Football Insights – Danny Mills And Shaun Goater
Nations League football takes center stage next week, however before the players embark on international duty the small matter of week four of the Premier League needs to be addressed. Ahead of each round GentingBet teams up with some of yesteryear's Premier League stars to get their expert opinions. This week former England, Leeds and Man City star Danny Mills and former City front man Shaun Goater preview all the big games and share their thoughts ahead of Leeds v Manchester City exclusively for GentingBet.
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Recent injuries have exposed certain gaps in Man City's squad, with them needing to rely on youth players to fill spots in the squad. Has this reinforced the need for Man City to invest this transfer window to bolster their options in attack?
Danny Mills: I think we've always looked at Manchester City as a really strange one, because without Aguero, they don't quite look the same. However, the sheer amount of goals that they score is just exceptional, with the amount of goals that they create and chances that they create is exceptional.
With Bernardo Silva, Riad Mahrez, Foden, Kevin de Bruyne, Jesus and Sterling coming through, they’re going to start scoring goals and even with Liam Delap coming through from the academy, there’s an abundance of players. Delap is a very young but very talented prospect. Manchester City still scored the most goals last season in the Premier League, so it's a difficult conundrum for Manchester City. I think it’s an issue they’ve been looking to fix for some time is - how do you fix the Aguero situation when he's not there?
Shaun Goater: The recent injuries in the squad have reinforced the need for Man City to enter the transfer window. It has been no secret that City have been after a centre half to help make them a little more comfortable.
With the injuries that have hit, we’re seeing how a short pre-season has really impacted City – I’m sure it will catch up with other clubs as well because you really do need a solid pre-season.
Liverpool were described as irresistible in their win against Arsenal – how far off are Man City from challenging them all the way this season? Are Liverpool too strong for them?
Danny Mills: Liverpool have this confidence and a belief at the moment where even if they're not playing particularly well, it still looks like they're going to win games, and they are going to be exceptional within that and Liverpool will get through those games.
The problem for everybody else is that Liverpool don't look like losing too many. You can only really realistically lose four matches in the Premier League, and still have a good chance of winning it. Manchester City have lost already, so they can only afford another three slip ups. As you expect, Manchester United will have some very good performances and you expect Chelsea and Arsenal to get better. Manchester City still have got to play Liverpool, so I think it's going to be very, very difficult for them.
I thought they would be very, very strong and come back this season to push Liverpool from the off. But if City aren’t careful, they’ll start to fall five or six points behind early on and that gap is just too much to make up.
Rodri claimed Leicester were "lucky" and slammed their tactics. What do you think went wrong for Man City against Leicester?
Danny Mills: I’d happily be lucky every week and get my tactics right – Leicester have previously won the Premier League with less possession than anyone else, that’s what they do and how they play. I don't think anybody should be surprised in the way that Leicester do things.
I think the statement from Rodri was maybe a little bit of arrogance and some ill-advised, naive comments. Leicester have got some very good players, are well organised and they’ve got a very, very good coach in that. There’s a little bit of bitterness within that to say that it was it was lucky and to say that he doesn't like their tactics. I'd rather win week in, week out.
Shaun Goater: Man City dominated possession against Leicester but they were open to being hit on the counter. Everyone knows that if you’re playing against Jamie Vardy and you want to keep him quiet then you need to take away the space in behind because then you force Vardy to play a game that doesn’t show off his best qualities. But if he has that space to run into, then he will absolutely hurt you.
But City aren’t going to change – they will dominate and have 60% of the possession but they just needs to nullify when the ball is lost. The transition to stop the ball going down the side to quick players – when City plays the likes of Man United or Liverpool, this is how they are hurt. So, that’s the big conundrum that Pep will have – how can he stop being scored against in scenarios when the ball goes down their side channels.
Is Pep a victim of his own success? Do teams now know exactly what they need to do to beat Man City? How much do Man City need a Plan B?
Danny Mills: I think when City were at their very best with Laporte, Kompany playing within their ranks, they were exceptional, difficult to beat and exceptional going forwards,
Now, yes, they can be exceptional going forward but teams can score against City and I think everyone now has a belief. Teams know that City will give them a chance and there’s an opportunity within that to go and win the game, I think that what's happened.
The invincibility and the air and ultimate respect of how do we win this game from teams, in knowing they have to be better than ever before when facing Manchester City, has gone. I think teams look at them now and think okay, yes, you're very good, but you are also vulnerable.
