The Chelsea tactic that could be a masterstroke for Man United

A broken leg for Luke Shaw in the recent Champions League defeat to PSV Eindhoven has given Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal a major cause for concern, with the England international facing a significant lay-off.

Without the former Southampton star, who was starting to come into his own at Old Trafford, the Red Devils boss must decide the best personnel in his back four to continue the form that has propelled the side to the top of the Premier League.

The natural replacement appears to be Marcos Rojo, who has played consistently for Argentina at left-back and could slot into the role.

Matteo Darmian

If Van Gaal sees fit, the South American could even be used as a centre-half, with Daley Blind slotting in at full-back as he has done in the past.

However, a potential ideal solution comes in the form of a tactic that Chelsea have used over the last 18 months.

The Blues have successfully deployed right-back Cesar Azpilicueta on the alternative flank, where the Spaniard has been one of the team’s most consistent players.

Against Sunderland at the weekend, Van Gaal opted to play his usual right-back Matteo Darmian on the opposite flank, with Antonio Valencia coming into the team on the other wing.

This has worked for Chelsea, and with the Italy international having experience of playing as a left-back for Torino, the tactic could be ideal to plug the significant gap left by Shaw’s injury.

The next Martial? Man United want another exciting Ligue 1 star

Manchester United’s summer capture of young French forward Anthony Martial has reaped dividends, with the former Monaco man fitting into the Old Trafford starting XI excellently, offering pace and a goal threat to Louis van Gaal’s attack.

However, it may well be that the Red Devils have not finished their Ligue 1 raid, with reports today linking the club with supremely gifted Lyon attacker Nabil Fekir.

The France international is part of a prodigious crop of young players to have come through the ranks at the Stade de Gerland in recent years – which ironically includes Martial.

Nabil Fekir

Last season Fekir’s attacking partnership with hotshot Alexander Lacazette was a key element to Lyon finishing in second place and powering their way back into Champions League football.

If there is any truth in United’s potential interest in the 22-year-old, the Old Trafford faithful should be excited as he is technically superb, creative and has proven that he knows where the back of the net is.

Fekir is currently on the sidelines having damaged his cruciate ligament while on international duty and as such he will not be back in the action until next year.

If he can regain his best form for Lyon in early 2016, the attacker will surely feature for France in next summer’s Euro 2016 competition on home soil – with United sure to have a close eye on his performances.

Manchester United pen new striker deal

Manchester United have announced that up-and-coming striker James Wilson has agreed a contract extension at the club on their official website.

The 19-year-old forward is a product of the club’s fabled youth academy and has made inroads into the first-team squad in recent times.

Although the teenager is a fringe figure this season under Louis van Gaal, a new deal to keep him at Old Trafford until 2019 has been agreed.

James Wilson

The gifted centre forward has made 18 senior appearances for the Red Devils, scoring four goals, but finds the substantial obstacles of Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial blocking his path into the starting XI in 2015-16.

It is clear that Wilson has a bright future in the game and it is an embodiment of United’s supposed dedication to youth that the starlet has penned a contract extension.

The next step in his burgeoning career is clearly a loan move to a Championship club, with regular first-team football a necessity for the attacker to progress.

Why Angel Di Maria will win the Manchester United fans over

Ahead of the recently completed season, Manchester United’s objective was to regain a place in the Champions League, which Louis van Gaal has achieved.

The bar may well be lifted slightly higher next term as the Old Trafford that spend their hard-earned money at to watch their team crave a return to the glory days.

Although the campaign has had its fair share of positives, one of the perceived negatives of the season was the form of Angel Di Maria.

Signed for an extortionate transfer fee from Real Madrid, this Champions League-winning attacker’s arrival was treated with excitement from the Red Devils fans but the Argentine had a season to forget.

By the end of the campaign Van Gaal was preferring the much-derived Ashley Young ahead of the club’s record signing, which shows just how far the mighty have fallen.

Angel Di Maria

Despite the fact that the Argentina international has not shown his best form at the Manchester club as yet, it would be foolish to write Di Maria off.

Although transfer rumours are starting to swirl around stating that the South American could leave the club, United will not be ready to cut their losses on the star just yet.

It is worth noting that despite the fact Di Maria has not been at his best, the former Madrid man offered up ten Premier League assists; the most of any United player and more than Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero or Alexis Sanchez.

A key issue over Di Maria has been the question over where he is best deployed, with Van Gaal guilty of chopping and changing the Argentine’s position in the team.

Ahead of next season, with the South American having more time to acclimatise to the club and his new surrounds, the Rosario Central youth graduate will surely be ready to start 2015-16 with a bang.

