Premier League Game of the Week: Manchester City 1-2 Chelsea

Don’t adjust your eyes the Champions League final does not take place for almost three weeks but the finalists of the 2021 edition did play each other over the weekend.

Chelsea came out as victors as they came back from a goal down to beat City 2-1 at the Etihad. Don’t be fooled to just brush off this match either just because it is inevitable that City will win the league this season. Arguably it is Chelsea who are the best side in England right now and they will want to extend that to the rest of Europe by the end of this month.

Manchester City’s 5th defeat of the season almost feels like it has been glossed over but this loss did feel important. Chelsea have been superb since Thomas Tuchel took over as manager from the sacked Frank Lampard at the end of January and the club have lost just 1 game in the Premier League since he took the job. Indeed Tuchel’s win rate is currently at 68% and he has won 17 games from the 25 coached so far.

As for the game City were installed as the favourites to win, being at home, wanting to lay down a marker before the Champions League final and of course a victory for City would mean the league title. All was going well until Sergio Aguero’s penalty….

Raheem Sterling opened the scoring on the 44th minute when he seemed to intercept an Aguero chance but took the ball himself and City were a goal up. It had been a dominant half from the home side and Chelsea had only managed 1 shot on target. In injury time of the first half it seemed that this game would be wrapped up when City were awarded what looked like a soft penalty.

Aguero put himself forward to take the penalty, here was the man who historically won City the league title with the final kick of the season a decade ago and could seal another with a penalty kick. However an over confident Aguero chose to use the method of the paneka and chipped the ball softly to the centre of the goal. When it comes off the striker looks super cool and the goalkeeper looks like a fool. When it doesn’t reverse that statement. Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy who has been outstanding for the club this season simply stood his line and easily saved the spot kick. Aguero looked a tad embarrassed and the whistle went for half time. Chelsea should have been out of the game but were instead in with a chance of a comeback and that is what materialised.

This would be a game of two halves and in the 2nd half Chelsea showed all of their qualities and it is why City will be worried ahead of the Champions League final, because in that second period Chelsea were by far the better team.

The Blues equalised just after the hour mark through Hakim Ziyech. He shot from the edge of the area and found a sweet point to beat Ederson in goal and it was game on.

With 10 minutes to go Callum Hudson-Odoi thought he had put the visitors in the lead but his goal was rightly ruled out for offside. But Chelsea would get their winner.

Timo Werner set up the ball for Marcos Alonso in a clever move and Alonso’s beautiful shot wrapped up the game and Chelsea had won it.

For Chelsea they have been chasing a top four spot for the majority of the season but their fantastic form means they are in 3rd place now and will probably finish in that position. But there will be a lot of confidence within the squad when they face City again in a few weeks time for the grandest of all club prizes.

As for City they must wait for the title. It could be awarded to them tonight if Manchester United lose at home to Leicester or Liverpool in a couple of days time. Failing that City will play Newcastle United away from home at the weekend and they will be the favourites to win that match.

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Mikel Arteta the unmoved manager whose job at Arsenal may rest on winning the Europa League

For some it will feel ironic that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has survived two managers careers at the clubs biggest rivals Tottenham. Both Mauricio Pochettino and Jose Mourinho have been sacked under Arteta’s mindful watch over at the Emirates Stadium. Yet one would have to wonder has Arteta really been that much better than the two coaches to justify his stay at the Gunners?

Straight away of course we have to remind ourselves that Arteta won the FA Cup with Arsenal and it was an unexpected one. Having to beat Manchester City in the semi-finals and then Chelsea in the final was a brilliant achievement. Winning the FA Cup for clubs is still important but Arsenal had reached a level well before where finishing the season with just a cup win wasn’t good enough. Imagine for example Manchester City winning only the FA Cup in the season, to most clubs that would be glory beyond glories, for City it would gloss over that they had failed elsewhere.

