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A Dozen Compelling Soccer Questions That Will Be Answered In 2014

Written by on January 2, 2014 | 4 Comments »
Posted in Ask the Extra

Here are a dozen soccer questions that will be answered, one way or another, over the next twelve months.

Premier League Contenders?

It is, we are told, going to be a very close race at the top of the Barclays Premier League with up to seven clubs (or more depending on who you listen to) competing for the 2014 title. But how the table reads after 20 games is unlikely to be how it reads with ten games remaining and at the end.

At present Arsenal sits top with 45 points and Manchester United is 7th with 34 points. In between these two sits Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Spurs.

 To read more please click on the link.

Reserve Teams – Good, Bad or Just Different

Written by on December 23, 2011 | 3 Comments »
Posted in Ask the Extra

Q from Dave

After watching Barcelona’s B team destroy Bate, it got me thinking about the reserve team system in England.  La Liga “B’ teams compete in the Segunda Division if they get promoted that far and play against some good competition.

Are the reserve teams eligible to compete in the league in England?  If not, doesn’t this give Barcelona an advantage by giving their young players the opportunity to play and to play against some decent competition? 

How does this all work?

Response – The short answer to your question is that reserve teams in England are not allowed to play in the full league system.

From time to time there have been suggestions that Premier League sides should be allowed to enter the lower leagues but it has never been an idea that has gained any traction.

The major advantage put forward for the idea is that would it would help generate greater interest and attendance if say Manchester United reserves were to “come to town.”

The counter to that is Manchester reserves and any other Premier League side that wanted to enter a team in the lower divisions are taking away a spot from another full-fledged club and robbing a community of representation.

It would also require a change to the pyramid system in England or having the Premier League reserve sides enter at the lowest level of the conference. Neither would, I think, be deemed as acceptable.

Any change to the system would also mean that teams in the lower levels would not be able to tap the Premier League clubs for loan players.

A number of players – including David Beckham to Preston North End – have been farmed out to clubs in lower tiers over the years. I think it is fair to say that such a system has generally been viewed as a positive by all parties involved.

There is a Premier Reserve league in England that is based on a north/south split although it garners limited interest.

Years ago there was more interest as the reserve side was seen as a way to keep squad players match-fit, allow players to work their way back from injury and to allow younger players to gain insight from older players who were still under contract but unable to hold down a first team spot. 

Now teams carry bigger first team squads and fitness regimes are different and players are kept in better shape even when not playing regularly.

I am not sure that if the Spanish system does offers an advantage that it is much of one.

The lower the level the less technical the opposition so although the reserves players will be experiencing different styles of play it may not necessarily help them when or if reach the first team squad.

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Ask the Extra Part 3, Serie A Better To Remain Poor, Who Comes After Wenger

Written by on December 2, 2011 | 2 Comments »
Posted in Ask the Extra

Q from Jack

There is a lot of talk about the need for Serie A teams to construct their own stadia in order to remain competitive at the highest levels. 

I think any football fan loves the idea of watching Serie A without the ubiquitous running tracks dampening the atmosphere.  But wouldn’t a richer Serie A join the Spain/England arms race and bring more upward pressure on European wages which are already seem so high? 

It’s small consolation to Milan, Inter, Roma et al (and it’s not as if, aside from Juve, that there a many shovel-ready projects at the moment) but doesn’t the current Serie A situation act as a bit of a brake on this upward pressure since so many quality players move through that league? 

Or does it really matter? 

I mean, Germany seems a reasonable league re wages (although I’m not sure if most clubs there own their grounds).

Since you are a bit of a numbers man I thought you might have some thoughts.

Thanks for a great pod and site.  Keep it up.

Bobby –  If Financial Fair Play was not a factor then there might be an issue but even then I am not sure that another league would willingly act as a cap on wages while teams from other countries prospered in terms of trophies and stars.

You mention the quality players that run through Serie A. I assume you mean that they then go abroad. Sorry, but I am hard pushed to come up with 5 Serie A players who have moved to clubs outside of Italy in the last 5 years who have been big successes.

Any discussion of the situation in Germany needs to consider the ownership restrictions that are in place together with a very strict and broad-based licensing system that is applied to clubs. Financial Fair Play before its time.

Q from: Jack

On the pod you recently mentioned Roberto Martinez as a possible successor to Arsene Wenger at some point.  Just wondering if you could expand on that please (not so much re Wenger but why Martinez). 

What would you think of Slaven Bilić?  Or even Guidolin (he seems to be able to do good business on the cheap, which is Arsenal’s m.o.)?  I am not part of the “sack Wenger” crowd but, should a below par season develop, who knows what could happen.

However, re Wenger, my feeling is that whatever heat he is facing right now is due to lack of transfer activity and the squad’s corresponding lack of depth (even prior to the departure of Cesc and Nasri). 

Wenger is who he is, so, therefore, I place most of the blame on the Arsenal board for not providing a sober sense of urgency and the necessary assistance to get deals done. 

I think Arsenal may need a new board, or at least a new Dein, rather than a new manager.

Bobby –  Martinez came to mind because he is clearly a coach who has his vision of how he wants his team to play and sticks with and is not swayed by individual results.

Slaven Bilic – taking a manager who is essentially untested at the club level would be a enormous gamble and not one I would see Arsenal taking.

Guidolin – because he coaches a club that has a great track record of sniffing out bargains I would not make the assumption that he is actually the decision maker.

Udinese has an extraordinary scouting network that would report to a Sporting Director. The Sporting Director makes the player decisions and Guidolin simply coaches the players he is given.

Q from Christopher Henderson

Do you think Sir Alex Ferguson is a better manager than Jose Mourinho? Don’t be bias!

Bobby – quick answer don’t be presumptuous!  I don’t no know what you mean by better in the context of a football manager or a player for that matter.

What are you looking for? Are you looking for a quick fix manager like Mourinho whose shelf life is only a few seasons or are you looking for a manager who has successfully built many teams while transitioning from one group of players to another ala Ferguson.

Two different tasks, two different skill sets needed.

Without context there is no right answer.

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