The Transfer Tailor Shop – Christian Benteke

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I can’t hide my love for the transfer market and everything it encompasses. Sure, the rumors are largely that, rumors, procured by one of the major British news outlets like The Guardian, Sky Sports, the Mirror or the least reliable but most creative, the Daily Mail. Point being, few topics within world football drive the banter like transfer talk.

One of the craziest things is that Pro Soccer Talk or any other soccer/football website can perpetuate a transfer rumor without any repercussion whatsoever. But why fabricate when you can evaluate? That’s the most exciting part of any transfer rumor – deciding whether or not the player fits the club and vice versa.

Cue ‘The Transfer Tailor Shop’ – the one place where we set forth the rumor, weigh whether it’s a good fit, and then ask your opinion on where the player should end up. Today we’re looking at everyone’s favorite hulking Premier League striker, Aston Villa front-man Christian Benteke.

On Tuesday night the rumor broke that Villa chairman Randy Lerner was prepared to double Benteke’s basic pay (from £1m to £2m a year) to ensure the Belgian stays at Villa Park. The fear, no doubt inflamed by the striker’s mind-blowing hat-trick in Villa’s 6-1 romp of Sunderland on Monday, is that if the Midlands-based club doesn’t show him some serious love he may leave The Claret and Blue for Tottenham or Arsenal.

Such a move would be devastating to manager Paul Lambert’s desire to return the club to Top 10 status. After having sold off stars Gareth Barry, Ashley Young and James Milner in recent years, Lerner is now poised to do whatever it takes to secure Benteke’s signature. After all, the 22 year old has been in scintillating form this season and with 18 league goals, is the primary reason Villa may avoid the drop.

If Villa were to sell Benteke the club would be left with Andreas Weimann, Darren Bent and Gabby Agbonglahor as its forwards. Weimann (7 goals, 27 matches) and Agbonglahor (7 goals, 25 matches) have enjoyed fine seasons – and may themselves be targets of summer transfer offers – but neither plays the same out-and-out striker role as Benteke. Only Bent covers that. And while the 29 year old England international has enjoyed a few fabulous years, the 2012-13 campaign has hardly been one of them. Overtaken by the Belgian after injury sidelined him in the fall, Bent has barely seen the field since Benteke’s emergence.

Of course, Villa would receive bountiful compensation if they sell Benteke – the figures vary wildly but most assess his value at £20m-£35m – but who’s to say that his replacement produces? After all, even if Villa were to shell out for a top replacement everyone remembers where £50m got Chelsea with Fernando Torres. In other words, losing Benteke would be a crushing blow to Villa, even with a pocket full of money.

But if Arsenal is able to strike a deal for the Villa hit-man, how well would Benteke fit in at the Emirates?

Since selling Robin van Persie to Manchester United, Arsene Wenger’s side has been frothing at the mouth for a world-class striker. In a semi-panic for cover the Gunners purchased Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. Podolski has seldom been utilized up top and despite a love for the club and desire to play, may be sold in the upcoming transfer window.

Giroud has come into Arsenal and made the role of target-man his own, yet few Goonah’s are rushing to defend the Frenchman’s contributions. Yes, he’s showed spurts of talent but 11 goals in 33 appearances for a team that puts balls on silver platters is not a flattering stat line. It’s foreseeable that another year of Premier League action sees Giroud develop into a top striker but it’s objectively clear that when it comes to talent and production, Benteke is the far better asset.

Benteke’s game is built on speed and power, attributes not typically associated with Arsenal. One gets the sense that after this season’s experiment with Giroud, Wenger may be more likely to seek a more skillful forward who excels in pinpoint passes and link-up play. While the Gunners may pony up £15m-£20m for Benteke they seem more poised to break the bank for a striker like Edinson Cavani or Stevan Jovetic.

Turning to Tottenham, now.

There is perhaps no Premier League club in greater need of a striker than Spurs. Emmanuel Adebayor has dropped multiple levels over the last few seasons and his careless play and ridiculous antics has drawn the ire of the White Hart Lane faithful. He will undoubtedly be sold this summer, likely at a cut rate price.

