Tactical football boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) reviews the weekend, picking out a series of themes he believes we can exploit in future weeks.
Weekend Debrief: 16th December 2019
Bowen ready for step-up
Fifteen goals in 22 Championship games has seen Jarrod Bowen crop up on the transfer radars of many Premier League clubs, and it’s fair to say that the young Hull forward is ready for the step up.
Eleven goals in his last 11 eleven games has highlighted his talent, but it is not just his goalscoring prowess that stands out worthy of Premier League attention. A quick, tricky winger, he possesses the ability to stretch the game on the counter, completing on average 2.0 dribbles per-game, and offers Hull a constant outlet throughout, in a team otherwise lacking in quality up top.
Whether a Premier League team opts to take a gamble on the forward in January awaits to be seen, but he is certainly ready for the step up. Linked with both Everton and Leicester in recent days, he would be well suited to a handful of clubs, and the betting on his next club makes for particular interest.
Newcastle are 5/2 favourites, and he would add much needed depth, and quality. With Allan Saint-Maximin proving to be injury prone, added depth in the wing position is much needed for Steve Bruce’s side, and Bowen would slot into the system currently employing.
His high defensive work rate can’t be ignored, and the counter-attacking style reliant on the likes of Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron to link up with the target man up top and take players on would suit him down to the ground, and he would arguably be the perfect fit for the Magpies. However, whether Mike Ashley is willing to take a hefty punt on a Championship player awaits to be seen, and his willingness to part with the cash could be a stumbling block to any potential deal.
The links to Leicester are particularly interesting at 4/1 (SkyBet), especially when considering their recent moves in the transfer window. In past windows, they have shown a willingness to take a punt on EFL talent, and it has shown to be a promising method of recruitment, with James Maddison arriving from Norwich.
Next to make the step-up looks to be James Justin from Luton at full back, who has started to see first team minutes, so factoring this in, it would be no surprise to see Leicester add depth to their forward line, and take a gamble on the English winger.
A long-term replacement for Jamie Vardy will be required at some point, and attacker’s energy and pace in behind could be nurtured to provide a similar threat to that of Vardy. Although primarily used as a winger at Hull, he does possess the traits and threat required for a pressing forward, and he could see his role adapted as such, with his goalscoring record hard to ignore.
If Leicester’s form continues, a long-term approach regarding European football could see a deeper squad required, and as a result, it is the standout option on the betting regarding Bowen’s next club.
Europa League outright thoughts
Following the Europa League draw, it has thrown up some interesting options regarding the outright market, in what is such a wide-open competition.
The added bonus of Champions League qualification for the winners makes it an appealing tournament for the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United to target as a back-up option regarding this, much like Chelsea were able to last season, and as a result they must be considered, despite playing a rotated team in the early stages.
However, Arsenal’s Premier League struggles highlight and uncertainty around the manager means that they don’t take appeal at 8/1, particularly with their lack of quality and depth in midfield and defence. Olympiacos showed they can be a difficult prospect at home to Spurs in the Champions League, so qualification from the Last 32 is by no means a guarantee for the Gunners.
The immediate stand-out option is Inter Milan, however with a stretched squad and a potential title challenge forthcoming, the importance which Antonio Conte rests upon this competition awaits to be seen.
A kind draw against Ludogorets is a bonus, but with the injuries piling up and the league the priority, when coming up against a higher class of opposition later on in the tournament, just how much of a priority this competition is for the Italian giants awaits to be seen.
The Last 32 has unfortunately pitted some of the standout teams up against each other, and with those being too hard to call, I’d immediately warn against taking on these sides in the outrights. Benfica v Shakhtar Donetsk and Salzburg v Frankfurt have thrown up two brilliant encounters, with Salzburg in particular impressing in their Champions League campaign.
16/1 (Betfair) seems a fair price on Salzburg, and Frankfurt have struggled domestically this season, so they will certainly fancy their chances of edging past last season’s semi-finalists. However, their star players could be cherry-picked in January, with Erling Braut-Haland and Takumi Minamino among those looking set for moves, and it could be a very different Salzburg side come the end of the transfer market, and these unknowns make them a tough prospect to get behind.
Favourites Manchester United are as short as 4/1 (Boylesports), and that certainly feels like a short price, especially when considering their inconsistency and trouble breaking down packed defences. Although the Red Devils will be keen to utilise the competition as a potential method for Champions League qualification, the lack of depth, particularly in midfield, could prove problematic for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, and there are more appealing options.
As a result, the best option for me is Dutch champions Ajax, who are available at 10/1 (PaddyPower). A disappointing Champions League exit in the Group of Death came at the hands of Valencia in midweek, however this was amidst an injury crisis, particularly in defence, and has played a part in their consecutive Eredivisie defeats.
A second half capitulation against Chelsea was damaging, and they can count themselves unlucky to have not qualified from a particularly tough Champions League group.
However, with big names expected to stay till at least the end of the season, their attacking threat, coupled with returning names at the back, means they have the quality to target this competition. Most of the stars from last season’s Champions League run remain, and they have been in scintillating domestic form up until the last two games, racking up 52 goals in 17 games.
Creative midfielders Dusan Tadic and Hakim Ziyech have both reached double figures for assists, whilst the goals have been shared around, with six players reaching five or more already, highlighting their attacking depth.
A further help is the fact that their only challengers for the title this season appears to be AZ Alkmaar, who also have the Europa League to contend with, as PSV and Feyenoord have fallen behind, with PSV sacking Marc Van Bommel. This would enable Erik ten Hag to target the competition in the second half of the campaign, and look to bring European silverware to Amsterdam after last season’s disappointment.
A tough trip to Spain awaits them in the Last 32 against Getafe, however they should have the attacking talent and defensive ability, with the returning injured players, to see off Getafe, and when considering that other sides, such as Inter Milan, may not see this as an important competition, I’d be favouring the Dutch giants.