Why isn’t Joao Cancelo being used to ease Man City’s defensive woes?

The only thing that seemingly stood a chance of halting Manchester City was their own mortality and so it has proved. Indeed, the defending Premier League champions, who have collected 198 points over the past two seasons, have wobbled following the injury suffered by Aymeric Laporte, with John Stones also ruled out for the foreseeable future.

City have looked vulnerable at the back without Laporte and with Stones also out Pep Guardiola has had to get creative, with Fernandinho drafted into the centre back position alongside Nicolas Otamendi for the game against Watford last weekend, a game which saw the Premier League champions go close to a record-breaking win.

Guardiola possesses a great tactical mind and so it’s somewhat surprising that he hasn’t yet resorted to a different shape or formation to mask his team’s shortcomings at the back. City have used a back three on occasion under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss, so why hasn’t he gone down this route in light of recent injuries?

He has the players to switch to a back three. The signing of Joao Cancelo from Juventus during the summer means Guardiola could now use the Portuguese international as a wing back on the right side with Kyle Walker on the right side of a back three. That would surely close up some of the gaps that have appeared in the City backline in recent games.

Guardiola clearly has faith in Walker. “When Kyle is stable in the mind, he knows exactly what he has to do and always performs well. Be stable here,” the City boss said when asked why Walker wasn’t called up to the last England squad. “Be consistent, be seven or eight (out of 10) all the time – that is what we have to work on with him. He is incredibly strong and he will be back.”

In Cancelo, Man City boast one of the best full backs in the European game right now. It’s becoming a little peculiar that Guardiola isn’t turning to him, especially with City’s defence in the state it currently is. Fernandinho is an effective ball-player from centre back, but he lacks true defensive nous. Playing Cancelo would allow Walker to shift inside and hide deficiencies that Norwich exposed. If they’re not careful, the Canaries might not be the last team to do this.

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Matuidi refutes PSG links, news from pratice and financial updates

Blaise Matuidi denied he was close to returning to PSG in the summer: “It was all false. I have always said that I am fine at Juventus. I have been a PSG fan since I was kid and playing for them allowed me to fulfill a dream of mine. However, I am proud to play in one of best clubs in the world now.” The 32-year-old Frenchman has begun the season with an expiring contract after inking a two-year one last summer.

On the competition in the squad: “It stimulates me. Nobody gifts you anything in football, you have to earn your spot. If I am here it is because I have always been ready on the pitch.” Continue reading

Operation Departures: Paratici’s Dilemma

After securing the signing of Matthijs de Ligt, many lauded Juventus’ mercato and showered their sporting director, Fabio Paratici, with praise. After all, they had just signed one of Europe’s elite young defenders, fighting off Barcelona and a host of other clubs in the process.

However, in recent weeks, in an effort to balance the books, Juventus have looked to offload their high-prized assets on the cheap. First, Moise Kean left for Everton with no buy-back clause inserted in the deal. Then, Joao Cancelo was off to Manchester City for 30 million euros and Danilo, after just a season in Turin. Now, the bianconeri’s top brass are actively listening to offers for their jewel, Paulo Dybala. 

With Financial Fair Play restrictions in place, clubs, at the very least, must show they are spending as much as they’re making; generally speaking. Following the signature of Cristiano Ronaldo and de Ligt, sales were always going to be necessary.

Factor in that Juventus haven’t progressed deep into the Champions League since making the final in 2017 missing out on crucial revenue, it’s clear players were going to be sold. Let’s not forget, the Turin-based giants also reported a significant financial operating loss in their last fiscal year. Fabio Paratici is the man largely responsible with dealing with this, largely through high-profile sales. 

While, in an ideal world, Paratici would find buyers for Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic, Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi among others, reality is a different beast altogether. Currently, all of these players are on the wrong side of 30 and are on massive wages in comparison to their output.

Many of them have got a host of offers, but have regularly refused to leave the club. And why should they? Most, if not all, of the offers received for the bianconeri’s wantaways include lower salaries at less prestigious clubs. This has forced Paratici’s hand in his first mercato at the helm and has dictated which players he can and cannot sell. Simply put, there’s a bigger buying market for Dybala than there is for Higuain, for example.

Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri recently alluded to this in a press conference.

As I said before, I can talk to Dybala all I like, but the market goes in a certain direction and my opinion counts for zero. We have to cut six players, that’s all there is to it,” said the former Napoli boss, as reported by Football Italia.

When thinking about Sarriball, you would expect Dybala to be one of the first names of the team-sheet. After a season in Massimiliano Allegri’s rigid setup, the Argentine could explode in a false-nine role. In Sarri’s first press conference at the club, the veteran tactician mentioned La Joya alongside Douglas Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo as players he was hoping to count on.

If Juventus are forced to sell Dybala this summer to balance the books, they will undoubtedly regret their decisions to hand Mandzukic and Khedira extensions while failing to definitively offload Higuain. Quite frankly, neither of these three players fit into Sarri’s tactics as well as Dybala does.

Sarri elaborated on this situation further and lashed out against Juventus’ current state.

It puts me in a difficult position. The last 20 days of the market will be difficult for us, it’s an embarrassing situation, because we risk having to leave out players of a very high level,” said Sarri.

It has also affected his pre-season preparation. Given the uncertainty surrounding the transfer window, Sarri has largely rotated between Higuain, Mandzukic and Dybala. Rather than sticking with one preferred front-line and implementing his mechanisms with them, Sarri has been forced to adapt. As a result, it may be long before we see Sarriball fully introduced in Turin.

With just over two weeks left to the mercato, it will be interesting to see who Juventus decide to move. Reports suggest Higuain will join Roma while Mandzukic favours a Bundesliga move. However, as we’ve seen, there are no guarantees and we can just as easily see, fan favourite, Dybala on his way out. Whether you like it or not, buckle your seat-belts Juventus fans, you’re in for a bumpy end to the summer transfer window.

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Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap

After two sleepy weeks, Serie A teams have resumed dealing and wheeling with some very interesting purchases over the last few days. Inter finally landed Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United, while Juventus cashed in on Joao Cancelo in a swap with Manchester City, getting back Danilo in the deal. Cagliari pulled off an unexpected one by adding Radja Nainggolan from Inter, then successfully completed the chase for touted prospect Nahitan Nandez from Boca Juniors and, all of a sudden, they have a very crowded and well-assorted midfield despite losing Nicolò Barella.

Milan continue to work on the roster and acquired young centre-back Leo Duarte from Flamengo. He emerged over the last year and a half in Brazil and will contribute to holding down the fort until Mattia Caldara returns later in the year. He will compete with solid but unspectacular Mateo Musacchio to play next to Alessio Romagnoli to open the season.

The week was pretty much dominated by midfielders: a year after letting him go for free, the new Fiorentina management brought back Milan Badelj on loan with option to buy from Lazio, then they snatched Erick Pulgar away from Bologna by exercising the relatively low release clause. The Chilean international was a standout last season and was deadly on penalty, which will come in handy considering the departure of Jordan Veretout. Despite the age difference, the two are pretty similar, so it will be interesting to see whether Vincenzo Montella will tweak his system to accommodate both and perhaps deploy one more attacker.

Genoa have found their new technical leader in Lasse Schone from Ajax who, despite the rather defensive position as pivot, put up great numbers thanks to his ability on set pieces and therefore will be one to look out for in the fantasy game. The Griffon also signed Riccardo Saponara on loan from Fiorentina, whom coach Aurelio Andreazzoli will try to turn into an offensive box-to-box in the Rade Krunic mold, and Colombian youngster Kevin Agudelo from Atletico Huila.

For one brilliant midfielder joining Serie A, another one left as Sampdoria agreed to sell Dennis Praet to Leicester City, who has been a linchpin of their squad over the last three seasons and grew constantly year after year. They acquired Morten Thorsby from Heerenveen and could gamble on a Jakub Jankto resurgence on top of obviously reinvesting the funds on a newcomer.

