martedì 31 dicembre 2013

Nicolas Anelka's controversial salute overshadowed his performance

West Brom caretaker boss Keith Downing insists striker Nicolas Anelka can still have a big part to play in WBA fight to avoid a drop. Anelka is underinvestigation by the Football Association for the quenelle gesture, described as the "reverse Nazi salute", which he made while celebrating the first of his two goals at Upton Park, where West Bromwich secured a pivotal point from what was a third successive draw under Downing. However, this topic isn’t about his controversial hand gesture. The controversy – which has atcentre French comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala – overshadowed the excellent performance made by Anelka, at his eighth appearance for West Bromwich after a first part of season plagued by illness and injury. Downing gave Anelka his first start since late October in a 3-5-2 formation that already had earned a point at Spurs, pairing Anelka to Saido Berahino up front. Anelka played like an attacking midfielder, just behind Berahino, switching the 3-5-2 in a 3-5-1-1 system. He drifted in and out of the game, dropping deep in midfield rather than make runs in behind the defence and sometimes he left Berahino too isolated. By the way, there was a lot of positives to take from the draw. Anelka was highly effective, scoring two goal from a total of 6 shots, 3 on target. He also managed 4 key passes, averaging a 85% of pass success showing to be able to provide a final pass. Albion are the sixth Premier League club for whom Anelka has bagged goals so he knows how to score. He became only the ninth man in Premier League history to score for six different teams. Obviously, the French lost the speed he had during his youth stints with Arsenal or Real, but he can still be a key part of WBA’s game plan. The greater problem West Brom had this season has been the struggle of the forwards. Stephane Sessegnon, Scott Sinclair, Matej Vydra and Victor Anichebe have disappointed. Maybe West Brom fans are tired of hearing they miss Romelu Lukaku, but this is it. The questions is :can Anelka score enough goals to save West Brom? The amount of cash the club are paying him is very high so Anelka needs to score again or produce nice through balls before they can say the deal worked. Anelka undoubtedly has the chance to play a key role for West Bromwich's next manager. Albion felt in love with Spaniard, Pepe Mel, who wanted to bring his own coaching staff, and have interviewed another, the former Osasuna and Bilbao coach Jose Luis Mendilib, whiel former Cardiff City boss Malky Mackay remains an attractive alternative. Whoever will take the job, he still can count on Anelka.

domenica 29 dicembre 2013

Notes on Kim Bo-Kyung and Ki Sung-Yeung

It was an intense match as Jordon Mutch and Fraizer Campbell put the Cardiff City head with a 2-0 lead before Sunderland went back to save a point with Steven Fletcher and Jack Colback. It also was a clash between South Korean Internationals Kim Bo-Kyung and Ki Sung-Yeung. Caretaker manager David Kerslake fielded a 4-4-1-1 line up featuring Kim as attacking midfielder in support of centre forward Campbell. Gus Poyet opt to overload the middle of the pitch with a 5-man midfield featuring Ki in the centre alongside Seb Larsson with Lee Cattermole as deep-lying playmaker. Kim started well and produced a nice display during the first half. With Sunderland playing defensively, due to Cardiff’s strong start, but with no real holding midfielders protecting the flat four back line, Kim was able to find spaces between the lines providing some nice runs through the middle. He attempted 50 passes with a 82% of successful passes rate. The most part of those passes went in the middle and they were short passes. Kim attempted just 2 long passes and both were good. On the defensive phase of the game, Kim contributed with just one tackle but he made 3 interceptions and committed 4 fouls, being also booked. Cardiff were dominant throughout the first half and a Kim's shot from distance was tipped over the crossbar by Vito Mannone. Ki attempted 63 passes, with 94% of pass success rate. He played successfully 3 on 4 long balls while the others was all short passes. Of his short passes half were backwards or sideways with centre back Valentine Roberge and left-back Andrea Dossena as his preferred targets. He moved all over the pitch but was extremely quiet in the first half despite having Cattermole covering his back. He was too much passive offensively with the team controlling the ball. It took over a half for Sunderland to build a decent attack and get the initiative. Ki produced himself a shooting chance saved by goalkeeper David Marshall. With Cardiff ahead 2-0 and Sunderland in a nothing to lose mode, Poyet’s side produced his best effort to steal a point. So has done Ki who performed much better than he did in the first half. If Sunderland want to continue their run, they need to get Ki more involved in the final third. Ki’s ability to hold onto the ball in the middle of the park and to produce nice passes are pivotal for a team looking for quality up front. On the other side, Kim's movement and the skills he inserts into a game makes him an important player for his side. Toghether to Peter Witthingham they form a couple of good passers Cardiff need if they're looking for improved performances.

