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October 8, 2019

Who Manchester United Should Buy in January to Keep from Being Relegated

Avatar October 8, 2019

Well, I never thought we would come to this situation when Manchester United find themselves closer to relegation than the Premier League top-four.

Indeed, after another shallow defeat to Newcastle United, they sit merely two points above the drop zone. There’s a relegation party being organized in May just in case. They are +7000 to be relegated.

It looks unlikely things will improve anytime soon. The players simply aren’t performing. Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s tactics have become obsolete and there’s just no life in the team. Lethargic is perhaps the perfect word to sum up their situation, with clear-cut chances hard to come by. Not like their current attackers are decisive enough to finish the little ones that do come by.

United clearly didn’t spend enough during the summer, meaning major reinforcements must be made to revitalize their attack. With pressure piling on distancing themselves from a he relegation zone, here are a few players United could buy in January to turn things around for them.

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5. Steven Bergwijn

United have had a persistent problem attacking through their right-flank, with pointless delivery from that side rendering them useless due to the lack of talent. Everyone thought Daniel James as the fix, but he’s more a natural left-winger who loves cutting in. Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s a sturdy defender but still lacks that delivery sense from the right.

They still need to address their right-winger problems, but Steven Bergwijn can be a clever solution. The Netherlands international is a feisty figure through the right, having the pace along with the dribbling skills to torment defenders. He has a WhoScored rating of 7.41 when playing through the right, having scored one and assisted twice from that.

Moreover, his 3 key passes & 1.8 per game proves he’s a creative, electric figure moving through the wings. A tricky winger like Bergwijn, who can cross & cut from the right, is ideal to bring another dimension to re-energize United’s front-line.

At 22, the PSV Eindhoven winger fits the right age profile as well for a Man U squad that should build through youth.

4. Sean Longstaff

What United lacked in their embarrassing loss to Newcastle United was the passion which Sean Longstaff displayed for the Magpies. While his younger brother Matty stole the show with his winner, Sean’s been among the best things to come out from their youth system in ages. He’s determined, tough-tackling and possesses a valuable never-say-die spirit.

Of course, Scott McTominay wears his badge with pride, having produced some inspired performances recently, but he often gets overrun with little back-up. Nemanja Matic is too slow, while Fred is too clumsy. Longstaff’s expected assists per 90 are superior to all three aforementioned players, proving he possesses that cutting creative edge.

He tends to run his socks off, make crucial interceptions and drive his side forward with lung-busting runs. Longstaff was linked with United in the summer, as his recent fiery performance proves he’s the one needed to run oppositions to the ground.

He’s also 21 and from England, fitting key criteria United are after in their rebuild.

3. Mario Mandzukic

Another one that got away for United in the summer, Mario Mandzukic was there for the taking as Romelu Lukaku’s replacement. However, OGS couldn’t get it done due to wage issues, instead deciding to trust Marcus Rashford & Anthony Martial to come up with the goods.

Well, that hasn’t worked out. United is only scoring 5 goals in 7 games since that Chelsea drubbing. Mandzukic hasn’t appeared for Juventus this season, but is again available in January. The 2018 FIFA World Cup finalist is everything United need in a warrior in the attack.

Manduzkic is hard-working, versatile enough to even move through the wings and a terror inside the area. He’s very clinical inside the area, with the effectiveness for scoring on big occasions. His bullish presence is also unnerving for defenders. The Croatian can battle his way into scoring goals, with his elite mentality making him the ideal mentor for United’s growing strikers.

At 33, he’s long in the tooth for a rebuild. But like our #1 on the list, he will solve United’s biggest short-term need in their quest to stay above relegation.

2. Bruno Fernandes

When Man United fans begged for a creative centre-midfield to take some pressure off Paul Pogba’s shoulders, they decided to just raise the responsibility on the wantaway Frenchman. Ander Herrera was never replaced, nor was Marouane Fellaini.

The results of doing nothing are showing, with United’s static midfield barely influencing their results. Bruno Fernandes is still at Portuguese side Sporting, but United must go on with a big bid in January. He’s scored six goals and assisted five from attacking midfield this season. Those numbersthe entire United midfield haven’t been able to match.

