Man City’s £500m revenues explained: Football Finance expert Kieran Maguire talks to Lewis Steele

Lewis Steele, on behalf of City Watch, spoke to football finance expert Kieran Maguire about the Manchester City accounts that were released today:

Manchester City announced profits for the fourth consecutive year in their annual financial report, which was publically released on Thursday. City posted total revenues of £500.5m and a profit of £10.5m.

The club become only the second English club in history to surpass £500m in annual revenues, and only the fifth club to reach this figure, along with Manchester United – who release their results next Tuesday – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

It has been known for the past five years or so that Manchester City are here to stay at the top table in terms of footballing ability, having won three Premier League titles in seven years. However, it is becoming evident that the club are becoming a global elite that soon will be renowned as a ‘super-club’, not too far below the perch of the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

August marked the ten-year anniversary of the infamous takeover of his highness Sheikh Mansour, on that dramatic day that saw Robinho sign for the club.

At the time, many pundits and speculators predicted the money would dry up. The narrative was that City would potentially win a trophy or two, but then the Sheikh was to ‘get bored’ and walk away, leaving a trail of next to no business plan behind him.

Those predictions were false. City now have a sustainable model that has a clear plan, led by Sheikh Mansour who has a dream to build a global corporation that could change the game forever, whilst ripping up and re-writing the record books on the pitch in the process.

But, what do these numbers mean? Lewis Steele spoke to football finance expert Kieran Maguire (@KieranMaguire) to crunch the numbers and gain a qualitative perspective beyond the numbers on City’s results released on Thursday.

Maguire is a lecturer in football finance at the University of Liverpool and runs the website priceoffootball.com, which analyses the financial side of football. Often, PriceOfFootball is looking at the negative state of play at clubs such as Hull or Newcastle, but today’s results are exciting ones for all Manchester City supporters.

All graphs to follow are credited to Kieran Maguire and PriceOfFootball.

The key figure that will take the eye of fans is the simplest one: income. City sit second in the ‘table’ for income, with Manchester United’s 2017 accounts showing United as leading the way.

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It should be noted that the results from the other ‘big six’ clubs are taken from their 2017 results, and also that Arsenal and Liverpool’s figures should change due to the Champions League, be it not making the competition for the former or progressing to the final for the latter.

Maguire explained to City Watch: “City have the fifth highest match-day income in the Premier League. A combination of not being in London, fewer tickets available to football tourists and relatively low ticket prices have the club a way behind its rivals. City fans will welcome the ticket prices of course.

Where City have excelled is in relation to commercial income. The club is far less reliant on links with Abu Dhabi companies than a few years ago, and it is essential this area is used as  much as possible. It’s common knowledge that United’s commercial department are ruthlessly efficient but City have done well to take the number two position.”

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City lose out on match-day income but more than make up for it in broadcast and commercial income. City’s record-breaking season meant that they were often subject to being chosen for TV coverage and also the club constantly agreed new commercial partnerships for the new season, including the much mocked deals with Etisalat and Tinder, to name a couple.

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In the income split since the takeover stats, it is particularly pertinent to look at the decrease in the match-day income percentage when compared to an increase in the commercial income percentage.

In 2006, match-day income accounted for a quarter of City’s annual income. Twelve years later, it accounts for 11%, with commercial and broadcast incomes increasing in percentage.

From this, it could be said that City do not heavily rely on match-day income and quite literally, sadly, getting fans through the door isn’t the biggest concern financially. Should a club of City’s size reduce ticket prices, for example, it would not affect them massively, which is a belief that many German clubs have applied—that’s a debate for another day.

Being a big club obviously comes with drawbacks. City have a plethora of costs. The main costs for a club of City’s size are players, in terms of both wages and amortization, which is the cost of a transfer fee spread over a contract.

Maguire notes: “It’s a bit difficult comparing wages to the previous season, as City in 2017 produced accounts for 13 instead of 12 months, but they rose by about 6%. Partly due to bonuses paid for winning trophies, and partly due to increasing staff numbers by about a quarter.

