Martin Friel False: I think fans need to take a step back and not get to disheartened by the poor start to the season. O’Neill, Strachan and Lennon all had relatively poor starts in Europe but each went on to have successful careers. That’s not to say fans shouldn’t be frustrated with the state of the current squad. Poor acquisitions over the last few seasons have left a sizeable task for Deila and the backroom staff to solve. The squad isn’t ready for Champions League football, hopefully this season will get the club back on track.
Chris Boud False: Whilst the signings won’t make up for a lack of champions League football, had Celtic not brought any players in there would have been a fan revolt. The Europa League will be much closer to this squad’s capabilities and may in the long run be more positive for the team and it’s growth.
2. Ronny Deila and Louis Van Gaal are in very similar situations with regards to rebuilding a squad and implementing a new style but early results have shown that both men have been too quick to impose change.
Chris Sermanni FALSE: I think that might be the case for Deila, but in terms of Van Gaal I just think that the squad he inherited was very poor and results will not come quickly. Deila’s change of system could not be implemented with the players at his disposal, so he should have perhaps implemented things more gradually
Martin Friel False: Deila had to change things early with Celtic, the squad is not in great shape and needs a fresh approach. The more you watch Celtic just now, the more you see the failings of Lennon’s last couple of seasons in charge. Van Gaal is a strong leader, he has a track record in turning squads around. These early wobbles won’t worry him. However, for the money VG’s spent, he’s failed to solve Man U’s biggest issue, centre backs.
Chris Boud False: Although both managers have struggled with performance and results a period of transition always results in uncertainty and inconsistency. A gradual implementation of change would just extend this period and frankly both sides need major change to succeed.
3. Liverpool’s signing of Mario Balotelli is asking for trouble due to his indiscipline and he was bought to appease fan appetite for a ‘big name’ signing.
Chris Sermanni FALSE: I have a feeling this move will be an inspired one for both parties. Balotelli has pretty much carried Milan for the last two seasons, and his talent is not in doubt. He’ll feature more at Liverpool than he did at City, and has that extra couple of years experience/maturity. Good signing.
Martin Friel False: Balotelli adds physicality to Liverpool’s forward line along with a solid goal scoring record. I think £16m is a steal regardless of discipline concerns. Before last season I thought Rodgers was full of hot air, but he’s proved me wrong and made a huge impact at Anfield. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds a way of getting a level of consistency out of Mario that other manager’s have yet to find.
Chris Boud False: Balotelli is a hugely talented player and getting him for well under £20 million is potentially the signing of the window. Yes Mario needs to work on his on and off field behavior but Rogers has a habit of getting the best out of players. Balotelli is one of the few players capable of helping fill Suarez’s boots.
4. Xabi Alonso’s move to Bayern caught fans and the Real Madrid hierarchy by surprise, however it is a clever move by the player who will have the chance to play with less aggression and more intelligence under Guardiola.
Chris Sermanni TRUE: The Madrid midfield is packed with top players and given his age it’s fair to say that Alonso would probably start to feature less. I think the move to Bayern will allow him more game time, and Guardiola will know exactly how to utilise him best.
Martin Friel True: Alonso still has a lot to offer at the top level and is an asset to Bayern. He is an expert at transition & building quick counter attacks – music to Robben & Ribery’s ears. Thiago Alcantara & Martinez will also benefit from his experience.
Chris Boud True-ish: Alonso could do fantastically well at Bayern and whilst Gaurdiola likes his sides to hold the ball and pass, Alonso will be expected to do some of the hard work which will allow his team mates to attack with more freedom and confidence. The loss for Real will be hard and brings some imbalance to their squad.
5. Scotland’s Euro 2016 qualifiers have begun and there is genuine cause for optimism.
Chris Sermanni FALSE: Two words. De. Fence. The lack of quality in this area will be the Scots downfall, though I imagine they will continue to develop.
Martin Friel True: Not only are we going to qualify for France 2016, we’re going to be a success at the tournament. We have the right manager in charge, a squad of players with English Premier League experience and some talented youth on the fringes. Good times are coming.
Chris Boud True: Strachan has came in and made a huge difference to the Scottish National side. The team aren’t affraid to attack teams and have genuine quality in the side. Scotland pushed Germany and were unlucky not to take something from the game. If we can play like that in out other games we should have no trouble in qualifying.
6. Spain were defeated against France last week but more significantly there was only one Barcelona player in the starting 11. Spain must evolve and end their modelling of Barcelona.
Chris Sermanni TRUE: Cesare Prandelli paid the price for his tired use of the 3-5-2 for Italy, which was largely modelled around Juventus, despite initial success. Spain benefitted from the Barcelona phenomenon and were right to mirror their approach to the game. However, Barcelona have moved on, and Spain should too.
Martin Friel True: Spain’s era is over, they need to be bold and change their tactics. Like Barcelona, they fail to execute a Plan B when possession football fails. The best teams in Europe have figured out how to contain Spain, they need to change up and develop a strong counter attack option. They also need to find a way to get the most out of Diego Costa. There’s no harm in borrowing some of Simeone & Mourinho’s tactics.