The industrious, creative Fernandes has that cutting-edge which they lack. Be it his bombing long-shots, ripping through-balls or a hard-working tenacity, Fernandes is the proactive, multi-layered workhorse. He would spark their creativity as well as solve their goal-scoring issues from midfield.

1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The more troubles start creeping up on United, the more it becomes confusing why they let go of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the first place. He was “replaced” with Lukaku after sustaining a terrible injury, but letting him go without a proper plan now seems unnecessary.

Zlatan’s since gone onto take the MLS by storm, scoring 52 goals in 56 games for LA Galaxy! He’s reaffirmed himself the King of MLS, scoring incredible efforts to inspire them to many victories. However, here at High Press Soccer, we feel Ibra would be a perfect buy for United in January. He still has that hunger in him after having successfully recovered from the injury.

Ibra’s a beast aerially, rarely scuffs his chances & the ideal finisher United need to creep in their limited chances. Zlatan’s already reiterated he’d be open to returning to Old Trafford, as they shouldn’t make any second guesses when it comes to resigning this lethal goal-scorer.

MLS End-of-Season Awards, Best XI Picks

Avatar October 8, 2019

With the end of the MLS regular season, it’s now Awards Time. And with a full international break to sit through until the playoffs start, we have plenty of time to argue about the races.

Let’s get right into it.

MLS Most Valuable Player

  1. Carlos Vela (LAFC)
  2. Josef Martinez (Atlanta United)
  3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy)
Nobody will argue that record-setting Carlos Vela is MLS MVP of 2019.

I don’t think I really have to defend myself here. Everyone is going to pick Vela. The man had 34 goals and 15 assists on the best team in league history. He is the best player MLS has ever seen and he has no competition for this award.

Most people will have Josef and Zlatan behind Vela. For fear of over-valuing goal-scoring, I considered for a brief second throwing a guy like Maxi Moralez or Eduard Atuesta here over Ibrahimovic, who negatively impacts his team more than an MVP candidate should. But both Martinez and Ibra had incredible scoring seasons, and established a clear elite tier alongside Vela, the likes of which MLS has never seen.

MLS Goalkeeper of the Year

  1. Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
  2. Daniel Vega (San Jose Earthquakes)
ATLANTA, GA OCTOBER 06: New England goalkeeper Matt Turner (30) makes a save during the MLS match between the New England Revolution and Atlanta United FC on October 6th, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

This is a tough award. Turner was fantastic this season, but he played only 20 games thanks to injuries and the bumbling incompetence of Brad Friedel. There is a reasonable argument that a keeper has to play more games to see serious consideration for this award, barring some otherworldly performance.

I settled on Turner after considering the other options, none of which were enticing. Brad Guzan and Stefan Frei, two stalwarts, weren’t good enough. It would have been tough to seriously consider a guy like Tyler Miller, despite his team’s success. Analytically, Steve Clark and David Bingham are near the top, but neither really inspires confidence.

Choosing Nick Rimando as a sort of legacy award was the closest I came to usurping Turner. Rimando has somehow never won a GKOTY, and while his final season wouldn’t normally merit this award on its own, Rimando might be the best keeper in league history. Given the lack of clear favorites, Rimando isn’t a terrible choice.

After last year’s Zack Steffen-Frei debacle (in which Frei should have easily won), I couldn’t bring myself to give the award to someone who hasn’t been the best goalkeeper in the league. Thus, I come to Turner, who was certainly the best in the league this year, despite his smaller sample of games. Turner blows his competition away statistically with an outrageous -10.14 g-xG figure, meaning he’s making tougher saves than other keepers.

The Revs would not have made the postseason without Turner’s performance in the last stretch of the season, adding a certain layer of importance to his argument. Turner was clutch and crucial to his team’s performance.

Vega isn’t my favorite candidate, but he performs well by the underlying metrics. The Quakes improved dramatically, despite their late-season collapse.