Expect United’s wage bill to be close to £300m when the results are published next week. What is good from City’s point of view is that the club does have control over this area, and is paying only £52 in wages for every £100 of income, a vast improvement from a few years ago.”Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 23.44.02

One big insult thrown in the face of City’s fans is along the lines of: “well, City have bought the league”, implying that Pep Guardiola’s men only won because the club had an open chequebook to throw around and sign whoever they want, regardless of the price.

Maguire says: “This is one in the eye for anyone who claims that City have bought success, as in the last five years in particular wages have been under close control.”

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 23.44.08In the early days of the Sheikh revolution, the wages/income percentage figures looked worrying, with City admittedly spending big money and often being made to over pay for players to tempt them to City, at a time when English domination was a dream rather than a reality.

Now, City do not have to pay over the odds. Obviously, if they sign the best players, they still have to pay them big money. But now, it is more that players see the project at the Etihad and want to join regardless of the money.

From a City perspective, one thing is particularly striking from the above graph. Around 2013, the figure suddenly drops, and remains consistent to this day.

Perhaps coincidentally, director of football Txiki Begiristain joined the club in late 2012. The ex-Barcelona winger and director of football has ran City’s transfer business excellently and is an expert negotiator, albeit sometimes has been criticized for missing out on big targets such as Alexis Sanchez and Jorginho due to his stubborn nature.

In the year to 30 June 2018, City spent £328m on players. Maguire said: “City spent £328 million on players in the year to 30 June 2018, a record amount. This was certainly a contributory factor to the club’s success, but has been followed by relative austerity as the accounts also show the net spend since then is only £42 million.”

With all these gritty numbers, the one that will make the headlines is the magic P word: profit.

Maguire told City Watch: “Profit is income less costs. There are more types of profit than there are bizarre excuses from Mourinho when United lose a match. The one we’ve used here is called EBITDA and is commonly used by analysts to work out how much cash profit a business makes from day to day trading.

City’s EBITDA profit was £125 million last season and further evidence that the club is on a solid footing. The investment in the early days of Mansour ownership saw heavy losses, but as City became established at the top table of the Premier League and regularly qualified for the Champions League these turned into profits.”

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 23.44.14In the first five years following the takeover, City recorded a loss. Sheikh Mansour’s strategy seemed rash, as he invested heavily at the start of his reign, but with successes on the pitch, many factors contributed to the fact that City are now a profitable organization.

Today’s results are definitely pleasing from a Manchester City perspective, with the future looking bright.

Maguire concluded: “The future looks good, despite broadcast deals starting to show signs of evening out, as other revenue sources can make up for them, and effect all clubs, not just City.”

City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak spoke about City’s excellent results on and off the pitch, and stated: “Our journey is not complete and we have more targets to fulfil.”

“Most of the developments visible today are the result of a carefully crafted strategy – one in which organic evolution has also been allowed to thrive”.

The report states that Mansour has amounted to “more than £1.3bn over the last 10 years”.

Sheikh Mansour’s money has certainly not dried up and as Manchester City continue to grow on the pitch, their finances grow in a similar fashion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Match Review: Manchester City v Newcastle United

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-02 at 10.15.27.pngManchester City earned maximum points with a 2-1 victory over a stubborn Newcastle side at the Etihad on Saturday evening.

Raheem Sterling opened the scoring early on with a deft finish, curled past Martin Dubravka in the Newcastle goal.

With their first real attack of the half, Newcastle equalised through DeAndre Yedlin, who latched on the end of a Rondon cross. The American had a tap in at the back post, despite the best efforts of Gabriel Jesus, who was the last man back as Benjamin Mendy failed to get back – much to the anger of captain David Silva.

Despite a poor showing in the first half, Pep Guardiola’s City stepped it up in the second, despite not creating many clear cut opportunities. Kyle Walker scored his first goal for the club with a thunderous strike from distance, which proved to be the winning goal in an interesting encounter in Manchester.

Talking Points

City’s English trio the best of a star studded bunch 

In a game where City didn’t really excel at their blistering best, the performances of John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker were exceptional.

With Benjamin Mendy back in the side, Raheem Sterling has thrice been deployed in a left wing position, allowed to cut inside and roam. At the World Cup, we saw that centrally, he is an exciting player, but he didn’t really have the players around him making movements as he does at City. From the left, his impact on the game is felt more and his goal was a well taken effort, not too dissimilar to his strike at the Emirates on the opening day.

