What Would Catalan Independence mean for FC Barcelona?

The Catalan Independence referendum, which took place on Sunday, reportedly ended with around 90% of voters choosing to break away from Spain. Catalonia has been part of Spain since when, back in the 15th Century, King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella married and united their kingdoms to form what is now Spain.

However, the region has had far from a smooth relationship with the rest of Spain. It has its own language and flag, and many residents have always been in favour of independence, as we saw in Sunday’s referendum results.

Catalonia’s independence will, undoubtedly, send ripples through not only the political landscape of Europe but European football. FC Barcelona, Spain’s second most successful football team of all time (behind only Real Madrid), has been known to be very pro-independence, and have often clashed with the pro-union league authorities, and, for that matter, Real Madrid.

messi catalan

Supposedly, should Catalonia become independent from Spain, which is looking increasingly likely, all of the Catalan Football sides would be forced to leave the Spanish league. Seeing as Girona and RCD Espanyol (the pro-union club in Barcelona) are the only other two sides which could cause any sort of a threat to Barcelona, with maybe the inclusion of Real Sociedad, who were members of the original football association of Catalonia, I would struggle to see any form of Catalan League include Barcelona for any long stretch of time.

Hence, that would mean Barcelona would face having to find a new league to compete in. There have been rumours that they could enter the French Ligue 1 to compete with Monaco and PSG, or maybe the Portuguese Primeira Liga, and even some have said that the Premier League could be an option.

However, I can’t really see the Premier League as a viable option. Away trips from Newcastle to Barcelona won’t be the most appealing, seeing as fans of Northern sides already complain about a trip to Bournemouth. The French league does seem, at least to me, like a possible option, as they already have a successful side from a different country in their ranks in Monaco.

However, I think the most likely outcome would be for Barcelona to strike a deal with La Liga and to remain in their current league. Their fiery relationship with Real Madrid creates one of the world’s greatest matchups in El Classico, and neither La Liga, Barcelona or Real Madrid will want to lose the advertising and publicity they gain from it.

el classico.PNG

El Classico is always a feisty affair

But independence from Spain could mean more than just a change of league. Players who already play for the club could be inclined to leave, and, with the loss of Neymar already causing problems, life without more of their illustrious squad could be a hugely difficult time. There has been talk of Pique, Suarez and even Messi searching for pastures new, and I’m sure that should they be serious about a move there will be no lack of potential suitors.

And without their world-class superstars, iconic ‘El Classico’ battle twice each year or their familiar league and style you can’t help but wonder what would come of FC Barcelona should they leave La Liga.

So what do you think of the Predicament Barcelona are in? Which league do you think they would join should they leave La Liga, and how will they fare? Leave your opinion in the comments below.

On a side note, once again, huge apologies for the lack of posts recently, I took my final exam yesterday so I’m sure things will be back to normal in no time. I do have some hugely exciting things lined up, working with some hugely exciting people, so I can’t wait to share that with you. There will be a post out tomorrow, and one again on Sunday, which will be the general weekend’s football overview.

If you enjoyed the post then please leave a like, leave any comments, queries and question in the comments below. If you want to see more from ‘In The Dugout’ and be told first when I post new content you can follow the site, just enter your Email into the widget above and it’s all done!

Billy

Can Anyone Save Crystal Palace?

Zero points from six games, none scored since May 14th, and thirteen conceded, one manager gone already. If it wasn’t this early in the season then Crystal Palace would be considered pretty much a Championship team, if they aren’t anyway.

Frank De Boer was sacked after just five games and 77 days in charge, but former England manager Roy Hodgson doesn’t seem to have made a big difference. After losing 5-0 to Manchester City at home yesterday, and an away trip to the red side of Manchester coming up this weekend, hosting defending champions Chelsea the following match, there doesn’t look to be much hope for Palace, at least for the foreseeable future.

The former Ajax manager was expected to develop into a very good Premier League manager, after reaching the final with Ajax last year and playing good-looking slick passing play, however, Palace were unprepared to be patient with the Dutchman. Chairman of the London club, Steve Parrish, had tweeted just a few days before the announcement “We are four games in, it’s a terrible start but we have to stick together”, but it seemed that a 1-0 loss at Burnley was enough to sway his mind.

de boer palace.PNG

A BBC poll said that just 17% of participants agreed with the Eagle’s decision, however, quick-fire management-sackings have almost become the norm in modern football, so we can hardly say that we are surprised. Leicester ruthlessly sacked the title-winning Claudio Ranieri after a lacklustre start to his second season, and Chelsea relieved Roberto Di Matteo of his job just six months after taking charge permanently after winning the Champions League and the FA Cup as caretaker manager.

