Category Archives: Barclays Premier League

Football – In 2017

Another year, another busy schedule for football in general, especially at the international level with the Africa Cup of Nations which occurs every two years and will take place in Gabon (from January 14 to February 5, 2017) and the FIFA Confederations Cup (in the summer) which features the winner of each continental cup and the World Cup. This year, the tournament will host:

Russia (2018 World Cup host country)
Germany
(2014 World Cup)
Portugal (2016 European Championship)
Chile (2015 Copa America)
Cameroon (2017 Africa Cup of Nations)
Mexico (2015 Gold Cup)
Australia (2015 Asian Cup)
New Zealand (2016 Oceania Football Confederation )

Eight teams, four groups and “a curse”. Yes, since its creation in 1991, no country which has won this tournament has been able to repeat the following year by raising the World Cup as champions. A little bit like the new format of Champions League introduced in 1992 where no club has been able to repeat as back-to-back winners. Will the country of Russia be where the “curse” is going to end? I doubt it, but we never know, the Chicago Cubs, baseball infamous team ended their so-called “Curse of the Goat) this year after 108 years of waiting by winning the Major League Baseball World Series, so there is hope.

At club level, the different leagues are still dominated, in most parts, by the usual suspects:
FC Bayern Munich is dominating, albeit not as easily as expected the German Bundesliga.
Juventus FC is still on top of Italian Serie A.
Paris Saint-Germain is third, after winning four consecutive French Ligue 1 titles.
Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona are respectively first and second of Spain’s LaLiga Santander.
And Chelsea FC has a strong lead in the Barclays Premier League in Britain.

The UEFA Champions League will be interesting as well. The round of 16 offers already mouthwatering encounters such as:

FC Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal FC
FC Barcelona vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Real Madrid CF vs. SSC Napoli
AS Monaco vs. Manchester City FC

Another great year of football ahead. Stay tuned.

Advertisements

Pep Guardiola vs. José Mourinho II – Barclays Premier League chapter

Oh, that rivalry smells good. After being head-to-head in Spain, one for Real Madrid CF and the other for FC Barcelona, the two master tacticians will do battle again, in the same league, this time in the Barclays Premier League, and this could mean fireworks all over the place.

Let’s be clear, even if these two were disciples of Louis van Gaal at FC Barcelona, knew each other very well and seemed to get along just fine, they have learned not to love one another over the years. Worse, they hate probably learnt to even despise each other over time, matches, altercations, etc. And this is what will make this derby even more exciting, even crazier.

Two giant clubs that have also issues in their level of performance on the pitch. Manchester United FC, since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of the 2012-13 season, is no longer a shadow of it former self, despite winning the FA Cup last season. Whereas Manchester City FC, constant Champions League qualifier, has not won the league since the 2013-2014 season despite several expensive transfer deals and huge transfer funds.

Throughout the season, we will have a weekly head-to-head matchup between José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola as both men will try to become not only the king of Manchester but also of Great Britain, football-wise. We shall see, as Mr. van Gaal used to say.

One thing seems set in stone: the city of Manchester will have a champion in the near future. The only thing that we are not sure of yet is which colour will reign supreme.

(Definitely stay tuned…)

2016-17 Managers – Barclays Premier League

It is packed, to say the least. Pretty much all the big name managers will feature in the Barclays Premier League this upcoming season. Let’s take a look at the current situation:

Leicester City FC – Claudio Ranieri (Italy)
The defending champions.

Arsenal FC – Arsène Wenger (France)
3-time Barclays Premier League winner.

Tottenham Hotspur FC– Mauricio Pocchettino (Argentina)
Finished third last season and went toe-to-toe versus the champions until the last two games of the season.

Manchester City FC – Pep Guardiola (Spain)…does he need any introduction?

Manchester United FC – José Mourinho (Portugal)…Him as well?

Southampton FC – Ronald Koeman (The Netherlands) was the manager but is on the verge of signing for Everton FC, this summer.

Liverpool FC – Jurgen Klopp (Germany)
Two lost finals last year (the Capital One League Cup and the UEFA Europa League) along with an impressive resume with Borussia Dortmund.

West Ham United FC – Slaven Bilić (Croatia)
The Hammers will move into the London Olympic Stadium and with Dimitri Payet and more players, they can become an even bigger threat.

Chelsea FC – Antonio Conte (Italy)
We assume that the Blues will come back and challenge for the title and they will try to do with a new manager and he is from Italy.

The only observation is the lack of British managers currently working, especially with the top clubs. We have to go down to Stoke City FC and Mark Hughes, a Welshman, to find the first British manager in the Premier League in last season’s table (9th). A trend that is worrying for British managers.

On a more positive side, it clearly shows that the Barclays Premier League can attract the best managers in the world. On the other hand, it can handicap the local and national managers. It was a phenomenon felt with the players for about 20 years (even since the Bosman ruling and the freedom of movement for workers, mainly). For a few years now, it is at the managerial level that a shift is occurring and we will have to wait and see where this will bring British managers into.

José Mourinho & Manchester United FC – A match made in Heaven or Hell?

Louis van Gaal has been sacked as the manager of Manchester United FC.

David Moyes, “The Chosen One”, didn’t last one entire season with the Red Devils.

Now, the club has agreed to hire the self-proclaimed “Special One”, José Mourinho, as their new man in charge. The decorated manager, who was eyeing this position for a long time, gets his wish. What to think about this move, this career choice?

