Thứ Sáu, 6 tháng 11, 2015

Leicester City continues to confound experts with play

Every single one of the so-called experts who are lucky enough to earn a living from giving opinions about football called it badly.
Leicester City, we said, would be relegated. At best, narrowly escape the drop.
Because it had narrowly escaped going down last May and then appointed Claudio Ranieri to succeed Nigel Pearson, a manager with more sacks than a decent defensive lineman.
It is time to wipe the egg off our faces before the main course of humble pie. Leicester has been arguably the most exciting team in the Premier League and it is an unlikely (we predicted) third, three points behind leader Manchester City.
So where did it all go right for Leicester, which should keep its impressive run going Saturday when it hosts Watford?
The Foxes looked nailed on for relegation last season, but despite some bizarre off-the-field behavior by Pearson, the team pulled together and stayed up. In fact, Leicester has lost just twice since April so its current form is really a follow-on from how it finished last time around.
Most of the side currently playing so well emerged under Pearson. Claudio Ranieri, a calm Italian replacing an angry Englishman, is ensuring the smoothest of takeovers at King Power Stadium, where supporters are enjoying the most entertaining side most can remember.
Under former Chelsea manager Ranieri, Leicester has placed the emphasis on attack, throwing caution to the wind this season and has really gone for the opposition in every game.
Inevitably this means it leave itself open defensively, though Leicester’s spirit has made it the comeback king — it has earned a league-high 10 points from losing positions this season, coming back from a two-goal deficit three times in six matches.
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and defenders Wes Morgan and Jeffrey Schlupp have shown their qualities, while new signings Gokhan Inler (£5 million from Napoli) and Japan’s Shinji Okazaki (£7 million from Mainz) have settled in well.
But it is Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy in attack who have stolen most of the headlines, helping the Foxes to be the second-highest scorers behind Manchester City.
Algeria international Mahrez is one of a rare breed, a player who can dribble effectively, and he has made some of the Premier League’s top defenders embarrassed as he waltzes past them.
At 28, success has come late to Vardy who is the league’s leading scorer with 11 goals, more than double his tally of five last season. Pearson tended to use Vardy in a wide position, but as the central striker under Ranieri he has added clinical finishing to his blistering pace and prodigious work-rate.
As he was slowly climbing the league ladder Vardy was charged with assault after becoming involved in a fight in a pub to protect, he claimed, a friend. He had to wear an electronic tag and was often forced to dash back from games to beat a curfew.
“I did get into a bit of trouble back then,” he said. “I am obviously not proud of what happened but it happened so I think things happen for a reason and I have turned my life around now and I am happy the way I am.”
Four years ago, Vardy was a part-timer with FC Halifax Town in the Northern Premier League, which has helped him to appreciate the lifestyle he can now enjoy.
He said: “It isn’t easy when you are younger. You’re working full time and you see the players on Match of the Day and you want exactly the same boots they’ve got.
“Then you face up to having to fork out £130 or £140 for a pair. So you get a rip in yours and you think ‘I’ll tape that up a bit.’
“Now I’ve got a boot deal which is brilliant because as soon as the new ones come out or there’s a new color, the boots just get sent to me.”
His goal exploits have seen him win four England caps and Vardy has justifiable hopes of being part of the Euro 2016 squad even if the more experienced strikers with fitness concerns — Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck — are available.
In the meantime, Ranieri and Leicester continue to confound those who doubted them with a brand of football that has lit up the Premier League. They are 11 points ahead of his former club, Chelsea, but gloating is not part of the Italian’s DNA.
We are delighted to have been proven wrong about one of the nicest managers to grace English football.
Cynical reaction: The smile on Jose Mourinho’s face was sarcasm personified. Diego Costa went over in the penalty area against Dynamo Kiev, but the referee waved play on. The Chelsea manager’s expression told its own story: what more proof do you need that referees are afraid to give Chelsea penalties?
Quite a lot, actually.
Hopefully, when Mourinho saw the incident again he would realize the reason no penalty was awarded was because Costa dived. The Spain striker was fortunate not to be cautioned for simulation. It must also be hoped that Mourinho would have told Costa not to cheat.
Similarly, Ashley Young, a serial diver, was at it again against CSKA Moscow. It wasn’t even a good dive by the Manchester United player. In the interest of fair play, Louis van Gaal should have told Young not to cheat, too.
If and when an opponent is awarded a penalty kick after diving against Chelsea or United, the reaction of the respective managers will be significant.

