Three Summer Transfers that raise questions
By Reece Donnelly
With Pre-Season in full swing and the transfer merry go-round showing little sign of slowing down, I wanted to take a deep dive into some of the big questions ahead of the new season getting underway! Starting at Manchester United and their new ball playing Argentinian and what this means for centre-back personnel, who will lose out? The captain or the World Cup winner. Then over to Germany, where Bayern Munich manager Julian Naglsemann faces similar dilemmas after former golden boy Matthijs De Ligt made his second big money move at 22, where does he fit? Will it succeed more than his Juventus move? Finally moving over to sunny Spain where Barcelona may be in financial debt, but they have collected a plethora of attacking riches, with some of the best talent on the planet, What Xavi might do is anyone’s guess. I’ve done the ultimate football manager move and put myself in three esteemed managers shoes and ask myself the questions they have!
1.Lissandro Martinez and Manchester United
There has been a question since the story broke about interest in Martinez from Arsenal and Manchester United over where the Argentinian would play. After all he is extremely versatile and impact in different areas of the pitch when called upon However some pretty strong quotes from Manchester United manager Erik Ten Hag upon the signing suggests quite heavily the player has been signed as a left centre back. Versatility is obviously an asset for any player but there always needs to be a clear plan and strategy on how your signings fit into the team and the image Ten Hag paints is that he has got ahead of that and decided that Martinez will be one half of his centre back partnership. Rather than bringing him in and moving him about. Martinez will be a centre back. Specifically left centre back, Ten Hag has already pointed out the fact that Martinez is left footed and how beneficial this can be in build-up play.
Presuming as we’ve seen in Pre-Season and at Ajax, we will see United set up in the 4-2-3-1 formation, in fact preseason has seen Ten Hag use the same nine players out of the starting 11 every game. He has been very consistent in the way he sets this team up. So, assuming as said that Lissandro Martinez does slot into centre-back, what does this mean for the other Manchester centre-backs. Namely Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelöf, Eric Baily won’t be considered due to his injury record.
The fact Harry Maguire has now taken up multiple games at right centre back on the pre-season tour and has retained the captaincy speaks volumes. Maguire not at Man United until now, nor at Leicester, nor at England and nor at Hull played right centre back. We are talking 5-8 years since Maguire played on the right. This speaks large volumes.
The other question lies with Raphael Varane who’s own worst enemy is his own body, missing the majority of last season due to how brittle hid body is now and specifically relating to Ten Hag isn’t an especially good passer of the football. Lindelöf is a good passer but doesn’t seem to be the priority if being moved about to cater for other as he has this preseason and Eric Baily is far too injury prone before considering his very un–Eric Ten-Hag quality of being chaotic
Were on the verge of some form of shift with Maguire either being dropped or being right centre back. With Ten Hags comments about the captaincy, it appears his shirt is safe, but I don’t think it will be as safe as it has with other managers, with Martinez and potentially De Jong also being able to put the managers message across. With Malacia coming in, Ten Hag has certainly put an axe in that left centred axis. But with it appearing like Maguire is getting that spot, Champions League and world cup winner appears like he is not first choice for a Europa League club who’s best hope this season is to a top four finish, it on the face of things seems ludicrous. The knock-on effect is intriguing. Depth is of course important especially with the current schedule, but Raphael Varane appears not to be first choice.
Upon reflection we do of course have to understand that Varane needs managing with his injuries given the pure amount of football he has played, even now on tour, he is injured. To avoid season defining injuries you need depth and rotations. They need clear quality, when the first teamers aren’t performing are injured. After all, people would praise other sides for having quality in numbers so why not, Man United.
Maybe Maguire will struggle with the change despite being right footed, we had this issue with the England national team and John Terry. You can’t just click your fingers, and everything fit. Just all the questions surrounding this situation becomes intriguing.
