All posts by Gary Armstrong

Zabaleta Wants Manchester City To Attack Barcelona – Here’s Why He Is Talking Sense

For those of you who have indulged in Football Manager over the years will, I’m sure, be giving your own views as to how Manchester City should be going about tackling Barcelona tonight. They will be in a bout with some of the biggest players on the planet and will need to stay disciplined in order to take any hope to the Nou Camp in the second leg. With that in mind, should Manuel Pellegrini set his side up to hit the La Liga giants on the break, or should they  go all out attack and hope they can find a way through?

Well, Pablo Zabaleta, City’s right-back, thinks that they should play to their strengths and attack the Spaniards.

He said: “It’s important we stick to our game, that we go on the attack because we have attacking players.”

I think he’s right, too. City have a wealth of attacking players and should be eyeing Barcelona as the weaker opponents. City’s home form has been remarkably strong this season – they have scored 74 goals in 20 games at the Etihad, and I firmly believe they should be taking the game to the away side, regardless of their superstars.

It’s easier said than done, of course. But there is enough quality in the City ranks and I feel if they sit back against the likes of Iniesta, Xavi and Messi then they could get punished.

I agree with Zabaleta – City fans, do you?

Liverpool Defender Explains Poor Form – But How Bad Has He Really Been?

When Jose Enrique was suffered an injury that would keep him out for a lengthy period of time, Liverpool fans were cautious, but they were not too worried. After all, Brendan Rodgers brought in Aly Cissokho on loan from Valencia, and he was rated very highly by some of their fans. A powerful, athletic full-back who loves storming up the pitch – Cissokho, on paper, looked an exciting acquisition. However, his first handful of games couldn’t have gone any worse for the Frenchman.

After being injured on his debut, Cissokho came back looking like a sluggish, second-rate player who couldn’t even begin to fill the boots of Enrique. Reds’ fans quickly saw that his pushing up the pitch could leave them exposed and his concentration levels were poor, but the player himself has now pinpointed the problem of his form.

He has said, via the Mirror, that it was indeed the ankle injury he picked up in the cup that saw him falter. He said: “In my first match against Notts County, after five minutes, my ankle turned. It was a big ankle sprain.

“The most important injury in my whole career so far and at the worst moment. A piece of cartilage moved. I had to undergo surgery in London.

“It was a very difficult moment. I was afraid. Surgery delayed my adaptation.”

He also responded to the criticism he has received as a result of his shoddy performances.

“Critics? I am used to not winning unanimous support. I let people have their own opinion and I give my best.”

But how bad has he been?

Well, for me his positioning has been woeful. There have been a number of times where he has been caught out, but other aspects of his game have improved slightly over the last few weeks.

He has still won just 46% of his attempted tackles, 42% of his dribbles and has committed a lot of needless fouls, though.

I am still undecided on him, but am leaning towards the ‘waste of time’ option.

Manchester City Star With 88% Pass Success Wants To Leave, But Should Pellegrini Keep Hold?

Despite having hundreds of appearances to his name, experience on the biggest stage of them all and having been a huge part in Manchester City’s title win a couple of seasons ago, Joleon Lescott has had to be patient this season. The England international has made just eight league appearances this term and according to the Metro he will be leaving the club at the end of the season. For me it’s a mistake, and I know that I am in the minority but here are my reasons.

The first is the experience he holds. As touched upon, Lescott is a Premier League winner, has been involved in the national side for many years and has a solid history in the topflight.

With Vincent Kompany the only other player on his sort of level in that respect is Vincent Kompany – Matija Nastasic and Martin Demichelis are certainly not world beaters – I would say it would be wise to keep hold. 

Lescott is a player who has shown just how strong he can be when brought into the club, even when he hasn’t had a run of games.

He has won 10 of his 19 tackles this season, 65% of his headers and has completed 88% of his passes.

I personally think he should be Kompany’s partner in the middle and I think City are making a big mistake. 

stats via Squawka

Mata Believes Manchester United Can Finish In Top 4, But I Disagree – Here’s Why

I cannot stress to you how important I believe the signing of Juan Mata was for Manchester United last month. With a midfield almost void of creativity and with no pace or hunger, the record signing of the little Spaniard was a shrewd one.

The two-time Chelsea Player of the Year may not have started to show just how good he can be for the Old Trafford side just yet, but with 13 key passes, three assists and a 91% pass completion in his first four games for the Red Devils, he is well on his way.

United currently sit in seventh, 15 points behind leaders Chelsea and 11 outside the top four, but Mata has shared his belief regarding the Old Trafford side pushing into the Champions League places.

Reported by Sky Sports, Mata said: “The objective is to get to the Champions League spots. “It’s difficult because Liverpool are doing well, so are Arsenal, as well as Tottenham and Everton, who are all clubs also fighting for them, but I think we have a team who can do it.

