Eventful year for Willy Caballero at Man City

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Willy Caballero culminated as an incredible goalkeeper for Manchester City after his extraordinary penalty save in the 5-3 Champions League victory over Monaco. One year ago, there was an online petition signed by the City fans in order to persuade the then-boss Manuel Pellegrini to leave the cup keeper out of the Capital One Cup final. They asked him to select Joe Hart instead. Caballero played in the match, collected his Winners’ medal and became the City No.1.

In the span of 12 months, Pellegrini and Hart have moved on to China and Italy respectively. Caballero is now the first choice keeper of Pep Guardiola at the Etihad. His contract is ending this summer and there are speculations that the City boss could offer a new deal to the 35 year old at the end of the season.

This has been an incredible turnaround for a keeper who was considered as a competition to Hart after his move in July but became a nervous and hesitant flop.

Pallegrini picked out Caballero knowing about his qualities from the time together at Malaga. They were a part of the run to the quarter finals of the Champions League in 2013. The Chilean considered him as a potential rival to Hart and thought that he would push the highly rated England keeper to get better.

Willy had to struggle during the first 18 months due to individual errors and indecision that created uncertainty throughout the defence.  Pellegrini believed in him as a keeper for the domestic cup competitions. But he committed mistakes on their run to the Capital One Cup final in the third round win over Sunderland and semifinal first leg defeat at Everton.

He was blamed for the 5-1 defeat FA Cup defeat at Chelsea one week before the Wembley final against Liverpool. Pellegrini was put under pressure to make a change but he refused saying that he would rather lose a title than to lose his word and there was no chance of Willy not playing the match.

He made the right decision as Caballero became the unlikely hero in the penalty shootout victory. His spot kick saves from Lucas and Philippe Coutinho helped to put City ahead. When Adam Lallana arrived to take the fourth penalty, Caballero was indomitable. He was fluently diving full length to his right in order to keep out the effort of the England midfielder.

It was a spectacular moment for the Keeper and he received a lot of affection from the City fans after the Capital One Cup final. It looked like a glorious ending to a difficult two season at the Etihad and he was expected to move with his old ally Pellegrini as Guardiola came in. But surprisingly he allowed the England keeper Hart to go on loan to Torino and Caballero remained in the team.

He was driven in to the action for the Champions League clash with Barcelona when Bravo was suspended in November. In January he was chosen over Bravo for the Premier League clash with West Ham. There were flaws in his performance and Caballero took responsibility for Radamel Falcao’s fist goal. But he made up for it with the penalty save that put Monaco 3-1 ahead and another save at the dying minute which provided a two-goal advantage to City. This has been quite a turnaround for a keeper whose future looked desolate at the initial days.

EFL Cup is the beginning for Man Utd and Southampton’s end

TOPSHOT - Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho holds up the trophy as Manchester United players celebrate their victory after the English League Cup final football match between Manchester United and Southampton at Wembley stadium in north London on February 26, 2017. Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealed the first major silverware of Jose Mourinho's Manchester United reign and broke Southampton's hearts as the Swedish star's late goal clinched a dramatic 3-2 victory in Sunday's League Cup final. / AFP / Ian KINGTON / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)

“The reality is I want more” were Jose Mourinho’s words after the EFL Cup final win over Southampton on Sunday. He chose to say this out of everything else and this was among the least surprising. After all he is a manager who has won 21 trophies in the last 13 years of his career.

He talked about Man United’s third or fourth biggest priority success and also mentioned that the plan is to work on bigger things now. In the press conference after the game, Mourinho said that he is relieved finally. He is relieved about the fact that they have won and also they have defeated Southampton who played very well in the season. He also said that he can delete one more competition from his mind as it is over now.

Mourinho didn’t seem overwhelmed after the victory even though he insisted that he was. His glum expression suggested that he was about to embark on his humility acts while praising the unlucky saints. Another reason was because he knew that this was rather a beginning for them and not an end.

The victory was just a staging post for Manchester United but it would have been the greatest moment in 41 years for Southampton. They defeated United in FA Cup in the year 1976 and the win would have represented the pinnacle for many players. They had fairly remarkable but relatively low-key achievements since there return to Premier League in 2012 and the EFL Cup victory would have provided them a tangible reward.

