All posts by Daniel Feliciano

Angel Gomes’ Big Decision

Are Manchester United on the verge of another ‘Paul Pogba’ moment?

Angel Gomes is a 5ft 3′ attacking midfielder who’s reputation has preceded him since the ripe old age of 14 years old. A Portuguese/Englishman, he is related to ex-Reds winger Nani and a photo of him alongside side both Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo has become iconic to Gomes’ standing with Manchester United fans.

He made his Premier League debut at the tender age of 16 under Jose Mourinho, replacing then club captain Wayne Rooney in the final game of the 2016/17 season against Crystal Palace just days before United won the Europa League in Stockholm against Ajax.

He was expected to remain in the first-team picture and progress through the ranks to become a mainstay of United’s side for the foreseeable future. That hasn’t happened though.

Since that debut game in May 2017, Gomes has gone on to make just 9 more appearances for the first team and only four more in the Premier League. He hasn’t gone out on loan at all and has quite clearly become too good for the reserves league. He’s in a state of limbo in his career right now.

Angel Gomes Stock Pictures, Royalty-free Photos & Images - Getty ...
Gomes, aged 16, replaces Rooney for his debut in 2017
Credit: Getty Images

His contract is due to expire at the end of the current campaign and reports suggest he is being tracked by the likes of Chelsea and Barcelona. But Manchester United do want to re-sign him. According to reports, the club have offered him £30,000 p/w to stay which is a sum far above what his career achievements so far should have him earning. It speaks volumes that the Old Trafford side are willing to pay him that much despite having barely used him.

When Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over, he promised a pathway to the first team from the academy and for young players. He has delivered somewhat on that so far, with Brandon Williams, Mason Greenwood, Axel Tuanzebe and Tahith Chong becoming regulars in the senior side. However while Gomes is deemed as part of that squad, he has received much less playing time than all of them. His position on the pitch has often been filled with players performing poorly. The club then signed Bruno Fernandes to add quality rather than giving him a chance and now are continuing to be linked with other attack-minded midfield players. So why would he stay?

The club haven’t given him a sniff so far ahead of players like Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira, both who are likely to leave Old Trafford this summer due to their lacklustre performances. So why should Gomes believe he’ll get a chance ahead of players the club are spending big-money on like Fernandes or potential signings Jadon Sancho and Donny Van de Beek?

His size is definitely a factor in his lack of playing-time, with Solskjær previously mentioning his diminutive stature potentially being a hinderance to him in a physical league. So Gomes could look to try his hand abroad. He’s watched many England youth-level teammates go to Germany and do well. He could potentially seek a move in the Bundesliga. One option could be for him to go to Dortmund as a replacement for Jadon Sancho. Another option with a similar outcome could be for him to re-sign at Manchester United and then go out on loan.

Much like Real Madrid with Achraf Hakimi, they realised they had a supreme talent on their hands. They signed him to a new contract and sent him to Dortmund on a two-year loan deal so that he could continue to develop at the top level, while they still had Dani Carvajal at his peak. Hakimi is now regarded as one of the top full-backs in world football and is due to return to the Bernabeu this summer.

If Gomes decides that he needs to leave to blossom and develop, United will be facing a Paul Pogba 2.0 scenario. If he goes on to explode elsewhere, which could be very likely, United would likely have to pay a very big sum to bring him back.

Ultimately the decision lies with Gomes and how badly he wants to make it at Old Trafford. If he wants United, he’ll re-sign. If he just wants to develop and become the best he can be, and nobody should begrudge him that, then he’ll leave. It’s a tough decision but a career defining moment for a player not even out of his teens yet.

UFC 250 Fallout – What’s Next For Nunes?

Another UFC PPV is done and into the history books as UFC 250 lived up to it’s billing with a highlight filled card.

