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What It Says About Football if Pogba Goes To Man City



When, as young boys or girls, we dreamed of playing professional football, the chances are that most of us dreamed of playing for the same teams.  Aside from our local team (or whatever team our families made sure we were brainwashed into following), I bet most of you reading this will have thought of the same list of ‘footballing royalty’ for whom it would be a dream come true to play.  I am, of course, talking about the likes of Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.  It’s natural that there would be some variation in this list – the 1990s made up the majority of my childhood and so there were some clubs who achieved that dream-like status for me, such as Borussia Dortmund and Parma, who have since faded – but, in the main, the glamour clubs remain timeless and aren’t defined by era.

You would think therefore, that 22 year-old Paul Pogba would be relishing the thought of playing for any of the clubs listed above.  Indeed, it could even be argued that, in Juve, he’s already playing for one of the European elite, a team who look on their way back to the top after a more than tumultuous decade.  The young Frenchman is the hot topic of the transfer world this summer, with almost all of the above clubs having been linked with securing his services in recent weeks.  According to recent reports, Barca are front runners for his signature but there is another, potentially more disappointing option that seems to remain open to the former Manchester United player.

That option is Manchester City.  When I describe it as disappointing, I don’t mean for Pogba, I mean for the rest of us.  There’s no doubt that City could blow any of the other competition out of the water when it comes to finances, with the transfer fee needing to exceed £70 million to prize the midfielder from Turin, if reports are to be believed.  But what would Pogba going to Man City really mean for the world of football?  When the true greats of the game are offering the youngster everything he could wish for, why would he choose to go to the Etihad instead?

The answer is simple – money.  I’m not naive – most players are driven by money in what can be a short and fleeting career – but when the calibre of clubs chasing Pogba face being snubbed by a club with so little history in comparison, where does that leave us?  If Pogba went to Barca, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, for example, he’d be guaranteed domestic titles and being part of the challenge to secure the Champions League.  Even in England, it could be argued there are better options available to him, with Chelsea possibly proving more likely to secure silverware under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.  And let’s face it, even if finances were Pogba’s primary motivation, he’d hardly be on the bread line at any of these clubs.

The possibility that Pogba could end up playing for the blue half of Manchester, turning down the great and good of European football in the process, would only confirm what so many of us have feared about the game of football.  Where tradition, passion and ambition to win prizes once drove the world’s top players, a transfer of this kind would make the strongest statement yet that financial gain is becoming the main motivating factor for today’s young prodigies.  We don’t even need to look further than our own shores to see a prime example of this – Raheem Sterling’s contract dispute with Liverpool has been well documented.  There is, of course, the argument that the young England international turned down £100,000 a week for reasons more than money, but with little evidence of a feasible alternative as to why he would turn down such a deal, many can’t help but think this is just the latest example of a young player not knowing when he ‘has it good’ and being satisfied to be playing regularly for one of Europe’s top clubs.

As well as seeing the rise of some lesser known clubs, the money-driven nature of the game has had the opposite effect for some of football’s traditional ‘big clubs’.  Leeds United, AC Milan, Rangers and Parma are amongst the names of teams who, having enjoyed prolonged periods of success, find themselves with little money, in lower league positions and, in the cases of some, facing administration or worse.  While the influx of billionaire owners has seen certain clubs thrive in places such as Russia and the Middle East, as well as a select few in Europe, those clubs who once sat at Europe’s top table have struggled to keep up, doing themselves serious damage when they even so much as try.

So, this begs the question – does Paul Pogba potentially signing for Man City mean football is heading in the wrong direction?  For me – it does.  I’m all for smaller clubs upsetting the apple cart, challenging the status quo and continuing to make football the exciting and unpredictable game we love.  But it should be done by more honest means – by hard work and tactical nous, with a little bit of luck thrown in.  That’s exactly how the traditionally great clubs in world football built the reputations on which they so proudly stand today.  I may be being idealistic, of course.  We may already be past the point of no return, where TV deals, bonus-based contracts and lucrative endorsement deals are king, but there is part of me that believes that there are young players today who would still put prestige and glory in the form of medals ahead of a few extra million in the bank.  One thing is for sure – no matter where Paul Pogba goes in the rest of his career, he will retire a very rich and still-relatively-young man but the silverware and the success are the real variables.  Signing on the dotted line for Barca, Real or Bayern would prove football means more than money to Pogba and I, for one, truly hope that turns out to be the case.


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Manchester City close in on title after brushing aside feeble Stoke City

Manchester City have one hand on the Premier League title after victory on Monday night.

Martyn Cooke



Photo: Getty Images

So that answers that question then – Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team can handle a dark, cold and wet mid-week fixture against Stoke City at the Bet365 Stadium.

Not that the result of this game was ever in doubt.

Manchester City are undoubtedly one of the best club sides in the world at this present moment in time and arrived in ‘The Potteries’ 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League table.

It was little surprise to see them nonchalantly brush aside Stoke on Monday evening courtesy of two goals from David Silva and, in the process, increase their lead over second-placed Manchester United to 16 points.