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John Stones told BT Sport after the game that he is trying to work on five attributes:

“Clean sheets, defensively be more solid, become more of a leader, everything that comes with being a defender,” he said.

“Aerial duels, crosses into box. I never stop learning. I have got a lot to improve on in my game. They’re a few I want to improve on this season.

So far this campaign, Stones is showing all of them. I was at the game, so see things you don’t on the TV: off the ball, Stones is more and more commanding every week, encouraging players around him. He also looks extremely calm with the ball at his feet and is ever improving off the ball.

The third Englishman, Kyle Walker, showed again that he is probably the best right-back in world football, with another athletic display on and off the ball, that is not to mention his goal of the month candidate.

De Bruyne’s absence is felt

It says a lot that at half time, one of the trending topics was Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian is rumoured to be doing well in his recovery, but is still the best part of six weeks away from a return to action.

With City’s wide men looking good, there were a few times when you thought “De Bruyne would have done better there”.

Pep Guardiola’s men missed a cutting edge or a drive from midfield to great extent, not just against Newcastle, but against Wolves the week before.

There were a few times where David Silva received the ball on the counter attack, with half the pitch to drive into – Silva is great, but this is De Bruyne’s forte.

Again, the ball broke on the edge of the box and was cleared – City fans collective murmured “who’s there?!”. De Bruyne would have been there, popping up at the right time to unleash a shot.

City got the three points yesterday, so it doesn’t really matter, but the quicker they can get their star man back, the better, as they look a bit lost without him at times.

Rafa’s Newcastle prove they should have enough to stay up 

Newcastle have been on the receiving end of 2-1 defeats to Spurs, Chelsea and now Manchester City. Rafael Benitez will feel extremely hard done by, as his side have been very unlucky on all occasions.

The Magpies didn’t have it in them to take on City and try and win the game, Benitez was realistic about that. Thus, as he did against Chelsea and Spurs, he put 10 men behind the ball and tried to absorb pressure.

For the most part, it worked – City looked frustrated and void of options at times, often having to pass sideways in a ‘U’ shape as forward passes were unavailable due to Newcastle’s tight and rigid structure.

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As a fan of football being played at a fast, fluid level, seeing teams ‘park the bus’ is frustrating, but sympathy has to be given to teams like Newcastle. Without Rafael Benitez, the team would be relegation favourites, as they don’t have a star studded line up by any stretch of the imagination – Rafa is realistic and knows that the defensive style is the best way to win points.

Newcastle enter the international break on the back of three narrow losses against big teams, but there is a lot of positive signs. Many (better) teams will go to The Etihad and lose by a bigger score this season, and that is testament to the solid Benitez outfit, that will have enough to stay up.

Player Ratings

City: Ederson 6; Walker 7, Stones 8 (MOTM), Laporte 7, Mendy 6; Sterling 8, Fernandinho 6, Silva 7, Mahrez 6; Jesus 6.5, Aguero 6.

As has been highlighted, the English trio at City was pleasing for City fans. Another bright spark was Aymeric Laporte, who seems more at home in Pep’s side every week. The partnership of himself and John Stones looks set for the future, with the duo born just one day apart and both with the twilight of their careers well ahead of them.

It was a quiet afternoon for the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Sergio Aguero for City. The former made his first home start, but struggled to impact the game. He often went long periods without seeing the ball, and his replacement Bernardo Silva instantly injected some pace and purpose about City’s play.

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Newcastle: Dubravka 8; Yedlin 7, Clark 6, Lascelles 5, Fernandez 6, Dummett 5; Kenedy 6,  Diame 5, Ki 5, Perez 6, Rondon 6.

The highlight for Newcastle today was the performance of Martin Dubravka, who is proving himself as a crude buy from Sparta Praha. The Czech goalkeeper looks a great shot stopper, but also seems more than capable when he rushes from his goal to close down attackers and made the right decision a number of times in the game at the Etihad.

The midfield duo of Mo Diame and Ki Sung-Yeung struggled at the Etihad. They struggled to get the ball off City, which is nothing to judge them by, as not many midfielders in the world do get the better of City’s midfield. However, neither looked to have a creative spark and apart from their goal, Newcastle hardly threatened Ederson’s goal, highlighting their lack of creativity. Had Shelvey been playing, Newcastle may have created more.

