A look at Marcos Lopes’ break out performance by @TypicalBlueMoon

lopesdribbleswh
Marcos Lopes is held in high regard by City chiefs and City fans alike, and the 18-year-old showed the neutral just why with a man of the match performance against a full strength West Ham side last night.

Manuel Pellegrini fielded a strong team despite having a healthy 1st leg lead, which more or less indicated his desire to win every possible game, whether it’s a final or a dead rubber.

It was the usual fluid 4-2-2-2 formation with Aguero and Negredo upfront, Navas on the right, Lopes on the left, Fernandinho in box-to-box role, and Garcia the deepest midfielder.

Performance:
With so much emphasis on offensive movements under Manuel, it’s imperative that players on the either flank put in a shift to help out the defence. Lopes provided just about the perfect cover possible for Clichy, preventing any possibility of overloading of wide areas by West Ham.

You don’t generally see an 18-year-old so aware of his defensive duties, which is why Marcos’ performance stood out. One would expect him to fizzle out towards the latter stages of the game due to his tireless running throughout, but it wasn’t the case, which showcased his desire to keep going.

Even with his defensive duties, he didn’t lose his effectiveness offensively, constantly making runs in the final third, shifting into pockets of empty space, getting into good positions, and making himself available to receive the ball.

His spatial awareness is as good as anyone in his age group, maybe even better. Lopes was continuously looking to move into vacant spaces throughout the game.

lopesart1(Lopes moves into the acres of space, making himself available for a cut-back from Navas, but instead Jesus puts in a cross which is cleared)

Due to his low centre of gravity, his balance enables him to ride over the challenges and to control the ball extremely well in tight areas (i.e. Aguero’s goal and a solo run towards half time), as if the ball was glued to his feet.

He used his pace to good effect, knowing when to accelerate and leave his marker for dead. So it came as no surprise that he made 4 dribbles, with only Kun (7) making more amongst City players yesterday. He is blessed with quick feet and has more than decent pace.

lopesart2(Lopes makes a run in a completely unmarked area but Navas, who had an off day, over hit the cross and couldn’t direct it)

Marcos looked calm and composed on the ball and was not hasty in making passes, a common drawback one can see in inexperienced players. Even when he lost possession, Lopes was determined to win the ball back. His work ethic and tenacity warrants special praise, and he made 5 successful tackles, with only Fernandinho (6) making more in the match.

For someone of his physique, the former Benfica youth fearlessly went into 50/50 duels against a fairly physical Hammers. He also displayed his intelligence as a player by putting his body right behind the ball and thereby reducing the risk of losing the ball and helping in drawing a foul.

Lopes put it on a plate for Negredo’s opener, literally. The ‘Beast’ didn’t even had to move, just directed the ball towards the back of the net. Horrible defending by West Ham, I must add.

The second goal was purely about Lopes’ brilliance. He showed exceptional balance, taking on 3 players before pushing the ball through to Aguero. Technically speaking, the ball fell to Sergio from a deflected pass and hence doesn’t count as the youngster’s assist as per the widely accepted Opta method. That takes nothing away from him, though.

The only area where I felt Marcos could have done better was putting more weight in few of his passes. His passes were fairly accurate (88% completion rate is impressive) but he could have pushed the ball out with a more effort a few times so that it reached his team-mates a fraction quicker.

With our next game being against Watford at home, Lopes has a good chance of retaining his place in the team after a great performance against West Ham.

Follow @TypicalBlueMoon on Twitter and share your thoughts on this article with him.

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Dzeko & Hyde – The Goat chimes in

edzeko
Edin Dzeko has split opinion among City fans for the two years he has been at the club.

He is a prolific goal scorer and has dragged us out of some tough situations with crucial goals, none more important than the second against QPR on that famous day.

But despite a good goal return, many City fans are still unhappy with him. He often looks disinterested and can be anonymous for most of the game.

Top clubs are demanding more than “just” goals from their strikers now. Look at Mario Gomez, a goal machine at Bayern Munich, but who contributed little else and was sold to Fiorentina. It can be argued that Dzeko falls into this category.