Double champion Amanda Nunes retained her featherweight belt with a dominant performance over Felicia Spencer, where the two 50-44 scorecards were deeemed generous in Spencer’s favour. A striking masterclass from the Brazilian, who’s now on an 11-fight win streak stretching back to 2014, saw ‘The Lioness’ become the first fighter in history to defend two belts, in two different weight classes, while holding both belts simultaneously.

It means she continues her streak of cleaning out her divisions and it begs the question “who’s next?”

UFC commentators Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier and Joe Rogan began discussing this during the fifth round of her bout, such was her dominance against Spencer. Dana White said in the post-fight presser that “there is always someone next” and that he had “no interest” in making a trilogy super-fight with 125lbs champ Valentina Shevchenko because Nunes is 2-0 up. So who is really available?

When you go down the rankings of the 135lbs division, there are no stand-out challengers. #1 Germaine De Randamie and #2 Holly Holm have already been beaten recently and convincingly by Nunes. #3 is Aspen Ladd, who has won four from five of her UFC bouts. Three of those were KO/TKO victories, but the first time she stepped up to top level competition she was KO’d in 16 seconds by Germaine De Randamie. With a 9-1 record she’s best placed for a title fight but the expectation would once again be that Nunes storms to victory.

Beyond Ladd, Juliana Pena and Irene Aldana are hovering in the rankings at #4 and #5 but again neither of their CV’s stand up as a firm competitor for Nunes’ belt.

With Amanda Nunes’ revelation that she’s likely to take the rest of the year off to heal up and prepare for parenthood (her partner Nina Ansaroff is due to give birth in September), it may give the UFC a chance to build a new challenger for her.

A mini tournament between Ladd, Pena, Aldana and Ketlen Vieira could be the way forward. Aldana and Vieira fought most recently in December 2019, with Aldana earning a KO victory. Mixing the matches of the tournament up may be a way to bring new eyes to the division too with new matchmaking.

Aspen Ladd vs Irene Aldana would be an interesting battle of striking. Ladd would have to fight down the rankings which could be an issue for the likes of Sean Shelby to convince her, however the promise of a title shot with two back-to-back wins should be enough to do it.

The winner of that fight would then face the winner of Juliana Pena vs Ketlen Vieira in what could become an interesting grappling match. Pena has the advantage on the feet between the two but with Vieira’s priority to take the fight down to the ground it may not matter too much.

The winners fight each other and the UFC bill the “tournament finale” as a big deal, maybe even a co-main event slot on a PPV card to give it more eyes. While the skillset of each fighter won’t change in two fights, the reputation could grow massively. Two back-to-back performances against high level competition also makes them seem like a much more dangerous threat towards Nunes’ crown.

The Lioness right now is overseeing her kingdom with little threat of a real challenge coming her way any time soon. The UFC need to build for the post-Nunes era and this may be the only solution.

Timo Werner to Chelsea – Enough for a Title Push?

News broke earlier this week that long-time Liverpool target Timo Werner was on his way to the Premier League this summer – but he’ll be wearing Chelsea blue!

The German forward has been linked with Jurgen Klopp’s men for the best part of a year, with his release clause seen as the perfect way for Liverpool to upgrade their forward line without breaking the bank. However, due to the current Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the world, the Anfield side have decided to take a step back from transfer negotiations this summer.

According to Bleacher Report, this meant that Werner was due to stay at RB Leipzig for another year in order to wait for his dream move – until Chelsea stepped in.

The Blues swept in with an offer to trigger the 24 year-old’s release clause and after the club agreed to pay him circa £200k p/w plus a conversation with Frank Lampard, Werner agreed to move to Stamford Bridge instead. With Hakim Ziyech already signed up for the new season too, Chelsea have a brand new frontline to compete for the Premier League title.

How will they all fit in though? Lampard has seemingly preferred a 4-2-3-1 formation this season, with Willian, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham featuring alongside one of Christian Pulisic, Ross Barkley, Callum Hudson-Odoi or Pedro.