At the same time no one was expecting Arteta to come into a team that had fallen out of the Champions League under Wenger in his final often lethargic years and win the title. But could one not have presumed Arsenal to be challenging for a top four place? In the past 18 months Arsenal have become a team who have flirted with 10th position. Tenth position? The Gunners are a proud team, a fantastic history, and they still have quality amongst their ranks. Three years ago you would have been laughed out of every football stadium in the country if you had suggested that Arsenal would become a mid-table team who would spend the majority of the season battling between 9th and 10th. This is no joke, but a reality.

Of course this season only marks Arteta’s first full one in charge. When he first came in it was already halfway through the season. It was never going to be easy to steer the club to instant victories, the Gunners had become shadows of their former brilliance under Unai Emery. Let’s not blame Emery for everything because in truth the rot had set in for Wenger’s final two years in charge. When Arsenal managed to finish in 8th place last season again after flirting with 10th it seemed like some sort of jaded victory, the FA Cup win propelled hopes way too high for the die hard Gunner but of course it was welcomed.

Arteta of course will be judged on results and week in and week out Arsenal are not justifying their grand name. With 5 games left to go for the Premier League season they are in 10th place. Newly promoted Leeds United are a point in front and West Ham for three decades well in the shadow of Arsenal are 9 points clear of them. Arteta’s former boss Pep Guardiola is enjoying a 31 point gap to Arsenal. On league terms alone Arteta is surely lucky to still be in a job, but he is and the pressure from the media hasn’t even begun yet, why is this?

The answer is quite simple, Arsenal have reached the Europa League semi-finals and they have looked assured and confident in the campaign. They will play Spanish side Villarreal this week in the 1st leg and will start as the favourites. Ironically Villarreal were the team the Gunners had to face in the Champions League semi-finals 15 years ago. If script goes to hand Arsenal could well reach the final, they could face Manchester United in it, and they could win it. If so a season has turned around within 3 games. Not only would Arteta have the prestige of winning Arsenal’s first European trophy in 27 years but the club would automatically qualify for next seasons Champions League, not bad for a business unit who wanted to jump ship to the Super League’s riches last week.

Of course that version of events is the glory one, the other version is Arsenal being knocked out to Villarreal who currently sit in seventh place in La Liga and have lost 3 of their last four games. Arteta should heed the warning signs if the Europa League dreams crashes down before the club just like it did with their rivals Tottenham, who were outplayed in a 2nd leg, chewed and spat out by Slavia Prague and Mourinho was out of a job less than a month later.

Let’s remember that Unai Emery was sacked after a win rate of 55% currently Arteta has 50% and that doesn’t look like rising anytime soon. Everything now is for the Europa League, and so much depends on it for Arsenal and Arteta going forward.

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Who have been the best players from Manchester United and Manchester City this season?

With just 1 Premier League game this past weekend because of the FA Cup in England we will take a look at the top two teams as the Premier League stands. What a season it has been so far as both Manchester teams occupy 1st and 2nd place. It is like the beginning of the 2010s again when City became a genuine rival to United.

In truth whilst Manchester City were expected to challenge for Liverpool’s title this season Manchester United were not. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was actually under pressure to keep his job in October when United lost 6-1 at home to Tottenham but that’s history now as United lead the table with 40 points. City are in 2nd on 38 but have a game extra to play. United have pulled out a six point gap to Liverpool with the same games played.

We take a look then at the top 3 performing players for each side, the ones who have made the ultimate difference this season. You can check out the players stats on the links provided and see if you have any of the players below in your team.

Manchester United: Top 3 performing fantasy football players

1. Bruno Fernandes 64pts

What a player Bruno Fernandes has been. Surely he is Manchester United’s best signing since Cristiano Ronaldo? Fernandes has scored important goals for the club and really stood up when it has mattered. Already this season he has bagged 11 goals and assisted in a further seven. And he has been a steal at just 8.5m. If United win the league this season make no mistake most of it will be down to this Portuguese superstar.

2. Marcus Rashford 35pts

Marcus Rashford has big boots to fill being one of the strikers at Manchester United. This season he has earned 35 points so far and has scored seven goals and assisted in another five. Rashford always seems to pop up at the right moments. It’s true that he needs more consistency to his game but he is so young and will get even better as the seasons go on.

