Premier League – Biggest Ever Defeats

After Manchester City ran riot against Watford at the weekend there was a lot of talk of what might have been had Aguero, De Bruyne and co took more of the opportunities created at The Etihad.

5 goals up inside the opening 18 minutes set everyone calculators going and must have had the Watford board frantically making calls to every ex-Manager they still had in their contact book.

69% possession and 28 efforts on Ben Foster’s goal throughout the 90mins. The stats suggest that the side from Hertfordshire were lucky to escape the North West with just single figures in the goals against column.

As the Man City fans so creatively put it during the 2nd half “who put the ball in the Watford net? Half the f*****g team did”

City have now beaten the Hornets in their last 12 meetings stretching back to 2013, scoring a ridiculous 46 goals in the process.

Imagine seeing your team played off the park in a cup final losing 6-0 only to face the same side a few months later and it turn out to be a more embarrassing situation.

Seeing all of the goal updates come through thick and fast on Saturday afternoon got us thinking where the final score ranked in terms of defeats in the top English division. So just where does the 8-0 drubbing handed out by Pep Guardiola’s men sit in the list of the biggest ever Premier League defeats?

Man Utd 9-0 Ipswich (March 1995)

Man-Utd-9-1-Score

5 goals for Andy Cole secured the Premier League’s biggest ever win over a dismal Ipswich side at Old Trafford back in the 94/95 season.

29 defeats in the campaign for Town as Utd went onto finish runners up behind Blackburn Rovers.

Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Roy Keane also added their names to the scoresheet.

Tottenham 9-1 Wigan (November 2009)

Wigan at least managed a consolation goal in this game to keep them off joint top spot with Ipswich.

Jermain Defoe equalled Andy Cole’s record of 5 goals in a single game during this demolition.

Crouch, Lennon, Bentley and Kranjcar completed the rout. Austrian Paul Scharner netted for Athletic in case you were wondering.

Man City 8-0 Watford (September 2019)

As recent as the weekend just passed so will be fresh in the mind.

David Silva opened the scoring in the 1st minutes before an Aguero penalty finished the game as the early as the 7th minute.

Bernardo Silva helped himself to a hat-trick with Mahrez, Otamendi and a late De Bruyne strike made it a shocker for Quique Sánchez Flores’ and his backroom staff.

City could even leave the likes of Sterling on the bench, it could have been worse Hornets’ fans.

Newcastle 8-0 Sheff Wed (September 1999)

There seems to be a pattern of a seasoned England striker scoring 5 in these types of games, Alan Shearer was deadly in front of goal this time around.

Aaron Hughes, Kieron Dyer and the late Gary Speed were the other scorers as Wednesday capitulated at St James’ Park.

Sir Bobby’s opening home match in charge of the club he loved and they made it a special one.

Chelsea 8-0 Wigan (May 2010)

Look away now Wigan fans, you’re on the receiving end once more.

Chelsea kicked off knowing a victory would seal top spot and end Man Utd’s title dominance.

An early strike from Anelka set the tone before Lampard, Kalou, Drogba got in on the act. Even Ashley Cole scored at the death to condemn the Latics to another heavy defeat in London.

They did however to survive relegation despite looking favourites for the drop in the week previous.

Chelsea 8-0 Aston Villa (December 2012)

A 2nd appearance on the list for the blues, this time Aston Villa were on the receiving end of result to forget when departing Stamford Bridge.

Torres, David Luiz, Ivanovic, Lampard, Ramires, Oscar and Hazard did the damage to Brad Guzan’s back as the American spent most of the day collecting the ball from his net.

A star-studded Chelsea side led by now manager Frank Lampard demolished the side from the Midlands.

23rd December made it a tough Christmas dinner to swallow for Villa fans.

Southampton 8-0 Sunderland (October 2014)

The one that escaped our memory.

Three (yes three) own goals in this one.

Vergini, Bridcutt and Van Aanholt all put through their own net

Saints Pelle x 2, Cork, Tadic and Wanyama increased the pressure on Gus Poyet on what would have been a long journey home.