Willian is expected to leave on a free transfer at the end of the current campaign, while Pedro is expected to move to Roma when his contract expires. Ross Barkley has been hit and miss, while Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi have both struggled for consistent performances under Lampard. Ziyech seems like a lock for his traditional right-wing position, as a direct replacement for Willian. Mount has performed relatively well as the #10 too, chipping in with 6 goals and 4 assists in the league.

Lampard put all his faith in Tammy Abraham at the start of the season, handing the academy graduate the No.9 shirt. The Camberwell-born front man has repaid that faith, with 13 goals in 25 appearances in the Premier League including goals away at Arsenal and a hat-trick at Wolves.

That begs the question, does Super Frank stick or twist?

Twitter respond to criticism after Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham ...
With Euro 2020 coming next summer, will Abraham play enough to get into the England squad? Image Credit: Independent

Werner’s record in Germany is second only to Robert Lewandowski in the last two seasons, while Ziyech also poses a fantastic goal threat.

Chelsea do have a way of getting all three into the team. Timo Werner has spent plenty of time playing out on the left wing, cutting in onto his right foot and looking to find the far corner. By playing him on the left, Chelsea would have their three premier goal threats in the XI together.

Another option is to make the big call and drop someone. Lampard was quoted after the 2-2 draw with Bournemouth that “poor finishing” was a big reason that Chelsea are in a battle for fourth. Bringing in a shiny new centre-forward could be his way of rectifying that problem by replacing Abraham directly. This would allow Hudson-Odoi or Pulisic to continue competing for the winger role and have two goal scorers competing with each other with only one position available.

They could also balance the side out more by switching to a 4-3-3, something Lampard has done a few times.

Lots of Chelsea fans would rather Mount played as a central midfielder with the freedom to roam forward rather than starting in a more advanced area. It would also mean that fit-again Ruben Loftus-Cheek would have his best position available for him to compete for. With N’Golo Kante beginning to suffer from more and more injuries, while Jorginho is reportedly not the indispensable member of the squad he once was, there is more freedom for Chelsea to play around with.

Mateo Kovacic is surely a lock with many believing him to be Chelsea’s player of the year this season. With Kante, Jorginho, Barkley, Mount, Loftus-Cheek and newly promoted Billy Gilmour all competing for the final two spots in Chelsea’s midfield the likelihood of one of them being allowed to leave is high.

It may be that once we see who leaves, the ideas become clearer for all to see. One thing is for sure though, Chelsea’s bench will be filled with more quality than last year and their starting team will be looking to close the gap between Liverpool and the rest of the division.

UFC 250 Results (Highlights)

UFC 250 Prelims

Maki Pitolo def Charles Byrd via TKO (Round 2, 1:10)

First round a great wrestling battle. Byrd on top for most of it but Pitolo showed he was no pushover. 10-9 Byrd.
Second round a striking bout and Pitolo shows his clear advantage. A left straight through the guard rocks Byrd, he then goes on to hit him with a 12 striker combo with strikes to the head and body before a tricky trip takes it to the ground. Pitolo continues to pummel Byrd with strikes on the ground until Herb Dean waves it off.

Big win and impressive performance from the 29 year old to make it 4 wins in his last 5 fights.

Cody Stamann def Brian Kelleher via Decision (30-27 x3)

Round 1 starts brightly with both men looking to take the centre of the Octagon. Stamann establishes control as both men exchange strikes throughout the round. Kellaher landing leg kicks to slow Stamann down but the first round ends without much of an exchange to talk about. 10-9 Stamann.

Second round is much looser. Both men landing with big shots, with Stamann getting the better of the exchanges. Kellaher lands a big right hand that makes Stamann retreat, but Mr. Wonderful recovers quickly and gets the takedown after a clinch. The round ends with Cody on top controlling posture and looking to land big shots. Another close round but I give it to Stamann. 20-18 Stamann.

