Sunderland AFC

Finally down and out, The 2016/17 season has proved one step too far for Sunderland AFC. Having flirted with relegation for the previous four seasons they have finally succumbed to the dreaded drop.

The parachute payments will pale into insignificance once the fixtures are released in a few weeks’ time for the season ahead. The additional 8 games a season, more midweek fixtures and trips to Burton Albion and Bristol City will hit home hard at The Stadium of Light.

Ever since owner Ellis Short arrived in the North East in 2008 it’s been bad decision after bad decision. 7 permanent managers have come and gone with Short currently on his 9th in David Moyes, someone whom he has made no secret of his admiration for… Moyes has finally been the man to oversee a long overdue relegation.

david-moyes-sunderland

Calamitous spells in charge from the likes of Ricky Sbragia and Paulo Di Canio have not aided the former Man Utd Manager’s cause but this was not the right job for him to step into, he was defeated and downbeat from the off. In fact in the near 10 years in which the club has been under American ownership, the highest win % of any of the gaffers has been a miserable 35.2% under Martin O’Neill, The Irishman lost equally as many games as he won.

So what now for The Mackems?

Just have a look at their squad, terrible and without serious overhaul they could be destined for League One sooner than a Premier League return.

We’ll start with the seemingly obvious, Defoe will go (on a free!! Who’s idea was it to insert that clause into his contract?!) and Pickford will surely look to add to a rapidly increasing reputation with a move to a club in the top flight.

The Rest?

A dressing room full of failed potential and players long past their sell by dates. Jack Rodwell, Darren Gibson, Joleon Lescott, Victor Anichebe, Steven Pienaar, John O’Shea and Seb Larsson are all part of one of the most poorly assembled squads in recent Premier League history.

The Manager?

There are already chants of “Moyes out” from the stands and with an ever diminishing reputation you have to wonder what is going through the Scotsman’s mind as he enters the summer break. He has Championship experience but that was a long time ago, the league has since changed and Sunderland will hardly be favourites for the division with the likes of Aston Villa, Hull and Fulham looking a lot better placed for promotion.

The Boardroom?

You only have to look at recent seasons and you’ll see that there will be very little in terms of funds made available. The Black Cats generally spend what they recoup but with years of the insane Premier League money behind them it’s hard to fathom just where the £100’s Millions are going year on year, or is it?

Sunderland are reported to have the 14th highest wage bill in EUROPE! What?!? One thing is for sure and that is that they have very little in terms of saleable assets to provide funds to buy the relevant personnel that will understand the rough and tumble of championship football.

The side from Wearside need a complete club overhaul to have any chance of returning to the Premier League anytime in the near future. In their current state you have to envisage a mid-table Championship season is the best they can hope for.

We all know the North East of England is a hot bed for football, the fans are extremely passionate with generally very little return from their heroes on the pitch. Big rivals Newcastle have been able to bounce straight back but unless Rafa’s boys implode once more and find themselves in a relegation battle, we wouldn’t expect to have any fierce local derbies in the coming seasons Sunderland fans.

They deserve better than what they’ve recently had to endure.

Sunderland-fans

David Moyes image sourced from; www.skysports.com
Sunderland fans image sourced from; www.chroniclelive.co.uk

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Premier League – European Nights Proving too much?

It feels like it’s been a lot longer than 4 years since Chelsea lifted the Europa League, an English sides’ last triumph in any European competition. Whilst Man Utd have a reasonable opportunity to win the same competition this season, not many could have predicted such a sharp decline in the performance of the teams from the richest league in the world under the floodlights across the continent.

Allow me to explain…

Since the 1999-2000 season there have been 64 finalists spread over The Champions League & Europa League, the top representatives by country of origin: –

  • Spain – 23
  • Portugal – 7
  • England – 14
  • Italy – 6
  • Germany – 8

Are we accepting that a little over 20% of finalists being from the “money machine” that is the Barclays Premier league is acceptable?

Of the 14 English clubs who have made it to the various finals, only 4 have prevailed, Sevilla alone have won on 5 occasions and they would not usually be mentioned in the same breath.

