It’s (nearly) back

Cyprus Today - - SPORT -

TO­MOR­ROW’S FA Com­mu­nity Shield game be­tween last sea­son’s cham­pi­ons and FA Cup win­ners is the tra­di­tional cur­tain-raiser for the new sea­son and both Citeh and Chelsea will be hoping to make a state­ment prior to the big kick-off next week.

Of course in the greater scheme of things to­mor­row is merely a glo­ri­fied friendly, but the oc­ca­sion with a near-cer­tain full house at Wem­b­ley is usu­ally one to savour with an open, en­ter­tain­ing game be­ing the norm.

It’s also the first chance to see how ex-Napoli boss Mau­r­izio Sarri sets out Chelsea tac­ti­cally. At Napoli he gar­nered a rep­u­ta­tion for fast, open foot­ball with the em­pha­sis on attack, whereas the Blues, par­tic­u­larly un­der Mour­inho and Conte, were the po­lar op­po­sites of this ideal. They were, how­ever, suc­cess­ful on the sil­ver­ware front, whereas Sarri hasn’t had much use for the Brasso in his ca­reer thus far. Abramovich has al­legedly craved for a truly ex­cit­ing team for a long time now and he might be about to get his wish, but will it bring him more baubles for his bulging cab­i­net? We shall see.

By con­trast we pretty much know the score with Citeh, with the only real talk­ing-point be­ing where will Guardi­ola de­ploy his shiny new toy, Riyad Mahrez? When the Al­ge­rian was Foot­baller of the Year as Le­ices­ter won the ti­tle he was a one-man wreck­ing crew out on the right wing; if Guardi­ola has plans to play him in the same way what ef­fect will that have on Ra­heem Ster­ling’s job se­cu­rity at the Eti­had? If it comes down to a straight choice be­tween Mahrez and Ster­ling for that po­si­tion then Ster­ling is toast.

Good busi­ness

The trans­fer win­dow is a fickle thing; some clubs spend too much, some spend too lit­tle. Some buy too many play­ers, some buy not enough. Some buy well, some buy badly. Who of the so-called Big Six has done what in this trans­fer win­dow?

Ar­se­nal — un­der the tute­lage of new broom Unai Emery Gooner fans are wait­ing with bated breath to see whether or not this is truly a new be­gin­ning af­ter the last few years of stag­na­tion with Arsene Wenger at the helm. They have long com­plained of a lack of spine in the team and the pur­chases of Sokratis Pa­pas­tathopou­los, Lu­cas Tor­reira and Mat­teo Guen­dozi look like good busi­ness in that re­gard. Ad­di­tion­ally the vastly ex­pe­ri­enced Stephan Licht­steiner pro­vides much-needed guile at right back and Bernd Leno should put pres­sure on the age­ing Petr Cech in goal.

Chelsea — the only in­com­ing trans­fer of note is that of Jorginho from Mau­r­izio Sarri’s for­mer club Napoli. The Ital­ian play­maker looks to have the skills to boss the Chelsea mid­field and should be a good buy, but they still look light up front with Olivier Giroud vir­tu­ally a non-scor­ing cen­tre for­ward and the light­weight Al­varo Mo­rata just not look­ing like a good fit for the Premier League.

Liver­pool — if any team can be said to have “won the win­dow” it’s Liver­pool. Naby Keita and Fabinho are fright­en­ingly good ad­di­tions to what was al­ready a ster­ling mid­field posse, while the sign­ing of Xher­dan Shaquiri from Stoke may turn out to be a crack­ing bit of busi­ness. The ic­ing on an al­ready im­pres­sive cake was the much-needed ac­qui­si­tion of a safe pair of hands and they don’t come much safer than ex-Roma cus­to­dian Alis­son.

Manch­ester City — Aymeric La­porte brings some much-needed youth­ful zest to an age­ing back line while Riyad Mahrez is a fine ad­di­tion to an al­ready for­mi­da­ble for­ward line. Citeh have been oth­er­wise fairly quiet in the win­dow but given the strength of their squad that should be no sur­prise.

Manch­ester United — to the shock of ab­so­lutely no-one, Jose Mour­inho isn’t happy; he says that he gave the board five trans­fer tar­gets for this sum­mer and they haven’t granted his wishes. In­stead he’s had to put up with a 19-year-old full back who goes by the name of Diogo Dalot, (me nei­ther), a Brazil­ian squad player called Fred, and Stoke’s re­serve keeper.

Spurs — as per usual chair­man Daniel Levy is keep­ing his cheque book safely locked away in his desk drawer, from where it will emerge blink­ing in the light on dead­line day and be used to fa­cil­i­tate the trans­fer of ei­ther a promis­ing 18-year-old from Europe or a not-quite-has­been who never re­ally was from a mid-ta­ble Premier League side.

Best of the rest — whis­per it, but un­der ex-Citeh boss Manuel Pel­le­grini West Ham seem to have had a de­cent win­dow. Eight play­ers have been brought in and I have been im­pressed at the qual­ity of some of those sign­ings. Ryan Fred­er­icks is a very good full back and An­driy Yar­malenko is some­one I have cov­eted for Spurs in the past. An­der­son from Lazio is no slouch, while we all know what a fit Jack Wil­shere (oxy­moron per­son­i­fied) can bring to the ta­ble. Of course the down­side is that it’s not easy to in­te­grate so many new play­ers into a squad, but if Pel­le­grino can wave his magic wand the Ham­mers could well be chas­ing a top seven place.

Games to watch

FA Com­mu­nity Shield — to­mor­row: 5pm Chelsea v Citeh. Cham­pi­onship se­lected fix­tures — to­day: 5pm Birm­ing­ham v Nor­wich, Mill­wall v Mid­dles­brough, West Brom v Bolton; 7.30pm Sh­effield United v Swansea. To­mor­row: 6.30pm Leeds v Stoke. Mon­day: 9.45pm; Hull v Villa. Tues­day: 9.45pm Mid­dles­brough v Sh­effield United, For­est v West Brom.

Scot­tish Premier­ship — to­day: 5pm Celtic v Liv­ingston. To­mor­row: 3pm Aberdeen v Rangers; 5pm Hibs v Mother­well. Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fy­ing first leg — Tues­day: 9.45pm Celtic vs AEK Athens. Europa League qual­i­fy­ing — Thurs­day: ties to be con­firmed.

And fi­nally

Last week I asked who was Ever­ton’s most capped player and a cou­ple of blue Scousers replied with Tim Howard, who earned 93 US caps. An­other one said Neville Southall who played 91 times for Wales. How­ever I did say that this was a bit of a sneaky ques­tion and the al­ter­na­tive an­swer would be Pat Jen­nings, who played 119 times for North­ern Ire­land. Spurs and, I hate to say it, Ar­se­nal leg­end Jen­nings signed for Ever­ton as cover for Bobby Mimms (Southall was in­jured) in the weeks lead­ing up to the 1986 FA Cup fi­nal, though of course he never ac­tu­ally played for the Tof­fees.

This week: who was the first player in English foot­ball to play 1,000 top-level matches?

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