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SPORTS: February 2014

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kempes: Messi can’t win it alone

Kempes: Messi can’t win it alone

(FIFA.com) Wednesday 5 February 2014
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There can be no doubting Mario Alberto Kempes’ place in the history of Argentinian football. Known for his bravery and eye-catching flowing locks, the free-scoring front man played a prominent role in La Albiceleste’s triumph on home soil at the 1978 FIFA World Cup Argentina™, showcasing his finishing skills with six goals to end the tournament as leading marksman.
“I wasn’t your average striker because I didn’t play as an out-and-out centre-forward,” said the 59-year-old former Rosario Central, River Plate and Valencia striker, who scored all his goals at Argentina 1978 after the first phase. Two of them came in the Final against the Netherlands, a decisive brace that elevated him to the pantheon of his country’s all-time greats.
FIFA.com caught up with El Matador at last December’s Brazil 2014 Final Draw and asked him to share his views on the big event this June, the chances of success for Alejandro Sabella’s team and the pressure that A Seleção will face as tournament hosts.
FIFA.com: What did you think of Argentina’s performance in the qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil?
Mario Kempes: They did very well indeed, although getting started can always be tricky. In the end Sabella got them on course, and having (Lionel) Messi in a good frame of mind really helped the team get going. But obviously it’s not all about Messi. It’s important to keep the whole team happy.
How difficult is it to keep everyone smiling in a team with so many high-profile players?
It’s very hard and you need to be very good at what you do. All the players play for big teams and nobody wants to travel 13 or 14,000 miles just to sit on the bench, and not just for one game but for two. But I think that Sabella, like any other coach, will try to get everyone involved in some way or other in the friendlies and make them all feel like they’re playing a part in the team.
What does it mean to a player to win the FIFA World Cup? It must feel different now to what it did back in 1978?
No, not at all. I think there’s more of a spotlight these days on everything you’ve achieved. When you’re a player and you win the World Cup and other titles you don’t get the chance to enjoy the moment because of the media scrum. You end up getting tired of it. But when the years go by and you look back on it all, then you understand just what it is that you achieved, that we achieved. Looking beyond the personal side of things, if you don’t have the support of the whole team, then you can’t win anything.
What kind of player was Mario Kempes?
I was a different kind of player compared to [Gabriel] Batistuta or Gerd Muller, in the way they moved into the penalty area. I wasn’t skilful in there – I needed space to play. I wasn’t skilful at all…but I’m not saying I was that bad either! I used to take my chances. I was more of a midfielder and therefore a weird striker. I wasn’t a No9, as everyone believes today. Every time I played as a No9, I failed. Coming from deep I had more space, a better vision of the game, and more time on the ball, which I enjoyed the most.
When the years go by and you look back on it all, then you understand just what it is that you achieved.
FIFA World Cup-winner Mario Kempes on looking back on your triumphs in football
A lot of people are wondering how Brazil will cope with the pressure of playing at home. How important is it to have the fans behind you in a competition as big as this?
It’s different because even though some people will tell you that there is no pressure and that the fans get behind you, it’s not actually like that. I mean, you’ll get that support as long as things go well. But if they don’t … I think that it’s up to the people down there, the team, to excite the people up there, the ones in the stands, and to get them going. It shouldn't be the other way round, unless it’s a final, and there’s a 50-50 split. In the group games, that wave of enthusiasm starts on the pitch and works its way up. There are going to be times when the home team will feel that the other side is giving them the runaround and that they need support. But unless you get your fans going, that support is not going to come.
What kind of tournament are you expecting in June?
I hope we don’t see the same old thing. I hope we don’t see defence-minded teams that just hit on the break. There’ll be one or two, especially among the new boys and the teams who don’t have much pedigree. But I’m expecting plenty of entertainment and end-to-end football. And I hope we see the world’s best players perform in every game. Not for the whole 90 minutes, but from time to time at least.
What’s the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear the word “Brazil”?
Samba, happiness, carnival beaches and football!
Do Argentina have a realistic chance of winning?
They have a chance although there’s a big difference between the front line and the back line. But Sabella has put his faith in these players, in the goalkeeper who’s not playing for his club (Sergio Romero, who is AS Monaco’s second-choice keeper) and in the defenders, and we should trust him.
Do you think the team relies too much on Messi?
You can put the players on the pitch but they always move and systems change. I think, though, that Messi has to be a special case and that the other nine outfield players should support him. One player on his own is not going to win you the World Cup. That’s impossible. He can have an important part to play, no question, but there’s no way he can win every game for you by himself.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Five-star Bayern fly, Nurnberg beat Berlin

