Five Things We Learned – Toure lifts Manchester City as Chelsea held by Burnley

The Offside Rule

By Jamie Thomas.

This week Jamie takes a look at a weekend during which Manchester City crushed Newcastle, Chelsea failed to grab three points against visitors Burnley, and managers Tim Sherwood and Chris Ramsey both suffered defeats at their new clubs.

  1. Tourific to have him back

Pundits hailed Wilfried Bony’s move to Manchester City because the champions seemingly needed reinforcements up front, having scored just three goals in their recent four-game winless run in the league.

But gaffer Manuel Pellegrini has lots of attacking talent at his disposal – it’s just that his men were rocked by an injury crisis and missing Yaya Toure, who was busy winning the African Cup of Nations. It was obvious how much of a loss the triumphant Ivorian hero had been as he was at the heart of everything in City’s 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle at the Etihad.

  1. Mind the gap, Mourinho!

Jose Mourinho is…

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Mentality key to Borussia Dortmund turnaround

The Offside Rule

By Jamie Thomas.

Borussia Dortmund team-mates Mats Hummels and Roman Weidenfeller breached the ‘Yellow Wall’ to confront fans after their defeat by Augsburg and with it broke down the mental barrier contributing to their winless streak.

Since then, they’ve recorded impressive back-to-back victories in the Bundesliga to give the supporters renewed optimism about the remainder of the season. Commentators had initially questioned the players’ actions – why risk being abused? Even gaffer Jurgen Klopp looked bemused at the time.

But that simple act’s turned out to be something of a masterstroke in sparking Dortmund’s revival. It also helped placate the crowd; showing the players understood that no matter how bad they felt about the slump, the fans were feeling much worse.

It’s been a tumultuous season for Dortmund. Less than two years after the high of reaching the Champions League final, they have spent most of this term languishing at…

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5 Things We Learned – Manchester United slip while Arsenal & Tottenham steal the show

The Offside Rule

Jamie Thomas looks back at five things we can take away from the weekend’s derby double-header and other Premier League fixtures.

  1. Arsenal are their own worst enemies

Arsene Wenger was not wrong when he said Tottenham’s two goals were cheap. Harry Kane arrived at the back post to finish Mousa Dembele’s flick-on from a corner after Aaron Ramsey was caught napping.

Gunners goalie David Ospina later redeemed himself with a stunning double save from Nabil Bentaleb then Kane at 1-1. The keeper was like a wall at times yet, on occasions, he was infuriating because he just did not want to catch the ball.

Tottenham grafted in contrast to Arsenal after Mesut Ozil got the opener. They just didn’t have the same intensity which was epitomised by a tiring Kane, who worked tirelessly to worm his way between a lackadaisical Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal to nod in the winner.

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Blind faith: Why Daley is a key man for Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United

The Offside Rule

By Jamie Thomas.

He may be one of Manchester United’s cheapest signings of recent times, but versatile Dutch ace Daley Blind has shown his true worth at Old Trafford since joining for £13.8million from Ajax last September.

Although he’s not a player to fill up the stats sheet with goals, his significance to the United team has largely been overlooked until now. I’ve watched every game Daley’s played in that red shirt, and, let me tell you, he’s been crucial since day one.

But following another great performance in the engine room of United’s midfield during the weekend’s win over Leicester, no one can deny his emergence as a key man.

Former United star Gary Neville has criticised that sometimes he doesn’t send those searching balls forward that United fans have been used to from Paul Scholes or Michael Carrick over the years. While I take his point, I would…

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5 Things We Learned – Tottenham & Manchester United have stars whilst Arsenal have a headache

The Offside Rule

In the first of a new feature for the relaunched Offside Rule Podcast website, Jamie Thomas looks back at five things we can take away from the weekend’s Premier League fixtures.

  1. Kane is able for England

There are countless young England players who’ve been overhyped then failed to reach their expected potential. Earlier in the season, many were adding Tottenham’s Harry Kane to that list but we’ve been guilty of underestimating him. The 21-year-old striker’s been rewarded with a new five-year deal after netting 20 goals in all competitions this term.

