FM

Jan 292014
 

Tottenham Hotspur 1-5 Manchester City

It would be unfair to criticise Tottenham Hotspur for not playing a conservative system at home however when you look at the talent in Manchester City’s forward line you really feel the game was lost by Tim Sherwood’s system choice prior to kick-off at White Hart Lane this evening.

Tottenham Hotspur continued with the 4-2-3-1 system the club has been using for the majority of the season however as we have seen since Tim Sherwood’s arrival as Head Coach Nabil Bentaleb was deployed as a holding midfielder. Christian Eriksen and Gylfi Sigurdsson were positioned as part of the attacking midfield trio with both players interchanging between a central and left wing position throughout the match.

Manchester City started the match in control, Aguero’s early chance after just four minutes should have been the warning Spurs heeded however Manchester City continued to break through the host’s midfield with such ease. This was a direct result of the positioning of Bentaleb in relation to Dembele. Bentaleb has done nothing wrong, he was right to drop slightly deeper in order to perform his duties as a holding midfield player however this left Moussa Dembele on his own in the middle of midfield which is fine if a) you aren’t facing Manchester City’s Yaya Toure and Fernandinho or b) if you have a more mobile holding midfielder able to cover the majority of the space.

Dembele on his own could not contain the forward runs of Toure and Fernandinho and the two bypassed him with ease before moving the ball onto either Navas or Silva who were entrusted with the task of creating chances for the as ever impressive Sergio Aguero. Eriksen and Sigurdsson really needed to work much harder to drop back into the space and help Dembele out yet neither appeared willing to do so although in fairness to the players this is something which should have been thought of by Tim Sherwood prior to the match.

The lack of numbers of midfield for Tottenham also rendered any sort of pressing game within their own half impossible and Silva and Navas both benefitted from time on the ball which allowed them to pick the perfect pass. David Silva’s assist for Aguero and City’s opening goal was a perfect example of this.

Tottenham did show they could be a danger going forward with Adebayor’s first run in earnest against Martin Demichelis making the experienced Argentine look out of place, however Tottenham simply could not keep hold of the ball long enough to bring Adebayor into play.

Half-time saw Sigurdsson drop into the middle of midfield as part of a midfield three with Capoue and Bentaleb as Tim Sherwood recognised how his side had been completely overrun for the majority of the opening forty five minutes and Tottenham instantly improved. There was more control about their play and the hosts held much more of the ball and looked as if they were going to get back into the match. Danny Rose’s sending off and the resulting penalty really ended the match as a contest as it is impossible to play against a team as well organised and rich in quality as Manchester City are with less men on the pitch.

The match was over as a contest from this point and Manchester City as you would expect kept the ball well and treated the remaining half hour as a training exercise. Tottenham by no means disgraced themselves this evening and will perhaps feel aggrieved with regards to the sending off however the real mistake was made before the game in trying to outplay a team as strong as Manchester City with only two in midfield.

Dec 232013
 

“…there is an idea of a [Andre Villas-Boas], some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.

My conscience, my pity, my hopes disappeared a long time ago (probably at [Porto]) if they ever did exist. There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the [Daily Mail], all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it, I have now surpassed.”

Yes, that is me shamelessly plagiarising and selectively misquoting Bret Easton Ellis. The above passage is taken from the author’s popular novel, American Psycho – a tale of a young, handsome male protagonist whose outward professional but ultimately superficial successes belie the troubled psyche of a man struggling to truly fit in to his surroundings…

On Monday morning, as most football fans were settling down to watch the draw for the Champions League, Tottenham Hotspur released a statement on their website confirming that Andre Villas-Boas had left the club after just a little under 18 months. A humiliating 5-0 home defeat to a rampant Liverpool side less than 24 hours earlier proved to be the last straw in what has been perceived to be a campaign of underachievement thus far.

When Andre Villas-Boas arrived at White Hart Lane last summer, there was an understandable sense of optimism. Here was a man with barely any experience in the game yet a reputation already enhanced thanks to his unprecedented levels of success during his one full season managing Porto back in his home land. An all too brief spell at Chelsea did relatively little to harm him flourishing reputation before he was appointed to replace Harry Redknapp last July.

The mission statement from the Tottenham hierarchy would have clearly been a top four finish and the Champions League qualification that comes with it. Villas-Boas ended his first season in North London achieving the club’s record points haul in the Premier League, securing a first Spurs victory at Old Trafford in 23 years as well as a quarter final appearance in the Europa League.
However, after missing out on that elusive fourth spot by a single point, things took a slight turn at the start of this season. A 6-0 embarrassment at Manchester City might have been written off as a bad day at the office but with Sunday’s result coming so soon after, the Portuguese was forced to fall on his sword – this despite sitting in seventh place, above current champions Manchester United, and a mere eight points off the top of the table.

Villas-Boas team were also in the quarter finals of the League Cup and boasted a 100% record in the Europa League group stage so one might argue that he has been hard done by. A few disappointing results aside, Spurs were hardly in a state of disarray. One wonders if this was just another rash decision by Daniel Levy (a man who rarely shows patience when he believes a manager is under-performing) or whether it had something to do with Villas Boas himself.

Having initially begun his own career in management working under Jose Mourinho, the lazy but understandable comparisons could not be avoided. We’ve already seen one young, talented manager come out of Portugal, so the next one must surely be exactly the same right? Both won numerous trophies with Porto and the similarities hardly stopped there, either. Neither had any playing career of their own to speak of and both cite the influence the late, great Sir Bobby Robson had on them during their formative years. On the surface, it looked as though Villas-Boas was simply trying to emulate his old boss.

This wasn’t the case however. As a result, Villas-Boas wanted to establish his own identity; particularly after reportedly falling out with Mourinho after deciding to go his own way. Despite following in his footsteps by leaving Porto to join Chelsea, there then a quite deliberate attempt to distance himself from his one-time mentor. While the ‘Special One’ was all about bravado, charisma and charm, Villas Boas came across as more calculated, thoughtful and sombre. The thinking man’s Mourinho if you will.

The contrast in personality inevitably led to a contrast in management styles. While Mourinho would develop close bonds with his team and created a ‘family’ environment, Villas Boas was more concerned in establishing his position as boss. As a previous member of Mourinho’s Chelsea staff, there may have been the feeling that he was something of a subordinate to the players, so now he had to make it clear he was in charge. Consequently, he ended up alienating the club’s senior pros and ultimately lost the dressing room. This led to his departure from Stamford Bridge after less than nine months in charge.

If we’re going to stick to the theme of comparing managers, Villas-Boas’ tumultuous spell at Chelsea could arguably be compared to Brian Clough’s disastrous 44-day reign in change of Leeds United way back when. Ok, I suspect the Portuguese manager didn’t demand Lampard et al throw their previously acquired medals in the bin, but a new manager coming in and immediately trying to change the dynamic within a team that is used to winning, is more often than not going to find himself on a hiding to nothing. Villas-Boas, like Clough, suffered from top players’ unwillingness to buy in to his philosophy and subsequently found himself victim of a mutiny, making his position untenable.

The unfortunate conclusion to be drawn here was that despite his almost aggressive attempt to try and prove otherwise, Villas-Boas looked very much as though he couldn’t handle big players or big egos. That said, a short spell at a volatile club where even success cannot guarantee job security shouldn’t really be used to define a man’s managerial capabilities.