Five-star Bayern fly, Nurnberg beat Berlin

(PA) Sunday 2 February 2014
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Five-star Bayern fly, Nurnberg beat Berlin
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Bayern Munich restored their 13-point lead at the head of the Bundesliga as they cruised to a 5-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday.
Mario Mandzukic was involved in Bayern's two first-half goals, heading on for Mario Gotze to drive into the left corner for the opener after 11 minutes and then making a nuisance of himself in the box before Franck Ribery fired in the second just before half-time.
Arjen Robben and Dante scored in quick succession midway through the second half, and Mandzukic snagged the fifth goal in the 88th minute as Bayern stretched an unbeaten record that now stands at 44 Bundesliga games.
Bayer Leverkusen, who sit in second place despite already losing five games this season, had briefly made up ground on Bayern with victory over Stuttgart on Saturday.
Earlier on Sunday, Nurnberg made it two wins out of two in 2014 with a 3-1 victory at Hertha Berlin.
Josip Drmic scored twice for the Bavarians, taking him on to ten goals for the season and four in two games, but the hosts were left fuming by a decision which denied them an equaliser late on.
Adrian Ramos gave Hertha the lead before Markus Feulner levelled and Drmic put the visitors in front, but the real drama was reserved for the final few minutes when Hertha were first awarded a penalty only to see the referee change his mind.
The official then gave the Bavarians a penalty, from which Drmic wrapped up the win.

Six Nations 2014: Wales' Gatland satisfied with tough Italy win

Six Nations 2014: Wales' Gatland satisfied with tough Italy win

Wales coach Warren Gatland said he was content to start their Six Nations defence with a 23-15 win, despite failing to dominate Italy in Cardiff.
Tries from Alex Cuthbert and Scott Williams gave Wales a handy 17-3 lead at half-time at the Millennium Stadium.
But Italy responded in the second period as Michele Campagnaro crossed for a brace of tries.
"It was tough. You've got to give Italy a lot of credit - they made it tough for us," Gatland said.
Continue reading the main story
We wanted to get this game under our belt and focus on next week. It's going to be tough for Ireland
Warren Gatland Wales coach
"We're pretty satisfied. There were some positives in our game and things to work on in terms of finishing and being clinical.
"It's a reasonable start for us and, the way Italy performed, I wouldn't be surprised if they won a few games in this competition. They won a couple last year and I think they'll do so again."
While Wales failed to shake off the Azzurri, Gatland said he was pleased his side were pushed hard before their trip to face Ireland in Dublin next weekend.
"It wasn't an easy run-out. It was tough, and that's the way we wanted it," he added.
"We know there's a few things for us to fix up on, in terms of making sure we're a little bit more accurate and clinical in time for next week.
"We know it's a massive challenge for us. As defending champions for the last two years, every team will be targeting us and will be up for it.
"We wanted to get this game under our belt and focus on next week. It's going to be tough for Ireland next week. They've only got a six-day turnaround, so we've spoken about making sure we recover right.
"It's going to be a huge game for both teams, particularly if Ireland do manage to beat Scotland."

Six Nations 2014: France 26-24 England

Six Nations 2014: France 26-24 England

France 26 (16)

  • Tries: Huget (2), Fickou
  • Cons: Machenaud
  • Pens: Doussain (2), Machenaud

England 24 (8)

  • Tries: Brown, Burrell
  • Cons: Farrell
  • Pens: Farrell (2), Goode
  • Drop-goal: Care
A last-gasp try from France replacement Gael Fickou denied England what would have been their biggest ever comeback win in a sensational start to the 2014 Six Nations.
Having conceded a try in the first minute and been 16-3 behind with barely a quarter of the contest gone, England had fought back superbly to lead 24-19 with just four minutes left.
Mike Brown's first Test try and another for debutant Luther Burrell came amid 18 unanswered points as early French dominance gave way to English ascendancy deep into the second half.
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France score a try in the first minute of their Six Nations clash with England
France score try after 32 seconds
But with the home crowd reduced to near silence France conjured up one final attack to send the Stade de France into glorious uproar and hand England only their third Six Nations defeat of Stuart Lancaster's tenure.
That the match was a gripping, see-saw thriller will come as little comfort to England's inexperienced team, who came so close to a record-breaking turnaround.
Never before have England come back to win from more than 12 points down in an international, and seldom have they come so close.
The game was only 32 seconds old when England conceded their first try of this season's tournament, Jules Plisson's deflected cross-kick falling perfectly for Yoann Huget on the right wing to gather and step inside the wrong-footed Brown to score in the corner.
Jean-Marc Doussain missed the conversion, and England hit back quickly with an Owen Farrell penalty after repeated drives took them deep into French territory.

