Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has accused football of focussing on ‘business’ as opposed to the well-being of the players with fixtures coming thick and fast at the beginning of the season.
After the shortest pre-season in Premier League history, there has been no let up for clubs who are left to deal with various domestic and international fixtures.
City, for example, will play eight matches before 31 October, including two Champions League clashes, with players also expected to travel for international duty. Speaking ahead of Sunday’s visit of Leicester, Guardiola claimed he has only 13 fit senior players and said his squad are ‘not machines’.
“Nobody cares about the players. It is about the business,” he said pre-match, via the BBC. “The reality is what it is. It is not just Man City, it is all the clubs and countries. Nobody cares about the players.
“Everyone – the Premier League, UEFA, EFL – has defended their own business and position. The players had a two-week pre-season and now they have to play every three days for 11 months. We will not change anything saying the opposite.
“I understand it is an exceptional situation for everyone – restaurants, theatres, cinemas, museums. Everyone is struggling. We are not an exception. We have to believe in what we are doing and try and play a good game.
“We have three players who came back from national teams injured. We cannot control that. They let them play two games in four days without preparation. They are not machines.”
City welcome the Foxes without Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Aymeric Laporte and Ilkay Gundogan for Sunday’s clash, while striker Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero will be sidelined for three and seven more weeks respectively.
That means Guardiola could hand a Premier League debut to 17-year-old Liam Delap, who scored on his club debut in the Carabao Cup victory over Bournemouth in midweek.
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Robert Lewandowski has been one of the best strikers in world football for the best part of a decade now.
He had never really gotten the recognition he truly deserves, but following his ridiculous 2019/20 season – where he was the main man in a Bayern Munich side that won absolutely everything – he’s been showered with praise and is the favourite for most awards he’s been nominated for.
He has been, quite simply, the best player on the planet this year.
Let’s take a look at the reasons why he deserves to win this year’s UEFA Player of the Year award – as if you need reminding.
Bayern are the best team in the world at the moment. It’s not even close, and Lewandowski has been key in Bayern becoming that generational side.
Although this is an individual award, what is the point of winning if you haven’t helped your team succeed in the process? Don’t Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo get the awards when their clubs win trophies?
With 34 goals in 31 games, it’s no surprise that Lewandowski won the Bundesliga Footballer of the Year award. He was so good Thomas Müller awkwardly nicknamed him ‘Robert LewanGOALski’.
Despite telling such a poor dad joke, Müller had a point. The man scores goals, is a truly masterful finisher and was the best player in Germany last year.
Aside from Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo is the only player to record 15 goals in a single Champions League campaign.
Sure, Ronaldo has done it three times, which is a bit ridiculous, but regardless, Lewandowski is the only other man to produce that many goals in Europe’s elite competition.
Plus, he did it in a coronavirus affected season, which meant fewer games because of one legged ties. 15 goals in ten games at the highest possible level is phenomenal.
Luka Modric and Virgil van Dijk both had super seasons when they won their UEFA Player of the Year awards, but whether they truly outperformed Messi and Ronaldo remains open for debate.
This is the first season where a player has been quite clear of the two greats, which is saying a lot considering they both still had seriously good individual years.
Messi and Ronaldo may well be back on top next year but this year Lewandowski has been the main man.
Lewandowski might never win a Ballon d’Or and if that happens, it’ll quite possibly be the biggest robbery since football began.
Lewandowski even told Polish outlet Sportowe Fakty that he deserved to win the award: “We won everything we could with Bayern. In every competition – Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League – I was the top scorer. I think a player who achieves this would win the Ballon d’Or.”
The player knows himself that he was the best player in the world and he deserves to be recognised by others as the best as well.
Southampton clinched their first points of the season with a 1-0 victory over Burnley on Saturday evening, as Danny Ings proved to be the difference once again for the Saints.
It took the visitors only four minutes to break the deadlock, after Kyle Walker-Peters split the home defence with a lovely through ball, and Ings was on hand to tuck away Che Adams’ excellent cut-back. The first half then passed with little incident, as both sides cancelled each other out.
The second period was equally as gritty and dysfunctional, with Burnley trying (and failing) to break down an extremely stubborn Southampton side. The South Coast club saw out the game expertly to earn their first win of the new campaign, condemning the Clarets to another defeat.
