OFFICIAL: Crystal Palace sign Adebayor

The Eagles have scored only one goal – an own goal – in their last six Premier League matches but have now bolstered their attack with the arrival of the Togo striker

OFFICIAL: Crystal Palace sign Adebayor

Crystal Palace have signed free agent Emmanuel Adebayor on a six-month contract.

The Togo international was released by Tottenham in September and has been without a club since, but has now signed a deal with the Eagles until the end of the season.

Palace boss Alan Pardew has made clear his desire to sign a striker this month and the club have also been linked with the likes of Nicklas Bendtner, Loic Remy and Emmanuel Emenike.

Palace’s only goal in their last six Premier League games was an own goal scored by Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen on Saturday.

Adebayor was reportedly close to joining Aston Villa in the summer but was eventually let go by Spurs having failed to find a new club, and has not played since May 3 of last year.

The former Arsenal and Real Madrid player will wear the No.25 shirt at Selhurst Park.

Advertisements

‘Ranieri old, Wenger a failure’ – Mourinho mockery coming back to haunt him

The Chelsea boss has made fun of the Leicester and Arsenal managers, plus Manuel Pellegrini, but they are challenging for the title while he languishes near the foot of the table

'Ranieri old, Wenger a failure' - Mourinho mockery coming back to haunt him

Throughout his coaching career, Jose Mourinho has often had the last laugh. The most successful coach in the past decade along with Bayern Munich and former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, the Portuguese has relished putting down some of his counterparts. This season, however, it no longer seems so clever.

On Monday, Chelsea travel to Leicester for a meeting with the Premier League’s surprise package in 2015-16 – and his old foe Claudio Ranieri.

The Portuguese replaced Ranieri at Chelsea for his first spell in 2004. “It was the end of the cycle,” he said back then. But he later attacked the Italian when the two men were working in Serie A, Mourinho at Inter and Ranieri at Juventus.

“Ranieri has the mentality of someone who doesn’t need to win,” he said in 2008. “He is almost 70 years old, he has won a Supercup and another small trophy and he is too old to change his mentality. He’s old and he hasn’t won anything.”

The Italian was actually 56 at the time, while he has won a little more than Mourinho gave him credit for: a Copa del Rey and a Uefa Super Cup with Valencia, plus a Coppa Italia and a Supercoppa Italiana at Fiorentina. Nevertheless, Mou’s Inter side beat Ranieri’s Juventus to the title and he kept his reputation as a master of mind games.

Ahead of Monday’s match, however, Mourinho’s Chelsea are languishing just a point above the drop zone while the Italian’s Leicester side sit only one from the top with a game in hand. So, perhaps logically, it was a more gracious Jose who spoke on the eve of the game.

Nevertheless, there was still a hint of damning his rival with faint praise. “I think he won manager of the month,” the Portuguese said of Ranieri. “He should win manager of the half-term… the first six months.” And he couldn’t resist a barbed comment to go with it. “Last year, Ranieri was sacked by Greece for losing to the Faroe Islands,” he said. “Now, top of the league. It’s exciting.”

It’s nothing new, of course. Mourinho has often attacked Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, famously calling the Frenchman a “voyeur” in his first spell in charge of Chelsea, before labelling the Gunners boss a “specialist in failure” last year. He has also questioned how the 66-year-old has been able to stay in his job for so long.

But ahead of Leicester’s game at home to Chelsea on Monday, Arsenal are on top of the Premier League, while the question marks these days surround the future of Mourinho and not Wenger, who has put together an excellent side in north London on a much tighter budget than the Portuguese has had at any of his clubs with the exception of Porto.

And the other team looking like title contenders at the moment, Manchester City, are managed by another of Mourinho’s many adversaries: Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean coach was replaced by the Portuguese at Real Madrid and when the former later visited the Santiago Bernabeu as Malaga boss, he quipped: “If Madrid sacked me, I would go to a big team in England or Italy. I wouldn’t go to Malaga.”

It is all very well making such remarks while winning league titles and Champions Leagues, but Mourinho’s current tenure is proving much less successful, despite winning the Premier League and the Capital One Cup last season, and he may have to reassess his options if his Chelsea spell is brought to an end in the coming months.

In the Premier League, he has already had to do so and after last weekend’s shock defeat at home to promoted side Bournemouth, he said: “Our objective is to fight for the top four, but maybe now we have to think of finishing in the top six.”

It is quite a fall from grace and whatever does happen in the rest of the season, Chelsea’s current predicament means there is now little room for Mourinho’s customary smugness and arrogance.

