My checklist for this summers transfer window

The transfer window opens, and at the same time over in a reasonably small city on the M1, excitement and optimism are brewing over the reinvention of two time European Cup winners, Nottingham Forest, under an experienced, ruthless Aitor Karanka.

Aitor Karanka is unveiled as the new Nottingham Forest manager.

In order to contest for promotion this year, Forest needed serious improvement in 4 positions. Another centre-back to partner Tobias Figueirdo because, although Danny Fox was like a man possessed towards the end of the season, he simply doesn’t have the quality to challenge for a Premier League spot. Secondly, a replacement for Tendai Darikwa is needed who, yet again, found his form around  March but is nowhere near at the level required for a revival under Karanka. Moving further up the pitch, a new striker is, in my opinion, the position in need of the most urgent attention as Brereton has not yet matured into the game, and Murphy has never got going. Let this sink in, between early March and mid April we went 6 games without a goal and it was the longest goal drought Forest had ever had. They need a natural finisher who is experienced in the championship and can be assured upon to put away some the copious amounts of chances supplied by the likes of Lolley, Tomlin, and Colback. Finally, yet probably least importantly, a replacement for Mustafa Carayol. Although criticised by many, Carayol was an effective option for Forest, and a new fast, strong winger that is brought on late in the game could well give us the edge.

1 position has been covered when Michael Dawson rejoined The Reds on a 2 year contract. Fantastic news. In terms of a striker/ forward, Forest are said to be eyeing Peterborough star Jack Marriot which would Carvalhobe a great addition to the squad. More outlandishly, a return for Oliver Burke would be the dream of many fans at the City ground. However, Karanka’s most recent targets: Joao Carvalho (right) and Diogo Gonçalves would be unnecessary transfers and the idea of them joining us should not be encouraged. Starting with Carvalho, the Benfica MIDFIELDER. Seriously, another midfielder,  when we are already so rich with talent in that area why waste money on another player who has only featured for a senior team 23 times in his career. What we need is players who are experienced and astute in the championship, we don’t want to have to waste time and money for players to settle in. His teammate, Diogo Gonçalves the striker has yet again, played just 11 games for Benfica and has not yet scored.

Is flair compulsory to be regarded as one of the best ?

After Real Madrid reached their 4th final in 5 years, Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez criticised Madrid superstar Casemiro, claiming that he could never make it into a  Barcelona team. In response to this, Casemiro cleverly said ” anyone can say whatever they want, but i have been here four years and i am heading into my fourth final” (which they won as we now know).

CasemiroooooA player like Casemiro could be included in any team. His pace, aggression and strength makes him one of the most formidable midfielders on the planet. However, without these attributes his chances of playing for Real Madrid would be slim. He is in no way shape or manner horrendous on the ball  but he is mediocre in comparison to players like Iniesta, Xavi and Busquets in that department. Does that mean that he is untalented and undeserved to be playing for a heavyweight like Real Madrid? Absolutely not. We must remember that he was not born with speed, strength and agility; he would have had to spend long, strenuous hours perfecting these essential aspects for playing football. As a result, he is incredibly effective in the central defensive midfield role- regardless of what Xavi says. Overall, does that make him as ‘talented’ a player as the Barcelona legends who have graduated from La Mesia (Barcelona academy)? Well it depends on what you judge talent by. Effectiveness and success- then yes, he exceeds them due to the short period of time he has been at Madrid. Although in terms of flair, awareness and pleasing to the eye- they are on another level. Although, if i was a manager, i know which one i would want my players to have.

A perfect opportunity for Barcelona to get back to winning ways..

You could also interpret this clash between Xavi and Casemiro as an impulsive retalliation on Xavi’s part towards Real Madrid as a club after years of frustration watching his beloved club slowly disintegrate in the Champions League after he left in 2015, while his bitter rivals win the next three on the trot, setting outrageous records in the process.

Barcelona

Real Madrid and Barcelona are very different clubs with very different ethos. Real Madrid try to give the impression that they are the Galactico’s, the enforcers, the superiors, to try and intimidate teams buy buying the worlds best players and making them perform to the top of their ability together. Barcelona on the other hand, are known for being more conservative with their money, having the knack to buy cheap players and transform them into title winners and using the resources from their academy so everybody is on the same page and has been indoctrinated with respect for the club and its ethos. Although, bizarrely, ever since Barcelona won the Champions League and La Liga in 2014, this has all changed, they have been gradually trying to incorporate some of Real Madrid’s tactics into the club. From 2010-2014, they spent 239.25 million. Then from 2014-2018 they spent 608 million.  Whats more, is that the academy players recruited into the 1st team has dropped from 12 from 2010-2014 to 6 from 2014-2018. The negative correlation here is that the more money they spend and the more they dismiss their faith in the academy, the worse they do in the Champions League. Yes they have won 3 out of the last 4 La Liga’s but with a club with the stature of Barcelona, if they are underperforming in the Champions League, the biggest stage in club football, then they are underperforming all round.

