Recent blog posts

Posted by on

Let me start by saying that Pep Guardiola is an exceptional coach, quite probably the best coach available to any club at this time. But, let's play devils advocate for a moment. 

Guardiola inherited a Barcelona side on the verge of something special - with one component well on the way to becoming extra special. 

His haul of two C Lge & three League  titles, in his four years in charge, were a fantastic achievement. There were various other cup successes as well. But, let's be realistic - it's only League titles & C Lge wins that are important for the super clubs. 

After a year with the sadly departed Tito Vilanovo in charge, Luis Enrique took over at the Camp Nou. Is Enrique spoken about in the same glowing terms as Guardiola yet? No. Why not? 

His record, to date, is one C Lge win & one La Liga success - both in his first season. There has also been various cup wins as well. 

Barcelona are still in the C Lge and ahead of the Madrid duo in La Liga. Come May, Enrique will almost certainly boast another La Liga trophy, and quite possibly another C Lge  

If he only won the League, it would mean a C Lge  win in two years (50%, success, which would equal Guardiola's strike rate) and two Lge titles in 2 years (100% against Guardiola's 75%). 

And so - to Bayern, where Guardiola has won two  Bundesliga titles in his two seasons. He and Bayern are odds on to win another. He hasn't delivered the C Lge though. I've said before that there's a case for arguing that he's failed in Germany if this is the benchmark. 

His predecessor, Juup Heynckes, won both the C Lge and the Bundesliga in his final season (and the German Cup) before Guardiola inherited that team.

It's also worth nothing that Heynckes' main rivals in his three years in Munich were a powerful Borussia Dortmund, who Bayern raided for two of their best players - Gotze & Lewandowski. 

Now it can't be cut both ways, Enrique can't be the coach who inherited Guardiola's Barca, yet Guardiola not be the coach that inherited Heynckes' Bayern. A much more simple explanation would be that it's players that win trophies.

So, let's have a look at Manchester City. Roberto Mancini's one title in three years is matched by Manuel Pellegrini - although Pellegrini could yet win his second this year. Pellegrini inherited the side that Mancini built with the likes of Hart, Yaya Toure, Silva and Aguero in it. He gave Hart his chance and signed the others. 

That quartet are largely responsible for putting the blue half of Manchester at the forefront of English football. What did Pellegrini add of similar significance? 

Guardiola is now the man in charge of buying and selling - an area that's going to be fascinating going forward. When he took over at Barca he told Ferran Sorriano & Txiki Beguiristan to get rid of Deco, Ronaldhino & Eto'o. 

Since joining Barca and starting his coaching career at the very top, Guardiola's stock has risen immeasurably. So a man with the 'balls' to insist a teams' biggest stars are discarded before he accepts a role most would have jumped at, is very likely to have even more belief in himself now. What instructions have been passed to the City hierarchy this time? History would suggest that Yaya has been a topic of discussion! 

City are primed to be P Lge winners for many seasons to come, but are they in a position yet to win the C Lge? 

Barcelona's success in Europe was because of the players they already had. Bayern's the same. 

City need at least six before they can compete with Europe's best - but where are those players? 

The best are already at the best clubs, winning trophies and competing at the highest level. They earn salaries that mean they can make life choices rather than  financial decisions. 

Raiding Juventus for Pogba is an option, but that's also an option for Real and Barca. Perhaps Guardiola can go back for Lewandowski? Both will command huge fees. Raising that money from players Guardiola doesn't want is unlikely to be enough. 

Guardiola will be successful at City. League titles will follow and they'll regularly get out of the C Lge group stages. But, to get to the next level, with real European success, is a much bigger step than some imagine.

Pellegrini and Mancini were both capable of the above. They're very different personalities. That was underlined by Pellegrini's dignified announcement that he was leaving. Would Mancini have reacted the same way? I suspect not! 

City's talks with Guardiola started in 2012 - they've admitted that themselves. 

What chance that Sorriano & Beguiristan looked into the future, and thought that a smooth transition from the well respected Pellegrini to Guardiola was a better option than the exorcism of Mancini would have been after 6 years of success? And six years of success it would've been. Me too.

Posted by on

I didn't expect quite the reaction to the little idea I was discussing with Brendan Rodgers this weekend on beIN Sports. It's been interesting reading your comments.

A lot of you wanted a fuller explanation of what I was suggesting - so here we are.