Spain recall Diego Costa for friendlies

MADRID, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has recalled controversial forward Diego Costa for friendlies against England and Belgium this month.

Costa, criticised for his conduct with his English club Chelsea and lack of form for the Spain side, had been left out for the previous game, a Euro 2016 qualifier against Ukraine.

Brazilian-born Costa has scored only one goal, in a Euro qualifier against Luxemburg, in nine games for Spain after choosing to switch allegiance.

He had previously made two substitute appearances for Brazil, both in friendlies
The European champions host England in Alicante on Nov. 13 and visit Belgium in Brussels four days later.

Squad - Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Porto), David De Gea (Manchester United), Sergio Rico (Sevilla)
Defenders: Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), Mario Gaspar (Villarreal), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Marc Bartra (Barcelona), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea).
Midfielders: Mikel San Jose (Athletic Bilbao), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Isco (Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Thiago, Nolito (Celta Vigo).
Forwards: Pedro (Chelsea), Juan Mata (Manchester United), Paco Alcacer, Alvaro Morata (Juventus), Diego Costa (Chelsea) (Writing by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)

Thứ Sáu, 11 tháng 9, 2015

Diego Costa, David De Gea & David Silva – three Spain stars facing very different Premier League challenges

While De Gea is expected to return for Man United, Costa continues to toil in attack for club and country

Diego Costa vies with Macedonia's Defender Kire Ristevski

Spain’s (ultimately, fairly pointless) game away to Macedonia was everything you would have expected from one of Europe’s smaller nations coming up against a team full of superstars.
Macedonia sat deep and tried to make La Roja play through them, largely forcing the visiting Spaniards to ping it around the edge of the penalty area waiting for a gap to open up. And they were successful too, right up until Juan Mata’s mishit cross looped in at the far post.
But they carried on anyway, because they were coping with Spain pretty well, and came away from the game with a respectable 1-0 defeat.
The feeling is, though, that this is what watching Spain has been like for a couple of years now. They were like this as they crashed out of the World Cup in humiliating fashion, enjoying sterile dominance, which was something that they thought they might solve when they did what very few international sides can do and effectively transferred in a top striker.
Juan Mata celebrates with his teammates after scoring
Juan Mata celebrates with his teammates after scoring
Diego Costa nationalised, to much controversy, and donned the red shirt, but his displays since turning Spanish have left a lot to be desired. The Chelsea man has one goal in eight games for his new country, and looked every bit as sluggish last night and against Slovakia as he has for the Blues in the opening weeks of the Premier League season.
A striker, a ‘9’ as they refer to in Spain, who can find space effectively in these packed areas and be razor-sharp in the finish is arguably the only thing that Vicente del Bosque’s side is missing - and they’ve gone through a lot of players without finding it.
Frustrated: Costa has cut an annoyed figure so far this term
Since David Villa there has been Alvaro Morata, Juanmi, Rodrigo, Munir, Diego Costa and many more, but nobody has clicked in the role. The feeling now is that it might be a player of less outright individual talent who makes the position his own, and although he has only managed three goals in Euro 2016 qualifying, Valencia’s Paco Alcacer is Spain’s top scorer and could be playing himself into a starting place with Costa’s continued struggles at club and international level.
If the furrowed brow and slouched shoulders hadn’t already told us that Costa knows he’s not playing well, the Brazil-born striker admitted as much to the cameras after the win over Slovakia in Oviedo. He’s not said the same about his league form but he continues to seem like a player who performs at well below 100 per cent if he’s not in absolutely optimum condition. Chelsea will hope that fitness is his only issue.
OPINION: United now have leverage over De Gea
Back in action: De Gea was in the Spain side and is likely to play for Man United this weekend
Fitness hopefully won’t be a problem for David De Gea, who made his first appearance of the season for Spain in Skopje and had, unsurprisingly, a pretty light workload. Having been frozen out by Louis van Gaal until now, the Dutchman has decided that a game against archrivals Liverpool this weekend is too risky to trust the error-prone Sergio Romero.
It represents a concession from Van Gaal, which will hurt, and it also helps De Gea on the way to playing for his country at Euro 2016 next summer - something Del Bosque had assured him wouldn’t be possible if he wasn’t back in the first-team picture at Old Trafford.
Juan Mata celebrates with his teammates after scoring
Juan Mata celebrates with his teammates after scoring
Across Manchester they will have been watching these two games with a smile. Brilliant so far this season in sky blue, David Silva continued his impressive start to the campaign with another pair of masterclass performances in red. Playing more centrally than his usual role with Manuel Pellegrini’s side, his performance against Slovakia was “incredible,” according to one teammate, “on a different level to the rest of us.”
There have been glimpses of that on English shores this season, and with Pellegrini now experimenting with players either side of him, Silva could take a(nother) step up this season as a number 10. If he can, arguably the most talented player in the Premier League could finally become the absolute superstar he’s always threatened to be.

