Manchester United v. Leicester post-match thoughts

Here’s my thoughts on the players involved in today’s game, with a numerical rating 1-10 (5 average, 10 is absolute domination). Man Utd: de Gea: 7 – de Gea as usual made some fantastic stops, however, he switched off for the Vardy goal that rebounded off his post with no United player nearby. He managed … Read moreManchester United v. Leicester post-match thoughts

EPL 2018-2019 Matchday 1, Part 1

Disclaimer: This series is examining the games days prior to matchday, there is always the possibility for injuries, coach selections, etc. They may be updated to reflect most accurate starting lineup.

Manchester United 
Manchester United is a sizable favorite (although it’s decreased somewhat in light of a dismal transfer window) in what’s being billed as a low scoring game, likely under 3 goals. I think that Manchester United’s ability to run this game depends on if more of the World Cup players choose to come home early.
Although the feuds within the United squad and the board with Mourinho are highly publicized, I anticipate that these are blown out of proportion. Mourinho is a very polarizing figure, and I think that the media is far more apt to jump on negativity. One specific example is when Mourinho stated (regarding the US friendlies) that he thought the “fans were wasting their money” — however, the real statement had to with Manchester United having to field a whole bunch of academy and reserve players due to World Cup players and injuries. Remember, the same stories surfaced last season about the “awful season to come” in 2017, and United ended up finishing 2nd in the league. That being said, I think they still haven’t addressed their primary “hypothetical” shortfall (which has become their current shortfall — again — with the Baily injury, you can see more here), they brought in a youth prospect (Diogo Dalot) but I don’t expect him to slot in with the first team (plus — he, too, is currently injured).

Read moreEPL 2018-2019 Matchday 1, Part 1

Manchester United 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 2

For an in-depth look at the Manchester United roster in advance of the 2018-2019 season, click here to read Part 1. This post will be updated throughout the season with notable transfers and other additions to the club.
Ins:

  • Fred ($65M from Shakhtar Donetsk) – I anticipate that Fred will add a playing style similar to Nemanja Matic. Mourinho is constantly frustrated by the willingness of his players to track back and sell out for defensive duties, one particularly vocal feud has been over Paul Pogba. Fred plays very hard at both ends of the pitch with the goal of turning possession over and getting it up on the counter attack, where he is also very good at providing key passes to get other players into position to score/assist. I anticipate him getting a lot of run in the first side, perhaps at the expense of a player like Ander Herrerra (whom Barcelona is rumored to be courting — again) or Mata who can’t provide the same defensive contributions.
  • Diogo Dalot ($24M from FC Porto) – Dalot is a young prospect that will continue to improve (likely vastly). He is a typical Mourinho forward that can get forward and provide exceptional crosses. Like Fellani, he is also very competent with winning aerial challenges. I think that Dalot will see a fair amount of first team time this year, especially as Mourinho sorts through his defensive inconsistencies. Look for Dalot to improve and be a stalwart at the back for a long time to come.
  • Lee Grant ($2M from Stoke City) – I think this move for grant is more about maintaining serviceable keepers, United have made it very clear that they have to intention of selling David De Gea. So I don’t see this as being a threat to anyone in that manner, I think it’s more a case of ensuring back up with Sergio Ramos injured with an unknown return timetable.

    Read moreManchester United 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 2

Manchester United 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 1

Note: As we cover more of the top teams in the Premier League – especially the “Big Six,” the individual transfer write-ups will feature a look at the overall roster (as Part 1), followed by a separate post that will contain the individual transfers to/from the team, which will be updated as appropriate (as Part 2). 
United really hasn’t been the United of old since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, the longest-serving English top flight manager and the second-longest Premier League manager by virtue of Arsene Wenger serving longer in the new league (1992-current). They’ve had a very tumultuous time since his retirement going through a number of managers in relatively short succession. Since 2013 United has had David Moyes, Ryan Giggs (interim/caretaker manager), Louis Van Gaal, and now Jose Mourinho. The transfer business has pointed this out, a number of players brought in my one manager are sent out by the next. Van Gaal brought in Darmian and Blind, and now Mourinho has sought to send them both on their way.
In addition to the managerial inconsistency, United has suffered mightily from injuries, especially at centerback. This has forced them to adopt a style not well received by the fans or media in an attempt to “stem the tide” of goals allowed. This has resulted in a very “Un-United playing style” with the team scraping out results largely by defending excessively and trying to get forward on the breaks as opposed to playing the attacking football that helped them establish their brand. I think Mourinho has been making steps towards returning to attacking football but the defense has definitely provided a hindrance.
Mourinho has not been happy with the consistency that has led to feuds with a number of players including:Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan (eventually traded), Matteo Darmian, Luke Shaw, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelöf among others that has had substantial impact on the consistency of the starting eleven. Eventually moves brought inAlexis Sánchez, which further complicated the rotation with Sanchez, Marcus RashfordAnthony Martial, and Jesse Lingard, even before summer transfer business. I expect that the first team will be clarified towards the start of this season — he has a mostly healthy defense and has had time to target and bring in players for his side.

