This is your one-stop shop for all the latest movers and shakers across planet football. It's all happening in the first week of the transfer window as our clubs get their business done. It doesn't matter whether it's a multi-million pound deal or a trial in the Lowland League, we'll have all the news for you right here. Celtic are close to finalising their first signing of the window with David Turnbull set for talks. Patrick Twumasi - remember him? Staying closer to home and Rangers have completed their fourth signing of the window with Greg Stewart penning a two-year deal.
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Tuesday, July 23, was the day that Gerardo "Tata" Martino was unveiled as the new Barcelona manager. Upon his announcement, various media outlets including Marca were more content to have fun with "Tito to Tata" headlines rather than a studious investigation into just what Barca's new man would bring to the table.
Lionel Messi told reporters:. I like Tata Martino. He is a great coach and he showed that in the Clausura with what he did for the team, the way it ended and how he did it. Barca began their pre-season the day after the announcement and a loss against Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich was entirely predictable, even though the Blaugrana gave a good account of themselves. A seven-goal success in Valarenga was more to everyone's liking, and after a draw in Poland, the Barca faithful had their first chance to see Tata and new signing Neymar at work in a triumphant demolition of the young Brazilian's previous employers, Santos.
A tour of the Far East yielded the expected successes, and Barca's good form was carried into the opening La Liga weekend of the season. We can prolong our pressure and we can continue to look for alternatives when we go forward. It's very premature to make an analysis after only 90 minutes. We have to play more matches in order to truly see how we are doing. The pressing game and Guardiola-esque verticality that had been missing to some extent during Tito Vilanova's year in charge would return.
It was noticeable how quickly the ball was being transferred from back to front, how involved the entire Barca front three were throughout every game. Three more league wins in a row kept Barca on top of La Liga with a percent record as we entered September and the introduction of the Champions League group stages, but there were already rumblings of discontent per ESPN. Martino wasn't playing the "Barca way. A more pragmatic style of play when required.
If the purists weren't happy, the players certainly were. We've had a number of years with homegrown coaches in charge, first Pep and then Tito. We occasionally tended to exaggerate our possession based style of play to the point where we were slaves of our own philosophy.
Now we have Tata as our coach, who has the same football philosophy, but also has other alternatives and that is a very positive thing in my opinion. If you are under pressure, there's nothing wrong with a long ball every now and then. That changes the game and could give you some rest and oxygen. You have to keep improving and developing in football or you will become predictable. Over the next games, the cross-field diagonal was a feature of Barca's forward play, and it certainly didn't disrupt the Blaugrana juggernaut.
Both Ajax and Celtic were dispatched in the Champions League, and every Liga game during September was won at a canter. Three of the four matches yielded four goals for Tata's men. One of those games was against Rayo Vallecano , a match that was noticeable for more than Barca's four-goal win.
Rayo were the first team since Real Madrid in to have more possession of the football across the 90 minutes than the Blaugrana — competitive games to be precise, according to Ben Hayward of Goal.
It hadn't happened throughout the tenures of both Guardiola or Vilanova, but just eight games into Martino's reign, the unthinkable had happened. Barca were beaten at their own possession game, and the knives were out yet again. Despite the fact that the manager had just overseen a convincing win.
It was two full months before Barca first failed to pick up all three points in La Liga, Osasuna holding the visitors to a goalless draw in mid-October.
Hardly the worst start for a man not schooled in the ways of European football. All the while, success was being achieved against a backdrop of constant squad rotation with no team member immune, not even Messi. It would be another marker put down by the manager. Cesc Fabregas has also been utilised in the central "false nine" on occasion, allowing Messi and Neymar to enjoy a more nomadic role, but much of Fabregas' best work has been in the slightly deeper midfield areas either alongside, or in place of, Andres Iniesta.
Fabregas' value was never better illustrated than during the November game against Real Betis. Two goals and a man-of-the-match performance gave him a perfect performance score of 10, via WhoScored. Martino's studious management of his squad has allowed Xavi especially to benefit from regular rest periods, and Barca's pass master has flourished as a result.
Another creditable result in Europe an away draw against AC Milan was followed by an El Clasico win where Martino would change things up again. A front two of Neymar and Messi and a midfield four worked wonders, making the Brazilian's Clasico debut an unqualified success. Carlo Ancelotti certainly helped matters by playing Sergio Ramos in an unfamiliar central midfield role.
Despite the Achilles' heel of being unable to defend a high ball into the box rearing its head on more than one occasion, Barca's continued attacking excellence ensured that much of their defensive shortcomings were overlooked. At least in the early part of the season. Pique especially benefited from a lack of competition in the central defensive areas, his poor form more noticeable with Javier Mascherano alongside. With Marc Bartra emerging, it was perhaps strange for Martino to keep faith with the Pique-Mascherano pairing more often than not.
November heralded more wins and a hatful of goals, but another injury to Messi against Betis—which would keep him out for two months—and also the first defeat in any competition, took some shine from a continued progression in the side. Victor Valdes too succumbed to calf problems whilst on duty with the Spanish national team, which added to a lengthening injury list.
S cored 42, conceded eight. Hardly the sort of form to justify persistent criticism of the manager and his style of football. Just 10 days after the Bilbao debacle, normal business was resumed as Celtic were put to the sword at the Camp Nou via the sort of performance that Barca have become renowned for. Undisputed star of the show was Neymar, a hat-trick and a man-of-the-match performance helping the Blaugrana to a score, the Hoops poorest showing in Europe.
Despite having to share their duties and rotate positions for much of the season, another of Martino's success stories is the way in which he has brought both Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez to the fore this season.
Eleven goals apiece in the league is a fantastic return given the often sporadic nature of their appearances. With Messi and Neymar benched, it was surely a formality that in-form Atletico would emerge victorious. The team still tops La Liga despite the relentless pursuit of both Madrid clubs, and according to Squawka , Barca are currently the best performing team in Europe by a distance. It's a half-term review of which Marino should be rightly proud.
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Tuesday, July 23, was the day that Gerardo "Tata" Martino was unveiled as the new Barcelona manager. Upon his announcement, various media outlets including Marca were more content to have fun with "Tito to Tata" headlines rather than a studious investigation into just what Barca's new man would bring to the table. Lionel Messi told reporters:. I like Tata Martino. He is a great coach and he showed that in the Clausura with what he did for the team, the way it ended and how he did it. Barca began their pre-season the day after the announcement and a loss against Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich was entirely predictable, even though the Blaugrana gave a good account of themselves.
Complete Analysis of Tata Martino's First 6 Months at Barcelona
Our friends at Football Whispers have sifted through the European media to find the best transfer news and latest stories. A deal could involve Gonzalo Higuain or Mattia Caldara and progress has been made in the past two days Tuttosport. Inter Milan are looking into the possibility of signing Davide Zappacosta from Chelsea. Valencia fear a big money offer for Rodrigo from Real Madrid. Malcom was offered to Real Madrid last week before the Brazilian winger completed a controversial move to Barcelona.
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