Official match stats

France England
41%
Possession
59%
37%
Territory
63%
7 (0)
Scrums won (lost)
3 (2)
10 (1)
Line-outs won (lost)
13 (2)
4
Pens conceded
8
70 (5)
Rucks won (lost)
112 (6)
42
Possession kicked
33
142 (27)
Tackles made (missed)
100 (23)
13
Offloads
14
9
Line breaks
9
(provided by Opta)
France came close to a second try after replacement Alex Goode just managed to snuff out Maxime Medard down the left, but Doussain made it 8-3 after England were penalised at a line-out.
Errors cost the visitors again five minutes later. Tom Wood was turned over midway inside the French half, and when the ball was spread wide Huget side-stepped Goode - who was temporarily playing out of position on the wing.
Huget fed Brice Dulin, whose chip ahead saw both Goode and debutant Jack Nowell beaten by the bounce, allowing Huget to dive over gleefully for his second.
Doussain again missed the conversion from out wide but his second successful penalty made it 16-3 as the home support celebrated and England struggled to exert any sustained control.
Lancaster's men were being out-muscled up front, ceding two fine attacking positions to a scrum penalty and then a turnover five metres from the French line.
But five minutes before half-time they fought their way back into the battle, Danny Care's quick tap-penalty and slaloming run towards the post creating space out wide for Brown to finish brilliantly through a tangle of French arms and bodies.
Farrell missed both the conversion and a subsequent drop-goal just before the interval that would have brought England closer still than 16-8.
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Stuart Lancaster
Six Nations 2014: France 26-24 England - reaction
But his right boot reduced the deficit to five points soon after, with only desperate French defence denying the stretching Care a try after a battering run from Courtney Lawes.
There was a clear sense of momentum shifting, and confirmation came moments later.
Farrell's sweetly timed pass put Billy Vunipola away at a rumbling pace, and the huge number eight handed off one defender before drawing two others to send Burrell away under the posts.
With Farrell's conversion making it 18-16, this developing England outfit were suddenly on course to make history.
Care extended the lead to 21-16 with the most audacious of drop-goals to make it 18 unanswered points on the bounce, and both coaches threw replacements onto the pitch - including Lee Dickson for the outstanding Care - as the frantic pace began to tell.
England's loose forwards were in the ascendant, Vunipola in particular a constant menace in both attack and defence, and when France did have possession at pace, handling errors hauled them back.

Match analysis

"Heartbreaking defeat for England. The first two tries for the French were fortuitous and England did really well to come back into it. When they played to their strengths it looked like France couldn't live with them. But then England let the game open up and it returned to the traditional French strengths.
"Of course they will be disappointed, but they should take heart about the way this young side came back after being 13 points down. But it will take them a long time to recover from this disappointment."
Lancaster sent on the comparatively experienced Brad Barritt for debutant Jack Nowell and Dave Attwood for the excellent Lawes as the game entered the final quarter and chill fingers and nervous hearts increased the error count.
With 12 minutes to go, France won a scrum penalty in front of the posts to allow replacement half-back Maxime Machenaud to bring it back to 21-19, but Goode replied with seven left to give England precious breathing-space.
Mako Vunipola almost bashed his way clear as the minutes ticked away before an untimely knock-on, and with time running out France produced their best rugby of the match to make England pay in the most painful fashion.
After the otherwise faultless Brown had missed a tackle on the rampaging Yannick Nyanga down the left, the ball was spread right to stretch a tired defence, and when Dimitri Szarzewski found fellow replacement Fickou wide right a dummy and the 19-year-old's acceleration took him inside Goode and around behind the posts.
Over went the conversion to make it 26-24, and with it England's hopes.
France, so desperate in last season's competition and scarcely better last autumn, had rescued perhaps the most important victory of coach Phillippe Saint-Andre's troubled tenure.
And while England will take great pride from their stirring fightback, they will rue the tired legs and cruel twist that denied them the perfect start to their own Six Nations campaign.

LINE-UPS

France: Dulin, Huget, Bastareaud, Fofana, Medard, Plisson, Doussain; Domingo, Kayser, Mas, Flanquart, Pape, Nyanga, Le Roux, Picamoles.
Replacements: Fickou for Bastareaud (74), Machenaud for Doussain (57), Forestier for Domingo (48), Szarzewski for Kayser (43), Slimani for Mas (48), Maestri for Flanquart (43), Burban for Le Roux (41), Chouly for Picamoles (65).
England: Brown, Nowell, Burrell, Twelvetrees, May, Farrell, Care; Marler, Hartley, Cole, Launchbury, Lawes, Wood, Robshaw, B. Vunipola.
Replacements: Barritt for Nowell (65), Dickson for Care (61), M. Vunipola for Marler (51), T. Youngs for Hartley (58), Attwood for Lawes (67), Morgan for B. Vunipola (65).