The arrival of Negredo who is just as prolific in front of goal but works non-stop for the team and puts opposition defences under constant pressure has highlighted Dzeko’s flaws.

What is more frustrating is there are times when you can see just how good Dzeko can be. He didn’t score against Bayern Munich but led the line superbly, making himself a handful for Bayern’s defence. If he played with such vigor and intensity every week, there would be no complaints.

But again – Dzeko scores plenty of goals, a luxury many clubs don’t have with their third choice striker. He has 10 goals in 21 appearances this season, a number of them from the bench. So is the criticism unfair?

City cult hero Shaun Goater chimed in on BBC Radio Manchester yesterday, and was fairly critical of the Bosnian Diamond, but offered advice.

“Someone should put their arm around Edin and explain that the reason the fans don’t always get on with him is because his work rate needs to improve.

“In fact, you know what, I will go and tell him myself.

“In the early days I had similar problems with the City fans because they thought I was too laid back.

“But instead of taking it personally I was determined to rectify it and modelled myself on my team-mate Paul Dickov, who was the hardest-working player at the club.

“I followed him everywhere in training and it worked. In the old days a lot of us players attended supporters’ club meetings and took a lot of stick face-to-face, but at least we knew first-hand where the fans’ attitude towards us was coming from.”

Dzeko has a number of interested suitors across Europe and might flourish more in a team where he is the one-and-only, the centerpiece of the team as he was at Wolfsburg.

But with an attitude adjustment, there is no reason he still couldn’t be a huge part of City’s future. Pellegrini likes him, but will no doubt want more out of him after seeing glimpses of just how good he could be.

Barca v City – things about to get a little Messi

Image

Courtesy of City Blog writer The ItaliA.N.

Barcelona, Man City, and the Dirty War…

To understand the political nature of a club like Barcelona you need only look at the treatment of one Johan Cruyff.  Made honorary president in 2010 by outgoing president Joan Laporta, at the time, Cruyff ‘s influence on the club was directly responsible for all of the success the previous decade had brought.  From Rijkaard to Guardiola, the tiki-taka football which saw Barcelona sweep all before them had its roots in a philosophy Cruyff brought to the club first as a player, then as a manager, then finally as de-facto advisor to Laporta and Txiki Begiristain.

This title, which was akin to the freedom of the Camp Nou, was unceremoniously revoked by incoming president Sandro Rosell only a few months after Cruyff received it, as the battle lines between the former board and the new board began to take shape.  Cruyff claimed Barcelona owed his charitable foundation money, Rosell claimed Barcelona weren’t going to pay the money until they understood what it was for, and Cruyff retaliated by saying “I will not go to Camp Nou as long as Rosell is president at Barcelona”.

At the same time as going to war with Cruyff, Rosell also went to war with the previous board of directors, in particular Ferran Soriano. Soriano, the current Manchester City CEO, was Vice-President of Finances under Laporta, and was accused by Rosell and his team of spying on Nou Camp employees and going so far as to hiring private investigators to access the private emails of these employees while on the board at the club.  The claims were made in a lawsuit filed in Catalonia by Barcelona F.C against Soriano. City’s response to the allegation was to describe Barcelona and their directors’ behaviour as a “dirty tricks” campaign. Barca went on to accuse “Manchester City directors” of trying to poach Barcelona players and staff as hostilities became more public.

These incidents, although for the most part, a tit-for-tat game between huge ego’s in the world of football, have had a significant impact upon Barcelona.  The biggest impact, and one which is hotly refuted by a Catalonian press in denial, is Pep Guardiola leaving his managerial post at the club.  Although Guardiola had always insisted he would not coach Barcelona “forever”, he left abruptly in the summer of 2012. Privately, Pep was hugely disappointed by the treatment of first Cruyff, his hero and mentor at Barcelona, and then Laporta, Soriano, and Begiristain.  The four men had been instrumental in bringing Pep to Barcelona as a coach, and then in giving him successive promotions until he was coach of the Barcelona first team. He owed his managerial career to them and found it difficult to work under Rosell who so angrily and publicly disavowed the former board.

