West Brom Opinion: Baggies linked with Jack Ross- A calculated risk?
The Baggies are currently managed by James Shan following the dismissal of Darren Moore but they have been unable to regain consistency under their interim manager. West Brom have lost some pretty straightforward fixtures against the likes of Millwall and Bristol City in recent weeks and it looks highly unlikely that Shan is going to be at the helm of affairs beyond the current season.
Preston North End’s Alex Neil was one of the front-runners for the permanent job but the Scotsman has poured cold water on those speculations by signing a new three-year deal at his current club. (H/t BBC)
Interestingly, West Brom have set their sights on another Scotsman in the form of Jack Ross to take the club forward. The 42-year-old took charge at Sunderland last summer and has managed to steady the ship at the Stadium of Lights following back-to-back relegations.
The Black Cats currently find themselves just one point adrift of Barnsley for the second automatic promotion place in League One and there is every chance that Ross might be in the Championship next season.
It would be fair to say that Ross has emerged as the savior for Sunderland, taking charge at a time when the Black Cats had hit an all-time low in their history and transforming their fortunes.
He has rekindled hope at the club that was in a downward spiral just a season back and the Scotsman has proven that he is a manager with plenty of acumen and character who has all the parts to make it to the highest level.
While the West Brom fans might be divided in their opinion on hearing about Ross, a move to the Hawthorns would be a massive leap in the 42-year-old’s managerial career.
Ross had a mediocre playing career in Scotland but he rose to prominence as a manager at St.Mirren, guiding the club to a promotion-winning campaign in the Scottish Premiership in the 2017-18 season, which was considered by many to be a massive achievement.
Ross’s feat of charisma and intelligence earned him the 2017-18 PFA Scotland Manager of the Year award.
Well, Ross has excelled in the Scottish Championship and in the League One in England, but the main question is- Has he proven himself enough to take charge of a club that is challenging for promotion to the Premier League?
The gap between League One and Championship is quite big both in terms of quality and intensity and given that West Brom would eventually aim to challenge for promotion to the Premier League and survive in the top flight, looking at Ross as a long-term solution might be a risky proposition.
However, it would be unfair to write him off completely as there have been instances of managers who have made the step up from the League One to the Championship and eventually to the Premier League, Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe being amongst those to have climbed up the pyramid in recent times.
Ross has shown plenty of promise very early in his managerial career and he certainly deserves a chance to prove himself at the highest level. Moreover, he knows how to get the best out of his players and his man management skills are also upto the mark.
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To conclude, it might be a bit of a gamble for West Brom to appoint Ross as the manager but it could bring with it a lot of rewards as well, considering that the Scotsman has done his reputation no harm at Sunderland.
Despite tailing off since January, here’s how Bielsa can turn Leeds into a formidable force once again
Leeds opinion: How Bielsa can improve the Whites after trailing off since January
Until last Christmas, Leeds United were one of the best teams in the Championship and were well on their way to at least finish second in the table.
However, things took a downward curve since the turn of this year and here we are now talking about them remaining in England’s second-tier for at least one more season.
While we will take an in-depth look as to why this drop in performance happened, it is worth noting that Leeds United hired Marcelo Bielsa to get them back into the Premier League and stay there for years to come.
If the Whites are to keep the Argentine, the squad really needs to step up in the next 12 months and achieve the first target – promotion to the top-flight.
Now, let’s take a look at why there was a significant drop in their performances since the turn of the year and how Bielsa and co. can learn from that to improve next time around:
Injuries and high-intensity system
After his arrival last summer, the first few months of the Bielsa-era went smoothly, with the team playing an attractive brand of football and winning games in style.
But injuries to key players during the festive period started to take a toll on their performances, chiefly due to the fact that the Whites do not boast of a deep squad with high-quality players.
Once a first-choice player of a particular position got injured, it was always a struggle for the manager to replace him. Either there was a drop in quality or the gaffer had to shoehorn someone in that slot.
Furthermore, Bielsa struggled to replace Samu Saiz with an attacking midfielder of similar quality. There were numerous players tried in the dual number 10 position but none of them took the opportunity by the scruff.
In Bielsa’s system, full-backs have to do a lot of running, which is unlike what other managers did at Elland Road. Thus, injuries/drop in performances due to fatigue was a natural phenomenon.
In fact, left-back Barry Douglas, who was signed from Wolves last summer, missed a huge chunk of the season while right-back Luke Ayling struggled for consistency.
Due to a lack of proper backups in central defence, the manager had to field defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips in that position for quite a lot of games.
Thus, it has to be said that these things are not ideal to sustain the course of a 46-game season.
Now, the challenge for Bielsa is to get the players more attuned to playing his style of football for a longer period of time without fatigue and make intelligent signings to enhance the depth of the squad.