The old adage that form is temporary and class is permanent applies here, with the skilful winger having the ability to be a Premier League star if he can get back to his best.

Unleashing the Argentine in a fluid attacking system that is based around possession and swift counter-attacking could well get the best out of this star, who on his day is one of the best attacking midfielders in the business.

Simeone, Loew or Ancelotti – who should win the 2014 FIFA Coach of the Year?

By Waddah Hassani

FIFA has announced its final shortlist for the 2014 FIFA Coach of the Year award and it was (sort of) what everyone was expecting it to be; it included Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti, World Cup winner Joachim Loew and La Liga winner Diego Simeone.

Aside of the detailed statistical comparison provided, who deserves the award the most?

FIFA 2014 COTY Comparison

Carlo Ancelotti: Where do we start? The experienced Italian has literally done it all in 2014, from winning titles, matching records, breaking records, winning over the fans and locker room, to re-inventing players.

Lets start with the titles; Ancelotti has won three titles thusfar in 2014 in the shape of the famed La Decima, the Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Super Cup. This list is very likely to see an addition in the form of the Club World Cup, which Real Madrid will contest in late December.

So, with three titles in 2014, Carlo Ancelotti is the coach with the most tiles won between not just the final shortlist, but the entire 10-man list initially released by FIFA.

Carlo Ancelotti

He also ventured into the ‘record breaking’ path as he orchestrated Real Madrid’s longest winning streak ever in all competitions (currently stands at 17 wins), longest winning streak ever in the Copa del Rey (10 wins), most goals scored in one Champions League campaign (41 goals), being the fastest coach in Real Madrid’s history to reach 50 official wins, and if Los Blancos wins the CWC, he will also be the first coach in the club’s history to win four titles in one calendar year.

He also equaled Bob Paisley’s record of three European Cups won and in the process became the first and only coach to win three European Cups with two different clubs.

The former Chelsea chief has guided Real Madrid to the top of the La Liga table with 10 consecutive league wins and secured the first spot in Group B of this season’s Champions League thanks to winning all the team’s matches so far in the competition.

On top of all that, Ancelotti also ‘re-invented’ players like Di Maria, James, and Isco to better suit the dynamics of the team, which in part lead to them being better overall players themselves. Certainly an eventful year this has been for the Italian mastermind.

Joachim Loew: With Ancelotti you see a lot of records and achievements, but some may argue that all of these feats are not equal to what Joachim Loew has won in 2014; the World Cup.

Loew guided Germany to the World Cup title with consistent, entertaining, direct, and brutal football that ruthlessly destroyed Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals; providing the biggest ever semi-final result in World Cup’s history and the South American nation’s biggest home defeat ever.

Joachim Loew

While many teams showed promise but eventually delivered below par performances, Loew’s Germany dominated with sheer consistency. They were on point throughout the tournament and deservedly won the title to prove it.

The World Cup is without a doubt the biggest title in world football so winning it in style surely can’t hurt your chances in winning the COTY award.

Diego Simeone: Quite possibly the ‘dark horse’ in this year’s COTY award race, Diego Simeone has to go up against a coach that has won more titles and broke more records than anyone else in 2014, and a coach who has won the grandest prize in football in the shape of the World Cup.

And what does he have to go against them? Just a La Liga title and the Supercopa with Atletico Madrid.

Diego Simeone

On the surface it might not seem enough, but once you realize that Simeone achieved this with a Vicente Calderon outfit that was battling relegation when he was first appointed, you will come to know the magnitude of his achievement.

He lifted Atletico to heights that saw them challenging the two Spanish powerhouses in the form of Real Madrid and Barcelona, and he actually beat them to the La Liga title. Something that hasn’t happened in a decade.

With a budget that pales in comparison to the Clasico giants, and with a squad that may lack the flair of traditional world-class players, Simeone relied on sheer hard work and discipline to battle through the opposition.

This eventually led Atletico to the final of the 2013/14 Champions League where he was just a 100 seconds away from winning the title, and a La Liga triumph that will surely go down in Spanish folklore as one of the most surprising upsets in league history.

On any other year, what Simeone has done might have been enough, but in 2014, with a Champions League winner and a World Cup winner; it may not be the safe to bet on the Argentine.

Carlo Ancelotti among Real Madrid’s all-time greats

By Waddah Hassani

“I hope to remembered here for a long time, hopefully not just for La Decima.” Carlo Ancelotti

When Carlo Ancelotti first arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu, he promised wins and beautiful football, and he has certainly delivered on both fronts.