Personally, I don’t think that Roy Hodgson was the right move for Palace. His sides are too slow, cloggy and unambitious. They needed someone who could come in, utilise the pace of Zaha and Sako and the height and venom of Benteke, and create a side who play good football and are hard to defend. Big Sam Allardice did OK for the Eagles last term, but they will have wanted to build on that and improve, hence the appointment of Frank De Boer. Frank De Boer, in my opinion, would have been the perfect fit for palace had they given him time.

Today, Palace were destroyed by the same rampant Manchester City that have beaten Watford 6-0 and Liverpool 5-0 in their last two league games and sit top of the table. However, although the scoreline may contradict me here, there were some good points. Palace looked solid and organised for the first forty minutes, and only an absolutely brilliant goal from Leroy Sane could break them down. The bad part is that after that it was all downhill. If they want to gain anything from Old Trafford next weekend, even a goal, against an unbeaten Manchester United Palace will need to be more than defensively compact. We’ve seen how good United are at breaking down stubborn defences this season, and, unlike last season, sides won’t be able to go to Southern Manchester and frustrate the home team and get a draw. Palace will need to not only be absolutely impenetrable at the back, but ruthless and efficient in attack, and creative in midfield.

Lukaku vs Rashford.PNG

 

So, were Palace right to sack Frank De Boer? And was  Roy Hodgson the right replacement? Leave your opinion in the comments below.

If you enjoyed the post then please do leave a like. Leave any comments, queries or questions in the comments section below. If you want to see more from the dugout and be told first when I post new content, then you can subscribe, just enter your Email address into the widget on the home screen and you are good to go. It’s totally free! There will be a new addidtion to the “Stadiums reviewed” series next weekend, so stay tuned for that.

Billy

 

The Mancunians runs riot, but who will come out on top?

This weekend was undoubtedly, once again, the weekend of the Manchester clubs. United beat an admittedly out of form Everton, and City thrashed a Watford side that was unbeaten in the league by six goals.

Let’s start off with United’s game.

The Reds

Both the scoreline and the match were reminiscent of the first two games of the season, with United taking the lead early on, holding the game for most of the remainder of the match, and then bumping up their goal tally with a few goals from substitutes at the end, and winning the game by a convincing margin.

The Red Devils’ first goal was an absolutely brilliant strike from Ecuadorian right-back Antonio Valencia, smashing home a half-volley from outside the box, after Nemanja Matic’s cross-field pass. Some have claimed that Everton’s young goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, should have stopped the shot, but surely he cannot have been expecting a shot, and with a strike of such power and technique he would not have been able to react in time.

valencia matic celebrate

United then held onto the game for a long time, holding off Everton’s attack and controlling the midfield. The previously much-criticised Phil Jones was in excellent form and his partnership with Eric Bailly has been vital this season, letting United form a solid backline to help secure the game. Everton created a few chances, including a very good chance for Wayne Rooney to score against his old club, taking the ball off the defender and finding some space in the box, but his finish only managed to find the shin of David De Gea. Nemanja Matic and Marouane Fellaini were very good at suring up the middle of the park, and Henrick Mkhitaryan provided fantastic speed and dribbling going forward.

United waited for Wayne Rooney, their all-time record goalscorer, to leave the pitch to a standing ovation before they finally doubled their lead, with Henrick Mkhitaryan sweeping home after Romelu Lukaku’s through ball in the 80th minute.

Romelu Lukaku added a third, slotting home Jesse Lingard’s cross before tormenting the Everton fans with a “where are you now?” style gesture. A fourth was not far in the offing either, just minutes later substitute Anthony martial was brought down in the box for a penalty, which he tucked away reliably.

Although the 4-0 scoreline may have been a little flattering for United, a win was definitely deserved. They took their chances in a fairly close affair when an off-target Everton did not.

romelu lukaku vs everton.PNG

The Blues

To me, it is incomprehensible that a Premier league side could concede six goals in the space of just 90 minutes at home, but that is just what Watford did against an absolutely rampant Manchester City. The Blues dominated the game throughout, and could easily have been four or five-nil up by half-time.