Certainly, it did not deter Daniel Levy from entrusting him with the reigns of an already improving Spurs side with the task of taking them forward. Under Harry Redknapp, the team had already qualified for Champions League once and would have done so again but for the cruelest twist of fate as the very same Chelsea side Villas-Boas was sacked from months earlier, actually ended up winning Europe’s Premier competition.

Redknapp had already raised Tottenham up a level during his tenure and the belief was that Villas-Boas would be the man to help them make that final leap to join the elite. However, many people didn’t see it that way. Redknapp’s controversial departure from White Hart Lane did not sit well with the media – an industry which, it has been well documented, he had many supporters. This meant that his replacement, whoever it may be, would be in for a rough ride.

Now, as we’ve established. Villas-Boas is not exactly a media darling. If anything, his demeanour towards the press seemed to suggest he saw them as something of an inconvenience or a nuisance that somehow impeded him from doing his job. At Chelsea, he was seen as distant, standoffish and even confrontational. In some ways, not too dissimilar to Sir Alex Ferguson who was renowned for his brazen approach to banning any journalist who did or said anything he disagreed with.

Couple this with the obvious affection for his predecessor in N17, and it led to situations where Villas Boas was being undermined before he had even unpacked his bags. Articles speculated about his future less than a month into his tenure and one sage scribe even went so far as to compare him to Ricky Gervais’ clownish office manager from the popular TV comedy series The Office.
Villas Boas kept his cool and led his side to within a hair’s breadth of Champions League qualification. But still the barbs came after an indifferent start to his second campaign. Sustained attacks following the City defeat even led to the unedifying spectacle of Villas-Boas publicly quarreling with the Daily Mail’s Neil Ashton in the middle of a press conference.

Being unpopular isn’t a problem if you are getting results and for a while he was. Last year, with Gareth Bale as his talisman, the Portuguese had Spurs playing an attractive brand of attacking football. Unfortunately, with the loss of Bale to Madrid and a number of subsequent changes in personnel, that style and more importantly, goals seemed to have deserted them. The rebuilding process not quite yet achieving desired results as players still needed time to gel.

Villas-Boas does leave Tottenham with a 53% win ratio – the best of any Spurs manager in the Premier League era and second best in the club’s history. This, after a similar stuttering start to last season. In fact, Tottenham are one point better off this year than at the same stage 12 months ago, so Levy’s decision may perhaps have been a bit premature. It would hardly be the craziest suggestion to grant the man a bit of time to see if this poor spell is just a blip or not – especially given the fact you’ve backed him to the tune of £100m in transfers just a few months prior.
However, with two hammerings in such close proximity, the spats with journalists and an obvious drop in the quality of football, the chairman felt it necessary to take action. Whether Villas-Boas would have turned things around given time, we’ll now never know. Instead, he leaves North London a looking like a failure.

There was once this wonderful idea of Andre Villas-Boas. Something new, something completely different to what we were used to before. Studious, young, vibrant, full of his own ideas and not necessary conforming to the typical model of manager English football was used to. Possessing a strong sense of self belief that could be mistaken for arrogance, the lack of charm that accompanied it laid bare a no nonsense attitude that didn’t quite sit well with many over here. His unashamed openness and honesty, rather than working to his advantage, ended up being the catalyst for his downfall; something that, for whatever reason, he was unable to redress. He walks away seemingly having lost something quite significant from when he arrived in England. As it is, it appears that the idea of Villas-Boas was somewhat better than the reality.

Sep 012013
 

Arsenal vs Tottenham, 16:00

 

- These fierce rivals could not have had more contrasting fortunes during this Summer’s transfer window. Spurs have brought in a total of six players, and it appears that they have settled into life in North London rather quickly.

 

- Central midfielder Paulinho may not have hit the back of the net so far this season, but on the back of his performance last week it seems that this may change rather quickly. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that the Brazilian took 6 shots against Swansea; only Ricky Lambert mustered more.

 

- Who needs Gareth Bale when you’ve got Andros Townsend? The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index demonstrates exactly why Roy Hodgson opted to call him up to the England squad, as his total of 5 dribbles was tied with the most in the league.

 

- The player to share this accolade with Townsend was his Belgian teammate Moussa Dembele. The Belgian midfielder also completed 5 dribbles at the weekend.

 

- In Spurs’ match against Crystal Palace on the opening weekend of the season, defensive midfielder Etienne Capoue managed to make more interceptions than any other player – despite being on the pitch for only thirty-three minutes. He continued his fine defensive work against Swansea by winning 6 tackles, the most in the league.

 

- French captain Hugo Lloris has made himself pretty much indispensible to AVB’s side, and the white half of North London will be delighted to see that he is still adding to his glowing reputation. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, Spurs’ stopper has made 8 saves this season – tied with Simon Mignolet as the most of any keeper who is yet to concede a goal.

 

- Spanish maestro Santi Cazorla is known for his creativity and ability to play defence splitting passes, and this was on show on Saturday as he was one of only 17 players who managed to register an assist. On the other hand, so far this season he has failed to win a tackle – this is despite attempting 10.

 

- The news that Lukas Podolski is out for up to ten weeks will be a bitter pill to swallow for Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal faithful. The 100-capped German international has had 2 shots this season, and, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, both shots have resulted in goals.

 

- Polish shot-stopper Wojciech Szczesny had his fair share of critics last season, but if he continues to perform like he did on Saturday these critics will soon disappear. He made 6 saves on Saturday, the second most in the league.

 

- Theo Walcott’s performances on the flank will prove critical to the Gunners chances of success this year, and it appears that his pace was causing Fulham headaches at the weekend. His total of 4 dribbles was equal-second in the league.

 

Aug 252013
 

Tottenham vs Swansea – Sunday, 16:00

As the Premier League’s sole representatives in the Europa League this year prepare to lock horns, it is likely that the Spanish strikers on either side will be the focus of attention.

Spanish sensation Michu made an instant impact in his first season in Britain, finding the net eighteen times. His ability to find the target was evident again on Saturday as according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, Swansea’s Spanish star had 3 shots on target after the first round of fixtures – the third most in the league.

Another Swansea Spaniard that Tottenham should be wary of is José Cañas. After coming off the bench in the thirteenth minute, the Spanish maestro completed 44 passes in the opposition half – the seventh most of any midfielder in the Premier League. The closest a Tottenham midfielder came to matching this was Aaron Lennon, who completed 31 passes – 26th in the last round of games.

Fresh from completing his move to the Swans, Jonjo Shelvey made an instant impression. Despite suffering a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the champions, according to the EA Sports Player Performance Index, Shelvey swung in 4 crosses, the third most in the league.

Likewise, left-back Ben Davies finished fourth in the number of crosses category, as he crossed the ball a total of 3 times. This was the second highest by a defender, as only Leighton Baines crossed the ball more (5)

Wilfred Bony may have opened his Premier League account against Manchester United at the weekend, but he still proved to be fairly wasteful in front of goal. His total of 3 shots off target was third-equal highest in the league.

Swansea may have conceded four goals at the weekend, but it would be tough to put too much blame at the feet of Chico Flores. With a total of 11 clearances, the Spaniard made the sixth most at the weekend.

Tottenham’s goal scoring feats are expected to rest heavily on Roberto Soldado’s shoulders, with the Spanish striker expected to operate as Andre Villas-Boas’ lone striker. Goals are expected to come from the midfield too and Nacer Chadil will be expected to improve his shooting accuracy, as, much like Wilfred Bony, he also had 3 shots off target in his first outing of the season.

Swansea won plaudits last season for their slick short-passing style of play, however they must be wary of Tottenham’s Etiene Capoue this weekend. Despite only featuring for 33 minutes, the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index has shown that the French defensive midfielder made 6 interceptions against Crystal Palace – the most in the league.

Tottenham made a habit of breaking up the play against Crystal Palace, as in addition to Capoue, both Paulinho and Jan Vertonghen were in the top 15 players who made interceptions, intercepting the ball 3 and 4 times respectively.

Since ousting Brad Friedel as Tottenham’s goalkeeper last season, Hugo Lloris has justified AVB’s faith in him with a number of top quality performances. This was no different on Saturday as by making 3 saves, he made the most saves in the league without conceding a goal.

Kyle Walker has earned a reputation as an attacking full back over the past couple of seasons. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index demonstrates why this reputation was gained, as his 5 dribbles were the second highest number of dribbles in the league, and the highest of any defender.

Aug 232013
 

March 31st 2011: Willian linked with moves to Chelsea and Barcelona. Both Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola were reportedly keen to sign him after scoring twice in Shakhtar Donetsk’s 3-0 second leg success over Roma in the Champions League last 16 game.

April 13th 2011: “Willian would be perfect for Arsenal,” said Denilson (Arsenal player). “I know him well from the Brazil youth team and he had a real winning mentality then. I’ve heard Chelsea are interested, but his character could improve our team and his style would fit much better at Arsenal. We need match-winners at Arsenal and knowing what he does for Shakhtar and the national team I know he could do the same in England. He has great vision and ability and is one of the best creative players I have played with. I’ve spoken to him and told him that he could be a success with us.”

January 23rd 2012: “Willian is a very interesting player, but he is cup tied in the Champions League,” said Andre Villas-Boas (Chelsea manager). “I don’t think we should go for players who cannot be involved in all the competitions. We are not stressed regarding what we can do in this transfer window. If a good opportunity arises, we could study it, but at the moment, we are very satisfied.”

January 23rd 2012: “We have no burning desire to sell the player, but in football some things are impossible to avoid,” said Sergei Palkin (Shakhtar CEO). “If it weren’t for our good relationship with Chelsea – and Willian does not hide his intention to test himself in one of the best clubs in the English Premier League – we would insist on the £29m release clause written into the player’s contract. It is important to understand that we are talking about Chelsea’s desire to buy Willian, but not Shakhtar’s desire to sell him.”

January 24th 2012: “We have received a bid from Chelsea for Willian valued at €20million, but he is not for sale,” said Palkin.

January 26th 2012: “I wouldn’t have any fears about coming to England because I have played against English sides in the Champions League and studied the English game,” said Willian. “To play in a league that is seen throughout the world would be good for my hopes of playing regularly for Brazil, especially with the World Cup at home in two years’ time. That is my aim. I’ve worked hard for four years to establish myself in the national team. It has taken that long but now I feel I have a good relationship with the coach and I want to keep working hard, so I remain in the side. There are times when you look at your life and realise how lucky you’ve been. I’ve played for a great club in Corinthians and been successful. I moved to Shakhtar and that turned into a great move too. There was talk about Barcelona and Arsenal before but now Chelsea are interested. If the next step of the adventure is England, then I would be excited by that. I have friends in the Brazil side who play for Chelsea, like David and Ramires. All they talk about is the thrill of being in a city like London and playing for a club like Chelsea. I’ve known David since we played together in the Brazil Under-20 side and he talks about what Villas-Boas is trying to build at Chelsea. He and Ramires feel he wants a core of young players who can mature and grow together but also be successful. David says how the coach takes a real interest in all his players, how he can adapt different cultures together and bring the best out of them. Then obviously there is life in London. David and Ramires say there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world – it’s exciting and challenging at the same time.”

July 18th 2012: “I told Willian he can leave, but only if the right offer is made,” said Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu. “He’s a great player. Willian was the biggest investment Shakhtar have made in a young player, we have to respect that. He played only seven or eight games in Brazil. They paid a lot of money for Hazard but are not willing to pay for Willian, even though he’s better in my opinion. Chelsea want to buy Brazilian but made an offer for the eastern European market. They offered €34million but we don’t think that’s his current value.”

July 20th 2012: “I don’t know what the coach said, but the correct value was €25million,” said Willian. “But regardless of the value, of course I really wanted to play for a club like Chelsea, a club that won the Champions League. I’m really annoyed that the board didn’t let me go. It would have been good for me and for the club too. I’d play in a big league and would be able to grow as a player. This is not a message to anyone, everyone knows I want to leave. Chelsea had already reached an agreement regarding Oscar when they made that last offer to sign me. I’m sure it won’t be a problem as we are different kinds of players. He is more like a playmaker and I am more like an attacking midfielder. But it’s a matter of waiting. A lot can still happen.”

August 25th 2012: “I have the offer but it’s complicated because of the board,” said Willian. “Everyone knows that I want to leave. I’ve been here for five years, I’ve won many titles, so I hope they respect my will. I don’t regret having come here, but I regret what’s been going on with this situation. Chelsea tried to sign me, now Tottenham, so I have to rethink.”

August 27th 2012: Shakhtar Donetsk reject a £11.8million bid from Tottenham for Willian.

October 23rd 2012: “Willian was far away from Chelsea,” said Lucescu. “They didn’t even get anywhere near to our requirements, having done nothing to make my promises to Willian come true. Speaking specifically about the amounts, they officially offered the sum for which we had bought him young. I would really like them to highly appreciate his true value and realise that they made a big mistake.”

October 23rd 2012: “There were two offers in the summer,” Willian told Lancenet. “One from Chelsea and one from Tottenham. Choosing between the two clubs would be difficult. I don’t know. I mean, Tottenham is a big club and it has a good person in charge. Andre Villas-Boas wanted to bring me to Chelsea and also tried at Tottenham. He always sends me messages. We are always in touch, and he has become a friend, for sure. And Chelsea is Chelsea. They are a great team, with amazing players and are the champions of Europe. I would love to play for either of those clubs. But my mind remains at Shakhtar, and I’ll do my best to get the win against Chelsea. Everybody knows what my goal is. I’ve clearly stated that I would like to play in a bigger stage, whether it be England, Spain or Italy. I want to come back to the national team, and being in a bigger spotlight would help me get noticed.”

December 20th 2012: “My goal is to play for a bigger club in a high level league. If I tell you that I was happy, I would be lying. My desire was there, with a €25million (£20.3m) offer from a big club like Chelsea. I wanted to pack my things and go, but I can’t do that as I am under contract. It shows how much Shakhtar like me and shows that I am doing a good job, which is why they wanted me to stay. I have tried to convince them many times to let me go. I know that Juventus and Chelsea have made offers to buy me and that motivates me a lot. The club know that I want to leave, everyone knows that. The president has told me that he’ll let me go for €30million (£24.4m) and my intention is to sign for a big club.”

January 31st 2013: Willian signs for Anzhi Makhachkala for €35 million.

