An Undefendable Era

Written by on 09/10/2020

Welcome to The Final Ball Blog! This is where we’ll have weekly a weekly detailed insight into the last week of sport for those of you who just couldn’t live by only listening to us for an hour a week!

And after Lord knows how many months, silly season is finally over. Some fans can sit through the international break knowing they’ve got everything they ever wanted, the others probably support a team from Manchester. I’ll start with United. Now if you take each signing in isolation, look at it in terms of their profile and the qualities that they can potentially bring to the club, they’ve done alright. But it’s just not what the fans wanted. It wasn’t Jadon Sancho, simple as that. They were given a target price & deadline and failed to meet either. Now considering the financial impact of the pandemic (a year without matchday revenue amounts to more than the money Dortmund wanted), it is understandable for a club to say, “we can’t meet those demands this year”. But it’s more about the way United do business. Fernandes was signed in the last week of the last transfer window after 8 months of chasing. Maguire (oooh, we’ll get onto him), after two months of Leicester saying “£80 million, or nothing”, United caved into the demands a week before the start of the new season. It’s a trend. A trend that goes back to when Fergie left. The powers that be seemed to look at last minute deals as a strategy. Well, it hasn’t worked. And just to make matters worse, their rivals have spent and improved their squads despite financial restrictions.

Man Utd have managed to get rid of assets that were no longer seen integral to the make-up of their respective squads and have brought in players that will contribute to what is likely to be the craziest Premier League that we’ve ever seen. Why couldn’t United even do that? How have United ended up with an 8th choice centre back on a six-figure weekly sum with 3 years left on his contract (with an option for a further year)? The way the club is run gets more and more intriguing by the minute. United offered £90 million for Sancho after spending £40 million on Donny Van De Beek. Now, of course the financial setup of both deals would have been extremely complexed and various bonuses and agent fees come into their respective payment structures, but the overriding feeling is that money has been thrown where it wasn’t needed as opposed to where it was truly wanted. Now the money has ended up going into Edison Cavani’s pocket (good but old player), what does this mean for our uncle, Odion Ighalo? Was he just re-signed purely for commercial deals (ask anyone in Nigeria, he’s on every poster)? When you add up all these factors, it leads us all to one question, do the people in charge know what they’re doing?

Meanwhile, on the other side of Manchester, things don’t look much better. I mean, City are still a quality team on their day, but there is a feeling that they’re starting to go down a slippery slope. Kompany’s quality on the pitch and influence off it still hasn’t been replaced (Ruben Dias has been likened more to Otamendi’s style of play than the Mastermind lookalike), and the same could be said for David Silva. Sane leaves for a cut-price and no-one really bats an eyelid, and even Eric Garcia is set to go down the same route in an attempt to leave for free next year (he’s not great anyway). Now the issue here isn’t necessarily finances like most clubs, but why is there such a desire to leave in the first place? One of the best clubs in the league with one of the best managers, you would think that this is the place that the greatest players want to be (well, Messi did want to come). But with an average transfer window, a long injury list and a weird tactical setup, a team that was once full of glitter may struggle in finding any gold this season.

Now, I couldn’t go without talking about what was possibly the craziest Sunday that football has seen for a long while. To see both Liverpool & United get beaten like “they stole meat from the pot” will go down in history and be spoken about throughout the season. But if you combine it with all of the other results this season, it leads to one question, why can’t anyone defend? There has been too many goals this season that have occurred from lack of pressure from the opposition, including the alarming increase in deflected goals. My theory is, maybe they are missing the fans. Not because the fans are seen as “The 12th Man”, it’s more about who you’re performing for. Take Liverpool for example, Klopp insists on them playing a high line, as I’m sure he does in training. Now in training, regardless of what happens, you play to the tactics set out by your manager and coaches. But in order to prevent public embarrassment, teams have what is called “in-game management”, where they would look at the situation, hear the boos from the crowd screaming for the players to “wake up”. At 3-1, both United & Liverpool would seek damage limitation in these circumstances. Everybody “sit back” for 10 minutes. Let’s just calm down for a bit. Take the sting out of the game. But all they can hear is their manager. It’s a different type of pressure that can no longer be ignored or lost in the raucous of abuse towards the referee. Maybe this is why Maguire thinks it’s okay to throw your teammates out of the way. As much as these players may not admit to it, there is a subconscious that is leading to a different spectacle on the pitch. To be honest, hopefully it stays like this so that we can enjoy many more Sundays at home while Boris keeps us locked in.

Finally, the NBA final is starting to take shape and as enjoyable as it has been, the Lakers look set to win comprehensively. Which feels like a bit of a shame considering how some of the earlier play-off games have gone. There’s been no extra time, buzzer shots to win the game, Pandemic P performances, nothing. Just good old LeBron & AD asserting their authority on a slightly depleted Heat team (boo!). It almost doesn’t feel right for it to end without drama. It’s about the only thing that doesn’t fit into 2020.

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