This victory has brought back the winning mentality at Old Trafford but their last major domestic trophy didn’t do much good to the manager. Louis Van Gaal’s sacking news leaked even before he could put down the FA Cup down on his own post match press conference.

Van Gaal lacked consistency and achievement in the league and Mourinho needs to improve Man United from here. United have maintained a comforting constant position since past few months and they have been in the sixth in place since November despite being unbeaten during this span. This shows how bad the start of the season was for them and how relatively mediocre the rest of the division is.

Mourinho’s season has been a transitional one for Manchester United. They have spent a lot on their squad and even though they have been depending on a 35 year old to bail them out of questionable positions, if they continue with their league form they will improve their position. The team is still a work in progress and with the Champions League qualification and atleast one trophy, it will turn out to be a decent first season for Mourinho.

It wouldn’t be a huge stretch to say that Claude Puel’s side deserved something more than an 87th minute defeat on Sunday. Southampton’s neat summary might be described as a dominating a game but not winning it. They have lost six games out of the eight games in the league. At this point of time, Southampton’s season is about treading water and for them it was virtually the end. But for Manchester United it could be another beginning.

Pochettino questions the Readiness of Tottenham to win Title


Mauricio Pochettion thinks that Tottenham is not ready to win a title and they need to build themselves in the summer. In the beginning of the month they were hunting three fronts this season but they slipped up in the Premier League. After the defeat against Gent in Europa League, the Spurs are now down to one.

The FA Cup is also full of hurdles. If they overcome Millwall in the quarter finals, Tottenham still have to defeat two of the league’s top six in order to put an end to their wait for the silverware. Pochettino’s squad may have to chase for a place in the top four that will resume on Sunday at home to the ninth placed Stoke.

Pochettino and his players need to work a lot more in order to achieve something that Tottenham never did before. Pochettino believes that the expectations have been pushed higher this season as they had finished second, third in the league last season. But he thinks that the Spurs are not ready for a win yet. They need to build a strong foundation first.

The most important thing for him is the club and he also said that their chairman has built the foundation. They have new facilities on the ground and new stadium in order to build a better and stronger and bigger club.

They need patience to work hard and to build a stronger team with addition of players that can achieve the goals. Tottenham cannot compete with the clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City in the transfer market as they have restricted spending power due to the construction of new stadium.

Pochettino has maintained the same set of players this season and Victor Wanyama was the only new addition from last summer to have made a positive impression, whereas, Vincent Janssent, Moussa Sissoko and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou were all seen struggling.

Pochettino believes that football is more about quality and being clever. He said that they need to add quality to the team in order to improve. This is not the right time to talk and Tottenham needs to find quality players with the right profile to play for the club. Tottenham will be without Danny Rose and Erik Lamela due to their injuries.

Mark Hughes said that he cannot rule out Stoke being thumped by Tottenham once again. But the Potters boss is confident about his players and he thinks that his players are in a better shape now than the last time both the teams met in terms of their chances to score a positive result against Tottenham.

Stoke have been defeated by 4-0 by the Spurs in their last two meetings. The recent one was in September during a sequence in which Hughes’ team failed to win any of their opening premier league games of the season.

They bagged three victories in this weekend’s clash at White Hart Lane. Hughes said that his team has improved a lot after the game in September. He is hoping for a positive result for his side this time. He said that his team his ready to shine bright and sharp. Xherdan Shaqiri is all set to come back to Stoke’s matchday squad after missing the last three matches due to calf injury.


Leicester City right to dismiss Claudio Ranieri


Leicester City had a remarkable Premier League triumph during the 2015-16 campaign but even before kicking a ball this season, there has been an ominous change of mood in the club.

A press conference was held by Leicester Manager Claudio Ranieri at the club’s Belvoir Drive training ground two days before facing the FA Cup winners Manchester United in the community shield at Wembley. The manager complained about the attitude of the players during the pre season and he also talked about the 19 Azure blue sports cars gifted to the players for winning the title three months earlier by the owner of the club Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Ranieri said that it is more important to think about the matches and not cars. He was irritated at this gesture as it was distracting his players from the challenge ahead. His employers have been pulling back the players backward towards the prolonged celebrations of summer rather than focusing on the upcoming challenges.