Round 3 starts with Stamann coming out strong and lands a knockdown with a powerful right hand. Patience shown as he doesn’t launch for the finish and Kellaher gets back to his feet. Kellaher fighting like he knows he needs the finish and goes for a huge spinning back fist but hits nothing but air. ‘Boom’ pushing the pace towards the end and lands a big body shot but Stamann eats it. Final minute and Stamann looking is looking for a takedown to see the fight out but Kellaher denies him. Kellaher now goes for a takedown with a single leg but Stamann catches him by the neck and takes his opponent to the ground with a guillotine attempt as the clock runs down to zero.

Comfortable win in the end for Mr. Wonderful with a 30-27 x3 victory on the scorecards as he dedicates the victory to his recently deceased younger brother.

Ian Heinisch def Gerald Meerschaert via TKO (Round 1, 1:14)

This fight is over as quickly as it starts. Both men come out strongly with Heinisch getting the better of the exchange. Heinisch then fakes a level change and drops Meerschaert with a huge overhand right. Ground and pound strikes follow and this one is done. Big, impressive win.

Alex Caceres def Chase Hooper via Decision (30-27 x3)

First round starts with electric movement and some big strikes from Caceres. Hooper rushing in, almost playing up to the fact that he’s in the prelim main event, and getting caught with big shots. Caceres fires in a big right hand and drops Hooper but then lets him get back up. ‘Bruce Leeroy’ picking Hooper apart, showing the big step up that the 20 year old has taken in this fight. Caceres ends the round attempting the takedown, but Hooper reverses it into a kneebar attempt but the clock runs down on him. 10-9 Caceres.

Round 2 starts with Hooper again coming out trying to land big shots on Caceres. He keeps missing though and once again. Hooper looking to close the distance and get hold of a limb as he tries to climb the back of his opponent. ‘The Teenage Dream’ tries to pull guard twice as Caceres maintains top positions and lands some heavy shots. Lots of pressing from Hooper but not a lot else going for him right now. His unbeaten streak is in serious jeopardy here. 20-18 Caceres.

Final round begins and Caceres continues to show the superior level of striking he possesses. Picking him apart on the feet with jabs and big hooks, with Hooper being hit almost at will. Hooper goes for the takedown against the cage but Caceres defends it well before a low blow by Hooper causes a short break in the round. Hooper starting to get desperate with submission attempts and continuing to attempt to pull guard. Caceres avoiding all with ease however and continues to land at will on the feet. Hooper pulls guard with 40 seconds to go in the fight but Caceres lands some shots from top position before he stands back up and this is as one-sided as it gets. 30-27 Caceres.

UFC 250 Main Card

Sean O’Malley def Eddie Wineland via KO (Round 1, 1:54)

The fight opens up with both men attempting to feel each other out. O’Malley attempts a few spins but nothing lands and Wineland catches him with a nice right straight. ‘Suga Sean’ starts to loosen up now and starts landing a bit more often. BOOM! O’Malley fakes an uppercut then lands a massive right-hand on the jaw of Eddie Wineland and this one is over. A walk-off KO for O’Malley. Amazing performance.

Neil Magny def Anthony Martin via Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)

A slow first round to say the least following the action from the previous fight. A lot of feeling each other out. Both fighters landing on the other and engaging in the clinch, with not a lot happening other than that. 10-9 Martin.

Second round more clinches engaged and Magny doing slightly better this time around. Both men looking to push forward and take the advantage in front of the judges. Magny lands some nice knees and punches, Martin retaliates with a right hand of his own. Another slow round but Magny edges this one. 19-19.

Third and final round and both men come out strong, knowing this fight is up for grabs. Magny with a trademark surge in the final stages of the fight, pouring it on with his tremendous conditioning. Knees in the clinch plus more right hands, Magny is now chasing Martin around the Octagon looking for a finish. Magny with a very, very strong finish to the round – commentators even suggesting it could be a 10-8 round.