February 6th 2013: “Of course I thought about everything, I also took the Champions League into account, but it was the right moment to leave,” said Willian. “In the middle of the year it would make two years I would have been trying to leave without success. It’s indifferent for me that Shakhtar are in the round of 16 of the Champions League and Anzhi are in the Europa League. My objective was to leave from the front door and I think that happened. I don’t feel hurt by anybody.”

August 17th 2013: “There was the Manchester City bid that was turned down,” said Willian. “Now I’m waiting for a new bid to arrive in the next days from a few clubs, like Liverpool. If it’s really Liverpool, then it is surely a great club. I’m hopeful and very calm, just waiting for the best. England is my goal. I like the Premier League very much, I enjoy English football and certainly, if that happens, it will be very good for me and for my image.”

August 22nd 2013: Spurs agree £22m deal for Willian and he passes a medical with the club.

August 23rd: Chelsea also have a bid accepted for Willian.

August 23rd 2013: “I think he’s already made his decision,” said Jose Mourinho. “I don’t like to speak before time because football can be crazy. I know what the player wants, so in this moment we cannot hide. That is a possibility. You have to do the medical before, but the best thing to do is to do the medical in secret. If the player is fine, you can sign him.”

Aug 172013
 

He’s leaving, he’s not leaving; he wants to go, he doesn’t want to go; will they, won’t they? – as is the case every year, this year’s transfer window has its share of uncertainty and late surge in excitement with the season kicking off in less than a week. Here’s a look at the three biggest names linked with moves and the impact it will have on their respective clubs.

Luis Suarez

Amidst all the publicised support offered to Luis Suarez by Liverpool FC in the wake of the controversies he was involved in, they seemed to have overlooked the fact that a lot of the current footballers are mercenaries. I’m not condoning Suarez’s recent actions and statements in the media but the fans that supported him despite his flaws in ‘non-footballing matters’ must learn to accept that a player of his skill and quality will have ambitions of performing on the big stage. Sadly for Liverpool, they can’t offer that to Luis Suarez in terms of Champions League football, but Arsenal can.

As for Arsenal, a very expensive and highly controversial player might not be in the mould of a typical Arsene Wenger signing but Suarez is the exact type of player Arsenal needs. The club lacks an attacker who is willing to drop deep to receive the ball and make intelligent runs that drag central defenders out of their position (Van Persie, Henry and Bergkamp did this very well), which would enable other attackers like Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski to run into space and have a goal scoring opportunity.

If Suarez does move to Arsenal , this would be a massive dent to Liverpool’s hopes of Champions League qualification for next season. Given their current roster, it is hard to see where the goals will come from if their top scorer from last season with 30 goals in all competitions was to leave. Brendan Rodgers has to identify a suitable replacement rather than spending all his effort in making Suarez stay.

Wayne Rooney

No one is sure about the truth behind the Wayne Rooney saga. As per Sir Alex Ferguson, Rooney wanted to leave; the player himself has denied handing in a request; and David Moyes refuses to sell him. Many fans have had enough and the general sentiment is that there is enough cover and talent to fill the void that Rooney leaves – with the likes of Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa and Adnan Januzaj (latter having a very good pre-season) who are all capable of playing off the main striker, or in the case of Welbeck, leading the line too. However, the fact is that Rooney clocked 12 goals and 10 assists in 22 league starts last year while there was a combined return of only seven goals from Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverly, Ryan Giggs, Antonio Valencia and Welbeck.

If Robin Van Persie was to get to injured or suspended, United would need another reliable source of goals. They’d also require a player with energy in the middle of the park, passion, bite and ability to track back. It might not be a healthy relationship but it’s a convenient one and Manchester United will stand to gain if they kept Wayne Rooney.

Gareth Bale

The Welshman was an unstoppable force in the 2012/13 league season. In almost the same number of games (44 in 2012/13), he more than doubled his tally by scoring 26 goals in all competitions as compared to 12 in the season before. £80m (and counting) is a ridiculous sum for any player and Tottenham (or Daniel Levy) will be making the right decision in cashing in on Gareth Bale.

In many instances last season, Bale single-handedly carried Spurs through games. He took matters in his own hands more because of lack of other consistent goal threats. This also probably explains why he only assisted 4 goals in the league last season compared to 10 in 2011/12. Though Spurs posed more steel in defence and the middle of the park last season, they lacked ruthlessness up front, especially when Bale was injured or being man marked. Andre Vilas Boas has further bolstered his side by adding Paulinho and Roberto Soldado. The presence of a proven striker like Soldado should potentially make up for the dearth of goals.

If the sale goes through, the funds can be used to invest in three to four good quality players – wingers and forwards (Angel Di Maria as part of the deal would be a great piece of business) and build strength in depth. Truth be told (and ludicrous it might sound), Spurs can achieve a top 4 finish without Gareth Bale.

Aug 032013
 

Roberto Soldado celebrates another goal for Valencia. (Picture courtesy of Victor Gutierrez Navarro)

This summer’s transfer dealing in Spain resembles a game of musical strikers. The £26m sale of Roberto Soldado from Valencia to Tottenham has already led to Los Che moving for relegated Real Zaragoza’s Helder Postiga, although a deal is not yet complete. When Soldado’s international teammate, Alvaro Negredo, departed for Manchester City last month, Sevilla immediately reinvested some of his £20m transfer fee in Carlos Bacca and Kevin Gameiro from, respectively, Club Brugge and Paris Saint-Germain. Further high-profile exits involving Radamel Falcao, Fernando Llorente and Gonzalo Higuain from Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid mean that La Liga will feature a much-changed collection of forwards for the forthcoming season.

The transfers of Soldado and Negredo are particularly significant to the league as a whole.  Spain’s top division has not only lost two of its most feared strikers, but players whose clubs had come to rely on their goals to an overwhelming degree. Soldado netted over a third of Valencia’s league goals last season, finishing the campaign with a tally of 24. Only one other Valencia player – Jonas Goncalves – reached double figures in La Liga. Sevilla depended even more on Negredo, whose 25 league goals represented just under half of the team’s overall total. His nearest challenger, midfielder Ivan Rakitic, managed eight.

The reasons why Soldado and Negredo have been sold this summer are telling, as is the fact the pair moved away from Spain. The financial situation at both Valencia and Sevilla is precarious to say the least. Their failure to secure a Champions League berth last season compounded Valencia’s existing woes at having a new stadium they can’t afford to complete and a debt still standing at hundreds of millions of pounds. Meanwhile, selling not only Negredo but also Jesus Navas this summer speaks volumes for Sevilla’s desperate need to address spiralling debts, with their previously much-praised transfer policy having come in for heavy criticism after a series of expensive flops. In leaving La Liga to join the Premier League, Negredo and Soldado have highlighted once again the overall economic disparity between the top divisions of Spain and England at present.

Spurs and Manchester City can easily justify the investment made in their new Spanish strikers as the Premier League begins its astronomical £3bn television deal. With broadcasting revenue in English football still shared in a roughly democratic manner, though, even the smaller Premier League clubs boast an advantage over the majority of teams in Spain who are forced to make do with what television money they can earn individually after Barcelona and Real Madrid have negotiated their own huge packages. The situation in Spain – where what the top two earn from the rights to their matches dwarfs that of the rest of the league – has made the existence of a duopoly in La Liga particularly impossible to ignore in the past five years.