Ranieri experienced the changed mindset of his players at Leicester’s Los Angeles training base last summer. His players were happy with the beautiful company of Santa Monica and they were also enjoying the photo shoots with actor Will Ferrell. But they could not do much on the pitch and they were defeated by Paris Saint-Germain with a score of 4-0.

Ranieri was looking for more than the maximum and he was not happy with their performance in Los Angeles. He said that the players lacked the same mentality and even though they were working hard but they were not working as a team which made all the differences.

Ranieri saw the danger signs for his team but he was unable to prevent the team’s fall from grace. His fear of complacency went unheeded. The players stumbled on their achievements and forgot to rediscover their magic.

Ranieri was sacked on Thursday after being told on 7th February that he had the unwavering support of the ownership. He was sacked in less than 24 hours after Jamie Vardy’s first goal of 2017 in a 2-1-first-leg away defeat against Sevilla gave Leicester genuine hope of progression to the Champions League quarterfinals. They may have the chance to get there but now they have to do it without Ranieri.

Leicester City is just one point above the Premier League relegation zone and their priority is to survive in the game. The owner of the club believes that the team has a better chance of surviving in the game with someone else as the in charge of the team. That could be either Roberto Mancini or Alan Pardew or may be even Nigel Pearson.

If no one is appointed as in charge of the team by Monday, assistant manager Craig Shakespeare and first team coach Mike Stowell will take the responsibility when Leicester host Liverpool at the King Power stadium.

The decision of sacking Ranieri might seem brutal but considering what he has achieved last season this seems to be the right decision. Not all fairytales have a happy ending and for Ranieri it ended in a hard way but the time in Los Angeles suggested that he was aware of what was coming his way.

In an era of supreme egos, Man United grateful for Lingard’s presence


Manchester United have seen their successes with some of the outstanding performances by the stars but the club would have been nowhere without their squad players. They play without any fuss and step in at any moment and perform beautifully just the way they are asked to. Managing the squad players is not an easy task and some club fail to maintain the balance with the squad. This requires a perfect combination of temperament and talent. Jose Mourinho may be grateful to Jesse Lingard for his presence in this era of supreme egos.

Lingard’s style of playing is sometimes significant of the roaming Swedish winger, Jesper Blomqvist who provided the much-needed thrust in the final third for Man United. Lingard did not have an extremely remarkable season but he definitely had a good one. It was above average and could be called as a 7 out of 10 performance. But a 7 is what United need most often.

Lingard was introduced at half time against St. Etienne in the Europa League. Marouane Fallaini was looking cumbersome against the visitor’s fleet-foot midfield and that is when Mourinho called for Lingard. The England international’s dynamic drive helped his team to bag a 3-0 victory which is a score as deceptive as Old Trafford will see all season. United could have conceded a late equaliser before Zlatan made the game. Lingard helped to stretch and spread the play before that point of the game as Rashford made the breakthrough for United’s crucial second.

This year has seen a lot of low points for Lingard. He showed a poor performance in the first half against Manchester City at home in the derby loss in the Premier League. This was a game where City seemed to play a game from the realms of science fiction. He also had a struggling match against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup. This year can be summed up for him in one line- ‘his execution is not as good as his work ethic’.

It is difficult to see how it could go wrong for Lingard as he offers intelligent movement of the ball and a considerable speed on the counter attack. He has scored the most spectacular goal in the recent history of Man United that claimed the club’s first trophy of the post Sir Ferguson era, the 2015-16 FA Cup. It was rare moment when Lingard took the centre stage.

There were a great number of obstacles before him and there may be one or two instances where he could not believe that it would all work out despite his robust self-belief. Now Lingard has a value in the squad that is more than the numbers and goes beyond the pitch. He has been vital in Pogba’s settling in on his return to Old Trafford. He is a great stand in when Juan Mata is withdrawn. With United’s great success this year and next year, Lingard’s name might not be on the billboard but he will definitely be a proud part of the supporting cast in bold letters.