Dutchman Dick Advocaat was brought in later in the season to complete the great escape with the Mackems.

Do you remember any of these games?

With Man City and Liverpool looking in fine form once again this season it’s fair to expect another few hidings handed out before now and the end of May.

Image sourced from; www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk

City or Liverpool – 9 Games to go!

We’ve just witnessed what could be a pivotal week in the race for the Premier League title 2018/19.

Pep’s Man City machine has turned around the recent points deficit and now sit top of the table knowing that a win in each of their last 9 games has their title retained.

Back-to-back 1-0 victories over West Ham and Bournemouth coupled with Liverpool’s dropped points at Old Trafford and Goodison, have given the men from the Etihad a single point advantage heading into the latter stages of the season.

Klopp’s men need to regroup and quickly. Four draws their previous six league games, five in seven if you include the Champions League is not the form required in February / March in order to become legends.

It’s worth remembering that just a few weeks ago Klopp’s side could have been 10 points ahead had they managed to despatch City at the turn of the year. Plus Riyad Mahrez’s missed stoppage time penalty kick at Anfield inflicted an earlier defeat on the Kop faithful.

All change now!

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Due to the participation in the FA Cup, City’s run will be slightly disjointed from that of their title rivals, only two domestic league games in March could take the numerical advantage back to Merseyside should they deliver and turn recent draws into much needed wins.

Below are the remaining fixtures for each side in the quest to be crowned champions of England;

Man City

09/03/19 – Watford (H)

30/03/19– Fulham (A)

06/04/19 – Cardiff (H)

14/04/19 – Crystal Palace (A)

20/04/19 – Tottenham (H)

24/04/19 – Man Utd (A)

28/04/19 – Burnley (A)

04/05/19 – Leicester (H)

12/05/19 – Brighton (A)

Liverpool

10/03/09 – Burnley (H)

17/03/19 – Fulham (A)

31/03/19 – Tottenham (H)

05/04/19 – Southampton (A)

14/04/19 – Chelsea (H)

21/04/19 – Cardiff (A)

26/04/19 – Huddersfield (H)

04/05/19 – Newcastle (A)

12/05/19 – Wolves (H)

On paper the Manchester-based side have the easier run, but we all know that games and more importantly titles are not won on paper.

Spurs who have had what appears to be there annual wobble have to visit both title-hunting clubs and with pressure off they could get into their free flowing rhythm and cause an upset on the day.

Man Utd having recently taken points off Liverpool may find themselves in a catch 22 in mid-April. Win and they have the bragging rights of the City, lose and they may just have handed their biggest rivals their 1st title since 1990.

Could there even be a stranger twist brought about by recent event? Brendan Rodgers will take his hit -and-miss Leicester side to City in the penultimate game. Having seen the title slip away (pun intended) before being sacked – he could now play a pivotal role in derailing Pep’s men with little time remaining to recover.

One thing we believe for certain is that this title race is nowhere near over. Liverpool we believe will actually prefer to be the chaser rather than the chased.

An interesting few weeks ahead and games which will define legacies. It’s that important.

Liverpool and City image sourced from; www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football

England U20s – What are they up to now?

18 months on from their famous World Cup victory in South Korea the England under 20 squad members are older, wiser and should be in a better position to influence their careers as well as the aid the ambitions of the clubs to which they are contracted.

A 1-0 victory over Venezuela in the final not only gave them memories for the rest of their lives, but probably spurred their more senior counterparts to an unexpected run to the Semi Finals in Russia.

England are gaining admirers across Europe in relation to their current crop of home grown talent.

Sancho is doing it at Dortmund and Hudson-Odoi is being tracked by Bayern and its certain that many more will be subject to bids from abroad should these lads no be able to make their mark at home.

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The question is – what are the members of the winning squad up to are these days? We’ve put together an update below…

GK’s

Freddie Woodman

The Newcastle keeper is back up north. After a successful spell with Kilmarnock he is back in the Ladbrokes Premiership with Aberdeen. A promising player in a position that England won’t have trouble with for the next few years. Recipient of the Golden Glove in Korea.

