Two of European football’s grandest clubs paid the price for fielding weakened teams on the final night of Champions League group play, with Real Madrid slumping to a record home loss and Manchester United squandering a surprise opportunity to top its group.
Labels: Champions League
"We will not sell a player in winter who's essential to us achieving our sporting aims, of course," Borussia Dortmund's Michael Zorc told Sport-Bild in relation to Christian Pulisic this week. "I strongly expect Christian to be wearing the BVB shirt in February," the sporting director added.
The league leaders' overriding concern is to ensure that the squad stays strong and deep for the second half of a campaign that promises to deliver a championship for the first time since 2012. At the same time, the wording of Zorc's statement reveals an amount of flexibility on two fronts.
In purely financial terms, a significant offer for a player unwilling to extend his contract beyond 2020 will be hard to turn down. Secondly, it's debatable just how "essential" the 20-year-old is actually still regarded by his coach Lucien Favre. Pulisic has played regularly, chipping in with decent numbers (three goals and four assists in 16 games), but he's neither an automatic starter nor among the club's most prolific forwards. For the right price, Dortmund could well be tempted to let him leave six months early.
But given the choice, where should he go? Here's a look at the four likeliest contenders for the 20-year-old's signature.
Why it could work: Maurizio Sarri's possession football, once fully formed, will provide an ideal environment for Pulisic's qualities. As an attacking midfielder who's neither a true No. 10 nor an orthodox winger, he's arguably best suited to a slightly slower build-up game, where his ability to take up intelligent positions between the lines will come to the fore. Manchester City aside, Chelsea play the most cultured game in the Premier League, and there's likely to be a real need for his type of services in the wake of Eden Hazard's expected departure. Transitioning from Favre's Dortmund, a team employing similar patterns of play in possession, would be pretty a frictionless affair. The pull of London, too, will prove huge.
Why it wouldn't work: Sarri has been too busy re-imagining the Blues' approach post-Antonio Conte to spend any significant time honing younger players. Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have only featured marginally, and the pressure to compete in the most competitive league as far as Champions League places are concerned will ensure that patience will remain in short supply. A high transfer fee will mitigate these disadvantages -- Sarri would be more or less forced to play him -- but Pulisic's development might be smoother in a team that doesn't expect goals and assists in every single game. He's still growing and inconsistent. As Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah can attest, Chelsea haven't always done well when it comes to giving highly talented younger players enough time to hone their skills.
Why it could work: The success of Xherdan Shaqiri has proven that Jurgen Klopp's high-octane game can benefit from the addition of a different type of forward. What Pulisic lacks in directness, he makes up for in short diagonal movement and passing. Liverpool are easily the most accomplished Premier League side among the contenders for his signature, and there's a strong chance that the combination of a functioning team and excellent man-manager will see him vastly improved in a short space of time. The Reds' U.S. owners will furthermore help him utilise his huge marketing potential.
Why it wouldn't work: The competition for starting places he has encountered at Signal Iduna Park this season will be just as tough at Anfield, if not tougher. There's no natural position in Liverpool's default 4-3-3 formation for him; he will have to rely on Klopp's nascent transformation into a 4-2-3-1 team in order to become a mainstay. In addition, the strength of his supposed friendship with Klopp has been overstated. Their relationship is good but won't afford him any special dispensation in a squad bursting with more-incisive and prolific attackers.
Why it could work: American-owned United, like Liverpool, naturally covet Pulisic as one of the emerging superstar brands in the U.S. On the pitch, however, they need him even more than their Merseyside rivals. Jose Mourinho's team are in desperate need of a player who's both quick and able to bring coherence to their rather random attacking game. Neither Alexis Sanchez nor his predecessor, Henrik Mkhitaryan, have been able to find the kind of solutions needed against defensive opposition; Pulisic's intricacy would make a tremendous contribution and could soon prove invaluable. Continued doubt about Paul Pogba's future at Old Trafford would strengthen his hand, too.
Why it wouldn't work: Man United are unlikely to make it into the Champions League next season and don't look as if they'll be able to get any closer to City and Liverpool any time soon. Their game plan lacks clarity; attacking midfielders, in particular, routinely find themselves isolated and chasing second balls from deep starting positions. There's also strong suspicion that Mourinho prefers warriors to artists. Young, technical players don't necessarily thrive in the Portuguese manager's dressing room, and few have become significantly better duding his spell at Old Trafford.
