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Manchester City: A crucial summer for Txiki



Manchester City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain is under pressure this summer to deliver world-class signings, something that he has so far largely failed to achieve during his time with the club.

The former Barcelona director was brought to the club to help secure the very best world football had to offer. Of course, Financial Fair Play has played its part in slowing down City’s rate of spending, although the club has still spent plenty of money since Begiristain took the position in October 2012.

Garry Cook who, in conjunction with Brian Marwood, was responsible for signings in the pre-Txiki era. At that time City may have paid over the odds to secure players, something they are no longer willing to do with such frequency, but Cook was never afraid to shoot for the moon. He frequently showed supporters the ambition the club had and the direction it was being driven.

Cook did however make several embarrassing faux pas, at a City awards dinner he inducted Uwe Rosler into the Manchester United hall of fame, he accused Milan of ’’bottling it’’ over the failed pursuit of Kaka, and worst of all, he exchanged thoughtless emails with Marwood regarding the illness Nedum Onuoha’s mum was battling, for which he quite rightly paid with his job.

He was however responsible for bringing in players that largely still form City’s first team squad. A squad that has not really progressed since the summer of 2011 when Sergio Aguero, the club’s last truly world class acquisition, was signed from Atletico Madrid just a few months before Cook left the club. Since then, several transfer windows have been decidedly underwhelming. Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair came and went without impact, Nastasic has now left the club, much to the annoyance of many supporters, and players such as Stevan Jovetic, Fernando,Willy  Caballero and Bacary Sagna have all failed to make much of an impression.

Although the club finished last season second in the Premier League, they were quite some way behind Chelsea and even though the gap ended up being just eight points Jose Mourinho’s men won the title at a canter. The fact that both sides were level on New Years day before a run of eight defeats in 15 games ensured that City fell away quite spectacularly. For that reason Manuel Pellegrini is perhaps fortunate to still be in the job. Some will say that the club recognised the poor support in the transfer market he has been given, the squad has not been rejuvenated properly and therefore he should be given another season. Others will point to Pep Guardiola’s 2016 contract expiry as the real reason for the Chilean retaining his position as Etihad chief, for another year at least.

Pellegrini spoke of the need for the club to buy world-class ’’crack’’ players, ’’that give you a kind of ascendancy, status’’ he explained during an interview given with the Manchester Evening News in March.

Blues Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak echoed this sentiment during his end of season address. Put simply and eloquently he explained the need for the club to invest wisely, ’’you will see us in the market bringing in high-quality individuals that fit within what we are aspiring to,’’ he said.

He also spoke of the Blues being an, ’’attractive proposition for players’’, for more reasons than just the money being offered. There will be inevitably be departures and although Al Mubarak stated the need to keep the nucleus of the squad together, he did concede that, ’’there are some players who have served us well. Maybe it’s time for them to move to their next challenge.’’ There have been plenty linked with the Etihad exit door. The futures of first team players such as Jovetic, Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri are still yet unresolved.

City’s top three transfer targets are Raheem Sterling, Paul Pogba and Kevin De Bruyne, according to general consensus. Two bids have been lodged for Sterling, both have been rejected by Liverpool and it remains to be seen of the Blues will lodge a third.

Rumours continue to circle concerning Real Madrid’s Isco, although after the arrival of Rafa Benitez at the Bernabeu, and after supposed assurances of a first team spot, his future is less clear.

Boss Pellegrini and Txiki were spotted at the Copa America, most likely to check on potential transfer options, but knowing who is on their radar is difficult to predict. This is a new City, less brash and public with its pursuits, one that keeps its cards close to the chest.

The home-grown quota will have to be addressed after the departures of Frank Lampard, James Milner, Dedryck Boyata and Scott Sinclair, which in part might be contributing to City’s pursuit of Raheem Sterling as well as a possible move for Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, should the audacious move for Paul Pogba not materialise.