The Lillywhites other striker, Jermain Defoe, will likely remain in the squad despite yet another disappointing and injury riddled season. When healthy, the England international is a dynamo for the Spurs offense, but seems better suited to a role off the bench.

Thus, there is plenty of room for Benteke in Andre Villas-Boas’ squad. The Belgian would provide a massive target for creative players like Gareth Bale, Gylfi Sigudrsson and Aaron Lennon to run off of and would be the ideal man to bang home service from the outside. Benteke would also nicely supplement the grit Spurs have down the spine with players like Sandro, Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Michael Dawson, Steven Caulker, William Gallas and Tom Huddlestone.

Rumors have Spurs lining up a bid to bring in Brazil striker Leandro Damiao but I don’t think that necessarily prevents them from looking to bring in a second front-man. Benteke would be a wonderful fit for Spurs, who could be in the position to spend upwards of £25m to acquire his services.

Where do you think Christian Benteke is best suited to play?

 

 

Managerial change a slippery slope for West Brom

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Tony Pulis brought much needed stability to West Bromwich Albion before his tenure soured in a hurry.

When Pulis took over at the Hawthorns, West Brom had seen both Pepe Mel and Alan Irvine do little winning in abbreviated managerial stints. Mel won three of 17 matches in charge, while Irvine could only nab five in 22.

[ MORE: Pulis sacked ]

So there is little debating, even for those who West Brom fans who revel in the club’s former free-flowing ways, that Pulis had a productive time in charge from January 2015 right on through most of last season.

But Pulis was seemingly limited to setting a points total and then kicking his heels up once Premier League safety was reached.

While that sounds a bit laughable, the facts are that the Baggies finished 10th last season despite an impressive start that saw the club comfortably eighth for much of the season. However, West Brom won five points from its final 12 matches to finish 16 points behind a European place (including five shutout losses at home).

The Baggies finished 14th the previous season, Pulis’ first full year in charge, but collapsed again after hitting the rarefied air of 11th. That final stretch? Five losses and four draws including shutout losses at home to Norwich City, Watford, and West Ham.

In doing so, Pulis belied his own budgetary critiques by proving the Baggies had the talent to compete for something relatively special.

Pulis was good at getting his side to play with the fury of a relegation contender from Day One, but it was so clear the side was sated once safety was secure. It wouldn’t be callous to opine that the manager would’ve viewed the Europa League as a nuisance to his “never been relegated” reputation (an idea buttressed by West Brom’s performances in Cup competitions, where Pulis never advanced to a quarterfinal while losing to Reading, Norwich City, Derby County, Northampton Town, and, this season, Man City).

What West Brom does next will say a lot. If it’s as simple as a rehashing of the “never been relegated” deck with Sam Allardyce, well, that’s something. But the Baggies are in the tricky predicament of having to replace a relatively stable hand who was their first good hire in three tries, while also running with the knowledge that their players clearly are capable of so much better than 17th.

The names on the bettor’s lists show what’s expected of West Brom: gritty style from an island manager. Derek McInnes is the favorite, with Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill just ahead of Sam Allardyce. Alan Pardew is next, followed by Ronald Koeman (For what it’s worth, bookies are still milking money from gamblers by including Jurgen Klinsmann’s name at 20:1 or so).

West Brom is in its eighth-straight Premier League campaign. The firing will jostle an already rocking ship, but the Baggies have steady leadership in Jonny Evans, Ben Foster, Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, Gareth McAuley, and Craig Dawson. They have the wherewithal to achieve safety again, and can even look good in the process should a manager find the right way to use Salomon Rondon, Matty Phillips, Jay Rodriguez, Nacer Chadli, and others.

Who’s the right man for the job?

West Brom fires manager Tony Pulis

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Tony Pulis‘ reign over the Hawthorns is over, as West Bromwich Albion has fired the 59-year-old after just under three years in charge of the Premier League outfit.

Assistant coach Gary Megson takes over on an interim basis.

[ MLS: Steve Bruce to Miami? ]

The Baggies have not won a game since August, and were belted 4-0 at home by Chelsea on Saturday to leave the club one point above the drop zone.