And if Ranieri, Pellegrini or Wenger walk away with the title next May, it will be they who will have had the last laugh. For Jose, meanwhile, it’s just not funny any more.

Culled from goal.com

Boring Van Gaal is sucking the life out of Man United

After crashing out of the Champions League the finger of blame is largely being pointed at the Dutchman who is steadfastly refusing to accept criticism of his playing style

Boring Van Gaal is sucking the life out of Man United

If you find it a surprise that Manchester United have been knocked out of the Champions League, you clearly haven’t been watching their games this season.

Having spent a gargantuan £283 million in the transfer market, Louis van Gaal succeeded only in turning United into one of the dullest, rigid, lifeless teams in the competition. By the time they arrived in Wolfsburg needing a victory to be sure of progression, it was clear they were swimming against the tide.

Somehow, Van Gaal has sucked the life out of one of the world’s greatest clubs. Fans no longer look forward to arriving at Old Trafford in the same way they used to.

Players don’t seem to have the same appetite and belief as their predecessors. And when visiting teams begin to batten down the hatches with 20 minutes to go they do so safe in the knowledge that the worst is over. Fergie time and the avalanche of late, crucial goals is now just a distant memory.

After a September during which the Red Devils scored 15 goals in six games, the humiliating 3-0 defeat to Arsenal was a real watershed moment for United. From there Van Gaal looked to tighten up first and worry about attacking later. Rather than accept that selecting two immobile thirty-somethings in Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield was a grave error, he decided that his side needed to become tougher to break down at the expense of greater expression in the final third.

There is a monotony to United which reflects Van Gaal’s approach. The only thing that changes in training is the time. When they arrive at Carrington morning, noon or night, the players are put through exactly the same exercises week after week. After going through their warm-ups on a match day it is the same training drills which are performed by the starting XI whether the opposition is Cambridge or CSKA Moscow.

There has been many an occasion when Van Gaal has waxed lyrical about the wonderful football displayed by his Ajax sides of the mid-1990s, but lately he has turned to more recent examples of his work when suggesting that Man Utd fans should fans should have known what they were getting when he was appointed,

“When they don’t like the style of play for Manchester United, everybody knows in advance that all the teams of LVG plays like that. In Barcelona, or Bayern Munich or AZ we have played like that,” said Van Gaal in defence of his tactics after the 0-0 draw with West Ham at Old Trafford on Saturday.

But while he believes that United fans should have foreseen the current situation, the same charge can be levelled at the 64-year-old. This is a club which has been built on playing football the right way. Even in the days in between Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson, the likes of Tommy Docherty and Ron Atkinson had United playing an attractive brand of football, while Dave Sexton – the manager who bridged the gap between the reigns of the two – was criticised for a more functional, conservative approach.

Van Gaal didn’t walk into this job with his eyes closed. He knew the demands associated with Manchester United. He had seen what happened to David Moyes, yet even in the Scot’s short spell in charge there was a more willing approach to attacking than Van Gaal has employed.

What’s more, Van Gaal cannot claim that he has not been given the tools with which to build a fast-flowing, attractive lineup. A British record fee of £59.7m was splashed out on Angel di Maria, and while he had not been the manager’s choice, he was the kind of player most bosses would love to work with. The Dutchman was forever switching Di Maria around and eventually helped to make the Argentine attacker’s position in the squad untenable.

Yet even since he has been given carte blanche in the market he has been unable to get the best out of explosive talents. Memphis Depay was his marquee signing last summer for a fee potentially rising to £31m, yet the Netherlands World Cup star has so far failed to show anything like his best. Anthony Martial, meanwhile, has been pushed from pillar to post since his deadline-day transfer, and the lack of appropriate service has seen him struggle to find the net.

Similarly, Ander Herrera has cut a frustrated figure as a result of his lack of playing time while Juan Mata has looked a shadow of himself when shoved out to the right wing for game after game. It was no coincidence that Martial’s best opening in weeks came on Tuesday in Wolfsburg from a killer ball by Mata, playing in the No.10 spot vacated by the injured Wayne Rooney. If Van Gaal had had a fully-fit squad available to him, there is little doubt Mata would have been used as a right winger, if at all.

And that brings us to another point. United’s lack of strength in depth left them incredibly exposed as they kicked off against Wolfsburg, and two further injuries only made matters worse as the match went on.

Van Gaal insisted earlier this season that he was able to pack off a number of former first-team squad members in the summer because of the versatility of a string of current players. Yet such a viewpoint is always dangerous since it only takes a few absences to leave the squad looking stretched.