It is also worth remembering that even the much maligned Scottish Premiership has provided 2 finalists within the same period (Celtic 2003 & Rangers 2008).

Tottenham-vs-Gent-Image

The afore mentioned Man Utd could break the recent trend this season and lift the Europa League, however loses to Feyenoord and Fenerbache accompanied by drab draws against FC Rostov and Anderlecht would hardly see them as worthy winners.

In fact, this season has seen English Premier League sides (Spurs & Man Utd) face opposition from Belgian First Division A (KAA Gent & Anderlecht) over four legs and only produce a solitary England win…A 2-1 extra time win.

Other such failings in recent seasons have included:-

  • FA Cup winners Wigan prop up their Europa League group
  • Hull City defeated by Lokeren in the qualifying rounds
  • Everton take 5 from Dynamo Kiev
  • Southampton 1-2 Midtylland
  • Liverpool losing out to Basel in 2014-15
  • Man Utd slipping to 3rd in a group of Wolfburg, PSV & CSKA
  • And who can ignore Arsenal’s recent meetings with Bayern…

Football is football and that’s why we love the game and yes the odd surprise defeat can occur, however these are over 2 legs, or in group stages containing multiple games, EPL sides should NOT be crashing out under these circumstances.

Are Stoke better than Schalke, could Bournemouth batter Bordeaux or would we see Everton ease past Espanyol?

I think the honest answer has to be a resounding no to all of the above.

The self-proclaimed “best league in the world” is being outshone by sides from divisions on which they look down on as being not worthy of sharing their pitches.

The EPL and its member clubs need to raise the bar to a whole new level to re-assert itself as a provider of dominant club sides when competing in European competitions or risk falling further behind.

Champions-League-Group-Stage

Tottenham vs Gent image sourced from; www.fourfourtwo.com
Champion’s League group stage image sourced from; www.goal.com

Champions League – 2016/17 Group stage

The groups have been drawn and with only a few days to go until Europe’s premier club competition gets underway, we thought we’d have a look through each group and provide our tips on who we’re predicting is likely to progress to the next stage.

With some new faces added to the familiars it should create added interest in this year’s competition.

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Before we begin we’d like to say that we do not agree with UEFA’s seeding system and the multiple rounds that some clubs have to go through just to make it into the pots.

Champions deserve an automatic place in the competition not sides who finish a distant 4th. This would help the smaller leagues and nations throughout the continent as the money will be distributed in a fairer manner. We all know that the rich are getting richer and the poorer teams are being left further behind.

Anyway we have no say in these matters so onto the groups…

Group A

Arsenal – Basel – Ludogrets Razgrad – PSG

Wenger’s men once again pay the European price for domestic failure, a 2nd place finish in group A will ultimately lead to a meeting with a top side completing the season mission of last 16 stage. A PSG side under Unai Emery should progress comfortably in top spot leaving the minnows battling for the Europa League place.

Group B

Benfica – Besiktas – Dynamo Kiev – Napoli

One of the more intriguing groups of this year’s competition, All tricky sides in their own right and don’t expect to see too many away wins. Ultimately we expect to see Napoli and Benfica progress given their slightly greater European pedigree just don’t ask us in which order!

Group C

Barcelona – Borussia Monchengladbach – Man City – Celtic

The group of death for the Scottish champions, despite their impressive form under Brendan Rodgers, this group is one step too far and a big Eurovision “nil pois” could be on the cards for the Glasgow side. The Germans will take 3rd place, Pep’s City 2nd both unable to displace Messi & co from their usual 1st place.

Group D

Atletico Madrid – Bayern Munich – FC Rostov – PSV

Last season’s finalists will count themselves unlucky to be in with Bayern but you can’t see past both of them qualifying, the order will depend on the meetings between the two. PSV and Rostov are in to make up the numbers in Group D.

Group E

Bayer Leverkusen – CSKA Moscow – Monaco – Tottenham

We are tipping Tottenham to make it 4 from 4 in terms of English sides progressing and even going to call a group topping top seed position. Monaco aren’t the team they used to be and with Leverkusen hit or miss, Spurs need to take advantage. The German will join them at the top of Group E.