3. Scott McTominay 22pts

Manchester United’s 3rd best player so far might be a surprise in Scott McTominay. Former manager Jose Mourinho heaped praise on him and the midfielder seems in his element this season which is arguably his best in a United shirt. He’s scored 2 goals and helped back track and keep six clean sheets so far. He could be doing with more assists and as we reach the half way stage of the season he only has 1 to his name. But he’s another youngster who will gain even more experience and become more complete.

Manchester City: Top 3 performing fantasy football players

1. Ederson Moraes  59pts

For Manchester City this season it is all about defence rather than attack. Haven’t you noticed that the club are not scoring many goals for their standard? Thus it is no surprise to see Ederson as the clubs best player in goal this season. No goalkeeper in the Premier League has kept more clean sheets so far this season as City’s keeper who has 10 so far. His value is 9m which is a great return considering he has 59 points already.

2. John Stones 48pts

Could this be John Stones most complete season of his career? He can defend, set up goals and score them and has really taken advantage of the situation at City with injuries and departures building up to state his case with manager Pep Guardiola. Stones has helped to keep 8 clean sheets and scored twice in the league so far. But it is his overall command of the game which has impressed this season and he looks utterly confident in the back four set up.

3. Ruben Dias 47pts

Ruben Dias has been of Manchester City’s best signings under Pep Guardiola, how they needed a player like him to come in and play like he has been at the club for several seasons. Dias has 47 points already and has helped to keep 10 clean sheets for the club. He has partnered up well with Stones at the back to underline that City whilst being a danger up front have had to adapt and focus on defence this season if they want to recapture back their league title.

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Premier League Game of the Week: Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City

Manchester City are back and against Chelsea they went back to 2019 producing some glittering football that made the club under Pep Guardiola the envy of so many other European teams.

City beat Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge and the result felt like a statement. With Liverpool losing 1-0 at Southampton the Premier League title has been blown wide open and if City win their 2 games in hand over the Reds they would go past them, this is in stark contrast six weeks ago when it looked like City were going through the motions- well they have improved and they started in sixth gear against a stunned Chelsea side.

In 16 first half minutes Chelsea were left shell shocked as Manchester City scored 3 goals. The opener came from Ilkay Gundogan after Phil Foden set him up Gundogan still had a lot to do on the edge of the box, a neat flick behind his body set him up to score a brilliant goal and put the visitors in the lead.

A few minutes later Phil Foden made it 2-0 with a simple tap in and Chelsea were in real trouble and had no fans to help them on. A blistering City counter attack set up the third goal with the ball eventually falling to Kevin De Bruyne surely the player of the match and he scored a rather simple goal in the end. For a game that was built up so much, it was in effect a closed contest by the first half.

It was also a first half that saw Chelsea have just 1 shot on target and even though the clubs shared possession City managed 4 shots on target. In the second half the game could have gone either way; City to add more goals, or City to take their feet off the pedals and the visitors slowed down their game.

It didn’t matter Chelsea played punch drunk and only managed 1 shot on target in the 2nd half even though they did pull a goal back. But there was virtually no threat or danger from the home side whose consolation goal didn’t come until injury time. Callum Hudson-Odoi scored the goal for Chelsea another tap in, and in all fairness this was a game of tap in goals.

Whilst the goal did nothing for Chelsea on a personal note Hudson-Odoi would have been happy to score after his recent injury lay off and he will be hoping that he can start firing in the goals again.

The defeat leaves Chelsea in 9th place with 26 points, and they are seven behind Liverpool and three points from a top 4 place. It isn’t the end of the line for the club, but at the same time they are going through poor form. The Premier League takes a week’s break now and Chelsea’s next game will be against Fulham away from home. On paper it looks like 3 points but that is a local derby and anything can happen in those games.

As for Manchester City they have won 3 games in a row now and look like a team with a purpose. Their next game is at home to Brighton and few will be going against Pep Guardiola’s team in that game.

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Is it the end of the line for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City?

Are Manchester City in decline? Not exactly but there is a sense that the club need to hit that F5 button and refresh and that could mean waving good bye to Pep Guardiola.

