The Lowdown on Lyon’s highly rated defender – Dejan Lovren

Dejan Lovren

You might well have heard of the name: Dejan Lovren. A gangly, elegantly composed, ball-playing Croatian defender currently plying his trade in France with Lyon.

Having made his mark with the Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb’s youth team, Lovren was quickly attracting the attention of several top level European sides. And in 2010, he was off, but who to?

The answer is Lyon. He joined on a four-and-a-half-year contract, in a deal worth up to over £8 million. A lofty transfer fee for a youngster yet to taste high intensity, regular first-team football in one of Europe’s top divisions.

But, clearly, the Lyon scouts believed Lovren was good enough to make the step up. And his since move, he’s been a magnificently consistent performer in the heart of the club’s backline.

Strong in the tackle, powerful in the air and a natural leader – the 23-year-old has made over 50 appearances for Remi Garde’s men. So not surprisingly, he’s now on the transfer list of more top, top level teams. Consistently excellent centre backs are hard to come but nowadays, hence the que.

But not only is Lovren a perfectly able operator at club level, but he’s also a member of Croatia’s national team. Following his call-up in 2009, he has earned 16 caps and is growing into the side.

He was unfortunate to miss out on the European Championships in the summer, having been inflicted with a bad injury just before the 23-man squad was picked. However, if he continues to impress, he could well be selected for Croatia’s 2014 World Cup campaign if they get there.

Barcelona, Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and others are all top quality clubs reportedly chasing Lovren. Lyon will have tough job on their hands trying to keep him, sooner or later he will have to go and it will be fascinating to observe just how well he does.

 

Written by Nathan Carr

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Caribbean Football: The lowdown on Guyana skipper Chris Nurse

Chris Nurse (right)

He may not get pulse rates racing, but Chris Nurse’s simple yet effective abilities have seen a rise in the standard of football being played in the Guyanese national football team.

The Hammersmith-born ball-playing, athletic midfielder represents Guyana due to his family heritage and has earned 13 caps. But perhaps Nurse’s proudest moment was in September 2011 a mere three years after his debut, when he was announced the side’s skipper for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers which are taking place at the moment.

Nurse’s robust style suits the national team perfectly. Fuelled on team spirit, high work rate and a physical approach which is brutal yet deceptively effective – the national side play to all his strengths. He frequently dictates the fortunes of the team both on and off the field as he leads by the highest professional example.

But while his international experience is rather limited, at club level it’s a completely different kettle of fish. Nurse has played for 12 clubs, over half in England’s lower divisions.

The 28-year-old is currently plying his trade with Puerto Rico Islanders – who he has endured two spells with – in the North American Soccer League.

Indeed, the Islanders’ are very much big in Puerto Rico, boasting a stadium capacity of 22,000 and regularly featuring in the CONCACAF Champions League.

But with Guyana and on the international scene is really where Nurse has made his mark. He’s still got plenty to offer to a team gradually growing in the Caribbean. As a captain, he carries a lot of weight and expectation on his shoulders.

The World Cup qualifiers have been tough for Guyana. They operate the last position in their group, although just on Friday evening they salvaged a credible point away at El Salvador – with Nurse playing a key role. But he and the national team still have a lot to learn, and he recently said in a statement that he believes they are progressing.

“We have come a long way as a footballing nation to be competing at this level and we are by no means out of our depth,” beamed Nurse. “For every experience the team is growing stronger.

And perhaps the above comments sum Christopher Nurse up as a footballer and a man. A genuine, honest yet ambitious character who is looking to propel Guyana to the next level.

 

Written by Nathan Carr

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Mattia Destro: A Lowdown on AS Roma’s Summer Signing

Mattia Destro- AS Roma's big summer signing

During this colorful transfer window, A.S Roma agreed to a €11.5 million temporary deal with Siena to sign hot talent Matti Destro. Destro follows the influx of a stars joining Roma under the DiBenedetto ownership and will find this addition very worthy to their title winning ambitions.

After sitting in the shadows of a 5 time Scudetto and 1 time UEFA Champions league winning strike force, the former Inter youth product was unable to break through into the first team and found himself in co-ownership stints at Genoa and Siena where he netted 14 times in 36 games and averaged 0.8 key passes per match. His performances were lauded by the press and he soon found himself a future in the Italian national team.

Destro’s goal and key passes count may seem underwhelming at first look, but he has played at lower table clubs his entire career and a move to Roma, where he will find without a doubt an increased quality of players added with his development as a player, his statistics are sure to reach much more impressive figures.

Destro is a typical poacher style striker in the mold of Inzaghi or Chicharito much like his predecessor Borini. He has a very athletic, physical style of play along with fantastic dribbling skills that can finish goals from passes or head them in from corners or crosses with his height. He is exceptionally dangerous in the counter attack where a large percentage of his goals have come from.

In addition to finishing prowess Destro is very active in defensive contribution despite being a striker and tackles often for a player in his position. His all around game, impressive work rate on the field and never say die attitude matches the Young and developing Roma squad.

Destro will be joining fellow young strikers Bojan Krkic and Erik Lamela along with a midfield composed of Miralem Pjanic and Michael Bradley. This support along with a large back bone of defensive players will cover up his weaknesses such as unable to find players with is passes and holding on to the ball. The Roma midfield and Destro complement each other very well as they finally have a poacher who makes use of their weighted passes and vice versa as Destro faced a lack of creative players in his previous clubs causing him to fall to the offside traps of Italian defenders.

Roma is the best next step in Destro’s career and he fits in their system perfectly. Roma have done good business bringing in a player like him and I look forward to seeing Roma causing big waves in Italian football for the coming seasons.

