Paddy Spicer Ward looks at Valencia’s promising start in La Liga and whether they can relive past glories…
Valencia’s start to their La Liga campaign this year is not dissimilar to that made by Liverpool and Roma last season. Unfancied former giants in their respective leagues, Valencia will hope their season pans out more like that of their fellow countrymen Atlético, rather than falling at the end of marathon seasons as Roma and Liverpool did.
The youthful Los Che side have come flying out of the blocks, sitting just two points behind Barcelona, with an unexpected 3-0 loss away to Deportivo at La Riazor pencilled in alongside six wins and two draws. The lack of European football is no doubt helping the men from Spain’s third largest city, allowing more time working on tactics to nullify the opposition and gel together their new look squad.
This summer saw no less than 20 players depart from the newly revamped Mestalla, and it was not simply a case of trimming the squad, as there were 14 incomers as well. Most remarkably is that most of the 20 who departed were the mainstay of Valencia’s starting XI last season, with Juan Bernat and Jeremy Mathieu being the most high profile exits.;Victor Ruiz, Jonas, Andres Guardado, Eduardo Vargas and Phillipe Senderos a number of other notable changes. The change saw players with an average age of around 27 leave, with the incomers much younger at 23.
Jonny McConnell looks at Diego Simeone’s options beyond Atlético Madrid…
It has been said over and over again, but even in management, Diego Simeone has retained the ferocity and sheer determination that made him such a formidable opponent in his playing days.
Often unpredictable on the pitch, he had enviable talent and he has impressively taken his playing qualities into his role as a manager. Since replacing Gregorio Manzano in December 2011, Simeone has showed his coaching ability to the world, helping the club escape from a period of mediocrity, moulding them into La Liga winners in the space of two and a half seasons. What next though? Can Simeone and the club improve on this, or have they finally reached their ceiling as a club. Continue reading →
Freddie Mickshik believes Gareth Bale’s sparkling performances could pave the way for a new wave of British players abroad…
Of the numerous British exports to Europe, few have delivered. This is undoubtedly due in part to a long era of Premier League dominance on the field coupled with financial clout off it, leaving little incentive for home-grown talent to fly the nest, and partly perhaps because the typical British-born player does not share the cosmopolitan outlook of his European or Latin-American counterpart.
Much has changed since the days of Kevin Keegan’s back-to-back Ballon d’Ors at Hamburg, let alone John Charles’ prolific spell at Juventus, which belongs to another age altogether. A low ebb of British football reached its nadir in the mid-1980s, with Keegan forging a trail for Brits in Europe followed most prominently and with greatly varying degrees of success by Gary Lineker, Mark Hughes, Ian Rush, Graeme Souness and Paul Gascoigne. Continue reading →
Guest writer Rob Brown looks at what happened to David Villa, as El Guaje enters a career crossroads…
The date is November 29, 2010. Camp Nou is full to capacity and Barcelona lead Real Madrid by three goals to nil. Nearly 100,000 Culés plus a global audience of millions are enthralled by one of the greatest team displays ever.
David Villa, assister of Barça’s second goal and scorer of their third, stands in front of his team’s left-back, Éric Abidal, as Madrid keep the ball on the opposite flank and try desperately to find a way back into the game. Possession eventually turns over and Villa begins to run forward.
On the opposite side of the pitch, Lionel Messi receives the ball from Sergio Busquets. He immediately turns and drives at Ricardo Carvalho and Sami Khedira. As Messi reaches them he darts to his left, skipping past the German midfielder, and Villa sprints through the blind spot of the Madrid right-back, Sergio Ramos.
Right on cue, Messi pings a perfect diagonal through-ball between Pepe and Ramos, leaving El Guaje one-on-one with Iker Casillas for the second time in three minutes. He lets the ball roll for what seems like a millisecond too many and then stabs it under the onrushing Casillas for 4-0. Continue reading →
TFN’s resident Manuel Pellegrini enthusiast Greg Johnson believes that the Chilean would be a major upgrade on Roberto Mancini. Here’s why Manchester City fans should drink in and savour the prospect of him taking charge at Eastlands…
Zest has been severely lacking from Manchester City this season. Just over 12 months on from Sergio Aguero’s larynx shredding title-winner and the taste of sky blue triumph has been replaced by sour disappointment. Their Premier League winning manager has been sacked, with a surprise FA Cup final defeat to Wigan Athletic and a 2-3 home loss to Norwich City adding a bitter finish to their year.
While Roberto Mancini laid the blame on the club’s failure to add Robin van Persie to their squad, the Dutchman’s absence felt more like a smokescreen than a valid excuse given the attacking talent already at his disposal. In reality, standards have slipped while the team’s enthusiasm has waned. Having accomplished their mission of winning the league, City have regressed.
The abilities of Mancini as a coach and tactician have been exposed as wanting, with his tactical plans unraveling into impotency without the title-winning form of individuals to smooth over the structural cracks. Continue reading →
Germany’s top division is the league of the moment, hailed as an emerging power by the great and the good of the European game. While others lose themselves to the hype, Scott Jenkins takes a step back to reassess the recent plaudits and ask what took everyone so long?
Before we start on this journey, I want you to cast your minds back to a time before Gareth Bale won both the Player Of The Year and the Young Player Of The Year awards. A time before QPR and Reading had been relegated and long before Sky Sports News had reached fever point over Arsenal’s prospective guard of honour (did anyone other than them actually care?). Instead I want you to return to last Thursday…
It’s the morning after the nights before. Those nights in question are of course Tuesday 23rd April where Bayern Munich (München to any German readers) destroyed Barcelona 4-0 and Wednesday 24th April when we all witnessed Borussia Dortmund’s 4-1 triumph over Real Madrid. Two Champions League Semi Final first legs, one aggregate score reading “Germany 8-1 Spain” and football’s biggest superstars left dejected, facing their greatest adversity of the season at its worst possible time. Continue reading →
No contenders please, we’re English. James Dutton looks at a Champions League quarter-final lineup harking back to its halcyon days…
The bell tolls. Last orders gents.
There has been something of an overreaction to the lack of English teams remaining in this season’s Champions League. Of course this is the first time since 1995-6 that there has been no English representation at this stage. Blackburn Rovers were the sole flag bearer then and endured a miserable experience. Until Manchester City’s woeful performance this season, it was the worst English campaign in Champions League history.
Though it is significant that this is the first time since the expansion of 1999-2000 that any number of English entrants have failed to progress beyond the Last 16, that ship sailed long ago for the other top European leagues. La Liga in 2005, Serie A in 2001, 2002 and 2009 and the Bundesliga in 2003, 2004 and 2006.
Many have been ready and willing to proclaim the respective deaths of Italian and German football since the turn of the millennium but neither prediction has come to pass. Boom and bust is part and parcel of the sport. Continue reading →