I can't think of a more contentious subject in the game today than 'time added on'. LVG made a quite reasonable point about the final whistle at Stamford Bridge. Time was 'added on to time added on' to allow Chelsea to take a corner, but Michael Oliver's whistle went immediately that Utd cleared the ball - and were breaking. Cue another row. Roberto Martinez was furious, on the same ground recently, with that late 'off-side' JT goal v Everton, in time 'added on to time added on'!

In the interests of balance its worth pointing out that the first half this weekend should've ended with a penalty to Chelsea. That was a stick on. Oliver can't see it. If he does - he has to give it. Oh, one other little piece of info that came to my attention re Oliver. Wayne Rooney has asked him to ref his testimonial later this year. Now I'm certain that Oliver wasn't looking after Utd when he ruled that Blind hadn't handled, but it leaves him open to the allegation. I don't think current refs should be doing jobs like Wazza's testimonial. It creates suspicion.

Anyway - time added on. It's abused all the time by managers and coaches. My idea is simple - don't allow substitutions to be made after 90 mins. There's no need for it.

I've heard all the arguments for making them - most popular of course being 'what if there's an injury'? Well, there rarely if ever is. The only changes coaches make are designed to waste time and confuse officials.

Rodgers had the good grace to admit this. He even went so far as to tell us that any player he was thinking of taking off would be told to get to the far side of the pitch so as to make the walk off - and it's always walk - longer! It's a nonsense. Stop it. There's no need.

IF a team were to pick up an injury - hard luck. I think the benefits of such an insignificant change would far outweigh the down side.

And what were the other ideas I talked of on beIN Sports, but we didn't get time to discuss?

Simple. Any player fouled in the box should be made to get up and take the penalty. If a ball is handled you can continue to designate a chosen 'taker'. I think this would keep a lot more players on their feet

I first thought of the idea at Coventry one night when Newcastle's Warren Barton went storming into the box and swallow-dived. He was never going to score, so over he went. Alan Shearer stepped up and thumped the ball home!

I reminded Barton of the incident when I worked with him in America in 2010. I asked him 'if you had to take the pen, would you have gone over?'. I got the answer I expected 'no chance'.

The reason for this is that most players hate taking penalties. My mate, Andy Gray, was a centre forward, but only ever took three in his life. Kenny Dalglish wouldn't take them. He did, one or two (there was a famous Old Firm pen) but he'd leave them to Terry Mac or Phil Neal at Anfield.

Again, I know the argument against such a small change 'Ah, but what if a player got injured?'. Well they don't do they? Rarely, if ever, anyway. If somebody is stretchered off and leaves the game, fine, let your nominated 'taker' have a go. But that would be the end of the game for the guy on the stretcher. It wouldn't solve the problem of players diving, but it might make them think twice, so why not?

And my third little change - penalty shoot outs. I love them. They're real drama, but why are pens only taken one end? We've got four officials on the pitch, more in C Lge games, so why can't they be taken at both ends?

More often than not there is a distinct advantage for the 'home' team because they're taking them in front of their own fans. That's likely to continue to be the case in a lot of domestic cup ties, but not in big finals where stadiums are mostly split evenly - with supporters of both teams at different ends. So, take them in front of your own fans - sharing the nervous leg wobbling evenly. For a professional it's a testing enough event anyway, so why the imbalance?

Apart from anything else, why should supporters, who've all paid good money to get in, be denied the excitement of the shoot out just because they're at the wrong end of the ground?

I know Birmingham fans, feel to this day that they were stitched up in Cardiff v Liverpool in the

2001 League Cup final. Trevor Francis, their manager then, definitely does. I've discussed it with him. The penalties were sucked in by Liverpool fans their end, whilst Birmingham,naturally, faced a hostile job. It was unfair.

There are many reasons 'not' to make changes in the game. I'm very much against the invasion of video technology, but I know it's coming. My belief is that TV should 'cover' the game -  not dictate the 'outcome' of a match. With a ref giving a decision, only to have trucks full of 'experts' offering different 'opinions' on incidents, I think we're heading for total confusion.

But my little ideas wouldn't make 'defining' changes to a match. I think they'd help it along. Let me know what you think.