City now require just three more wins to confirm the title and are on course to break the 100-point mark.

Guardiola’s side were dominant at the Bet365 Stadium and continued to produce the breath-taking football that has characterised their season. It is the perfect mixture of pace, precision and technique and Stoke quite simply did not possess the quality, confidence or character to muster a challenge.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

This was procession more than it was a contest and Manchester City were not required to get out of first gear.

A trip to ‘The Potteries’ used to spark fear into the hearts of opposing players – facing a Stoke team that was characterised by discipline, hard-work and an up-and-at-‘em approach that was backed by a passionate home crowd – but on Monday night all of the above were lacking. The players were lethargic on the pitch and the home supporters were apathetic in the stands.

Paul Lambert and his side appeared content to lose the game as long as the scoreline was kept respectable and it was clear from the first whistle that the Potters were in damage limitation mode.

Stoke failed to muster a shot on target in the entire game and there was no purpose, urgency or direction to their play. They offered little defensively either. There was no attempt to press the visitors or ruffle their feathers, demonstrated by the fact that only Joe Allen picked up a yellow card, and the sight of Manchester City stroking the ball around unopposed at walking pace will have been a demoralising sight for the locals.

Yes, you have to acknowledge that Manchester City are good, very good in fact, but the way that the hosts simply rolled over without a fight was indicative of a campaign that will possibly result in their relegation.

Wigan Athletic, Burnley and Basel have all demonstrated since Christmas that Guardiola’s side are far from invincible, yet the Potters opted to wave the white flag from the onset.

Lambert certainly has a task on his hands at the Bet365 Stadium if he is to guide the club to safety. A predictable loss to the champions-elect will not define their future, but the upcoming home fixture against Everton on Saturday certainly will. Stoke supporters can only hope that their team shows more character, fight and direction at the weekend than they did on Monday.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

For Manchester City, the Pep Guardiola football revolution continues to roll on. The focus now for City will be to wrap up the Premier League title as soon as possible so that additional emphasis can be placed on progressing to the latter stages of the Champions League.

Beyond this season, the future continues to look bright.

Guardiola’s squad consist primarily of young starlets or players that are in their mid-late twenties and are at or just entering, the peak of their powers.

Raheem Sterling (23), Leroy Sane (22), Bernardo Silva (23), Gabriel Jesus (20), John Stones (23) and Ederson (24) are all under the age of 24 whilst  Kevin De Bruyne (26), Kyle Walker (27) and Sergio Aguero (29) have yet to hit their thirties.

The Premier League must now face up to the prospect that the current crop of Manchester City players, under the guidance of one of the best coaches of the modern era, have the potential to dominate the domestic scene for the foreseeable future.

If the runaway train is to be stopped, teams will have to demonstrate a much more positive attitude and a desire to compete than that shown in the performance by Paul Lambert and his players on Monday evening.

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Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: Three talking points from the Etihad

Jake Jackman



Manchester City
Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City managed to beat Chelsea for the second time this season as they continue their march to the Premier League title. The contest was far from entertaining, as the visitors showed no interest in playing football and instead to soak in pressure.

Pep Guardiola’s team didn’t have to get out of second gear and it was a more comfortable victory than they would have been expecting. The Citizens are now 18 points clear at the top of the table and remain on target for 100 points, which would be a superb achievement.

Meanwhile, Chelsea sit outside of the Champions League places and are now five points behind Tottenham in fourth position. They will need a near perfect end to the season if they are to avoid missing out on qualification for next season’s competition. Here are three talking points from the Etihad Stadium…

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

David Silva showed his class

The 32-year-old has been at Manchester City for the majority of their journey from Premier League also-rans to elite super club and he remains a crucial player for them under Pep Guardiola.

If he had been in the team for the entire campaign, he would be running Kevin de Bruyne close for the PFA Player of the Year award. He is a classy operator who seems to get better with age.

He got the important assist for the winning goal with a superb piece of play and that is becoming par for the course for the Spanish international. Silva completed 95% of his passes and made three key passes during the contest. Meanwhile, he was very good out of possession as he made three ball recoveries.

It has been incredible to watch Pep Guardiola get all of his attacking talent on the pitch at one time, but the improvement of both Silva and De Bruyne off the ball has helped achieve that.

They are now complete midfielders and capable of thriving in both halves of the pitch. The midfielder is a club legend and supporters will be hoping that he has a few years left in him.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Antonio Conte continues to make puzzling decisions

Last season, the Italian was lauded every week as his side won the league title comfortably, but he has failed to follow it up with a good second campaign. There have been a lot of problems for Chelsea this season including recruitment, tactics and player performance.

They have been reliant on Eden Hazard and as the campaign has progressed, the team have lost their intensity, which suggests they no longer believe in Conte.


Their 3-4-2-1 formation was revolutionary, but they have moved away from it frequently this season and haven’t been able to settle on a first eleven. That was one of Chelsea’s strengths last season. Gary Cahill and David Luiz have been sidelined, while Alvaro Morata has failed to replace Diego Costa sufficiently.