The knock on effect of Pep leaving wasn’t felt in the first half of the 12/13 campaign as his former assistant Tito Vilanova stepped into the breach and tried to continue Pep’s footballing philosophy. However, Tito’s ill health meant he had to step down in the summer of 2013 and Barcelona quickly replaced him with Tata Martino.  Martino was seen as a safe pair of hands due to his relationship with Barcelona’s golden boy Lionel Messi. His appointment also meant that all of the coaching ties with Guardiola’s golden era at the club had been severed once and for all.

Last week’s back-to-back defeats at the hands of Ajax (Cruyff will have been grinning like a Cheshire cat no doubt at the final whistle) and Athletico Bilbao, have given rise for many to now question Martino’s credentials. Keen Barcelona observers have been dismayed to see the devolution of the ‘Barcelona way’ as Martino’s team play a more direct style of football to the tiki-taka of the last decade.  The question the Barcelona faithful dare not ask though is how do the players feel?

Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Busquets, Pique, Valdes, Puyol, Pedro, et al, were all players who came of age during the Laporta/Guardiola years.  They were part of a winning club, but more importantly, part of a football club that prided itself on its traditions, on its history, and on its place as a footballing forerunner. Players, now older, some of them coming to the final stretches of their careers. The men who brought them to the club, molded their careers and helped them achieve unparalleled success they’ve experienced, have all left. At the club they have spent their whole career at begins what is an inevitable process of transition, it’s little wonder players such as Iniesta are stalling on renewing their contracts.

We woke this morning in England to stories that Barcelona were preparing a bid for Sergio Aguero. Catalonian newspaper Sport claimed Aguero had gone so far as to inform City manager Pellegrini that he wanted to move to Barcelona.

Is it coincidence that this story comes so close to recent press reports linking Lionel Messi with a move to Manchester City?

Anyone who has followed the ongoing rancor between City and Barcelona would have to say “absolutely not”.  Barcelona are a club in transition, playing football in a league which is financially on the brink.  Barcelona’s finances are no different.  They generate huge amounts of income, but also carry large amounts of debt which limit how much player trading they can do.  They certainly are not a club who need to sell to buy, not by a long stretch of the imagination.  However they are also staring down the barrel of a squad which needs significant refreshment regardless of outgoings.

Raising the funds for this refreshment is something they will have to do at some point.  As they saw in the summer of 2013 when their number one target Marquinhos moved to Paris, the competition for player acquisition at the highest level is as fierce as it has ever been, with subsequent transfer fees and wages being much more inflated than they have ever been.

Transferring Lionel Messi would of course be political suicide for Rosell. The notion of this happening and Messi moving to Manchester City to rejoin Soriano and Begiristain must be ageing Rosell prematurely.

However, it is foolhardy for them to try and fight fire with fire by linking themselves to Sergio. City have recently tied him down to a new long-term contract, and in today’s marketplace his transfer would have to be a world record fee.

Even if Barcelona could afford this fee without selling players of their own, they would need the will of the selling club, and it’s unlikely that City will sanction the sale of their best player to a club with whom they have such bad relations.  Sadly for Barcelona, with Iniesta’s contract coming into its final 12 months, and Messi’s buy-out clause being one which Sheikh Mansour is rumoured to be prepared to pay,  they will struggle to keep those players if City are seriously interested.

What this means for the watching world is a Catalonian soap opera played out in front of the world’s footballing media over the next six months.

City’s World Cup roll-call and absentees

brazil-world-cup-2014
31 of 32 countries have now qualified for next year’s World Cup in Brazil. Not so long ago it wouldn’t have meant much for City, but the takeover led to a influx of footballing superstars, several of whom will be there in 2014. So who made it, who missed out, and what about those who haven’t been playing for their country but may have a chance?


