2014-15 Premier League season review: The managers

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All week at ProSoccerTalk we are reviewing the dramatic 2014-15 Premier League season. From dishing out awards to looking back at the highs and lows in the 380 games as 20 teams battled it out, we’ll have every angle covered.

[ MORE: PST’s Premier League season review ]

For the full archive of our review content, just hit the link above. Now, it’s time to take a look back at the managers that helped make the Premier League season a memorable one.

One of the most intriguing facets of the Premier League is its managers. Sure, the play on the field is perhaps second to none in the world, but the Premier League’s managers often times take on a storyline of their own and provide ample entertainment and fodder for debate. Here are a few of the PL’s managers that made 2014-15 just that much more interesting.

Jose Mourinho, the champion

Manipulator. Tactician. Twister of words. Protector of men. So many titles could be used to describe Chelsea’s enigmatic boss, but the one he will prefer the most is that of “champion.” As in, 2014-15 Premier League champion.

Mourinho used his every last one of his old tricks — diverting attention/blame from his players upon their rare slip-ups; “parking the bus” defensively; and controlling the narrative surrounding his team all season long — en route to returning the Blues back to Premier League glory for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

source: Getty ImagesTim Sherwood, the prodigal son, returns

His win percentage is the thing of legends at Tottenham Hotspur, and yet the 46-year-old was fired by Tottenham Hotspur following the 2013-14 season. On Valentine’s Day 2015, Sherwood was hired as the new Aston Villa boss and tasked with keeping the Birmingham club, which sat in 18th place at the time of his appointment, in the Premier League.

Stunning results followed. Horrid results followed. A run to this weekend’s FA Cup final followed. More of Sherwood’s proud, boastful, king-of-the-world personality ensued. In the end, Villa finished 17th, three points clear of the drop. Now Sherwood will be given his first summer transfer window in which to buy his own players and build his own team. 2015-16 prediction: Villa either win the league next season, or Sherwood will be out of a job by the New Year. Either way, he’ll continue to make the club must-see TV on a weekly basis.

[ MORE: 10 biggest storylines of the Premier League season that was ]

Nigel Pearson, the nuclear reactor (and survivor)

Is there a bigger jerk in the Premier League? The answer to that question is very likely “not a chance.” (Remember this?) Now, with that established, Pearson did a masterful job of keeping PL new boys Leicester City in England’s top flight for another season, thanks to the Foxes’ unlikely rise from last place on Christmas Day, to safety from relegation (a feat only ever achieved once before in the Premier League era) with one game left.

Pearson’s players obviously believe in him, otherwise they’d have folded when the going got tough. His shock-and-awe style with regards to handling the media can definitely be questioned and criticized, but one thing is for certain: players love managers that stick up for them and deflect the attention away from them in the bad times, and give them all the credit in the good times.

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Brendan Rodgers and Manuel Pellegrini, dangling in the wind

Will they stay or will they go before August arrives? Are the Liverpool and Manchester City boards, respectively, even right to be expecting title challenges, given the obvious, gaping holes in their squads? How many of each manager’s best players will leave this summer, and how many new recruits will arrive?

Short answer: No one knows, but it’s likely to be an absolute circus either way.

Even if one or both stay at their respective through the summer, the questions will return at the first sign of trouble next season (i.e. the first loss). There’s a reason managers are paid handsomely as they are, because you’d have to be mad to take up the line of work for anything short of a king’s ransom.

[ MORE: How the Americans in the Premier League fared in 2014-15 ]

Alan Pardew, the Big Pardiola

We’ve finally reach everyone’s favorite managerial character of the 2014-15 Premier League season: Alan Pardew, formerly of Newcastle United and now the head genius in charge at Crystal Palace.

Newcastle fans seemed to genuinely hate the man, and wanted him out of their club, like, yesterday. In January, the Geordie nation got their wish, and came oh so close to realizing their greatest nightmare: Premier League relegation. Meanwhile, Pardew’s new club, Crystal Palace (then in 18th place), quickly ascended the league table and finished the season in 10th. Palace passed Newcastle on March 21, two months and 19 days after Pardew changed jobs.

John Carver, the lover of club

Poor John Carver, right? After Pardew skipped town, Carver was named interim manager by an owner, Mike Ashely, who on the whole refuses to invest funds back into the team despite selling a number of the club’s best players in recent years, and Carver struggled, in part, due to this.