Let’s take a look at the player ratings from a stale evening at Turf Moor.
Nick Pope (GK) – 6/10 – Beaten to the ball by Adams in the buildup to Ings’ opener, and had little else to do on a disappointing evening.
Phil Bardsley (RB) – 6/10 – A typically dogged performance from Bardsley, who gave Djenepo the rough treatment throughout the game. Probably should have been sent off at some point.
Kevin Long (CB) – 6/10 – The best of the defensive bunch tonight. Left exposed from the off by his teammates, but did the rest of his duties well.
Jimmy Dunne (CB) – 5/10 – A tough evening for the youngster. Beaten too easily for the goal, and struggled to keep up with the tireless Adams, and the sly Ings.
Charlie Taylor (LB) – 6/10 – A fortunate 6. Taylor’s flank was ripped to bits after only four minutes, and Burnley were left chasing the game from then on. Not brilliant.
Josh Brownhill (RM) – 6/10 – Can’t really remember him doing anything bad. Not too much good, either. Scored a good goal in midweek though…I think.
Dale Stephens (CM) – 7/10 – Stephens slotted in like he’d played for Burnley all of his career. Solid addition to the squad.
Ashley Westwood (CM) – 5/10 – Possibly suffered a neck injury from watching the ball sail over his head for 90 minutes. Must be wondering why he bothers.
Dwight McNeil (LM) – 6/10 – The only guy with any spark in this side. So when he’s not on fire, then it’s damp squibs all over the shop.
Matej Vydra (ST) – 6/10 – Never quite looked like scoring tonight. And that’s kind of his job.
Chris Wood (ST) – 7/10 – Robbed of an excellently taken goal in the second half by a suspect offside decision and a frustratingly early whistle. Did his usual battering ram stuff and headed the ball a lot.
NONE. LITERALLY NONE. ARE YOU WITH US SEAN?
Alex McCarthy (GK) – 7/10 – Dealt with a bombardment of crosses very well, facing every ball with exceptional bravery. Pulled off a great save to deny Taylor in the second half.
Kyle Walker-Peters (RB) – 7/10 – Cut the Burnley defence apart with a beautiful through ball after only four minutes. Struggled to defend against the power and guile of McNeil, but stuck to his task.
Jann Vestergaard (CB) – 7/10 – Wasn’t quite as at ease as his partner, but refused to be intimidated by the fearsome presence of Wood and Vydra. Resolute.
Jan Bednarek (CB) – 7/10 – No defender must fancy coming up against Wood, you’d think. Bednarek clearly relished it though, going toe-to-toe in this physical battle. Repelled everything.
Ryan Bertrand (LB) – 7/10 – Excellent both in defence and attack, nullifying the forward advances of Brownhill and pegging Burnley back with his runs in behind.
Stuart Armstrong (RM) – 6/10 – Never really offered anything on the offensive, but he’s always up for a bit of graft. Dogged games require workers, and that’s what he was today.
James Ward-Prowse (CM) – 8/10 – Such a lovely player. Class stood head and shoulders above the abysmal football on show. Controlled the game for Saints, also offering his services at every given opportunity.
Oriol Romeu (CM) – 7/10 – A bitty, gritty player that broke up the play and rhythm all afternoon. If this game had a face, it’d that that of Romeu.
Moussa Djenepo (LM) – 6/10 – On the wrong end of some nasty tackles and sly fouls by Bardsley, but never gave up the fight. This is English football, enjoy.
Che Adams (ST) – 8/10 – Did brilliantly to lay Ings’ opener on a plate, cutting the ball back smartly. Did all the running up top, working the defence from side to side and always looking to play in his partner. An underrated Robin to Saints’ Batman.
Danny Ings (ST) – 8/10 – Tapped home the opening goal with ease, to get the scoring underway. Lurked in dangerous areas, waiting for something to drop his way.
West Ham United are lining up a move for Club Brugge star Hans Vanaken in the summer transfer window, but the Hammers will have to part with a substantial fee to land the exciting midfielder.
Coach David Moyes is desperate to add some reinforcements to his squad, having lost the opening two games of the season, and he is particularly keen to inject some goals into his midfield alternatives.
