domenica 19 gennaio 2014

Two subs redeem Sunderland

An impressive second-half effort made Sunderland able to secure an unlikely point after their felt two goals down against Southampton. "A very good point," said manager Gus Poyet. And the second good news of the week for the Uruguayan after he won the war against former Sunderland's director of football, Roberto De Fanti. Credit to Poyet for changing the home side after first-half woes by introducing midfielders Jack Colback and Craig Gardner. Both made a big impact in turning the game. With Southampton monopolizing ball control, Sunderland rarely touched the ball while Southampton’s pressing never allowed Ki Sung-Yeung and Lee Cattermole to threaten Mauricio Pochettino’s side. As result, Sunderland struggled to win the ball and gave it away easily. But Southampton’s forwards spurned good scoring chances to score the third goals: it allowed Sunderland to regain confidence after a first half of the game spent sitting too deep in their own half. After the break, Poyet totally deconstructed the midfield replacing Cattermole and Sebastian Larsson with Gardner and Colback. They made Sunderland able to press higher up winning the ball interceptions in more advanced areas with Southampton no longer dictating the tempo. Gardner ended his game performing a high of 82% in pass accuracy. He also made 4 tackles and 2 assists, the first one for Fabio Borini’s disallowed goal and the second for Adam Johnson’s right-foot shot that beat Artur Boruc. Colback produced an impressive 100% of pass accuracy out from the 6 touches he played. With this moves Poyet changed the game and Sunderland grab oxygen gaining a point out of nothing. Maybe Gardner and Colback cannot play well every week but both are no more expendable like they was appearing under Paolo Di Canio previous regime. Poyet will no doubt be concerned and unhappy about his team the first half performance as it was so woeful but can appreciate his team's character and the great performance showed by his midfield’s pair.

sabato 18 gennaio 2014

Is Mel a good fit for WBA?

Monday game against Everton will be Pepe Mel's first game in charge after the 1-0 defeat by Southampton leaves them only three points above the relegation zone. Is Mel the man for West Brom? West Brom have appointed Pepe Mel as their new head coach to replace Steve Clarke after a month-long search. Mel undoubtedly satisfies the requirements West Brom were looking for: he’s set to provide a possession-based style of play to improve Baggies reputation as a passing side after the counter-attacking style they employed under Roy Hodgson and Steve Clarke. It was that he has done at Betis when his side picked up numerous plaudits for their high-pressing, attacking style of football. At Betis, Mel built a reputation as an excellent tactician, with Pep Guardiola among many applauding his flexible 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 shape. Despite some ups and downs, Mel was able to bring Betis back in the Primera Division in a honorable 13th-place on their first campaign at the top, which was a perfect base to lead them into Europa League last season. Under the intensity of his training sessions and of his playing style based on  pass the ball, a lot of youngsters flourished, such as Beñat Etxebarria, Adrián San Miguel, Alejandro Pozuelo and José Cañas did. Betis were among the most attractive sides to watch in La Liga, Mel's contract was extended but he no longer was involved in recruitment with sporting director Vlad Stosic controlling signings. With 13 new players in and the entire midfield gone, the results worsened, the relationship with the board strained and Mel was sacked in early December. But there is no doubt that Mel has positive ideas and that there will be more focus on a pro-active brand of football. Baggies fans expect Mel will keep West Brom in the Premier League. To do it, Mel will need to get the better out from Matej Vydra, Nicolas Anelka, Saido Berahino, and Shane Long. One of the bigger problem West Brom faced this season was they couldn't making these forwards working. New manager will need time to bring on his fresh ideas and to make the adjustment to the new league. But Mel can count on Keith Downing to accelerate his Premier League knowledge. West Brom have taken a risk with this appointment. Albion fans are hoping it will pay off.