MLS Defender of the Year

  1. Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)
  2. Ike Opara (Minnesota United)
HARRISON, NEW JERSEY- August 5: Walker Zimmerman #25 of Los Angeles FC in action during the New York Red Bulls Vs Los Angeles FC MLS regular season game at Red Bull Arena on August 5, 2018 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Some have started to favor Opara and Atlanta’s Miles Robinson over Zimmerman, but I’m still leaning toward LAFC’s rock. However, I will concede that Zimmerman has not been quite as good in the second half of the season as he was in the first. A mistake-free, comfortable-on-the-ball force for such a dominant team is hard to pass over.

Opara and Robinson are both worthy contenders. Opara, especially, has a very good chance of winning for a second time, and he would be deserving.

Shout-out to all the fullbacks are consistently snubbed for this award. American Soccer Analysis made the case for Jorge Moreira, and while I can’t quite get there, I understand their case.

MLS Rookie of the Year

  1. Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union)
  2. Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United)
CHESTER, PA – MAY 29: Philadelphia Union Midfielder Brenden Aaronson (22) dribbles the ball during the second half of the MLS match between the Colorado Rapids and the Philadelphia Union on May 29, 2019, at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

There are numerous good Rookie of the Year candidates this year. Aaronson, who has been a critical part of the Philadelphia Union’s success, is the best pick. He has excelled as an attacking midfielder, and has pushed star DP Marco Fabian out of the lineup.

Dotson has been a consistent starter for Minnesota. He’s worn a number of important hats for them, and the Loons’ success helps his case.

Shout-out to Andre Shinyashiki, who came close. Shinyashiki appeared in 31 games and scored seven goals for the revitalized Rapids. I also would have considered Keaton Parks, if I were convinced that he’s eligible for this award.

MLS Newcomer of the Year

  1. Carles Gil (New England Revolution)
  2. Heber (NYCFC)
FOXBOROUGH, MA – SEPTEMBER 29: New England Revolution forward Carles Gil (22) reacts as a ball gets away during a match between the New England Revolution and New York City FC on September 29, 2019, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Gil and Heber are the consensus favorites for this award. Orlando City’s Nani wasn’t too far off here; OCSC’s lack of success pretty much eliminated him. Cristian Espinoza would have had a better shot if San Jose hadn’t lost their last six games and choked away their playoff chances.

Heber was close. It’s true that his arrival as a No. 9 was a huge reason for NYCFC’s spring revival, but when Valentin Castellanos had to fill in up top as a result of Heber absences, NYC fared similarly.

Gil started all 34 of New England’s game, an impressive feat. 10 goals and 14 assists is a good haul, and Gil has been the Revs’ best player all season.

MLS Coach of the Year

  1. Bob Bradley (LAFC)
  2. Jim Curtain (Philadelphia Union)
KANSAS CITY, KS – JULY 03: Los Angeles FC head coach Bob Bradley in the first half of an MLS match between LAFC and Sporting Kansas City on July 03, 2019 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

These Coach of the Year awards tend to go to managers who turn bad teams around.

There are the usual slate of candidates who tout their club’s turnaround as their COTY case, but Bradley deserves this award over all of them. His LAFC, as we’ve mentioned plenty of times already, dominated the league. Bradley’s ability to develop players internally (Mark-Anthony Kaye, Latif Blessing, etc.) and maximize the tools at his disposal allowed LA to grow as much as they did.

Curtain improved as a tactician, successfully adjusting the Union’s formations and set-ups throughout the season. He crafted a team-oriented approach and integrated youth, deepening Philly’s player pool. He deserves second-place here.

Matias Almeyda, who completely turned the San Jose Earthquakes around, would probably have been here if not for the Quakes’ aforementioned collapse. Bruce Arena, Dome Torrent, and Luchi Gonzalez are also hanging around this race.

MLS Best XI of 2019

My only questions on this XI came with the full backs and in the midfield. Kai Wagner, Philly’s stalwart, deserves the left back spot. (I also had a hard time finding another deserving left back.) Anton Tinnerholm has long been underrated at right back. He is effective as a possession option in the final third for NYCFC.