 City finally broke the deadlock at about the half-hour mark, with Sergio Aguero nodding home Kevin De Bruyne’s powerful cross for his first of the afternoon. They then quickly doubled their lead, Aguero again tapping into an empty net after David Silva’s cross. A third came shortly after from young prodigy Gabriel Jesus, and then half-time came, with City leading 3-0.

Watford had a couple of half-chances early on in the second half, heading over from a corner and volleying just wide, however, they all came to nothing, and a fourth was soon added by Nicholas Otamendi who headed home another David Silva cross.

After a twenty minute break from the scoring, Aguero slotted home his third in the 81st minute to complete a hat-trick, before Raheem Sterling tacked on a sixth from the penalty spot.aguero celebrate.PNG

An absolutely rampant City performance destroyed a wasteful Watford, meaning the two Manchester clubs are now only split at the top of the table on Alphabetical order. All stats, goal difference, goals scored, goals conceded are exactly the same.

Who will come out on top come May?

With both sides looking like the ones to beat, I can see the Machester Derbies being even more important than ever. City have been the better side over the last couple of games, but United were totally unstoppable before the international break.

I really couldn’t predict who will come out on top, but rumours about Pogba’s injury lasting for up to three months will be concerning and could prove vital.

What do you guys think? Who will win the league? Will it be City, United or someone else? Leave your opinion in the comments section down below.

Just a couple of things before I sign off, I’ve got a few exams in the coming weeks, so I would very much expect the content posting to be less than usual, but they finish on October second, so it shouldn’t be too much of an effect. On another note, I’ve been organising some big events for the coming months, so keep an eye out for some exciting things. More information will be revealed on the twitter page (@_inthedugout_) in the coming days.

If you enjoyed this post then please leave a like, and leave any comments, queries or questions in the comment section below. If you want to see more from The Dugout and be told first when I post new content, then you can follow the site, just enter your Email into the link on the homepage and you are good to go. It’s completely free! There will be a new post out next weekend, so stay tuned!

Billy

Man City 5-0 Liverpool; Liverpool poor, or City too good?

5-0 is usually a scoreline that you would see in games such as Arsenal vs Sutton United or Man United vs Morecambe, not a match between two sides pushing for the Premier League title. However, that’s exactly what happened yesterday as Manchester City thrashed Liverpool by five goals at the Etihad.

The game started fairly evenly and looked set to be an end-to-end match between two of the best attacking-forces in world football at the moment. City broke the deadlock in the 25th minute, with Sergio Aguero sliding into an open net after rounding Simon Mignolet, following a stunning through ball from Kevin De Bruyne, exposing Liverpool’s defensive weakness for the first of many times that day.

After ten minutes of City leading, the game’s major incident happened. Joel Matip played a long pass over the length of the whole midfield and sending the ultra-fast Sadio Mane in on goal if he could get to it. City’s new ‘keeper, Ederson Moraes, had no choice but to come out of his box and challenge the Senegal winger for the ball, and he did so very well, beating Mane to the ball heading it away. However, in the battle to get to the ball, Sadio Mane raised his boot up high to try and dink it over Moraes and subsequently sent his studs through the side of the Portuguese ‘keeper’s face. Moraes collapsed immediately, and, after some gesticulation of the pain he was in, did not move for another seven minutes. Referee John Moss came over to address the situation and soon showed Mane a straight red card.

maoraes kick

Moss’ decision has been hotly debated all weekend, with both sides arguing their case strongly. I ran a poll on the twitter page (@_inthedugout_) asking you guys whether you thought it was the right decision, and 75% agreed that Mane deserved a red card. Personally, Mane’s boot was raised very high, and he was endangering the opponent, so, he has to go.

It didn’t take long after the injury to double their lead, with Gabriel Jesus heading home De Bruyne’s whipping cross just before the break.Then, in the 52nd minutes, Aguero opened up the Liverpool defence with ease once more, to slip home Benjamin Mendy’s low cross, only for the linesman’s flag to rule it out for offside. However, it’s didn’t really make much difference, as, from the resulting free kick, City won the ball back and, after yet another long pass slicing open the defence, Aguero tapped it into Gabriel Jesus, who tucked it home for his second of the afternoon. That one counted.

Liverpool didn’t get a sniff at the Man City goal, with substitute goalkeeper Claudio Bravo being but a spectator. City finally got their fourth in the 72nd minute, Leroy Sane, yet another substitute, tapping home a low cross. Goal number five was always on the cards, and Leroy Sane got it in stoppage time, curling a beautiful strike into the top corner to finish off the demolition job.