Why it could work: The impending departure of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery creates an opening for creative players of Pulisic's ilk. He could also leverage Bayern's longstanding interest in signing a prominent American player that could further their growth prospects in the U.S.: the rebuilding process at Sabener Strasse affords a real opportunity to become one of the faces of one of Europe's most successful sides, with all the financial and sporting opportunities that would entail. Bayern's more measured attacking game provides a very good fit as well.
Why it wouldn't work: There's no guarantee that the aforementioned changes at Bayern won't extend to the coaching staff by the time Pulisic would swap yellow for red, which makes it difficult for any player to properly evaluate their opportunity for personal development in the near future. In either case, the Bavarians face an uphill battle to remain competitive in Europe as the ancient regime of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness looks for successors while the Premier League's firepower becomes more pronounced. What's more, a move to England will probably sit better with Pulisic's personal sponsors.
Chelsea look the best fit as things stand, slightly ahead of Liverpool. It's just as well, too, considering the Blues are considered in pole position, having pushed hardest to secure an agreement with Dortmund.
Labels: Germany Bundesliga 1
Arsenal looking at shock transfer move for Chelsea outcast Gary Cahill as Unai Emery searches for quick replacement for Rob Holding
ARSENAL could launch a shock move for Chelsea outcast Gary Cahill.
Gunners boss Unai Emery is facing an injury crisis at the back, with Rob Holding the latest to be struck down.
The 23-year-old is set to miss the rest of the season after he ruptured his anterior cruciate knee ligament.
Holding was taken off on a stretcher in the first half of the 2-2 draw with Manchester United.
The former England Under-21 star was hurt in a challenge with Marcus Rashford.
And it is understood his boot was unable to grip on the astroturf around the perimeter of the pitch.
Club captain Laurent Koscielny is still some way off match fitness in his recovery from a serious Achilles injury that has kept him out for seven months.
And Nacho Monreal, who can also cover the centre-half positions, is still struggling with a hamstring injury.
Rookie Greek defender Konstantinos Mavrapanos has continuing issues with his groin, while Shkodran Mustafi limped off against Huddersfield with a hamstring problem.
That leaves Gunners boss Unai Emery with just Sokratis Papastathopoulos as his fit centre-backs - but he is suspended and will miss Sunday's trip to Southampton.
While Manchester United's Eric Bailly is also rumoured to be on a shortlist, ESPN is reporting that Cahill could be a "short-term solution".
The former England defender is out of contract at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season, and at 32, it doesn't look like he will get a new deal.
He has featured in just seven games this season under boss Maurizio Sarri.
But whether Chelsea will allow him to join a Premier League rival before the season is out is another matter.
Labels: ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
One former A-League coach says today's expansion news is positive for the future of the Socceroos while one of the league's new clubs have vowed to give their first coaching job to an Australian.
Today the FFA announced two new clubs will join the A-League over the coming two seasons.
Western Melbourne will join the A-League next season 2019/20 followed by Macarthur South West Sydney the following season in 2020/21.
Former Newcastle Jets, Fulham, and Socceroos assistant coach Scott Miller says expansion provides a greater player pathway for all those working in the relatively small football industry down under.
“As an Australian coach, this expansion was vital not only from a brand perspective but more importantly for more players coaches and sports professionals to further their career within the game in Australia.
“Expansion provides greater player pathways for our young and talented footballers," he said.
"The A-League really needs to become central in the development of our future Socceroos," he told FTBL.com.au today.
Miller is currently training the next generation of stars in Victoria at his newly opened Identity Pro Academy on Melbourne's Mornington Peninsula.
“The addition of two new A-League franchises is fantastic for football here in Australia," said Miller. "The work and resources that many have displayed in developing bids is a testimony to the passion for football.
"This trend needs to continue."
It's a sentiment that Macarthur South West Sydney agrees with.
Club director Sam Krslovic said the new franchise was targeting Aussie coaches first and foremost.
“We are an Australian team, based on Australian values so the coach will be Australian,” he said today.
“We’d like to think it’s someone who comes from the area, who grew up in the area, played in the area and understands the DNA of the demographics of the area."
The club added that they would be holding community forums very soon to finalise details of the club colours and a club name confirmed within a few weeks.
Labels: AUSTRALIA A LEAGUE