Assesment of English teams in Europe this week

The English teams in Europe this week all had tough tests and it ended up being a difficult time for some.

Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United all had games this week. To start with Manchester United were at home to Real Madrid and after getting a 1-1 draw in the away leg, they may have been slight favourites to go through and when they went 1-0 up at Old Trafford they seemed to have one foot in the next round. However, Nani was sent off and the game was taken away from the quickly with goals from Luka Modric and the returning Cristiano Ronaldo ending their hopes this season. The turning point was the red card and it was dangerous play but in my opinion it should have only been a yellow card and Man United should have been in the next round.

Should Nani have been sent off?

Should Nani have been sent off?


Now, the Europa League first legs were taking place and Chelsea were playing Steaua Bucuresti and Rafa Benitez wasn’t given any help from his opponents. His time at Chelsea has been pretty close to a disaster with a lot of people unhappy with him in charge and the players not exactly playing to the best of their ability. They lost 1-0 but should go through by winning comfortably at Stamford Bridge but it is going to be more difficult than Benitez would have hoped.
Will it ever turn round for Benitez at Chelsea?

Will it ever turn round for Benitez at Chelsea?


Tottenham Hotspur had possibly the best looking tie on paper and one that could have went either way against Inter Milan. But they were too strong against the team from Italy and made them look very poor. 3-0 did not flatter them and they possibly should have had more. Gareth Bale added to his growing reputation by scoring the first and Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen were the other two scorers. Spurs do need to be careful and not concede early in the away leg but I feel they have done enough to get into the next round.
Will Bale become one of the best in the world?

Will Bale become one of the best in the world?


Finally, Newcastle United had the toughest tie in the Europa League but got through it and defensively performed brilliantly against Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala. They did not offer a lot going forward but could have nicked a result had Hatem Ben Arfa went for power instead of a chip. The two centre back James Perch and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa were fantastic and neither of them have been first choice in that position so far this year (with Yanga-Mbiwa only signing in January) and with Fabricio Coloccini injured at the moment they have both staked a claim for a starting place.
Newcastle's new Mr Consistent

Newcastle’s new Mr Consistent


So who had the best result in Europe this week? Who was the best player for an English team?

Will Luka Modric stay in the Premier League?

Luka Modric is most likely going to be leaving Tottenham Hotspur this summer after an impressive Euro 2012 and some of the biggest clubs in Europe want the midfielder.

Modric has 17 goals and 26 assists in his 159 appearances for Spurs

Real Madrid are currently the clear favourites to sign him and I hope he doesn’t join the Spanish giants because he brings a lot to the Premier League. The Croatian joined Spurs in 2008 and has been a major reason why they have challenged for a place in the Champions league. He definitely doesn’t get the credit he deserves and is an example of players that are a lot better than there stats suggest, he hasn’t actually got that many goals and assists for the club but his performances have been sublime with his passing being accurate and usually the most important pass of an attack. He picks out his teammates time and time again which allows them to put in a cross or slide it through for someone else to shoot.

Although it is still unlikely at this stage he could still sign for a Premier League club and I think his style of football suits the English league rather than La Liga. So where could he go? Obviously, Manchester United would love to have him with their current midfield either ageing or not quite living up to their potential. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs have been fantastic servants but they cannot play every game and sometimes you need younger legs in there and with Park Ji Sung leaving for QPR there may be extra strain on Michael Carrick and new signing Shinji Kagawa. Anderson and Tom Cleverley can also play in the middle but I just feel Anderson has been a waste and underperformed massively while Cleverely doesn’t have the required experience yet to be first choice.

Chelsea were linked with Modric last summer but couldn’t get him and now maybe they have moved on so I don’t expect them to try and sign him, however, he would fit into their style of play now and could be just what they need, especially when defending their Champions League trophy. Michael Essien will be back to full fitness next season and Frank Lampard will probably not get dropped. The only reason they may want to bring him in is that their new signings don’t have that much Premier League experience between them so they may struggle to adapt to the league and he wouldn’t certainly do a job for the team.

