Why Guardiola’s arrival means Man City will join the elite

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The biggest secret in the soccer world is out.

Pep Guardiola, 45, will be Manchester City’s head coach for the 2016-17 Premier League season with the Spanish coach signing a three-year deal.

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The news broke on Monday, as Transfer Deadline Day was dominated first by the rather nonchalant and typically classy announcement from Manuel Pellegrini that he would leave City at the end of this season and moments later Guardiola was named as City’s new boss.

Already an aura of invincibility is surrounding City with the appointment of the former Barcelona and current Bayern Munich confirmed.

Before we get in to the nuts and bolts of how and why Pep will push City into the elite of European and World soccer, a word must be reserved for Pellegrini. A banner has been held up by Man City fans of a smiling Pellegrini under the words “This Charming Man” which is a reference to The Smiths and their song of the same name.

[ MORE: Guardiola to leave Bayern

Pellegrini, 62, is charming and has been a breath of fresh air in the PL over the last two-and-a-half-years. The Chilean boss arrived from Malaga with plenty to prove but delivered a PL title and a League Cup in his debut season in England, finished second last season and City has a real chance of completing a quadruple this campaign. All three seasons they have made it into the UEFA Champions League knockout stages — something they’d never achieved before — and when we look back at his time in charge, his class, grace and ability to manufacture a team who play silky, attractive soccer will be at the forefront of our minds. He won’t find it hard to get a top job this summer.

When Guardiola takes over from Pellegrini in July, he will be taking charge of a team in very good shape thanks to the astute Chilean coach and his staff. The likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are all approaching or are years away from their prime and the man who made his name at Barca is well known for producing teams who press high up the pitch and pass the opposition to death.

That ideology fits in very well with the players City possess — it will need some tweaking, here and there — and if Vincent Kompany can stay fit and a few defensive additions can arrive, City will not only thrive in the PL under Pep but also in Europe. City have won two PL titles in the last three years but conquering Europe is the main aim and employing a man who has dominated in Spain and Germany during his coaching career makes perfect sense.

There’s no secret that getting Guardiola to the Etihad Stadium has been City’s long-term plan to do just that. Getting Guardiola on board is a once in a generation opportunity.

Pep Guardiola , Philipp Lahm

Back in 2012 the Abu Dhabi-based owners placed Catalan duo Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain in charge of the soccer side of the club as directors mainly due to their close links with Guardiola whom they worked with at Barcelona. That factor was a huge bonus in fending off interest in Pep from Manchester United and Chelsea who are both now looking over their shoulder enviously towards the Etihad.

In the actual news release on Monday, City confirmed negotiations with Pep were well under way back in 2012 before he decided to take a sabbatical and then join Bayern Munich. Getting Guardiola on board was part of the master plan and he can take them to the next level. Make no mistake, the initial deal may be for three years but we are now talking about a man that City want to be the figurehead of one of the greatest soccer dynasties the world has ever seen.

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They have the facilties at their world class City Football Academy and the Etihad, they have the huge financial input from Sheikh Mansour and now they have the best coach on the planet.

What is perhaps the most exciting aspect of luring Pep to the Premier League is not only how he will nurture and get the best out of City’s hugely talented current squad, but who else he may entice to join him. Lionel Messi flourished under Guardiola and if the Argentina superstar ever fancies a move away from the Nou Camp then it would be to link up with his old boss at City. Sure, it would be the most expensive deal in history but it could happen with Guardiola in charge.

Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets are other names from Guardiola’s dominant Barca teams who could arrive, and then there’s the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and Phillip Lahm at Bayern Munich. His work as a coach doesn’t suit every player and he’s known to be demanding and controlling but boy, does it get results. In his six-and-a-half campaigns as a coach Guardiola has won 19 of the 30 competitions he’s challenged for. That’s an incredible 63 percent success rate.

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He has delivered trophies wherever he has coached and now he has the chance to deliver a glut of titles to a club who have been desperately building up to this moment and now aim to dominate the global game with not only their financial power off the pitch but their play on nit.