Since he was appointed, Real Madrid have played 82 matches in all competitions, winning 64, making him the manager with the highest win percentage in the history of the club (78%).

Los Blancos have also scored 227 goals in those 82 matches at a rate of 2.77 goals per match, again the highest rate in the history of the club (of all managers with 30+ games).

And if that wasn’t enough, the Spanish capital city side have only conceded 66 goals in the Italian’s tenure at a rate of 0.80 goals conceded per game, yet again the best rate in the club’s history.

So with all of these stats,  it enough to call Ancelotti one of the all-time greatest Real Madrid managers?

Probably, because these are not the only things he has accomplished in his short time with Madrid.

On top of all the records mentioned, he was also the manager that ended Real Madrid’s wait for the coveted and long sought-after La Decima.

Florentino Perez spent over a billion euros in a dozen years as he longed for his dream of seeing the tenth European Cup in the Bernabeu, yet the former Chelsea boss ended his wait in his first season with the club.

Ancelotti didn’t just win La Decima, he did it in style.

Carlo Ancelotti

In arguably one of the most dominant campaigns in the competition’s history, Real Madrid steamrolled teams in last season’s Champions League and scored 41 goals in the process. Those 41 goals were an all-time record; breaking the previous tally of 35 goals by Barcelona.

Real Madrid also equaled the group stage record for most goals with 20, and the record for most goals scored in a UCL final with four.

All of these show that Real Madrid probably did have the most complete campaigns in Champions League history.

Adding on to it was the Copa del Rey triumph, beating Barcelona in the final. Ancelotti brought the first Copa del Rey trophy to the Bernabeu since 2011; it was also the first time that Real Madrid won more than one title in a single season since 2002/03.

Needless to say, starting this season with big hopes was not an uncommon thing, and Ancelotti did not disappoint with a UEFA Super Cup win in August.

Real Madrid currently boast the strongest attack in Europe and lead the La Liga table on top of being the only team to have won all five matches in Europe’s top tournament this season.

They currently need two wins to equal the longest winning streak in the Champions League, two home wins to equal the longest home winning streak in the European competition, and finally two away wins to equal the longest away winning streak in the Champions League.

All of these ‘near-records’ show how close Ancelotti is from breaking several long standing records with a Real Madrid team that is currently ranked as the best in the world and probably the best Madrid side in recent memory.

If all of that wasn’t enough, Ancelotti became the first manager in the club’s history to win 16 consecutive matches in all competitions. He has passed the 15-match winning run accomplished by Jose Mourinho and Miguel Munez, and needs just two more wins to equal the all-time record for most consecutive wins in Spain’s top-flight history (18, set by Barcelona).

Ancelotti also stands on the cusps of another feat, which is to be the quickest coach to get to 100 wins, currently held by Mourinho, who needed 133 games to achieve that record.

However, with Ancelotti at 64 wins from 82 matches already, it’s very hard not to see him take that record away from Mourinho as well.

So all of these stats, records, and accomplishments make Carlo Ancelotti without a doubt, one of the best Real Madrid managers in recent memory, but is he an ‘all-time’ great?

That might be more arguable, but with his and the club’s willingness in extending his contract to 2017 or 2018, it is extremely difficult not to see him as one of, if not the best, managers in the club’s history once his tenure ends at Real Madrid.

What if Liverpool had signed Diego Costa, not Chelsea?

Diego Costa seems to be the final piece of Jose Mourinho’s jigsaw at Chelsea, with the powerhouse forward showing lethal form in front of goal since a summer move from Atletico Madrid.

The Blues had a trophyless campaign last term despite the expenditure on their playing squad, with a lack of cutting edge in front of goal the key reason.

Costa may well have given the Stamford Bridge side the necessary clinical edge that sees Mourinho’s men unbeaten this season, but what if the Spanish international had joined Liverpool last summer instead?

Charity tournament for the families of Soma victims: Chelsea vs Fenerbahce

Brendan Rodgers had identified the Brazilian-born striker as a potential new recruit, but the Spanish side did not allow the player to leave after selling Radamel Falcao to Monaco.

Costa went on to have a fantastic campaign with Atleti, proving himself as one of the best centre forwards in the world and firing the Vicente Calderon side to the La Liga title.

Given the problems that the Reds are currently having with goal-shy Mario Balotelli, had they landed Costa in the summer of 2013 surely the side would be higher in the league than the 11th place they currently hold.

Pipped by Manchester City at the death last season, a frontline containing Costa, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge would surely have fired the Merseyside outfit to their first top-flight title since 1990.

Over the last number of seasons Liverpool have missed out on a number of transfer targets for one reason or another, but not landing Costa must now be a major regret for Rodgers.