Player of the Month: August

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The first month of the Premier League season is already over. New players managers are now getting used to their surroundings, the top clubs are already heading towards the top of the table and some big names are beginning to earn their worth.

August was a month of teams getting gritty victories, individual talent setting alight games and some of the stars of last season already making their name heard in the 2018/19 campaign.

But who was the best player on show in August, across the league? Here, I take a look at some of the players who have excelled in the opening month and who deserves a shot at the August ‘Player of the Month’ award:

Sadio Mané

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Key stats: 3 goals (in 3 apps)  

Egyptian Mo Salah won all the plaudits last season for his unprecedented goal-scoring haul, with Roberto Firmino also earning deserved praise for his role in Liverpool’s Champions League run and attacking displays in the league. This meant that the third of the attacking trio went under the radar.

His name is Sadio Mane. The Senegalese international is as talented as the other two and could be just important for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side going forward if they are to challenge Guardiola’s City for the title.

The decision to swap shirt numbers from 19 to the vacant 10 following Coutinho’s departure was symbolic and reflective of the fact his reputation at Liverpool is growing into a player ready for responsibility and talismanic traits.

Whilst Keita and Milner have been excellent for Liverpool, Mane has been the standout performer in August, delivering encouraging showings against West Ham and Crystal Palace.

If Liverpool are to push all the way for the title, Mane will need to continue his early season form and carry on chipping in with goals to take the burden off Salah and Firmino.

Roberto Pereyra

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Key stats: 3 goals (in 3 apps)

Tipped as one of the favourites to face the drop, Javi Gracia’s side have been the surprise package of the early weeks of the season. Whilst it is indeed very early days, achieving maximum points in the month of August is not to be understated.

The star of The Hornets success has been Roberto Pereyra. The Argentine was signed by Watford in 2016 for a then record fee but has been blighted by injuries and subsequently failed to hit any consistent form.

Once dubbed the next star of Serie A, Pereyra was poached by Udinese at the age of 18 and his performances earned him a move to Juventus. He managed 52 appearances in his first season at the Old Lady but failed to impress in the following year so was sold to Watford, where his new boss Walter Mazzarri said he would rather Pereyra than Pogba.

Perhaps now settled in to his surroundings in England, Pereyra is starting to win plaudits. Gracia deploys him as a left attacking midfielder in a 4-2-2-2 formation and it is starting to pay dividends.

His performance against Brighton especially was noteworthy as the Argentine used his excellent positional sense and on the ball abilities to glide into the Brighton box and score two goals.

Lucas Moura

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Key stats: 3 goals (in 3 apps)

After a stagnant spell at PSG, it took Lucas Moura half a year to settle in at Tottenham.

Yet, on Monday night, Lucas Moura showed more than glimpses of the teenage sensation he was when he burst on to the scene at Sao Paulo as a 19 year old, when he nearly moved to Manchester United in 2012.

Lucas’ career looked to be spiraling away quickly in Paris, so he made the gutsy decision to leave the club he dreamed of making it at to join Spurs, coached by one of Europe’s most coveted coaches: Mauricio Pochettino.

In the second game against Fulham, Pochettino decided to play Moura as a second striker, playing off Harry Kane.

So far, that educated gamble is paying off, with the Brazilian netting three goals in two, including a brace at Old Trafford.

His new role gives a new dimension to Spurs’ play and takes some of the goalscoring burden off Harry Kane, allowing Spurs to have the chance to launch a real bid for the title as they now have more power on the counter attack.

Benjamin Mendy

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Key stats: 3 assists, 1 clean sheet, 25 crosses, 7 tackles (in 3 apps) 

It may well be the most overused phrase of the season thus far, but Benjamin Mendy really does feel like a new signing for Manchester City. The Frenchman spent most of his debut season in England watching from the stands or recovery rooms following his knee injury in September.

Whilst Fabian Delph provided ample cover at left back, City lacked a direct threat going forward, often meaning Leroy Sané was City’s only attacker on the left flank. Mendy has come in and changed that massively.