The likes of Guillermo Varela, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Axel Tuanzebe and Marcus Rashford may well become excellent senior players in time, but the truth is that right now they are getting a look-in with the first team more out of necessity than out of choice. If United had even half the depth of cover of previous seasons to call upon then such youngsters would be getting an outing when the time was right, not when the situation demanded it.

Louis van Gaal is not the only man to blame for United’s current malaise, and indeed he has steered his side into a comfortable top-four position from which they are well placed to challenge for the Premier League title this season.

However, the Champions League failure is a huge step backwards for the club, and the Dutchman has to take a large share of the responsibility. Having a belief and sticking to it can be a very positive quality, but the belligerence and stubbornness with which Van Gaal stands by his failing ‘philosophy’ is threatening to undermine his attempts to make a success of his Manchester United reign.

Tactically outdated Mourinho must reinvent himself – just like Guardiola

COMMENT: The Special One has used the same 4-2-3-1 formation for the last five-and-a-half years but must modernise if he is to save his job and win more major trophies 

Tactically outdated Mourinho must reinvent himself - just like Guardiola

“During our first team meeting at Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho didn’t talk much about tactics. In tactical terms, you just have to look at how he eliminated Barcelona in the Champions League with Inter in 2010 by playing defensive, counter-attacking football. Despite all the talented players he has had at his disposal, the recent years have shown that he has probably become outdated tactically.”

This was the damning response of an ex-Mourinho player when asked by Goal if his former Madrid mentor was to blame for Chelsea’s disastrous season.

The player in question asked to remain anonymous – he is active and may have to work with Mourinho again. But he is not alone in his criticism of the Chelsea boss. There have been numerous theories as to why the flailing Premier League champions, who sit just two points above the relegation zone following Saturday’s humiliating home loss to Bournemouth, have collapsed so spectacularly this campaign.

Is Mourinho suffering from third season syndrome? Is the dressing room broken? Is a poor summer transfer market to blame? Did the controversial departure of first team doctor Eva Carneiro affect the squad?

However, the former Madrid player’s narrow focus – whether Mourinho has been at fault tactically – is not a question that has been explored in depth. There can be little argument that since taking over Real Madrid in 2010, Mourinho has not evolved in a strategic sense. During his three-year spell at the Santiago Bernabeu and his two-and-a-half seasons back at Chelsea, he has almost always utilised his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.

But this is a system that – despite emerging as the most popular and innovative formation of the new millennium – is now out of fashion among the elite. None of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus or Atletico Madrid use it. Carlo Ancelotti quickly abandoned it after succeeding Mourinho at Madrid, although the under-fire Rafa Benitez has flirted with its return this term.

The 4-2-3-1 is still relatively popular in the Premier League, so the formation alone cannot be used as an excuse for Chelsea’s dismal domestic form – even if it could help explain why English sides have flopped in Europe in the last few years. But it is just as much how Mourinho’s players interpret their roles within this system that is hurting Chelsea.

Jose’s obsession with fielding a team that is solid, organised and protected by a flat back four and two holding midfielders has not once wavered. Although Eden Hazard and Willian do have some licence to roam and switch flanks in offensive phases and Cesc Fabregas can act as a floating playmaker, the position of each player in the team is rigid. Each occupies a place on the right, the left or the centre and generally holds their position throughout the game. With such clear reference points, Chelsea are not only painfully pragmatic but also very predictable.

Top football teams today need to be far more flexible and expansive. They can’t use the same formation and occupy the same positions each game. If they do they will soon be found out, especially with so much technology and data available to analyse every movement on the pitch.

Pep Guardiola is surely the most advanced coach tactically right now. On Saturday, he selected the same Bayern Munich XI for the first time in 100 games. Last season, 10 of Mourinho’s team started at least 26 of their Premier League matches and three were ever-presents.

Attempting to decipher Pep’s formation on the pitch is virtually impossible. To Guardiola, there is no such thing as a set formation, it is all about interpreting space depending on the scenario and where the ball and opponents are. Then it is about exploiting this space by creating ‘passing lanes’ to provide multiple channels of attack in each move. As a result Bayern can line up at the centre circle in a 3-4-3 or 4-3-3, then 10 seconds later be attacking in a 2-3-5.

“We can play a back three or a back four, we can play with one or two support strikers, whatever,” captain Philipp Lahm told Goal last month. “I don’t know how many systems we have. Our game is very flexible in any case. [A formation to us] is often only about how you write in down.”

