Man­agers, it’s over to you

The buy­ing has been done so what now, asks

African Independent - - SPORT -

NOW that the trans­fer win­dow has closed, it merely opens up an­other chal­lenge for the clubs, and one that is re­ally much more fas­ci­nat­ing in proper foot­ball terms than the facile sen­sa­tion­al­ism of the mar­ket.

The men in charge ac­tu­ally have to “man­age”, in the truest sense of the word. They have to make do with what they’ve got, try to max­imise the re­sources avail­able to them. How they tackle that may be much more de­ci­sive this sea­son than how much they’ve spent.

That alone also re­flects one of the con­tra­dic­tions of this win­dow and one of the un­der­ly­ing woes of over­bear­ing wealth. The Pre­mier League has never spent so much money, but there are very few man­agers com­pletely con­tent with their busi­ness, and none of the rich­est six are. All of the lat­ter have is­sues to solve and prob­lems to fix through their own hands-on man­age­ment if they are to re­ally progress and over-per­form this sea­son.

An­to­nio Conte, pic­tured, has al­ready proven he can han­dle that supremely. The Ital­ian also led the way in show­ing that such tac­ti­cal in­no­va­tion is the true strength in the meg­a­money mod­ern Pre­mier League, by mostly win­ning the ti­tle through that kind of in­flu­ence last sea­son.

It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that his late Septem­ber switch to three at the back may be the most in­flu­en­tial mid-sea­son coach­ing de­ci­sion the league has seen. The frus­tra­tion for Conte now is that the re­wards were not re­sound­ing, at

up their cam­paign against Venezuela. least in terms of bol­ster­ing his side.

He could have jus­ti­fi­ably thought one of the extra ben­e­fits of win­ning the league like that in his first sea­son would be full back­ing in the trans­fer mar­ket, to get as close to ev­ery­thing he wanted as was re­al­is­tic.

That did not come close to hap­pen­ing, so for the sec­ond sea­son in a row Conte will have to make do, but if the fun­da­men­tal chal­lenge is the same, the specifics of it are dif­fer­ent.

Whereas last sea­son’s prob­lems were hav­ing the per­son­nel for the de­sired sys­tem, he now has the sys­tem for the per­son­nel but just doesn’t have enough of them. The dif­fi­culty is with depth. He must en­sure Chelsea main­tain the same mo­men­tum in a more de­mand­ing sea­son, where he won’t be able to get the same use out of the same key play­ers.

It feels a par­tic­u­lar is­sue up front and at wing-back, and he is go­ing to have to be just as cre­ative for the games when he can’t play Al­varo Mo­rata or one of his three main wide men.

Jur­gen Klopp must over­come the same prob­lem, but the ad­di­tion of Mo­hamed Salah means the loss of even two of his at­tack­ers won’t be as crip­pling as it was last term. He has not added to that de­fence, though, so is stak­ing a lot on his team’s fun­da­men­tal in that it means he

needed a win to con­tinue to as­pire to first place in Group G, lead­ing to au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Italy still have a re­mote chance of fin­ish­ing first as they are three points be­hind Spain with two games left, but the play-offs look in­creas­ingly likely.

Spain top the ta­ble af­ter rout­ing Liecht­en­stein 8-0.

The three points in the Mapei Sta­dium helped Italy con­sol­i­date sec­ond place in Group G, six points clear of third-placed Al­ba­nia, who were held 1-1 is bank­ing on the side con­tin­u­ing to score more than they con­cede.Jose Mourinho must just keep his team scor­ing. While United have been im­pres­sively free-flow­ing in their three games so far, it shouldn’t be over­looked that, bar the vic­tory over an atro­cious West Ham, that was largely when they’d gone ahead and games had open up. Pep Guardi­ola’s prob­lem is the op­po­site in that he could do with a de­fen­sive mid­field that tight­ens games, while Mauricio Pochettino needs to add a bit more poise to Tot­ten­ham’s power. Arsene Wenger has a range of is­sues, as well as the root ques­tion of his own strug­gles to adapt de­spite the re­cent move to three at the back. It goes right through the league, from Frank De Boer look­ing to im­pose a sys­tem on play­ers un­used to it, to Rafa Ben­itez hav­ing to deal with what he’s been left with.

Now that no one can spend un­til Jan­uary, all of th­ese is­sues have to be solved on the train­ing pitch or in the man­ager’s of­fice.

For the next few months it is no longer about who can spend the most but who can in­no­vate the most. As with last sea­son, that will say a lot more about the man­agers than just go­ing out and buy­ing the best player. – The In­de­pen­dent

by Mace­do­nia.

Italy, with­out in­jured Gior­gio Chiellini and sus­pended Leonardo Bonucci, were far from con­vinc­ing af­ter their de­mo­li­tion by Spain.

Is­rael, play­ing with­out cap­tain Eran Za­havi who quit in­ter­na­tional foot­ball in disgust af­ter his side were jeered by home fans in Haifa on Satur­day in a shock loss to Mace­do­nia, suf­fered their fifth de­feat of the cam­paign.

Italy next have games against Mace­do­nia in Turin and Al­ba­nia away

in Oc­to­ber.

The last time Italy had to go through play-offs was in 1997 on the road to the 1998 World Cup in France. Omar Al Soma’s stop­page-time equaliser took war-torn Syria into Asia’s World Cup play-offs on Tues­day, as South Korea and Saudi

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