I've got to mention Leicester again before I finish, but what else is there to say other than I really hope they win it now?  They deserve to. I had them down for a win at City and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they did it again at Arsenal. It's a wonderful story. I noticed Glenn Hoddle admitted, like me, he got it badly wrong with his prediction for Leicester this season! But then who didn't? No- one expected this. It's brilliant.

I've got one or two thoughts on Guardiola and City that I'll share with you later in the week. I'm sure you'll find them interesting. A bit more research is needed yet though. 

Posted by on

So it turns out that Pep Guardiola IS joining Manchester City, despite all the denials.

I'm delighted, for many different reasons, primary amongst them, that it'll be fantastic to have the Spaniard working in the P Lge.

There is, of course, the small matter of being right! I don't care, after the bruising I've had on this subject, I was always going to enjoy the news when it was finally made official. The only thing that makes me different to the self congratulatory headlines I've been reading in every English daily newspaper - all of them screaming 'we told you first' is that I and my colleagues at beIN Sports actually did tell you first. 9th May 2015 -

It's been fascinating tracking the story since then - from the dismissive abuse, to the growing feeling that there might be something in it, to the January announcement that Guardiola was leaving Bayern and finally to the realisation that we at beIN Sports were right all along. It's funny isn't it? I've always said 'success has many fathers - only failure is a bast**d'.

Anyway, it'll be great to have Guardiola working in our league. For those of you back in the UK it'll be your first close up look at the guy. If you're a beIN Sports viewer, you'll have got used to watching him at close quarters, both in Spain and Germany. We cover both leagues on a weekly basis. Guardiola is also no stranger to Qatar, where he's regularly brought his team's during winter breaks in both countries.

So what do City get? Undoubtedly a top class operator. His record speaks for itself. They also finally nail down the shift in the balance of power in Manchester. They are undoubtedly No 1 in that city. If you don't believe me ask any of the 'reds', whose sons are enrolled in City's academy who they believe is top dog!

I read a stat today that Guardiola has lost only 19 of the 239 league games that he's taken charge of - he's won 187 of them. Forgive me for borrowing a quote from a famous scandal in British history 'well, he would, wouldn't he?'. Of course he would, he's been in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich!

I don't wish to diminish the size of his achievements, but you've got a right to win a few trophies if you're in charge of those two clubs. Credit where it's due, he's twice been the youngest coach  to win the C Lge, but so far, he's failed to win it at Bayern.

Now there's nothing to say that he won't do that this season, but I've said before, and I'll repeat the suggestion here, if he doesn't, there's an argument that he failed in Germany.

Let me expand on that. With the players at his disposal it was a certainty that he would win both Cup and League. That was a minimum requirement. But he came up well short in both C Lge campaigns with Bayern. And remember, he took over a team that had won a hugely impressive treble under Jupp Heynkes - including the big one.

It's for that reason that I believe his biggest test is yet to come. The P Lge is like no other. It's unforgiving. It's competitive in a way that neither La Liga nor the Bundesliga is. On any given weekend top can beat bottom - that rarely, if ever, happens in the two other aforementioned leagues. We've even got a situation this season where the team that were bottom this time last year, are now top! Yep - Guardiola is about to embark on his something very different. He won't get things all his own way in England.  

He inherits an infamous dressing room. I've talked about this before - many times. It'll be interesting to see how City's players react now the news is out in the open - not that it will have come as a surprise to any of them.

There'll be new players. I expect Paul Pogba to sign, as I've said previously, but Messi won't. He and Guardiola don't get on. The rift was one of the reasons that Guardiola walked away from Barca. The little man runs the club. Guardiola won't want to get into another power struggle with Messi.

There are exciting times ahead for City fans, that's for sure. But please don't 'expect' trophies or success. It doesn't happen like that.

Yes, Guardiola has a track record to be proud of, but not everyone he's worked with is a fan. This was Zlatan after Barca had been beaten by Mourinho's Inter in 2010 ''I yelled 'you haven't got any balls! You can go to hell'. I completely lost it, and you might have expected Guardiola to say a few words in response, but he's a spineless coward''. Interesting eh?

I feel for Pellegrini. He's an honourable man, but he too came up short, not least in the disastrous campaign that could've seen City top their C Lge group with just one more goal when winning in Bayern. Remember?

He's decided not to take up the 'option' of one more year at the club. I told you at the time all that nonsense about a new deal was purely to dampen the Guardiola speculation. Stay with me - I'll keep you straight!