A possible move for Barcelona’s Alex Song, who would count as a home-grown player, has also been mooted although City face competition from Chelsea and West Ham United for the midfielders signature. The club also appears to be closing in on the signing of highly rated Fulham starlet Patrick Roberts, although it is likely the winger would spend a year out on loan at a championship side or with the EDS under the guidance of Patrick Viera.

There is hope however that the answer could come from within the current set-up. According to the Manchester Evening News three players are about to make the jump to the first team. Jason Denayer and Marcos Lopes, who impressed last season whilst on-loan at Celtic and Lille respectively, and Kelechi Iheanacho could also play a role in the first team squad after making a superb impact for the EDS last season.

This is a crucial window for the club and with other teams looking to strengthen City cannot fall behind. If Txiki fails to pull off the ’’crack’’ signings required, it could be his last in Manchester.

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Manchester City fan and UWE mature student. Fortunate enough to have witnessed Georgi Kinkladze light up Maine Road and David Silva's magic at the Etihad.

English Premier League

After shock international call is Antonee Robinson a future Everton star

The defender has been in good form for Bolton Wanderers this season.



Bolton Wanderers have recently seen one of their players called up to international duty for the first time. Antonee Robinson has been included in the senior USA squad for the upcoming fixture against Paraguay

The left-back was born in Milton Keynes but his father is from New York state so qualifies for the USMNT. Robinson has previously played for the USA under-18 side and received a call-up to the under-20s but this is his first senior call.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – APRIL 10: Marcus Edwards of Tottenham Hotspur battles with Antonee Robinson of Everton during the Premier League 2 match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on April 10, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

For Everton fans, it will be a sign of the excellent work he has been putting in with the Championship strugglers. Robinson is on a season long loan at the Macron Stadium from Everton.

The 20-year-old has been a revelation for the Trotters, performing brilliantly and featuring in 26 league games this campaign. Despite recently losing his place to the more experienced Andrew Taylor it has been an excellent campaign for Robinson.

Everton must be keeping track of his development, especially considering that left-back is a position that they need to improve.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – MARCH 10: Leighton Baines of Everton looks on prior to the Premier League match between Everton and Brighton and Hove Albion at Goodison Park on March 10, 2018 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

This season has seen Cuco Martina play out of position to fill the role. Leighton Baines is still an excellent operator, as he is shown since his return from injury. The issue however is that Baines seems to be picking up injuries on far to regular a basis for Everton’s liking.

Robinson therefore could be the answer on the long-term. There has been talk of Everton diving into the transfer market to fill the role but in the 20-year-old the Toffees have a potential long-term replacement.

Everton have a long history of bringing through young talent and at the moment have a queue of youngsters knocking at the first-team door.

One of those players is Robinson. Considering the problem area that is left-back, it should not be ruled out that Robinson is a potential solution to Everton’s positional trouble.

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Tieumoue Bakayoko disappoints again for Chelsea against Leicester City

The Frenchman looked to struggle against his FA Cup opponents.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Tieumoue Bakayoko was one of the big-name signings for Chelsea during the summer as the club tried to push on under Antonio Conte after their Premier League triumph.

The Frenchman had been a standout player for AS Monaco during their surprise Ligue 1 winning campaign and cost the Blues a reported £40 million.

Although they are one of the richest clubs in the world, that remains a big spend and they would have been expecting a first-team ready player.

That hasn’t been the case as Bakayoko has struggled to adapt to English football and has found himself sidelined for Danny Drinkwater on several occasions.

The England international is an experienced Premier League player, but he was brought in to provide cover. It is a worry that he has been performing better than the player brought in to partner N’Golo Kante.

(Photo by Adrian Dennis/Getty Images)

Chelsea managed to qualify for the semi-final of the FA Cup with an extra-time victory over Leicester City. However, Bakayoko was underwhelming once again after being brought back into the starting eleven.

He lasted until half-time before being replaced by Cesc Fabregas. During the first half, the Blues were too predictable in central midfield as neither player offered creativity from deep.

Wilfred Ndidi was arguably the best player in that area of the pitch as he dominated Bakayoko and Kante for the first-half.