I mean, he struggled badly. Just three wins in his 16 games in charge (including eight successive losses from March to May) dragged Newcastle United right down into the relegation battle. Carver loves the club dearly (he was born in Newcastle, is a product of the club’s youth academy and has said “yes” to everything they’ve ever asked of him), of which we were reminded to begin any discussion about the future of Newcastle United and Carver alike. In the end, his love for the club was just enough to keep them up, but will it keep him in the manager’s job next season? Probably not.

source: Getty ImagesHarry Redknapp, the ship jumper

Oh, you thought we’d forgotten about Harry? Of course we didn’t. The ol’ wheeler-dealer gets all his full, deserved share of credit for Queens Park Rangers being relegated from the Premier League this season.

Upon his departure for “health reasons” (he said he needed a knee operation), QPR sat second from bottom in the league with 19 points from 23 games. Not great! In the weeks and months following his resignation, Redknapp continuously appeared in the media, saying things like, “I could have kept QPR up,” “QPR fans deserves better,” and my personal favorite, “I wasn’t given enough money to build the team,” despite out-spending the entire Championship last season and tossing another $50 million worth of players on top of that this past summer.

It shouldn’t be long until he’s recklessly angling for his next job — Bournemouth? Watford? Norwich City? Sunderland? Newcastle United? Chelsea? Who knows! — and spending them into crippling debt once hired, before up and leaving again at the first sign of trouble. It’s the Redknapp way.

Barcelona sign Neto in goalkeeper swap with Valencia

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Brazilian goalkeeper Neto will sign a four-year contract with the Spanish champions.

The transfer completes a swap a day after Barcelona sold Jasper Cillessen to Valencia.

Barcelona says it is paying 26 million euros ($29.5 million) plus possibly another 9 million euros ($10.2 million) in variables for Neto. Valencia paid Barcelona 35 million euros ($40 million) for Cillessen.

Neto will replace Cillessen, who played as a backup for Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Champions League and the Spanish league and only regularly started in the Copa del Rey.

The 29-year-old Neto helped Valencia qualify for the Champions League with a fourth-place finish for the past two seasons in Spain. He also played in Italy at Juventus as a backup to Gianluigi Buffon and at Fiorentina after starting at Brazilian club Paranaense.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

USMNT v. Panama: Three things we learned

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It wasn’t always pretty, but the U.S. Men’s National Team eked out a 1-0 win over Panama in Kansas City, Kan. on Wednesday night to win its group. Jozy Altidore scored the game’s only goal in stunning fashion, finishing an overhead kick to put Panama away and set up a quarterfinal bout with Curacao on Sunday evening.

Here are three of the biggest takeaways from Wednesday’s win:

[READ: All the latest USMNT news here]


Jozy Altidore is still the best we’ve got

Many U.S. Men’s National Team fans have called for the forced retirements of Altidore and Michael Bradley, among many others, after the debacle that was the last World Cup cycle.

Until tonight, Altidore wasn’t in the USMNT picture, in part due to Dave Sarachan using younger players and Altidore continuing to suffer a series of muscle injuries since October 2017. And yet, if tonight’s game showed anything in Altidore’s 83 minutes on the pitch, it’s that he’s still the best option for the USMNT up top. While Gregg Berhalter clearly prefers Gyasi Zardes right now based on their previous work history together in Columbus, Zardes doesn’t have the strength or skill that Altidore does. It’s hard to imagine Zardes executing an overhead kick and it going in as sweetly as Altidore did.

What does this mean going forward? Regardless of if Zardes starts the rest of the way, Berhalter knows that he has Altidore always around who can give the U.S. a goal, especially on home soil and when fit. But it also lays the marker down for Zardes, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent and the other up and coming strikers that this is the level they need to meet, and beat, if they want to break into the starting lineup under Berhalter.

There’s speed to burn on the wings

It may not have had a huge impact on Wednesday, but in bringing Tyler Boyd and Christian Pulisic off the bench, Berhalter showed exactly why he’s brought so many speedy skill players along the wings.

While Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis couldn’t figure out the final pass or final touch in the box to score a goal, just their presence for 65-70 minutes tired out the backline, and the introductions of Pulisic and Boyd could have really unlocked the Panama defense. While it didn’t totally work on Wednesday, it could in the later stages of the tournament, especially in a potential rematch with either Panama or Jamaica in the semifinals and Mexico in the finals.