Dean Henderson

Manchester United’s next hot prospect, just a question of will he ever grace the Old Trafford pitch as a red? Currently with Sheffield United and a proper crown favourite.

A loan spell with Shrewsbury saw him help them into the League One Play Off final last season and his early penalty save gave them hope before Rotherham proved too strong.

Reported to be being tracked by some of Europe’s superpowers given his fine performances.

Luke Southwood

The Reading U23 keeper who is yet to make an appearance for the Royals, is currently in the Conference Premier with Eastleigh, a short term loan arrangement.

Defenders

Jonjoe Kenny

The promising right back is one of a number of Everton players in this squad. He has broken into the first team squad and is a definite long term successor to Seamus Coleman. A plus point in the current slump for the side.

Callum Connolly

Currently with struggling Bolton in the Championship but experiences like his current one can be good for a young player. He will be back at Goodison in the summer but most likely to be put out on loan again soon after.

Fikayo Tomori

The Canadian born defender is one of what seems like 100’s out on loan from Chelsea, He is working under the guidance of Blue’s legend Frank Lampard as Derby push for promotion from the Championship. Like many others he will more than likely have to move away from Stamford Bridge to get game time.

Jake Clarke-Slater

Like Tomori a Chelsea “loanee”. Was with Sunderland at the back end of their fatefulNetflix documented campaign although he kept himself out of the limelight. He was then shipped to partner club Vitesse in the Eredivisie for this campaign and made over 20 appearances so far.

Ezri Konsa

Came to prominence at Charlton making over 70 appearances at the heart of the defence. He moved from the Valley to Brentford for a reported £2.5m last summer and has been a virtual ever present for the Bees. A move to a bigger club looks a certainty in the coming years.

Kyle Walker-Peters

The Spurs full back is a squad player at present with just a few mins under his belt. He has not been sent on loan which shows that he is required around Wembley. At a club that doesn’t look like making many signings in the coming windows so he has a chance to make his mark.

Dael Fry

The big 6’4 local lad at Middlesbrough has been used by Tony Pulis this season and will continue to be a bit part player in the coming months. A winner with England at Under 17, 20 and 21 level, impressive.

Midfielders

Lewis Cook

The skipper who hoisted the trophy aloft. He was transferred from Leeds to Bournemouth back in 2016 and is looking like a shrewd investment. His season was cut short pre-Christmas with a nasty cruciate injury, he has a long journey back.

Joshua Onomah

The Spurs man has represented England at a staggering 6 age levels. He has played over 30 games for the North London club and appears to have a future at the new White Hart Lane.Currently at Sheff Wed and under Steve Bruce he could flourish in the coming months.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

In the Arsenal squad as Emery looks to blood the youth players in various competitions. He recently received social media criticism for his performance at Huddersfield although he was played out of position. Also scored away at Anfield, although sadly it was in a heavy defeat.

Kieran Dowell

Blue through and through, a ball boy at Goodison and idolised Mikel Arteta whilst he was in the academy. Brought in by promotion-chasing Sheffield United to aid their run in towards the Premier League.

A success out at Nottingham Forest last season and looks to be a promising midfielder, needs to be utilised by Everton upon his return.

Sheyi Ojo

The winger seems to have been around for a long time with his multiple loans into the lower leagues.

Helped the currently hopeless Fulham to promotion last season. Although he could end up disappearing into the wilderness.

Ovie Ejaria

Loaned to Rangers to work under former academy coach Gerrard, but deal was cut short suddenly in December with claim he couldn’t settle. Others believe different and an attitude problem may be the true cause.

Like parent club teammate Ojo could slip away, chances at Anfield will be slim to none you’d imagine.

Forwards

Adam Armstrong

After several loans away from Newcastle, Armstrong finally has a permanent home at Blackburn Rovers. He helped them to promotion back to the Championship last season and has continued to cause defences headaches at the higher level. A good footballer.