For once, Atalanta decided to go with an experienced guy rather than bet on potential and brought in Martin Skrtel from Fenerbahce to fill in the gap after Gianluca Mancini left. Gian Piero Gasperini is now back to having five reliable centre-backs to rotate.

A decent coup for Verona, as they won the race for free agent Darko Lazovic, who was pretty good last year at Genoa, where he notched three goals and four assists. He reunites with coach Milan Juric and will be able to play in a number of positions on both flanks. They also grabbed two of the best Serie B players from last season: Gennaro Tutino, on loan from Napoli, who had a terrific year in Cosenza, and Valerio Verre from Sampdoria, who shined in Perugia. They both reached the double-digit threshold and could be significant parts of the 3-4-2-1 tactic Milan Juric is currently using.

Brescia got busy too and signed two presumptive starters in Jaromir Zmhral from Slavia Prague and Giangiacomo Magnani from Sassuolo. The midfielder could be a sneaky fantasy asset, while the centre-back started last season very well but was eventually overshadowed by more talented teammates. Lecce instead added Cristian Dell’Orco, who was serviceable as left centre-back at Empoli in 2018/2019 and will probably end up playing left back for them, alternating with other buzzed about newcomer Brayan Vera.

A pair of players departed from Serie A: Roma sent Rick Karsdorp back to Feyenoord on loan, while Bologna shipped Adam Nagy to Bristol City. The Dutch right back had some okay stretches and at times challenged Alessandro Florenzi, but ultimately he could not stay healthy, while Nagy had become merely a back-up. The Felsinei will have to address the midfield in a meaningful manner.

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Man City might have pulled off the deal of the summer

Having racked up an incredible 198 points over the past two Premier League seasons, it was difficult heading into the summer to envisage where Manchester City might improve. No team has dominated the English top flight like Pep Guardiola’s side has of late and so any signing would have be a big one to take them any higher.

The addition of Rodri for a club record £62.8 million went some way to meeting this benchmark. The midfielder is a player in the mould of Guardiola and will fit in well at the Etihad Stadium. He has previously been compared to Sergio Busquets and so it was natural that City should seek him to be Fernandinho’s long term successor at the club.

Beyond that, there was the re-signing of full back Angelino for just £6 million to provide some depth and most assumed that would conclude Man City’s transfer business for the summer. One last deal, concluded with just hours of the window left, has many praising the Premier League champions. Indeed, it might just be the deal of the summer.

The £28 million signing of Joao Cancelo was announced on Wednesday, with Danilo heading to Juventus as part of the deal. The Portuguese international represents a significant upgrade on City’s present full back options and gives Guardiola the right back he’s always wanted, the right back he always wanted Kyle Walker to be.

In the current inflated market, £28 million (even if it includes a player heading to Turin in part-exchange) for a player of Cancelo’s quality and pedigree is shrewd business. Consider that Manchester United were forced to pay over £50 million for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, a right back with only one season of senior experience under his belt, earlier in the window.

City have recognised the situation at Juventus, where they need to balance the books after the big money signings of Cristiano Ronaldo and Matthijs De Ligt in the past two summer windows, and have taken advantage of it by prising Cancelo from their grips for a fee that is surely well below market value.

Their ruthlessness must be admired. It’s just two years since they made Walker the most expensive full back in football history and now after one below-par season they have already replaced him with a stronger option. This is the sort of joined-up thinking that has made Man City the team they are today and the addition of Cancelo only underlines this further.

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Juventus send Cancelo to Man City for Danilo and cash

Joao Cancelo’s sojourn in Turin is over after just one season as Juventus agreed to sell him to Manchster City for a €65M package that includes Danilo, who was valued €37M. The Brazilian right back penned a five-year deal and took a pay cut.

Cancelo was acquired from Valencia for €40M after Inter did not pick up the option to sign him permanently following the loan spell. He had a blistering start of the campaign, but lost a bit of steam after tearing a meniscus and missing a month in December. He ended up compiling five assists, three of which in Champions League, and one goal in 34 appearances in all competitions.

Cancelo was often reprimanded by former coach Massimiliano Allegri for his defensive deficiencies and his freelancing style, although he often served as a formidable creator on offense and valuable initiator of the action and had a special connection with Cristiano Ronaldo, with whom he shares the agent.