On Sunday, Conte chose to field Hazard as a lone frontman, but he struggled to impact the game in that role. He is best when having space in front of him to run into and he didn’t have that against Manchester City.

The Belgian international was isolated and touched the ball only 31 times. It was a tactical error and one that blunted Chelsea’s attack before a ball was kicked.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Ilkay Gundogan is flourishing in the middle of the park for Manchester City

The former Borussia Dortmund midfielder has had his problems since arriving in the Premier League.

He has suffered a few injuries and that has seen him struggle to secure a regular starting berth, but he has featured prominently in recent weeks and is perfect for the system. Gundogen recycles possession effectively and that is required, especially when the opposition team sits deep.


Gundogen touched the ball more than any other player on the pitch with 181 touches and was very good at distributing the ball quickly. He finished the match with a 96% pass success rate, which shows his role.

He wasn’t taking any risks and he didn’t have to. City have a lot of attacking talent and the German international isn’t required to try risky passes to influence the game.

Although Chelsea didn’t get on the ball much, Gundogen broke up the play when required with four ball recoveries. Fernandinho’s absence could allow the 27-year-old to secure the place on a permanent basis and he does offer more in the role, especially in possession. It was a strong performance and one of the standouts in a dull affair.

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Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City: Three talking points from the Emirates

Jake Jackman brings us three talking points from the Emirates Stadium as a Leroy Sane masterclass saw Manchester City overcome Arsenal for the second time this week.

Jake Jackman



Manchester City
Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against Arsenal for the second time in less than a week, further underlining the problems at the Emirates Stadium.

These performances are becoming too common for the Gunners that they can no longer be seen as embarrassing. They are expected in matches against the top six. Pep Guardiola’s team were far superior in every department and excellent value for the three points.

There are now 30 points separating Arsenal from Manchester City in the league table. To put that into context, the Gunners are close to the relegation zone than they are the title. For a team that has ambitions to challenge for major honours, that is a worrying statistic.

Here are three talking points from the Emirates Stadium…

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 01: Arsene Wenger of Arsenal looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on March 1, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Arsene Wenger needs to leave

This has been a raging debate within the Arsenal fan-base for a number of seasons. He had more supporters than haters when he was regularly leading the Gunners to top-four finishes, but they are now ten points below the Champions League places. It is difficult to see them qualifying for the competition and their failure is no longer a surprise.

Arsenal have been regressing as a club since their last league title win in 2004 and they are now the 6th best club in the country. They are regularly outperformed by local rivals Tottenham and until Arsene Wenger leaves, their decline will only continue. He has been left behind by the game and he no longer commands respect in the dressing room.

It is easy to target the lack of fight and desire in the squad, but they are a problem. Players were once again going through the motions after the third Manchester City goal and showed no interest in trying to get back into the game.

If there isn’t a managerial change this summer, it will be another huge mistake by the board.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 01: Leroy Sane of Manchester City is challenged by Hector Bellerin during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on March 1, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) 

Leroy Sane deserves to be talked about as one of the best in the league

The young German winger has been taken on as a project by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. The Spanish manager was quick to bring Sane to the club and clearly sees huge potential in him. He was initially used in a squad role but has since emerged as a key first team player and this could have been his coming of age performance.

The 22-year-old was unplayable at times when running with the ball and his dynamism is a joy to watch. He completed six dribbles during the match.

For the first goal, he beat a couple of Arsenal defenders before playing the ball to Bernardo Silva to finish the move. It wasn’t a straightforward finish, but the goal was down to the individual flair of Sane.

After impressing with his dribbling ability, Sane scored a well-earned goal to put the result beyond doubt. It won’t be remembered as a classic, but it was good movement to get into the goal-scoring position.

Guardiola will be pleased with the winger’s distribution considering he only misplaced two of 35 total passes. If he can consistently perform to this level, he will be talked about as one of the best players in the Premier League.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 01: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal reacts after having penalty saved by Ederson of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on March 1, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hasn’t added anything to this Arsenal team

It is early days and it may be too soon to be overly critical of Aubameyang, but he has been totally anonymous in the majority of his matches in a Gunners’ shirt.

The 28-year-old is renowned for having a lot of pace and that was his most feared attribute during his time at Borussia Dortmund. However, at Arsenal, he looks uninterested and isn’t making the runs in behind that made him dangerous in the Bundesliga.

His pass success rate shows how he is struggling to adapt to the Premier League. Aubameyang completed only 55% of his passes. In addition to this, he has failed to win a single aerial duel and isn’t concerned about working hard for the team defensively. He is a passenger in matches and hasn’t offered an upgrade on Alexandre Lacazette.

Aubameyang’s short career at the Emirates Stadium was symbolised best by his penalty miss. It was encouraging that he had the confidence to take the responsibility, but his kick was tame and he made it easy for Ederson. Given his price-tag and reputation, he needs to be offering a lot more to the Arsenal attack.

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