The man who was signed from Monaco for causing City problems in their Champions League exit in 2017 has been a weapon for City going forward thus far this season, used in slightly different roles each week.

In the league opener against Arsenal, Mendy played an inverted full back role, discussed in our Talking Tactics feature on that fixture. He helped out in the midfield in a tricky away game, whilst often marauding forward to create chances himself. He setup the goal for Bernardo Silva’s eventual winner, as well as assist Raheem Sterling’s opener.

Against Huddersfield, Mendy played in a wing back role. He excelled in this position and was City’s main source of attacking prowess down the left as he peppered Ben Hamer’s goal with crosses, a couple of which leading to goals.

Mendy has added a new dimension to City’s game and has been a bright star in Guardiola’s side.

Jorginho

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Key stats: 92.01% pass completion, 1 goal (in 3 apps)

 Jorginho was signed from Napoli along with manager Maurizio Sarri so unsurprisingly he looks at home in this Chelsea team, probably grasping Sarri’s concepts the easiest thus far.

After a shaky afternoon in the Community Shield, the Brazil-born Italian international has looked comfortable alongside Ngolo Kante in midfield. He adds a new dynamism to Chelsea’s midfield that has been lacking for a few seasons and is an astute passer.

In the game against Newcastle last weekend he registered a stat that would prove why Guardiola was so interested in his services: Jorginho completed 158 passes – 25 more than the whole Newcastle team. This stat summarizes Jorginho’s style: he is a dictator that will pull the strings in the midfield, just what Chelsea have missed.

Maurizio Sarri was willing to risk a friendship with Pep Guardiola to sign Jorginho from Napoli and his decision is showing to be well educated, with the midfield maestro starting his career at the Bridge with flying colours.

Notable mentions go to:

Naby Keita, Richarlison, Marcos Alonso, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Aymeric Laporte

Don’t agree? Let me know who you would pick instead.

Match Review: Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 22.56.37Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham heaped more misery on Manchester United and Jose Mourinho by inflicting a second successive defeat on the home side, with a 3-0 victory thanks to goals from Harry Kane and Lucas Moura.

Mourinho’s side were on the receiving end of an embarrassing defeat at Brighton last weekend and although the performance against Spurs was much improved, United saw no dividends, as a clinical Spurs side exposed the weaknesses of the hosts.

In the first half, it was United on top. Romelu Lukaku missed a clear cut chance when Danny Rose sold Lloris short with a backpass and that was one of many chances United had in a half that they should have took the lead. Despite this, Spurs had a penalty turned down for an obvious foul by Phil Jones.

Spurs scored two goals in quick succession via a Harry Kane header and Lucas Moura, before the latter netted again with a brilliant goal on the counter attack.

Talking Points

Spurs are the real deal 

It’s that time of the year again. We are not even a month into the season and fans are starting to re-think their pre-season predictions that Spurs won’t have enough to challenge for the title. Just like last season and the season before that, those fans are starting to think: “Wait a minute, Spurs are the real deal!”

By now, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. It would seem that reports of the demise of a good old title race are greatly exaggerated. Whilst Man City may be too good for the opposition, Spurs have now joined Chelsea and Liverpool (and Watford) in maintaining their 100 percent start to the season.

Pre match, Harry Kane said to be considered as real title contenders, Spurs must win at places like Old Trafford. The World Cup golden boot winner has his wish.

A lot of the talk going into the season for Spurs was whether they had enough goals beyond talisman Kane, or whether there was a potent threat on the counter charge, as well as criticising Spurs’ transfer window, which saw zero new faces.

Whilst not signing a player may still come back to bite them, Lucas Moura is looking like a new signing.

Joining in January from PSG, the Brazilian had a tough start to life in North London, but in the first weeks of the new season, he is looking worth the money. He was the man of the match tonight and gave Spurs a dimension that we have not seen before. He was good in possession, made clever runs off Harry Kane in the central role but more importantly he scored two goals.

If Lucas and Spurs can carry on this form, Spurs will be right up there in May. They now have a settled squad with young but experienced players that are entering the better part of their career. Lucas will take some of the burden off Harry Kane, which will allow Pochettino’s men to thrive.