Chelsea striker Diego Costa admits he has to improve for Spain

Costa's only goal for Spain came in the 4-0 win over Luxembourg in October 2014.

Diego Costa vows to discover scoring form for Spain after Chelsea striker is

The 26-year-old striker has flattered to deceive with Spain since he made the decision to play for La Roja in 2014, despite being born in Brazil. Since making his debut with Spain in March 2014, Costa has found the back of the net just once in nine appearances.

He also discussed his need to improve and vowed to make the effort. Belarus' Sergei Kornilenko scored from a spot kick in the 62nd before Ukraine's Denys Garmash was sent off with two yellow cards. "On the hour it became clear to the coach that things could only get worse and he was retired and replaced by Paco Alcácer".

When asked if he was disappointed by the one-match ban, he responded: "I'm suspended against Luxembourg? It's the first I've heard about it", Costa told AS.

"I've got a lot to improve and I've got to start scoring goals", the Chelsea striker was quoted as saying by Spanish publication AS.

"For my part, it's not going to continue like this". The ball was hit just a little too hard and David Silva could not control the pass. A weak shot from Cesc Fabregas three minutes later rolled straight into the arms of the Slovakian goal keeper. "I'm very excited when I get to join the national team". "Personally, I'm not happy because I haven't reached my objective, to score".

Diego Costa and Jose Mourinho get their own FIFA 16 chants

Diego Costa and Jose Mourinho are probably two of the most polarising players in world football but the pair have both been given unique FIFA 16 chants. 
One of the changes that EA Sports have made for the new game is to try and make the match experience as authentic as possible which is why there are more FIFA 16 chants.
These are chants designed to be unique to a club to make it feel like you are actually playing in front of their fans.
With the FIFA 16 demo already out some players have already been getting their first experiences of the new chants.
Diego Costa and Jordan Henderson squaring up in FIFA 16.
Diego Costa and Jordan Henderson squaring up in FIFA 16.
One YouTuber (Luke Freemantle) decided to upload a couple of short videos of the new chants for the Chelsea men and fans are sure to be happy to see them included.
For so long stadiums have been limited to just one or two chants but it is great to see EA now really focus on improving that area of the game.
For the most part gameplay changes will be minimal for now and as such it is important for EA to improve their game in other ways and the FIFA 16 chants are just one thing to do to help the overall experience.
The demo has been receiving some really positive reviews and it seems as if EA have responded well to the increased challenge from rivals Konami with their Pro Evolution Soccer games.
The full game is due for release on September 24th in the UK and Squawka will continue to cover the release of the new game.

Chelsea star Diego Costa sends a warning to Arsenal, Man City and Man United

The Chelsea and Spain striker has struggled so far this term, scoring just one goal and being subbed early in both of the international games during the break.
At this point last season Costa had struck seven times for Chelsea with the Blues flying high in the league.
But with Jose Mourinho's side struggling - eight points behind City - the Naturalised Spain star is finding life tough.
"I’ve got a lot to improve and I’ve got to start scoring goals," he told AS.
Diego Costa

Diego Costa vows to find his form
"There will be no lack of effort on my part. I'll keep working hard at my club to improve.
"I am always filled with ambition whenever I get called for the national team.
"On a personal level I am not happy because I didn't manage to score against Macedonia, although I'm happy with the victory. We’ve gained three points which are important for our qualification."

Would Diego Costa be better without his trademark aggression?