No player in the world wouldn’t want to work with Pep. City can afford pretty much every player in the world. And sooner rather than later they will become one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Pep meshes everything together and the announcement he’s arriving comes after years of hard ground work being laid to finally get their man.

City have been close to joining the elite clubs on the planet for some time. With Guardiola’s arrival, they’ve finally done it.

Cole returns to Chelsea as youth team coach

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One of Chelsea’s best players in club history is back at his old stomping grounds in a new role.

Chelsea finally confirmed over their social media channels that former left back Ashley Cole is back at the club coaching in the academy, helping the next generation of stars grow and learn the games. Specifically, Cole is coaching the U-15 squad.

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“I’m also doing my badges at the moment and so being here at Chelsea means I have the chance to coach every day, whereas maybe if I wasn’t working at a club it would be hard for me to get the hours in,” Cole told Chelsea’s website. “I’m learning not just how to be a coach and how to speak to people in a different environment but the side of coaching that you don’t see like planning the sessions and setting up the equipment.

“As a player, you just turn up for a session and do it. If it’s a possession drill, you just arrive and try to keep the ball but now I’m getting to understand that there are always ideas behind a particular session or practice. Organization has to be key and those are the little details that it takes to be a great coach.”

While plenty from Cole’s era have moved into the media for lucrative punditry roles, it’s nice to see players like Cole and his former teammate Frank Lampard, now Chelsea coach, go into coaching to help pass on some of the great lessons they’ve learned during their careers. .

Cole said in the interview that he wasn’t sure what was next after playing three seasons for the LA Galaxy and then joining Lampard at Derby County for the second half of last season. He added that he got his first taste of coaching kids while with the Galaxy, helping some of the academy players and taking part in video sessions.

“The Academy are very good at giving ex-players a route back to the club and a chance to learn as coaches,” Cole said. “They’re eager to bring in people who understand what it means to be at Chelsea and what it means to wear the badge. You have to be a top player to play for Chelsea so they want those top ex-players influencing and trying to help the next generation develop and be better players.”

Spanish FA once again opposes La Liga match in U.S.

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For the second consecutive season, La Liga and Relevant Sports have proposed a league match to take place this winter in the U.S.

And once again, the La Liga proposal doesn’t have the support of its national soccer federation.

[READ: La Liga wants to move Villarreal-Atletico Madrid to Miami]

Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), told reporters on Thursday that it would oppose the match taking place outside of Spain’s borders, keeping a consistent line in the sand on how far globalization can go in soccer.

“It would disrupt the competition,” Rubiales said, via AS. “To play a game in Miami, La Liga needs permission from five bodies that it doesn’t have.”

The five bodies Rubiales referred to are the RFEF, FIFA, CONCACAF, U.S. Soccer and MLS.

Last time around, Relevant Sports and La Liga announced a long-term, lucrative marketing contract to expand the brand’s footprint in the Americas, and soon after, petitioned to move Girona’s home game against Barcelona to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, the home stadium of Relevant Sports owner Stephen Ross and his Miami Dolphins.

Ultimately, La Liga president Javier Tebas and Relevant Sports were unable to get permission from the RFEF or FIFA to hold the event outside Spain and it went off as expected in Girona. At the time, Spain’s player’s union and fans groups opposed the move. Tebas has filed a lawsuit in Spain to try to force the RFEF to approve their request, but it seems unlikely to be awarded and it surely doesn’t provide any good will between the two parties.

There’s been plenty of talk about bringing league games abroad before, but it has just been talk so far. The Premier League considered adding an extra game to the season to be played all over the world, but never went through with creating plans for matches.

Associations – not leagues, to be clear – have brought things like Super Cups abroad. For example, the RFEF moved the 2018 Spanish Super Cup to Tangiers, Morocco, while the France Football Federation has brought its national Super Cup match to both the U.S. and Montreal, Canada in recent years. However, the argument in favor of bringing those games abroad is they’re basically meaningless. Meanwhile, one result in a league season could – in theory – determine whether a team is relegated or not, especially if the margin is three points or less.