Two significant things happened in the summer that seem to have led to the Manchester City that we have now. One was influential midfielder David Silva leaving the club for Real Sociedad. Silva had been with City for 10 years and it seemed that him leaving was a natural step to take in his career. But the gap hasn’t been filled by Silva’s invaluable experience and in some games this season it has looked telling.

The other is that one senses City still have a hangover from their Champions League exit last season. Now had they exited the competition in a normal year this would have taken place back in April. This being the year of the pandemic the quarter finals were played of course only in August. And after knocking out Real Madrid in the previous round it seemed inevitable that City would overcome Lyon to reach the semi-finals. But while the game was very close Lyon did a number on City and Guardiola was outnumbered and out manoeuvred but a Ligue 1 side who failed to even qualify for Europe for this season.

That Lyon loss just seems to have got under the skin of Guardiola, it is just one game, but a defeat in that manner in the Champions League feels like a bug that just cannot be shaken.

Let’s make no mistake Guardiola was brought into City to win the Champions League and countless trophies. But City do not look like a side who are going to win this league in this. Pep’s 5th season. If they don’t then he has won 2 league titles from five. This is a fantastic return for most clubs, but the bar is so high with what Guardiola demands and the money spent on the club in that time period so much that actually a 40% winning return doesn’t seem that impressive in league titles.

To suggest that Guardiola has failed at City if he ends this season without silverware feels like a step too far. One must remember that under Guardiola Manchester City have won 8 trophies, however five of those have been split between the League cup and Community shield. His best season was in 2018/19 when he completed the magical domestic treble of winning the league title, FA Cup and League Cup. That season was also memorable for how City fended off a relentless challenge from Liverpool.

Under Guardiola City have recorded records and played some of the greatest football England has seen. He has created so much in such little time albeit with deep pockets but at the same time you still have to know the right players who are going to come into the side and get the job done.

Guardiola has loved to open the cheque book too and some of his signings have been real gems for the side like Benjamin Mendy, Ederson the goal keeper and Barnardo Silva have done good jobs. But can one say that Riyad Mahrez has shone consistently since his arrival from Leicester? Rodri is a good player but one would expect more of the club record signing.

There has been a tendency at City and it can work for a club with such a budget to, in theory, throw money at the problem but that doesn’t always work, and perhaps we are seeing that this season.

Who could have thought that a team managed by Guardiola would be in 13th place after 8 games. True one could say it is early in the season but over 25% of the season has been played. Also the way Liverpool have rose the bar means that they won’t be dropping many points this season. And unlike last season City have two more rivals that have emerged in Tottenham and Chelsea. When one can think that winning the title for City is beyond them, one could even stretch that idea and wonder if they will finish in a top 4 position?

Presently City do have a game in hand but that would only take the club up to 8th and they would be 5 points behind the leaders. Now that isn’t a big gap and of course there is time to catch up but the problem for City as aforementioned is the new threat of Tottenham and Chelsea together with Liverpool.

At the moment there shouldn’t be alarm bells just yet for City but if they can’t make in roads up the table and put pressure on the top 2 by the Christmas period this could end up being a long hard season for such a fluent and brilliant side.

So failure for Guardiola at City seems to be over-hyping what is happening at the club but whisper it when you consider the money spent, the value of the team estimated to be at £1 billion and the quality one normally associates with Guardiola, his time at City may just be looked at as the manager who under achieved with what he had.

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Premier League Game of the Week: Tottenham 2-0 Manchester City

These are the games that Tottenham must win if they are to achieve something great this season. A 2-0 win over a quality side such as Manchester City is huge for the London club. There was also the added spice of the great rivalry between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, and Mourinho yet again goes away from this weekend with the bragging rights.

After Heung-Min Son put Tottenham 1-0 win up as early as the 5th minute, one could tell how the game would play out. We’ve seen it before when Mourinho was manager of Inter Milan when they had to face Guardiola’s Barcelona in the Champions League. An early goal is great but from then on in its back to the walls.

While City dominated in possession that doesn’t mean that Tottenham didn’t have their chances to punish Guardiola’s team even more, but City could ill afford to lose this game and created most of the chances throughout the game.

