Thursday, 28 May 2015

Sound of Football Extra: The Bundesliga First XI



Following on from my contribution to the Premier League XI for the imaginary World League Cup this summer, below is my Bundesliga XI which was also included in the Sound Of Football podcast.

Goalkeeper

Manual Neuer - FC Bayern Munich

I could easily have gone for Yann Sommer at Borussia Mönchengladbach, Roman Burki at Freiburg or Bernd Leno at Bayer Leverkusen. Praise for the German number 1 is not universal, particularly after getting chipped, nutmegged and beaten at the near post by Barcelona. However, for me he is still the top choice for this competition.

Full backs

Abdul Baba Rahman - FC Augsburg

Top class full-back and one of the success stories of FCA who finished fifth this season. Strong defensively and in attack, Baba is destined to play at the top of the club game.

David Alaba - FC Bayern Munich

This is a nominal position as Alaba can play across the back or in midfield. As much as Bayern missed Robben towards the end of the Bundesliga season, they arguably missed the Austrian more.

Central defenders

Juan Bernat - FC Bayern Munich

An outstanding season for Bayern. Composed and no-nonsense, Bernat would settle into a hastily arranged squad such as this.


Naldo - VfL Wolfsburg

An experienced and rangy Bundesliga centre-back with a penchant for goals. A vital component in the Wolves fantastic season.

Central Midfielders


Christophe Kramer - Borussia Mönchengladbach

Off to Bayer Leverkusen in the summer, Kramer has matured into one of the best holding midfielder's in the league.

Thiago Alcántara - FC Bayern Munich

Injured for much of the season, the Spaniard has an unerring eye for a pass and can score some spectacular goals.

Attacking Midfielders


Arjen Robben - FC Bayern Munich

Injuries not withstanding the Dutchman was sensational this last season. His crossing and inside play was the best we've seen from him all his career.

Kevin De Bruyne - VfL Wolfsburg

The Belgian has been sensational, gliding across the pitch, creating and scoring goals for the Wolves this season.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Lightning fast and now quite capable of finding the back of the net, Aubameyang can get behind any defense in the world.

Striker


Robert Lewandowski - FC Bayern Munich

A ball magnate who can turn on a six pence. His technique and speed of thought makes him almost impossible to play against. Even the most telegraphed pass from deep can look like it was from Beckenbauer when played to the Pole, such is his ability to control the ball. Alex Meier may have finished top scorer but Lewandowski is the king.





Sound Of Football Extra: The Premier League First XI




On this week's Sound Of Football we selected the first XI for an imaginary World League Cup taking place in the summer somewhere in the middle east. The decision was a collective one but we all brought our own selections along and argued it out over the course of the podcast.

The aim of this XI is to produce a team that will compete in a competition rather than picking a team of the season (although there is a lot of crossover).

My original selection is below.

Goalkeeper


David De Gea - Manchester United

It is no surprise that the 24 year old won the player of the season award for his club. United are resurgent under Louis van Gaal but they have needed their 'keeper in top form while they seek to resolve their defensive issues.In a hastily arranged team such as this with little time for training, a player with his concentration will help calm the nerves of an unfamiliar back four.


Full Backs


Nathaniel Clyne - Southampton

The former Palace player is pretty much the complete full back. Defensively astute and capable in attack. Really should be starting for England in my opinion.


Joel Ward - Crystal Palace

My line-up, my rules.Yes I know there are better fullbacks but Ward is consistent and conservative. Just what you need in a scratch back four.

Centre Half


John Terry - Chelsea 

You can't tell me that with his international career over, the Captain, Leader and Legend wouldn't relish the chance of getting stuck into another international tournament. A model of consistency on the pitch and seemingly uninjurable. Sign him up.

Gary Cahill - Chelsea

In for a penny, in for a pound. This is the centre back pairing that won the title. What's not to like?

Centre Midfield


Mile Jedinak - Crystal Palace

The Socceroo captain has not been as influential for his club since his return to Selhurst from the Asian Cup. Some people will argue that he would not get into the best Palace XI and they would probably be right. That being said Eagles' skipper is still a formidable presence in what is likely to be a tasty middle of the park. His very recent success in the Asian Cup makes him an ideal choice for this team.