Abou Diaby and the risk of a new Arsenal contract

Although Arsenal fans can sometimes be aggrieved and frustrated by Arsene Wenger’s policy in the transfer market, the way the French coach sticks by the players he believes in must be admired.

The Gunners boss frequently speaks about his belief in the players he has hand-picked to play for the north London club, despite some surely testing his faith.

One such player must be Abou Diaby; once seen as the heir to Patrick Vieira’s throne, now a man that has struggled for a considerable portion of his career to be fit enough to play.

The France international has been the victim of ankle ailments and has only managed 22 appearances for Arsenal in the space of the last four seasons.

Abou Diaby

Despite Diaby’s much-publicised problems, Wenger has been quoted as saying that he will stand by the midfielder and offer him a new contract if he can get back to fitness.

However, regardless of the fact that Diaby is said to be close to returning to action again for the umpteenth time, Arsenal may well be better cutting their losses on a player that they can no longer depend on.

When Alex Song was allowed to leave the club to join Barcelona, there was a train of thinking that Diaby’s presence in the squad would fill the void of defensive midfield enforcer.

The Frenchman has been unavailable and the Gunners have recalled Mathieu Flamini into the mix; seemingly the side have progressed without Diaby’s physical presence.

The next six months will be massively important for Diaby’s career. However, even if he does have a prolonged spell away from the treatment table the midfielder surely has a lot of work to do to earn a new Arsenal deal before his contract expires this summer.

Do Tottenham now regret sacking Harry Redknapp?

With Tottenham seemingly no closer to attaining a place as a regular Premier League top-four finisher, there is just cause to look back at where it has went wrong over the last couple of seasons.

The days when the north London outfit were beating Serie A giants Inter and AC Milan in the Champions League now feel like an eternity ago, with the current crop of Spurs players stuttering at the start of 2014-15.

Harry Redknapp was the man responsible for leading Tottenham to the Champions League and oversaw two fourth-placed finishes in his three-year tenure at White Hart Lane.

However, due to the ongoing ambition of the club, the now QPR boss was shown the door in the summer of 2012 for not delivering inclusion to Europe’s top club tournament.

Given that Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood have failed to inspire the required confidence to be deemed as the man to take the club forward and Mauricio Pochettino is already feeling the heat, does Daniel Levy regret getting rid of Redknapp?

Harry Redknapp

There is no doubt that Pochettino is a young manger of ability, displayed for all to see during his time at Southampton, but he needs to be given time at the club; there will most likely need to be steps back before progression can be made.

That said, Spurs have stagnated and made little progress since the departure of Redknapp and have been experiencing the consequences of too much ambition and impetuousness for the last two years.

Although not the man to great a Sir Alex Ferguson-like legacy at Spurs, it would be very interesting to see how the club would be currently sitting if Redknapp had been given more time back in 2012.

Should Manchester United make Radamel Falcao’s move permanent?

A summer of rebuilding at Old Trafford has seen Manchester United appoint a new manager and bring a host of new players to the club in an effort to reclaim former glories.

One of the most eye-catching additions was the loan capture of Colombian sharpshooter Radamel Falcao from Monaco, with the South American brought to England to make United a more dangerous side in the final third.

The former Atletico Madrid attacker has had a slow start to life in the Premier League, with injuries stopping him from hitting the ground running.

Reports have emerged that United have the option to make Falcao’s switch permanent at the end of the season, but is this wise?

Radamel Falcao

There is no doubt that on his day, fit and on form, Falcao is one of the most deadly strikers in the world game.

He has a proven goalscoring record in a number of European leagues and could be a man to fire United back into title contention.

However, the Colombian has a poor injury record in recent times and there are concerns that he is harbouring the long-term consequences of a serious knee injury.

With the extortionate fee being mentioned to make his move permanent, wouldn’t United be better served spending the money on a world class defender or two?

For every Eric Cantona or Ruud van Nistelrooy that has been part of the Red Devils’ success in the modern era there has been a Steve Bruce or Rio Ferdinand that has played just as an important role.

United have a wealth of attacking talent at Louis van Gaal’s disposal at the moment but are lacking experienced and proven defenders.

Given that Robin van Persie, Juan Mata, Angel di Maria, Adnan Januzaj, youngster James Wilson and Wayne Rooney are in Van Gaal’s squad, with Javier Hernandez on loan, the Colombian’s signing is not something that is really needed.

However, with United shipping goals in the Premier League and down to their bare bones at centre-half, the powers that be at Old Trafford would be better served spending big money on the solidification of the team’s rearguard.


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