Dominic Solanke

The Golden Ball winner of the tournament.

After 0 PL appearances for Liverpool this season Solanke signed for Bournemouth early in the January window for a heavy £19m fee, good club to be at but he could be in danger of becoming a wasted talent should he not settle somewhere soon.

Ademola Lookman

Lookman had recently signed for Everton prior to the World Cup, making a handful of appearances before the summer. Post tournament the toffees replaced Koeman with Allardyce who sanctioned a loan to RB Leipzig for Lookman. Back on Merseyside and he’s finding opportunities limited with under-fire Silva despite loud calls from the stands for his inclusion.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Figures a lot more at Goodison than Lookman, 20+ appearances this season albeit mainly from the bench. He has an eye for a goal and could turn into a decent top division forward if given the opportunity.

Harrison Chapman

England-World-Cup-Win

Like Armstrong he was sent of various loans from the North East, this time from Middlesbrough. Same home as his international teammate though having signed on at Ewood for the next 2.5yrs.

It’s a crucial time for the developing talent in England and having had success on the International stage, it is key that the feel good factor is capitalised on.

Some of these players have found chances limited in favour of foreign imports or more experienced heads.

Quite simply these young footballers need more faith placed in them, some of these clubs have ready-made talent at their disposal yet are still choosing to spend millions and looking elsewhere.

England cannot miss this opportunity.

England U20 squad image sourced from; www.premierleague.com
England U20 World Cup win image sourced from; www.en.aus.com

Mark Hughes – Southampton Struggles

Blackburn Rovers, Man City, Fulham, QPR, Stoke City and now Southampton.

All of the mentioned clubs have taken the decision to employ Mark Hughes as their manager throughout the last fifteen years, it now appears that his time is up at his current club just like it has been at the previous five.

Last weekend’s 3-2 defeat to fellow strugglers Fulham – in what was dubbed and early season six pointer – did not go the way of the team from the south coast had hoped.

Now it looks an absolute certainty that the Welshman will be leaving St Mary’s before completing a calendar year.

sport-preview-mark-hughes

Appointed in March 2018 “Sparky” has overseen twenty-five matches winning just five, and perhaps more importantly losing twelve, a near 50% loss record. Not exactly that new manager bounce in form which most teams benefit from.

Just the solitary league win this season way back in September is bad enough, but the lack of goals is a problem that just isn’t being addressed. Ten goals in thirteen league games combined with a run of five league games without a goal shortly after their victory over Palace.

Last season Southampton escaped relegation by three points with one of the relegated sides being Stoke City, managed by Hughes for the majority of that 2017/18 season. The Saints got lucky and for some reason rewarded Hughes and his long trusted assistants Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki with long term contracts after initially appointing them until the end of that season.

As we enter December it is a month that really could decide whether they will give themselves a chance of safety or they end up in a total relegation dogfight.

Spurs, Arsenal, Man City and Man Utd are games you can’t see any points being collected despite the current form of those from Old Trafford.

Cardiff, Huddersfield and West Ham – now for us, this has to being a gain of nine precious points given their predicament.

It’s also worth saying that none of these games should be under the stewardship of their former striker, his time is simply up.

The decision making in previous seasons may be coming back to haunt the club this season as they simply couldn’t continue to assume that selling their top talent year after year was going to sustain a place in the top division, but that is a whole other story than that of Hughes and his failings.

Fantastic player no doubt, but a questionable manager who has more than enough chances and shouldn’t be seen in the top division again. It genuinely is time that we seem others given a chance rather than this usual “Premier League experience” appointment should a vacancy arise.

Mark Hughes image is sourced from; www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football

Europe vs The World – The Battle of the Best 11

With the World Cup just a few weeks away and with the best players on the planet preparing to lead their respective nations in Russia, we wondered what the best XI’s would look like if it was the EU vs. the rest of the world (ROW).

We have stuck purely to nationality and put aside their club’s locations, this way we get to keep Messi and Ronaldo on opposite sides!