DEFINITELY

Joe Hart (England) – England’s number one showed yesterday, despite one rush of blood to the head, that he is still comfortably England’s best goalkeeper. It is that lack of a challenge for club and country that may actually be hurting Joe, but he will be on the plane. One can speculate about whether he will still be a City player by the time the World Cup rolls around, but yesterday’s performance surely did his chances of winning over Pellegrini no harm.

James Milner (England) – A popular scapegoat when things are going wrong for England (taking that role from Gareth Barry), Milner’s contributions to the national team are underappreciated by a nation that prefers speed merchants who run with their heads down. Milner provides crucial defensive contributions in tougher games while at the same time being a decent threat going forward. He may not be as dangerous as a Walcott or Townsend, but does the dirty work like helping out full-backs, and this is why many top managers value him more than fans seem to.

Samir Nasri (France) – Speaking of scapegoats, Nasri was public enemy number one after France’s first leg loss to Ukraine and was dropped yesterday. He is only just back in favour with France boss Didier Deschamps and it may be a little bold to put him in the “Definitely” category, but his form for City has been so good that it’s unlikely he’ll miss out.

Gael Clichy (France) – Clichy is another who has had his struggles for the French national team, often behind Patrice Evra in the pecking order, but he will certainly be on the plane as every squad needs depth and he is always in the France squad, even if not a regular starter. There have been times when he has started over Evra, but his club form must improve if he’s to be France’s first choice left-back.

David Silva (Spain) – City’s little magician could walk into any of the world’s national teams besides Spain, but it’s a constant battle for his place in his national team with so many creative maestros available. Silva has the likes of Mata and Cazorla to compete with, but coach Vicente del Bosque regularly uses him in the big games and trusts him to perform. Only an injury or serious loss of form could jeopardise Silva’s place at the World Cup.

Jesus Navas (Spain) – Say what you will about his City form, with fans sort of split on his performances so far, but as Spain’s only old fashioned winger Navas is always in del Bosque’s plans and often used as an impact sub. The speedy winger has 34 caps for Spain, but that total would be much higher had he overcome chronic homesickness issues earlier. This is a player that Chelsea had a big money deal in place to sign when he was just 21, only for said homesickness to ruin the deal. Navas is still finding his feet in England, but will almost certainly be off to Brazil.

Vincent Kompany (Belgium) – A major no-brainer, the captain of Manchester City and Belgium will lead his country to their first World Cup since 2002, with this incredibly gifted set of players a dark horse to go far in the tournament. Kompany’s greatest threat isn’t a defender nipping at his heels, but his own injury problems that continue to sideline him regularly.

Edin Dzeko (Bosnia-Herzegovina) – Another obvious one, Dzeko is a national hero to Bosnians and if you’ve ever read his thread on the Bluemoon message board, you’ll see that even the idea of dropping Dzeko would probably lead to the government being overthrown there. Not that he has to worry about being dropped, having scored 10 goals in qualifying. This will be Bosnia’s first World Cup since gaining independence, having last been there in any form as part of the old Yugoslavia at Italia 90, and the Bosnian Diamond will undoubtedly be there.

Sergio Aguero (Argentina) – If there was even an inkling of doubt about Aguero’s involvement in next year’s World Cup, it has disappeared faster than United’s joy of winning the title before his legendary goal in May 2012. Aguero has been in incredible form for club and country, scoring a brace the other day against Bosnia. It may be a controversial opinion, but Aguero has been outperforming his close friend Lionel Messi so far this season, though the two can play together in the same team. Aguero could well be one of the stars of Brazil 2014.

Pablo Zabaleta (Argentina) – Overlooked by previous Argentina boss Diego Maradona, Zabaleta wasn’t even in the squad for the 2010 World Cup, but with Alejandro Sabella now in charge, Zabaleta is a regular at right-back for his national team. He now plays most of Argentina’s big games, with only Inter’s Hugo Campagnaro and Catania’s inexperienced Gino Peruzzi (a player City looked at last summer) offering any real competition.

Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast) – This will be Yaya’s third World Cup and considering he will be 31 by the time Brazil 2014 rolls around, may well be his last. A talisman of the Ivory Coast national team for years along with brother Kolo, Yaya will hope to get Ivory Coast out of the group stage for the first time. There have been rumours of Yaya quitting international football for a while now, with the African Cup of Nations tearing him away from City at important times, so there is a real chance this could be his international bow with the next AFCON not until 2015.


MAYBE

Joleon Lescott (England) – Lescott has fallen out of favour with the national team, his peripheral role at City often given as a reason for this (despite the fact he has played more Premier League minutes than Chris Smalling this season). Whenever called upon by England, Lescott has performed solidly and in some cases really impressed, such as when he and Jagielka kept out Spain in England’s 1-0 friendly win over the world champions in late 2011. He has been linked with a move away from City in January and were that to happen, weekly starts might improve his chances.

Micah Richards (England) – It may even be stretching it to call his chances a “Maybe” as even when he was in peak form during the title-winning season, Micah was overlooked by the national team. Only his former City manager Stuart Pearce, during his very brief stint as caretaker boss, has shown much interest in Micah, playing him against the Netherlands in a friendly last year. Micah’s injury record doesn’t help, and now that he is fit looks far from the level he was at in the 2011/12 season. However, an improvement in form and a regular run in the team could give him an outside chance of boarding the flight to Rio.

Alvaro Negredo (Spain) – It seems almost inconceivable that a player in Negredo’s form could miss out, but it’s a possibility. Negredo has scored goals for club and country this season, but Diego Costa’s decision to choose Spain over Brazil suddenly casts some doubt on Negredo’s chances of making Spain’s World Cup squad. As impressive as Negredo has been for City, Costa has been even better for Atletico Madrid, though has to replicate that form for Spain. It is possible that both will be included, but there are others such as Fernando Torres and Roberto Soldado in contention, so Negredo has to keep working hard.


THE OUTSIDERS

Jack Rodwell (England) – In terms of natural ability, Rodwell is one of the most talented of his generation in England. Unfortunately, Rodwell just can’t stop getting injured which prevents him from making an impression for club or country. City could use another good midfield option with Garcia still struggling to impress, but Rodwell is often unavailable when the chance would be there. If he can overcome the injury problems quickly, there is a chance he could be a late candidate for the England squad, especially when players like Tom Cleverley are getting their chance in England’s midfield.

Karim Rekik (Netherlands) – Rekik will only be 19 by the time the World Cup takes place and though unlikely he’ll be there, it’s not impossible. Rekik has been in fantastic form on loan at PSV in the Eredivisie (read more about that), and was surprisingly called up to the senior national team in August, despite not even playing for the U21s yet. An injury and subsequent surgery ruined his chances of a first cap, but the recognition was there and though it might take an injury or two for him to be on the plane, don’t rule it out completely.

Fernandinho (Brazil) – Fernandinho has been terrific for City for a while now, an all-action midfielder with good defensive skills but also capable of passing through the lines and contributing to attacks. So it’s of puzzlement to many, including the player himself and several of his team-mates, that Luiz Felipe Scolari continues to overlook a player who performed well during his only run of games for the Selecao under the previous coach. Scolari’s preference for stocking up on old fashioned holding midfielders doesn’t seem to help, but Fernandinho’s ability to play either a holding or box-to-box role should make him a candidate for selection. It may take a series of injuries for him to achieve his World Cup dream, but his own comments suggest he hasn’t given up hope.

Martin Demichelis (Argentina) – The recent arrival has won 37 caps for Argentina and played every game at the last World Cup, so is no stranger to the national team. It’s been just over two years, though, since he last turned out for Argentina, against Bolivia, and coupled with his age (32) doesn’t seem to have much of a chance. Even after winning a place in La Liga’s team of the season last year, he wasn’t selected. But he is now playing for a top club in the world’s most watched league, so while unlikely, it isn’t impossible that he could win a late recall before Argentina head to the home of their greatest enemy.