Moralez and Eduard Atuesta weren’t difficult choices. Moralez is one of the more important players for his team in MLS, and Atuesta has by this point made a compelling case as the best d-mid in MLS. Darlington Nagbe has had a career year in Atlanta. The front three writes itself.

Shout-out to Jonathan dos Santos, Latif Blessing, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Miles Robinson, and Gil.

Onto the playoffs.

MLS Playoffs Round 1 Odds

High Press 10 October 8, 2019

Round 1 of MLS playoffs kick off October 19th & 20th.

Atlanta United look to defend their MLS Cup trophy. LAFC look to lay claim as being the greatest team in MLS history.

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How do the MLS playoffs work?

Seven (7) teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs.

The format is now entirely single elimination, adding a degree of randomness that’s at least somewhat limited when you have home at home series.

Also, the top seed in each conference receives a first round bye. The top seed plays the winner of the #4 vs #5 seed game.

The higher seeded team hosts each round of the playoffs, including the final.

MLS playoff Round 1 odds

Here are the odds from all MLS round 1 playoff games. Home team is listed first.

MLS PLAYOFFS SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19TH
Toronto FC -182Draw +335DC United +430
Atlanta United -225Draw +390New England +480
Seattle Sounder -137Draw +290FC Dallas +340
Real Salt Lake +100Draw +250Portland Timbers +265
MLS PLAYOFFSSUNDAY, OCTOBER 20TH
Philadelphia Union -112Draw +275New York Red Bulls +270
Minnesota United +110Draw +255LA Galaxy +230

Odds & Ends

  • Soccer is random as hell on a game-by-game basis. This won’t be all chalk. One of the road teams will surprise.
  • In big matches like these, often is the individual moments of brilliance that determine outcomes.
  • So if you’re looking for upsets / value, look at the teams with players who can create a moment of brilliance to win a game that their team is struggling. DC United with Wayne Rooney (+430) and LA Galaxy with Zlatan (+230) are your most likely upset candidates.

Where to Bet MLS Playoffs in the US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook

 

Brexit and the Premier League: What You Need to Know

Avatar October 8, 2019

Premier League clubs will be watching on anxiously over the outcome of the UK’s impending exit from the European Union (EU). As like with any industry, the terms and conditions of leaving the trade bloc could have far reaching knock on effects.

The plan currently is that the UK will finally leave the EU by October 31st this year, but deadlines have been set before and not met.

As the situation stands, there is no agreement between the UK and the EU on how Brexit will be handled, leaving an lingering uncertainty on what the future trade relationship will be between the two parties.

Consequently, if there is a more restrictive Brexit that is put into place or a “no deal”, EU players’ current status, work permit and future player registration conditions, could be starkly different.

For example, if there was a new non EU immigration points based system that was implemented, that would include footballers.

How the ‘Bosman Ruling’ is interpreted in the outcome of Brexit is another potentially major development.

The ruling in 1995 that a player was free to leave a club without a transfer fee once a contract had expired, was passed by the European Court of Justice.

Work permit conditions based on many circumstances 

Players from EU member state countries have been allowed to ply their trade across the bloc, due to the freedom of movement principle enshrined in the constitution of the EU.

Article 45 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU, allows EU citizens to work without permits in other countries with equal rights.

Currently, and as a gauge of how player transfers might be enacted in the future for those EU based , non-EU players have to apply for a Governing Body Endorsement from the Football Association (FA). It can be secured once they have a club to act as a sponsor.

A player’s eligibility for a work permit is also decided on a series of factors that includes the number of international caps that have been earned, two years prior to the application of the permit, and additionally the FIFA ranking of the national team a player appears for.

If a national team is ranked between one and ten in the world, a player would have to have played in 30% of his or her national team games.

Whereas if the national team was ranked between 31 and 50 in the world, then a player would have to perform in 75% of the matches.

Should a player fall short of the criteria, then the work permit application will be referred to an “Exceptions Panel”.

The other issues that are considered by the panel include a player’s transfer fee, salary agreements and recent playing history.