Shaun Goater: The success of City this season will largely depend on their ability to adapt. City played earlier in the season with two holding midfielders, Fernandinho and Rodri, and it was an absolutely brilliant performance. They kept the opposition at arm’s length and was a solid performance.
It was a slightly different tactic to their usual 433 and that caught the opposition out and they didn’t know how to play against them. This season, in certain big games, this is going to be the key to City’s success – being adaptable in a system and catching the opposition out.
Everyone will know that City will dominate possession but if they play a slightly different system, in terms of giving up some possession but creating more opportunities to counter on the opposition then that adaptability will be the strength of City’s success.
Will Leeds see this as the best time to play Man City?
Danny Mills: It's a very difficult game for Leeds. It's very interesting because you've got Bielsa who is the master. And for once in his life, Pep Guardiola is the apprentice. Guardiola often rings up Bielsa to talk to him and chat to him about football advice.
I think Bielsa is the only person probably on the planet, in football terms, that doesn't pick the phone up to Pep Guardiola, he’s held in such high regard.
I think the Manchester City will be worried because Bielsa will have his team organised, they will have a way of playing and they will have looked at every single detail about how Manchester City play and how they do things.
That will make the game difficult for Manchester City, but I just think with City hurting after the game against Leicester, they have to come out of it and put in a performance and that would be what would make it extra difficult I think for Leeds.
Shaun Goater: This is the best time for Leeds to play Man City. City at the moment are not 100% watertight. I don’t just mean in the defence, I mean whoever is closest to the ball and whatever the department the ball is in – whether City are attacking and the ball has been lost or if the ball is lost in midfield, City are not watertight in stopping that ball in getting to the defensive third and then eventually becoming a goal for the opposition. So, this is a good time for Bielsa and Leeds to play Man City.
Man City have been linked with Napoli and Poland striker Arkadiusz Milik – is he good enough to fill the gap when Aguero and Jesus are out of action?
Danny Mills: With regards to bringing in Milik, it's a difficult one, who would you bring in to sit on the bench at Manchester City? They play a False Nine several times as well so going forward isn't City's issue. There are enough players within that squad to score goals, and they scored two goals against Leicester. If they keep it tight, they’ll win the game, simple as that.
That that's how it should be, they shouldn't be conceding, they are Manchester City and they are expecting to be up there and challenging for Premier League, they shouldn't be conceded two to three goals in games. They've got to address their defensive situation.
Milik will potentially be a squad player if he comes in and any player that can put the ball in the back of the net will school goals at Manchester City. It doesn't matter who you are, because you will be given enough chances.
The service that you get from Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne and Mahrez means you get opportunity after opportunity. So, going forward doesn't concern me for Manchester City as defensively, I think they've got issues.
Shaun Goater: Whenever I have seen Napoli play, they have been incredible. When they played Man City in the Champions League, I was looking at some of their players and thinking that these guys are absolutely quality players who are runners right until the end.
City don’t often get it wrong when it comes to recruitment and I imagine that Milik will tick all the boxes for them, in terms of the quality that he possesses – the pace, intelligence and also goal scoring ability.
Man City do need a striker because even though Pep likes to play with a False Nine and play the likes of Sterling, De Bruyne or Bernardo Silva in that position – against certain teams it can work but City now need to go into games knowing that they are going to get the results as the standard of the league is so high now that if you lose two games during the season, your chances of winning the league are slim. So, to bring in a player like Milik would be a good signing for the club.
Ruben Dias will come in with a lot of responsibility to fix this Man City defence – does he have the quality it takes to improve this defence? Is he a better signing than Koulibaly would have been?
Danny Mills: Koulibaly is a magnificent defender but I'm not convinced he can play out from the back in the way that Pep Guardiola wants him to play. With Dias, I think that Manchester City are hoping that he's a mix of that.
He's a good defender and he can also play but, it's difficult to bring a player in and expect him to be brilliant from the off and to settle in immediately. Coming in from a different country, different climate, different place to live, with his family moving over with the COVID situation, and everything else going on around the world at the moment, it's not easy.
It's not easy to get players to settle in quickly and get them up to speed and get them to hit the ground running.
He’s also got to form that partnership with the other centre half and who is that going to be at Manchester City at the moment? I think he will make City better over time, whether he hits the ground running and improves them instantly, we're going to have to wait and see.