Every scenario and there are plenty of them at United, it does just feel like something has to give though. It’s very hard to see how all parties remain happy. Its intriguing to see how it unfolds through the season, but Ten Hags ruthless approach is definitely welcome at Old Trafford.
2. Matthijs De Ligt and Bayern Munich
Its not often a transfer will flaw you, but this one certainly did me! Bayern dropping 80 million on anyone is a shock, never mind a centre back.
De Ligt to his credit has been better than people credit him for at Juventus, he has always been a solid performer even when the team around him has not. But there is no doubt he is no longer the golden boy and not kicked onto the monster level maybe some expected post 2019. Although he is making his second 70 million move before 23. He is joining a team fairly stacked in the area despite losing Nico Sule to rivals Bourissia Dortmund meaning its not a move we expect quite a restrained and sensible Bayern Munich to make in the transfer market.
Bayern have Benjamin Pavard, Dayet Upamecano and Lucas Hernandez which is about 150 million worth of talent plus rising star Tanguy Nianzou which is what makes it surprising. Looking at this is similar to United where something feels like it has to give. Especially considering Bayern rarely spend this much without a form of return, Lewandowski did go but they did spend on Mane. There is surely a point where one feels they need to leave, all three of the senior players plus now De Ligt they all feel far too good to be fourth choice. Can you keep them all happy?
The question remains if Naglesmann will remain with 3 at the back. We saw it when he refused to play wing backs but maybe it suggests how he wants to play. If you play with three centre backs, have a fourth and an emerging talent rotating it doesn’t feel as heavy. But if Bayern do return to a 4 which you imagine they will throughout the season it becomes a bit more problematic and also means Pavard could be a back up in two positions with Noussair Mazraoui being signed to play on the right side, which Pavard likely wouldn’t accept due to his key participation in stellar Bayern teams recently. You can never second guess, third guess or fourth guess what Naglesmann will do but with Bayern work and the options available surely something will give. The only question now is who.
Pavard not being particularly happy at playing right back so maybe a move will occur there. Chelsea according to reports will look at Upamecano if other moves fail. Respected journalists have already reported Lucas Hernandez is not for sale. It will be superb to see how Naglsemann sets up to keep his team happy the way someone like Jurgen Klopp has. The only difference id suggest is that someone like Ibrahim Kounate knew his role with Joel Matip and Virgil Van Dijk. That isn’t the situation at Bayern and someone Like Jurgen Klopp is a master of the man management skills that we are unsure Julian Naglesmann possesses.
It will certainly be interesting to find out
3. Lewandowski, Raphinia and Barcelona’s attack
Lewandowski is arguably the best number nine in the world, Aubamyang has blistering pace and is an elite finisher, Ansu Fati an elite prospect with elite chemistry and murderous pace, there is no one better than Ferran Torres off the ball, Raphinia devastatingly cut in and shoot winger but wonderfully creative, Ousmane Dembele, there is no one more two footed playing football and a dribbling monster and Memphis Depay versatile and multi-functional. The options are Incredible. You are talking about six attackers in three places. Two in every position which is an abundance of incredible attackers but means you can protect those with dodgy injury records which is a portion of them. So, who?
Lewandowski and Aubameyang worked together at Dortmund and that was with Reus. If those three worked, I think anyone can. After all, Aubameyang through his career, its probably fair to say was best off the left-hand side. If he can rebuild some form of relationship, that’s a huge benefit to Barcelona. I imagine they will try to rekindle that with one of Raphinia and Dembele on the right.
The different profile of attacker is sensational, and they really do have something for anything. It really does lead you down a path of Xavi replicating Pep Guardiola in how they are hoarding the profiles of attackers in a similar way. If you need to maintain width you have Raphinia, if they need to get the ball up the pitch, they have Dembele, if they need more combination play, Memphis is available to play off Lewandowski. Barcelona aren’t missing a profile and it means he has the luxury of analysing each opponent and choosing the profile of what can damage it. If everyone is board, they will win endless amounts.