The management probably did not see the progress they were looking for and accepted the lucrative bid, which obviously helps the balance sheets. New manager Maurizio Sarri does not rely much on fullbacks when attacking, which likely facilitated the decision.

Danilo has been mostly a back-up in his two years in England, especially last season, where he featured just 11 times in Premier League. He previously played at Real Madrid and had a similar trajectory, losing playing time in his second campaign.

Juventus have been following him since his Santos days and will be hoping he can recapture his Porto form, where he was teammate with Alex Sandro. He amassed 34 caps with the Citizens and 41 with Los Blancos. During his career, he has won domestic titles in four different countries and Champions League twice.

The 28-year-old defender can also be used on the left flank and in the midfield if necessary. The Bianconeri also have Mattia De Sciglio and Juan Cuadrado as options at right back.

The Portuguese international bid farewell on Instagram later on Wednesday: “In life we grow, live and learn. We cry and  rejoice. That is everything I have experienced with you, I have been able to play with the best players and I improved myself. I celebrated every cut, every shot, every assist and every goal. I will always carry with me the respect I have for all of you. It was a pleasure Old Lady, thank you for everything.”

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Dybala wishes to stay and Allegri’s presser

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Paulo Dybala talked to the journalist at an Adidas event yesterday, backtracking from his brother recent remark’s about being unhappy at Juventus: “He speaks for himself. I have discussed with Fabio Paratici, he knows that I want to continue playing with Juventus. Then it is not up to me, the management will make his choices based on the new coach’s ideas, but I want to stay.”

On the new coach: “I believe even the executives do not even know yet, I hope he will be a great one in order to win everything. That is the most important thing, then the fans want to see good football and few managers are capable in that area. We have thanked and greeted Massimiliano Allegri, we are very grateful for what he has done.” Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 38

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Juventus: Blaise Matuidi and Federico Bernardeschi are suspended, while Joao Cancelo and Mario Mandzukic both fractured their nose in the same week and are unavailable for Sunday. Alex Sandro is dealing with a rib contusion. Douglas Costa (calf), Mattia Perin (shoulder) and Sami Khedira (knee) remain sidelined as expected. Cristiano Ronaldo will be rested, while Wojciech Szczesny has suffered a knee injury.

Napoli: Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Amadou Diawara looked close to returning from a foot fracture for a pair of weeks, but he was again unable to make the squad list, like Adam Ounas that is banged up and David Ospina, who is still in Colombia. Mario Rui is out with an undisclosed injury.  Continue reading

Allegri dodges questions about future

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Massimiliano Allegri talked to the press earlier today: “I will meet with the president next week. What has been written in these last few days amuses me because I wonder what would have they done to me if I did not take home any trophy. Maybe they would have burned or impaled me. I am used to it, it is part of the game, it shakes things up a little otherwise there would not be much to talk about regarding Juventus. We will discuss everything with the chairman. I had told him before the second leg with Ajax that I would stay.”

“It has happened every season, there is more buzz now because we were eliminated early in Champions League, maybe somebody thought we would have an easier path. The summit has not been postponed, it will go down earlier than usual. It does not make sense to speak now about what will happen there.” Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 36

romajuvents

Atalanta-Genoa: the Bergamaschi keep soaring and bested Lazio in a seminal clash last week, garnering their third win a row and building a little lead over Roma in the race to get the fourth position. They have not been defeated since the beginning of March. The Griffon is coming off two 1-1 ties in a row, versus SPAL and Roma, squandering a massive late opportunity on Sunday. They are four points above the third-to-last position. Suspensions are piling up for Gian Piero Gasperini and he will not be able to count on two defensive centre-pieces, Gianluca Mancini and Andrea Masiello, and more importantly on Alejandro Gomez, which will also not allow him to rotate the squad much ahead of next week’s cup final. Josip Ilicic and Duvan Zapata will take on an even larger load than usual: the Slovenian genius has been slowed down by some nagging injuries, while the Colombian powerhouse continues to lay hurt on opponents. Continue reading