“We are coming and I think we can do it, but we have to win a lot of games first.”

Now, forgive me for being a pessimist, but I firmly believe that United’s hopes for a top four finish are over. For me the gap is far too big to overturn and I don’t think they have the players to do it.

In my eyes they are still short in the central places and are holding onto too many players who are unable to drag them to victory – think Tom Cleverely, Nani and Ashley Young, and I think the best they can hope for is a fifth place finish.

Even that will be difficult, though, with Spurs and Everton having such strong seasons.

Arsenal Star Eyes Chelsea Return – How Important Will He Be To Gunners’ Title Chances?

Aaron Ramsey had never really been a player to set the Premier League alight. The Wales international was a typical British player in the way that he put everything into his performances but he never looked as though he could be a match winner. That changed this season though as his dazzling performances in the opening parts of the campaign set Arsenal up for a season of hope.

The 23-year-old has 22 Premier League appearances to his name this term and has scored eight goals, as well as five goals in other competitions.

Everything seemed to be going for him – every trick of flick he attempted came off, his passing was mostly accurate and he has so far created 26 chances in the Premier League.

However, he has missed the last eight league games with a thigh problem which has subsequently left the Gunners short in the middle of the pitch.

There is positive news for Arsene Wenger though as the Independent say that he is eyeing a return from the sidelines against Chelsea next month.

He will be a crucial part of Arsenal’s title chances in my eyes and Wenger will be desperate to get him back. The north London club currently have Mathieu Flamini, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta available, but the former two have recently been unavailable through suspension and injury.

Gooners everywhere will be crossing their fingers.

£10m And He’s Yours: Arsenal And Liverpool Target Midfielder With 86% Pass Completion – Player Report

As well as both Arsenal and Liverpool battling it out for the Premier League top spot, it now seems that they will be going head to head to land Marseille midfielder Mathieu Valbuena. The Express are reporting the story and say that if they are willing to stump up the £10m asking price then they are free to take him off their hands, but who is he and what could he offer the Premier League duo?

The Frenchman is a central midfielder who is all about keeping things simple and getting the best out of those around him. This season he has appeared 22 times in Ligue 1 but is now apparently surplus to requirements, and has a pass completion of 86%.

He is a player with impeccable technique and the way he can pick a pass would surely tempt any topflight club, but at 29 years of age he may be seen as a bit of a luxury player.

He has created 57 chances for his team-mates, according to Squawka, with five of those counting as assists, and he has chipped in with two goals himself.

He is the sort of player that would work well with either Steven Gerrard or Mathieu Flamini as he is a little more agile than them, and I think £10million seems about right in today’s climate.

No Neymar? How Will Barcelona Line Up Against Manchester City This Evening?

It is finally here – the Champions League knockout stages are scheduled to kick off tonight with Manchester City hosting La Liga giants Barcelona. City, who have an incredible home record this season, will be up against some of the best players in the world and will need to stand tall in order to get anything out of it, but how are the Spaniards line up at the Etihad?

They’re likely to come to Manchester in a 4-3-3 formation with a flexible frontline.

In goal it’ll be Victor Valdes, with Dani Alves on the right and Jordi Alba on the left. In the middle I expect Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol to take up the positions.

In front of them in a midfield trio, I think it will be Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi, who have made up a formidable unit in the middle of the pitch. They are all masters of their trade and City will need Yaya Toure to have a strong game.

Messi will be the spearhead of the attack, I would guess, with two quicker players on either side. Pedro and Alexis Sanchez are the players who I would suggest, though Neymar returned from injury at the weekend.

Chelsea Linked With £25m Striker With 18 Goals This Season – Player Report

With Chelsea boasting the best defence in the Premier League at present and holding a midfield that’s packed with world-class, creative players, it has been the forward positions that the Blues have really disappointed me this season. Samuel Eto’o is probably the exception – he has eight goals in all competitions this season and has a respectable number of assists, though the two other options – Fernando Torres and Demba Ba – have failed to inspire.

However, that is likely to be a different story next season, as reports say that the west London club are ready to offer £25 million for the services of Croatia international Mario Mandzukic.

But who is he and what could he offer?

The Bayern Munich forward is a powerful figure who loves to make space for himself inside the penalty box. Robert Lewandowski will be coming into the club over the summer which could spark the departure of Mandzukic as they are very similar players.

Madzukic is good in the air and his movement keeps his opponent’s guessing. Goals is what he’s known for though, and he’s scored a hatful again this season. After hitting 22 in 40 last season the 27-year-old is currently sitting on 18 goals in 30 games this time round.

If you are looking for a player to lead your attacking line then there are few better than Mandzukic.