As important as Soldado and Negredo were to Valencia and Sevilla, though, there was no need for either Barcelona or Real Madrid to consider adding them to their squads. While the strikers were huge assets to their former clubs, the overall gap in quality between the top two and the rest has widened considerably since Valencia won two league titles ten years ago and, more recently, Sevilla lifted two Uefa Cups. Barca and Real could afford not to buy Soldado and Negredo, despite their avalanche of goals over the last two seasons and recognition at international level, because they are no better than the options either club already have.

Spurs have bought Soldado to fire them to the Champions League; City, meanwhile, want Negredo to bring them the goals to challenge for the title. However, neither player would have commanded a place in Barca or Real’s first eleven and this, put simply, underlines where the overall strength of the Premier League currently lies in relation to La Liga: below the might of Barca and Real but above the level of most other clubs in Spain. The best players in the world still play in La Liga – highlighted by the fact there was never any doubt that when Neymar moved to Europe it would be to Spain – but they are concentrated at two clubs. The Premier League, though, has benefitted hugely from being able to bring in players like Soldado and Negredo who find themselves put up for sale by La Liga clubs who can no longer afford to keep them in a division whose two biggest clubs don’t need them.

Aug 012013
 

A statistical comparison between Tottenham’s current strikers and Roberto Soldado. (Via WhoScored.com)

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy

Let’s face it. Daniel Levy’s stubbornness in the transfer market in the last 11 months have cost Spurs dearly. Champions League football is yet another year away from White Hart Lane aswell as the daunting possibility of Gareth Bale’s inevitable departure being a year earlier. Daniel Levy haggling during transfer negotiations are world-renowned and has garnered a heavy reputation as a hard-bargainer. His annoying but usually successful techniques of bringing down prices have helped Tottenham coup some of Europe’s biggest talents for relatively peanuts. Van Der Vaart, Holtby and Lloris being prime examples of players that arrived in North London for low transfer fees; with Lyon President Jean-Michel Aulas describing negotiations during the Lloris deal as the “hardest in the 25 years at the club”.

Yet where Daniel has excelled, he has also faltered to devastating effect. The constant pulling-out from deals has left many Spurs fans annoyed, with Levy’s inability to wrap up deals costing Tottenham players. Levy leaving Joao Moutinho till the last few hours of last year’s transfer deadline day meant Spurs missed out because paper work could not be submitted in time; while Leandro Damiao’s transfer broke down earlier this year over the suppossed fee, despite Spurs desperately needing reinforcements. It is increasingly evident that Levy’s tactics have back-fired in the last year or so when he could be backing his new manager with to adequate resources to compete. His obsession with driving a hard-bargain and his stubbornness to cough up the extra few bucks means Spurs, inevitably, miss out on big players.

With Mourinho back, the top 3 places seem cemented, leaving just one spot left for the highly coveted chance of playing in Europe’s biggest competition. With Arsenal (again) seemingly having trouble acquiring players, this summer seems to be the perfect opportunity for Spurs to finally leap frog the Gunners.

Regardless of Arsenal’s incompentence, domestic competition has never been stiffer, so the time for Levy to back AVB with hard cash has come. Daniel Levy should not be put off spending his money considering Andre Villas-Boas’ transfer record in England – which is absolutely impeccable; it’s hard to find a single player he signed struggle. Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku & Jan Vertonghen are prime examples of players he has brought from oversees to roaring success. AVB has already sought out Brazilian midfielder Paulinho, and the deal to send him to Spurs for £17m already been completed. Yet despite signing one of Brazil’s finest talents, Spurs fans alike are all worried this could be another of those transfer windows; where they sign an excellent player but miss out on a much-needed striker. With Paulinho & young FC Twente winger Nacer Chadili already in the bag, Tottenham are now reportedly in for Valencia striker Roberto Soldado. Although Daniel Levy may have been slightly hesitant to heavily fund Andre-Villas Boas last season, he should not hesitate to now after Andre proved his worth this and showcased his tactical nous to rack up Tottenham’s highest ever points total.

To say Spurs are in desperate need of a striker is massive understatement. Tottenham’s current strike force is the epitome of inconsistence. Jermain Defoe’s early season form was sensational and it looked like he’d cement his place as the undisputed striker. However injuries disrupted his rhythm and his form dropped dangerously as he scored only a solitary goal in 2013 – a truly woeful statistic for a player who offers very little if he isn’t scoring. As for Emmanuel Adebayor, he has enjoyed dogs abuse from many Spurs fans all season – a shadow of the man who scored 18 goals and recorded 12 assists the year before. So poor were Defoe’s & Adebayor’s performances during the second half of the season, that AVB simply played Bale as a deep-lying center forward; whose brilliance pulled them out of trouble time and time again. The need for a striker is at breaking point and one of those two need replacing with a hungry established striker. Enter Roberto Soldado.

The former Real Madrid striker is Villas-Boas’ seemingly preferred target after not being impressed by Benteke and Damião. The Spanish international netted 30 goals last season – a brilliant return during Valencia’s worst season in recent memory. After missing out on Eurpean football, Soldado is reportedly desperate to seek pastures new and the appeal of the premier league has caught his eye. Roberto would slot in perfectly at Spurs in Andre’s rumoured 4-3-3 formation next season. Having played most of his career as the lone striker, Soldado’s goal-scoring abilities and hold up play are his strongest attributes – a strong mixture between Adebayor and Defoe. Soldado also boasts one of the most extraordinary conversion rates in football, scoring with 27% of his shots; a phenomenal, refreshing statistic for Spurs fans after watching Adebayor last season.

Roberto Soldado would be a test of Spur’s and Levy’s ambitions, a test they must past if Andre-Villas Boas is to take Tottenham Hotspur to the next level.

Jul 092013
 

It’s no secret that the lads in the top flight of football are earning an absolute fortune, but once they have finished buying women, houses with swimming pools, pedicures for their wives’ Chihuahuas and more women, believe it or not, but they often still have enough left over for some pretty fancy cars. British used car company Autoweb thought it would be fun to look at ten of the most interesting cars owned by footballers. It turns out that Ashley Cole can’t handle more than one woman at the time, hence the two-seater, Messi is saving up for something special, Rooney is as subtle as a brick, Henry isn’t quite mixing with the highflyers and Cristiano Ronaldo is just as flashy off the pitch as he is on it.

Jul 062013
 

Reports from Spain this morning claim that David Villa’s transfer from Barcelona isn’t turning out to be as simple as originally expected. Despite the club being open to offers for some time, progress with his transfer has stalled when time has come for definitive action.

As yet Barcelona doesn’t have a formal offer for the player. Many clubs have shown an interest in the striker and may have even discussed figures, but agreement still hasn’t been reached.

Tottenham and Fiorentina are the two clubs that have shown the most interest in the player, and there has also been contact with Arsenal, Liverpool and Atlético de Madrid, but as yet, nobody has made any firm moves to sign him.

Barcelona were hoping to get €15 million, but with having just one year left on his contract, all those interested have even failed to offer the minimum €10 million that would be needed to pay off the resulting share of his €40 million purchase from Valencia three years ago.

Another factor making his transfer more complicated is his contract. Villa has earned €7 million a year for his time at the club so far. However, for this last year of his contract his salary will increase to €11 million. This is a sum that will be difficult for possible buyers to meet.

