Treble would be Pep Guardiola’s crowning achievement in England

When Pep Guardiola arrived in England, becoming Manchester City’s new manager in the summer of 2016, they said he would find a very different environment to the one he’d made his own so emphatically in Germany and Spain. Across the board, it was claimed that the Catalan coach would receive the test of his career in the Premier League.

How those suggestions look foolish now. Guardiola has done to the English game exactly what he did to both the  Bundesliga and La Liga, winning back-to-back Premier League titles, collecting an astonishing 198 points over those two seasons. And City’s dominance could be underlined further still this weekend.

Manchester City v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group C

Indeed, Guardiola can complete a treble of domestic trophies by leading Man City to victory over Watford in the FA Cup final. It might not be The Treble, which traditionally comprises the Champions League trophy, but a clean sweep of domestic honours would provide a stark illustration of where City are as a team and a club right now.

Not even Sir Alex Ferguson’s Treble-winning team of 1999 were as dominant of the English game as Man City are now. Guardiola and his players stand on the brink of an historic achievement, but not even the sight of three domestic trophies in the cabinet at the end of this season will effectively reflect the quality of this team.

They might get even better next season. Guardiola is relentless in his quest for excellence and so it has been speculated that City will sign a long term replacement for the ageing Fernandinho this summer and possibly even a new right back. Ben Chilwell, a left back, has also been spoken about for quite some time.

The English game is entering a new phase in its history. City are kings and it will take an almighty effort to dethrone them. Liverpool, of course, finished just one point behind the Etihad Stadium side in the Premier League table and yet the gulf felt somewhat bigger than that. Liverpool gave everything the had to stretch to 97 points. City, on the other hand, strolled to 98.

Guardiola always viewed England as the true litmus test of his managerial ability. Whether that was warranted or not, he has succeeded in glorious fashion. Victory on Saturday would provide Guardiola with his crowning achievement in English football.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

Watford, ownership and the beauty of reaching the FA Cup final

watwat(1)

Next weekend Watford will play in the FA Cup final, their first since 1984 when Everton beat them and Everton’s fans sang out to Watford owner at the time Elton John ‘I guess that’s why they call us the Blues’ a reference to one of John’s famous lyrics.

Nobody saw it coming for The Hornets who have had a fantastic season in the Premier League culminated by this superb cup run. Even at the semi-final stage it seemed that Watford were down and out when they were trailing Wolves 2-0. But they came back in one of the great cup ties and won the game 3-2. They will play Manchester City where they will clearly be the underdogs but at the same time they have nothing to lose and might just pull off one of the great surprise results.

But how did it all come down to this? It was only last summer that the club lost Marco Silva as manager to Everton in a deal that brought alongside it a lot of animosity between the clubs. But Silva did not achieve the heights with Everton that in coming manager Javi Gracia has. a 40.7% win rate with the club which is his personal highest in years and there has been a determination within the club to do well this year, led by outspoken but ultra confident captain Troy Deeney.

Last summer it was time for the club to do business and they started off with brining Gerard Deulofeu into the team. The Spanish player had played some time in the Premier League before switching back to Barcelona so he already had experience and pace of the game in England. It was a great deal for the club who paid just over £11m for the playmaker who has had a solid season for them.

Domingos Quina also made an impact and was bought for just £1m from West Ham, it is unfortunate that the player picked up an injury in the second half of the season. The club have played more with wingers so that meant that they didn’t really miss the sale of Richarlison to Everton and got £40m for the player. By being patient and not making rash decisions they have been able to release over 10 players to make room in the squad but also bought new players but made a profit too. For now Watford are the perfect business model.

The season may have started off with the team feeling robbed of  a manager and their star striker but in return that anger has turned to hope, passion and hunger, and now they have a genuine chance through hard work behind the scenes and on the football pitch to win their first trophy in a generation.

Play the newest EPL fantasy game here https://epl-fantasy.com

 

An FA Cup victory will not equal success for Arsenal

WENGER

If you want to pin point the difference between Arsenal of the late 1990s and the Arsenal of today look no further than how the players have reacted when winning a game. They have celebrated like they have just won the Premier League. This has been on show for the past decade as the Gunners have fought their way to finish within the top 4, just so they can pick up their invitation to the Champions League. Continue reading

Manchester United win the cup but Mourinho set to take Van Gaal’s job

lvg_sacked_3535736b

Even when Louis Van Gaal finally won some silverware a black cloud that has seemingly followed the Dutchman’s managerial career at Manchester United remained. Minutes after winning the FA Cup a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace (their first trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson retired three years ago) Van Gaal’s job was coming to an end.

