What is next for Arsene Wenger and why has no club come in for him?

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This summer has been a huge one for Arsene Wenger, that culminated in one of the biggest changes of his career- leaving his beloved Arsenal after 22 years. The French coaching legend has been busy since departing, visiting his good friend George Weah in Africa and attending many different football matches. However questions remain as to what Wenger will do next.

Wenger has been linked to various jobs, most have been outside of the major clubs though and the feeling is that he won’t end up with one of the European heavyweights. This is probably more of a reflection on his last 10 years with Arsenal, where he was only able to achieve 3 FA Cup wins and no league titles.

In the summer it seemed that he was favoured to manage in China. Wenger of course has already coached in Asia when he managed in the Japanese J League. But many coaches have chosen China for a lucrative final pay deal that has seen the likes of Fabio Capello and Sven Goran Eriksson sign up to go out there.

Or there is the option to coach an MLS team in America. Whilst the salary would be much lower than what Wenger is expected of the football would be more competitive and could serve him up with just the right challenge to keep him motivated.

One idea that does fit is to become the national coach of his country. No one can deny how brilliant France have been over the last 2 years, winning this summers World Cup and finishing as runners up at Euro 2016. The problem he has there is that France have the very capable Didier Deschamps in charge who has obviously done a fantastic job with the side. The only way that could change would be if France have a poor Euro 2020, and even if that happens the French job is still 2 years away, something that Wenger surely couldn’t wait that long to acquire.

There has for many years been a link to both PSG and Barcelona. PSG makes sense in the fact they are of course French and have dominated Ligue 1 football this decade. The team and Wenger were the perfect fit at the beginning of this decade, but at the end,well it isn’t not so sure. Again PSG like France look in a very good position and it seems that current coach Thomas Tuchel is going nowhere fast.

As far as Barcelona are concerned, surely this would be the dream final job for Wenger- a team who empathise with Wenger’s football philosophy to attack. Current coach Ernesto Valverde is under some pressure even though the club are the champions in Spain. The problem is that they have not performed well enough in the Champions League in recent seasons.

Another question must be posed which is, clubs are hardly lining up for Wenger’s signature and it could well be that at 68 the very big European heavyweights will feel that Wenger has had his time.

The link again goes back this week to PSG where Wenger could become a technical advisor with the club, or as some people would put it, the man upstairs. Let’s hope that Wenger does not take this route to end his glorious footballing career on because it would rather feel that the great man is going out with a whimper rather than a bang of which he is surely most deserving.

Who have been the best pound for pound teams in European football so far?

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We are two months into the domestic league seasons and each league is starting to take shape around Europe. The usual suspects are either sitting on top of the league or ominously close to that. But who have been the best pound for pound teams so far in Europe? The teams that clearly do not have the same budget as the Manchester City’s and PSG’s. And perhaps the following teams will be able to keep up their good starts to the season and cause some surprises. Whilst they may not be crowned new champions of their respective leagues they will all have the ability to try and qualify for European football and possibly have deep runs in their respective cup competitions.

Premier League- Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves as they are commonly known were not supposed to cause much of a fuss in England this season and many expected them to finish in the bottom half of the table. However currently they are in 7th place and have 15 points from a possible 24. Coach Nuno Espirito Santo has been a revelation and has struck a fine balance between attack and defence. Wolves are the only club to take points from champions Manchester City so far and have also come away with a 1-1 draw at their rivals Manchester United. They have lost just 1 game all season so far and are only 5 points from the top of the league.

Ligue 1 – Lille

Lille have struggled in recent seasons so this is a real surprise to see the team in 2nd place and 3 points clear of Marseille in third position. Whilst they won’t be catching league leaders PSG anytime soon as they are 8 points adrift of them their aim will be Champions League qualification for next season. Lille have been superb and have recorded such results as beating Marseille 3-0. They have won 6 of their 9 games so far and are scoring goals too, they currently have 17 which is the 3rd highest in the league.

Serie A- Sampdoria

Sampdoria got off to a slow start in Serie A but their form has been constantly improving week by week. So much so that they find themselves in 5th place behind the more traditional teams who we are expected to see in the top four. Form is good where they have lost just 1 game in their past five matches and have only been defeated 2 times this season. But it has been the clubs away form that has impressed where they have the 3rd best record in the league.