STAYING HOME

Javi Garcia (Spain) – Is it presumptuous to completely rule Garcia out? Probably not. He does have two recent caps for Spain, but both were in friendlies and when the big guns were unavailable or rested. Garcia’s last appearance for Spain was against Chile in September, a match in which he was poor in his preferred holding midfield role and was later taken off. For Garcia to be selected, it would take a miraculous series of injuries to midfielders.

Aleksandar Kolarov & Matija Nastasic (Serbia) – Serbia missed out on reaching a World Cup playoff by just 3 points, meaning City’s defensive duo of Kolarov and Nastasic will be absent. A shame for Nastasic, for whom a World Cup at the age of 21 would have been a fantastic experience. This would have been Kolarov’s second World Cup, having appeared at the 2010 edition just before joining City.

Stevan Jovetic (Montenegro) – Jovetic is one of those unlucky players who may go his entire career without playing in the World Cup. You know the sort… Giggs, Best, Bale, outstanding players who happen to come from a small country with a less than impressive national team. He was only 16 or 17 when Montenegro and Serbia split in 2006, and that may have ended his chances of ever playing in a World Cup. Jovetic outshone Rooney in the “number 10” role when Montenegreo played England recently, but it was all in vain as Montenegro finished 6 points shy of even making a playoff.

Costel Pantilimon (Romania) – City’s current number one earned a recall to the Romanian side after a withdrawal, but was on the bench for both playoff games against Greece. Romania lost anyway and won’t be going to the World Cup. It’s a strange situation when Romania’s number two (sometimes number three) starts for his club over England’s number one, isn’t it?

John Guidetti (Sweden) – It isn’t an exaggeration to say Guidetti might have played in the 2014 World Cup had Ibrahimovic Sweden qualified for the World Cup last night. Guidetti was just breaking into the national team before the horror illness that sidelined him for a year, and yesterday scored two for Sweden’s U21s. The unimpressive Johan Elmander is getting games for Sweden, so the City forward would have had a real shot had Sweden made it.

Yaya Toure vs. Rodney Marsh and the power of Twitter

Social media is a powerful tool and we saw a great example of that today on Twitter.

Former City star Rodney Marsh phoned into talkSPORT’s Extra Time to give some exclusive “insider” information on Yaya Toure’s situation at City. Rodney had this to say:

“People close to Manchester City tell me Yaya Toure is not very happy and he’s one of their great players.

“When you start to hear rumblings from within the camp, and you see the way Toure played last weekend [at Sunderland], when he was strolling around and didn’t look interested, I’m wondering now if it will all go a little bit the other way.

“It looks like they’re throwing billions of pounds at players but keep coming up short. I think this season could end in tears at Man City.”

After hearing this sort of thing from an ex-pro, fans would normally be very worried and wait for any sort of denial from the player or club. But Yaya, who has been very active and social on Twitter, quickly took to to the social networking service and put the story to bed, posting a photo of himself and Kolo with this message.

https://twitter.com/Toure_yaya42/status/400624115478188032

Naturally, this led to a lot of criticism from Blues (and others) aimed at Marsh. He has been known for his wind-up comments in the past, but being a former City star is often taken seriously. He quickly went on the defensive with this tirade:

https://twitter.com/RodneyMarsh10/status/400627333578911744

https://twitter.com/RodneyMarsh10/status/400630662350114817

Footballers often make comments on Twitter and leave it at that. Very few bother to keep up with their mentions and interactions, or at least don’t respond to them. Yaya, who as mentioned has been very social since joining Twitter, didn’t miss that final tweet, though, and put this issue to bed with the same finesse as one of his free kicks.

https://twitter.com/Toure_yaya42/status/400646208563056640

https://twitter.com/Toure_yaya42/status/400650744929325056

BURN! Good night Mr. Marsh, and please grow up – you’re 69-years-old and far too old for this sort of attention-seeking behaviour.