Have a look, cast judgement over our sides and comment on who we’ve missed or who has no place on the pitch?

Europe XI

A strong Premier League spine to our European side with added La Liga flair.

De Gea, Kante, De Bruyne and Kane provide safe hands, phenomenal work rate, creativity and goals.

A defence made in Germany with Munich’s Hummels and Kimmich accompanied by Spain’s Alba and France’s Varane from La Liga.

Kante and new wonderkid – Asensio, in the middle with and amazing trio of Griezmann, De Bruyne and CR7 all in behind Harry Kane. Safe to say that any goal scored against the below World XI will be claimed by the Tottenham man. Now we’ve all seen Ronaldo’s tantrums when someone tries to take a goal from him!

Mentions for players missing out include Ramos, Hazard and the difficult omission of Kieran Tierney!

Onto the best of the rest World XI…..

World XI.jpeg

Perhaps unsurprisingly that the South American superpowers of Brazil and Argentina make up a good proportion of this side.

Roma’s wanted-keeper Allison has the gloves, with an interesting centre half pairing of the reliable Uruguayan Godin and solid Senegalese Koulibaly. Either side of these, there was a no contest in our eyes with Alves and Marcelo, serial winners and are both equally as good going forward as at the back.

The Midfield has been collated to counter balance their opponents. Casemiro and Vidal provide good distribution. Perhaps the most surprising inclusion of Naby Keita could be the key? The box-to-box midfielder who isn’t afraid of a challenge could nullify counter attacks.

Up top it was straight forward. Messi, Neymar and future Ballon D’or winner Mo Salah. Do we need to justify these selections? Thought not.

No Suarez, Cavani, Firmino or Sanchez – we felt they weren’t quite up to level we wanted to put against the Europeans this time.

Now remember that it’s never easy to throw out 22 options and be 100% correct, the teams are open to interpretation and change but we believe they are as close as can be.

Perhaps with all the glamour friendlies that go on pre, mid and post season we will get to see the best each side can offer – go head-to-head for a good cause and for the pure interest of every football fan around the globe.

Team images created with the Footballsilo App.

Burnley vs. Palace – The end for De Boer?

You only have to look back to August 2016 to see that outgoing Ajax gaffer Frank De Boer was one of the most wanted men in Europe, look to the present day and immediately to Sunday 10th September 2017 and here he is staring the sack right in the face at Burnley’s Turf Moor.

Three defeats from his first three matches has seen him on the verge of being branded one of the Premier Leagues biggest managerial flops in living memory, certainly not the outcome he or Selhurst Chairman Steve Parish had in mind when he was announced just a few weeks ago.

Fresh from an ill-fated stint in charge during the recent re-branding of Inter Milan he was considered a coup for Palace, rightly so.

A glorious playing career covering some of Europe’s top clubs at the time including spells at Barca, Galatasary and Rangers (the Champions League years and not the league visits to Peterhead).

He was seemingly destined for management and was given the opportunity at his boyhood club Ajax, where 4 titles in 6 seasons propelled him into the gaze of the continent.

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It’s so bad in London that it would appear anything other than a win at Burnley this weekend will see the former defender searching for yet another job but with an even further tarnished reputation.

The players are struggling to adapt to his favoured 3-5-2 system and we can hardly be surprised. For us Palace have to be one of the strangest squads in the division. Players that on their day can be dazzling but most weeks can be frustrating…That’s right Wilfred Zaha and Jason Puncheon we’re talking about you!

Add into the starting XI a post-Newcastle Cabaye, Multi-million pound left footers of Schlupp and Van Aanholt with a backup striker of Connor Wickham and you have an expensively assembled squad of confused proportions.

The Summer transfer window reflects poorly for Palace also, a couple of centre halves and fringe loans recruited from Chelsea and Man Utd would have hardly inspired the dressing room or fans, never mind a new gaffer.