La Liga- Sevilla

This choice is easy, Sevilla, because they have taken the Spanish league by storm and currently sit in 1st place above both Barcelona and Real Madrid. They have already comprehensively beaten Madrid in the league and have won 5 of their 8 games so far. They have won their last 4 games in the league and have scored 14 goals alone in those games. Indeed only Barcelona have scored more goals. It remains to be seen in such a difficult league if Sevilla can keep up their form but they are definitely added to the mix which is sure to make La Liga experience one of the most exciting seasons in years.

 

Harry Kane; Not just a target man

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Ever since Harry Kane burst onto the scene, he’s been labelled as a ‘traditional’ English centre-forward. A target man.

You know the type. Strong, aggressive, puts himself about a bit, gets on the end of crosses and decent hold up play.

All the ingredients, in fact, one needs to thrive in what is the most physically demanding football league in the world – the Premier League.

However, such a ‘one dimensional’ description does the Tottenham Hotspur man no real favours. Continue reading

Sacking Rafael Benitez is not an option at Newcastle

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Until now, any talk of Rafael Benitez’s departure from Newcastle United has been spoken about from his point of view. It is nothing new; speculation over his future as manager on Tyneside is almost as old as his reign itself, but over the weekend, all the rumours and reports took a new twist.

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Will the UEFA Nations League survive in the long run?

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There has, of course, been no domestic football around Europe in the top leagues now for the past 9 days and that will stretch to two weeks because the UEFA Nations League has taken over the football calendar, but is the new competition really good for football in general, and will it be able to survive?

On the face of it the Nations League seems like a great idea, instead of meaningless friendlies which were always about box office receipts why not have international teams play each other and it means something? And that’s what the Nations League is in a nutshell, come next June one nation will be holding aloft a trophy.

However with UEFA there is always a catch, and this one is that only the best teams can win the trophy. Rankings are in place which means the likes of Scotland or Sweden can’t actually win the tournament. They are in different leagues and the best they can do is be promoted from said league and try to work their way up to league A in order to have a chance to win.

But is the Nations League that important and relevant? In general international teams are putting out strong squads but Portugal have still rested Cristiano Ronaldo, something that would never happen if a major tournament was taking place. And let’s not forget the introduction of the Nations League hasn’t killed the friendly game which is still taking place.

Qualification for major tournaments has now been pushed back, so instead of matches to qualify for Euro 2020 taking place in September those games do now not start until next March. It seems that the Nations League is simply adding another unwanted competition to the list of games and players are looking all the more fatigued for it.

And what of the winners of the competition? If for example England were to win it, but what it matter? It would be their first trophy since winning the World Cup in 1966, but it isn’t the World Cup and it isn’t the European Championships. In short it feels like the Intertoto Cup of the International arena.

Perhaps the best solution would have been for the Nations League to never have materialised and still have a greater number of friendlies reduced, because international matches and becoming like adverts between a major movie. It is becoming harder and harder to get engrossed with the major leagues, every time the drama reaches fever pitch, the Nations League and friendlies kick which has the ability to bring us all down.

It would be no surprise, if in 10 or 15 years time the Nations League is something consigned to history, many other minor international cup competitions have fallen on their own sword and the introduction of the event seems like a money grab.

What can Everton expect from Mina and Gomes?

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Here we are in the middle of October, and still Everton supporters are yet to see either Yerry Mina or Andre Gomes pull on the shirt.

Injury problems have dogged the two players signed from Barcelona, but the current international break appears to be a blessing.

With the pair almost back to match fitness and having taken part in a behind-closed-doors friendly, the fortnight without a league game is being used wisely in order that they’ll be available for selection for the match against Crystal Palace. Continue reading

Will Thierry Henry’s choice to coach Monaco end in tears?

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French football legend Thierry Henry has finally taken the step into first grade management and signed on to become Monaco’s new coach on a three year contract.

On the face of it Henry’s decision makes perfect sense. He is a former player of the club, Monaco have been a solid outfit for the past four seasons, winning the league in 2017 and they have a billionaire Russian owner in Dmitry Rybolovleva. Plus let’s not pretend that living in Monaco for Henry will have its advantages with one being that his salary will be tax free.

As assistant coach to Roberto Martinez with Belgium, Henry has learned the ropes and saw the national team go all the way to the semi finals of this summers World Cup. Recently Eden Hazard, the man of the moment spoke very highly of Henry’s coaching abilities and he should on the face of it do a solid job with Monaco.

But one can’t help but feel that Henry will really be up against it. Look at previous coach Leonardo Jardim who was sacked on Thursday after spending almost six seasons with the club. Jardim had done a great job and Monaco began to be successful under him, culminating in deep Champions League runs and then stunning PSG who have dominated Ligue 1 since 2012 to win the league in 2017. Monaco at times have had the perfect team, scoring many goals and being wickedly decisive in defence.