In the first half alone City had 11 attempts on goal, Tottenham’s sole opportunity ended in a goal, which just underlined how the club seem transformed this season with more of a killer instinct. The second half was much like the first in that City controlled the ball and Tottenham defended well and looked for the counter attack.

Though he didn’t score at the weekend special mention should be given to Harry Kane who was all over the field, sprinting down the wings, looking to distribute the ball and even getting back, what a display the England international put in. But this was collective hard work from every player, Tottenham were that good and despite the riches on show from City the truth is that the club just ran out of ideas.

The game was effectively over just past the hour mark when Kane set up Giovani Lo Celso for Tottenham’s second. What was incredible is that Lo Celso had only been on the pitch for just over 30 seconds as a second half substitute.

City remained a threat but as the time went by it was clear that Tottenham had done their home work and the 2019 champions had become quite predictable in the process.

Tottenham are top of the league and unlike the last time they reached the summit, this counts more as the full weekend’s games have been completed.

It seems fitting that Tottenham reached 1st place by beating a great team in Manchester City, and it was a game that the home side bossed for the majority of the match. It also felt like a turning point. For Tottenham a new beginning filled with dreams under Jose Mourinho and for Manchester City perhaps the beginning of the end under Pep Guardiola.

Despite the many problems that Mourinho has faced in the last four years- failing at Chelsea in his 2nd season comeback with the club, then his nightmarish ending to his Manchester United managerial position, he seems to have come out the other end, and Tottenham could well be his last big hurrah before taking over on the international stage. Something special seems to be brewing at the club and one is reminded of Mourinho’s time a decade ago at Inter Milan. In Italy he took a well known club and turned them into serial winners.

At Tottenham the dream remains to be competitive and under former manager Mauricio Pochettino the club were heading in that direction, nobody can fault reaching the Champions League final. But something was just missing, a winning dynamic that for some reason couldn’t be achieved under Pochettino who left the club filling the hearts of many but not filling the trophy department.

This is why Mourinho was brought in to install that winning mentality. Forget Liverpool having to wait 30 years for a league title that ended last season and spare a thought for Tottenham who have had to wait since 1961. True it is early days and the Premier League is so hard to win, but there is hope at least, and Tottenham do have an uncanny ability to win trophies when the year ends in a 1. We will have to wait and see.

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Premier League’s Game of the Week: Manchester City 2-5 Leicester City

If any of Manchester City and Leicester were going to win 5-2 then 99% of the chance it would be Manchester City, at the weekend we saw the rule to that exception.

In a stunning result Leicester who have started the season in style put 5 goals past Pep Guardiola’s City side, champions in two out of the last 3 seasons as they sailed to a stunning 5-2 victory at the Etihad.

And no one could have seen it coming. In City’s first game of the season they made light work of Wolves beating them 3-1. Whilst Leicester had started well they were knocked out of the Carabao Cup in midweek against Arsenal, though Brendan Rodgers was able to leave a few regulars out.

As for the game it looked over almost as soon as it had started as Riyad Mahrez the former Leicester player, who else? gave City the lead. This was now going to go to script surely and City were supposed to wipe the floor with the unbeaten Leicester, but that didn’t happen.

Leicester made their presence felt and James Maddison was all over the pitch, there was a sense that this game wasn’t all going to be about City. Then before half time Leicester were awarded a penalty and Jamie Vardy scored his 3rd goal of the season. The half ended 1-1, and still even with 45 minutes gone nobody could have predicted the outcome.

It was early in the second half that the change happened. Vardy scored again a brilliant flick that put the Foxes in the lead, and then just five minutes later it was another penalty, again for Leicester and in the space of 21 minutes Vardy- the top goalscorer last season had completed his hat trick.

At 3-1 the game wasn’t over and yet it felt it like the home side despite their quality had been winded. The game rolled on and City tried but the minutes ticked away and then the brilliant James Maddison smashed a long range shot right into the back of the net, it was 4-1, the game was over for City, but the game wasn’t over.

New signing for Guardiola’s team Nathan Ake got a goal back to make it 4-2 near the end, could there have possibly been a crazy comeback? In the Premier League you can really never say never but that wasn’t happening today.