Finally, Manchester City have been linked with a move, however you have to take everything you read about City with a pinch of salt because the papers will link the club with any player that has had a good season. They have enough cover in the midfield anyway and it looks like they are prioritising the signing of Robin Van Persie at the minute. I think if they do make a big signing this summer (either instead of or along with Van Persie) then it will be a centre back as that is where they are weakest.

Player of the day- Jordi Alba

Spain and Italy are the next two teams to qualify for the knockout stages and eliminated Croatia and Ireland in the process.

Ireland were already out of the competition but they were still looking to win their final game however they were beaten 2-0 by Italy which put a lot on the other game as both Spain and Croatia could have went out. Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli scored the goals and sent them through in second place.

Spain as expected had most of the ball in their game but Croatia easily had the best chances and should have had a penalty. Ivan Rakitic should have scored with a header from a wonderful cross from Luka Modric but he sent it straight at Iker Casillas in the Spain goal. The Spanish did not look confident when defending crosses and Vedran Corluka was clearly being fouled as he jumped up for a header late on but the referee missed. However, Corluka should have scored anyway but it hit his shoulder and went agonisingly over the bar. In the last few minutes substitute Cesc Fabregas chipped a lovely ball through to Andres Iniesta who squared for Jesus Navas to tap in. But, this wasn’t the end of Croatia because if they had scored they would have went through knocking out Spain in the process but they couldn’t really create a clear chance.

Man of the match- Jordi Alba- It was difficult to choose a man of the match because of how well Croatia played and if they had managed to find an equaliser then Luka Modric and Gordon Schildenfeld would have been in contention. But I am giving it to the Spain left back who made countless attacking runs and looked more like a winger than a fullback. Spain weren’t at their best with their main players such as David Silva and Andres Iniesta only being on the edge of the game for the most part and with Xabi Alonso and Xavi not being able to find a killer pass. For me the left back looked most likely from the players that started the game to create something and even though his defending at times wasn’t the best, he managed to make a few important interceptions. As said, it was his attacking intent that impressed me and it just shows in the stats, he made 19 successful passes in the attacking third.

Alba has been linked with a number of clubs this summer including Barcelona and Manchester United

Players of the day- Luka Modric and Fernando Torres

Ireland were the first team to be knocked out of Euro 2012 after they were beaten by Spain which leaves the rest of the group wide open.

The first game of the day saw Italy take on Croatia and the game was very interesting as in my opinion it was the most tactical game so far. Both teams lined up the same way they did in their first group matches and they were very evenly matched for most of the game with nobody taking real control. However, Italy were slightly more dominant in the first half and took the lead through a fantastic free kick from the very impressive Andrea Pirlo. The midfielder controlled the half and mad Italy tick and is at the moment my pick for player of the tournament. The second half was different as Croatia came back into it and managed to get more dangerous crosses into the box and it was Mario Mandzukic who profited from one of these balls as he scored his third of the tournament. The game finished 1-1 and both teams know that a victory is needed to make sure they qualify for the next round.

Man of the match-Luka Modric- The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder was clearly not put off by the news that Harry Redknapp had left his club side as he dictated play and when he was needed most by Croatia he answered the call. In the second half in particular he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and made sure his team got an equaliser. He is a remarkable player that can find space anywhere on the pitch and he was the only one that looked like creating anything. It seemed that he realised that the threat was coming from the left and he made sure left back Ivan Strinic had the ball as often as possible to put a cross in so it was fantastic awareness from him.

Modric has been at Spurs since 2008

Spain destroyed Ireland 4-0 and they dominated from the first whistle to the very last. Ireland conceded early yet again which basically ruined any chances they had of coming away with something from the game. Fernando Torres scored his first with a powerful effort that Shay Given possibly could have done better with. David Silva then scored early in the second half with a clever finish and Torres added another with a confident finish. Substitute Cesc Fabregas finished off the scoring but he was helped by the Ireland defence who by this time were out on their feet.

