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Archive for the ‘Player Analysis’ Category

Nigel de Jong and central cohesive sources of stability

Posted by hakanrylander on February 6, 2012

It has been reported that Nigel de Jong has rejected a contract extension at Manchester City that would have given him a raise from £75,000 to £100,000 per week. Apparently de Jong and his agent believe he is worth more. A poor decision I would think. I can’t see any other club paying him more. De Jong is a decent player, but I certainly wouldn’t place him in the select group of players that are so central to their teams’ success that they are worthy of extraordinary salaries. But he set me thinking about which players in the PL at the moment really belong in this group.

In the case of United my list includes just two names; Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic (out for the season). Nani is too inconsistent, Ferdinand somewhat past it and Jones not there yet (but he will be). In the other top-six clubs there are also two players in each team who stand out.

Arsenal: Van Persie, Wilshere (out for the season?)

Spurs: Modric, Bale

Chelsea: Terry, Essien (when back to full fitness)

Liverpool: Gerrard, Suarez

But there is one exception. I have to admit that I put four Manchester City players in this category: Hart, Kompany, Yaya and Silva. All of them have been consistent sources of skill and stability this season. So at least in this particular respect I give City an edge over their main rivals. Enough to win them the title?

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Pavane for a Departed Prince

Posted by hakanrylander on February 1, 2012

Yesterday brought an awful lot of good news. A comfortable win over Stoke City, including a Paul Scholes masterclass and a sensational Paul Pogba PL debut. Darron Gibson scoring a cracker to help Everton beat City. And us snatching a great(?) young defender from our noisy neighbours.

It was almost enough to make me forget Ravel Morrison. Almost.

Ravel is by all accounts one of the most talented footballers of his generation. Top journalist Henry Winter has described him as  “a wonderfully skilful youngster who could grace England’s midfield for years to come” and “better than Jack Wilshere“. Others have called him the new Paul Gascoigne or the new Paul Scholes.

But talent alone is never enough to reach the pinnacles of sport. The long and successful careers of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are certainly based on great talent, but also on dedication, discipline and hard work. Morrison apparently lacked in all three of these departments.

A move to London and a new environment might help, particularly if he can loose his gangster entourage. With some first team opportunities he might just rise quickly to star status at West Ham. I will certainly try to follow his progress (or lack of) at West Ham. Time will tell whether he will be remembered as an England great or a talent sadly gone to waste.

Good luck, Ravel.

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Answered prayers

Posted by hakanrylander on February 1, 2012

That’s central midfield sorted then.

OK, I realise that I’m in serious danger of getting overexcited, but Paul Pogba’s first 20 minutes of PL football were nothing short of sensational. In those 20 minutes he managed to convince me that he is (or at least soon will be) the box-to-box midfielder we are all longing for. Skillful, athletic, creative, confident.

His pass completion rate was 100%. This was partly because he played a lot of short safe passes to Scholes and Carrick, but he also tried some more adventurous, most notably a long perfectly weighted ball to Valencia. He almost scored as well. And played with a big smile on his face.

Bloody brilliant.

 

Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Sir Alex should go Dutch in January

Posted by hakanrylander on January 1, 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson claims that there is no need for a panic-signing in January. He is just stating the obvious. Is there ever a need for a panic-signing? There is, however, a need for a sound long-term signing that will also alleviate our short-term problems. A top international player, not too expensive and available in January. This might sound a tall order, but I think such a solution exists.

The key is to look away from central midfield. I would love a world-class midfielder like Modric, Schweinsteiger or Sneijder, but such a player is unlikely to be available in January. Instead we should keep Phil Jones in midfield. With Carrick in great form and Anderson and Cleverly returning to fitness we should be sorted until the summer.

With Vidic out for the season and Rio playing every other match at the most, we need to give Chris Smalling a run in central defence. But using Smalling and Jones in central areas will leave us short of cover at right back, particularly as the twins are very injury prone. Thus we need to bring in a top right back. My suggestion is Gregory van der Wiel of Ajax who is also the established firtst choice for Holland, the third best national side in Europe. Ajax recently turned down an offer from Valencia believed to be £8m, but an offfer of, say, £15m would almost certainly be accepted. Van der Wiel’s attacking style would fit perfectly at Old Trafford.

Posted in Manchester United, Player Analysis, Transfer Gossip | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Star is Born

Posted by hakanrylander on October 26, 2011

I know this was only 20 minutes with the game already won against Aldershot Town who are fighting for survival in League Two. But in those twenty minutes the game changed from a satisfying but routine dismissal of Carling Cup fodder to an electrifying glimpse of the future. All because of the introduction of Ravel Morrison.

You have to wonder what the coaches told him before he came on. As he replaced Diouf I expected him to stick to the left side of midfield. Instead he roamed all over the pitch and was involved in virtually every attacking move, mainly from a central attacking midfield position. This was not a shy youngster finding his feet, but a star intent on running the show. My favourite moment was when he tried to convince Berbatov to step away from a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.

Morrison strikes me as the kind of player who would benefit from playing alongside and against top class players, much like Rooney or Wilshere. Sir Alex, however, does not seem to plan a fast track for him to the first team. Possibly because his confidence/arrogance tends to get him into trouble off the field.

Unusually for a player who has featured so rarely in the first team, Morrison has a national cheer-leader in top journalist Henry Winter. Winter has praised Ravel on numerous ooccasions rating him as “better than Wilshere and Rodwell” and he’s at it again in The Telegraph this morning writing that Morrison “flowed across the ground all smooth, confident movement“. I suspect that Mr Winter has been right all along.