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee : Nigel Owens (WRU)
Touch judges : Alain Rolland (IRFU) Stuart Berry (SARU)
TV : Jim Yuille (SRU)
Att: 80,000

Moyes: Luck was against us

Moyes: Luck was against us

(AFP) Sunday 2 February 2014
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Moyes: Luck was against us
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Manchester United manager David Moyes had no concerns about his side's performance despite the champions suffering their eighth Premier League defeat of the season at Stoke City's windswept Britannia Stadium.
Charlie Adam scored twice, either side of a Robin van Persie equaliser, to secure the Potters' first league win over United since 1984 and seriously hinder the defending champions' hopes of qualifying for next season's UEFA Champions League.
Moyes's men could end the weekend nine points off the top four if rivals Liverpool beat West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, and closing that gap would appear a difficult task with only 14 games of the season remaining. But the United manager was unperturbed by his side's 2-1 loss, which was their fourth defeat of 2014 in all competitions.
He pinpointed the deflection off Michael Carrick for Adam's first-half opener and the quality of the Stoke midfielder's second goal as reasons why United should not be too downbeat about their display. "I thought the performance was really good," he said. "I thought we played well, so I don't think the question about a poor performance is right.
"We made numerous opportunities, played well, lost a goal from a free-kick 30 yards from goal that took a deflection, and (conceded) a worldy. I thought we were the better team. They got a goal, we got back in it, I thought we were the team more likely and I thought on the day we did enough to certainly get something from the game."
Luck is all you need
With Jonny Evans hobbling off in the 11th minute, Adam's deflected opener and then a head injury to Phil Jones, Moyes could count himself unlucky, but his side also squandered several chances. "I thought we had bad luck, I really did," he said. "It was our own downfall that we really didn't take our chances. We must have got to the byline eight, nine, ten times and never picked someone out in the box, so it is our own doing, but I thought we played well.
"The conditions didn't make for a great game. There were a lot of stoppages, which made it quite difficult, but I was pleased with how we did. There wasn't an awful lot that I could say we didn't do well. I just thought we didn't finish it off."
Adam opened the scoring in the 38th minute when his speculative free-kick from distance hit Carrick's knee and left United goalkeeper David de Gea helplessly wrong-footed. United responded after the break when Juan Mata, making his second start since his £37.1m arrival from Chelsea, played in Van Persie, who curled home the equaliser.
But in the 52nd minute Adam fired in a glorious goal from 22 yards to secure Stoke's first league win since December 21 and catapult them up to 11th place in the table.
Manager Mark Hughes said that his side now had their sights on the teams above them after proving that they have the class to avoid a relegation fight. "It is a huge result for us," said the former United striker. "I thought it was a magnificent performance. It was an important win for us.
"I think at the start of proceedings we were in 18th and ended up 11th, which shows how crazy the league is at the moment. It's going to continue in that vein, but we would like to think we are looking upwards. "Maybe people would doubt that positive attitude, but after the events of this game, people can see we are a determined group that stick together and will fight all the way. You just have to take care of your own business."

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Transfer window: The winners, the losers - and the rest

Transfer window: The winners, the losers - and the rest

After another transfer window of wheeler-dealing, BBC Sport's chief football writer Phil McNulty  analyses the winners and losers as the Premier League clubs brace themselves for the season run-in:

Winners

Manchester United

David Moyes and Juan Mata
Key moves in: Juan Mata [from Chelsea] £37.1m.
Key moves out: Fabio [to Cardiff] undisclosed, Larnell Cole and Ryan Tunnicliffe [to Fulham] undisclosed, Anderson [to Fiorentina] loan, Jack Barmby [to Hartlepool] loan, Wilfried Zaha [to Cardiff] loan, Sam Byrne & Charni Ekangamene [to Carlisle] loan, Tyler Blackett, Tom Thorpe & Federico Macheda [to Birmingham] loan, Tom Lawrence [to Yeovil] loan, Sam Johnstone [to Doncaster] loan, Will Keane [to QPR] loan.
Manchester United manager David Moyes went for quality not quantity in January. One signing. One high-class player in Juan Mata at a club-record fee of £37m from Chelsea.
Mata may not solve United's major problems - a creaking defence and a midfield short of a world-class player - but his arrival has changed the mood at Old Trafford and proved Moyes and chief executive Ed Woodward can get the big deals over the line.
He could be a game-changer, not in the context of retaining their title but by lifting United's hopes of making the top four and securing a place in next season's Champions League - unless they win this season's competition, of course.

