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English Premier League

Van Gaal vs Koeman: The top four’s great rivalry?



One phrase I’ve heard mentioned by my old man describing Ronald Koeman was he is “quintessentially, Dutch management”. I asked him to elaborate into what he meant, in which he replied “jovial, smiling and generally happy”. I immediately agreed when he used his ace in his pack, Martin Jol as a reference point.

Martin Jol is brilliant, well not if you’re Johan Cruyff (another story altogether), but I’d say his warm glow during his after match conferences warrants my TV license or a thousand-pop up’s during online streaming. A face of pure naïve delight when he’d won or salvaged a point or that you’ve just been asked mum “if it wasn’t you that spilt your Coca Cola, then who was it?” face after a defeat. I think I could purely go on and write about my adoration for Jol’s Homer Simpson-esque outlook but I’ll save that for a rainy day.

A few days later, after watching Sky Sports News, I saw Van Gaal in all of his innate, abrupt conference glory. It hit me that for every Koeman’s ying (possessional play, happy-go-lucky), Van Gaal is the yang (long-ball play, puzzling/borderline harsh tone). This brought me to the comparison of both and how they’re both settling into English football. Obviously by this point a lot has been made of Van Gaal in relation to money spent versus the amount of success he’s brought in and the opposite for which what Koeman has received plaudits for. This must sting for the Van Gaal and to be honest it isn’t the first time they’ve been that bit between the teeth in each other’s mouth (sorry for any horrible images I’ve created).

Described by Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink as that both are polar opposites of each other, it’s fairly evident to see, ever since the breaking point when King Louis was appointed as a technical director of Ajax when Koeman was in charge as manager. Things got a little, let’s say tumultuous when the boundaries for each role overlapped thus leading to confrontation. With petulant little digs over the years such as Van Gaal referring to Koeman as “that boy” and fact of that they live 100 yards apart in the Algarve, but still have an audible distaste for each other, at least the respect for what they do hasn’t completely dissolved.

In Koeman’s final season in charge of De Kuip, he reverted to a system where he knew the defence was weaker than his other postions, but the main strengths were his midfield (Vilhena, Immers and Clasie) and the attacking prowess of Pelle, a man that’s obviously left a mark on Koeman. 3-5-2 was the plan and it worked enough to leave an effect on the league and eventually the national squad managed by, you guessed it, Van Gaal. Using it for his World Cup squad, with the quick destruction of Spain, Van Gaal was touted as the Tactical Genius in Brazil.

This sound bite was used for when Moyes was binned at the end of last season and Van Gaal was peddled as United’s saviour. Louis Van Gaal, tactical genius to rescue Man Utd*. I’m not saying that Koeman is responsible for what happened at the World Cup for Holland given that at such high stakes even substitutions can make a dramatic change, aka Krul and Costa Rica. Needless to say, they both must watch each other and follow the news closely when either name is mentioned.

*I can only imagine Moyes’ face supping a Sangria with is ghostly pale legs out whilst Van Gaal is slated by Savage on MOTD.

This leads us to this season and how it’s panning out. Southampton were destined for mid-table mediocrity and/or relegation battle, well at least for those journalists who hadn’t paid any attention to what Koeman has done in the Eredivisie. They can be forgiven as the jump from Holland to England is about as mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle, mind. However, given the loss of key players and the signing’s that replaced them were fairly unknown in England, unless you’re like me and spend hours trawling through the Football Manager database. You may sense that I have a fondness for Dutch football and when it was announced the Saints had signed Tadic, Alderweireld and Pelle, I was very keen to see how it’d pan out. Remarkable can now be said at this point (10 matches to go and four point’s off fourth) in relation to their style of play but the unnerving clown in the dark room metaphor is that they look to be running out of steam.

The opposite can be said for King Louis’ Red Devils. Mismatched tactics (long-ball), top heavy formations and general misplacing of key players (Rooney and Di Maria) have led to grinding out of small-margined wins, but still they drudge on. However, they are fourth and remain one of the favourites to finish in the top four. Now, I’m a huge fan of the underdog, always have been and would be a Kevin Keegan moment of “Love it, just love it” if Saint’s did finish in the top four, given their links to Dutch football and the young and upcoming talent to blossom even more with that sort of exposure. This doesn’t necessarily mean at United’s expense, but the narrative for these two managers and these two teams, you can obviously see them paying a lot of attention to each other in the final few months.

Even if the Saint’s don’t finish in the top four, this season is a victory as they’ll most likely finish in a position that they find themselves in the Europa League, question is, will they find themselves losing players all over again in Schneiderlin, Clyne etc? Maybe so, maybe even to a Van Gaal-less Man Utd.

Football sadist by choice, only choosing to go to lower league matches when the weather is terrible.


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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