Upon his arrival he proclaimed “I have my own type of coaching and style of playing. We want to be dominant when we can, but also dominate when we don’t have the ball.” Sorry Frank but you’re at the wrong club for that so perhaps this is all just wrong place, wrong time.

Should he be given more time? For us the simple answer is yes, without a shadow of a doubt. Crystal Palace are a club that are desperate to retain their status year on year and if they wish to just simply do that then fine. Get on the blower to Big Sam and give him anything he wants to come back. If you wish to provide your fans with a bit of pride season on season then keep a flourishing manager of the calibre you currently have and look to ship out the players who look to be downing tools because they cannot adapt to a new way of thinking. Guess what lads? You are highly paid professionals and if the gaffer asks you to play wing back and keep the ball on the deck then do so or get yourself up to West Brom with Tony Pulis (maybe we’re being harsh on the baggies but you get the point.)

After Swansea beat his side 2-0, De Boer complained his players lacked courage. “We have to show some balls,” they’ll certainly have to do that at Burnley. As we are all aware Turf Moor is a challenging away ground and with a Sean Dyche team that have made a promising start to the season, it’s not high on the list of places to go for a “must win” and in front of the TV cameras will add extra pressure.

With him being the Eagles eighth manager and just seven years…Is it Crystal clear that the Dutchman will be going?

De Boer image sourced from www.goal.com

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

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

Liverpool FC – Title Contenders?

They came agonisingly close a couple of seasons ago but by allowing mistakes in their remaining games they opened the door for Man City to sneak in and steal what look to be deservedly theirs.

Gerrard’s now infamous slip and 10 unbelievable minutes at Selhurst Park ultimately cost the Merseyside club their 1st league triumph since 89-90. It’s been far too long for a club the stature of Liverpool to go without winning the highest domestic honour but this season they look capable of ending decades of hurt.

The start they have made has been impressive…16 points from 21. Away wins at Arsenal and Chelsea make statements throughout a season but to achieve both so early lays down an impressive marker. Throw in a hammering of Champions Leicester, a reasonable point at Spurs and it almost makes you forget about the early Burnley ambush at Turf Moor. Whilst most sides will drop unexpected points, it is these “Burnley-type” results that Klopp will be keen to eradicate, something which looked to be lesson learnt at Swansea recently.

liverpool-vs-chelsea-image

Last Saturday the animated German Manager celebrated his 1st year at Anfield, he can look back on a part-season that included appearances in the Capital One and Europa League Finals after inheriting a side from Brendan Rodgers and can claim he overachieved. Now with a summer transfer window under his belt it is clear that he has identified players and strengthened from back to front…

Loris Karius is over his early injury and is challenging Mignolet for the No1 jersey with 39 year old Manninger providing the experienced back up.

The shrewd acquisitions of Matip and Klavan have added depth and steel to the heart of the defence, you have to say that they are desperate for an out and out left back though. Milner has more than proved his worth by filing in, but a naturally left footed player would add additional balance to the starting XI. Hull City and Scotland’s Andy Robertson (recently linked) could be the answer for a reasonable price.

Midfield has seen the arrival of Gigi Wijnaldum from Newcastle for an inflated fee but he seems to be more at home on Merseyside than he did further north where he suffered relegation. The emergence of Kevin Stewart is a pleasing sight and the Kop are finally seeing the best of Lallana. Jordan Henderson is taking the captaincy role for both club and country, just like his idolised predecessor.

Mane, Coutinho and Firmino are a frightening trio for any defence to deal with and the fact that they are currently keeping a fit Daniel Sturridge out of the team is the highest praise they can be given.

An overall transfer spend of £62m was offset by recouping around £75m with the departures of Benteke, Ibe, Allen and perhaps most importantly Mario Balotelli. The fees and the times were right for these players to move on.

Just like the squad the Main Stand has been addressed. A new 3rd tier increases the capacity and takes the ground to a new level.  More supporters = more noise (hopefully positive). Just like Parkhead it is something special hearing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” bellowing out just before kick-off.