So, Vanaken could be the ideal candidate to save West Ham this season, given he has scored four times and assisted twice in Club Brugge’s opening six matches. The Belgian star has also played his way into the national team of late, and his admirers are growing rapidly.
But a source close to the Hammers has stated that the east London club are preparing a bid for the 28-year-old, ahead of the transfer window’s closure on October 5, according to Football Insider. However, Vanaken’s current contract runs until the summer of 2024, meaning David Sullivan and David Gold will have to stump up a significant sum of cash to land the goalscoring midfielder.
He is considered to be one of the best in his position in Belgium, and boasts an impressive scoring record, bagging 74 goals in 250 appearances and also notching 56 assists. These statistics are hard to ignore for a club like West Ham, who are severely lacking goals in their side – other than the recently prolific Michail Antonio.
Moyes will be concerned by the Irons’ pointless start to the campaign, losing 2-0 at home to Newcastle United on the opening day, then following that up with a late defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Those results have already plunged fans into panic mode, and they could face a real battle to survive this season, should they not bring in some fresh faces.
UEFA announced the shortlist for their prestigious Player of the Year award earlier this week and the three-man list looks a bit weird if we’re being honest. No Lionel Messi? No Cristiano Ronaldo? What is this sorcery? Ahhhh it’s 2020, of course it’s unpredictable, uncomfortable and slightly odd.
For the first time since the award’s inception in 2011 neither of the two footballing behemoths have been named in the final three, however, it’s difficult to argue with the final contenders in all fairness.
Manuel Neuer and Robert Lewandowski have pretty much completed football with Bayern Munich this season, but team accolades shouldn’t be taken into account here.
The third member of the shortlisted trio is undoubtedly the most deserving of the gong and you’re about to be convinced that UEFA’s Player of the Year for 2019/20 should be the gifted, the mesmeric, the magical, the irreplaceable Kevin De Bruyne.
No player in Europe notched more than the 20 assists De Bruyne laid on for his teammates throughout the 2019/20 league campaign, subsequently equalling the Premier League record set by Thierry Henry in 2003.
But don’t be fooled into thinking the City man is just a creative midfielder. His tally of 13 goals in last season’s edition of England’s top tier is hardly a measly return, in fact the figure would have seen him finish top scorer in ten of the other 19 top-flight teams.
Over De Bruyne’s 35 games in the Premier League he produced 33 goal contributions – just shy of one every game. Not bad in arguably the most fiercely competitive league in Europe.
It’s all well and good praising Neuer and Lewandowski for performing in easily the best side in Europe – De Bruyne was churning out five star performances in a team with Nicolás Otamendi at centre-back.
It would be amiss to suggest City aren’t a team full of superstars, however, last season they were pretty woeful at times, though the midfielder continued to produce magnificent displays and almost single-handedly dragged his side to second spot in the Premier League.
If we’re being honest, UEFA could have named any of about five Bayern players in their shortlist – no other City player was getting in the top three.
The Belgian endured a nightmare 2018/19 campaign, suffering two nasty ligament injuries and spending almost half the season sidelined.
Many players fail to recover from such bad knocks, however, the Belgian didn’t just bounce back to regain his place in the City side, he broke Premier League records.
To recover the way he has done doesn’t require just physical strength, it requires mental strength and he’s done superbly to not just return to his former brilliance but to exceed it.
Before his injury-ravaged season of 2018/19, De Bruyne notched 16 and 18 assists respectively in the two season prior. That means that in just three full seasons he’s notched an astonishing 56 assists.
Very few players can perform at such a high level under such intense scrutiny, but to do so continuously for the majority of his time at City deserves recognition.
I mean it’s probably the best reason of the lot, right?
The award for the best player in Europe should be given to the best player in Europe, surely that’s just simple maths?
Yes Neuer is a decent shot-stopper and yes Lewandowski’s finishing is pretty special, but neither of them possess the all-round game of the brilliant Belgian.
Strength, pace, stamina, composure, finishing ability, an eye for a pass – there is absolutely nothing this man cannot do.
To seamlessly dictate football matches and pull the strings like De Bruyne does – and not just for a few games of the season – EVERY single game, that deserves recognition, and ultimately that is why Kevin De Bruyne should be named the UEFA Player of the Year.