A third penalty confirmed that when Youri Tielemans converted, the score was now 5-2. It was an incredible result and even though there were 3 penalties there was nothing controversial about the decisions, no one complained everyone accepted even Guardiola had to, his team had been well and truly beaten and he was right to be annoyed with his defenders after the game, basic errors at this level left viewers stunned.

With the win Leicester the 2016 champions are top of the league once more, they have scored an incredible 12 goals. For City this feels like deja vue in that they started slow last season and dropped too many points as their rivals Liverpool started strongly, the gap is already six points between City and the champions.

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Messi could stay at Barcelona, but is he the problem?

The transfer saga of Lionel Messi may just likely end up as a war of words and nothing else. Messi’s father held talks with the Barcelona board yesterday evening and there were some mixed reports. But some sources confirmed that Messi’s father is optimistic that Messi will make a U-turn and actually stay with the club.

In truth there are only 2 teams that look likely being the right fit for Messi, one is Barcelona and the other is Premier League side Manchester City, mostly because of the Pep Guardiola factor. However there is no guarantee that Guardiola will be at City for the next years ahead, he is entering his 5th season with the club which is a record for him, and this will be likely his final season in Manchester.

Also if you want to know the latest mutterings it makes sense to follow the bookmakers instincts. Last week City were the favourites to sign Messi and could be backed at 1.91 (10/11) to get their main. They are now the 2nd favourites and out to 3.00 (2/1). They have been replaced by Barcelona who are now big odds on at 1.30 (1/3) to keep Messi. That could tell us everything we need to know.

If Messi stays many people especially the fans of Barcelona will breathe a sigh of relief, he is so ingrained into the city, they know they will lose him one day, but no real Barcelona fan wants to lose him like this.

However here’s a thought, is Messi the actual problem at Barcelona? By problem that is not fully blaming him for everything, that would be churlish, and he has been the main reason why Barcelona have been one of the best teams in world football over the past decade. But has Messi simply grown to be such a star that he is stifling other players from growing.

Take out Messi right now from the team and Barcelona do not have higher level world stars in the team. They have very good players, players that on their day look the best in the world, but could it not be argued that the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Phillpe Coutinho could grow into their roles more if Messi was not there?

Messi is indispensable of course, but at the same time with no Messi in the team Barcelona would find another way of playing. And despite how brilliant he has been for the club, over the past few seasons it has become noticeable that he has stopped chasing back once he has lost possession of the ball. A hunger has left him, although that could be his personal protest of how the club are being run.

A team without Messi would be interesting and at the same time personally for Messi to be playing in a different league would benefit him surely. The fire seems to have left him, imagine having that reignited. And at 33 his best years are fading fast, that is the nature of the game, he perhaps has 2 very good seasons left in him at the very top. Would it not make sense to leave now?

Change is needed at Barcelona if Messi is to see any more silverware if he decides to stay. The club have spent close to £1 billion in the past 5 years. Big clubs spend big, but that money was being spent to win Champions Leagues, it did bring one for the club in that time but a club the size of Barcelona demand more, much more. That is how high the bar is at the club.

It will be very interesting in some ways if Messi does stay with Ronald Koeman in charge, at least if Messi stays with the league kicking off soon it will give the club a purpose in the early stages of the new season.

La Liga kicks off on September 12th, although Barcelona have been granted extra rest after their participating in last months Champions League. The club will play on the 12th but this will be a friendly match. Their first game of the season will take place on September 27th at home to Villarreal.

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Time for a clear out at Barcelona

If Barcelona thought that they had a chance of beating Bayern Munich in their Champions League quarter-final tie on Friday, that notion was dispelled within the first few minutes.

That’s all it took for Thomas Muller to open the scoring for the Bavarians, and the signs were already ominous given how easily the Bundesliga side had carved open the Catalans’ back line.