Towards the end of last season, Andre Villas-Boas confirmed that Villa was a player the club were interested in signing.

“He is one of the world’s best strikers,” he said. “What comes out of speculation at this time at Tottenham is very surreal because you know the club is very active in the last weeks of the transfer window, so you can see that speculation is growing – but at the moment we are focused on trying to get fourth spot.”

In the January transfer window, Arsene Wenger confirmed that they had been trying to sign the striker but Barcelona insisted he wasn’t for sale… yet.

Jul 012013
 

At a press conference with Corinthians’ director of football, Roberto de Andrade, Paulinho broke down in to tears when confirming that he would be leaving the Brazilian club.

“It is difficult to talk at a moment like this,” he said. “But these were three wonderful years in my career, with achievements, and working with the right people, who always helped me. Pretty soon I’ll be back. Thank you for everything that you did for me.”

Corinthians are due to play Sao Paulo later this month in the Recopa Sudamericana but Paulinho has confirmed that he will not feature.

“I will not play in the Cup winners’ Cup because there are contractual requirements of Tottenham which not have to be discussed here,” he added. “It was a decision that we all respect. Of course I had a huge will to win another title, but the transfer has to be completed.”

Paulinho confirmed that Inter Milan were also interested in signing him but Spurs were the only club to put an offer in.

“The other interest we got was of Inter Milan, but the only offer came from Tottenham,” he said. “The proposal came, we sat down, analysed it and decided. It was a big decision to go to a big club. There comes a certain point when you need new challenges.”

Jun 242013
 

It’s late June, and football fans are starving to death.

Not literally of course, that would be weird and tragic. But the diet of football people gorge on between August and May (June and July too if there’s a major tournament) is taking its toll, as the all-you-can-eat buffet that is the domestic season is replaced by the gruel of the Confederations Cup, the European Under-21 Championships and the upcoming Under-20 World Cup.

The gruel on offer this summer though has not been as thin as was expected. England’s hopeless displays in the under-21s provided some amusement at Stuart Pearce’s expense, while the Confederations Cup has been surprisingly entertaining. Italy-Japan was a minor classic, Brazil have played some lovely football that will set the pulses racing ahead of next year’s World Cup, and Fernando Torres’s penalty miss against Tahiti with Spain already 8-0 up showed him to be a true comedy genius. Michael McIntyre may rake in the millions with his “Ooh isn’t it very funny how I’m posh and everyone else is not” schtick, but does he possess 1/100th of the comedy skill Torres displays every time he plays for Spain or Chelsea? Nope.

Aside from that, clubs have been conducting their transfer business surprisingly early. Fernandinho and Jesus Navas have joined Man City, while Edinson Cavani, Thiago Alcantara, Gonzalo Higuain and Isco all look to set to leave their current clubs for English teams shortly. Transfer deadline day may not be the amphetamine junkie’s paradise it has been in recent times, for the simple reason all the transfers people are interested in will already have taken place.

Even Tottenham have looked like signing players before the end of August, and a player signed by Spurs before the start of the season truly is a rarity. At times in recent years it’s felt like the Pope would condone abortion before Daniel Levy got his chequebook out before the last day of the transfer window.

As it is, they’ve hired ex-England assistant manager Franco Baldini as “Technical director”, a glorified job title for Harry Redknapp’s 2nd favourite creature – a wheeler dealer (A bank note is his favourite).

The Italian has been handed control of Tottenham’s transfer policy, charged with bringing in the quality players who will push Spurs up into the top four. They are currently showing interest in Brazilians with silly names, namely Paulinho, who sounds like the name given to someone called Paul who’s on a stag weekend and Bernard, one of the best young midfielders in the world and not the name of a beloved pet who lives with your nan.

Baldini, along with bringing in players to improve Spurs, will have to be ruthless in getting rid of some of the sub-standard players that are still in the squad. In terms of ruthlessness, he needs to be Tito rather than Stalin – tough, but not to extreme levels. David Bentley and William Gallas being released on free transfers is a good start.
Along with those two, it is surely time for a few others to be disposed of. Scott Parker may be experienced, good in the dressing room and popular in the press, but the basic truth is that last season he was a liability who showed himself to lack the discipline to be a defensive midfielder in Andre Villas-Boas’s system. The injury induced mid-season switch from Sandro to Parker, in terms of on pitch performance was like going from champagne and caviar one minute to turkey twizzlers the next. Factor in the high wages he is likely to be currently earning, along with the promise Tom Carroll showed in various cameo appearances last season, and he should be shown the door. Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone can’t be too far away from being sold elsewhere either.

Parker isn’t the only one. Of the two strikers Tottenham currently have in the first team, at least one of them should get the ol’ heave-ho. Jermain Defoe lacks the necessary quality to start games for Spurs – his all round game is poor and ability to bring teammates into play non-existent. As someone with pace and a solid goalscoring record, he’s a decent option as a substitute but no more than that. If the right offer were to come in, he should be allowed to leave.

If Defoe doesn’t leave, then Emmanuel Adebayor should. While he had an excellent finish to the season, playing like the top class forward he occasionally shows himself to be away at Chelsea, he is simply not trustworthy. Whether it was nagging injuries, getting sent off against Arsenal, exhibiting a general disinterest on the pitch or his hilarious (if you’re not a Spurs fan) penalty miss against Basel, he had a bad season last campaign.

While one bad season every so often is understandable, he’s shown a lot more bad than good in the last five years. With his moments of brilliance but persistent unreliability he’s a footballing Super Hans. If any club feels confident enough to get the best out of him, Spurs should let them try.

Of course, along with the first team players there is still some detritus left from mistakes made years ago. Heurelho Gomes, sadly forgotten, is still at the club, while Bongani Khumalo, so bad that when he was loaned to Reading they sent him back after only four appearances, is still lingering about the place. If these two could be sold and free up some space in the wage budget, that would be of great benefit, especially with Gareth Bale set to receive a fat new contract.

Spurs have a great chance of success next season. They are now fully accustomed with Villas-Boas, will surely add a striker who’ll be an immediate improvement on what they’ve had since Dimitar Berbatov left, could well sign at least one fine young Brazilian midfielder and look set to keep Gareth Bale for another year. The top three, all with new coaches, may struggle too.

Spurs could achieve great things next year. Getting rid of the dross in the squad this summer would be a good start.

Jun 192013
 

Ibrahim Afellay to Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur

14/10/10 – Afellay: “Playing in the Premier League would be the best for my prestige. I’d like to play for Liverpool or Manchester United – the top level prospect for any player.”

24/10/12 – Afellay: “Arsenal were interested in me in the last few years at PSV and Barcelona. But, finally, it was not possible to close the subject. I believe that money was the difference between the clubs. This match is not personal revenge for me. I do not need to demonstrate anything against Arsenal. But our objective is to leave London without defeat. The scouts of Wenger have always liked my work but have never made the decisive move. But this is not a trauma for me.”

12/11/12 – Afellay: “My aim is to return to Barca. Now when I look back at my time at Barcelona I only have good memories. Training was always great fun. Incredible really. But I also want to enjoy my football at the moment. That is something that I really feel despite what has happened before. Since I arrived at Barcelona I have been growing both in a football sense as well as a mental sense. I think that I have shown that I can battle through despite the adversity.”