martedì 14 gennaio 2014

Giampiero Ventura and Torino new 3-5-1-1 formation

Giampiero Ventura has decided to deploy a different shape on the pitch this season. While he opted for a 4-2-4 formation for much of last year, towards the end of the season Ventura was thinking a lot about it.  Since the match against Juventus in April, Ventura went switching it to a 3-5-2. It weren’t a decision made following Serie A trend to employ a 5-3-2 formation. The change was made considering the qualities of the squad. Following last season, Torino lost goalkeeper Jean-Francois Gillet, the man who started team’s ball retention in the previous shape, while central defender Angelo Ogbonna and iconic forward Rolando Bianchi was sold or let to go. As Torino coach has given new life to the 4-2-4 scheme the past seasons, lining up two holding midfielders, two wings forward and two forwards ready to bounce back in a deeper position without the ball, in the way to prevent opponents playing through the centre, some critics pointed the fingers against this tactical switch. But Ventura stayed more pragmatic than expected. Some tactical changes was made but the overall philosophy remained almost the same. He solidified the defence, anchored it around Polish Kamil Glik, but Ventura's side remained linked to the counterattacking tactics, playing with pace and few touches, absorbing pressure and trying to play forward as soon as possible, to get the best out from the speed of his two quick forwards. The wing-backs Matteo Darmian and  Danilo D'Ambrosio now sit higher up the pitch. D'Ambrosio benefited from the chance to play more high, contributing more towards the attacking and posting impressive performances that made him worth of a look by bigger clubs as Roma. Owner Urbano Cairo and Ventura added Swedish midfielder Alexander Farnerud and former Brescia starlet Omar El Kaddouri to Giuseppe Vives in the middle of the pitch, building a narrowed midfield trio to protect the three-man back line. But the real new Ventura has made and the move that left his 3-5-2 linked to his old 4-2-4 principles came up front, where the Granata paired Ciro Immobile to Alessio Cerci. They showed a great understanding with Cerci delivering the assists and Immobile able to convert…or vice versa. Ventura deployed Cerci as a second forward on his 3-5-2 formation, after fielded him wide right in the 4-2-4 he played last years to exploit Cerci’s left foot as an inverted winger. Although he’s playing higher than he did in the 4-2-4, Cerci still is employed starting from a wide right role and his movement inside was ever impressive in pulling defenders out of position. In fact, Ventura settled his team more in a 3-5-1-1 than in a classic 3-5-2 shape. It helped Immobile to flourish. After he scored 28 goals to help Pescara to be promoted under Zdenek Zeman two seasons ago, Immobile went to Genoa highly touted. But he had endured a hard season there, and looked uncomfortable playing as centre forward paired with another striker. Ventura knew it and built the Immobile - Cerci partnership fielding former Pescara striker as a lone forward and putting Cerci wide right. It did work and they both worked very effectively together as Cerci went to accumulate 9 goals and 7 assists through 18 appearances with Immobile recording 9 goals and 2 assists out from 13 games played. Ventura took a gamble changing his proved shape but until now it has paid off. As long as Immobile and Cerci continue to combine well, this 3-5-1-1 is workable. Torino stated this season with the goal to avoid the drop but if they will be able to maintain this shape until the end of the year, they could find themselves challenging for a place in the Europa League next May.

sabato 11 gennaio 2014

Wilmer Cabrera and Chivas USA

Colorado Rapids assistant coach Wilmer Cabrera has been named head coach of Chivas USA. Cabrera becomes the eighth head coach in franchise history. The 46-year-old will lead his first MLS side. He spent five years as the US Under-17 national team coach and led them to the Round of 16 at the 2009 and 2011 U-17 World Cups before joining the Rapids staff in 2012. Cabrera takes over for Jose Luis Real Casillas who recently left to take over the reins of Chivas Guadalajara.  It's hard to predict what to expect from Cabrera. He inherit a tough situation with a Chivas USA side that has been a mess both on and off the field in recent seasons. The Goats finished last in the Western Conference in 2013 with a 6-20-8 record, their worst campaign since that 4-22-6 in their rookie season, and were also accused of discrimination in a lawsuit by their players and other employees. The club suffered a huge turmoil since owner Jorge Vergara bought the team in August 2012. He fired head coach Robin Fraser and overhauled the roster dumping 14 players
before the season started. Dealing with Vergara will be the bigger challenge for Cabrera. However, Cabrera showed some flashes in his previous stops as he did a nice work there. Chivas has a decent base having one of the best MLS goalkeeper in Dan Kennedy, a good holding midfielder in Oswaldo Minda, and a veteran centre back in Carlos Bocanegra. Cabrera also can count on rising Mexican youngster Erick “Cubo” Torres who scored 7 goals in 15 games. Cabrera’s hiring gives hope but he will need time to produce.

venerdì 3 gennaio 2014

Klinsmann USMNT roster for January Camp: focus on defense

The 26-man roster U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann named for the national team's annual, year-opening January training camp includes nine uncapped players. The January camp will start in Carson, Calif., but the players will travel to Brazil for two more weeks of training in São Paulo. For the group of players, limited to MLS and Scandinavian-based players, it will be maybe the last chance to make their case for a roster spot for the World Cup in Brazil. The squad included some veterans such as Landon Donovan or Eddie Johnson and youngsters like U-20 teammates Luis Gil and DeAndre Yedli with MLS MVP Mike Magee as the most interesting pick. Also in the list are Mix Diskerud and Benny Feilhaber. M.L.S. champions of Sporting Kansas City are represented by defenders Matt Besler, Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic as well by midfielders Graham Zusi and Feilhaber. Not all the positions on USMNT team have openings. The main focus is on defence, where Klinsmann still didn't find a sure back four. Left-back DaMarcus Beasley appears to be the only sure starter right now although there are questions of whether Fabian Johnson is a better option there. Besler, Clarence Goodson and Omar Gonzalez are fighting for the centre-back starting spots. Geoff Cameron, who recently impressed at right back and center back for Stoke, is looking for the righ-back position but Brad Evans showed enough to put some pressure on him and young Yedlin is looking to impress during this camp to make Klinsmann’s final 23-man World Cup roster. Both Evans and Yedlin are part of Seattle Sounders’ defense. Eric Lichaj too is not to be forgotten after the 26-year-old regained his place in the starting XI for Nottingham Forest, although is not on the camp, as other European-based players such as Clint Dempsey and Juan Agudelo. Klinsmann has a lot to think about his back four.