Alderweireld shows United exactly what they are crying out for 

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As has been highlighted previously, United’s issues run deeper than on the pitch. Part of that argument was the inadequacy in past transfer windows. One main target for United this summer was Spurs’ Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld, who Woodward refused to pay big money for, citing his age.

The Spurs defender, who started consecutive league games for the first time since November, was a wall at the back for Spurs.

The impact of Lucas feeling like a new signing has been noted, but keeping Alderweireld at the club is a deal is as important to Spurs as any reinforcement would have been.

As he was against Fulham last week, Alderweireld was dominant at the heart of the Spurs defence, snuffing out United attacks and using the ball brilliantly. His reading of the game was excellent and after a nervy start for the away side, Alderweireld was the best player on the pitch, alongside Lucas Moura.

It is no surprise Jose Mourinho wanted a defender so much, as he had to sit through another painful defensive performance. Last weekend, Eric Bailly put in a laughable performance at the AMEX. This week, it was both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, who both had calamitous evenings, not to mention Ander Herrera, who started as an auxiliary centre-half ahead of Victor Lindelof who came on and looked no better.

Alderweireld and Vertonghen both look sharp and the defensive duo that has been blighted by injuries for the best part of 18 months look to be back to their best. As for United, defensive issues could cost them a lot of points this season.

Time to go, Jose? 

After three games, it would be rash to call for any managers head. It would be an overreaction of epic proportions to say Jose and United are completely out of the running this season.

But… if any inferences are to be made, they are to be extremely negative ones.

“Goals are an incredible vitamin and goals conceded are an overdose of fatigue”

The words of Mourinho after the whistle were, as ever, confusing yet interesting. He obviously believes his side deserved much more than the scoreline suggests. Evidently, Mourinho feels sorry for himself and his ‘United’ dressing room that he swore by and emphasised in the post match interview with Sky Sports’ Geoff Shreeves.

It was better than the display on the south coast last Sunday, but a 3-0 loss at Old Trafford is unacceptable.

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Next up for Mourinho’s men is Burnley, Watford and Wolves. Anything less than nine points will see even more questions asked of United, in fixtures they should win but on the same token, games that are far from easy.

Should United not turn this dreadful start round, the vultures will start to circle faster and the Portuguese coach could be heading for an early door in his third season in Manchester.

Player Ratings

United: De Gea 4; Herrera 4; Smalling 2, Jones 2; Valencia 6, Matic 5, Fred 6, Shaw 7; Lingard 7.5, Pogba 3; Lukaku 5.

The back three were terrible from start to finish. Jones could have and was lucky not to give away a penalty in the first half for a clumsy challenge, lost his man on Kane’s corner and was lucky that he wasn’t punished from other set pieces. Smalling was at fault for at least one of Lucas’ strikes, and Herrera looked out of place in the back three, despite looking good on the ball.

If any positives are to be drawn on an individual level it is the performance of Jesse Lingard, who was United’s best player, especially in the first half. Off the back of a good World Cup, Lingard was a constant source of energy, starting attacks and linking play well. A couple of times he played the simple ball rather than shooting or passing forward, which he must improve.

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Spurs: Lloris 7.5; Trippier 7, Alderweireld 9, Vertonghen 7, Rose 6; Dier 7, Dembele 6; Eriksen 8, Alli 6; Kane 8, Lucas Moura 9 (MOTM).

Lucas Moura has put his name forward for August’s player of the month in the Premier League with another great performance. The two goals were well taken, especially his second, which came from a run down the middle through the defence. Lucas adds a new dimension to Spurs’ attack, which must be pleasing for Pochettino.

Harry Kane, who isn’t fully fit, looks to be adding more to his game each week. Today brought a goal and assist for Spurs’ main man, as he dropped deep more often to support the buildup, something Pochettino has clearly been working on. After the international break, Kane will be fully fit, which is surely a scary thought for defenders.

Match Preview: Wolves v Manchester City

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Wolverhampton Wanderers host the champions Manchester City in the early kick off on Saturday in what proves to be a blockbuster affair at Molyneux.

For the home side, it has been a start that is below the par many outsiders expected of Wolves, but is very early days and some players have shone already.

Manchester City head into the game in the form they finished last season, on the back of dismantling Huddersfield Town at the Etihad last Sunday.