I would put him (Morrison) on the bench against Everton.

 

Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Conclusions from United 3 Spurs 0

Posted by hakanrylander on August 24, 2011

1. Phil Jones was supposed to be one for the future, but only two weeks into the new season he is already an Old Trafford hero. On his first PL start for United, at only 19 years of age, he already looked the de facto captain. Reminds me of a young John Terry, with the added bonus that Jones can play a bit. My MotM.

2. When Danny Welbeck scored the first goal he was transformed into a different player. For 60 minutes he hadn’t made much of an impression, but after the goal he was full of confidence, trying scissor-kicks and back-heels and wanting the ball all the time. Let’s hope he can carry that confidence with him for the rest of the season.

3. Ashley Young has taken to Manchester United like a duck to water.

4. Several more United players deserve individual praise, but more important was the movement and fluency of the passing game. This was better than I can remember from almost any game last season.

5. Amid all the praise for United, please remember that Spurs were below par. Especially in central midfield where they lacked both steel and creativity.

 

Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Europe’s Top Midfielders and the Uses of a Lamp-post

Posted by hakanrylander on March 24, 2011

Most fans agree that United need a truly world-class attacking midfielder, who can consistently deliver the brilliant killer pass in the final third of the field. Someone like Sneijder, Ozil or (in our wildest dreams) Xavi or Iniesta.

Maybe we should start looking close to home. In our search for this missing piece in the jigsaw statistics might, as often, provide some surprising answers. When Opta lists the players who, on average, completed the highest number of successful passes in the final third of the pitch during the group stages of the Champions League this season the No 1 spot is held by Iniesta. No 2 is Xavi. No surprises so far. But in third place is – wait for it – Darron Gibson.

Un unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts – for support rather than illumination.

Posted in Academic, Manchester United, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

They saw that the stone was rolled away

Posted by hakanrylander on February 13, 2011

To compare Wayne Rooney’s goal against City with the resurrection of Christ is of course totally ridiculous. Still, it’s an indication of the quality of the finish and the ecstasy of moment that you even consider using such an analogy (helped by his stylish celebration).

It remains to be seen whether this really marks the return of Rooney as a world-class performer. I certainly hope so, but apart from the goal the signs yesterday were, in fact, not too encouraging. He played an important part in the build-up to the first goal and worked his socks off as usual, but this still wasn’t the Rooney of 12-18 months ago when there was great anticipation every time he got the ball.

I think City deserved a point, maybe even three.  For much of the game it seemed that United’s most effective plan was to just give the ball to Nani and hope that he would produce a moment of magic. Full credit to Nani who again confirmed his remarkable transformation from erratic fringe-player to lynchpin. 

A special mention also to Chris Smalling who has been eased in gradually by Ferguson. This was by far his most difficult game so far and he handled the pressure to perfection.

But this game will not be remembered for the accomplishments of Nani or Smalling, but for the moment when Rooney, for a few seconds, gave us all the feeling of rising above mortal constraints.

Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Add to Basket

Posted by hakanrylander on February 10, 2011

I knew that Christian Eriksen was a good player. But I didn’t realise that he was this good! Last night’s game between Denmark and England made me add another name to my Official Summer Shopping List. He impressed me in just about every department; control, composure, vision, set-piece delivery etc. In short, he was the best player on the pitch. And he doesn’t turn 19 until Monday.

Apart from Eriksen, my shopping list for the summer also includes Manuel Neuer and Jack Rodwell. All perfectly possible signings if the Glazers are indeed prepared to splash the cash. But come to think of it, I can’t remember that I’ve ever seen “Glazer” and “splash the cash” in the same sentence before…

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The five reasons why Rooney wants to leave

Posted by hakanrylander on October 21, 2010

Money. When a professional footballer wants to change clubs he normally claims that this is to “fulfil a dream”, “take the next step”, “get a new challenge” etc. In reality, money is always part of the motivation. More often than not it’s the main reason why a player wants a move. I don’t think Rooney is any different in this respect. As he’s one of the best players in the world, it’s not difficult to imagine that he gets frustrated when across town Yaya Touré earns twice as much.

Form. In the previous paragraph I refered to Rooney as one of the best players in the world. But in fact he hasn’t played anywhere near that level for the last six months, neither for United nor England. On form he deserves to be on the bench as both Berbatov and Hernandez have looked better players recently. As what was supposedly a temporary glitch has turned into the longest slump of his career, many of us have become increasingly worried. None more so than Rooney himself. Since the World Cup it’s likely that he’s given some serious thought to which way his professional career is heading. One conclusion might have been that a change of clubs could help him find his feet again.

The Glazers. The owners of the top clubs in Europe tend to put an awful lot of money into the club, or at least not take anything out. The Glazers on the other hand take countless millions out of the club. This has now made it obvious that United find it very hard to compete for the best players. It’s no wonder that Rooney does not believe that United is a club in ascendency. Does anyone?

His private life. Very difficult to know how important this aspect is. It has probably helped destabilize Rooney, but I still think it’s only a minor factor behind his transfer request.

Paul Stretford. Rooney’s agent orchestrated a very similar move in 2004. Read this highly interesting article by David Conn. I think Stretford is at it again.

Posted in Manchester United, Player Analysis, Transfer Gossip | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »