Has the new Prince of Les Prinicipautaires arrived in town?

*NEWS – JUST IN* ‘A teenager has broken into the Monaco 1st team’.. ‘Wait and he’s French? AND he plays as a striker! He must be the next Thierry Henry!’ 

Forgive my sarcastic approach to the beginning of this article, but I’m getting a feeling of déjà vu; and I’m no mystic meg.

There was a great deal of hype surrounding Loic Remy when he initially burst onto the scene, a player who has been known to score spectacular goals in his time but also one who has been known to suffer from Jamie Redknapp-itis. (Spending more time on the physio table than on the pitch). _76389845_remy_epa2

Anthony Martial has also been another player who has fallen foul of being compared to Henry since his mega bucks money to Manchester United. Albeit it started out promising for Martial, with a mazy solo goal against Liverpool. An instant way to all United fan’s hearts. But since those first few games, he’s struggled to live up to the hype of being ‘The Next Thierry Henry’.

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But there is something different about Kylian Mbappé.

He plays with belief that he should be playing at the highest level – demanding for the ball, a continually calmness on the pitch; with or without the ball, and most importantly he has a deadly instinct for goal.Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 15.28.13

Henry was known for his ability to calmly score from one -on-one situations and also loved to operate outside the opponents area before picking up speed and running with the ball.

During the victorious 2nd leg tie against Manchester City on Wednesday night, an instinct moment resonated with me that perhaps Mbappé – the young pretend could actually be the real deal to Henry’s Monaco crown.

Early in the game, Monaco managed to turn over the ball in midfield and caught Manchester City on the break. Bakayoko threaded a ball through, just outside the area for Mbappé to run on to. With Kolarov closing him down, he calmly pushed the ball past the incoming defender and ran onto the ball, before forcing Caballero to make a fine save.

Very Henry – esque.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 16.21.10 Fig 1. Kolarov closing down Mbappé.

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Fig 2. Mbappé evades the Manchester City defender with ease.

Watch the footage in full here – Go to 0.15 seconds on the video!

But it isn’t just the split second decisions on the pitch, that are leading to a queue of pundits and journalists ready to compare Mbappé, to World Cup winner and all time national goalscorer Henry.

The stats don’t lie either – Kylian has not only become Monaco’s youngest ever senior debutant at the tender age of 16 years and 347 days old but he has also broken the youngest goalscoring record for the club too at aged 17. Records both previously held by – yep you guessed it, one Thierry Henry.

Notably the youngest ever senior debutant record stood for 21 years.

didier-deschamps-france-deschamps_3378169No question about it, Kylian Mbappé is flying – after scoring against Man City in midweek, he now has scored 11 goals in his last 11 games in all competitions. Form like that doesn’t go unnoticed. So much so, he now finds himself being awarded with his first call-up to the full Senior International side for friendlies later this month against Luxembourg & Spain.

It would appear he has taken his opportunity with both hands, and relishes playing in Leonardo Jardim’s attacking focused side.

It wouldn’t be unjust either to suggest that at this current time in his career Mbappé, looks  more developed as a striker than Henry was at the same time.

Henry made his senior career debut in 1994 for Monaco as we know, but it took him until the 1997/98 season before he really started having an impact for Monaco – helping them reach the Semi – Finals of the Champions League. 37081

That 1997/98 season was also the first time Henry, scored over 10 goals in a campaign in all competitions, a feat that Mbappé has already reached in his first full season – he already has 17 for the season.

It is true that Henry spent the majority of development on the wings, but even so – it would appear that Mbappé is heading for the very top.

In 10 years time, we could be talking about a new all time leading goalscorer for the French. One thing for certain is that if Kylian Mbappé can go on to have anywhere near the career as Thierry Henry had, he will be incredibly successful.

586217496-ousmane-dembele-of-dortmund-in-action-during-gettyimages-1475729229-800It will be interesting to see how this young talents career unfolds, but the future looks bright for French Football with the emergence of other talents such as Ousmane Dembélé.

There will be a lot of European defenders gulping at the prospect of having to mark these two over the coming years!

Ta for Reading,

Tom

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From The Invincibles to The Invisibles

‘Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’ How Albert Einstein described insanity.

Is there a more relevant quote to the last decade of Arsène Wenger’s reign in North London?Arsenal's coach Wenger reacts during their English Premier League soccer match against Bolton Wanderers in Bolton

There is no question about it, Arsène has been a revolutionary genius during his historic tenure in London. He has given his life and soul to Arsenal Football Club.

He is Mr. Arsenal.

 

With a career that has spanned over 1,160 games in charge, 3 Premier League titles and 6 FA Cups. Le Professeur has certainly secured his place in Arsenal folklore.

But has the time finally come for him to step aside and allow a new approach direct the Gunners forward?

Wenger’s family home village of Duttlenheim, was occupied by German soldiers during the Second World War. His father was among 100,000 local men who were forced into the Germany army. The alternative was to have their families taken to the concentration camp in Schirmeck.

His father didn’t run from this, and it taught Arsène a valuable life lesson, not to run from anything.

This isn’t the first-time Wenger and his team have come under fire. We’ve lived through Gael+Clichy+Samir+Nasri+UP92EeMY8ucmthe ‘stepping –stone’ saga, in the period that saw numerous key Arsenal players being sold to rivals. Wenger also come through a shady beginning – when allegations in the public eye almost caused him to quit only several months into the job.

 

But after consecutive protests organised prior to Arsenal’s last two home games, and with a selection of fans having decided to organise a crowdfunding aircraft to fly over Arsenal’s next away game advertising ‘Wenger Out’.

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Surely this is the most consistent and loudest appeal we’ve heard from supporters so far during his tenure, so is the Frenchmen’s time really up?

 

I don’t need to go into detail why Arsenal fans have become so restless with Wenger, as history looks set to repeat itself once again at the Emirates. February – Bloody February.

It seems to be Wenger’s bogey month if such a thing is possible.

February seems to be the month where everything falls apart for Wenger. Champions 649341634-arsenal-fc-v-fc-bayern-muenchen-uefa-champions-league-round-of-16-second-legLeague embarrassment often takes place – usually at the hands of Bayern Munich. Complied with poor results in the league, effectively ending any possible claim Arsenal might have put forward to win the Premier League.

 

In a profession where you can find yourself performing miracles one season to getting fired 6 months later (Yes, that’s right I’m still fuming about Ranieri) Wenger has done exceptionally well to survive as long as he has in ranieri_8pniwz2z3ybb164inp2yrypifcharge of Arsenal.

 

But I don’t want this article to be bogged down discussing the Arsenal Board, it’s executives and balancing the books because let’s face it that’s pretty boring and to be honest I’m not sure anyone knows really what’s going on – I certainly don’t.

But it does look like as long as the club is making a profit and financially getting rewarded by making the Champions League season after season – Wenger will continue to get another bite of the cherry.

Tottenham1With Champions League qualification looking an exceptionally tough task this season, with the emergence of their local rivals Tottenham; and also the improvement of Liverpool and Manchester United this season – If Arsenal fail to qualify, will he stay or will he go?

 

I mentioned earlier that Wenger has been brought up not to run from anything, but has his stubbornness become his biggest weakness too?

Ever since he was young, he studied Rinus Michel’s Total Football.  Fascinated with this Spanish Soccer - Primera Liga - Barcelona v Espanolapproach, he knew from a young age that this was how he wanted his teams to play – and he hasn’t looked back since.

 

But there is no Plan B with Arsène – there is no shutting up shop in Germany when they are already 3-1 down in a 1st Leg Champions League game.

There was no damage control when they went on to lose 8-2 at Old Trafford in 2011.

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Surely there must be a Plan B. Sheer stubbornness to change formation and tactics shouldn’t continue to dictate the outcome of Arsenal results – should it?

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Arsenal have always been portrayed to play beautiful football on the floor, and have been described thousands of times before that they would rather pass it into the goal rather than have a shot from outside the box.

 

But at what cost? They aren’t deadly on the counter attack like Chelsea have become, they struggle to compete with Spurs in midfield & they haven’t got the intensity to live with Liverpool.

A double-edged sword for most Arsenal fans I presume.

 

 

Yes, some of the team goals scored over the years have been sensational and well deserving of the awards they received. But where have these goals been in the big games? Where have the ‘superstars’ being during the big games for a matter of fact.

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Now I might be doing Arsène Wenger a massive disservice, and I can’t wait to hear what Gunners fans think to this article – as I’m genuinely interested, is it time to reshuffle?

 

But I find it hard to believe that this is the same manager who has not only delivered 3 Premier League titles during his time in charge, but also the same manager whose side went a whole season without getting beaten in 2003/04.

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A feat that hasn’t been achieved since and won’t for some time with the way Premier League teams defend in the modern era.

Wenger built that 2003/4 Invincibles side player by player, and deserves all the credit he received for that incredible achievement.

But what has happened since that side? Well that’s exactly what I’m going to look into now for the second part of this article.

Built from the front?

Let’s start with formations – During that impeccable season which must seem like a Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 18.22.40lifetime ago now for Arsenal fans, Wenger employed a very simple but flexible 4-4-2. But when in possession of the ball, it interchanged into a 4-4-1-1 with Dennis Bergkamp supporting and assisting a majority of Thierry Henry’s goals.

 

Henry at the time was phenomenal, arguably the best striker in world football. Scoring 30 league goals and impressively 41% of the whole teams’ goals in the league came from Henry that season.

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Yes, so they had Henry in his prime scoring for fun, and yes they also had the likes of Pirès and Ljungberg scoring too. But it was a team primarily built from the back with a solid spine and solid principles. To play attacking football using movement and interchanging with full backs joining in attacks.

This undefeated side was built from the defence upwards with Wenger establishing a solid sol-campbellpartnership with Sol Campbell & Kolo Touré as his first priority before he moved onto exciting attacking options.

 

Whereas with the current side there seems to be much more focus on the attacking options first before shifting his attention towards his defence. With the likes of Sanchez, Ozil & Walcott taking centre stage for the majority of this season. They might go on to score more goals this season than they did in the 2003/4 season with currently 55 playing 73.

 

But they have already conceded 5 more goals than the 26 they did 13 years ago.

Surely the fans would rather see success rather than the thrill of a few extra goals? But please Arsenal fans get in touch.

Of course, he has invested heavily on Mustafi who has been an excellent addition at times, but he’s still nowhere near Sol’s level during that 2003/04 season. As for Laurent Koscielny, I find it baffling – the amount of reviews I read from Gunners supporters suggesting he’s one of the best in the league.

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Really?

 

There are two better CB’s down the road at White Hart Lane in my opinion. Another player 396778B300000578-0-image-a-3_1476525551381who goes missing in the big games – He has to be stronger. Wenger needs to find his Sol Campbell if he wants to be in a title race again.

 

Partnerships

 

Another interesting point I’ve discovered whilst looking up some stats on the 2003/04 Invincibles side is the connection Ashley Cole & 51737344Pirès had on the pitch, Cole was well on his way to becoming one of the best LB’s in football at the time and his partnership he had with Pirès was a major factor to Arsenal being so successful.

 

When I watch the current Arsenal side now, it never seems to be fluid when defence meets attack – There aren’t those key partnerships where players on the same side of the pitch know each other’s game inside out. Like Beckham / Neville or Cole / Pirès.

 

Maybe this is due to the amount players get rotated – I don’t know. I’d just like to see more link up play. Just as a side note – Wenger used 6 midfielders that whole campaign, he’s already used 9 in midfield so far and we are only in March.

The Vieria Effect

How do you go about replacing a giant like Vieira? Arsène has been searching for the answer for well over 10 years now. I can go on and use paragraphs to describe the immense force that Vieira was on his day, or I can let Roy Keane do it for me.

‘On his day, when he was driving Arsenal on with the sheer force of his personality, he was 106387unplayable.’

This is exactly what Arsenal are missing in today’s side. Do you really think if Patrick Vieira had been playing over the two legs against Bayern they would have lost 10-2 on aggregate? Not a chance!

They have no driving force, there isn’t that competitive spirit anymore with Arsenal. I remember watching the games at Highbury when Manchester United would come to town and the battles which would ensue for 90 minutes. Those were proper games of football to watch.

I’m not sure if it’s just the current crop of footballers in general who are more concerned with their individual ‘brand’ like #Pogba or choreographing handshake celebrations.

The Granit Xhaka experiement has not worked out, and I can’t see it working out in the future either. You can learn certain skills, but temperant is not one of them in my opion. When it comes to heat of the moment, Xhaka can’t be trusted to not do something rash. He should look at his predecessor; Gilberto Silva.

 

I’ve written a fair amount in this article compared to my normal ones I usually write; it’s amazing what a peppermint tea and some chocolate rice cakes will do to you.

So, I’ll leave you with this thought, Wenger got quoted in August 2003 before the season began saying ‘Nobody will finish above us in the league. It wouldn’t surprise me if we were to go unbeaten for the whole season’.  Wenger’s confidence shines through in this statement, has anyone heard anything similar over the last 10 years?

No, didn’t think so.

If he signs a new deal or not is yet to be confirmed. But whatever the outcome is, Arsène Arsene Wenger celebrates by lifting the Premiership trophy after the match between Arsenal and Everton, 2002Wenger take a bow – You’ve been an icon, an ambassador for not only Arsenal but for the Premier League.

If Wenger & Arsenal do part company come the end of the season, I’d like to see Thomas Tuchel given a chance. I believe he would continue to play football in the same tradition that Arsène has always prided his Arsenal teams on.

As always Ta for reading,

 

Tom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is The Poacher Heading The Same Way As The Dodo?

After the first instalment of the Technical View where I looked into ‘The Art of Defending’. This time I’m targeting the other end of the pitch as it were, and looking into whether the goal getting Striker is facing extinction from our game.

Take yourself back to when you were at school, what position did every kid want to play in within the school team? Striker.

That’s right the position where you get to score the goals.

Every kid wanted that feeling you get when you score a goal in a match. Heck, doesn’t matter if it’s in a U10 school game or a University 5-aside game – Yes that’s right I’m name dropping the hat- trick I scored in 2nd year for The Honey Badgers.

But anyway. No one ever seemed to remember the stellar goalkeeping displays or majestic defensive performances only the goals scored – I’m not bitter but it’s the truth.

The game we love shifts effortlessly between defence and attack, and with each manager applying their own unique philosophy.

Some believe success will be found from an all-out attack formula like AS Monaco’s Falcao-Jardimmanager Leonardo Jardim (Being the leading goalscorers in Europe you can’t blame his theory!)

Whilst others believe success will be found from swift counter attacking football such as WAC RZ Pellets v Chelsea - Friendly Matchwhat Chelsea are playing under Conte at the moment – Which again you can’t argue with either.

Even with the colossal range of philosophies out there, there does seem to be one common theme – Where have all the poachers gone?

The strikers with born intuition of where the goal is and ready to pounce on a goalkeeper’s mistake at any moment. We’ve seen them in the past with Gary Lineker and Ian Wright as prime English examples – but where are they now? Surely the modern game can still accommodate for players of this ilk.

Players who are in the team for one reason and one reason only – To Score Goals. Strikers who are always composed on the ball and know their angles inside out back to front.29 09 2015 Fussball Saison 2015 2016 Champions League 2015 16 Vorrunde FC Bayern München Di

Take last night’s Champions League game for example – Robert Lewandowski is arguably one of World Football’s Premier Strikers – and his movement off the ball was incredible, pulling apart both Gunner CB’s. But from multiple chances he only converted from the penalty spot. What has have happened to the clinical strikers in our game?

It would appear within the modern game there is no place for this mould of striker anymore. With the Total Football brand appearing to shape how a large majority of teams over Europe want to play their football – which fundamentally suggests that every team member needs to be able to contribute going forward but also needs to be able to defend.

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Has this led to managers overlooking a genuine goal scorer for another player who has Aston-Villa-v-Liverpool-17superior abilities in holding the ball up or being able to contribute to a defensive approach?

Yes, the argument will come back to me and suggest that if you have players surrounding the striker who are quick footed and creative they will magic plenty of chances up during the game and you would fancy a striker to put at least 1 of them away. So why does it matter?

I just would like to see more poachers in the game, real live wires in the box – not just happy to get on the score sheet once but hungry for the full 90 minutes

Take last night’s Champions League game for example once again, there’s no denying it – 649293832-arsenal-fc-v-fc-bayern-muenchen-uefa-champions-league-round-of-16-second-leg.jpg-850x560Arsenal in the first half were impressive and created multiple chances and on another day, they could have gone in 2 or even 3 – 0 up.

But just stop for a minute, roll back the clock. If you had replaced Giroud a more physical combat striker for the Arsenal legend that is Ian Wright a real fox in the box – In the starting line-up, you have to think the opportunities Arsenal were creating in the first half – Wrighty would have bagged 2 goals at least.

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I think sometimes managers are too quick to opt for the bigger physical presence upfront because of the overall game they can bring to the team. Even if that means hindering the team’s attacking options.

Now I’ll get some stick for this next part, but personally I believe that Jermain Defoe has been England’s Premier Finisher for the last decade. Before you begin cursing and muttering under your breath. Hear me out.

He may not have been England’s best complete forward, but in terms of giving him an opportunity to finish – Defoe has rarely let down his club or country. In a 1v1 situation against any keeper in the Premier League, you’d have to fancy Defoe’s chances.

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His 150 + Premier League goals have come playing for an array of clubs with Tottenham being probably the biggest of those clubs – It’s interesting how a bigger club has never come in for him.

I think it’s the ability to score all kinds of goals, tap in’s, right foot, left foot, headers, screamers & instinctive goals. The full package. Yes, it might mean the rest of the team needs to work harder as a defensive unit to cover the striker, but surely that’s a price a manager is willing to pay for a somewhat guaranteed return of goals.

It’s understandable that manager’s want to share the attacking responsibilities around, which is why a striker who can hold the ball up well is a valuable commodity but I personally would rather see a striker who turns on the ball and drives forward towards the oppositions goal instead.

Anyway seeing as it’s 10-2 now, this seems a good place to leave it for today.

As Always Ta for reading,

Tom

Dilly Ding, Dilly Gone

Some things in Football aren’t a shock, some things are. This was certainly the latter. Or are we not shocked by anything that happens within our beautiful game anymore?

I try to pride myself on my articles always being from the viewpoint of the ‘typical honest football fan’. No flash match day stats, no self-promotion within the articles – just stories that I would want to read about as a football fanatic myself.

This is not one of them.

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Claudio’s reign at Leicester City is over. As he makes his way back home to his beloved Italy, he takes with him the last remaining drops of honesty and compassion from our game back with him.

With suspected in- house rifts with players and backroom staff, and with key senior players supposedly meeting with club owners up to four times already this season to get Claudio the boot. You can’t help but think the game has dropped into a bigger black hole than it was in previously.

The last 48 hours do not reflect well on the Premier League, Leicester City and foreign owners. The only positive I can see from my position is the unity of managers fully backing Ranieri. With the likes of Moyes, Klopp & Mourinho all speaking out in support of the Tinkerman.

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Only 298 days have passed since the favourable Italian lifted aloft the Premier League title at the King Power stadium, to signify that the greatest achievement in world football had actually really happened.

Will we ever see the likes of this happen again?

Supporters can have faith and believe it’ll happen, after the Foxes remarkable achievements last season. But in all reality – It won’t happen again, not in our lifetime.

Any of you reading this don’t agree, get in touch – I’ll put money on it. Not much though mind, I’m only on an internship.

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Yes, it has been one of the biggest falls from grace in the sport since Adriano’s demise from World Beater at Inter Milan to gang leader in the streets of Brazil. But come on man, Claudio WON THE PREMIER LEAGUE WITH LEICESTER CITY!

 

In my opinion, not only should they be building statues of the man outside the stadium, he should be given as long as he wants to be in charge at the King Power.

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It’s a disgrace, there’s part of me that wants to see Leicester City get relegated this season. Karma – What a wonderful thing.

Let’s remember Leicester aren’t anyway near being an established Premier League club yet. Yes, they might have won the title last season, but previously in their first season back in the Premier League they managed to avoid relegation by a whisker (Ehey, Foxes.. Punny innit) and finish 14th.

This is only Leicester’s third season back in the big time, we’ve seen much more established clubs go down before in the past. I fully believe that if Ranieri hadn’t been so successful last year, and finished in a respectable mid-place position – we wouldn’t have a story to talk about, and I wouldn’t be writing this.

Catching up with the weekend phone in’s podcasts on my commute to work, you hear the odd delusional Foxes fan suggesting that Claudio needed to go, but you take it with a pinch of salt. It’s an obvious one, but people get used to winning quickly, and when that’s taken away from them they’ll do anything to get that back. It’s almost a drug.

I hope Claudio looks back at his second stint in the Premier League with fondness and a cheeky smile, he achieved something very special which will never be forgotten.

It will be levelled at the tinkerman that he didn’t invest the money given to him in the summer well at all, such as £30million on Islam Slimani. Managers live and die by the transfer moves they make, that is football. If Pogba hadn’t worked out at Manchester United you know Mourinho would be getting a lot of attention in the press.

People will argue that N’Golo Kanté leaving and moving to Chelsea who was pivotal to Leicester last season has had a huge impact. I agree to a certain extent – but it’s not like there were 11 Kanté’s playing for Leicester last season. Players need to take responsibility.

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It’s all good and well for the likes of Kasper Schmeichel to come out and give press conferences about players taking responsibility but if you don’t actually do it, what’s the point?

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Even though I am adamant it won’t happen in our lifetime again. You do have to think that if something similar happened next season to Middleborough a club well run by an English owner, would the manager still be in charge the following season after a return to normality?

I do believe that sometimes the foreign owners don’t understand how impressive or hard a feat winning the Premier League is.

Heck, just being in the Premier League is impressive, just look at how competitive the Championship is!

As for now, I hope football fans remember Claudio Ranieri for the dream he achieved, not for the nightmare it has turned into.

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Addio Claudio, e grazie per i ricordi.

(Goodbye Claudio, and thank you for the memories)

Ta for reading,

Tom

Transfer Talk: Return Of The Rumours

(Anyone else start getting the Star Wars theme music in their heads there? No? Carrying on then….)

Could Costa really be heading to China? What on earth has happened to West Ham’s Golden boy? And who the blaaady hell are PSG looking at?!

Yes that’s right chaps ( & chapettes!) Transfer Talk is back! A week seems a long time in football, with so much speculation flying around, I’ve dissected some of the week’s best rumours from the ‘yeah I can see that working’ ones to the damn right ridiculous ones.

Let’s start with the realistic ones first.

Martin Olsson (28) (Norwich – Swansea) Defender

As I’m writing this, I can see that the deal has actually happened. Way to rain on my parade their Swans. Couldn’t just give me a few more hours could you. But anywhooo, a very solid acquisition for Swansea City.  Who are still crying more than this fella, over the sale of Ashley Williams.

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Olsson will bring some very much needed Premier League experience to Swansea and excellent cover for the injured Neil Taylor. Although it might not be long until he’s playing against his old club Norwich in the Championship.

Robbie Brady (25) (Norwich – Sunderland / Crystal Palace) Midfielder

Things aren’t going well for Alex Neil at Norwich at the moment, and players are taking a chance to move whilst they can. Brady who came through the Manchester United Youth System.

Has already seen a bid for £10m turned down from Palace for his services. If Sunderland do make a bid, it’ll be in monthly instalments as they are strapped for cash. Would provide some extra impetuous going forward especially for the Black Cats.  Scored twice for ROI during Euro 2016 and for a midfielder 7 goals in 31 International appearances, is a rather tasty record.

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Scott Hogan (24) (Brentford – West Ham United) Striker

After 2 previous failed bids, have a feeling this one will drag on until the end of the window.  But after being left out of the defeat by Newcastle United with his manager stating ‘it was in the long term interest of the club’ it would appear it won’t be long until Hogan is pulling on a West Ham shirt.

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Brentford are rumoured to want £9m + £6m in add ons A.K.A £15m, but West Ham are only willing to pay £3m in add ons… But with 21 goals in 33 apps for Brentford, you’d imagine it won’t be long till West Ham cave.

Carl Jenkinson (24) (Arsenal – Crystal Palace) Defender

Doesn’t quite fit into Wenger’s plans unfortunately. With added knowledge of knowing that Bellerín is the 1st choice RB by some distance. Spent a fair amount of time on loan at West Ham previous seasons gone by.

Would appear that he’s not far away from joining up with one of his old managers in Big Sam at Palace. Who is in the market for defenders.

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Fernando Llorente (31) (Swansea City – Chelsea) Striker

Would be the jammiest move. Going from a relegation battle to a title battle. I personally don’t see Llorente key to Swansea’s survival hopes, he’s not like a Defoe who is going to score all the goals.

As the majority of us know, Conte worked with Llorente at Juve several seasons ago, but by no means did Llorente set Serie A alight. With a goal scoring record, just better than a goal every 3 games in the league.

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With the future of Costa uncertain, Llorente could be a shrewd bit of business from the Italian, with perhaps the unfavoured Michy Batshuayi heading in the other direction.

But with Chelsea playing some fantastic free-flowing football at the moment, it would appear strange to change that up to accompany a big target man who’s less mobile than Costa. But we wait to find out.

Jake Livermore (27) (Hull City – WBA) Midfielder

 This one broke over the last couple of days or so. WBA are keen to strengthen their midfield options, and have targeted Livermore. Underrated Premier League player, can play as a box to box midfielder or as a defensive one. Could work well with Pulis at WBA.

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£10m has been offered already for him, but Hull City want closer to £15m. You’d have to think that if Livermore and Snodgrass leave, Hull should almost definitely begin preparing for life in the Championship.

Bojan (26) (Stoke – Middlesbrough / WBA) Striker

When Bojan burst onto the scene at the Camp Nou in 2007, we were told he was going to be joining the likes of Messi and Ronaldinho. Did he really think 10 years later he would be choosing between staying at Stoke or joining ‘Boro?

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Did you know: Bojan made his Barca debut at 17 years and 19 days, breaking Lionel Messi’s record.

A career which promised so much at such a young age, looks likely to happen with ‘Boro, as Gaston Ramirez fancies a move to Leicester City.

And now for the crazy audacious rumours.

Christian Benteke (26) (Crystal Palace – PSG / WBA) Striker

Quite possibly the maddest of the lot. From a Premier League relegation battle to a probable Ligue 1 title. PSG are looking for a battering ram – esque striker as a back-up for Edison Cavani.  But could you really see Benteke pulling on a PSG shirt? I think he might like to mind!

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West Brom on the other hand seemed willing earlier on in the window, with the virtually non – existent Saido Berahino heading in the other direction plus cash. But that rumour seems to have run it’s course now.

Andre Gray (25) (Burnley – West Ham) Striker

With the Hammers having little success in the market so far with bids for Defoe & Hogan both rejected, and with one of their most attacking options in Payet refusing to play for the club. West Ham’s attack is looking in pieces.

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The form of the Championship’s player of the season 15-16, has lead to being linked with a host of Premier League clubs with West Ham supposedly ready to make a £15m offer to Burnley.

But you’d think the Clarets would be bonkers to let him go. With 28 in 56 games for Burnley so far, fans will be hoping he continues that great record.

Patrice Evra (35) (Juventus – Manchester United / Crystal Palace) Defender

Could the former United star be heading home? His former team mate in Rio Ferdinand hasn’t helped speculation with his posts via social media adding to the rumours.

With Luke Shaw fading into the background ever more at United, and Darmian a natural right footed player playing at Left Back, you have to think this rumour could turn into something. As we all know Evra ‘loooooves this game’ and keeps himself incredibly fit and dedicated so even if he provides cover for the rest of the season.

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Crystal Palace offer that attraction of playing Premier League football and being able to live in London, but I see United as the front runners on this one.

Let’s see what next week brings us!

Thanks for reading folks!

T

‘The Art of Defending’

‘They like to play it out from the back’ quite possibly the most over used phrase in English football over the last 18 months or so. Free – flowing attacking football seems to be the main trend at the moment especially in the Premier League. We’ve had the seasons where counter attacking football has ruled the league and we’ve also had the seasons where a defensive approach has served teams well in the past.

But as for now it appears the late great Johan Cruyff’sTotal Football’ ideology is dominating how teams play in the PL, by that I mean managers want to fill their teams with 10 players (11* if your Bayern Munich & Manuel Neuer) who can all contribute to a team attack.

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With this said, it’s no surprise that ‘quality’ CB’s’ are at a premium. Centre Backs who can defend but can also contribute in an attacking capacity. Last summer we saw John Stones move from Everton to Manchester City for £47.5m, 2nd to David Luiz in the list of most expensive defenders in history.

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Make no bones about it, even for Manchester City and their bankrollers that’s a lot of money to spend on a player still making his way in the game. Pep’s justification? ‘He’s one of the World’s most promising Centre Backs’ with the characteristics of a ‘ball playing, 21st century defender’.

There’s that word again ‘Ball Playing’ defender, we’ve got to a point now where our beloved game is so advanced that managers want players who have multiple strings to their bows.

There seems to be an epidemic at the moment for these new ‘21st century model’ defenders, but are they really the right option? We often find that these same players slip up during games. So quick to set up an attack – it leads to poor decision making moments. Which ultimately effect the overall result.

On the other hand, we have players like Wes Morgan & Robert Huth (also known as The Human Battering Rams) who last season blew us away with some of their heroic defensive displays. Players who certainly aren’t known for their ability to ‘thread a pass through the eye of a needle’ but they certainly were effective in helping the Foxes to the league title.

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 IMO, Managers are sometimes quick to forget the fundamentals of a defender. To defend and help keep clean sheets should always be the priority. Defenders are similar to goalkeepers, if they make a mistake it will inevitably end up in a goal. (E.g. Ragnar Klavan’s air kick against Southampton in the EPL Semi Final 1st leg).

We’ve also disappointingly seen a decline in youth players coming through who are born to defend, your Jamie Carragher’s of this world.

But I suppose when there are defenders who can do things like this, why would a manager want anything else?

But anywhooo let’s look at my Top 3 Centre Backs in the PL at the moment.

Player: Virgil Van Dijk  virgil-van-dijk-741335

Club: Southampton

Age: 25

Is there a better defender in the PL?

An absolute monster for Southampton this season. When Virgil signed for Saints back in 2015, he had potential for sure, but no one could have predicted what a player he’s turned into.

He’s turning into a match winner for Southampton, and if they can keep hold of him until the summer they will have done well.

A clear replacement for the injury prone Kompany, but City will have a battle to sign him. Will take a world record transfer bid for a defender to sign him.