Once these two things happen to a certain extent, we can say that Leeds would have a great chance to go all the way next season.
It is fairly evident as to where Leeds and Bielsa have to improve if they are to get promoted to the Premier League.
The upcoming pre-season is very important for this team and the manager, as they should look to build on from the disappointments of last season rather than going into the shell.
Analysing Aston Villa’s summer window so far – how Smith can use his new signings
Aston Villa opinion: How Dean Smith can use the new signings
After a remarkable comeback in the second half of last season and winning the playoff final, Aston Villa are back in the Premier League and look good to stay here for some time.
While the January loan signing Tyrone Mings from Bournemouth proved to be one of the many turning points of the season, the change in management was probably the masterstroke that worked wonders.
Under Steve Bruce, Villa were playing decent football but were far too inconsistent to remain in the playoff race. As a result, when he left the club, they were in the second half of the table.
From thereon, Dean Smith took charge. Along with the assistance of John Terry, he has turned things around at the club. The former Brentford boss seemed to have instilled that never-say-die attitude into every player, which was very evident in the latter half of the campaign.
Now, with the first step done, the next stage is a toughie, where the manager needs to build a team capable of staying in the Premier League.
So far, the Villans have done a good job in terms of signing players, especially knowing the fact that they need quality squad depth in order to last the distance in the English top-flight.
Let’s take a look at the four signings made and how Smith can install them into the starting line-up:
Wesley Moares – Striker
Tammy Abraham was the club’s leading striker throughout the course of last season. But he is now back to his parent club Chelsea and could stay there to fight for a place in the first-team.
Thus, it was vital for Aston Villa to sign a quality centre-forward to replace the Englishman. They did just that by acquiring the services of Wesley Moares from Belgian side Club Brugge.
With 13 goals and 7 assists in 38 league appearances last season, the 22-year-old seems to be an ideal man to replace Abraham as the striker of the team.
Anwar El Ghazi – Winger
The Dutchman played the whole of last season on loan from Lille and did a good job in the wide areas. He initially struggled to get into the team on a regular basis when Steve Bruce was in charge.
But a change in the management brought about an enhancement in the 24-year-old’s game. He turned out to be one of the key players in the latter half of the season, including the playoff final.
It was a no-brainer that Dean Smith and his men kept him on a permanent basis. Now, expect the winger to be a regular feature for Villa in the Premier League.
Jota – Playmaker
Jota was an important signing because Villa needed someone to support Jack Grealish in the creative department. His numbers have been excellent in the past 18-24 months and there is no reason why he would not succeed in the Premier League.
With the Spaniard now in the team, Dean Smith may play him and Grealish together as a number 10 duo, with John McGinn as a progressive ball-winning number six in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Kortney Hause – Defender
Kortney Hause is a very good signing in terms of defensive cover as he can play on either side of central defence and is comfortable operating at left-back as well.
With centre-back Axel Tuanzebe returning to his parent club and Neil Taylor requiring support at left-back, the England U21 international can do the job for Dean Smith.
Areas to be strengthened
While the signings made so far have been good, Aston Villa still need to complete the signing of Tyrone Mings, who is expected to join them (h/t Birmingham Mail).
They also need to sign a backup for right-back Ahmed Elmohamady, with Alan Hutton leaving the club. Furthermore, Wesley Moraes may need some support at the top and thus, signing another forward wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Better than Teemu Pukki? – Here’s the scout report of Norwich City’s latest signing
Scout Report: Josip Drmic-Norwich City’s new talisman
According to BBC Sports, Norwich City have completed the signing of Borussia Monchengladbach and Switzerland striker Josip Drmic on a three-year deal, with the 26-year-old set to join the Canaries on July 1 when his contract at his current club expires.
The newly-promoted Premier League outfit were in the market for a new striker to provide cover and competition for last season’s standout performer Teemu Pukki, and Drmic’s arrival is likely to create plenty of excitement amongst the fans at Carrow Road.
Drmic scored only 2 goals in 5 Bundesliga games for Monchengladbach this past season, with the 26-year-old missing large quarters of the campaign due to a back injury and muscle tear.
The Swiss international has had a really tough time in Germany over the past three or four seasons, with injuries severely restricting his involvement and playing a big role in his downfall.
Drmic’s feat of bagging 17 goals for Nurnberg in the 2013-14 campaign, which was also his first ever season in the Bundesliga, led to him being widely dubbed as one of the brightest emerging prospects in Europe.
However, recurrent injuries over the years have stalled his progress and it would be fair to say that his influence in the Bundesliga has waned considerably, with the 26-year-old failing to replicate those numbers in the following seasons.
However, as far as Norwich City are concerned, manager Daniel Farke is likely to have a good knowledge of Drmic’s skills in front of goal and bringing him in on a free transfer certainly eliminates the risk factor in the move.