With Lewis and Morris likely available off the bench, that adds a new piece opponents have to worry about, both in terms of speed and dribbling ability.

Few impressed in a chance to earn a starting spot

It’s been nearly two years since the debacle in Trinidad and Tobago, and yet aside from maybe Matt Miazga or Nick Lima, there have been very few players who have done much to impress and prove they’re better than the previous cycle’s players. That continued on Wednesday with an MLS-heavy lineup. Wil Trapp, a midfielder with so much promise a few years ago, appears to have stalled. He had multiple turnovers and certainly didn’t look as sharp as Michael Bradley.

While Lewis and Morris have plenty of pace, their final pass was woeful and they didn’t do themselves any favors. Djordje Mihailovic was never going to push Pulisic out of the starting lineup, but Mihailovic didn’t exactly do enough to say that he should be the first man off the bench either, or to push Pulisic into a wing role with Mihailovic in the middle.

Aside from Matt Miazga and Omar Gonzalez in the middle, along with Altidore up top, no one in the lineup really did enough through the first 65 minutes to warrant another start in the tournament. It’s yet another disappointment as young players get chance after chance to prove they belong as starters, only to waste the opportunity, enabling the veterans to keep their role. More players need to keep pushing for those spots, whether through club form or national team performances. Otherwise, we’ll end up in the same situation as before.

 

USMNT remains perfect, tops Panama to win group (video)

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In his first start since the U.S. Men’s National Team’s infamous defeat to Trinidad and Tobago, Jozy Altidore showcased his strength, speed and technical ability to help lead the U.S. to victory.

Altidore’s outstanding bicycle kick goal proved to be the difference in a sometimes dour game as the USMNT topped Panama, 1-0, Wednesday evening at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. The win kept the U.S. perfect through the Gold Cup group stage with no goals allowed, and it has somewhat erased the memory of the USMNT’s horrible run-up to the tournament, with defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela now firmly in the rear-view mirror.

[MUST-SEE GOAL: Jozy Altidore]

With the win, both teams head to Philadelphia for the quarterfinals this Sunday. Panama plays the undercard matchup against Jamaica while the USMNT faces Curacao.

Coming off two wins to open the Gold Cup, Berhalter decided to use a completely changed starting lineup, featuring ten players from MLS teams along with Chelsea loanee Matt Miazga. Although there was some familiarity of the players on the field, it was at times a very poor match, with the USMNT struggling badly in the final third and even turning the ball over at midfield or leading the attack.

Despite winning the possession battle, 62-38, the USMNT didn’t do much with it. Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis, both of whom were subbed out, struggled on their crosses after beating a defender. The pair provided energy and hard running defensively but it didn’t lead to many chances. Altidore had the best of the first half when he was played into the box, but his strike from the right just went wide of the net.

In the 65th minute, Berhalter tried to inject some life in the game with the introduction of Christian Pulisic. It turned out a goal could come just after, but without the intervention of Pulisic.

Djordje Mihailovic drilled the corner kick to the far post where it was met by the head of Matt Miazga who sent it back towards goal. A missed clearance from Panama popped the ball up in the air above the back post, allowing Altidore the time he needed to lift off the ground and bicycle kick it in for the game’s only goal.

Berhalter later brought on both Tyler Boyd and Gyasi Zardes off the bench to try and score an insurance goal, but Panama’s defense held strong and the U.S. failed to threaten the rest of the way. However, the U.S. backline kept a third-consecutive clean sheet and key players such as Michael Bradley got the entire game off to rest before likely returning to the lineup this weekend.

 

 

Must-See Goal: Jozy Altidore puts USMNT in front with Bicycle Kick

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Jozy Altidore put his stamp on the game and gave U.S. Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter more to speak about with one fell swing.

Altidore finished off a corner kick in spectacular fashion, executing a perfect bicycle kick to put the USMNT up 1-0 in the 66th minute. The goal came one minute after the entrance of Christian Pulisic, which perhaps was on the mind of the Panama defense.

It was Altidore’s second-straight game vs. Panama with a goal. His last two were in October 2017, when the U.S. pummeled Panama, 4-0. Of course, a few days later, a tired USMNT failed to win at Trinidad and Tobago.