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Manchester City’s French connection – a danger to English football?

The Boot Room

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It’s scary to think that it’s not far off ten years since the once perennial underachievers of the Premier League, Manchester City, were changed completely. Investment from oil-rich Qatar meant that suddenly £30million signings, like the deadline day arrival of Robinho, were no longer a dream or a result of cheating on Football Manager.

It changed everything; the Sky Blues are now awash with cash, trophies, star players and are no longer seen as city neighbours United’s little brothers; they’re now arguably the best team in Manchester.

Yet one thing at the club has perhaps suffered despite Sheikh Mansour’s incredible investment; the Academy. Before the hundreds invested, the Citizens had reached two FA Youth Cup finals in 2006 and 2008, featuring the now-departed Liverpool star Daniel Sturridge and Burnley right-back Kieran Tripper amongst their ranks, with the class of 2006 having all British and Irish players.

Now, with the departure of Micah Richards back in the summer to Fiorentina, the City squad has just the one academy graduate with any first team involvement; Juan Angel Pozo, who was bought from Real Madrid for £2.4m, so hardly a story of local boy done good.

 The added investment has brought many things, but the fact is that it has so far been at the expense of Manchester City’s youth system, which used to churn out several players for the squad from the nearby area and perhaps understood the club more than the salaries on offer.

It could get worse, too. The Independent are reporting that Manchester City are looking to expand the number of affliations and partnerships across the world with a partnership with Ligue Un side St Etienne, to take advantage of Les Verts renowned youth system.

That is a worrying thought for English football, never mind the youth of Manchester. The fact that one of England’s heavyweights now look to hoover up the best talent from Central France instead of the many thousands up and down the country is something to be criticised, not praised.

After the whole debacle of Frank Lampard and the newly born New York City, not to mention Melbourne City’s completely changed kit colours, City are now looking to stretch their financial muscle to turn St Etienne, record winners of the French top flight, into something akin to a nursery.

It does make sense for Manchester City though, with the likes of Napoli’s Faouzi Ghoulam, Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma and Swansea’s Bafetimbi Gomis all notable graduates, adding to players like Laurent Blanc, Michel Platini and Blaise Matuidi who have spent time at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

But the fact remains once again the pathway for homegrown talent at Manchester City will be blocked not just by foreign imports costing big money, but by youth players from abroad too.

The report also mentions that players from Manchester City can spend time at the French side too, but then that begs the question of whether fans of Les Verts would want to see the team they watch every week having a number of City-owned players in it.

With all due respect, Ligue Un is not one of Europe’s major leagues, and I expect that deep down the fans at St Etienne would know that it is difficult to keep their best players, either from Paris or Monaco in France, or from bigger clubs abroad once those players have outgrown the Geoffroy-Guichard pond.

But what they shouldn’t accept is the players from their highly respected academy should be snatched from them before they’ve even had a sniff of the first team in France before being lured away.

Many would point to the Pozzo regime at Watford, Udinese and Granada, arguing that just because that is a trio of smaller clubs doesn’t make it any better.

However, the Pozzo family use the trio’s links for the clubs benefit, whilst making sure that despite the imports from Italy into Hertfordshire, it does not come at the neglect of the Academy at The Hornets and make the path into first team football at Vicarage Road that much harder.

The report argues that the senior figures at the Etihad are of the opinion that the u21 Premier League is not strong enough to help the players in their academy develop, and that Ligue Un represents a better finishing school, a bit like Arsenal have done with fellow French side Lorient.

But why couldn’t they look to loan out their players to the Championship or smaller Premier League sides; a season at Burnley to help them adapt to Premier League football, for example.

And whilst that idea is a good point, it shouldn’t come at the detriment of the youth players already at Eastlands, nor using one of France’s finest clubs as a reserve team.

The Boot Room is a football analysis website, bringing original and creative content to the fans of the English Football League.

Manchester City

Manuel Pellegrini’s poor China record should give West Ham cause for concern

The Chilean international looks set to join the Hammers.

Max Cohen

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Pellegrini
Photo: Getty Images

As Manuel Pellegrini inches closer to being named West Ham United’s new manager, many have applauded the potential appointment of a Premier League-winning boss.

With spells at some of the world’s most successful clubs, the Chilean is certainly an impressive acquisition for the Hammers.

Yet Pellegrini’s most recent coaching assignment has been nothing short of mediocre, a sign that should slightly worry West Ham supporters.

Pellegrini officially left Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune on Saturday, after just under two years at the club.

The Chilean was appointed in August 2016 and registered an unspectacular record at the club.

Pellegrini’s first season ended with Hebei in fourth position, yet the club missed out on AFC Champions League qualification by one place.

This year, the team has taken a dramatic step back in the opening months of the season.

(Photo by Geoff Caddick/Getty Images)

Under Pellegrini’s management, Hebei China Fortune currently sit eighth out of the 16-team Chinese Super League.

The side has only picked up just 15 points from 11 matches to date, a disappointing return considering Pellegrini has talents such as Ezequiel Lavezzi, Hernanes, and Gervinho at his disposal.

As the Chinese Super League is a far less important and internationally relevant league than La Liga or the Premier League, Pellegrini can perhaps be forgiven for not taking his job as seriously as his past assignments at Malaga, Real Madrid, and Manchester City.

Yet, his Chinese struggles are worrying nonetheless, as ideally West Ham supporters would like to be acquiring the services of a manager who enjoyed success at his most recent club.

In all, the ex-Manchester City manager still has a Premier League title to his name, a fact that makes his recent tough spell in Asia less concerning.

Nevertheless, Manuel Pellegrini’s underwhelming time at Hebei China Fortune reveals that the manager still possesses flaws and should not be expected to work immediate wonders at West Ham.