Liverpool spent all summer clearly trying to buy Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton, but to no avail. The need for a big, strong centre back to partner Joel Masip was as clear as daylight, as Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren just will not cut it. The gaps in the back line were clean open, Masip clearly lacked the pace they needed to keep up with Aguero, Sane and Jesus, Alexander-Arnold and Alberto Moreno were very poor, and Andrew Roberton and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (let’s not forget he’s a central midfielder) are not the solutions to the problem. Liverpool need a strong, experienced and organised centre back to hold the back line together and stop the attacks. They are just too easy to break down.

van dijk

Yet, you get the feeling that, however poor Liverpool were, City were always going to win. Once Mane had gone Liverpool lost their link between midfield and attack, and couldn’t get near the City goal. City were organised in defence, brilliant in midfield and deadly in attack.

Kevin De Bruyne was excellent yesterday, as he has been for every game this season. He seems to suit playing a deeper role in midfield, where he can pick the ball up from the defence, run forward and play an incisive through ball into the attack. He links brilliantly with David Silva, and Fernandinho, an unsung hero, in my opinion, provide security, safety and accuracy.

City’s next game comes on Wednesday, where they will face Feyenoord in The Netherlands in their first Champions League game of the season, and  Liverpool will face Sevilla.

If you enjoyed the article and are enjoying the new style to the site then please leave a like, leave any comments, questions and queries in the comment section below. If you want to see more from the dugout and be told first when I post new content, then you can follow the site using the widget on the homepage, it’s completely free. There will be a new post out during the week, so stay tuned!

Billy

Transfer Deadline Day Special: Who will go where?

This summer’s transfer window has smashed records, including more than doubling the record for a transfer fee from £89m to £200m, with Neymar’s move to PSG. Club spending has gone through the roof, and the rumour mill has been in full production. But, finally, we are down to the last day, and, come eleven o’clock, it will all be over. Well, for another four months anyway.

Yet, with just hours remaining, there are still plenty of sagas that have not yet drawn to a conclusion. Barcelona’s summer-long pursuit of Liverpool forward Phillipe Coutinho will probably be less of a priority for the Catalan’s after their purchase of Borussia Dortmund’s winger, Ousmane Dembele, for a £135m fee. Alexis Sanchez is looking increasingly likely to be leaving Arsenal, after refusing to sign a new contract with the Gunners. Manchester City looks like the most probable destination for the Chilean, but don’t rule out Chelsea yet, the blues will be looking for a new winger after missing out on other Oxlade-Chamberlain, another Arsenal winger, to Liverpool.

It surprises me that Wenger would let Sanchez go to a premier league rival. Juventus and Barcelona had been linked earlier this summer, but are looking like less likely destinations. The winger scored 24 league goals last season and got ten assists, but is reportedly looking for trophy-winning football, and is unhappy at Arsenal.

sanchez.PNG

Everton will also be looking to increase their spending even further, with a needs for a new striker to partner Wayne Rooney mounting. Spurs have only just started making signings and could do with a better striker to back up or partner Harry Kane. Swansea’s Fernando Llorente is looking likely.

Spurs have also just completed the signing of Serge Aurier from PSG, according to the BBC. I think this is a good signing, ass Keiran Trippier is good, but not quite good enough to replace Kyle Walker full-time yet. Serge Aurier will provide security at the back, and speed and skill going forwards.

Riyad Mahrez has, in recent days, been linked with a move away from former-champions Leicester, with Man United being linked, but I can’t really see where he would fit in alongside Lukaku, Martial, Rashford and Mkhitaryan. Squad depth is a good thing, but you don’t want too many players not getting game time. I think that he would fit in well at somewhere like Everton or Southampton.

West Brom have pulled off two very good signings with the purchase of Grzegorz Krychowiak from PSG and Keiran Gibbs from Arsenal. Maybe this year they won’t sink into obscurity again, and might even push for a European spot. Another great signing is Swansea getting Bayern Munich midfielder Renato Sanches on loan. The Portuguese man was heavily linked with Man United before sealing a move to Bayern and is a really talented and promising young player.

sanches bayern.PNG

Most European deadlines are at eleven o’clock, however, the Bundesliga (Germany) closes at 5 PM, and the Spanish league doesn’t close until midnight tomorrow! Sorry Liverpool fans!