7/12/12 – Afellay: “I have two years left on my Barcelona deal next summer. I am actually enjoying my loan spell in the Bundesliga, I like very much being at Schalke. We will see what might happen in the summer. I am sure we will have a few chats come the end of the campaign. I don’t think anyone is able to know what will happen in the future.”

18/6/13 – Rob Jansen, agent: “The Premier League is a very tempting possibility.”

19/6/13 – Reports claim that both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are interested in signing Afellay.

Leroy Fer to Everton

30/1/13 – Everton pull out of an £8.6m deal to buy Fer after a medical reveals a problem with his knee.

30/1/13 – David Moyes, Everton manager: “He’s a really good player, but it was a situation out of our control. We couldn’t make it work. It was frustrating because we are trying to add, we are trying to progress. Unfortunately this one doesn’t look like it’s going to move on – we’ll look to see if there’s anything else we can do.”

11/3/13 – Fer: “It [Everton] is still a fantastic club. But at the moment I am not thinking about it. Only one thing counts right now: ending the season at FC Twente in a good way.”

17/6/13 – Fer: “I haven’t heard about anything but I think my manager did. I think Everton are still interested in me. I would like to go to the Premier League this summer, it’s a very nice competition – but my focus has been the European Championships, afterwards we will see.”

Jun 072013
 

There is a big summer in the transfer window ahead for Tottenham, with an emphasis on bringing in players of quality to strengthen the squad sufficiently to challenge for a top four Premier League place once more. However, Andre Villas-Boas must also look to sell a number of players that are not in his plans. One of the bigger names that needs to leave White Hart Lane is Scott Parker.

Although Spurs are keen to sign a new striker (or two) in the transfer window, it would be clever business to look for a strong central midfielder this summer also. The odds for Spurs to get into the top four next term with bwinbetting.com would be shortened if the north Londoners had a dominant player to complement the guile of Mousa Dembele and directness of Sandro.

Parker has been a driving force in the Spurs side since signing from West Ham, and is a respected England international. Having the veteran on the sidelines for the start of the campaign was a blow for Spurs, however the player that returned from injury was not the same force. Parker seems to have lost confidence on the ball, and his constant delaying of passes and pirouetting slows down Tottenham’s attacking play.

Parker is still a player that can be effective in the Premier League, but he is not a player that will get you into the top four. Spurs would be better suited to sell Parker, reducing a major wage earner from the squad, and reinforcing with a younger more technically able player to play in the centre of the park.

Parker’s leadership and determination on the pitch would certainly be missed, but with the likes of Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen and Gareth Bale in the set-up, there are other leaders.

Parker has been a good player for the club and has played his part in the side’s progression since he joined. However, despite being a fans’ favourite, he has now outstayed his tenure at White Hart Lane and must be replaced with a more technically able footballer.

Jun 062013
 

In June 2011, Tottenham Hotspur were linked to 21-year-old Brazilian striker, Leandro Damiao, for the first time. The manager at the time, Harry Redknapp, was keen on bringing him to Spurs that summer and his club, Internacional, were resigned to him leaving.

However, Internacional president Giovanni Luigi managed to persude the youngster to sign a new five year deal.

“Plaudits must go to president Giovanni Luigi, who did a tremendous effort to keep him with us for this season,” said coach Paulo Roberto Falcao. “This new agreement gives us peace and we can now close the talk of his departure. Now Leandro Damiao is at a wage level with the most valued players in the country.”

Spurs’ interest then spread to Damiao’s team mate, Oscar, although both of them insisted they were keen to stay with Internacional for the time being, whilst not ruling out a future move to a European club.

After Andre Villas-Boas signed Oscar for Chelsea, Damiao’s attraction to Europe grew, with him missing his pal.

“Oscar is a big friend and our wives are friends, too,” he said. “He is happy there, but of course misses Brazil as a lot of people helped him there. Of course all players have the dream of going (to Europe). That will happen one day. He asks me when I’ll go there, I say I can’t answer that yet. I’m happy at Internacional, I have a long contract. All players dream of going to Europe and that will happy one day, but I’m happy here.”

Now as manager of Tottenham Hotspur, Villas-Boas tried to bring Damiao in the recent January transfer window. Their bid of £13m was rejected and Villas-Boas claimed it was time to move on.

“I’ve said in our conversations that if (the Damiao bid) was going to go out of proportion, we would step out of it,” he said. “We have made it public before that he is a player that we chase, but we couldn’t agree on the full conditions so we’ve moved on. I don’t think (it will happen in the summer). It’s probably finished now.”

However, over the past week there have been more stories linking the player, with both Damiao and his agent talking about the possibility of signing for Spurs.

“I know of Tottenham’s interest in me but I am happy to wait until the president of my club lets me know something official,” said Damiao. “I would prefer to play in a team that is in the Champions League, but the most important thing is that they share the same ambition that I have.”

Vinicius Prates, Damiao’s agent, claimed the player was now mature enough to cope with the pressure of playing in Europe.

“With the improvement he has been showing I think he is mature enough to leave, he is ready to play in Europe,” he said. “Our idea is to always work with big clubs, all players dream of playing in the Champions League. But Tottenham are an important club in London, we can’t rule them out.”

With the World Cup approaching, it is important that Damiao not only plays for a big club, but gets plenty of playing time and opportunities to impress.

The next stumbling block then is Damiao’s choice of goal celebration, which happens to be identical to Gareth Bale’s. Now, no one would want their celebration to be nicked by their team mate, particularly one as masculine and cool as Bale’s, but the Spurs winger has actually gone as far as attempting to trademark his celebration. If he is still at the club next season, I wonder of what he will make of Damiao’s celebration…

Jun 062013
 

Hulk to sign for Chelsea

12/8/12 – Hulk: “I have left a door open for being transferred to another league. I have preference for playing in the Premier League or the Spanish Liga, because they are the two leagues that are the most seen all over the world.”

3/9/12 – Hulk signs for Zenit Saint Petersburg from Porto for €60m.

26/9/12 – Hulk: “I think I’ll adapt eventually, but no doubt the fact they speak a different language in Russia creates some difficulties. Still, I feel the atmosphere is great at the team. I’m happy for playing for Zenit, absolutely everyone supports me. I’m trying to adapt to the team and to Zenit in general as soon as possible”.

5/12/12 – Hulk: “I feel well in St Petersburg, my family is happy and my son, too. But if the situation with Luciano Spalletti doesn’t improve, I might leave in January. I don’t know if Italy will be my destination, but anything can happen.”

30/5/12 – Teodoro Fonseca, Hulk’s agent: “There are two great teams of the Premier League to have made their interest known. It is normal that such news would arise because it was with Andre Villas-Boas and Porto where Hulk had his best time. The future of Hulk is with Zenit, but I have never made such statements [about Monaco], I have not spoken to anyone from France.”

6/6/13 - Reports that Chelsea have made a £35m offer for Hulk

Matthias Ginter to sign for Arsenal

24/1/12 – Matthias Ginter graduates from Freiburg’s academy and signs a deal which is set to expire in 2015.

30/4/13 – Christian Streich, Freigburg manager: “There is no doubt he will be staying on. Matthias has a contract with our club. A long-term one. In addition, he is also of the same opinion. He is having the good sense to agree to this. We are definitely not letting anyone else make our very own decisions.”