Man of the match- Fernando Torres- He showed today that all teams (except Barcelona) need a central striker to put the ball in the back of the net. Against the Italians, Spain seemed to just want to pass the ball one more time before shooting and this allowed the opposition to get blocks in and last ditch tackles. But in this game within four minutes he showed just how clinical he can be. Simply he adds something different to the side, he wants to run in behind and he isn’t looking for little one twos, he just wants to be given a through ball so he can shoot. This tournament could be where his career gets back on track and now he is off and running it wouldn’t surprise me if he finished top scorer.

Torres with the World Cup in 2010

Who will be Tottenham Hotspur’s next manager?

Harry Redknapp and Tottenham Hotspur have parted ways after the club failed to qualify for the Champions League.

Redknapp had been at Spurs since 2008

Tottenham finished fourth but because Chelsea won the Champions League they will be playing in the Europa League next season and even though this seems quite unfortunate should they have even been in that position? At the turn of the year they were genuine title contenders and many people believed that they were going to win the league. But they fell away and finished below Arsenal even though they were comfortably in front of them for most of the season. The distraction of the England managers job obviously didn’t help the situation and Spurs soon went on a slump after Fabio Capello left England and this was their downfall, their players seemed to not know what was going on and Redknapp didn’t help the situation at all. Overall Redknapp did a very good job winning 49.49% of his matches and will be very difficult to replace so the new man coming in may struggle under the pressure straightaway. Plus, key players may be more likely to leave no such as Luka Modric and Gareth Bale who will want to play in the main European competition next year.

So the board have a very big decision to make, they need a manager that is going to continue the work Redknapp started or they could end up a mid table club again. David Moyes is currently the favourite to take charge and I think this would be a fantastic appointment, he has worked miracles at Everton, getting them into the top half year after year spending very little money. He deserves to be at a club that can spend more money and I believe he has the ability to take them to the very top, as he always makes astute signings and improves the players he has in his squad. I only see two problems in them getting him and that is, will he be a big enough name to convince their star players to stay and is Moyes holding out for the big job at Manchester United?

Roberto Martinez is linked with every job going at the minute and it isn’t surprising however he could have the same problems as Moyes and not be able to convince their stars to stay. His Wigan team have defied the odds and kept them up year after year playing some very entertaining football and he has shown his tactics can beat the big teams in the league. One result the Spurs fans will remember about Martinez is when he took his Wigan team to White Hart Lane and they got destroyed 9-1 surely the board will remember this and see that he may not quite be good enough yet for a really big job.

Finally, another name I have seen linked with the job is Fabio Capello and a lot of Spurs fans are actually blaming him for ruining their season, if he just stayed as England manager then there wouldn’t have been so much speculation about Redknapp’s future. But looking at Capello’s career would he be able to do a good job? Yes in my opinion because he has shown he can win titles and trophies at club level, he will be judged mostly though by his time as England manager however I think this is harsh as international and club management is very different.

I hope Capello doesn’t get the job but he does offer something different to the other two and that is real pedigree in Europe and will be attract a lot of big names to the club. I really want Moyes to get the job but only if he is given the opportunity to build something at the club and is given money to replace the players that leave.

Moyes has won the LMA manager of the year three times

 

Players of the day- Andrea Pirlo and Mario Mandzukic

The games in Group C kicked off and all eyes were on Spain, Italy, Croatia and Republic of Ireland.

The first game saw Spain kick of the defence of their European Championship against Italy in what showed two very different styles of football. Spain with their short, sharp passing style and Italy with their focus more on defending and counter attacks. As expected Spain had more of the ball but strangely they decided to start the game without a recognised striker so they had six midfielders in their starting line up. However, it was the Italians who had the better opportunities and looked the more likely to score the opening goal which they did through Antonio Di Natale who scored with almost his first touch after coming off the bench with a fantastic finish. But, Spain hit back quickly with a very good goal themselves, David Silva slipped through a perfect through ball for Cesc Fabregas to run onto and score past the advancing Gianluigi Buffon. That is how it ended, but not before Fernando Torres missed two very good opportunities to win the game.