 

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Lowdown on Chelsea target- Olympique Marseille’s Cesar Azpilicueta

Cesar Azpilicueta- Targeted by Chelsea

Reports in France suggest that an agreement was meet on a transfer fee between Marseille and Champions League holders Chelsea for right back Cesar Azpilicueta. Chelsea had been tracking Azpilicueta for the majority of last season and raised their interest on hearing that Azpilicueta had not been included in the squad for Marseille’s Europa League match versus FC Sheriff Tiraspol.

Marseille have recently indicated this Summer that they were going to reduce the wage bill by selling some of their key players. Alou Diarra was the only recognised departure but the club expressed that key members of squad such as Stephane Mbia, Andre Ayew and Cesar Azilicueta would also leave.

“If my departure can help Marseille’s finances, then it is a good deal for everyone concerned.” – Cesar Azpilicueta.

The deal is worth to be near £8 million for the 22 year old. The transfer will take Chelsea’s spending up to £70 million this Summer following the signings of Marko Marin, Eden Hazard and Oscar. Cesar will increase the options in the right back position for the Blues.

The first choice right back is Ivanovic who actually played 14 of his 26 appearances in centre back due to injuries and suspensions so it is clear that cover is needed. Ivanovic will be difficult to dismantle from his starting berth after having an eventful start to the season that includes two goals and a red card in the Community Shield.

Azilicueta is yet another example of an modern attacking full back (see Alexander Buttner: A lowdown on Manchester United’s latest signing for more) and he played in Spain’s disappointing Olympic campaign which lead to knockout at the group stages. It was more of a case of the forwards not living up to their expectation as Cesar was part of the Spanish backline that only conceded two goals in three games.

Cesar Azilicueta made his Champions League debut with Marseille against Spartak Moscow and has improved his game considerably in Ligue 1 leading him in contention for the Spanish national team squad. Cesar understandably feels loyalty to Marseille who supported him through injury when the Spaniard ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments in his knee. – “My thoughts are split between Marseille and Chelsea”.

Azilicueta began his career at Osasuna beginning as an attacking midfielder but moving to full back due to injury crisis at the club. And the rest as they say is history. A regular at Osasuna at only 18 years of age. A Basque native, he thrives on aggressive football but complements his passion on the field with his ball skills and intelligence in forward positions. Surprisingly Cesar established as a right back despite favouring his left foot.

Cesar Azilicueta will look to gain a starting position at Chelsea and improve Chelsea’s 1.21 goals against average last season and improve on last seasons sixth place finish. If he can follow in the footsteps of fellow Spaniard Juan Mata debut season which included the FA Cup and Champions League double then Chelsea could have a real talent in a rejuvenated side.

 

Written by Daire Kilkelly

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Alexander Buttner: A Lowdown on Manchester United’s Latest Signing

Alexander Buttner- Signs for the Red Devils

 

Alexander Buttner completed his transfer to Manchester United on a £4m deal after completing his medical on Monday as the Red Devils started their Premier League campaign with a loss to Everton.Buttner followed Dutch international striker Robin Van Persie in signing this month as Ferguson continues to refresh an ageing squad of footballers.

The signing of Buttner, an attacking left back is an indication that Evra’s place could be under threat after struggling through parts of last season. The loan departure of Fabio to Queen Park Rangers seemed to have opened a opportunity for the media to link Manchester United to full backs in the Premier League such as Leighton Baines and Neil Taylor. But I feel that Ferguson wasn’t prioritising on a full back with Johnny Evans fully capable of playing left back as he has done for his country Northern Ireland. Buttner was signed as he has so far looked a modern type full back early in his career.

Buttner typifies the modern style full back. He has the athletic attributes in his locker to give him the physical edge against opposition both going forward and defensively. He also contributes goals on occasion, scoring five goals for Vitesse Arnhem last season. But perhaps most importantly of all is that he has a technical consistency in forward positions where Evra and Fabio have been hesitant at times.

Former Manchester United full back – turned TV pundit Gary Neville made an interesting point on Monday Night Football yesterday when analysing how Premier League teams have become more possession based and less gung-ho in attack. He analysed the space many teams occupy when attacking – using Man City in this case. Most of the players on both sides occupied the space in and around the box leaving spaces out wide for the full backs to attack. Neville referred full backs as the new wingers of the modern game.Ferguson has always kept up to date with new trends emerging in football and maybe he sees this as the time to sign a replacement for Evra who can replicate the surging performances from the Evra of old.

In saying that, Buttner will need to improve defensively if he is to confirm his place in the United side and continue to cover the gaps he leaves when racing forward in attack. His slight frame and 5″7″ height is a concern when paired with a well built winger and his height will be a concern when defending crosses in difficult games such as the fixture against Everton on Monday night where the aerial presence of Fellaini and Jelavic troubled United’s back four.

Buttner is one of Ferguson’s few Dutch signings as manager with the standout names being Jaap Stam, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and the controversial signing of Robin Van Persie from archaic rivals Arsenal. Buttner hails from Doetincham where professional footballer Glenn Loovens was also born.

Buttner had a five year spell at the established Ajax academy but moved to Vitesse Arnhem to getting his playing career up and running. Impressing for the Dutch outfit he earned a call up to the 36 man provisional Euro 2012 squad for Holland but failed to make the cut. A proposed move to newly promoted Southampton broke down before Manchester United upped their interest.

Arriving on a five year contract – Buttner spoke of his joy for signing for Manchester United: “Joining Manchester United is one of the best days of my life.It’s a team I’ve admired for many years now and I can’t wait to join my new teammates”.

Ferguson praised the Dutchman on arrival – “Alexander is one of the best full backs in Europe and we’re delighted to sign him. He’s someone we have been watching for a while now. He gives us some really exciting options in that position”.

 

Written by Daire Kilkelly

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