Karim Rekik: City’s great defensive hope by @TypicalBlueMoon

rekik
City supporters have always taken a keen interest in the club’s youth setup. We have witnessed countless number of academy players who showed great promise but for some reason or the other never really made it here. But there are some players who have genuinely raised our hopes of being capable of breaking through to our star studded first-team in a few years time and among those is 18-year-old centre-back Karim Rekik.

Background:
Karim Rekik, a Dutchman of Tunisian descent, is the product of the illustrious Feyenoord academy. Since his early days, his talent was apparent and was considered one of Feyenoord’s top starlets, captaining the Feyenoord youth team. No wonder that when Manchester City poached him and his brother Omar, Feyenoord were (understandably) furious.

Rekik caught Manchester City‘s attention at the U17 World Cup and they pursued him after, eventually sealing his signature ahead of the likes of Juventus.

Rekik made two appearances for City in his first season, both in the Carling Cup where he occupied the left-back position against Birmingham and Wolves; he was only 16 at the time and was also on the bench for Carling Cup games against Arsenal and Liverpool.

Towards the end of the 2011/12 campaign, Karim was loaned out to Championship strugglers Portsmouth. He made his debut in a 2-0 victory over Hull City. Rekik finished the season with eight appearances, starting all those games, and playing the entire 90 minutes in seven. He primarily occupied the left-back position during his short stint at Fratton Park as Portsmouth were relegated following a 10 point deduction as they entered administration.

Mancini acknowledged his development in the 2012/13 season by naming him on the bench against Newcastle and handing him his Premier League debut a week later against Reading, where he played 84 minutes. Later, Rekik caught the eye of Blackburn Rovers and they secured a loan deal for him. It was a frustrating time as having made four continuous 90 minute appearances, Rekik found himself on the bench for the next 10 games, only making an appearance again 6 weeks after his debut.

Rekik is yet to make his debut for the Netherlands U21 side, but was incredibly called up by the senior Dutch national team recently, only to be forced into withdrawing due to injury.

Report:
Karim Rekik can be described as a proper modern ball-playing centre-back. His natural position is at the centre of the defence but he can be used as a makeshift left-back whenever needed. Despite his young age, he has already acquired some handy experience and has captained several teams that he has represented: Feyenoord youths, Netherlands U19s and City EDS.

Rekik comes across as a very dedicated and hardworking footballer. He revealed that upon joining City he was prone to mistakes, losing every challenge and getting dispossessed easily. This greatly affected his confidence, but he has worked hard to improve since those early days, for which City should be equally given credit since they developed a personal program for him to recover his morale and gain strength. His hard work has paid off and is now regarded as one of the best defenders in the Eredivisie (on loan at PSV) in his debut season there.

Standing 6’1″, Rekik uses his height to good effect for aerial duels and headed clearances. He is very strong in the air and has won 75% of his aerial duels in the Eredivisie so far.

Karim is capable of playing from the back, an attribute for defenders that is gradually gaining real importance. He has averaged 10.31 long balls attempted per 90 mins this season with an accuracy of 79.17% , most of which have been decisive in starting a move and few of those eventually resulted into a goal, such as Wijnaldum’s strike against Ado Den Haag.

Rekik’s physique and tremendous strength makes it very difficult to him push off the ball. He is comfortable in possession and is an accomplished passer of the ball, possessing a rich variety of passes. He has averaged 72.38 passes per 90 minutes played and completed 89.3% of them this season. Those are very impressive numbers and City will have a quality addition when he returns as the team lacks a ball-playing defender who attempts to start attacks in the mould of David Luiz or Mats Hummels.

His reading and understanding of the game is already top class and was visible in his performance against Fenerbahce in a pre-season friendly. The following image highlights his reading of the game and positioning:

rekik1

The image shows how Rekik (marked) reads Fenerbahce’s next move immaculately and swiftly positions himself ahead of Raul Meireles to nullify the attack.

To add to this, his ability to anticipate and intercept balls makes him capable of handling any striker. Rekik is well composed in any situation but at the same time does not shy away from sliding in to a tackle. His tackling technique is clean and is rarely seen in clumsy positions. It’s often the case that many defenders make panicky clearances that ultimately lead to a goal.