Overall, Pulis oversaw wins in just 36 of his 121 matches, losing 49, in what will go down as one of the least successful stints in his well-traveled career. Only three PL clubs have scored less than the Baggies’ nine goals.

Here’s the club statement:

“These decisions are never taken lightly but always in the interests of the Club.

“We are in a results business and over the back end of last season and this season to date, ours have been very disappointing.

“We would like to place on record our appreciation of Tony’s contribution and hard work during a period of transition for the Club which included a change of ownership. We wish him well in his future endeavours.”

Pulis will almost certainly be back on the touch line soon, as he hasn’t spent more than a few months out of work since 2002.

Pressure builds on Borussia Dortmund manager Peter Bosz

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Borussia Dortmund has fallen to fifth in the Bundesliga table thanks to a trio of consecutive losses in league play, and suddenly there is loads of pressure on manager Peter Bosz.

The Dutchman came to Westfalenstadion after upper management pushed Thomas Tuchel out over the summer, and while he won seven of his first eight league matches in charge by a total goal differential of 21-2, things have come crashing down. The black & yellow have lost three in a row Bundesliga matches and four of their last five across all competitions, with their only win in that span coming over third-tier Magdenburg.

With fans feeling helpless over the departure of the wildly successful Tuchel that came as a result of a falling out between the German and his superiors, Bosz would always be on a short leash. He inherited a flawed squad, yet one that had achieved much under his predecessor, and immediate failures would naturally be lumped on the new man.

The most recent defeat, a 2-1 falter at Stuttgart, was a microcosm of Dortmund’s recent failures. The team conceded a comically poor goal five minutes into the match, worked hard to equalize just before the halftime break, and conceded again just after returning to the pitch. They controlled much of the match, but largely failed to capitalize.

The head man summed it up pretty well. “The defeat really hurts,” Bosz proclaimed after the final whistle. “We came here to win, so we’re very disappointed. When you see the goals we conceded, it borders on the ridiculous. It hurts because we actually put in a relatively good performance in the first half. The team performed well after conceding the early goal, only the final ball was lacking. The second half wasn’t as good. We need to keep going, we won’t give up.”

So what do the Dortmund executives do? Does Bosz get the benefit of the doubt based on performances? Or does he get blamed for the sudden dropoff in results? There is plenty of pressure given the team sits not only nine points back of Borussia Dortmund in league play, but is also third in a brutal Champions League group with almost no hope of recovery, and even threatens to miss out on a drop to Europa League play if they slip behind Cypriot club Apoel Nicosia, whom they find themselves level on points with.

Even if the club sticks with the Dutchman for now, his room for error has almost completely evaporated and it’s only mid-November. The next two matches will likely tell the tale, and it’s an uphill battle. Tottenham comes to Westfalenstadion on the backs of a disappointing defeat to North London foes Arsenal, followed by the home end of the Rivierderby against a Schalke side that sits second in the Bundesliga table, three points above Bosz and Dortmund.

Antonio Conte calls Tony Pulis a “really good manager”

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West Brom, after four straight defeats, sits 17th in the Premier League table, most recently suffering a 4-0 dismantling at the hands of Chelsea.

Yet Blues boss Antonio Conte has offered his counterpart an olive branch, supporting his fellow Premier League manager at a time of panic.

With reports that Pulis could be fired this coming week – some say as early as Monday – the Baggies boss is under heaps of pressure, but Conte doesn’t believe he should be. “I must be honest, I think Tony Pulis is a really good manager,” Conte said, hoping those in charge don’t make decisions based on Sunday’s result.

“He has great experience and it’s always very difficult to play against his team. This game became easy because we started very strong, with great concentration and desire to win. We showed from the start our will to win this game. But I repeat: Last season we struggled a lot against them.”

West Brom has lost four in a row in league play, and they haven’t picked up a win since August, and as The Guardian points out, they have the lowest average possession in the Premier League and have the second-lowest shots on target thus far. They registered just two shots on target against Chelsea, and held 39% possession, which is actually slightly above their average for the season.