Fulham

Kostas Mitroglou
Key moves in: Konstantinos Mitroglou [from Olympiakos] £11m, Larnell Cole and Ryan Tunnicliffe [from Manchester United] undisclosed, John Heitinga [from Everton] free, Clint Dempsey [from Seattle Sounders] loan, William Kvist [from Stuttgart] loan, Lewis Holtby [from Tottenham] loan.
Key moves out: Philippe Senderos [to Valencia] undisclosed, Bryan Ruiz [to PSV Eindhoven] loan, Stephen Arthurworrey [to Tranmere] loan, Marcus Bettinelli [to Accrington] loan, Jack Grimmer [to Port Vale] loan, Aaron Hughes [to QPR] free, Dimitar Berbatov [to Monaco] loan, Adel Taarabt loan terminated.
This was a big window for Fulham and new boss Rene Meulensteen - and early impressions look good after a very busy month in the market.
The departure of Dimitar Berbatov has been offset by the £11m signing of Olympiakos striker Konstantinos Mitroglou, while the loan deal for Tottenham's Lewis Holtby means they have secured a player who was coveted during his career in the Bundesliga with Schalke before moving to White Hart Lane.
Clint Dempsey's return and the signing of Netherlands defender John Heitinga from Everton add valuable experience.
Fulham needed to take action after sliding down to 19th in the Premier League - and Meulensteen will believe this hectic spell of business will bolster their hopes of staying in the top flight.

Crystal Palace

Tom Ince
Key moves in: Wayne Hennessey [from Wolves] £3m, Jason Puncheon [from Southampton] undisclosed, Scott Dann [from Blackburn] undisclosed, Joe Ledley [from Celtic] undisclosed, Thomas Ince [from Blackpool] loan.
Key moves out: Jason Banton [to Plymouth] undisclosed, Matt Parsons [to Plymouth] undisclosed, Kevin Phillips [to Leicester] free, Jimmy Kebe [to Leeds] loan, Kwesi Appiah [to Notts County] loan, Stephen Dobbie [to Blackpool] loan.
Tony Pulis has revived the Selhurst Park club since his appointment as manager and he has built on that good work in the January transfer window, especially in those hectic final hours.
Pulis wanted to strengthen his squad this month, and chairman Steve Parish delivered on the final day.
He will feel he has acquired a player of real promise in Tom Ince from Blackpool while Scott Dann is an experienced, battle-hardened defender. Joe Ledley will add quality and experience in midfield and there was even time to sign goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey from Wolves for £3m and Jason Puncheon, so prominent recently, on a permanent deal.
Pulis has made Palace tough to beat, secured vital wins and has now fleshed out his squad shrewdly for the crucial months ahead.

Losers

Arsenal

Julian Draxler
Key moves in: Kim Kallstrom [from Spartak Moscow) loan.
Key moves out: Nico Yennaris [to Brentford] undisclosed, Emmanuel Frimpong [to Barnsley] undisclosed, Chuba Akpom [to Brentford] loan, Anthony Jeffrey [to Wycombe] free, Benik Afobe [to Sheffield Wednesday] loan, Park Chu-young [to Watford] loan.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger decided against making a big January signing - and the wisdom of his decision to keep his powder dry will be judged at the end of the season.
Wenger's only deal was to bring in Spartak Moscow's experienced Swedish midfield man Kim Kallstrom on loan after deciding not to press on with a deal for Schalke's Julian Draxler.
Perhaps Wenger's biggest gamble has been his decision not to bring in a striker, even on loan, to add to attacking resources that look vulnerable to injuries.
Wenger has cast-iron faith in his Arsenal squad but they have a fierce programme ahead in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup. Has he left himself short?

Newcastle United

Yohan Cabaye
Key moves in: Luuk de Jong [from Borussia Monchengladbach] loan.
Key moves out: Yohan Cabaye [to Paris St Germain] £19m, Jonas Gutierrez [to Norwich] loan, Curtis Good [to Dundee United] loan.
The biggest losers of all in the transfer window - with a lack of activity that is bound to raise further questions about the role of director of football Joe Kinnear.
On the surface, Kinnear's job appears to be to do the deals and bring players in to Tyneside. If this is the case, he has hardly been a success.
Yohan Cabaye left for Paris St-Germain in a £19m deal but there was no midfield replacement for such an influential player, with Borussia Monchengladbach striker Luuk de Jong the only incoming.
This leaves Newcastle manager Alan Pardew in a weakened position despite his hopes of bringing a player in to fill the vacancy left behind by Cabaye.
If Newcastle's season fades, there are likely to be repercussions from fans who will be very unhappy at a failure to significantly strengthen the squad while in a decent Premier League position.