venerdì 27 dicembre 2013

Sunderland need help up front to continue to hope

Gus Poyet has problems to solve and must find solutions quickly. It would be early to write off Sunderland just yet, above all after they renewed hope ending Everton’s unbeaten 2013 home record thanks to a Ki Sung-yueng's match-winning penalty. But the Uruguayan manager has things to fix. Goals have been hard to come by in recent years and the days of Kevin Phillips, and Niall Quinn are gone. One of the primary cause for that is summer signing Jozy Altidore’s lack of goals. His work rate is high but insufficient to produce scores. Altidore continued to frustrate, showing good attitude with his pace and running effort but still looking as not a  goalscorer. But Altidore’s work was enough to provide him a spot in the starting XI so it was no surprise that United States striker currently kept Steven Fletcher out of the starting lineup. So Fletcher is still on the bench after recovering from his injuries. Beyond that there was Fabio Borini who can play up front, and there is always Ji Dong-won. However, there’s a lack of options at Sunderland with Steve Fletcher out of shape. Fletcher was the club’s top goalscorer last season, but he has scored just two goals this season. Poyet will need Altidore or Steven Fletcher to flourish if Sunderland want something out of this season. Surely, both need to see more of the ball in the box. In 68 minutes on the field against Norwich, Altidore received the ball just 18 times. Poyet's generally preferred 4-1-4-1. He put five men across the middle of the park still to the Goodison Park. Having more strikers on the pitch is not enough to produce goals but is obvious that forwards need to be utilized in the right areas. Poyet is right saying “We need to find a style and a system which plays to the strengths of our best players.” But the fact is also that both forwards were less than prolific until now. Altidore has gone scoreless in his first 10 Premier League matches. Fletcher still failed to regain his shape after the major ankle surgery he suffered last season and after he injured his shoulder against Crystal Palace last September. He had been ineffective until this point. Against Everton he still wasted a good scoring chance. He pointed his finger against Paolo Di Canio’s previous regime. "When I came back into the first-team squad after being injured it was a shock to see how intense everything was," Fletcher told, "He [Di Canio] can't deny he didn't want us to smile and laugh in training, but at every other club I've been at laughter's been a big part of things, of creating togetherness." Di Canio has a different thought “I received criticism from people like Steven Fletcher who, as soon as he picked up an injury, abandoned the squad and flew to Dubai." Gus Poyet has improved Sunderland's defence  but he’s still looking for to improve team’s goalscoring power.

martedì 24 dicembre 2013

Dennis te Kloese fired from Chivas organization

Two days before Christmas this year and Chivas owner Jorge Vergara fired sporting president Dennis te Kloese after just one year in charge. te Kloese, who held the same role with Chivas de Guadalajara, was fired after a poor 2013 season in which Chivas USA finished last in the Western Conference while Guadalajara ended their season at the bottom of Liga MX. te Kloese departure, following that of Chivas USA sporting director Francisco Palencia and Chivas USA head coach Jose Luis Real, added turmoil to a Chivas USA team that, after starting out 3-1-1 in 2013, collapsed producing 14 games without a win, despite head coach change and the arrival of former U.S. national team captain Carlos Bocanegra and young Mexican Erick Torres. Issue s continued off-field as the team struggled to attract spectators and finished last in the MLS in attendance and there was no local television deal in place for the first 25 games of the season. Despite that, Vergara doesn't take the holidays off as Chivas USA traded for Seattle midfielder Mauro Rosales, and acquired Portland defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste. By the way, with the MLS combine and SuperDraft less than a month away CHivas USA still have to name a new head coach. Until now, Vergara's plan to made Chivas USA an “extension of Chivas Guadalajara,” didn't work. Chivas haven’t made the playoffs since 2009. Vergara needs of a plan working out to fix the situation. And MLS too have to work a plan to help Chivas USA, if Don Garber wants to keep a second team in LA. Right now, Chivas USA is a team linked with instability lacking of a true club's philosophy. Chivas USA suffered a roster upheaval that put a lot of Mexican-born playerson the team. But both Chivas USA team and coaching staff had little or no MLS experience. That was a problem. Chivas Guadalajara comes before Chivas USA on Vergara's mind. It doesn't work. To bring on success to his MLS side, Vergara has to build a core of his team around MLS veterans, such as Chicago did hiring Frank Yallop or Montreal picking Frank Klopas. Building from within MLS seems to be a better way to find success.