So, this transfer deadline day is shaping up to be one of the best in years. There are plenty of moves to keep an eye out for, and for once, it might be worth staying up until midnight for! If you want updates throughout the night, be sure to follow the twitter page (@_InTheDugout_) and follow the new Facebook page.

I just also wanted to say thanks for all the support recently, it’s really great to see people enjoying my content.

If you enjoyed the post then please leave a like, leave any comments, queries or questions in the link below, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. If you want to see more from The Dugout and be told first when I post new content, then don’t forget to subscribe, it’s completely free of charge, just enter your Email into the widget on the homepage. You can also follow the twitter page (@_InTheDugout_) and Facebook page (@ITDFootballNews). There will be a new post out at the weekend, so stay tuned!

Billy

Sterling scores but Sees Red as the Manchester Clubs Reign Supreme

Manchester City left it late to gain some points once more yesterday, beating Bournemouth 2-1 at the vitality stadium. It follows on from their late draw with Everton on Monday, and they remain third in the Premier League.

The Cherries opened the scoring in the 13th minute, with midfielder Charlie Daniels thumping home a half-volley from distance at a tight angle. The way his sliced his left foot through it but managed to produce such power at the same time, smashing it onto the underside of Ederson’s crossbar and into the net was reminiscent of a prime Frank Lampard goal. An early contender for goal of the season for sure. However, it didn’t take City long to level it up, with David Silva sliding through a perfect pass into the path of youngster Gabriel Jesus, who slid it past Asmir Begovic.  City then dominated the first half, hitting Bournemouth with multiple attacks, running through either Kevin De Bruyne or David Silva, and then spreading through to one of the attackers.

City then dominated the first half, hitting Bournemouth with multiple attacks, running through either Kevin De Bruyne or David Silva, and then spreading through to one of the attackers.

Bournemouth did very well to hold off Man City for the majority of the game, but finally, their defence gave way in the 97th minute. Sterling jinked his way through two defenders and knocked it into De Bruyne, who slid it into Leroy Sane. The German pulled it back for Sterling, who controlled the ball excellently, and sent a deflected shot looping into the net to send the City fans into euphoria.

sterling celebrates

What happened next would become the most debated topic of the weekend, but first, let’s back up a bit. City won the ball back after Bournemouth substitute Lys Mousset made, what the referee deemed, a poor challenge, which would have sent the Cherries in on goal. The Match Of The Day pundits seemed very against the ref’s decision, but I can see why he gave it. He got the player before the ball, so really it should be a free-kick. But, I do disagree with where the free-kick was taken from, it was about 12 yards behind where the foul took place, giving City a better chance to open up play with more space to gain momentum.

City then went up and scored, and, understandably, Raheem Sterling was clearly overjoyed. He ran over to the City fans, and they celebrated like they had just won the league. Sterling was then given a second yellow card for going into the crowd to celebrate, even when he stayed on the pitch, and the city fans surrounded him on the sidelines. The referee had also indicated five minutes of stoppage time when seven was played. For me, he should have blown the whistle after Mousset’s foul, rather than carrying on for too long.

City’s win keeps them in the top three and shows their intent this season. Both Manchester clubs have been tipped as the favourites for the title for a long time, and this very much looks the case, with United scoring ten without reply in three games, and city maintaining their unbeaten record.

table 27 aug 2017

Where do you think City will finish this season? Will they remain ahead of United, or will the Red Devils topple their noisy neighbours? Leave your opinion in the comments down below.

If you enjoyed the post then please do leave a like, it’s great to see that people enjoy my content. Leave any comments, questions or queries in the comment section below. If you want to see more from ‘In The Dugout’ and be told first when I post new content, then you can follow the site, it’s completely free, just enter your Email address on the widget on the home page and you’re good to go! There will be a new post out at the weekend, as it is an international break, so I’ll see you then!

Billy

 

 

Premier League Stadiums rated: St James’ Park

Hello, and welcome a new series on ‘In The Dugout’! Here I will discuss my opinion on Premier League stadiums, and discuss the different features of each ground that I visit.

So, the other day I had a few hours to kill in Newcastle on the way back from a trip to County Durham, but I only had two hours before I needed to head back home, so I thought “hey, I know what I can do, I could visit St James’ Park, and make it into a feature for The Dugout!”, so I booked myself in for a tour, followed the instructions of the confirmation Email and headed over to the Milburn stand.

