Sunday, 29 January 2012

Could Mourinho Spur on Tottenham this Summer?

Look who could be coming back. Yes, this week it has been reported that Jose Mourinho could indeed be about to leave Real Madrid in the Summer, and sighting a return to the Premier League as the likeliest destination.

7 points clear of Barca heading into the final stretch of La Liga and into the last 16 of the Champions League, you would think things are all rosy at the Bernabeu, you'd be wrong. Mourinho has grown "sick and tired" with the politics and public falling outs within the camp. Another factor it would seem, is that the Spanish press just don't give him the spotlight as much as the famous English media. During his time in England, Mourinho enjoyed great success not only on the pitch with Chelsea, but forged a great relationship with the media.

Once he left England, he got a slightly different treatment in Italy when he took over at Inter Milan. Despite less than healthy relations with the media and fans, Mourinho sensationally guided the club to the Champions League trophy seeing off Bayern in the final before leaving for the match made in heaven slot in Madrid. Since arriving in Madrid, Mourinho has guided them to just the Copa Del Ray, beating Barca in the final last season. Apart from that, he has struggled to overcome Pep Guardiola and the clashes between the teams have become petty and fill of controversy. Mourinho now seems keen to return to England, even if he fails to land the league or champions league this season. My question now is, where?

Manchester United has long been his favored destination and the challenge of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson is something Mourinho would interest the Portuguese man. Problem being, Fergie seems to have no intention of stepping down, not even for the Special One. Ferguson would realistically have to win something this season for him to even consider it being his last in charge, and even then, he would surely have to give the club their blessing to approach Jose.

If United are not the destination, then who is? AVB has been under a lot of pressure at Chelsea, but surely won't be sacked so quickly after being appointed and given money to spend. Plus, everybody know AVB is a fantastic manager and sacking him would not only be costly, but also a slightly stupid move. A swap with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal? Now, that would be interesting, but it is also a bit dramatic and something i highly doubt could happen. Liverpool? I can't see them getting shot of Kenny Dalglish, even if they should. Dalglish will more than likely lead Liverpool to the Carling Cup, and despite possibly not bringing them Champions League football next season, the bond with the club seems too deep.

That leaves, wait for it, Tottenham. A surprise package some would say in this seasons race for the league, a team on the up. Fabio Capello will leave the England post at the end of the European Championships this Summer, paving the way for 'Arry to fulfill a long time goal of leading his country. Without financial problems, Spurs may indeed seem an attractive option for Mourinho. Players are in place who have superb quality, funds can be made available for some transfers and expectations remain at maintaining Champions League football.  The only thing that may hold him back is the wages he would be offered at Spurs, they are not known for heavy wage bills and despite Jose's apparent claim that money is not a problem, it might be.

Joining Tottenham would also not hinder a possible move up North in the future, whether that be to City or United. United certainly have no problem in taking players from Tottenham, and presumably would not have a problem taking their manager. As for City, this season Mancini has done a very good job, he will surely not get the boot even if they fail to lift the Premier League this season. Mourinho would add something to Tottenham, probably lift expectations also. Beating Barcelona gets to Jose, he needs to get that out of his system. Either way, it seems the English media are getting their darling back this Summer.

Although, i could be completely wrong, he may just take the England job.... 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Barcelona victorious in Copa first leg - Match Report

Real Madrid 1-2 Barcelona

If you had predicted that a French International would get the winner in tonight's El Clasico, most people would automatically look to Karim Benzema. Not Barcelona fans, oh no, Eric Abidal had plans of his own. When he snook in behind Altintop midway through the second half and latched onto a sublime ball over the top from Lionel Messi, he look as assured as any striker in Europe, slotting home what turned out to be the match winner.

Iker Casillas's face after picking the ball out of the net told the story of this night. A look of dejection, a look of resignation that another chance to get one over on Barca had gone whistling by. It genuinely looked as though the Spanish number 1 could indeed break out in tears. It had all started so well.

Before the game Mourinho had gone with a team that he believed was fit for the occasion. Not necassarily putting out all his talented footballers, he was to put out a team that was capable in his view of beating Barca and sticking to his tactics. Ricardo Carvalho returned for his first start since September, Hamit Altintop chosen at right back which moved Ramos inside, allowing Pepe to hold in midfield with Lassana Diarra and Xavi Alonso. Barcelona on the other hand, were not changing their team for anyone, they put out the team that would beat anyone on the planet, never mind just Real.