Daniel Sturridge scored on his return for Liverpool and Raheem Sterling won another Man-of-the-Match award, while John Stones impressed for Everton and Luke Shaw’s finally finding his feet at Manchester United. England fans can start to feel a bit more optimistic about FA chairman Greg Dyke’s targets to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and win the World Cup…

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Should The FA be wary of backing Prince Ali in the FIFA presidential race?

The Offside Rule

By Jamie Thomas

Earlier this week the Football Association threw a spanner in the works of Sepp Blatter’s bid to remain Fifa president as sources announced they would be backing one of his main rivals. It was reported on Wednesday that the FA are set to give Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein of Jordan one of the five nominations he needs to stand against Blatter in May’s presidential election.

This is the same FA that has been among the leading voices criticising the present Fifa regime. Prince Ali, a Fifa vice-president himself, has long been critical of the current administration as well, making him a prime candidate to earn the backing of the FA.

Whether or not the FA are supporting him because they believe in his vision of an ethical and transparent organisation, or because they want to put as many people as possible in a position to challenge Blatter (with…

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Bright future for Conwy despite Cup exit

Bangor City Football Club proved too good for their Welsh Cup opponents Conwy Borough this afternoon as they ran out 3-0 winners at the Nantporth Stadium.

Bangor have been struggling throughout the season and currently sit in the relegation zone of the Welsh Premier League whereas Conwy are faring much better in the division below.

Conwy have been going through a restructuring period this season and the club’s assistant manager and academy director, Chris Whitley said the future looks very bright for the club:

‘This was a really good learning exercise for us – we’re restructuring for next season and Bangor are where we want to be so it was good to face them.

‘Particularly the last week gives us confidence that we’re on the right track. We left all our best players out against Guildsfield in the last game and dominated despite their better league position.’

Positive Season

  • Conwy have found some real consistency at various points this season, frequently going on four-game and six-game undefeated streaks.
  • Whitley’s arrival has seen Conwy develop a new academy set-up, something that is required if they are to gain promotion which speaks to their ambitions going forward.
  • High profile figures in the Welsh game such as Wales Manager Chris Coleman and Technical Director Osian Roberts have visited and been very complimentary of the club and it’s setup

Challenges Ahead

Conwy started very brightly, playing a very attacking system and pegging Bangor back for a lot of the first half and although Whitley acknowledged this, he believes improvements still need to be made:

‘We thought we’d go with an attacking system because it was the best way to negate them but the problem for us then was our fitness levels which weren’t good enough to last the ninety minutes.

‘This game has been a big plus in moving the players on really because they needed this experience. It’s a challenge to pick the players up now though, being the first time they’ve lost two on the trot.’

Bangor face their own challenges too as they have a handful of games left to save their Welsh Premier League status and having watched them in action, Whitley thinks they’ll escape the drop:

‘I spoke to Neville before the game and I think they’ll be ok, the clean sheet today will do them good too. They have very, very good spirit which is very important but they are vulnerable at the back.’

Powell Praise

After a 3-0 win, Bangor City manager Neville Powell expressed his satisfaction towards the result but praised Conwy and said that it wasn’t as straightforward as the score-line may have suggested:

‘We knew Conwy were a useful outfit with a lot of Welsh premier League experience so we had to do a professional job and it was key that we didn’t concede in the first 20 minutes.

‘The timing of the goals on our part was crucial, scoring just before half-time and just after, but they gave us a hell of a tough game and all credit to them for their performance on the day.’

Powel also noted that he could see Conwy, as well as some other clubs from the Huws Gray Alliance making a successful jump to the Welsh Premier League but noted that finances might be a problem:

‘There’s some good sides in that next division, seven or eight of them, and Conwy are definitely one of them. The Welsh Premier League is getting harder every year, financially more than anything.

‘As far as playing style and ability they won’t have a problem but financially it is so difficult to get into our division and stay there with the money it takes to assemble these squads nowadays.’