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English Premier League

Vincent Kompany: From king to clown



Just a couple of years ago, Vincent Kompany was hailed as Manchester City’s best ever defender by club legend Francis Lee, among others. The Belgian was considered a world class, arguably unrivalled globally, centre-back by the end of the 2011/12 season, having inspired City to their first league success of the modern era. He was captain of his national side too, a regular starter amidst the deep defensive talent pool Belgium are enjoying this generation. Even at the end of last season, Kompany’s do-no-wrong reputation was still very much intact, being named in the 2013/14 PFA Team of the Year for the third time in four seasons after another Premier League medal, before leading his nation to a commendable quarter final berth at the Brazil World Cup. Kompany was seen by many as the English league’s standout dominant defender, taking over the reins from a declining Nemanja Vidic on the red side of Manchester.

Off the pitch, things were going well for the stopper too. In 2012 he signed a record six-year deal to keep him at Manchester City, earning a reportedly handsome £135,000-per-week paycheque in the process, and looking set to see out the prime years of his career at the Etihad Stadium. In March 2013, Kompany also invested interest elsewhere within football – literally – when he bought his hometown club FC Bleid-Molenbeek, then of the Belgian Third Division, renaming them BX Brussels and surging new inspiration and opportunity into his local community. All this was communicated through his Twitter account, with which Kompany has been known to positively share opinions, interact with fans and spread awareness of projects such as BX Brussels.

So where has it all gone wrong for Manchester City’s once-talismanic captain? If any neutral were to tune in to a City match this season, he or she might well find an out of sorts Kompany and wonder if all the hype was some long running social media joke, grossly exaggerated sarcasm akin to that used towards Emile Heskey and Paul McShane.

Converse to general opinion the year before, much-maligned Martin Demichelis has in fact been The Citizens’ best performing centre-back. Truth be told the Argentine and Eliaquim Mangala were the defensive partnership during City’s best run of results for the season, all through the busy December schedule too, while Kompany was side-lined with a hamstring injury. The latter’s return in January coincided with a faltering run of five matches without a win or clean sheet, including the FA Cup humiliation at the hands of Championship minnows Middlesbrough. Crucial mistakes followed Kompany into Europe, as early into the first leg of City’s Champions League exit to Barcelona, his misfired clearance handed Luis Suarez the chance to give the Catalans what proved to be an unassailable advantage.

The Belgian’s lowest moment certainly came during March 1st’s league defeat to Liverpool. Having been pedestrianised by the pace of a Coutinho-Henderson attack which gave the Reds the lead, teammate Fernandinho let rip at his captain during the half-time interval, forcing manager Manuel Pellegrini to step between the players before blows were exchanged, reportedly. The bust up, hardly expected behaviour from a role-model, as the 28-year old aspires to be, led to punishment for both players as they sat out the next fixture.

Since then, Kompany’s Twitter page has went almost completely silent, posting nothing but occasional promotional retweets or club announcements. His performance on the pitch, it appears, has translated to a limited focus on interaction with social media.

Such poor form also translated onto the most recent bout of international competition, as Kompany was sent off during Belgium’s 1-0 defeat of Israel in European Championship qualification. The build-up to that decision was comical, as the defender attempted to shift his 6’4” frame with all the nimbleness of a tractor, lost possession, then paid the price with an indisputable second yellow card offence. The twenty-odd seconds sequence of events just about perfectly summarised Kompany’s 2014/15 campaign thus far: still trying to impress but failing to miserably.

The recently repeated mishaps that have befallen Belgium and City’s captain are significant of his drastic loss in form. Opponents have completely discarded their respected fear for the Premier League Player of the Year from 2011/12; of late, City’s number four couldn’t strike a less imposing figure if he took to the field in full Sky Blue clown attire.

The cause for Kompany’s sudden decline is unclear. The aforementioned month out of action during December aside, he has had no major injury concerns to worry about in public knowledge. And the fact that Manchester City’s run of form in fact improved during that time is only further indicative that he was playing below par before said injury struck. Lack of confidence, outwardly again, should not be a problem smarting the big lad’s performances – he is one of the highest paid defenders in the world, captains a nation praised for its defensive quality, and boasts an array of collective and individual awards from over the past half-decade. And of course, there is no excuse for a lack of quality players playing alongside him at club level, as City’s squad is made up nearly completely of international standard players.

To suggest motivation, or its lack thereof, is an issue may seem a bit like a vague, copout excuse, but for Kompany this may well be the case. Of course, City have failed to come close to conquering Europe’s elite sides – the natural next step for a club investing hundreds of millions of pounds in its development – but on a personal level, Kompany is virtually roost ruler at the Etihad. A new club, perhaps even a new league, might present the kind of week-in-week-out fresh challenges that the Belgian desires. Being at the prime age of his playing career, any top club in Europe – Barcelona have been mentioned in the past – would welcome such a decorated defender. Though money-making might not appear to be an issue concerning Manchester City’s owners overly much, the allure of making a forty, fifty, sixty million pound profit on a player purchased for just £6 million may be too much for a businessman like Sheikh Mansour to resist.

Of course, this is all just speculation, regarding a player who has been one of the most prominent faces of Manchester City’s success in recent years. Vincent Kompany of 2010-14 could come roaring back next season, if the Belgian stays in Manchester and continues as club captain. The clichéd ‘form is temporary’ motif exists for a reason after all. Though what is for sure is that Vincent Kompany of 2014/15 has been drastically out of sorts, and that must change quickly somehow if he is to maintain his credible reputation as one of the world’s most feared defenders.

Jonathan is a football lover based in Dublin. He is an especially keen fan of Italian Serie A, and thinks Guti Hernandez's assists may have been the work of sorcery. Struggles to forgive his father's upbringing as a Saint Mirren fan.


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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