venerdì 20 dicembre 2013

Malky Mackay is under fire

Malky Mackay's position as Cardiff City manager is even more in jeopardy. His decision to not attend his prematch news conference on Friday made the situation more uncertain. This is the last point in the escalating war between Mackay and club’s owner Vincent Tan: after Cardiff's 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion, Mackay expressed his thought about team situation, affirming the hope his team’s management would be able to “bring in three quality additions to the squad.” Tan didn’t liked that as he issued a statement, through a detailed email he sent the manager, claiming to be upset with Mackay, raising criticisms of his work on signings, transfer budgets, results conservative style of play on the pitch, asking him to resign or be fired. Tan also added that the £15m they spent in the summer was the main reason that lead to the fire of former head of recruitment Iain Moody and told "not a single penny" would be available to spend in the January transfer window. But Macaky did a decent job with Cardiff. Mackay's record while in charge at Cardiff speaks for him. His work have been good enough to win the Championship last season and to collect 17 points out from 16 games this one, maintaining his team four points off the relegation zone. He also brought in some quality players like Steven Caulker, Gary Medel and Kevin Theophile-Catherine. His team was also solid, although not spectacular, on the pitch, producing big wins over teams as Manchester City and Swansea and good draws against Everton and Manchester United. The relationship between Tan and Mackay is a broken one and seems hard to repair. Rumors are that Cardiff have already started to consider possible replacements, including  Roberto di Matteo and Gianfranco Zola, with the highly touted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also into the frame. Firing Mackay could be the last act in a three seasons saga of Tan as owner of Cardiff City. A period in which the Malaysian billionaire went from changing the club's colours to interfering in team affairs. So, will Mackay be in charge at Anfield next week?  Nobody can say it and next hours will be probably crucial. The reality seems to be as the end has been already wrote since Moody was sacked. Mackay is loved by Cardiff City fans and players and will have no problem to move to another job if fired. Questions will remain about a club that appear to be in complete turmoil and owned by a man that Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, accused of knowing "absolutely nothing about football". Stay tuned.

mercoledì 18 dicembre 2013

Watford appoint Giuseppe Sannino

Watford surprisely have confirmed the appointment of Giuseppe Sannino as head coach just two days after Gianfranco Zola resigned from the position. Zola left the team on a run of nine League games without a win and with eight points short of the play-off zone. Sannino was out of job since his former club sacked him. the Pozzo family, club’s owners, wanted to maintain Watford’s links with their home country as they did during Zola's tenure, when a lot of players was loaned from Serie A team Udinese. Sannino will be by an Italian staff featuring assistant coaches Francesco Troise, Giovanni Cusatis and Paolo De Toffol. It also has been reported that Alfredo Sebastiani, a youth team coach at FC Sudtirol, in the third tier of Italian football, will join Watford’s coaching staff. He worked alongside Sannino at FC Sudtriol seasons ago. Sannino is a veteran coach with a lot of experience under his belt. Otherwise, he rarely coached on big stages. He faced his first big task replacing the departing Antonio Conte at Siena. He lead his team to survive relegation as well as reaching the Coppa Italia semifinals. His following stints weren’t so good. He was sacked at Palermo after achieving just one point out from the opening 3 games. Then the unsuccessful gig at Chievo came. Sannino rarely favored an entertaining brand of football building functional but highly effective sides. While Sannino has generally used a 4-4-2 system during his career, he sometimes switched to 3-5-2 this season.  His reactive strategy often paid off.  Is this a risky appointment by Watford? Of course, but the same was with the appointment of Zola. Time will tell if he will be able to bring new enthusiasm to Watford.