Group F

Borussia Dortmund – Legia Warsaw – Real Madrid – Sporting Lisbon

The champions will be comfortable and expect them to top this group. Do not be surprised to see Sporting cause an upset or two, especially at home. With their recent players sales they are a weaker opposition and Dortmund should have enough to join Real in the next round.

Group G

Club Brugge – FC Copenhagen – PC Porto – Leicester City

The Foxes are in dreamland and although they would have perhaps preferred a more glamorous tie they will quietly be aiming to progress. Porto will provide their sternest test but both Brugge and Copenhagen have continental experience. Tough group to call but it’s Porto and Leicester for us.

Group H

Dinamo Zagreb – Juventus – Lyon – Sevilla

Serial Europa League winners Sevilla have yet to make their mark in this competition, however this maybe their year to avoid the lesser cup. Along with Juventus they appear to be in good shape to see off Lyon and Zagreb.

That’s our predictions for the sides to compete in the latter stages in the early part of next year, not too many surprises it has to be said.

As always we look forward to the start of the competition and the big games that it will undoubtedly bring.

Tuesday 13th September sees the long road to the 3rd June 2017 final begin. With it being a “home” final in Cardiff will we see a British side contest the final 90mins for the 1st time since Chelsea four years ago?

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Champions League Table Image Sourced from; www.youtube.com
Millennium Stadium Image Sourced from; www.itv.com

Zlatan – Coming to a ground near you?

Sunday 13th March 2016, the day that PSG clinched the Ligue1 Championship for a 4th successive season, also the day the Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirmed that he will be moving on from the French Capital after a 4 year stay. The title win was his 10th trophy at Parc des Princes since his unveiling in July 2012.

The official quote of “for the moment, I will not be at PSG next season. I still have a month and a half left here” will have set chairmen all over Europe searching for enough room in their budgets for the Sweden captain. He did however go on to say “if they replace the Eiffel Tower with a statue of me, then I will stay.” With all the ego in the world, I’m sure he was being serious too!

Zlatan-Eiffel-Tower

He has competed at the top level in Sweden, Holland, Italy, Spain and France. He can state Malmo, Ajax, Juventus, Inter & AC Milan, Barcelona and PSG as his club sides. Add into this his 111 Sweden caps, 27 trophies and you have 1 illustrious career.

So, the key question…Where is he going to be playing his football next season?

There are 4 possible destinations but the obvious and most exciting one would be the English Premier League. You can’t see Bayern or Dortmund requiring his services so that rules out Germany and we feel it far too soon in his career for moves to the MLS or China.

The Premier League for all of its merits does lack some genuine world class players and all of the top clubs will be scrambling for Ibrahimovic. His 102 goals in 115 games in Paris prove he still has what it takes, including 2 against Chelsea in the recent Champions League tie for anyone that questions France as a weaker league.

With the man being available on a free transfer, the high wages that the man himself will command will be acceptable due to the lack of transfer fee.

The usual suspects will be linked and you’ll struggle to create a compelling argument as to which side he wouldn’t improve. Given the way this season has gone domestically there will be 1 or 2 surprise destinations mentioned.

How about West Ham? London living, new Olympic stadium and European football ticks all the boxes Ibrahimovic and Payet certainly creates excitement.

Champions Laegue - "Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven"

Taking a sensible look at it however it has to be… Manchester United.

They need a striker, someone who can take an amount of pressure from Rooney as the main man. Perhaps more importantly he can act as a tutor to Martial and Rashford. He would instantly be a cult hero and could provide a low risk big name signing for the expected new manager in charge at Old Trafford.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is made for the Theatre Of Dreams.

We hope to see the mercurial talent on Match Of The Day soon, just not being judged by the likes of Jason Roberts or John Hartson!

Zlatan Eiffel Tower Image sourced from; www.mirror.co.uk/sport
Zlatan Manchester United Image sourced from; www.thedailymail.co.uk/sport/football