However the reality is that the Russian owner has an agenda of scouring Europe to buy potential and then selling on to the highest bidder. The list really is endless, the talent that has left Monaco in recent seasons including Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva and of course Kylian Mbappe. Sure the sales have brought in over £500m to the club, but the owner is already a billionaire so the agenda, at least on the face of it seems a little warped.

What has happened as a result is that Monaco are not competing anymore and when Henry arrives at Stade Louis II he will do so with his team in 18th place and 20 points behind PSG. Monaco have won just 1 game this season which was on the opening day of the campaign away to Nantes. No wins at home and a winless run for 2 months does not bode well.

However the good news is that the appointment of Henry will indeed rally the players to start to pick up points and play better. The worry is how long will this last? A few weeks, a few months? Surely Henry has discussed the selling of players too and one wonders if he has assurances that the bulk of quality at the club will not be sold. History says they will and so Henry’s move to Monaco may not be the dream one that everyone is expecting. For sure the next few months will be very interesting indeed for the former Arsenal great.

Is Yoshinori Muto Newcastle’s big hope?

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Selling Aleksandar Mitrovic and allowing Dwight Gayle to depart on loan in the summer meant Rafael Benitez’s transfer business with regards his strikers was immediately under heavy scrutiny. Upgrading his attacking options has been a constant struggle for Benitez at Newcastle United, and the early signs this season are that struggle has continued.

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Thomas Tuchel’s version of PSG is set to be the best ever

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When PSG strolled to a 3-0 victory over Nice at the end of September it seemed to go by without much fuss and why should it as everyone expected the champions to win the game. However more fuss and attention should have surrounded this historic result. In beating Patrick Vieira’s team, PSG had just equalled an 82 year old Ligue 1 record by winning their first 8 games of the season.

The record was held by Lille in the 1935/36 season and had stood for that long despite PSG being dominant in France since their takeover from the 2011/12 season onwards. In order to break the record the club from Paris would have to play an old foe in Lyon. Lyon of course dominated French football themselves in the 2000s winning 7 titles in a row and whilst they are a team now playing second fiddle to PSG they still would not have been chosen as the team you had to beat to break an historic record.

A few weeks ago this Lyon side had travelled to Manchester in the Champions League and stunned Manchester City by beating them and they had started to pick up form and points in the domestic league. But the match would be held in Paris where PSG have simply been irresistible.

Ninety minutes later PSG had not only broken the record they had done it in style by beating a genuine league rival 5-0. PSG had just won 9 games in a row thanks to a Neymar goal and a stunning performance by Kylian Mbappe who scored 4 goals in 13 glorious minutes to break another Ligue 1 record.

One has to wonder if, under current coach Thomas Tuchel, PSG have their best team since their takeover and indeed they are proving wholeheartedly to have the best team ever in Ligue 1 history.

The club have 27 points after just 9 games and their nearest challenger is Lille who are 8 points behind on 19. The only team to stop PSG’s title runs have been Monaco who won in 2017 and they are already 21 points behind. PSG are scoring almost 4 goals a game and at home they have scored 19 times from just 5 games and conceded just 2. The team are on fire and have a belief in breaking records and winning the league in record time.

Of course the wider view will be that their season will be judged on how well they do in the Champions League. They were unfairly criticised when they lost to Liverpool 3-2 in their opening game of the competition. Many teams will lose at a packed out and atmospheric Anfield- what will count more for Tuchel will be how his side react when they play Liverpool in Paris. And PSG were clearly not at their best that night and yet came back from 2-0 down and could have drawn the game. The team remains a real danger to any side in Europe.

However they have historically made too many errors and a bad lack of judgement in the competition against the better teams. But if PSG can play like this then they have every chance of going very far in this seasons edition of the competition.

PSG’s Mbappe returns to action and breaks Ligue 1 record

mbappe4A couple of weeks back we reported about how Kylian Mbappe would serve a third match suspended following his sending off against Nimes last month, having previously hoped to get away with two matches on the sidelines. That suspension is now over of course, and this past weekend Mbappe lined up for his first home game since returning to the team with Lyon as the guests. The first half was a fairly run of the mill 45 minutes, with PSG going into the interval holding a 1-0 lead thanks to a first half penalty from Neymar. The second half, however, produced the type of football that fans in attendance could one day look back and say “I was there”. In just 13 second half minutes, Mbappe set the world alight once again – and made history while doing so.

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