A spectacular own goal from David Alaba briefly drew Barcelona level, and had Lionel Messi’s speculative cross gone in rather than hitting the post at 1-1, there’s a small, nay minuscule, chance that the game might’ve taken on a different path. Continue reading

Juve hope Pirlo move isn’t reminiscent of Ferrara stint

It didn’t take Juventus very long. Within hours of sacking Maurizio Sarri in the aftermath of their Champions League Round of 16 exit to Lyon, the club announced Andrea Pirlo as their new coach.

The announcement duly sent the footballing ecosystem into a flurry of bewildered questions, with the main one of course being: “Wasn’t Pirlo just confirmed as coach of the Juve U-23s?”

Indeed he was, on July 30th the club announced that Pirlo had returned to the club where he’d played for four years to coach the U-23 side, replacing Fabio Pecchia. Nine days later, he was sitting in the big chair. Talk about a fast-track promotion.

Club director of sport Fabio Paratici believes Pirlo is a ‘predestinato’ – bound for greatness – due to his remarkable gifts as a player. Many have used the examples of Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane as once legendary players who transferred their skills from the pitch to the dugout.

However as has been pointed out, Guardiola coached Barcelona’s B side for a season in 2007-08, and Zidane underwent an apprenticeship with Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid, in addition to coaching their Castilla side for two years. Pirlo, by contrast, has bypassed all of this on the way to the black and white throne.

It’s a risky move from a club that for most of its history takes very few gambles when it comes to managerial appointments. In fact the last time they hired a practical novice was in the summer of 2009, when they hired Ciro Ferrara at the expense of Antonio Conte.

Ferrara, a Juve legend, had little experience aside from a brief period as part of Marcello Lippi’s backroom staff at the victorious 2006 World Cup. Ferrara had only gained his coaching licence a year before being appointed by the incompetent sporting director Alessio Secco, who hoped Ferrara would be their Guardiola.

After years of playing a mechanical 4-4-2 system under the likes of Fabio Capello, Didier Deschamps and Claudio Ranieri, Ferrara promised change. A switch to a 4-3-1-2 was in order he announced, due to the €25m signing of Brazilian No.10 Diego from Werder Bremen, and Juve would be more adventurous, more modern.

Seven months later he was sacked. A positive start soon gave way to disastrous results and supporter malaise, as it was fairly evident that Ferrara was out of his depth, and replaced by Alberto Zaccheroni at the end of January. In defence of Ferrara, he was handed a mediocre hodgepodge of a squad that consisted of ageing veterans and poorly-advised signings that were ill suited to the style he intended to play. Diego wasn’t long following Ferrara out of the exit door either, sold in the summer of 2010 as Juve appointed Gigi Delneri as coach and a return to 4-4-2.

Like Ferrara, Pirlo faces similar structural squad issues. Four continuous summer transfer windows of poorly-made decisions has now left a bloated, unbalanced squad filled with players on big contracts that they won’t get elsewhere. In the wake of the Champions League KO, Paratici has faced mounting scrutiny, who many feel has been a failure in the sporting director role since replacing Beppe Marotta in the autumn of 2018.

In the early years of their decade of dominance, midfield was arguably Juve’s strongest area of the pitch (with Pirlo himself being a key component), to such an extent that a player like Claudio Marchisio would often find himself relegated to the bench. Since 2015, Marotta and then Paratici essentially neglected the region, selling first Arturo Vidal and later Paul Pogba, whilst trying to plug gaps with ‘free’ signings such as Emre Can, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot. It’s now reduced what was once a midfield of power, strength, guile and grace into one chronically short on quality.

Whilst it is fair to question many of Paratici’s dealings since taking charge, Marotta isn’t free of criticism. The €90m signing of a-then 28-year-old Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli made little sense in 2016, and makes even less now. Juventus have spent the better part of two years trying to offload the striker, however his €7.5m per season wages have deterred many suitors, a noose around the club’s neck.

The sacking of Sarri won’t magically solve all of Juve’s problems. A major rejuvenation is necessary, a purge of all the costly mistakes of the last several summers. Can Paratici, given the current climate, be relied upon to shift unwanted players? It remains to be seen if he will even remain at the club, given the latest rumours surrounding his future.

Ferrara struggled to make sense of the Juve side he inherited, club President Andrea Agnelli will be hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself with Pirlo.

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