Liverpool

Yevhen Konoplyankas
Key moves in: None.
Key moves out: Adam Morgan [to Yeovil] free, Tiago Ilori [to Granada] loan, Craig Roddan [to Accrington] loan, Ryan McLaughlin [to Barnsley] loan, Michael Ngoo [to Walsall] loan.
Liverpool's month of frustration was encapsulated in the final moments of the window when the £15m deal to sign FC Dnipro forward Yevhen Konoplyanka could not be completed.
Managing director Ian Ayre flew to Ukraine to try and secure the "major signing" manager Brendan Rodgers wanted as the Reds continue their push for a place in the Premier League top four.
The fact he will return empty-handed will be a source of real disappointment for Liverpool and their fans, especially after seeing Mohamed Salah move to Chelsea in an £11m deal after he emerged as a top target for Rodgers.
It seems the Konoplyanka deal fell through when Dnipro did not sign off the relevant paperwork, and Rodgers must now press ahead with the squad that has served him well and hope an unsuccessful January transfer window does not impact on the rest of their season.

And the rest...

Cardiff City's new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed to act urgently as they are bottom of the Premier League - and he is relying heavily on former club Manchester United for help.
He will hope the loan deal for Wilfried Zaha provides some firepower, along with the recruitment of Kenwyne Jones from Stoke City, while Fabio's arrival from Old Trafford will add to his defensive strength.
And it remains to be seen how successful his return to another former club, Molde, where he was manager, for Mats Moller Daehli and Jo Inge Berget will be. There is a huge element of a gamble - and the price of failure will be expensive.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was a big dealer in and out. Nemanja Matic, returning to Stamford Bridge in a £21m deal from Benfica, will add power and stability in central midfield but there are still plenty of Chelsea fans who will worry they may yet miss the creativity of the popular Juan Mata after his move to Manchester United.
Another manager working the markets heavily was West Ham's Sam Allardyce as he attempted to recover from the initial disappointment of losing out on Monaco striker Lacina Traore to Everton in a loan deal.
Allardyce will hope Roma striker Marco Boriello and AC Milan midfield man Antonio Nocerino - both Italy internationals - add goals and creativity, commodities sorely missed this season.
And so to the Premier League leaders Manchester City.
They pondered a double deal for Porto pair Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando but in the end pulled back, although both remain transfer targets and may be revisited this summer.
City worked strategically in the close season to build a squad for the whole campaign for manager Manuel Pellegrini. He has decided to leave well alone. And who can blame him after their magnificent recent form?

