2016 was a ground-breaking year for the UFC. Kicking off with one of the fights of the year at UFC 195, Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit’s epic battle proved to be a sign of things to come, as the top-quality matches continued to flow.
Outside of the octagon, Conor McGregor’s box-office appeal helped take the sport’s popularity to new heights, whilst WME began to ring the changes following their $4 billion purchase of the UFC.
The WME deal was the largest-ever for a sporting organisation; armed with its new investment and an ever-growing audience, Dana White could be forgiven for thinking that nothing could halt the UFC’s dominance.
But big changes could be just around the corner.
A Bill has recently been given its first hearing in Congress that would see the Ali Act extended to MMA — and if passed it would mean drastic changes for the sport. Continue reading
How football will benefit from video replays
Last Sunday saw the latest incident to pose the question: does football need video referees? A distraught Gary Cahill could be seen on Match of the Day 2 visibly upset by Andre Marriner’s decision at Swansea that had cost his side two points. Two points that, as Cahill rightly pointed out, could prove to be crucial at the end of the season.
Though emotions were running high Cahill stressed that he had a lot of respect for Marriner and acknowledged that the officials do not get the benefit of replays (even if he did insist you could see the foul from the moon!). However, despite his candid post-match interview, there is still no way for Chelsea to reclaim those lost points.
A week after being elected FIFA President in March, Gianni Infantino made clear his ambition to have video referees rolled out across football by 2017 and insisted that he also wanted it to be used during the 2018 World Cup. Continue reading
“He will be England captain one day”. These were the words of the then England manager, Fabio Capello, when asked about Jack Wilshere. Lamenting over his two performances against Barcelona in the Champions League, Capello paid tribute to the 19 year-old who had played “with confidence and without fear” against one of football’s greatest ever sides. According to Capello it was his communication with the other players, as well as his ability on the ball, that set him apart from other young English players, likening his potential to that of Paolo Maldini and Raul.
That interview was held in March 2011. Five and a half years ago. Half a decade on and THAT Barcelona game at the Emirates is still held up as a symbol of Wilshere’s ability. The game itself took place a month prior to Capello’s interview. This small excerpt goes some way to summarising Wilshere’s career thus far: all the potential, moments of brilliance, but ultimately flawed by injuries. In Capello’s mind, and the player’s too, he would have firmly believed that by now Wilshere would have played a key role for England at three major tournaments. Quite possibly Arsenal captain, and well on his way to achieving that same feat with England. A born leader.
The reality is markedly different, however. Injuries plaguing him consistently throughout his career have meant that his impact (and importance) for club and country has slowly dwindled. Capello’s successor, an avid Wilshere supporter in the form of Roy Hodgson, desperately wanted him at the heart of his midfield. He even insisted on taking a semi-fit Wilshere to Euro 2016 in place of recent Premier League winner Danny Drinkwater, enraging large sections of England supporters. In context, the day before Wilshere dominated a Barcelona midfield containing Xavi and Iniesta, Drinkwater had been subbed off at half-time for Watford with his side behind 2-0 to Preston North End.
At the start of the current campaign, Wilshere found himself sixth choice in centre midfield behind Cazorla, Xhaka, Ramsey, Elneny and Coquelin. So where did it all start to go wrong for England’s bright, young talent and is this Bournemouth move the right one to help resurrect his faltering career?
As he prepares to take a sabbatical, Mourinho’s one-time protégé, Andre Villas-Boas has a right to feel that his time in England was judged too soon.
Five years ago, Roman Abramovich decided it was time for change. The players who had enjoyed success in Jose Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea were now club legends, but they were not getting any younger. An ageing squad with a distinct lack of young prospects. The 2010/11 season saw only a handful of players under the age of 25 feature in 10 games or more. Finishing 2nd behind United that season was deemed the final straw. Drastic steps needed to be taken.
Meanwhile, in Mourinho’s native Portugal, Jose’s former club and pupil were tearing apart their domestic and European rivals with ease. A Porto side with a young Andre Villas-Boas at the helm, armed with a 38-goal Falcao, cruised to a league championship by 21 points, finishing the season undefeated. They capped off their fine season with victory in the Europa League. The hype surrounding the young Portuguese began to grow.
The comparisons between AVB and his former mentor proved unavoidable. Both had never played at the top level, both had studied under Sir Bobby Robson and both had now achieved success with Porto. The youngest of the pair was now regarded by many as the best young coach in the world – just as Mourinho had once been labelled himself. The prospect of luring Jose 2.0 to Chelsea proved too tempting to Abramovich, breaking a world-record in order to get his man.
How marquee managers have helped to disguise the Premier League’s short-term failings – but could they resolve England’s long-term problems?
The 2016/17 season will see the Premier League possess more managerial talent than ever before. Mourinho, Guardiola, Wenger, Pochettino, Klopp, Ranieri; the list goes on. Close to half of the teams in the division are currently under the stewardship of top quality coaches that could conversely be deemed “world-class” – at least after a few pints, anyway. The attraction of the Premier League to these managers is obvious – it provides them with the chance to establish themselves in the world’s most watched league and, following the increase in TV revenue, the chance for some of the coaches to sign (or keep hold of) any player that they wish. The influx of marquee managerial appointments has helped to create a new culture within the Premier League where a well-regarded coach is seen to be just as important as a big-money signing.