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Manchester City

Record-breaking Manchester City show Pep Guardiola was right not to change his philosophy

The Spaniard won his first Premier League title in swashbuckling style.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

When Pep Guardiola was appointed as manager of Manchester City in the summer of 2016 it is fair to say that his arrival was met with a mixed reaction throughout British football.

First, there was obvious excitement throughout the blue half of Manchester. Guardiola was widely regarded one of the best managers of his generation after trophy-laden spells with Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

He was renowned for the exciting, possession-based style of play that he implemented and the team that he built at the Nou Camp at the start of the twenty-first century produced some of the best football of the modern era.

Then there were the sceptics – and there were plenty of them. The comments were predictable and filled with clichés, unevidenced assumptions and meaningless jargon.

It was suggested that Guardiola had only won trophies with clubs where the race for the title was a two-horse race at best and that he had always inherited world-class players.

Furthermore, it was claimed that the Spaniard’s total-football philosophy would never work in the hustle and bustle of English football.

His technical style of play would come unstuck in the so-called ‘best league in the world’ and would not be effective on a cold, wet Tuesday night at places like Stoke City in front of a tribal, raucous home support.

In his debut season with Manchester City some of the negative predictions appeared to be coming true.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Despite winning all of their opening 10 games of the season under Guardiola, City experienced a poor run of form during the Christmas period that left them trailing their title rivals.

The team were unpredictable and inconsistent during the second half of the campaign and heavy defeats against Everton (4-0) and Leicester City (4-2) left many onlookers wondering if Guardiola had finally been sussed.

The Spaniard never shied away from the critics and he staunchly defended his philosophy despite some poor results and vowed that he would not change his style of play.

City finished the season without a trophy and the sceptics went into the summer proclaiming how they had correctly predicted Guardiola’s failure.

What a difference a year can make.

City’s last-gasp victory against Southampton on the final day of the season rounded off what has been a record-breaking campaign in which Guardiola’s team have swept aside all before them in the Premier League.

The list of achievements is remarkable.

City this season have set new records for most consecutive wins (18), most goals scored (105), most wins (32), most away points won (16), most points (100), the biggest goal difference (+79) and the biggest points gap (19).

Suddenly the sceptics are beginning to look incredibly foolish.

In truth, it is hard to remember a campaign in the modern era where one team has been dominant from start to finish in the way that City have been. Furthermore, not only have the won, but they have won with style.

Guardiola’s playing philosophy has clicked over the last twelve months, undoubtedly aided by effective recruitment during the summer, and the team have played with flair, energy, creativity, pace and innovation.

Opponents, barring perhaps Liverpool, have simply not found any way to combat City’s free-flowing football.

(Photo by Paul Ellis/Getty Images)

Critics will still point to an early exit in the FA Cup against Wigan Athletic, where City played most of the game with ten men, and defeat in the Champions League to Liverpool, where a poor first half at Anfield effectively ended the tie before it had begun, but the success of Guardiola’s style of play is undoubted.

No one is suggesting that the Spaniard needs to alter his philosophy to meet the demands of the English game anymore.

Instead, it is English football that will need to change in order to meet the challenge of Guardiola’s football revolution.

The concern for other Premier League clubs is that City are threatening to establish themselves as the new dominant force in the domestic game. There is nothing to indicate that Guardiola or the team that he has assembled will be loosening their grip on the Premier League trophy any time soon.

The future is bright. Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, John Stones, Leroy Sane, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Aymeric Laporte and Ederson are all under the age of 26. This is a group of players that is still improving and will be hitting the peak years of their career over the next half-a-decade.

Manchester City’s success this season is just the start of what could turn into a period of unrivaled dominance, further underlining that Guardiola was right not to change his philosophy.

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English Premier League

With or without David Moyes, West Ham should target his former player John Stones

West Ham would be wise to swoop on the apparently fragile status of Stones’ Man City career.

Mathew Coull

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Back in 2013 then-Everton boss David Moyes secured the signature of a very highly rated young Yorkshireman named John Stones. The Everton manager signed the teenager from Barnsley for a fee reported by the BBC to be in the region of £3 million.

The same report suggested Everton fended off interest from the likes of Chelsea, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Manchester City and Wigan Athletic to complete the deal.

Soon enough Stones started earning rave reviews among the Everton fanbase but Moyes himself never got much chance to work with the defender. Moyes left Everton for Manchester United just six months after signing Stones. The youngster then went on to become a regular in the Everton and England defence, eventually earning a move to Manchester City – reportedly worth £47.5 million, according to Sky Sports.

(Photo credit should read Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

But this summer, should Moyes consider trying to sign Stones once again.

Despite making big improvements to his game at Manchester City, Stones looks like he could leave The Etihad this summer. The champions signed French defender Aymeric Laporte in the winter and Stones currently finds himself fourth-choice centre-back at the club.

In order to continue improving and maintain his place in the England starting XI, the defender needs to be playing regular football. Moyes, now manager at West Ham United, has the opportunity to offer him just that.

Of course, much of this depends on whether West Ham retain Moyes as manager which, according to The Telegraph, looks increasingly unlikely.

Moyes would no doubt be a big lure for Stones if West Ham were to make a move for the player, clearly as a loan deal considering the vast sum necessary to pry him from City.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

But even if Moyes does go, West Ham should try and bring the England man to the London Stadium.

He could offer a brilliant ball-playing option at the back that West Ham fans would greatly appreciate. His experience of playing at a higher level could also be vital for the development of talented Irishman Declan Rice and in a back-three, often West Ham’s recent choice, Stones is a brilliant central defender.

So, with or without Moyes at West Ham, Stones should be on the radar for the London club this summer.

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