Myung-Bo: FIFA World Cup is a unique event

Myung-Bo: FIFA World Cup is a unique event

(FIFA.com) Friday 31 January 2014
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Myung-Bo: FIFA World Cup is a unique event
© Getty Images
Many fine players from Korea Republic have succeeded in building global reputations for themselves over the years, leaving an unforgettable imprint on their clubs. Among that elite group, Cha Bumkun and Hong Myung-Bo are generally considered to be the greatest footballers ever produced by the Asian nation.
Unlike his legendary compatriot, the latter-named defender never represented a major European side, plying his trade exclusively in Japan and South Korea, except for a short spell with Los Angeles Galaxy in season 2003/04.
Myung-Bo’s leadership qualities played a crucial role in his country obtaining the most impressive result in their history, as they finished fourth at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/JapanTM.
After four exciting experiences at FIFA’s flagship tournament as a player, it is in the role of coach that the former sweeper will lead the Taegeuk Warriors to Brazil 2014.
Appointed last June after the qualifying campaign had drawn to a close, he is hopeful of passing on some of his experience and know-how to his young charges, to inspire them to excel in South America this summer.
FIFA.com recently caught up with Myung-Bo, now 44, at the World Cup Draw in Costa do Sauipe. In a wide-ranging interview, the Korea Republic icon discussed his long career, his memories of playing on football’s greatest stage, and the Dutch influence on his coaching philosophy.
FIFA.com: You appeared at four FIFA World Cups. How important is it to pass on your experience to the new generation of players under your command?
Hong Myung-Bo: The FIFA World Cup is a unique event for which you must prepare meticulously. Describing my past experiences to young players is not an easy task, as the majority of them will be making their tournament debut. The most important thing is to be well prepared. I’m expecting my boys to go into the competition bursting with confidence.
What do you remember of your first World Cup adventure in 1990, or your first match against Belgium?
I was very young, but it was still a huge honour to represent my country. We lost that game 2-0, if I remember correctly. The overall experience was very disappointing for our team, but from a personal point of view, I was satisfied with the performances I put in.
You subsequently starred at USA 1994, where you and your team-mates suffered a narrow 3-2 defeat at the hands of Germany.
The pressure of taking on the holders was tough to handle. We started badly, letting in three goals in the first half. I remember that it was really hot and that we struggled physically, especially after the break. But despite all that, the players performed wonderfully well, fighting back and scoring twice. It’s a shame that we ran out of time, as otherwise we might well have drawn level with the Germans.
What is your fondest memory from the 2002 World Cup, where you were captain of one of the host nations?
It was a big responsibility for me; it was crucial that we achieved good results. That must have been why I was able to block out my age and my physical problems. My greatest memory remains our opening win over Poland. It was my country’s first-ever victory at the World Cup, and my first taste of success after three win-less tournaments.
During the competition, you scored the winning penalty against Spain which qualified the Koreans for the semi-finals.
The result went our way, but the seconds prior to that were unbearable. It’s not something I’d like to relive any time soon.
Do you think that your players could enjoy a similar level of success in Brazil?
It’s going to be very difficult. To create a surprise, a massive effort and huge sacrifices will be required.
What sort of influence have the Dutch coaches (Guus Hiddink, Pim Verbeek and Dick Advocaat) with whom you have worked had on you?
I worked closely in the Korean set-up with all three men – I learned a lot from them and I use what they taught me to improve the way I organise and prepare my own team.
Korea Republic endured a demanding qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014. Has the Asian qualifying process become more difficult over the years?
In Asia, several countries have invested heavily in the development of their national sides. This has created some strong teams and levelled the playing field somewhat. We went through a difficult time in qualifying, and that’s likely to remain the case, unless we bring ourselves in line with other countries, in terms of resources and the attention paid to football.
You also enjoyed success at the helm of the Korean U-23 team that earned a bronze medal at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament at London 2012. Was your strategy to make use of some of those young players in Brazil?
Our performances during that event were commendable, but we now need to put those great memories to one side and move forward. The World Cup and Olympic Football Tournament are two different competitions, but the groundwork we’ve done with the players is certainly pretty similar. Our team still has room for improvement, and we’re going to do all that we can to make progress ahead of the next World Cup in four years’ time.

Rodgers: We've grown so much

Rodgers: We've grown so much

(AFP) Saturday 1 February 2014
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Rodgers: We've grown so much
© Getty Images
Brendan Rodgers believes Liverpool's trip to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday is a significant landmark in the club's development since he took over at Anfield. Rodgers' side were beaten 3-0 at the Hawthorns on the opening day of last season in the Liverpool manager's first league match in charge.
Seven of the 18-man squad that day are no longer at the club. While Liverpool took until 29 September to register their first league win last season, they are much improved now and sit firmly in the thick of the race for a UEFA Champions League place.
Rodgers accepts that there is still plenty more progress to make but has been pleased with the changes he has implemented since August 2012.
"We've grown," Rodgers said. "If I look back at my time here over the last 18 months, I look back at the first game we played against West Brom. It's ironic that we play them this weekend. Where we were at then, we had some talented players but we were very much an individual group. Over the course of 18 months, we've implemented a method to our play. We have become a team.
"We're understanding the game much better in terms of how we want to work and how we want to play. The important trait in any successful team is character, and we have got that in bucketloads. It's something that makes me very happy, but we've still got a way to go."
Liverpool are firm favourites to take the three points at the Hawthorns following their 4-0 Merseyside derby win over Everton in midweek. But Rodgers maintains there is no prospect of taking Pepe Mel's side lightly.
"People probably expected Chelsea to win at home against West Ham, but they went there and put on a great defensive performance and got a draw," he continued. "I think it will be like that throughout the remaining games. My focus is only on us and respecting every opponent that we play.
"West Brom, with a new manager, will be very keen to get a win, so we know it will be a very difficult match for us. We'll be ready and prepared. We're coming off the back of an outstanding performance and we'll look to carry that on into the weekend."
Mel hoping for sterner defence
Mel has held a summit with his side to resolve their defensive woes as they prepare to face a Liverpool attack whose return of 57 top-flight goals has only been bettered by leaders Manchester City. The Baggies threw away a two-goal lead to lose 4-3 at Aston Villa in Mel's second game in charge - leaving them with one win from their last 13 Premier League matches.
"I had a very good meeting with all of the players and they were able to speak their opinion," he said. "In my opinion, West Bromwich Albion have to play together, in attack and defence. My players will work hard to win the next game. It's impossible to score three goals away and not win. It was down to mistakes.
"In the first 20-25 minutes we played well and looked on our way to winning the match. Villa's first goal was an individual mistake, which is normal in football, so there are no problems. But the team was nervous and I don't know why."