I take a look at both sides, as well as some of the key factors that may impact the way this affair will swing on Saturday.

When? Saturday 12:30pm

Where? Molineux

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Last League Meeting: Wolves 0-2 Man City (April 2012)

Odds: H 12/1; A 2/7; D 6/1.

Team News

Club record signing Adama Traore impressed off the bench last weekend and is expected to make his first start, which will frighten the young City defence.

Wing back Matt Doherty is fit despite being forced off with an injury in the loss to Leicester.

For City, Claudio Bravo is set to miss the best part of the season with an Achilles tendon injury suffered in training this week. In response, City have recalled teenage goalkeeper Arojarnet Muric from a loan spell at unofficial sister club NAC Breda.

David Silva is set for his first 90 minutes of the season after completing an hour in an impressive performance against Huddersfield last weekend.

Wolves Predicted XI: Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Moutinho, Neves, Jonny; Traore, Jimenez, Jota.

City Predicted XI: Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Mendy; Fernandinho, Gundogan, D. Silva; B.Silva, Aguero, Sterling.

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Molineux awaits in expectance

It has been a far from easy start to life back in the Premier League for Wolves, but their attractive brand of football has caught the eye of many neutrals.

Nuno Espirito Santo will stick to his principles, and not be one to change his ways and sit back just because one of the big boys are in town.

He said this week: “We do not know how to play another way. We will not change because we want to build something”.

If that is so, this could be an exciting tie. With City playing their possession based game high in the Wolves half, they may be susceptible to the counter attack, especially if Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker play as high up as they have done so far this season.

With this being the first big team to visit Molineux since their promotion, the crowd will be up and the roar when they enter the City half will be deafening.

Ruben Neves is a player that has been courted by Pep Guardiola and City as a potential replacement for the ageing Fernandinho. The Portuguese midfielder has enjoyed a positive start to life in the Premier League after an eye catching season in the Championship. Will he use this game as an audition to Pep Guardiola and managers of other clubs?

What cards will Guardiola play from his stacked deck?

In the 6-1 victory over Huddersfield, Guardiola’s bench included the likes of Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sané and Phil Foden – and that is not to mention the fact their star man, Kevin De Bruyne, is sidelined for a few months with a knee injury.

To say City have an embarrassment of riches is an understatement, but this creates a selection headache for Pep Guardiola. The Catalan coach, as we have seen in the Amazon Prime ‘All or Nothing’ documentary, will be sat in a room on his laptop plotting how he can beat Wolves.

But, what weapon does he choose to use? Does he have to be wary of the counter attack? Does he risk starting the attacking Mendy and risk leaving the space in behind? Will he opt for the tricky, finesse players in Mahrez and Bernardo, or opt for pace and power in Sterling and Sané? Does he opt for a 3 or 4 at the back?

These are all questions that will be mulling around Pep Guardiola’s head. Whether he opts for the conservative approach, or whether he unleashes his stars, is unknown, making it almost impossible to predict his lineups.

Predictions 

I think this will be City’s toughest game of the season, thus far.

Arsenal invited City on to them, Huddersfield just weren’t at the races, whilst Wolves may go toe to toe with City and try and win the tie, just like they nearly did at the Etihad in the Carabao Cup last season.

Despite this, City should have enough to win, but I think it will be tight. I’ve gone for a City win, with Wolves taking the lead in the first half. Aguero and David Silva to score.

Wolves 1-2 City.

 

Opinion: Manchester United’s worries lie deeper than what we see on the pitch

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Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United were on the receiving end of a damning defeat in their first away trip of the season as Brighton gained a deserved win in front of a joyous crowd at the AMEX Stadium last Sunday.

As could be expected, the inquest into the manner of the defeat started in no time after the final whistle, with a lot of fingers pointed at the players and in particular the manager: Jose Mourinho.

Another man to take the brunt of the blame was executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who is the man at the forefront of Manchester United’s transfer exploits. Woodward, who took the role in 2013, has been vastly criticized this summer for failing to sign a central defender, an evident weak link which Brighton exploited brilliantly at the weekend.

However, the worries lie deeper than Woodward not agreeing to put his hand in his pocket and pay over the odds for Toby Alderweireld of Spurs or England and Leicester’s surprise sensation Harry Maguire.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson left the helm, £700million has been spent by three managers and United, the team that once was feared by every other, have never realistically looked close to a league title.