No European football provides a massive advantage, no long midweek journeys leading to disrupted weekend kick off times. The Champions League is where club belongS, however they should be using the dramatically reduced schedule of games to steal a march on the rest of the Premier League.

Speaking of domestic opponents…Next up are old rivals Manchester United on Monday night, a win would take them 6 points clear of Mourinho’s men. A game which needs no introduction and often meets expectations, if Klopp’s XI can shake off the rustiness of the international break then they should be aiming to make a further statement of intent in front of the watching World.

The Manager is in place, the squad is well-balanced, the books are showing positive numbers and the ground has finally gone under some re-development. It’s an exciting time if you’re a Liverpool fan, a time where it must be difficult to stop envisaging another prolonged period of success on the horizon.

The joint top scorers in the division still have work to do but from what they have shown already this season there is no reason why they can’t hold aloft that much sought after and long overdue trophy come May, football needs a serially competitive Liverpool side and it looks like we may just have one again.

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Liverpool vs Chelsea image sourced from www.football365.com
Liverpool fans image sourced from www.skysports.com

Paul Pogba – Is he Worth it?

It took what felt like an eternity, but in the early hours of Tuesday 9th of August the new world record fee had been paid for Paul Labile Pogba.

Man Utd have signed a world class player and to seal the deal you need to pay a world class fee.

Paul-Pogba-new-Man-United-kit

A man who was let go by the Old Trafford side just 4 years ago for a reported £800K after Sir Alex took a dislike to demands being asked by Pogba’s representatives.

£89,000,000 was sent between accounts in Manchester and Turin for the French international midfielder with one main question being asked post completion…Is he worth it?

The answer is a simple yes and allow us to explain why.

Since leaving Manchester and making his debut for Juve in Sept 2012, he has been their stand out performer from the middle of the park. His stats for his 4 seasons in Italy make for impressive reading:-

Season Apps Goals Honours
2012-13 37 5 Serie A Title
2013-14 51 9 Serie A Title / Supercoppa Italiana
2014-15 41 10 Serie A Title / Coppa Italia
2015-16 49 10 Serie A Title / Coppa Italia / Supercoppa Italiana

Add into this an unexpected Champions League final appearance in 2015 and 8 high ranking individual accolades and you have a serial winner.

The Premier League is on course to break the £1billion barrier for the 1st time in the current window and with that, it’s fair to say that we live in a world of scary and shocking transfer fees. Take a look at some of the players and attached fees, some of these make the Pogba deal look more than shrewd.

  • Yannik Bolasie £25m – An inconsistent winger
  • James Chester £9m – A defender deemed surplus at West Brom
  • Gonzalo Higuain £75m – A goal scorer but absent in the biggest games
  • All Chinese Super League inbound transfers – Pure madness!

Pogba has matured into a genuine world class footballer and is now at one of the biggest clubs in the world once again. His name will drive up shirt sales, attract new sponsors, gain additional fans and raise the clubs’ profile even further.

£89m will prove a drop in the ocean spread over the next 7-10 years that you’d expect him to wear the red of Manchester. Also combine the deal with the free transfer of Zlatan and you have an enviable summer window.

Paul Pogba is worth every penny paid by Man Utd!

Burnley Manager Sean Dyche gave a frank and honest interview on Talk Sport recently, something we would encourage all to find and listen to. In the midst of Dyche detailing the media fascinations with foreign coaches and training methods he spoke about transfer fees. Burnley cut their cloth accordingly and simply cannot over spend. He stated that an unnamed club quoted a fee for a player but were open enough to tell the Turf Moor outfit to add £2m to the price, purely because they were a Premier League side. Now you could call this jealousy, but let’s be honest it’s just chairmen out to grab a share of the well documented riches. If top tier clubs get top tier money then you’re going to have to expect to pay inflated prices.

Ultimately no footballer is worth £89m and realistically no footballer is worth £20m but the TV money controls the game at the highest level .

Expect the record Pogba fee to stand for a time but certainly not for a long one. You have to wonder who is going to be the £100m player in the not too distant future.