We could see another legal fight on our hands, so watch this space, there’s plenty more to come.

Rodgers excuses Maddison’s behavior after England departure

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Leicester City and England midfielder James Maddison made headlines for the wrong reasons after he was pictured last week watching the England match at the Czech Republic from a casino.

Despite the negative attention from Maddison’s decision to watch the game at that venue, he has the backing of his club manager, Brendan Rodgers.

“The kid went away with the international team and took ill while he was away,” Rodgers said, via the Guardian. “He wanted to stay and hopefully be ready for the second game. But the England medical staff – which I can understand, as he had flu and they didn’t want that to spread to his teammates – decided it’s best for him to leave the camp. So he leaves, gets some tablets with our guys at the club, then he feels better.

“He watched the game at home on his own on the Friday and then goes out at half-time – probably he’ll make better decisions in his life but he went to a casino on his own to sit and watch the second half by a poker table. The suggestions are he left England purposelessly and then goes to a casino but that’s totally not the case at all. But his eyes have been opened now to the wider world in terms of what he did. He knows in hindsight he’s made a mistake.”

Considering all that went on during England’s international break, from the poor performance in Prague to the horrible racism endured in Bulgaria, this is a bit of a silly scandal. To be honest, as long as Maddison is taking care of his body and himself, why does it matter if he was at a casino, or a pub, or anywhere?

However, there’s no denying that the optics look bad. Folks didn’t know that he arrived to England camp with the flu, or a flu-like illness at least, and the England medical staff are right to send him away to make sure no one else gets sick. He may have been feeling better by Friday and wanted to get out of the house. I think we’ve all been there after being sick for a few days.

The most important lesson for Maddison is to learn that his actions, out of context, can be misunderstood. In terms of soccer, after Ross Barkley’s performance for England, Maddison will have to prove in his club form that he should still have a place in the England team for the near future. There’s only two more international dates left before the 2020 Euros, so time is running out for Maddison to make an impact to Southgate.

Tierney, Lacazette available for Arsenal

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Arsenal are edging closer to finally having a full-strength squad.

Ahead of Monday’s prime-time matchup with Sheffield United, Arsenal manager Unai Emery confirmed that Kieran Tierney was in line to make his Premier League debut, while Alexandre Lacazette was back in full training and should be in the gameday squad.

“Today is Lacazette’s first training back with us,” Emery said in a press conference on Thursday. “He finished it well and he’s feeling well with his injuries. Tomorrow we will be training again and he will be with us. We will decide.

“The most important thing is that first he is training, then secondly it’s whether he can be with us and it depends how he can feel in the next days training with us, whether his ankle is not giving him any more problems.”

This is a huge boost to Arsenal, which has had to rely on some youngsters and have made some lineup changes to accommodate not having Lacazette on the field. Tierney meanwhile could step into a position where there’s already a decent starter, Sead Kolasinac.

Lacazette’s return also couldn’t have come at a better time. In Premier League action, Arsenal’s high-powered offense has been stymied, scoring just two goals in the last two league games. Meanwhile, against weaker defenses in the UEFA Europa League and the Carabao Cup, Arsenal has bagged a total of 12 goals.

The veteran Frenchman has scored two goals in three appearances so far this season, including a big goal just before halftime in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham. However, he suffered a long-term ankle injury in that match that has kept him on the sidelines for more than a month.

“[Tierney is] ready to play,” Emery later said. Now we have two options in that left-back role with Sead Kolasinac and him. We’re going to play a lot of matches after Monday. We will need every player. It depends how he comes into the first training with us, Sead, after his international matches. We now have two players in that position and we can use one on Monday, it depends how they are, one or the other.”

Tierney, the 22-year-old Scottish left back, has made two appearances for the Arsenal first team since recovering from a double hernia operation over the summer. Signed from Celtic for around $32 million, Tierney adds a skill that Kolasinac has struggled with – expert crosser of the ball into the box, where the likes of Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can score when given a decent chance.