In the barnstorming days long before his current club malaise, it was widely accepted that Wayne Rooney's most effective moments were fuelled by rage. Every wild swipe of the ball or furious pursuit of a referee were tolerable by-products of his nuclear temperament.
Diego Costa's contributions to the ailing Chelsea cause appear to be toiling under a similar assumption. At his most combustible, Costa epitomises the simmering near-chaos of a Jose Mourinho side in defeat: a series of ill-tempered vignettes, a gradual loss of focus and, like a snake chasing its own tail, injustice and frustration feeding on each other until the game is gone.
Quite simply, how useful is Costa when bee meets bonnet? On a scale of zero to Marouane Fellaini's elbows, the effectiveness of his aggression registers at less than half a Pepe. Somehow this season, despite the gleeful (and now premeditated) provocation of opponents and supporters, Costa has avoided a volcanic explosion of rage, releasing his fury in irritable bursts.
Rather than a red card and a three-match ban, the 26-year-old Costa is earning himself the more drawn-out punishment of soul-sapping ironic cheers every time his hold-up play comes to nought. It's not a million miles from the sort of ritual humiliation that befell Fernando Torres once everyone realised he'd become a figure of footballing pity. Costa has enough about him not to plummet that far, of course, but opposition schadenfreude is a tough nut to crack when your team is in poor form. It's a virtually indestructible one when you're distracted by the prospect of another bout of violent posturing.
A more generous comparison would be to Didier Drogba. He experienced peripheral dramas at Chelsea before proving his eternal worth, but his high-yield bullying of defenders extended way beyond Costa's repertoire of permanently cocked, battle-ready arms and provocative mini head-nods toward enemies. Drogba's was an altogether more fruitful form of footballing aggression, as he barnstormed his way through the hearts of defences.
In contrast, not a single Costa goal for Chelsea has been carved out that way. Well-timed, arcing runs behind offside traps. Crafty backsteps around the 6-yard box to meet low crosses. Perfectly placed headers. None of these are particularly muscular goal-scoring art forms. All surely benefit from a clear mind.
Costa showed the Premier League his snarling side when he and Everton's Tim Howard exchanged pleasantries last season.
The World Health Organization probably has more important fish to fry than to finally explore the epidemiology of Second Season Syndrome, but Costa is showing some acute early symptoms. When attempting to follow up an impressive debut season, the fear is of being "found out." Based on the cross-section of Premier League experiences upon which to judge him this season -- and, admittedly, the sample size right now is four league games, in which he has one goal and one assist -- Costa's opponents have satisfied themselves with his most obvious Achilles' heel: wind him up and watch him go.
In Chelsea's self-inflicted adversity against Swansea, hopeless mayhem at Manchester City, rain-swept warfare against West Brom and fragile calamity at home to Crystal Palace, Costa was almost instantly met with defenders who had done their elementary homework. Claudio Yacob and Damien Delaney (the latter describing Costa as a "good ol' fashioned bruiser") even received a semi-congratulatory Costa embrace for their efforts. Honourably old-fashioned as this looked, it suggests that he accepts such pumped-up pantomime as part of his game.
Almost as likely as him hitting a century of goals over the next few seasons and etching himself into Chelsea's modern history is the prospect of the club trying to offload a hamstrung, burnt-out 30-year-old on loan back to La Liga. Such risks are part of life at the top of the transfer food chain, especially when fans yearn for a player to be firing on all cylinders at 21 rather than finding their Premier League feet at 26. Drogba needed two seasons at Stamford Bridge before showing his best form and peaked at the age of 31 in his sixth year at the club. With the shelf life of elite-level strikers as short as it is, Costa doesn't have that much time to waste on twice-weekly wars with willing and able centre-backs.
With John Terry battling the latest question marks over his physical top-flight capability, title-winning dependables like Cesc Fabregas and Branislav Ivanovic looking particularly dishevelled -- as if they'd aged three years in the space of a summer -- and Eden Hazard yet to click into top gear, Costa is the strongest vertebra in Chelsea's uncertain spine. There's nothing to suggest that a focused, unshakeable Costa wouldn't be more potent. That's surely what the £32m was paid for.
Take the aggression out of his game and Costa might well be twice the player.
Adam Hurrey is a London-based football writer and author of the book "Football Clichés".