Read moreManchester United 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 1

Where World Cup Award Winners Will Be Playing

Now that World Cup 2018 has been over for some time, with France coming out on top against an upstart Croatia team, you might be wondering where you can find all the stars from the tournament across the various football associations.
You’ve come to the right place!
FIFA doesn’t announce a Best XI from the tournament, which made this a little more difficult to complete. They did, however, give out four individual awards to seven individuals:

  • Golden Ball (best overall player) (gold, silver, and bronze)
  • Golden Ball (top scorer) (gold, silver, bronze)
  • Golden Glove (best goalkeeper)
  • Best Young Player

We’ll cover these seven players first, and most of these players have shown up on the various “best of the tournament” lists that I’ve seen floating around the internet.

Read moreWhere World Cup Award Winners Will Be Playing

Premier League Club Primer: 2018-2019 Edition

Ever had questions about clubs that you were afraid to ask? Here’s the rundown on the 20 Soccer teams competing in the top tier of English Soccer. Some historical facts, some questions to be answered, and some serious takeaways. Here is everything you wanted to know about the clubs but didn’t want (or know) to ask.
During the next couple weeks, we’ll be exploring each teams transfer business (In and Out) to see how well teams have addressed their needs!

Arsenal

Nickname: The Gunners
Founded: 1886 (Under a different name)
Location: London
Team Colors: Red/White
Kit Manufacturer: Puma (2014-present)
Kit Sponsor: Emirates Airlines
Ground: Emirates Stadium (2006-present)
Capacity:  59,862
Manager: Unai Emery (first season) replacing Arsene Wenger (1996-2018)
Website: www.arsenal.com
17/18 Season: 6th in English Premier League

Arsenal are a perennial Premier League team, with their only stint in lower-tier football occurring prior to World War I (as part of their progression to the Premier League). Since then, they’ve been a stalwart and are considered part of English soccer’s royalty, the “Big Six”.  While placed in this royalty, Arsenal’s recent form have had them finishing outside of the top-4 which is a perquisite for the UEFA Champions League.  Missing out on the Champions League is a big financial hit for the club, and has been a voiced concern amongst the players; some of whom have run out their contracts or joined rival clubs for the opportunity to compete at the highest level. One of these situations led to a winter transfer window swap for one of Arsenal’s top players, Alexis Sanchez, getting swapped for a Henrik Mkhitaryan who was in poor form for Manchester United so that they didn’t lose him to a free transfer deal.

Arsenal are on their first season Post-Wenger who’s been at Arsenal almost as long as I’ve been alive. So far, Unai Emery, has shown a couple of positives: he’s managed to get some top-tier talent for reasonable prices (by EPL standards) and one particular transfer, Sokratis, was able to overcome reported interest by other Big Six clubs. Arsenal is not a bad side, and I fully expect them to continue in continental competition. Arsenal’s Achilles heel last year was their propensity to give up losses, whereas their EPL opponents could fight for draws. If only a few of those losses were draws, they likely would have been in Champions League competition instead of Europa League.

I think the prospects for Arsenal will be good enough for Champions League this year. Arsenal has also had a larger squad than many teams which has caused some strife for its players (Olivier Giroud –last year, and Jack Wilshere – this year) which eventually have led them elsewhere. I think that clarified expectations under Emery could tighten up the rotation a little and keep continuity (especially in the back) which will allow them to hold on in tight contests.

Click here for an in-depth look at Arsenal’s transfers in advance of the 2018-19 season.

Read morePremier League Club Primer: 2018-2019 Edition