“Vincent Kompany has turned into Mr Rash; I don’t know what’s happened to him. He needs to settle his game down. He’s usually someone who is so dominant and a leader for this team; every time the ball goes near him he’s struggling.”
The words of Gary Neville after City’s 2-1 defeat at Liverpool in March, during which Kompany had lost a 50-50 challenge with Philippe Coutinho. The loss at Anfield that day proved to be the final nail in City’s title bid. It also typified what many City fans had been thinking but couldn’t bare to face, that their once imperious captain was struggling and had been for 18 months.
Kompany would soon be ruled out for the rest of the season with groin and thigh issues, and with a combination of Eliaqium Mangala and Martin Demichelis the Blues secured second spot with a run of six consecutive wins without their skipper. The truth is that Demichelis has been City’s most consistent defender since February last season and despite his lack of pace, he has adjusted to the high line that Pellegrini implements. He was a rock during the 2013/14-title run-in. As Kompany struggled, Demichelis shone.
The captain’s struggles were buried beneath a mountain of ticker tape as City completed a league and cup double as well as being lauded for their attacking play, plundering 156 goals in all competitions. Defensive was not a concern, and why would it be if you can win games as convincingly as City were doing during that season.
However as City’s title bid began to falter last season, the cracks that had been papered over began to open up quite spectacularly. As The Blues lost their way after the New Year, Kompany made a string of high-profile errors against Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea and Liverpool to name a few.
Pellegrini benched him for the visit of Leicester and it spoke volumes that the City boss was prepared to take that action despite the on-going concerns regarding Eliaqium Mangala’s ability to adapt to life in the Premier League.
The struggles are not all his fault though. Injuries have hampered the 29-year-old throughout his time in Manchester, although lately he has not been returning from them at the same high standard that he once was.
There has also been a lack of consistency in selection. Mangala and Demichelis have regularly taken it in turns to partner Kompany. The left back spot is a constant rotation between Clichy and Kolarov and although Zabaleta largely fought off the presence of Bacary Sagna, his form was someway short of his usual lofty standards. Under the former Real Madrid, Malaga and Villarreal boss, the defence has been consistently alternated as he looks to keep everyone happy.
Another issue is the system that Pellegrini employs. Since the Chilean has been in charge City have played an attacking 4-4-2 system, often without a holding midfield player, and a high defensive line. Almost every error that the Belgian made last season was high up the pitch, and in areas that, for many other teams, would be filled by a holding midfielder. Fernandinho, although often excellent for The Blues, is not naturally a defensively minded midfielder and Fernando, the man brought in from Porto to fill that requirement, had an awful start to life in the Premier League and was regularly caught out of position. Due to these problems, Kompany feels the need to step into that area, to reassert dominance and put City onto the front foot once more.
Under previous manager Roberto Mancini, City regularly played with a deep defensive line and had Nigel De Jong, Gareth Barry and often a more defensively minded Yaya Toure acting as a defensive shield. Under the Italians guidance Kompany shone and became arguably one of the world’s top centre backs.
He didn’t have to make tackles on the half way line, although he was incisive and pre-emptive, stifling attacks before they could develop high up the pitch. Unfortunately it is these proactive qualities that are now opening up huge flaws in his game as he now over-compensates for his lack of form and this impulsive and over-exuberant behaviour has become a huge worry for City.
The Belgian may find himself coming under constant pressure from those behind him in City’s squad as well. Jason Denayer, Kompany’s Belgian compatriot, has made significant strides during last year’s loan spell at Celtic, and the 19-year-old is expected to be challenging for a first team spot over the course of the season. Although he is not yet ready for the first team, 16-year-old Cameron Humphreys acquitted himself superbly in pre-season, showing flashes of future promise. There have also been rumours of moves for other centre-backs. Nicolas Otamendi of Valencia has been touted as a possible signing, and early last week there was talk of a bid for Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin.
Kompany is obviously still an icon at City, an intelligent ambassador for the club and still a player that could be influencing the Blues’ backline into his thirties, much in the same way John Terry has done at Chelsea. However in order to avoid some tough decisions, the Belgian needs to regain the level that convinced City to hand him a new five-year deal just a year ago and show a better adaptation to the more open system favoured by Pellegrini.
There will no doubt have already been quiet discussions in the boardroom at the Etihad regarding his form and if he doesn’t begin to show signs that this is nothing more than an extended blip, those hushed whispers may start to grow louder.[separator type=”thin”]
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
Have West Ham United found the next Mark Noble in Alfie Lewis?
The 18-year-old put in a fine performance against Dagenham and Redbridge this week.
West Ham United took on Dagenham and Redbridge in a friendly yesterday, in a match to raise funds for the National League side.
It was no surprise to see West Ham come out victorious. They won 3-1, with Michail Antonio at the double and Jordan Hugill scoring his first goal for the club.
It was, however, a Hammers team depleted by international selection.
With that in mind, David Moyes’ side fielded some of their younger players. Plenty of them caught the eye, but none more so than central midfielder Alfie Lewis.
The 18-year-old put in a fine display for 90 minutes which left West Ham fans very excited on social media.
It was an even more special achievement given Lewis spent most of last year on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.
Lewis himself told the official West Ham website after the game: “I’m delighted.
“It was a good experience for me tonight, to play with the likes of Patrice Evra, and Mark Noble in midfield. It was a good challenge and a good test for us as well, and I think I did well.”
He spoke of it being an honour playing alongside Mark Noble, but is he the successor to the throne?
Whilst Noble has had his critics in recent times there is no doubt he has been a long-term hero at West Ham.
Fans of the club have often wondered why Noble has never received England recognition given his consistent form in the Premier League.
Noble has gone on to play over 400 games for West Ham since his debut for the club back in 2004.
Lewis certainly has the ability to follow in his footsteps. An energetic midfield creator, West Ham look to have another midfield gem in their ranks and one that can hopefully progress into the first-team soon.
The Hammers have a fine record of bringing through young players.
Noble is one current example and Lewis could not be at a better club if he is to find his way into the West Ham first-team.
This season, with a relegation battle raging, might come a little too soon for the teenager.
Nonetheless, in 2018-19 it will not be a surprise if Lewis finds himself playing alongside Noble in the West Ham midfield once again.
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