Real started brightly as they did in the previous meeting between the two. Harrasing the passing style of Barca and breaking well, they looked up for it. In particular, Cristiano Ronaldo looked to have a bee in his bonnet, defending in not usually his glowing attribute, but regularly tracked back to win possession and help out his defense. Not long into the game, Benzema played a lovely ball around the back of Barca's defense in which caught Dani Alves out, Ronaldo picked it up 30 yards out, running to the box, one step over and bang, the ball driven straight through a wanting Pinto in goal. Real were one up, Ronaldo looked on it, what could go wrong? I honestly can not understand how so many teams have not got it right with Lassana Diarra. He is the type of footballer who would just ruin your day as a midfielder, he is truly excellent on his day and kept Xavi relatively quiet throughout the half. Alexis Sanchez's delicious header almost made it level pegging, latching onto a great pass from Cesc Fabragas (14 goals from 18 starts), the header just hit the crossbar and fell to Ramos. Barca grew into the half, their passing range became better and only for Andres Iniesta's poor attempt at wrapping his foot around the ball, it could have been 1-1. Real went in 1 up, but you could see Barecelona were finding their feel, and a goal was inevitable.

They didn't have to wait long after the break to get the equalizer, a momentary lapse of concentration from Pepe allowed a determined Puyol get onto a Xavi corner and see his diving header rocket into the bottom corner. Barca continued to dominate more and more, an inch perfect pass from Fabregas to Iniesta almost resulted in the second, only for his effort to cannon of Ramos and off the top of the post. Ronldo had changed wings midway through the half and was not getting as much of the ball, when he did, he looked dangerous but he possibly should have stayed down Dani Alves's side. It all got rather typical El Clasico at some points, imaginary cards, player pretending to be hurt, Pepe breaking every rule under the sun etc etc. Pepe possibly could have seen red when he appeared to stand on Lionel Messi's hand late in the half, it was deemed as an accident, it probably wasn't in fairness. Altintop is not particularly used to playing at right back, this showed when Messi found time to place the ball over the Real defense and into Eric Abdial's path, in which he took it down and nicely place his shot into the bottom corner with the outside of his left boot.

From there on it looked a done deal. Barcelona will go into the second leg not only with 2 away goals and the lead, but also with the confidence that Real look a beaten team. Lionel Messi was extremely quiet, but yet set the winner up. You would feel it not possible to keep him as quiet come the second leg, which is something Real will fear. One thing Madrid can take from this is the effect Ronaldo had on the game, he showed a real desire in the first half, something he is criticized for against the bigger teams, hopefully he can build on this. All in all, Barcelona look set to knock Madrid out of another competition, and will be hoping this can affect the race for La Liga also.

Joe Snee

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Danny Wellbeck - The rise of a star in the making

Daniel Nii Tackie Mensah, also known as Danny Wellbeck, has rose to prominence in a season where Thierry Henry and Paul Scholes have made nostalgic returns to the Premier League.

As of now, he seems to have tied down a position where there is no lack of competition. Being Wayne Rooney's partner is not the easiest of positions on a football field. For a start, Wayne tends to drop very deep when the ball is not fired into his feet early on, often leaving his strike partner alone up top.  Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen struggle at times to deal with this, pace is not the Bulgarians strongest attribute and Owens pace and ability to stay fit has long gone. Javier Hernandez's first season in England was a major success, scoring 20 goals in your first season is absolutely nothing to be sniffed at, though this season the Mexican finishing machine has struggled to nail down a starting position. Whether that is down to the concussion sustained or a niggling ankle injury picked up against Aston Villa, it's certainly something he will not be happy with. One conclusion i have came to is that Hernandez does not link up play as well as the likes of Wellbeck, Hernandez makes some amazing runs, brings defenders away from his strike partner and has the ability to find the back of the net like not many others around.

When Wellbeck starts up top with Rooney, he links up play so well it is genuinely a joy to watch at times. He has a partnership with Rooney that  is very much diverting peoples attention away from the midfield situation and keeping Manchester United in the title race. He is now adding the scoring ability to his all around power and speed which has the potential to bring him right to the top. Ruud Van Nistelrooy often gave a young 13 year old Wellbeck advice on his finishing and all around play, this has stood to the United striker.

A lot of credit must be given to Steve Bruce and Sunderland, Wellbeck was sent on loan last season to Wearside, which it was hoped would give him some more experience. He made 28 appearances for the Black Cats and scored 6 goals in his time there, including a goal in a win at Stamford Bridge. He gained some muscle whilst on loan, playing week in week out either up top or on the left, he really came into his own. He now looks the full package, he now looks like a Manchester United footballer.

My question really is, should he be brought to the European Championships this Summer with England? In my view, and this may be slightly bias, i think he should most certainly be on the plane. The competition for places will be big, Carroll, Defoe, Bent, Sturridge and Rooney are all players who could make the trip. I think Wellbeck would offer a no-fear attitude that a 21 year old International should have. His link up with Rooney also offers England a ready made partnership. Many will say Daniel Sturridge should be ahead of Wellbeck, fair points will be made as well, so why not bring them both? Use Sturridge on the right (he won't be happy) . Wellbeck really could add something new and exciting to the set up, even with only 3 Senior International caps to his name.

As far as his club career in the future is concerned, there is a slight concern over his wage demands. So far, these are just rumors, and rumors usually stay at that. The lad looks as though he genuinely is a born and bred Manchester United footballer who would love to stay at the club and become a legend, let's hope that happens.