First, United fans will have to come to terms with a reality. Managers do not or very rarely stay 26 years with the same club anymore and with the success that Mr. Alex Ferguson has enjoyed, despite a difficult start to his career.

Second, he competition will be as fierce as ever before. Manchester City FC with Pep Guardiola, probably the best and most successful manager in football currently (along with “El Cholo” Diego Pablo Simeone, in my opinion). Chelsea FC with Italian manager Antonio Conte will come back and would want to regain the title as soon as possible and put the Mourinho’s era behind them. Arsenal FC have just added Swiss international, Granit Xhaka, to their lineup and would want to improve on their second place finish from last season.

And clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur FC under Mauricio Pocchetino, Liverpool FC with Jurgen Klopp, West Ham FC led by Slaven Bilic and a new stadium, the Olympic Stadium, and why not, Leicester City FC guided by Claudio Ranieri, the defending champions, will be a difficult opponent to play against, although few believe that they can actually repeat.

Manchester United FC will not feature in the UEFA Champions League this season. Instead, they will have to settle for the UEFA Europa League. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Mourinho manages his squad for this competition.

And finally, will the “Special One” finally settle in a club for more than three years and half or less? Will the native of Setúbal display more calm, cool and collected behavior as he has promised to do during his second press conference unveiling him as the Chelsea FC manager? Or will it be the same old song, played especially in London and Madrid, repeated all over again?

We shall see, as Mr. van Gaal, used to stay.

Say tuned…

Arsenal FC – What Is The Problem?

Season 2003-04: The Gunners did not know about it at the time, but the team from North London was going to make history in British football. The club went on to be unbeaten in the Barclays Premier League for the entire season. A feat that has never been achieved before and after, so far. The future was supposed to be promising. It yielded a F.A. Cup title against Manchester United and a second place in the league behind José Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2004-05; and a Champions League final, at the Stade de France in Paris, lost versus FC Barcelona thanks to a late goal from Julian Belleti. Since then, Arsenal FC has been struggling to win titles. They have finished no higher than 3rd in the league. No FA Cup titles until the triumphs 2014 and 2015. No European titles (the closest was a seminal appearance against the Red Devils in 2009 which was lost 4-1 on aggregate). In the League Cup, they appeared in one final at Wembley Stadium in London, Birmingham City, which were just promoted by the score 2-1 with a last-minute goal.

In the meantime, several big name players left the club such as Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Alex Song, Alexander Hleb, Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna etc. Others came in such as Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla, Nacho Montreal, Gervinho (left the team since), Marouane Chamakh (left), Nicklas Bendtner (left), Gabriel Paulista, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Petr Cech, Mohamed Elmeny, David Ospina etc. Young players have given Arsenal’s fans some hope such Hector Bellerin from Spain, Francis Coquelin from France and youngster Alex Iwobi from Nigeria. It is not enough to win the title though. This year was a year where, if done right, Arsenal could have challenged Leicester City FC most decisively. But now, with six games to play, they are 14 points behind with two games in hand. A task almost impossible to achieve.

Regrets and maybe frustration will continue to mount and the current manager, Arsene Wenger, will continue to be at the centre of it all. For years, fans and experts mentioned that the club was lacking several players to compete for titles a good defensive midfielder, a world class centre-half and a goal scorer. Interesting observations since Arsenal used to always field those type of players on the pitch (Tony Adams, Sol Campbell, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Robert Pires, Ian Wright, Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie). Where are those kind players been ? Why has Arsenal changed a winning formula? Is the construction of the Emirates Stadium good enough of an excuse to explain the lack of trophies by the former “Invincibles”? We shall see.

True, it is not easy to find those type of quality players, but Arsenal FC is not a club like any other. Based in London, England, with a successful history, big stadiums in the past and present and with ambitions, it is time for the Gunners to take that step ahead.

Stay tuned…

Manchester United and José Mourinho

Manchester United have been looking at the past few years since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson with disappointments. “The Chosen One”, David Moyes, was not able to bring glory to the Red Devils. His successor, Louis van Gaal, the current manager, is struggling to win over the fans and the media on his side with the club not doing as well as expected despite the amount of money spent to bring back trophies at Old Trafford. Players such as Juan Mata (M), Angel Di Maria (M/W), Daley Blind (D/M), Anthony Martial (F), Memphis Depay (W/F), Marcos Rojo (D), Luke Shaw (D), Ander Herrera (M) and a few others have been brought in the past few years, but the club has not won a single piece of silverware since an FA Community Shield triumph over Wigan by the score of 2-0 in August 2013 (at the beginning of David Moyes’s era) thanks to a brace by former star striker Robin van Persie.

Here comes José Mourinho. The Portuguese manager has been out of a job since leaving or being sacked for a second time by Chelsea F.C.. The native of Setúbal, has not found work since and there is growing speculation that he might be the favourite man to take over Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford at the end of the season. With Manchester City hiring Pep Guardiola earlier this season, the Red Devils may feel like it has to respond and despite a club legend, namely Ryan Giggs, gaining experience on a regular basis next to the Champions’ League winning Dutch coach as his assistant, the hierarchy at Manchester United might find it tempting to respond to their arch rivals by renewing a past rivalry involving both managers once at Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

It should be an interesting story unfolding in Manchester and if the Red Devils decide to sign the Portuguese manager, it will surely set up some fireworks in months if not years to come.