The 26-year-old can be a devastating presence up front when he is fit and running at the top of his game. Although he hasn’t been able to fire on all cylinders over the past few campaigns due to injuries, Norwich have every reason to hope that the Swiss international could add a lot of depth, quality and firepower to their attack.
Pukki racked up 29 goals and 9 assists last season to propel Norwich to the Championship title but Farke should be wary of his past struggles at Celtic and Schalke, meaning that the 29-year-old might find it difficult to get to grips with the quality and intensity of the Premier League.
And that is exactly the reason why the arrival of Josip Drmic is such an exciting proposition for the Canaries. As Norwich continue to prepare for the Premier League season, let us take a closer look at the latest addition to their squad – Switzerland’s Josip Drmic.
Born in Lachen, Switzerland, Drmic rose through the youth ranks of Swiss club FC Zurich and played regularly for the reserves before eventually earning his league debut back in 2010.
However, it was in the 2012-13 season that Drmic rose to prominence and enjoyed his first major breakthrough at Zurich, scoring 13 goals in the league and finishing the campaign with a tally of 19 goals in 39 games across all competitions.
Drmic’s red-hot form in Switzerland attracted interest from Bundesliga strugglers Nurnberg, who swooped for him in the summer of 2013.
He made an instant impact in the German top-flight in his debut season and netted 17 goals over the course of the 2013-14 campaign, finishing 3rd in the list of top scorers behind the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Mario Mandzukic.
The striker’s best efforts were not enough to save Nurnberg from relegation and Drmic earned a move to Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2014.
That, however, proved to be the beginning of his downfall, as Drmic managed to start only 5 games in the Bundesliga in the following season due to injuries, scoring 6 goals in the process.
Drmic once again switched boats in 2015 to join Borussia Monchengladbach but his career was already in a downward spiral by that time and his poor injury record saw him score only once in 13 appearances in the first half of the 2015-16 season before being shipped out on loan to Hamburger SV.
The Swiss international went on to start just 8 Bundesliga games for Monchengladbach over the course of the next three seasons, eventually ending his stint with a disappointing tally of 7 goals and 5 assists in 54 appearances.
The 26-year-old has accumulated a total of 10 goals in 32 senior appearances for Switzerland, representing his nation at the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups.
Style of Play and Strengths
Standing at just around 6ft., Drmic doesn’t really fall within the bracket of tall, towering or physically-dominant centre-forwards. However, he makes up for it with his good well-rounded attributes in front of goal, apparently combining the virtues of a pacey wide forward and an out-and-out clinical centre-forward.
Predominantly a right-footed attacker, Drmic is noted for his ambidexterity, as well as his versatility to play out wide on either flank and lead the line as a centre-forward.
When it comes to his strengths, two of his primary attributes which define his style of play are his pace and acceleration. That, coupled with his dribbling skills, sharpness, agility, exceptional close control and body balance, allow him to play off the shoulder of the last man and make his own space in front of goal.
Blessed with good spatial awareness for a centre-forward, Drmic combines his pace with his instincts to make well-timed runs behind the opposition’s backline, whilst his upper body strength and ability to time his jump to perfection make him a genuine threat from aerial balls delivered into the box.
Another noticeable weapon in Drmic’s repertoire is his technical ability on the ball, which allows him to bring the ball down with a sumptuous first-touch.
An intricate first touch allows a striker to create room and set up the perfect angle for a finish, which is often visible in the way Drmic puts his chances away with effortless ease.
Furthermore, Drmic is also quite good at linking up with his teammates to create chances and he does have the calmness and composure in crucial situations to grab his opportunities with both hands.
As mentioned earlier, Drmic is a complete package who fits the bill of a versatile centre-forward with well-rounded attributes. However, going by the cliche that even the best of players come with their own set of drawbacks, the 26-year-old also lacks in some areas of his game.
The Swiss international is not particularly adept at holding onto the ball and bringing his teammates into play, while his propensity to make runs behind the backline makes him predictable at times and allows the opposition to use the offside trap to good effect against him.
His contribution to the defence can certainly improve but given his poor injury record, it would be unfair to push him too hard to track back and help out his defenders.
Drmic’s stocks have been on the decline in recent seasons given that the Swiss international has found it hard to keep himself fit.
However, he continues to be a quality striker with a great technique and Norwich can certainly afford to look at him as someone who could provide cover and competition for Pukki.
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As a matter of fact, Drmic is a lot better than Pukki in terms of technical abilities and finishing, and few would dare to bet against the Canaries staying up in the Premier League if he manages to deliver the goods.
All in all, bringing the 26-year-old to Carrow Road for free could prove to be a piece of shrewd business by the club.
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