In the Moyes and Van Gaal era, excuses were made. When Jose Mourinho put pen to paper on a deal, it was supposed to be different. In January of this year, Mourinho signed a new deal, just days after announcing the signing of Alexis Sanchez.

The timing of that new deal seemed bizarre at the time, but even more so now. Noisy neighbours Manchester City finished a whopping, maybe even embarrassing, nineteen points ahead of the once powerhouse of English football.

Something somewhere had to change. Investments had to be made to close the gap on City, but they just didn’t come. Fred is a wise signing but aside from that, it was a disastrous window for United and Mourinho.

So where does the fault lie? Is it with Mourinho for failing to get his ideas across? Should the players take the blame for not carrying out the managers orders? Is Ed Woodward out of his depth?

One possibility is that the whole model of managerial supremacy is flawed in modern football.

If you are a fan of football in the wider sense, you may have seen the Amazon Prime documentary extraordinaire titled ‘All or Nothing: Manchester City’. You don’t have to know much about the game to acknowledge quite quickly that United’s neighbours are a better run club, top to bottom.

In the scenes that showed the transfer of Aymeric Laporte being completed, Pep Guardiola does not feature, apart from to greet the player at his unveiling.

This is one area that the two Manchester clubs differ, or more so how Manchester United differ from many of the European elite clubs. The model of The Red Devilshas been that the manager is the forefront of ins and outs at Old Trafford.

In 1945, Matt Busby was granted complete control over the footballing activities of the club. In the biography of one of United’s most iconic men, the biographer wrote:

Most managers were foreman draughtsmen, seeing their players once or twice a week. Busby was the first to establish indisputably that he and not the directors were in control of all team affairs, at a time when directors were all-powerful and to stand up to them was unprecedented

Sir Matt Busby was the first United manager to assert said dominance and control, but not the last. Sir Alex Ferguson also had the role of bringing the whole thing together, and evidently it worked. Under Ferguson, United broke all sorts of records, winning league after league in the process.

But, since Ferguson, the strategy has been completely wrong. At first the idea was simple: find the next Ferguson. Quite literally, United did their best to imitate Ferguson, by signing up fellow Scotsman David Moyes. He failed, as did Louis Van Gaal, and now Jose Mourinho looks no better.

So, is it time for a re-think? To go back on a strategy or model that has served well for over half a century? Would a director of football like we see with Txiki Begiristain at Manchester City be beneficial?

Jose Mourinho would think so, saying after United’s opening day victory over Leicester: “I think football is changing and managers should be called head coaches”.

Whilst Jose Mourinho, Ed Woodward and the players should rightly shoulder the blame for the embarrassing performance on the south coast last weekend, the questions should be asked of the structure of the football club.

The Brighton defeat brought out and showed the problems to the football world, but in truth the cracks were starting to show all summer off the pitch.

A sporting director would bring stability and off the pitch leadership that United have lacked in abundance in the post-Ferguson era.

The search will be rigorous, but if Woodward gets it right, the burden on himself and Mourinho will be decreased, and the club can start to move in the right direction again.

Roma’s Monchi is a name that has been rumored many times – the gritty negotiator and talent spotter, once of Sevilla, could be exactly what United need to put behind them the players and managers that have flopped since being brought in post-Ferguson.

It is early days in the league and it is far from disastrous from United, but with a sporting director at the helm, things could have been a lot different as Mourinho’s men look to close the gap on their bitter rivals, Manchester City.

The role of the sporting director may involve setting a new identity, a new ‘United way’: the general approach the club will take with signings.

Manchester City’s approach is to sign young talents with the right mindset, often not buying from the ‘top of the market’ as in the best in their position, but younger prospects who they see a plan to make them the best in their position.

The direction of Manchester United as a club has been flawed in the years following Ferguson’s departure. On the pitch it has been drab, boring at times to watch, but the problems lie much deeper than that, with inadequacies off the pitch leading to failures in the transfer market.

Appointing a sporting director will be the first step to putting this right, as United look to close the gap on their rivals and reinstall a ‘United identity’ which will bring them back to the helm of English football.