Here is a review, post match analysis and reactions from around Europe’s top 5 leagues featuring Manchester United, PSG, Barcelona, Juventus etc
Manchester United have had bad luck in successive games but ultimately, tailed off badly both times. Their standard of performance all season, has generally been a disgrace. Almost always second-best and still not beating second-tier standard teams.
Performances vs Middlesbrough and Burnley merited comfortable victories. Bit unfortunate in both games with VAR decisions. But reacting in adversity is important and after conceding equalizers, response was really poor. Attitude is clearly important and it doesn’t look good.
I watched Burnley’s goal against Manchester United and all I can see is how Maguire was about the only guy actively doing something about the situation. Casuals however see it as some sign that he must be bad, being the most active guy in that quality sequence from Burnley.
Both Maguire and McTominay tried to win the ball as it came into Weghorst but marginally didn’t due to a brilliant piece of play from the former Bundesliga man who remained brilliant enough to play Rodriguez through, by which time Maguire was playing catch-up.
Simple as ABC. Should have won the first tackle clean but Weghorst had other plans. More about quality from Burnley than error from a single individual. Maybe he should have anticipated the pass better, maybe anything. But he did nothing stupid in that sequence. All Burnley honestly.
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In football, everything is about your conceptual framework. How you see the game. The big thing about Maguire is that the people who constantly criticize him do not even understand what they talk about. The way they see defending and defenders is completely upside down.
Talk is cheap in football. You can always talk about what should happen or what Maguire should do but you are talking from a flawed understanding of the game. The roots and foundations of your criticism is problematic, therefore the fruit is corrupted. Can’t take you seriously if you blame him on that goal.
Football is a simple game but anything involving 22 men, 4 officials, two managers, entire crews of coaching staff, millions of dollars and the rumbling pressure of a hundred thousand spectators is anything but simple
You do not know anything about defensive postures yet you want to talk about Harry Maguire. People talk out of their asses all the time. Maguire is a very fine defender to be honest, even with all his flaws. Learn the game until you realize it.
The thing with Maguire is his profile is really very rare because he’s great at controlling space and a colossal in the air but he’s not quick so any time he’s aggressive and doesn’t win the ball Manchester United are screwed. He can’t recover. Another leader profile like Van Dijk, for example, can.
So, he will make mistakes like the one “last night” for the entirety of his career. If he decides to be aggressive and gets done, he’s going to be out of the equation 9 times out of 10. Other quicker defenders can recover, but he can’t. Does that mean he’s terrible at covering space? Not for me.
I think we all know that Maguire is flawed in his ways, but I also think that we cannot ignore what he does offer. Okay, he has had some terrible form lately, but let’s not act like he wasn’t being touted as one of the best CB in the world on current form last season or in the Euro’s. He was immense.
As such, with that level of performance and his qualities in mind, it’s clear that Maguire will be back to his best, and I already think we have seen major improvements in his game in recent weeks. He’s making less silly technical errors and his overall game is more secure.
The most important thing when you talk about a club’s aims and objectives for the season is to factor in the uncertainty in football while you do everything feasible to minimize the window of uncertainty. For Arsenal, you say ‘We should be competitive for a CL place’ and not ‘we must make a CL place or else the coach and the staff must be scrapped.’
Football is often not fair. You can’t be making decisions based on circumstances. Of course, doing everything feasible to minimize the window of uncertainty includes having proper thought out processes top to bottom across the club.
For a club like Manchester United, a normal football fan will say that they have done everything feasible to minimize the window of uncertainty as regarding their aims and objectives for the season, which should be CL qualification at minimum.
But for the astute observer, they will realize that United’s processes are inefficient and largely constitute of throwing money at big names to cover up inherent issues with their playing quality. With the presence of Tuchel at Chelsea and the assurance of Pep and Klopp at City and Liverpool respectively, there was only ever one CL place up for grabs between the rest of the PL.
Between a strong and stable West Ham side and a sleek, streamlined Arsenal with no European football (both of whom had gathered points at CL qualifying rates across the past year), Manchester United’s hope for a 4th place was going to be contested.
The inefficiencies in their processes compared to rapidly improving rivals only made it shakier. No one thought Conte would be married to Kane and Son at Spurs, either. So it turns out, football’s slowly-lurching uncertainties. The PL has also seen the arrival of new, better coaches than their predecessors this season at Wolves, Aston Villa, Newcastle, Crystal Palace and, maybe remarkably, Everton.
Overall the landscape is the most competitive it has been in any year in memory. The arrival of new, super talents like Bruno Guimaraes, Wout Weghorst and Coutinho at midtable and relegation sides during the midseason only strengthen this reality.