The first thing to strike you at the entrance is the bigger-than-life-sized bronze statue of geordie legend Alan Shearer, which is clearly there in honour of the now Match of the Day pundit, but the slightly distorted facial features do add a slightly scary look to him.

shearer statue.PNG

Then, I walked over to where I was meant to begin the tour, collected my Newcastle United Lanyard and tour-pass and was greeted by the virtual presence of legendary Magpies captain, Bobby Moncur, being projected onto a cardboard cutout of the man himself. He proceeded to explain why he is regarded as a toon legend and what would happen during the course of the tour.

Our tour guide, Patrick, then took us up in a lift to the executive boxes. He told us about the ownership of each box. My personal favourite was the YI box (say each letter aloud).

Patrick then took us up to the top tier, which gave a fantastic view of the iconic stadium. One thing I found particularly interesting about St James’ was the use of glass, combined with the abundance of white, which was a great way of allowing as much natural light in as possible. Another prominent feature is the contrast in height in the stands. It’s like two different stadiums have been cut in half diagonally and stuck together. One half is a super tall, modern stadium, and the other half is a traditional, simplistic ground. Patrick the tour guide explained that this was because of the row of grade-one listed buildings next to the stand and because if the stand had to go up, the foundations would have to go down, which would cause trouble with the subway station below. Hence, there are no plans to expand the stadium unless The Toon are achieving regular European football every year.

Stjames park big standSt James park small corner

We then took a look at all the different boxes where the owners of each club and all the behind-the-scenes staff sit on matchday. Patrick explained how Steve McLaren would like to sit about 6 rows up from the field, rather than in the dugout, he even had a tactical desk with a stream on a 15-second delay installed. This contrasts with current manager, Rafa Benitez’s style, a very old fashioned, authoritative coach in the dugout, barking instructions.

Next, we went down to the dressing rooms and were told about the different styles of room in use. What’s now the away dressing room is a small, old fashioned and tight space, where the coach can’t make eye contact with every player at once. The strange thing is, that was, during Newcastle’s most successful years in recent times, the home dressing room. Kevin Keegan believed that a tight-knit, Sunday league style atmosphere would help to give the players a sense of pride to play for the club and give them the best feeling of togetherness, rather than the modern, pampered dressing rooms with fridges and ice baths. Patrick also said that Alan Shearer would always sit below a clock, in the centre of the room, which supposedly gave him the ability to score goals, but when St James hosted a few games at the rugby world cup in 2015, the all blacks were in there, and the clock disappeared when they did.

christian atsu, newcastle shirtdwight gayle newcastle shirt

 

Finally, we walked out through the dugout and onto the pitch-side. We were told that the pitch is one of the only remaining Premier league pitches to be 100% real grass and that the different colour stripes on the pitch are created by the grass being cut at different angles. After some time to take pictures and take in the surroundings, we went back out, through the away side entrance and finished the tour.

Overall, the tour of St James park is a great experience, for both Newcastle fans and non-Newcastle fans. The stadium is very unique and has one of the richest histories of any ground in the UK. I would definitely recommend it to any football fan. If you ever go to Newcastle, go here!

I’d also like to say a massive thanks to both Newcastle United and our tour guide, Patrick, for making this whole thing possible, and for providing a really interesting, informative experience.

If you enjoyed the post and are looking forward to this new series then please leave a like, put any comments, questions or queries in the contact link below. If you want to see more from The Dugout and be told first when I post new content, then please subscribe, just enter your Email into the widget on the homepage, or subscribe with your WordPress account. There will be a new post out during the week, so stay tuned.

Billy

 

 

Are Man Utd The Team To Beat This Season?

Manchester United beat West Ham 4-0 on Sunday, and their whole performance was a real statement of intent. The West Ham side may have been lacking a few of their main players, namely Andy Carroll, Manuel Lanzini and Michael Antonio, but they were still well and truly rolled over by the Red Devils.