Shaun Goater: I don’t know too much about Dias but I’d like to think that he will be quick, good in the air and will have exceptional quality on the ball. Only time will show his other qualities, like his decision making or whether he is a centre back that can drive forward with the ball, is comfortable with the ball, whether he has a diagonal pass in his game to unlock opposition and set off a one on one situation.
I haven’t seen enough of him to know his qualities but we hadn’t seen too much of Laporte either before he came to City but his qualities are clear as well. When you look at Ake, he’s a proven player in the Premier League with international experience, is comfortable with the ball after his time at Bournemouth. But I think that even though Dias will help Man City in the Premier League, he is a player that I see being bought to help them in the Champions League.
Patrick Bamford has been in inspired form this season. Can he keep Rodrigo out of the team?
Danny Mills: Bamford divides opinion from time to time. His work rate is exceptional. He works as hard as anybody in the division and last year, he scored 15 goals I think in the Championship. The problem is he probably missed a lot of chances that you would expect a top striker to score and that's where the issue has been.
This season, it's coming off and it’s working, and confidence is high. He never stopped trying last season, he never gave up and Bielsa believes in him. At the moment he is on a very rich vein of form, which is fantastic for Leeds.
With Rodrigo coming in, I think he can play in a number of positions. He can play in the Helder Costa position off the right-hand side or he can play in the Jack Harrison position on the left, he can play the number 10 role or in the 8 in midfield as well.
That's an option and that may well be the perfect foil for Leeds with Hernandez struggling for fitness from time to time and especially at the age that he is. That creative player that's given a little bit of freedom, could well be the position for Rodrigo and Bamford and him could easily play together.
Leeds are hopeful of signing Daniel James. Will he take them up another level?
Danny Mills: Leeds were interested in Daniel James some time ago, before he went to Manchester United and before Swansea pulled the plug. I think it was the 11th hour and 59th minute on that one.
I'm not sure where he plays in the Leeds team at the moment. Calvin Phillips is the holding midfielder player, Mateusz Klich is in there, as well. Rodrigo could play in that that sort of position and role too. If James is going to move, he needs to come he needs to play week in week out. And Bielsa doesn't guarantee that to anybody.
Yes, he's a good player but does he fit in to Leeds’ system immediately where they're at right now? I'm not convinced that he does. So, I look at it and think possibly that the money could be better spent elsewhere, or just held in the bank until maybe January and perhaps you know, you need to reinforce the team.
How impressed have you been with Meslier and Kalvin Phillips this season already? Have they been the stand-out players for Leeds this season?
Danny Mills: Kalvin Phillips is an exceptional player, he was one of if not the best player in the Championship last year. He’s got magnificent attributes and he's happy to play the holding role, he's happy to sit and his energy is fantastic.
Most importantly, he's got great quality on the ball: he can pick a pass, break things up, and then he can play the simple ball or he can hit that 30-40 yards, pinpoint pass, to get people away and switch the play.
He takes free kicks, and corners, so he’s clearly got great ability and great delivery. I think he will just go from strength to strength within the Premier League and as you know, England call-ups will give him more experience, confidence and belief.
Meslier has been brave, and Bielsa has given him the number one spot effectively and said, right, okay, you are my goalkeeper. He made some fantastic saves against Sheffield United, there was a couple of questions asked in the previous game before that about whether he should have saved a couple of shots.
But I think it's going to show he is happy and confident now playing out in the back. He understands what the manager wants from him and I think he proved last week in Sheffield United that in big moments, he can come up with big saves, and that's what you need.
Leeds have started the season off very strong. Where do you expect them to realistically finish this season?
Danny Mills: Leeds have had some good performances and they've had some good wins so far this season but there is still a very, very long way to go. Forty points has to be the mark, doesn't it?
Everyone says it every single year, you want to get to that golden 40-point mark as soon as you possibly can. So, they've got six and there’s 34 to go, and that's the way I'm looking at it. I still think if they finish 14th or 15th, that is an incredibly good season for Leeds. It's all it's going to be about consolidation and not get above your station at this stage.
We saw it last season, that middle section can be very, very congested, and one or two wins can move you up the table, six or seven places at times. So I think Leeds have just got to keep working hard, believe in themselves and if they're safe with five games to go, it will be a massive bonus.