Man of the match- Andrea Pirlo- The midfielder proved his worth to the team and a lot of people that don’t watch Italian football would have been surprised that a player of his age still gets into their national side. Bu for Juventus this season he contributed a lot to their title winning side and provided a lot of assists. His game today was slightly different as he got through a lot of work defensively and had to follow the Spanish midfielders around and he was always there putting them under pressure, forcing them into errors. His pass to set up the goal in my opinion could be the pass of the whole tournament as it was perfectly weighted and allowed Di Natale to finish first time.

Pirlo got 13 assists for Juventus this season

In the second game, the goals came at perfect times for Croatia, just a few minutes into the game they scored, then just before halftime they added another. They finished the game off just after halftime. Ireland did manage to pull back an equaliser to Mario Mandzukic opener through Sean St Ledger but were never really at the races, although they should have had a penalty when Robbie Keane was fouled and Keith Andrews put a few efforts wide. The Croatians just looked the better side and they may not be the best at the back but going forward they will cause Spain and Italy problems.

Man of the match- Mario Mandzukic- The striker looked on top form and scored twice (the second one did hit the post and then Shay Given but I think it should be his goal). He caused the Ireland team so many problems in the air and on the floor, Richard Dunne couldn’t handle him in the air and Sean St Ledger couldn’t handle his movement so they will be happy to see the back of him. He even outperformed Nikica Jelavic which not a lot of players have done since he joined Everton in the Premier League so that shows how well he played. I’m sure Croatia’s playmakers Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic love playing with him as he always makes himself available for a pass and wants to get balls both into his feet and in the air.

Mandzukic has 30 caps for Croatia

Who will Youssouf Mulumbu sign for?

Youssouf Mulumbu has been linked with many clubs this summer and it seems as though his time at West Brom is coming to an end.

Mulumbu has played over 100 games for West Brom

The midfielder has been impressive since joining the Baggies and has helped them cement their place in the Premier League over the last couple of seasons with his battling displays. He is a very combative midfielder that likes to put in a tackle, but he can also play a bit as well, Mulumbu chips in with the odd goal and can make good late runs into the box to support the strikers. The 25 year old has been at West Brom since 2009 and was very influential in getting them promoted back to the Premier League when they finished runners up to Newcastle United. If he does leave this summer he will no doubt be fondly remembered by the fans mostly because of his 100% commitment to the club while on the pitch but also because he scored the winner in a game against Aston Villa, which was their first victory over them since 1985.

Mulumbu has claimed he has spoken to a number of clubs already but who will want him and is he good enough to make it into the starting 11 of one of the top teams? In my opinion, he may be able to do it as he has shown enough progress already in the Premier League and the fact he is only 25, he will get better. The first team I believe he could be good for is Arsenal as they always seem to be missing a strong central midfielder and have never been able to replace Patrick Vieira. They do currently have Alex Song but he is not a proper holding midfielder and likes to get forward a lot, he has been described before as the most attacking holding midfielder in the world. If they can bring in Mulumbu it would allow Song to get forward more and he showed time and time again this season that he can provide killer passes and set up a lot of goals.

London rivals Tottenham Hotspur have also been linked with him but I do not see this as likely as Arsenal because they already have Scott Parker and Luka Modric to play in the centre of their midfield so he would find it tough to become a first team regular. However, Modric is linked with a move away and if he goes they will need to replace him and both Modric and Mulumbu only get about the same number of goals a season so they would not lose anything in that respect.

Finally, Newcastle United could be interested in him as they have already lost one central midfielder this summer in Danny Guthrie and will need a new one. He may not get a first team slot straight away but he will still rack up the appearances as the season goes on. Another reason why I think he could fit in at Newcastle is that he is what they are now looking for in the transfer market. Someone that is quite cheap and if they do well, their price tag will rise and with Mulumbu only being 25 he could be at the club for a few years and then leave for a lot more than they signed him for. There are already a lot of reports saying he is in talks with Newcastle so this one seems the most likely at the minute.

Can Tottenham Hotspur still finish third?

Tottenham picked up a point at Stamford Bridge but is that really good enough if they want to finish third in the Premier League and challenge for the title in years to come.