Aljamain Sterling def Corey Sandhagen via Submission (RNC) (Round 1, 1:28)

Funkmaster comes out quickly across the Octagon to meet Sandhagen and apply pressure. He throws a few feeler shots out before attacking with the takedown and gets it quickly. Aljamain goes straight for the back and gets it, applying a body triangle immediately and working for the rear naked choke. Sandhagen fights the hands and refuses to tap out to a face crank, but Sterling readjusts in the backpack position, puts the arm under the chin and chokes Sandhagen out cold. What a win for The Funkmaster!

Cody Garbrandt def Raphael Assuncao via KO (Round 2, 4:59)

Cody starts the fight with two strong calf kicks to the lead leg of Assuncao. Assuncao fires back with a kick of his own but ‘No Love’ throws a super fast right hand to counter that. Lots of feeling each other out in the first round with Assuncao feinting and ducking to gather his range. Cody looks energetic and sharp but not much activity from either fighter in the opening round. Cody edges it, just. 10-9 Garbrandt.

Second round starts out with Cody going for a strange leg sweep/kick variation to attack the lead leg of Assuncao once again. A scramble ensues and Cody lands a few short right hands before a huge head kick as they stand together, but Raphael eats it well. Both fighters still trying to establish range and movement of their opponent but Cody throws a nice uppercut. A big overhand right follows and Assuncao drops but recovers quickly. The fighters talk to each other but the round is drawing to a close with Cody edging it again. Assuncao goes for a big body kick against the cage but doesn’t land. Garbrandt ducks low to change levels and comes out of nowhere with a crazy right hand and knocks Assuncao out cold at the buzzer! What a punch! This is all over! Oh my goodness what a knockout.

Amanda Nunes def Felicia Spencer via Decision (50-44 x2, 50-45)

The champion opens the fight with a front kick to the body as she takes control of the centre of the Octagon. A bit of feeling each other out and Spencer charges across the cage but Nunes catches her with a big right hand. Nunes lands two or three more big shots but Spencer eats them and pushed the champ towards the cage for a clinch. Nunes counters Spencer’s takedown attempt with a judo throw and lands on top of the challenger. ‘The Lioness’ takes control on the ground and starts pummelling Spencer with elbows. Spencer is cut and this round is done. 10-9 to the champion.

Second round starts in a similar fashion to the first, with Nunes hitting Spencer flush but it being absorbed. Amanda is loosening up now and flowing with strikes. Spencer is in and looks for a guillotine as Nunes charges for a takedown, but Nunes turns it around and lands some big shots on the ground. A short scramble and both fighters return to their feet before the round comes to an end. 20-18 Nunes.

The third round begins with heavy shots from the Brazilian. Nunes lands a huge right hand that rocks Spencer. The Canadian’s mouthpiece falls out and Herb Dean stops the action (!?) to put it back in. In the short break Spencer seems to recover and Nunes doesn’t pounce. The champion is just piecing Spencer up now with hard 1-2 combos. Spencer is limping heavily on her left leg and the champion is not letting up. More heavy shots to close out the round, this fight is looking like a formality at this point. 30-27 Nunes.

Image
Spencer’s hematoma
Image credit: Twitter @Tony96116971

Into the Championship rounds and Nunes is looking for a finish. Hard 1-2 combinations are causing Felicia Spencer a lot of problems. Nunes with a single leg takedown without any attempt to keep it on the ground and just allows her challenger to get back up. The champion is proving she is just a level above right now. Nunes lands a huge shot that rocks Spencer and she starts teeing off on her. Plenty of strikes and the referee is looking at stopping this. Spencer charges for a takedown in desperation but Nunes sprawls, takes the back and sinks in a deep rear naked choke with 10 seconds on the clock. Spencer holds out and survives but has a huge Joanna Jedrzejczyk-like hematoma on her head. 10-8 round for Nunes.

The final round starts with Nunes looking as fresh as she did at the opening bell. More hard shots from the champion and then a takedown as she looks to see this fight out. Hard shots while she’s staying in Spencer’s guard with no clear will to progress position. A merciful fifth round comes to an end and Amanda Nunes will retain her featherweight title. 50-44 on my scorecard.