The summer signing from Monaco was booked just before the break and didn’t re-emerge for the second-half. It was another disappointing performance from him as he failed to take the opportunity provided by Antonio Conte.

During the match, Bakayoko had a tackle success rate of 33% and he failed to make a single key pass to influence proceedings in the attacking half.

It was obvious that he was lacking in confidence as he often chose the simple pass and wasn’t as aggressive as the Leicester midfield players that he was competing with.

As the season has progressed, central midfield has emerged as an area of weakness for Chelsea. They often play with two defensive-minded midfielders and that makes them predictable to play against.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Last season, Nemanja Matic was more dynamic in central areas and he wasn’t afraid to step into the attacking half to contribute to attacks. The decision to sell him to a rival club now looks a huge mistake as the Blues are less effective in the middle of the park.

It was hoped that Ross Barkley would provide more energy to that position, but he has struggled with injuries since moving to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have a difficult task to save their season, as they must finish in the top four and lift the FA Cup to restore pride.

Bakayoko needs to have a strong end to his season if he is to prove himself worthy of another chance next season. There is likely to be a new manager at Stamford Bridge with Antonio Conte’s position looking more untenable by the day.

A managerial change will lead to a squad overhaul and the 23-year-old will be one of the first to go. He doesn’t offer anything different to Kante and his compatriot is far superior in every area.

His most ardent supporters will allude to his inexperience and suggest that he needs to be given more time. However, when watching him against the 21-year-old Ndidi, it became clear that he isn’t good enough for a club like Chelsea. He was outclassed and outbattled by his younger opponent.

Since Roman Abramovich bought the club, there have been several mistakes made in the transfer market. The decision to sell Matic and sign Bakayoko was another.

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Junior Stanislas winner cliches Premier League survival for Bournemouth

The Cherries came from behind to beat West Brom on Saturday.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Bournemouth fought back from 1-0 down to secure a vital three points against West Bromwich Albion, as they took a huge step towards Premier League survival.

It wasn’t the best performance from the Cherries, but one player to standout was Junior Stanislas. The winger has been in good form during recent weeks and scored the winning goal on Saturday with a superb free-kick from range.

The 28-year-old is reaching the peak years of his career and he will want to be a regular starter in the top-flight. Bournemouth are a good fit for him, as there are no superstars and the team is greater than the sum of its parts. There are sprinklings of quality throughout and Stanislas is one of the players that can produce moments of brilliance on the pitch.

During the second half of the season, he has been one of the key attacking elements for Bournemouth. He has scored four goals in his last seven Premier League matches, but the one on Saturday was the most important of those as it was directly responsible for the win.

There were only minutes remaining and the chance came from a free-kick that was a long way out. Stanislas showed great confidence to take a shot and the resulting goal will go down as one of the best in his career to date.

(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

The overall performance from Stanislas was a positive one, as he worked hard and contributed in both halves of the pitch from the left wing. The 28-year-old completed two dribbles and made one key pass during the contest, while his pass completion rate was 80%.

He was effective in possession and rarely gave the ball away, which aided the team’s attacking play. In addition to his goal, the winger offered a threat for the entire game and had four attempts on goal. This was the joint-most of any player on the pitch.

Eddie Howe demands total commitment from his players and everyone is expected to contribute to the defensive effort. Stanislas certainly did that on Saturday as he completed both of his attempted tackles. It is important for the wingers to work back and help their full-backs in a 4-4-2 formation. Both Stanislas and Jordon Ibe did their bit for the team.

With their victory over West Brom, Bournemouth moved into the top ten of the Premier League and sit on 36 points. That should put an end to their relegation worries, as they are eight points clear of the bottom three with only seven matches left to play. Although the Cherries have been in the top-flight for three seasons now, it remains a huge achievement to stay in the division given the size of the club.

The success has been due to the team spirit and players stepping up to the highest level. Stanislas is a great example of that, as he has spent the majority of his career in the Football League. He helped Bournemouth get promoted and has continued to improve since the club arrived in the Premier League. Now he is one of the Cherries’ best players and moments like his goal on Saturday reflect that.

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