6/6/13 – Reports claim that Arsenal will make a £5m offer for Ginter.

Leandro Damiao to Tottenham Hotspur

11/6/11 – Damiao linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspur with Harry Redknapp revealing he is an admirer of the player.

11/7/11 – Damiao signs a new 5-year-deal with Internacional.

17/11/11 – Sivori & Asociados spokesman, Damio’s agent: “The big clubs wait to take player like him, to be sure that a player does well, that he can prove himself. In January, Damiao would cost less than now, but was still considered a risk. Now Damiao has important requests: there is a good offer of Tottenham, one from Arsenal and even some Spanish clubs are sounding out Internacional. It’s normal: he’s a striker born in 1989, he attracts a lot interest. It should be considered, however, that he has the non-EU passport.”

19/2/12 – Damiao – “I am not aware of anything for an offer from Paris SG. I have had no contact with PSG or Leonardo [sporting director]. For now, I think about my club and the Copa Libertadores. In July, if a proposal comes, it will be discussed. All that I know is that Tottenham have made an offer.”

31/5/12 – Giovanni Luigi, Internacional president: “For Damiao we never received official offers from Italy, only informal contacts, no proposals on paper. The only bids were received from Tottenham and PSG, but we rejected them because our intention and hope is to keep the player at least until December 2012.”

14/6/12 – Damiao: “I’ve got Tottenham’s proposal, but Inter thought I’d better stay. I will try to reach the World Cup playing for Inter. But have to wait for the window to pass and close.”

28/8/12 – Luciano Davi, Internacional vice-president: “Our intention is that Leandro Damiao doesn’t leave this year. He is an Internacional player until December. Their offer wasn’t relevant and we are not interested in selling him. Tottenham came to us but their offer didn’t match our valuation of him. Leandro Damiao is a national team striker and we have to value that.”

10/1/13 – Andre Villas-Boas, Tottenham Hotspur manager: “Leandro is a player we’ve always appreciated, that this club appreciated before I arrived, but it’s extremely difficult that he’s going to join Tottenham. He’s a player that is highly rated in the market, and it’s unlikely that he will play for Tottenham.”

1/2/13 – Marcelo Medeiros, Internacional’s director: “Leandro Damiao won’t leave, the offer was below what we wanted. He is under contract with Internacional and will remain our player.”

2/6/13 – Damiao: “I know of Tottenham’s interest in me but I am happy to wait until the president of my club lets me know something official. I would prefer to play in a team that is in the Champions League, but the most important thing is that they share the same ambition that I have.”

4/6/13 – Vinicius Prates, Damiao’s agent: “With the improvement he has been showing I think he is mature enough to leave, he is ready to play in Europe. Leandro Damiao’s dream is to play the World Cup. If he leaves, it will be to a big club, he is under contract until 2016 and the club gives him every condition for him to achieve that dream. Our idea is to always work with big clubs, all players dream of playing in the Champions League. But Tottenham are an important club in London, we can’t rule them out.”

May 192013
 

Tottenham v Sunderland 16:00

 

- Spurs came from a goal behind to win 2-1 against Stoke in their penultimate Premier League outing thanks to goals from Clint Dempsey and Emmanuel Adebayor. They come into this final game one point behind North London neighbours Arsenal in the race for fourth place.

 

- Despite his name unusually not appearing on the score sheet, Bale has 8 shots at goal with 5 on target against Stoke, the joint highest of the last round of games.

 

- Bale’s season will end with some of the most impressive stats in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. He’s had 151 shots at goal getting 62.9% on target and converting 20 goals. He’s ranked third for dribbles completed with 48 so far this season, and 4th for crosses delivered with 114.

 

- Bale has taken the headlines this season, but Jan Verthongen has also excelled. He’s attempted 102 tackles this season, winning 79% of them. That’s the highest tackles won percentage of the 25 players who have attempted 100 or more tackles in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index this season.

 

- Jermain Defoe hit fine goal scoring form earlier in the season, but has struggled for goals of late. Of the nine players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to have had over 100 shots at goal Defoe has the lowest goal tally with 11 (joint with Carlos Tevez).

 

- Sunderland come into the game knowing they are safe from relegation after Arsenal beat Wigan in midweek. Their last league outing saw them draw 1-1 with Southampton thanks to a Phil Bardsley goal.

 

- Paolo di Canio singled out Stephane Sessegnon, Adam Johnson and John O’Shea as players that he knew were “exciting” when he signed as Sunderland manager, but has promised wholesale changes elsewhere in the team.

 

- O’Shea once again showed his impressive reading of the game against Southampton, making 15 interceptions, the second highest by a player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index in the last round of games. He is ranked fourth overall for interceptions this season with 217.

 

- O’Shea’s defensive contributions overall across tackles, interceptions, clearances and blocks number 361 – the third highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.

 

- O’Shea, and the rest of the Sunderland back four, have been shown impressive protection by the tough tackling of the Sunderland midfield this season. James McClean and Craig Gardner are ranked second and seventh respectively among the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s midfielders for tackles won, with McClean wining 76 and Gardner 66. Gardner has made the third highest number of defensive contributions of any midfielder this season, totaling 242 across tackles won, clearances, interceptions and blocks.

 

- Not named by Di Canio but undoubtedly vital to Sunderland’s survival this season has been the performance of Simon Mignolet. Mignolet made 13 saves against Southampton, the joint highest by a goalkeeper in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index in the last round of games and the third highest in a game all season. Mignolet has been the busiest goalkeeper in the Premier League this season making 224 saves in total.

May 102013
 

Stoke v Tottenham, Sunday 13:30

 

– Stoke drew 1-1 with Sunderland last time out, Jonathan Walters grabbing an early goal for Tony Pulis’ side.

 

– Midfielder Michael Kightly currently sits as Stoke’s most accurate attacker this season, outshining his striker colleagues with a squad-best 68.2% shot accuracy rate from 22 attempts.

 

– American defender Geoff Cameron retains the distinction of being Stoke’s most prolific defender, having attempted more challenges than any other Potters player (93) whilst also retaining the highest tackle success rate in the Stoke squad with 69.9%.

 

– Despite allowing his aggressive streak to sometimes get him into trouble, Steven Nzonzi’s influence in the heart of the Stoke midfield can be crucial. The Frenchman has made a squad-leading 608 successful passes in the opponent’s half this season.

 

– An end-to-end game of high drama saw Tottenham leave Stamford Bridge with a point after a 2-2 draw with Chelsea, Emmanuel Adebayor and Gylfi Sigurdsson with the goals for Andre Villas Boas’ side.

 

– Gareth Bale was the only player to have four shots at goal in the last round of games, with two on target and two off, as his Premier League rivals had a surprisingly shot shy weekend.

 

– Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen has adapted to the rigours of the Premier League with staggering ease this season, and his ability to reclaim possession and read the game will be crucial for Tottenham in a fixture which could well decide their European future next season. He’s currently sitting on a superb tackle success rate of 78.8% from 99 attempted challenges as well as a squad-high 11 interceptions.

 

– Despite being forced to miss the last few weeks with injury, Moussa Dembele clearly has the midfield poise to help drive Tottenham further on in their development in the next few seasons. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index the Belgian has made more successful passes in the opponent’s half than any other player with 720.