Rekik’s presence of mind makes him very solid in clearing the ball. He alone made 11 clearance in his debut Eredivisie match, all of which were effective (he was named as the Man of the match in his debut for PSV). One would expect a defender with physique like Karim to be on the slower side in terms of his pace. But thanks to his body balance and structure, he has plenty of pace to cover the ground when needed.

Rekik is a real commanding presence at the back, a trait that he shares with his City teammate and captain Vincent Kompany. He is as calm and composed, rarely caught in possession or divulging in reckless play. He is always up to challenge for ground or aerial 50-50s and his leadership qualities can be seen in the way he conducts himself on the pitch.

You can see him instructing his teammates, asking them to push forward and at the same time making his defenders aware of any runs that the opponents’ attackers are making. His mere presence has a calming effect on the PSV’s backline, with Karim taking the role of organising the defence (fascinatingly similar to a certain Belgian centre-back).

Being robust and backed up with his awareness, he can be very effective in dealing with any target man. He uses his body to good effect to shield the ball away from danger and in 1v1 situations. Rekik is one of those defenders that every team likes in set-piece situations because of their physical presence.

One common flaw in young players is concentration. The City defender isn’t much different. Another drawback of his game is his tendency to pass the ball back to the goalkeeper often. Given the relentless pace at which football is played in Premier League, teams can ruthlessly exploit this. At times Karim tends to commit early which gives the opposition player an extra split second to make a decision. His decision making can be susceptible at times as shown in the following image.

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The image is from the Champions League qualifier against AC Milan at the San Siro. Here, instead of closing Boateng down, Rekik tried to back off and block the shot which turned out to be a poor decision as Boateng scored from 20 yards out.

Since joining PSV Eindhoven on loan, his consistency and understanding with Bruma has been remarkable. To his credit, Rekik hasn’t allowed his recent success to go to his head, a factor which has led to the faltering of many promising young players in the past. He has managed to impressed all his coaches and has received glowing praise from the likes of Roberto Mancini, Michael Appleton, Patrick Vieira, Louis Van Gaal, and Phillip Cocu.

Rekik recently had to undergo an ankle surgery which kept him out for around a month. Around the same time rumours emerged that PSV would ask City if they could extend his loan deal for second season, with talks planned for December. Interestingly, PSV won 55.56% of their matches when Rekik started compared to winning 33.33% when he didn’t.

Karim Rekik once said in an interview that his dream is to represent the Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup. Given Louis Van Gaal’s admiration for the young centre-back and his progress at PSV, it won’t be surprising at all to see him in Brazil next year.

Patrick Vieira’s quote last year sums up City’s hopes for the young defender: “Karim Rekik has so much talent, if he doesn’t make it here then it will be a big failure on our part.”

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M.E.N newspaper – a new low

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We’re not one for conspiracy theories when it comes to the media.

In general, writers do tend to let their own club-leanings set the theme…

The Manchester Evening News, however, has always divided opinion as to where it supposedly stands in the pro-blue/red debate.

And it certainly won’t do much to enhance its reputation (or readership) if the headline in Friday’s ‘The Diary’ is anything to go by – let’s put it this way – even the sports desk would have said ‘no thanks’ to this one!

United show City who’s in the big league for visitors

The intro starts: City might be getting the better of United on the pitch at the moment – but at the Manchester Tourism Awards on Wednesday night the Reds and Blues proved to be in a different league.

Both clubs actually won awards for their stadium packages but the MEN thought it was still a good laugh (and worthy of a double page spread) that City won the Small Visitor Attraction of the Year – awarded for attractions with fewer than 50,000 visitors a year – beating the likes of Dunham’s Red House Farm (who do a mean hot chocolate by the way)

And United landing the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year – open to those with more than 50,000 visitors a year – and up against the Manchester Museum and the National Football Museum.

We look forward to the M.E.N balancing the scale when City’s leisure site is pulling in six million visitors a year.