Goalkeepers (4): Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders (10): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (L.A. Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Harrington (Portland Timbers), Chris Klute (Colorado Rapids), Chance Myers (Sporting Kansas City), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids), Seth Sinovic (Sporting Kansas City), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders)
Midfielders (8): Eric Alexander (Red Bulls), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Dax McCarty (New York), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards (4): Landon Donovan (L.A. Galaxy), Eddie Johnson (D.C. United), Mike Magee (Chicago Fire), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

giovedì 2 gennaio 2014

Cardiff City appointed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s stock as a young manager is rising. The former Manchester United striker lead Molde to successive top flight championships. He made no secret of his desire to lead a Premier League team. The moment is here as Solskjaer has taken over as manager of Cardiff City after a whirlwind day of negotiations with the club's owner, Vincent Tan. Solskjaer overcame all the reservations he had about taking the job after Tan's numerous disputes with former manager Malky Mackay over recent months. Tan and Cardiff chairman, Mehmet Dalman promised him to have £25m to spend in the January transfer window and reassured next manager about how the club will be structured so far. It was enough to convince the Norwegian to join the newly-promoted club. The manner in which Malay tycoon is running his club is shocking. But, despite all the turmoil they experienced, including the unpopular Tan's decision decision to sack Mackay, Cardiff is still an attractive job. They had the financial power in terms of fees and wages to compete for big-name players. Solskjaer recently turned down the chances to become the Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion manager but he couldn't bypass Cardiff's proposal. He has been courted convincingly by Tan. Solskjaer built his reputation at Molde, where he has won two league titles and one cup in three seasons. In Norway, Solskjaer has developed a fast counter-attacking side in which full-backs are encouraged to venture forward. He switched his side from its usual 4-3-3 into a more defensively version of 4-2-3-1 featuring width from the full-backs and wingers and with an attacking midfielder just  behind the centre forward, a new in a Norwegian league featuring sides that favor a more classic 4-4-2. The first thing Solskjaer will have to do on the pitch will be find a way to score as only Crystal Palace have scored fewer than the goals Cardiff have managed. In an interview with the Norwegian magazine Josimar in 2012, Solskjaer revealed his tactical views: he went coaching at Molde "a bit on the United way of playing. So it's a kind of 4-4-2, but with a striker up front and one player who drops behind the striker. A winger that runs up and down all the time, which Giggsy did, and one that goes a little bit more in and out, as Becks did."  Playing under Sir Alex Ferguson for 10 years at United helped. ‘That manager was always in me. I was at a stage when I wrote what we did in every single training session and then there was a period in my career when I wrote a mental diary as well,’ he said. The Scot influenced Solskjaer on and off field: since he took the reign a Molde, he changed the philosophy of the whole club, obliging the players to stay adherent to a stricter routine and diet. He was in charge of everything in the room -- a pivotal role helping Solskjaer to create this environment was played by his backroom staff which includes former United coaches Mark Dempsey and Richard Hartis. Now Solskjaer wants to prove that is possible to work under Tan. 

mercoledì 1 gennaio 2014

Martinez's universality a key of this season

We have seen that. Pep Guardiola put emphasis upon the importance of the concept of universality. He made it switching players role, utilizing defenders in the attacking phase, wide forwards drifting, forwards contributing in the defensive phase…the Spaniard fielded Philipp Lahm in the holding spot; Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller up front; Toni Kroos as one of the three central midfielder…but the player who mostly represented the hybrid player Guardiola like to line up were Javi Martinez. He became the paradigm of the modern version of the total player that Holland introduced in the football in the early ‘70s. Guardiola demonstrated Martinez’s tactical flexibility lining up him as attacking midfielder, ahead Lahm and Kroos in a recent game against Dortmund. It wasn’t a surprise with Martinez playing everywhere latest seasons. Martinez is one of the best all-rounders available. Martinez already showed it in last Champions League against Barcelona, when he Martinez pressured Andres Iniesta but when he also was a costant presence  attacking. Vicente Del Bosque too wasn’t unsensible to Martinez’s versatility. During the Confederations Cup semifinal against Italy, Del Bosque withdrew his lone forward, Fernando Torres, introducing Martinez up front as centre-forward.  Under  Jupp Heynckes, Martinez became a great holding midfielder playing alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger in a 4-2-3-1 formation. With Guardiola switching to a single pivot shape Martinez role didn’t’ decrease as Guardiola integrated him as an attacking midfielder, a holding midfielder and a centre-back. His abilities of making runs into the box, his good linkup play and his aerial strength made Martinez a perfect fit for every need. He perfectly summarize Bayern’s approach that turned Barcelona’s tiki-taka into a more muscular and physical version.