Premier League and the Football Association set for collision course 

Reports have suggested that there is a growing battle between the Premier League and the FA, over the quotas of home-grown players.

The FA are thought to be keen to use Brexit as leverage to limit the amount of overseas players in Premier League squads to 12, down from the current limit of 17.

A Spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work with the Premier League, the English Football League, and a range of government departments, including the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Home Office and the Treasury during this consultation period.”

Premier League rules state that a home-grown player has to be registered with a club, for three seasons before the player turns 21.

It’s a law that extends to foreign players if they moved to an English club as a youngster, Paul Pogba would qualify as he spent his formative years at Manchester United, before his £90 million move back to Old Trafford from Juventus three years ago.

Yet the Premier League’s interim chief executive Richard Masters, has voiced his opposition to the reduction of overseas talent, saying that Premier League clubs want the full access to the most able players in the wake of Brexit.

A study conducted by the data based news service FiveThirtyEight, found just how international the Premier League has become.

At the time the Bosman Ruling was announced, and the three foreign player limit was discarded, players from the UK and Ireland accounted for around 85% of Premier League footballers.

The number have since then dramatically plummeted to around 40%, in the 2015/16 season.

Team members arriving from the rest of the EU in turn escalated rapidly, also reaching a total of 40% of Premier League players, an significant increase of around 30% after the Bosman verdict.

While players from the rest of the world peaked at just under 25% of players ten years ago, but there has been a steady decline since to around 20%.

In a future scenario study, FiveThirtyEight also found that if the status quo remained and if EU nationals could play in the Premier League with few or no hurdles, there would little deviation from the current player nationality ratios.

If as expected, freedom of movements comes to an end with Brexit, then a different story is told.

The proportion of EU players in the Premier League considerably falls to 20% in the 2028/29 season.

In contrast, the volume of players from the UK and Ireland spirals to 64% of the total number of players.

Premier League clubs’ wealth and competitiveness under threat 

Since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, clubs have been able to attract the world’s best players paying exorbitant salaries, due to the strength of its wealth creation powers.

The latest broadcasting rights deal reached around £5 billion to show live matches over the next three years, with the rights divided between Sky TV, BT and Amazon Prime.

Overseas rights to Premier League games have driven the total to £9,2 billion overall, staggeringly it’s a competition that is shown in 189 countries.

If a “hard” Brexit occurs, and if players from EU countries are subject to the same conditions as non-EU players, it could make it a much harder environment for Premier League clubs to trade.

In theory a Premier League that does not boast the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Christian Eriksen and Virgil Van Dijk, could result in the league being more of a turn off to its global audience.

Teams could also not be as competitive in the Champions |League, if EU based players see a less restrictive La Liga or Serie A as a better destination than England, especially with the dwindling value of the pound.

Yet Premier League clubs are not showing any signs that they are intimidated by Brexit, in how they are spending.

The CIES Football Observatory found that since 2016, the year of the referendum, transfer fee investments have increased.

In 2016 there was just under 1.8 billion euros in transfer outlays, which rose to 2.15 billion last year, but did slightly decline to 1.9 billion euros this year.

Premier League in talks with authorities 

Now the Premier League is in talks with the government and stakeholders in response to what happens next. And the UK government will also have to reflect, on how to treat an organisation that generates £3.3 billion for the British treasury in taxes annually.

A public statement last year read: “Like many other organisations dependent on a combination of domestic and international talent, we are waiting to better understand what the political and regulatory landscape will be after the UK leaves the European Union.”

“Access to talented footballers from across Europe has played a key part in the growth of the Premier League, with match attendance and global interest increasing significantly as high quality foreign players have taken their place in the competition with and against the best British and Irish players.”

“We have held positive discussions with Government about the importance of access to European players for our clubs, and the many cultural and economic benefits a globally popular Premier League brings to the UK.”

Brexit has so far caused an almost unprecedented mess in British politics, leaving a nation divided over its outcome.

As a result the Premier League may have longer than past Halloween to negotiate with the UK government, and clarify its position post EU membership, for its kick offs of the future.

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