Guardiola is a proponent of total football. He demands that his players are comfortable in any area of the pitch – and that his defenders are just as proficient going forward as they are backwards. Compare David Alaba, Philipp Lahm and Jerome Boateng starting moves from deep and pushing into midfield with Chelsea’s John Terry, Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma, who are incapable of crossing the halfway line unless it is to go up for a corner.

Then look at Diego Costa, a lone striker with little to no lateral or off-the-ball movement – once again an easy reference point for defenders unless he is in peak condition. A big hulking target man has been a favourite of Mourinho for most of his career, with Didier Drogba his crown jewel. But, this type of physical striker may also be going out of fashion.

The best team in the world, Barcelona, employ a trio of small, skilful, interchanging forwards. Manchester City have the premier attack in England with the pint-sized Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and David Silva buzzing around. Juventus and Atletico are building their futures around the tiny but incredibly talented Paulo Dybala and Antoine Griezmann, respectively. PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski may be big but they are technically the equal of anyone.

Guardiola’s philosophy that players and formations need to be eclectic and adaptable is catching on. Last season, Massimiliano Allegri won the domestic double and reached the Champions League final with Juventus by deploying numerous different systems. He regularly switched from a 4-3-1-2 to a 3-5-2, 4-4-2, 4-3-2-1 and 4-3-3 – often during the same game. This ability to “change the menu”, as Patrice Evra described it, is crucial.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have little variation to their play. Indeed, this season 13 of their 28 goals in the Premier League and Champions League have come from set pieces, while many others have been via deflections or goalkeeping gaffes. Very few have been well crafted.

“Juventus are developing a system that will be used by most of the big European teams in a couple of years,” former Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli told Tuttosport.

“Juventus are at the vanguard: they use a hybrid tactical method that highlights the individual quality, even changing tactically during the course of a single move.”

Mourinho must also embrace this change. He cannot stand still. As Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli pointed out on Tuesday: “Guardiola is constantly developing tactically”. The legendary Sir Alex Ferguson was successful for so long because he was always evolving. He won the 1999 Champions League with a flat 4-4-2 formation, then changed to a 4-4-1-1, lifted another European title with a 4-3-3, before returning to a 4-4-2 to win his 13th and final Premier League title in 2013.

The 4-2-3-1 formation and Mourinho’s interpretation of it is simplistic and outdated. It is no coincidence that in the last five-and-a-half years he has won five trophies (including two trophyless campaigns and no European titles), compared to the 17 he bagged in the seven years prior – which comprised of six league championships, two Champions Leagues and a Uefa Cup.

Chelsea take the concept of ‘crisis club’ to an all-new low

A quarter of the way into this Premier League season, Chelsea have unwillingly advanced the concept of the “bad patch”.

From their lofty perch of the last decade, they have witnessed plenty of minor wobbles and stumbles. It became more than a mere “blip” — universally understood to be an anomaly of form that last no longer than three or four games — when Crystal Palace snatched three points from Stamford Bridge at the end of August. After the blip comes the indeterminate period of the “crisis” — a term that has long lost its significance in the Premier League era — but crises are rarely terminal, and a corner is usually turned.

So how can we describe Chelsea’s dismal 2015/16?

From the platform of a comprehensive (if not hugely memorable) title-winning year, they have delivered the capitulation to end all capitulations. Having redefined the art of winning in his first spell as manager, Jose Mourinho has now overseen a painful exhibition in how to lose football matches. To round off an autumn of discontent, Stoke City delivered what any self-respecting run of bad form should have: a morale-sapping midweek League Cup exit away from home. On penalties with Eden Hazard, one of the stars of last season who, according to the latest transfer buzz, is linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge, missing the spot kick.

As the blips of previous seasons had already suggested, Chelsea lose games like nobody else. They do not go quietly into the night. Manchester United’s dreadful season under David Moyes was characterised by meek, unimaginative surrender to lesser sides. Liverpool’s spectacular title-race derailing in 2014 was a gift to the cackling neutral, but it didn’t keep giving. Chelsea’s unfolding nightmare is on another level entirely. Rather than regaining their focus like they would in the recent past, their defeats this season have been scenes of total panic; chain reactions of fouls, yellow cards and horrified protests leaving them in a daze, on the ropes to be finished off.

Like quicksand, the more Chelsea scrap to escape it, the deeper they seem to get.

The numbers — five defeats in 10 Premier League games, conceding at a rate of almost two goals a match — can only say so much about their start. This is the most stunning collapse by a defending champion not just in terms of points and defeats, but in its chaotic manner and sensational lack of grace. Chelsea have long been a tight ball of aggression and frustration, often to their advantage, but it always ran the risk of unravelling beyond just a run of two or three untidy games.