Spurs couldn’t afford to lose the game and maybe this is why in the first half it was such a poor performance and they couldn’t get their normal passing game going. There were no quick counter attacks and anytime they had a chance to make a through ball the player on the ball decided to pas it square or back to the defence. However, they did create a chance right at the end of the half which Rafael Van Der Vaart should have done better but the Chelsea players did put their bodies on the line to make sure they made it to half time on level terms.

The cautious start would have seemed unnatural for Spurs but when you take a closer look at some of their score lines against teams in the top half it is not that surprising. Against Liverpool they played in exactly the same way and were fortunate to get anything from that game even though Gareth Bale missed a one on one near to the end. This is starting to be a problem for them as they also couldn’t hold onto a lead away to Newcastle United as Shola Ameobi scored a late equaliser.

A lot of people will be saying that the team aren’t performing because of the speculation about the England job and maybe that is playing on Harry Redknapp’s mind but the players are not playing to their full potential and they have to take the blame for it themselves rather than blame it on things they can’t control. They were missing Aaron Lennon today which does change the way they play but in the big games, their attacking players seem to go missing anyway. I think Bale is one of the best players in the Premier League but against their rivals he seems to be very quiet especially in the first half against Chelsea. However, in the second half he did look the most likely to make something happen and hit the bar with a header.

The second half was a massive improvement but still not as good as we have seen them this season. Emmanuel Adebayor had a chance when he rounded Petr Cech but couldn’t get it past Gary Cahill who had ran round on the cover. Luka Modric was the player that played through Adebayor but even he wasn’t as influential as he could have been today.

Man of the match went to Kyle Walker which in all honesty proves that it wasn’t a great game. He did perform well but when you are saying the right back was the best player on the pitch you know the attacking players haven’t performed brilliantly.

Tottenham should finish in the Champions League places and this should have been good enough but the fans expectations were raised as the season went on and now fourth place seems like a bit of a disappointment. None of the fans would have complained at the start of the season but now they are gutted Arsenal could finish above them, this just shows how quickly expectations change in football.

Scott Parker finally has the chance to succeed

Scott Parker proved again against Liverpool what a vital player he is to Tottenham Hotspur, when all the flair players underperformed, he stepped up and made sure he did his job brilliantly. Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor most notably had off days while Niko Kranjcar and Luka Modric could not get involved high enough up the pitch to cause the Liverpool defence any problems.

At the age of 31, Parker just keeps getting better and better it would seem however he has played like this throughout his whole career, but he is finally getting the recognition that he deserves because he is playing for a big club. Plain and simple, he just wants to win the ball back for his team and will keep chasing and tackling until he achieves his target, he does not allow the opposition a moments rest and it is little wonder he is a fans favourite at every club he has been apart from possibly Chelsea. But I think Chelsea missed out here because they most certainly did not give him enough playing time and he deserved more of a chance to succeed at a big club earlier in his career.

But for some reason his career has not really kicked off until quite recently as he was constantly overlooked by England who persisted in playing Gerrard and Lampard in the middle of midfield when clearly this wasn’t working. He should have won more international caps than he has but now hopefully his time has come and he will grab it with both hands.

Even in his early days at Charlton Athletic you could see he was going to be a fantastic asset to any team even though he was probably more attacking back then and has now adapted his game to focus more on being a holding midfielder. He can easily play both roles and he does still occasionally try and get into the box to score a few goals.

He singlehandedly kept West Ham in the Premier League one year and then stayed on for another even though the club were facing another relegation battle which tells me that he has a lot of heart and doesn’t mind rolling up his sleeves when the going gets tough. It must be difficult playing in a very average team when you are being linked to better teams who are competing in Europe but he did and was the best player in the league because of it. It isn’t very often you see a player that has just suffered relegation being praised and given awards from fellow professionals and pundits.

Finally his time has come to be a success because in his career he has suffered many let downs, not getting a real chance at Chelsea, getting sold by Newcastle when it looked like the club had finally got it right and were challenging for European places. Then signing for West Ham who seemed to have a bit of money and a few good players coming in so there was plenty of potential there which the club as a whole failed to live up to. So he has one final chance to make it work at Tottenham and he is doing everything possible to achieve this and his performance against Liverpool shows he is going to fight to win trophies before the end of his career.