

Man for man, it is possible that City possess superior players to Chelsea. Chelsea however are a far superior team because they play as a team rather than a collection of individuals. When Jose Mourinho jettisoned Juan Mata two season’s ago, it was because he didn’t work enough for the team. He didn’t adhere to what was being asked of him by Mourinho. As a result, he was deemed surplus to requirements and sold to United. United play differently to Chelsea, and as such there is a place in their side for Mata. What City have done however is buy a squad of international calibre players, all of whom want and expect to be in the first team, and then demanded that they win every tournament they enter based purely on the fact that vast sums have been spent on them. If only it were that simple. What City should have done, and could still do, is develop a team. First of all, decide how it is you want the team to play. Work out the sort of players you need in order to have a team that can play the way you want them to, and then go out and get those players. Whether or not the owners will have the patience for this to happen is another matter, and I expect that Pellegrini will be shown the door and his replacement will be expected to perform the same juggling act in order to keep the players happy.

The players also need to take a long hard look at themselves. It was the Manchester derby, and Yaya Toure looked utterly disinterested and didn’t seem to be trying all that hard either. This is the same man who believed he was worthy of Ballon d’Or recognition last season. His efforts this season suggest that the Ballon d’Or shortlisters were right to leave him out. You get the sense with Toure – and I may be wrong here – that he is in it only for himself. He doesn’t care if the side is winning so long as he is getting the recognition and remuneration he deserves. He is not alone in that sense either.

There are also very few players in and around the City set-up who have City in their hearts. James Milner and Joe Hart are probably the only players there who understand what it means to play for City and what it means to the supporters to have the club do well. Vincent Kompany doesn’t lack any passion, but he has gone from calm and assuring presence to a snarling, aggressive calamity, more interested in bickering with referees and teammates than leading the side. Unfortunately, City have been let down by players who are happy to bask in the ambience of success, but want to disappear as soon as things get tough. Until that mindset changes, it doesn’t matter who the manager is.

Norwich City supporting, Anglo-Brazilian football fanatic. Pursuing a long held dream to become a football journalist. Husband to one, father to three


Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract

The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.

He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.

Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.

It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.

Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.

“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.

“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.

“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”

Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.

Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.

They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.

There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.

This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.

Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.

Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.

This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.

He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.

A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.

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Manchester United

Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line

The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.

Rob Meech



Luke Shaw
Photo: Getty Images

The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.

Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”

The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.

Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.

From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.

Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.

Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.

This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.

But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.

In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.

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English Premier League

Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week

The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.



Photo: Getty Images

With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.

Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.

In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.

Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.

The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.

Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.

This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.

If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.

Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.

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