The Premier League is the strongest it has ever been. Prepare for upheaval. Only the strongest can survive. Only the most efficient can cut through this forest of uncertainty. And Manchester United are far from efficiency.
Lionel Messi for PSG 5-1 Lille
Caught up on Messi’s highlights versus Lille, the other night. Must say, I miss the little man. Alongside this extremely exciting and talented core of Barça players, having Messi and Xavi, leading and propelling them on, would’ve been absolutely bloody brilliant.
Messi, today, is a different footballer now. Less reliant on taking players on, due to, well…evolution of pace (Mbappe) – but more apt at dropping deep, moderating the play. In that sense, yeah – he’d still be an immense creative presence, I reckon.
A goal and an assist for a man who’s supposedly having a terrible season, 8 G+A’s in 12 appearances sure doesn’t sound that bad. His underlying numbers are pretty much in line with last season. Just checked, it’s something like 14 G/A in 19 games in all comps so far too.
Low key, Aurelien Tchouameni (Lille Midfielder) has entered that tier of player: if you can afford to, you buy him. So many rich(er) teams who could do with a midfielder exactly like him.
Barcelona 4-2 Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid game along with the Real game, after ages, Barça had an apparent sense of direction. The press of cohesive, and the positioning, both with and without the ball, was concise. In less than 3 months, the progress Xavi has already made, is there for all to see.
Now, keep in mind, with such a young squad, inconsistencies are all but inevitable. Also, Dani Alves returning at his age and actually performing at a high level is just nuts to me, especially considering his position.
Statement game. Enjoy it. Atletico Madrid are not exactly the epitome of defensive stability anymore but this was a show of power that still needs to be praised.
Frenkie de Jong silently dropped a masterclass vs Atletico Madrid. Excellent reading of the game & decision-making to know when to drop to beat the pressure and when to push up to allow Pique to run with the ball. Often started deep, cleaned up after Busquets & helped with overloads.
The worst thing Barcelona could do with Frenkie is sell him and then attempt to find a direct replacement. It’s either you find a way to get the best out of him – like vs Atletico or look for different profiles entirely. Because he is absolutely elite at what he does.
Watched Juventus too for Vlahović and De Ligt but stayed for Arthur Melo. Shame it didn’t work out at Barcelona. Elite ball-retainer, press-resistant, near-perfect weight of passing & silky one-touch sequences. Doesn’t tick all Xavi’s boxes but a top pick for possession-heavy sides.
He felt largely out of place in a Juventus team that couldn’t control possession. To get the best out of him, he needs the ball. That’s why he’s struggling too. He lacks any physical attributes and won’t attack the box/space off the ball, which Xavi loves for his no.8s to do.
Antonio Conte and Tottenham
Things change. Coaches become outdated. Dynamics shift. The question is do you have the ability to spot those shifts right before they happen? Many people involved with football in some way or the other cannot spot such a shift until the situation becomes glaringly obvious.
With the way I look at coaches, I could have perfectly predicted the fall of Arsene Wenger from the managing elite around 2014/15 were I plugged into footy analysis. Could you have done the same with your current way of looking at coaches?
I am of the opinion that if you are a complete coach (and I regard Conte as one) and you have the exact same team as every other complete coaches, who will win might as well be random as a coin toss. Why?
Because football is fixed: you can only get 3 points from any one fixture and even if some of them lose against the others, all of them will be better against most of the other 30-something teams they face throughout a season and circumstances can come in.
Klopp’s Liverpool got 98 points and another coach, Pep somehow got 99. Bad luck. It happens when both of you’ve got a quality squad. Could have easily been a 6 point swing between both teams. Don’t forget City won 100 the season before so Liverpool were the one coming up.
So even if Pep beats Conte’s side with similar quality teams and plays much better football, Conte will still win most of the games against the others. In the end, for one reason or another, Conte may still end up getting more points. It’s because he’s a complete coach.
This is why Arsenal could suddenly jump into being an 80+ side next season if they recruit the right quality. They already have a ‘complete’ coach. They just need the same quality that the rest have available to them
As a result, when you want to judge and compare one complete coach with another: looking at the consistent details is how you can guess the discrepancy. Pep has more depth and range of detail in his football than anyone. Tuchel has it more than Klopp and Conte. Arteta has it more than Conte.
Conte basically is like the worst version among Pep, Klopp, Tuchel, Arteta. He doesn’t exert as much total control as any of the 4 above because of some of the poor detail in his complete approach to football. That’s simply how it is.
I will take a wild guess and say Conte’s poorer control of games is exactly why he doesn’t make consistent headway in Europe against top sides (compared to others). The slight difference in the detail he has shows up when he plays too many good sides one after the other.
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