The loss at West Ham and, in particular, Nemanja Matic’s second yellow card summed it all up. An unrivalled physical presence suddenly finding itself crumbling under pressure, unable to fathom how this could possibly have happened, and summoning only furious clumsiness in response. Then, in a fog of frustration and gleeful schadenfreude, succeeding only in making things worse. Upton Park roared with each yellow card that followed from Jon Moss’s pocket, saving another hearty honk as assistant coach Silvino Louro was sent to the stands.

Speculative comment on Mourinho’s state of mind and the whereabouts of the dressing room aside, his team have been struck down by an unprecedented number of players losing their form at the same time. In a subversive season where Jamie Vardy can muster 10 goals in as many games to generate surreal talk of an approach from Real Madrid, Chelsea’s stellar attacking threat has amounted to a couple of Diego Costa strikes and Willian’s set-piece deliveries. Eden Hazard has looked lost in the maelstrom.

Regardless of the endgame to this decline, how and when the manager makes his exit, and which brave soul comes in to turn it around, Chelsea’s season is likely to become the new benchmark for elite underperformance. “Doing a Chelsea” could potentially emulate “Doing a Leeds” (which itself warrants a 1500-word Wikipedia article) in becoming a universal phrase for falling emphatically short of expectations.

In the meantime, the language of footballing form — from the “blip” to the “crisis” — just doesn’t have the vocabulary to cover Chelsea’s perfect storm.

Ferguson reveals reasons for keeping ‘amazing’ Cantona after kung-fu kick

The former Manchester United star was suspended for eight months for kicking a supporter, with his former manager admitting he felt duty-bound to keep him

Ferguson reveals reasons for keeping 'amazing' Cantona after kung-fu kick

Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed the reasons behind his decision to keep Eric Cantona at Manchester United after his infamous kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace supporter in 1995.

Cantona was banned for eight months after the incident, which led to widespread calls for Ferguson to sell him.

The long-serving United boss decided to keep him at the club, however, admitting that he felt compelled to fight his player’s corner.

“Jesus, you know, he was done and it was a problem for the club because it got such headlines,” Ferguson told the BBC. “It was front page and we decided to have a meeting at Alderley Edge the next night.

“On the way I get a phone call from Richard Greenbury, who was chairman of Marks and Spencer at the time, Richard, a big United fan.

“He says ‘well, don’t let Cantona go. He’ll give you great moments of joy.’ I said ‘I know that.’ But you know it was the mood of the board, so I had to fight the case, look we must keep him, we can’t let him go, we can’t give in to the mob and we decided to suspend him for four months and the FA at the time were happy with it, but somehow they added to it.

United signed Cantona for around £1.2 million from Leeds in 1992, with the France international playing a key role in the Red Devils’ title wins in 1993 and 1994.

And Ferguson insists he had no idea that Cantona would ever react to a fan’s provocation in such a dramatic manner.

“He’d never given us any indication that explosion was there. But I decided to approach it this way: I would speak to him every day, I would talk to him about football all the time and he loved it.

“That’s why the other players said he was my prodigal son. But I think he needed different attention, you needed different ways of dealing with him, he was a different guy from everyone else. He’s an amazing human being.

“No. There was something in me that said I need to stand by him because the world is after him. And it was a bit like, no one’s there to help him and I says well it’ll have to be me because I’m his manager.”

Ibrahimovic: Ronaldo took the credit for Rooney’s work

The 34-year-old says the striker’s efforts were key to the success of the Real Madrid star during his time at Manchester United

Ibrahimovic: Ronaldo took the credit for Rooney's work

Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes Cristiano Ronaldo took the credit for Wayne Rooney’s unselfish work during their time together at Manchester United.

The pair helped fire United to Champions League glory in 2008, with Ronaldo winning the Ballon d’Or the following January for his efforts the previous season.

However, Ibrahimovic feels Ronaldo would not have been able to shine if it wasn’t for Rooney’s hard work.

“These great players, they have their moments over one to three years. But to continue over five years, for 10 years the way Wayne Rooney has done is not easy. It’s pressure everyday playing for a big team,” Ibrahimovic told the BBC.

“He runs a lot, he fights a lot, he sacrifices a lot,.

“When he played with Cristiano Ronaldo all the work was done by Rooney, but he didn’t get the credit because Ronaldo was scoring all of the goals.

“I’d prefer to have him in my team than play against him. I’ve not been lucky enough to play with him but I enjoy seeing him on the pitch – if I cannot play with him, I will watch him.”

Culled from Goal.com