Romelu Lukaku opened his Man United account after just half an hour, tucking home into Joe Hart’s near post after Marcus Rashford slipped him through. He then doubled his tally five minutes into the second half, flicking a Henrikh Mkhitaryan free-kick into the bottom corner. The Belgian had chances to complete a hat-trick but didn’t manage to convert a third. Anthony Martial finally got United’s third in the last few minutes, and Paul Pogba tacked on a fourth in stoppage time, curling in an excellently disguised shot past a poorly positioned Joe Hart.

lukaku man utd goal.PNG

United’s new signings showed great promise, with Lukaku bagging a brace, and Matic playing excellently, dominating the midfield and tempo of the game. West Ham’s two new signings, former Reds fan-favourite Javier Hernandez and Austrian Marco Arnautovic, also showed promise. Arnautovic came close at one point, heading onto the crossbar, and Chicharito was the only Iron’s player who kept putting 100% in right until the end.

Lukau could turn out to be a hugely important signing for United, as his goals and general on-field presence will possibly play a big part in United’s return to success, and if he does that then he will be regarded as an immortal United Legend

So, is this a sign of things to come from Man United? They are top of the league, even if it is only on goal difference after one game, but will face huge opposition to hold onto that spot from noisy neighbours Man City, who also dismantled a stubborn Brighton to win 2-0, but perhaps not Chelsea. The Blues were beaten 3-2 at home to Burnley, at one point going 3-0 down, and ending any expectations of retaining their title in the process. Antonio Conte is clearly unhappy at the lack of squad depth and has been rumoured to be about to resign.

conte

Please feel free to leave your opinions in the comment section below. Entries to The Dugout fantasy football league are now closed but will reopen for three hours on Friday at 2PM BST, so be on alert if you haven’t joined already.

If you enjoyed the post then please do leave a like, leave any comments, queries and questions in the comment section below. If you want to see more from The Dugout and be told first when I post new content, then please do subscribe, you can use either your Email (enter it on the widget on the homepage) or your WordPress account, it’s totally free. There will be a new post out on Sunday, so stay tuned,

Billy

 

Why do Barcelona want Coutinho?

First off, I would like to apologise for the lack of activity over the last week or so, I was on holiday in Italy and the place where we were staying didn’t have WiFi, so I couldn’t access the site.

So, what have we missed? That’s right, Neymar. PSG signed the Brazilian for £200,000,000 on August 3rd, and the deal sent the football world into meltdown, but what I’m finding more amazing is Barcelona’s response. They’ve just lost a player who is one of the best three in the world, and now have to build their team around a declining Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, both of which have three seasons maximum, in my opinion, until their careers come to a standstill. They need a world-class signing to replace Neymar, and they want Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho? I just don’t get it.

I’m not denying that Coutinho is a fantastic player, but Barcelona need someone who will carry on the legacy, someone who is still relatively young, but has shown that he is already world-class. Coutinho, I would say, is about the fifth best in the Premier League, so is clearly not at the level needed.

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Barcelona need to make a statement signing. Their legendary front three is falling apart, the spine of their midfield is crumbling with the ageing of Busquets and Iniesta, and their defence is too, with Pique and Mascherano both reaching the climax of their careers. They need to go and spend £100m on a world class player, to show PSG and Real Madrid that they are not going to die away.

I think that Eden Hazard would be the perfect signing. He’s only 26, but has already won the PFA Player Of The Year Award, the PFA Young Player Of The Year, and the FWA Player Of The Year Award. He has been previously heavily linked with Real Madrid, but those rumours seem to have died down. Hazard’s pace, dribbling and skill is reminiscent of that of Neymar, and his social presence is far bigger than Coutinho’s, which would certainly be an asset to the Catalans.

Should Coutinho sign, it is expected that he will play similarly to how Pedro did before Suarez and Neymar came, just keeping his head down and helping create space for Messi and Villa to reek havoc amongst the opposition defence, but I can’t see that working like it did back then. Messi is a hugely different player to the one he was back then, he’s not quite as direct or explosive as he was, and now focuses more opening up the opposition and creating space in tight situations. Without a super-quick winger to support him, I can see his career declining very quickly.

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Another deal that confuses me is the Paulinho move. The Brazilian flopped at Spurs, and hasn’t yet proved himself at a big club. He’s currently in China earning a reported £100,000 per week, and doing fairly well, but certainly not well enough to warrant a £50m move to Barcelona. They definitely need a midfielder, as Andre Gomez and Sergi Roberto are looking decidedly below-par, but surely they should get someone who is a sure success, rather than a player who’s had a couple of decent seasons in Brazil and failed at Tottenham? It really does boggle me.

If you have anything to add to the discussion then please leave it in the comment section below. Entries to my fantasy league close on Tuesday, so make sure you join quick if you want to. The code is 973676-233557.

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Billy