If reports are right Jose Mourinho former Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager will be the new manager at United in a matter of weeks. Mourinho’s name had been touted since his sacking at Chelsea in December but it was often felt that the talented coach just wasn’t the right fit for the club. From loaning out young academy players to never having built a new team or legacy at any of the clubs he has managed he does seem the polar opposite to United’s traditions, add to that a man who stays on average 3 years maximum at a club and the choice may seem a little odd for the Red Devils.

Despite that though there is no denying Mourinho’s record as a manager. In 16 years of management he has won 22 trophies including 2 Champions League titles. Indeed it is the fact that Van Gaal failed to qualify for next seasons Champions League which has most probably cost him his job.

Van Gaal’s time at United will mostly be remembered for the manager failing to use the right line ups and blowing near to £200m on players that rarely changed the playing style of a club that desperately needed it. It is no secret that the players found it hard to warm to Van Gaal’s tactics and his stubbornness and leadership qualities were tested. And yet it wasn’t all failure. After all an FA Cup win is still a trophy. But one could well argue that a cup win for Crystal Palace the losing team on Saturday would have meant much more than it does to United who, in hindsight, will look at the cup as a consolation prize.

Van Gaal’s legacy even more than winning the FA Cup will be that he gave some of the youngsters a try. One notable choice was selecting Marcus Rashford who has been superb this season, if the player can get time under Mourinho who could be quite a find, but will Mourinho accept a youngster in his squad over a world renowned striker with a reputation? He hasn’t done in the past, and this could be a worry for the United faithful, only time will tell.

As for Van Gaal he had one more year on his contract and the plan was to retire from the game. He could ride out into the sunset with the FA Cup but then again a sacking if it indeed likely comes seems like a blunt way to end such a prestigious career. Perhaps for one season only the Erdevisie Dutch League will come calling to gracefully give Van Gaal the retirement he deserves.

As Arsenal and Hull prepare for the FA Cup final, here are their star performers of the season

The 133rd FA Cup Final takes place this weekend, with two clubs desperate to get some long-awaited (by their own respective standards) silverware added to their trophy cabinets, and as a result many Fantasy Football managers will be keen to get as many of those players into their own lineups as possible – especially those who have enjoyed a nice, point-laden season for the fantasy bosses out there.

For the favourites, Arsenal are likely to name Wojciech Szczesny as the stopper, and the 24-year-old has indeed established himself as Arsene Wenger’s no.1 this season, with his 370 fantasy football points placing him only marginally behind the club’s top pointsman, Olivier Giroud. He also has the fourth best points to value rating of the entire squad, behind only Aaron Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny and Tomas Rosicky – at €8.50m, the Poland international surely represents great value.

Frenchman Giroud goes into the game only 10 points ahead of his side’s custodian, earning himself 10 points in the final league game of the season against relegated Norwich. His 16 goals from 36 starts surely make him one of the first names on Wenger’s Wembley teamsheet, especially with eight assists, tying him in second place alongside Ramsey and Santiago Cazorla, and behind only club record signing Mesut Özil.

Gunners defender Thomas Vermaelen spoke earlier this week about seeing the Hull game as a potential catalyst for the north Londoners to return to trophy-winning ways, but the Belgian has not had a great season by any standards – while his 45 points earned this season represent a marked improvement over last term, where he scored -15, fantasy football managers would surely be mad to move him into their squad at this stage. This omission from the first team owes largely to the fantastic partnership Koscielny has formed with Per Mertesacker in the Arsenal defence this season – Mertesacker’s 245 points thus far will have helped managers who picked him early on massively, and of course also helped the club qualify for Champions League football next season.

Moving the attention over to Hull now, the fantasy points totals are understandably much lower overall – after all, Hull scored the third fewest goals in the Premier League this term. On-load star Jake Livermore has been the Tigers’ best performer this season in fantasy football competition, and while his 170 points may pale in comparison to many of the competition’s top players his value of €2.50m give him a P/V ratio of 68 – better than any player in the entire Arsenal squad. His influence will be ignited by the fact the opponents are Arsenal – bitter rivals of his parent club, Tottenham.

Shane Long has had a great time since joining Hull in January, the Republic of Ireland international becoming a regular and popular figure in the striped shirt. He is second only to Livermore in Hull’s top points scorers as far as fantasy football is concerned, though he has failed to add to his 150 points in two games this month.

Allan McGregor’s debut season for the club looks set to climax in a Wembley start, though his 105 fantasy football points total leaves him sitting 70th among the goalkeepers in this season’s list.

Arsenal, on paper at least, look set to claim a win and send an echoing sigh of relief among their supporters, but one need only look as far back as last season when Wigan beat Man City in this fixture to know that surprises are still more than capable of being sprung. Overall, however, Arsenal have enjoyed the better season – the likes of Mertesacker and Giroud especially should be considerations for any fantasy team moving into the 2014-15 campaign.