Mitroglou: Master of the unexpected

Mitroglou: Master of the unexpected

(FIFA.com) Friday 31 January 2014
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Mitroglou: Master of the unexpected
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With your club at the top of the table and a place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League in the bag, how many players would opt to move to a side battling relegation and for whom survival represents the extent of their ambitions? Not many, undoubtedly, but Greece striker Konstantinos Mitroglou is not like most people.
Topping the goalscoring charts in the Greek Super League with 14 strikes, Mitroglou, whose Olympiacos side lead the way having gone unbeaten in 21 games, has just signed for Fulham. Languishing in 19th place in the English Premier League, his choice seems even more surprising when you consider that the frontman was targeted by Arsenal, Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Benfica.
However, turning up in unexpected places has become something of a trademark for Mitroglou. Born in Kavala, the 25-year-old began his career in Germany. “My family moved there when I was very young,” the former Neukirchen, Duisburg and Borussia Monchengladbach player told FIFA.com. “I grew up and started my career there. I have great memories of my time in Germany and my family and friends are still there. It’s a special country for me, particularly as it was there that I learned to play football.”
Picking up good habits
Mitroglou certainly learned quickly. With 24 goals in 16 matches for Neukirchen at the age of just 11, and then 14 in ten games a few years later in the U-19 Bundesliga with Gladbach, he sent statisticians into overdrive with more goals scored than games played.
More recently, he proved that old habits die hard with a prolific start to the 2013/14 campaign yielding 14 strikes in 12 matches. And perhaps this great run is due to that fact that, as during his childhood, he feels at home in Piraeus: “I feel very happy at Olympiacos and the club means a lot to me,” Mitroglou confirmed just weeks before the Greek side accepted an offer of a reported €15m from the Cottagers that was too good to turn down. “After so many years here I know the club, the people and the team. It’s like a family to me.”
Yet this family found it hard to regard him as the prodigal son upon his arrival in 2007. Having impressed during a run to the final of the UEFA European U-19 Championship with Greece, he had to settle for sporadic appearances and a goal return that was far too meagre to quench his enormous appetite.
“It was a very difficult situation to be in and it made me work even harder,” Mitroglou recalled. “It gave me the desire to push on and progress every day.” And his determination was tested during successive loan moves, with a half-season at Panionios in 2010/11 and a full year at Atromitos in 2011/12 allowing him to get his fill, scoring eight and 16 goals respectively.
It was a very difficult situation to be in and it made me work even harder. It gave me the desire to push on and progress every day.
Konstantinos Mitroglou on his initial struggle to break into the Olympiacos starting XI
From that point on the wheels were set into motion and the striker has made his presence felt by dismantling defences across Greece and Europe. Tattoo-laden and 1.88m tall, often sporting eccentric hairstyles, Mitroglou cuts an imposing, warrior-like figure that almost overshadows his impressive technical prowess. “He initially strikes you as unwieldy, a bit casual, but that’s a misleading impression,” said Algeria’s Carl Medjani, a former team-mate of his at Olympiacos. “He can breeze by you with a quick dribble or spin.”
A puzzle piece
For some time now Mitroglou’s considerable talents have impressed national team bosses. In 2009, German coach Otto Rehhagel drafted him into the Greece fold before leaving him out of the squad for South Africa. More recently, however, Portuguese boss Fernando Santos offered him a reprieve by making him the focal point of the Greece attack in qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
And the gamble certainly paid off as Mitroglou scored three of Greece’s four goals as they overcame Romania in the playoffs. But while many would consider that enough to justify hero status, Mitroglou would disagree. “We are all heroes,” said the striker when quizzed on his match-winning performances in qualification. “The entire team, the entire country, all Greeks! We’re a huge jigsaw and I’m just one piece.”
While his modesty is certainly admirable, one would at least expect Mitroglou to admit that a significant part of his side’s qualification was down to him and that his place in the squad for Brazil is practically guaranteed. However, ever the contrarian, he once again deflects the question: “There’s still plenty of time before the World Cup,” he insists. “I’ve got to keep working and maintain this run of form. If everything goes well then I’ll try my best to achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves.”