Cesc Fabregas - Chelsea

Flawless all season. King of the assist makers. Didn't need any time to settle into the Blues team when he arrived and leaving him out of this side would be lunacy,

Attacking midfield


Yannick Bolasie - Crystal Palace 

Applauded of the field at Anfield, Bolasie is in red hot form and is likely to get better. The hard working Congolese international was at the Africa Cup Of Nations this year and an ideal choice to play in this new international tournament.

Alexis Sanchez - Arsenal

More on the basis of his form earlier in the season the Chilean may be knackered but can win games on his own. He can also turn top class defenders inside out. Once of the few genuine world class players in the Premier League,

Eden Hazard - Chelsea

See above only better. The Belgian has delivered week in and week out. 9 assists and 14 goals last season and and inspirational figure.

Striker

Glenn Murray - Crystal Palace

Sergio Agüero - Manchester City

26 goals and 8 assists. Kept his head in a team that often lost there's. Harry Kane would have made the cut in the team but the Argentine has the stats and the pedigree for me.

Find out our final selection  here.





Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Schalke - blood in the dressing room may lead to the front office


There is an old saying in English that warns of exposing your dirty washing in public. The smells emanating out of the Schalke 04 dressing room were such that it would have been best to keep the door firmly closed until laundry day.

Last Sunday’s malodorous display against FC Köln in which the Königsblauen were reduced to a smear has prompted Schalke’s sporting director (a man for whom the expression under fire barely does his position justice) to suspend three players, two for the duration of their contracts and another for a week.

Midfielder Kevin Prince-Boateng (above) and attacker, Sidney Sam are the two players placed on gardening leave for the duration of their contracts. Marco Höger is suspended for a week while the club judge his commitment to the team.

The Prince has never come across as a true blue and his suspension is the least surprising in what is a pretty unexpected turn of events. His performances have been inconsistent and at time he has genuinely appeared uninterested. The club has made it clear that he will not be returning.

Sidney Sam's expulsion is slightly harder to fathom. The German winger who joined last summer has contributed little but has spent much of the season on the treatment table. Presumably, this decision is based upon his impact in the dressing room. It certainly can't be on the basis of his on the field presence.

If this trio of players have created a bad smell in the team then it's quite appropriate to deal with them accordingly. It's not uncommon for players to be dropped or sent to the reserves or put on the transfer list before being quietly shuffled out of the club at the earliest opportunity.

But to go public with what is a matter of internal discipline is surprising to say the least. For one thing the value of these players in the transfer market is reduced drastically as potential buyers know there is a motivated seller. It also speaks to the insecurity at the top of the club, namely from their sporting director, Horst Heldt.



Heldt took over at Schalke in 2010. In his tenure he has seen head coaches Felix Magath, Ralf Rangnick, Huub Stevens, Jens Keller leave the Veltins Arena. As each coach departs the sense that the club's status has diminished, grows.

Heldt sacked Keller despite his respectable performance and qualification for the Champions League on two consecutive seasons. He was not seen as suitably inspirational which led Heldt to select a high profile coach in former Chelsea boss, Roberto Di Matteo in October of last year.

The change in management has not resulted in an improvement in the club's prospects. Despite the wealth of young talent bursting through the ranks, S04 are easily the most boring team to watch in the top half of the Bundesliga. They are lousy in transition and their cautious approach has cost them wins, especially against 10 man Bayern Munich in February.

Indeed, the Gelsenkirchen club have managed only one win in the last seven game and now sit in 6th place, the final Europa League qualifying spot. The Royal Blues are out of the Champions League which is a blow to their pride as well as their wallet.

Worse still, they have hated rivals Borussia Dortmund threatening to overtake them. This would be beyond the pale given the problems BVB have had this season.


Granted Schalke have lost key players such as Julian Draxler (above) and Klaas Jan Huntelaar through injury. But this doesn't appear to mitigate matters in the eyes of many supporters and Di Matteo's approach make him a deeply unpopular coach.

And now this latest affair which has led some fans to ask why, amidst all the player suspensions, Heldt himself should not be considering his position. From the outside, this looks like the final desperate act of a man who knows that if the team does not get six points from their last two games against relegation threatened Paderborn and Hamburg, nothing will save him or his coach.