After Zidane’s departure and the uncertainty over Bale’s future, if Enernesto Valverde’s side manage to reform themselves and find their old ways, 2018-2019 could be the perfect time to lift their 6th champions league. Of course, only if they injure Mo Salah.

Morocco are coming and my scepticism of Portugal

Morocco are coming and my scepticism of Portugal

At Russia 2018 i think that Morocco have a great chance of making it out of their group.  Group B , deemed the group of death of this tournament, consists of Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Iran. It doesn’t take a football genius to work out who the favourites are here. However, time and time again we see the underdogs, who have all freedom and no weight on their shoulders, glide past some of the heavyweights carrying the burden of their countries pressure and high standards with them. For example, take the mere Costa Rica in the 2014 world cup, breezing to the top of their group with Uruguay, Italy and England scavenging for points in the hope of qualification. Take Denmark and Senegal at the 2002 world cup, both qualifying ahead of France and Uruguay.

Although, there are two things missing here, who will be knocked out instead of Morocco and why have tMorocccccooooooohey got a chance? Firstly, lets assess the Morocco team and their recent results. They go into the world cup unbeaten in an entire year (15 matches) and have overcome the likes of Serbia and the Ivory Coast. You may think that they are “rookies and unexperienced” but their Africa cup of Nations victory in February silences that doubt. One of the great strengths of Herve Renards side is their immense versatility. Countless times in qualifying we have seen them cleverly adapt to best fit their opponents. The likes of El Ahmadi, Boussoufa and Boufal are talented, effective players who can perform in multiple positions, making Morocco’s midfield and attack unpredictable and full of flair. Defensively, they are very compact and Medhi Benatia and Manuel da Costa are two very solid defenders. Watch out for Morocco.

On to who i think won’t  qualify; Portugal. When we think of Portugal at the world cup this summer the stereotypical  picture is Cristiano Ronaldo labouring through the matches, dragging his team on behind and, once again, his country’s faith. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that this isn’t true. When Ronaldo is taken out of the equation, who actually have Portugal got? Yes, they have the likes of Andre Silva,attacker, Premier League winner with Manchester City this season. Yes, they have Nelson Semedo and Pepe at the back, Semedo winning the league with Barcelona and Pepe coming 2nd with Fernabache. But is that really enough to keep out the likes of Morata, Isco, Costa and Silva? And is it enough to break down the wall of Pique, Ramos and De Gea? Im not so sure. You may be thinking,”well how did Portugal win the Euro’s two years ago then”. I am not blatantly calling it a fluke but it certainly  didn’t go down as one of  the most pretty performances by a champion.

Firstly, they were extremely poor in the group Ronaldostage, finishing below Iceland and Hungary in what was a huge embarrassment to the nation. They then advanced as one of the “best losers” to the round of 16. Croatia were the opponents and they nicked it in extra time to win 1-0. Although, lets face it; they were dominated. Croatia had 13 attempts on target to their 3, they hit the bar and had more possession. In short, Croatia were by far the superior team. The next game brought Poland, who they only managed to beat on penalties. On came the semi-finals and with it brought a naive, inexperienced Wales team in their first ever Euro’s and  Portugal prevailed with ease. In the final, after an unimpressive tournament, they faced France, the favourites, the hosts, and although not their worst performance they were once again overpowered. France had 18 attempts to their 9 and more possession. However, they stole a goal of France in Extra-Time and went home European Champions. In compilation, Portugal’s lacklustre performances resulted in the popular opinion that they were in fact ‘lucky’ and that their success ‘undeserved’. In retrospect, I partly agree with this as they were visibly under par for the majority of the tournament. However, their resilience to hang in there until the dying moments was admirable and should not be overlooked. Although, the concept of them maintaining this at the World Cup, the biggest stage of them all, makes me  extremely sceptical. Whats more, if Ronaldo gets injured or for some reason can’t play, then their chances of repeating it nears impossible. They also may be in for a  huge shock when they face a  disciplined, diligent and in-form Morocco side.