Player: Toby Alderweireld toby-alderweireld-463126

Club: Tottenham

Age: 27

He probably would have been my number 1, but for injuries. Makes Tottenham tick, when Dier deputised at CB earlier in the season, they weren’t the same force. His passing and reading the game is exceptional. Especially with Spurs having two aggressive full backs in Rose & Walker who are continuously bombing forward.

Spurs have arguably the best defence in the league but if they want to continue to challenge for the title they need Alderweireld fit and playing consistently. Helps that he has mate Vertoghan next to him.

Player: Cesar Azpilicueta (Dave) football-chelsea-full-back-cesar-azpilicueta_3199118

Club: Chelsea

Age: 27

Mr. Reliable for Chelsea over the years. Spent the majority of the time playing at left back, when he first arrived. For someone who’s naturally right footed that is quite the achievement. Since Conte has switched to a 3 man CB system, he’s looked at ease playing on the left side, so much so he’s keeping club legend JT on the bench.

He’s the quickest and most mobile out of Cahill & Luiz and often finds himself covering others due to great positioning. Often overlooked for praise and awards but not this time Dave.

Ta for reading folks!

Tom

Welcome to Liverhampton

Afternoon folks!

With us whizzing through January like Trump and ermm certain ladies of the night. Yep, let’s leave it at that.

We have the EFL Semi – Final Cup competition upon us. Last night saw Manchester United win 2-0 against Hull City, and even with the 2nd leg still to play at the KCOM stadium, you’d have to suggest that Manchester United fans should start sorting their travel arrangements to Wembley.

It’s a competition José knows well, being a previous winner on 3 occasions with Chelsea, but who will his United side be facing come 26th February?

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Southampton or Liverpool are the candidates; common sense would suggest Liverpool with the depth of squad at their disposal and with the 2nd leg at Anfield it should be easy going. For Saints, tonight’s Semi – Final should provide a break from the league, where Claude Puel’s side have lost 3 on the bounce. But we shall have to wait and see.

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But what I want to focus on today, is the added spice that has crept into Southampton Vs Liverpool games over the past couple of seasons.

Which of course as you know is down to The Reds let’s say ‘selective’ transfer approach of Saints players over the 3 years. I’m going to look into how those players who swapped the red of Southampton for the red of Liverpool have gotten on.

You do have to wonder if Liverpool’s chief scout Barry Hunter, has a renewable season ticket down at St. Marys, with the club forking out in excess of £95m for 5 Saint players.

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Let’s get crackin!

First up, Rickie Lambert £4m (June, 2014)  MISS

Talk to any Saints fan, and they will only speak in the highest regard of the man. From scoring goals in League 1 to scoring against City away in the Premier League, what dreams are made of for any professional footballer. He gave everything for Southampton football club, and with 117 goals in 235 games for the club – twice voted Saints player of the season.

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When news broke, that his boyhood club Liverpool had submitted an offer for his services, he was always going to go and I think the majority of SFC supporters would have wished him luck.

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Didn’t work out for him at Liverpool as he would have hoped. A season of bit part performances from the bench mainly, meant that he only lasted 1 season at Anfield before securing a move to West Brom.

Lambert’s the sorta player which gives hope to all professionals in the lower leagues that they can do it at the top level.

Adam Lallana £25m (July, 2014)  HIT

265 games for Saints between 2006 – 2014, as an academy graduate his first experience of professional football for Saints was in League 1. Was instrumental in Saints securing back to back promotions, to get back to the promised land. Made captain of the club in 2012.

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His Liverpool career took a while to take off, but this season the boy can do no wrong! So far in this PL campaign he’s scored 7 and got 7 assists. Transformed himself from a bit part player into a key player for The Reds. Willing to put the miles in for Jurgen Klopp’s high pressing side too.

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Pub Quiz Question: Who’s been named in the League 1, Championship & Premier League team of the year in consecutive years? Adam Lallana.

 

Dejan Lovren £20m (July, 2014)   MISS

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Only the one season spent at St. Marys for Lovren, signed from Lyon for £8.5m on a four-year deal. Went on to be sold to Liverpool the following summer for £20m after rumours of a transfer request. From Saint’s perspective, you’d have to say it was a wise move selling him.

Liverpool have been looking to fill the void left by the retirement of Jamie Carragher for some time now, not sure Lovren is the right man personally. 

He’s a tough tackling centre back who will always be an attacking threat from corners granted. But his decision making has to be questioned at times, Klopp will want to build the team around Joël Matip.

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Nathaniel Clyne £12.5m (July, 2015)  HIT

A solid performer for Saints and now for Liverpool. I believe the 25-year-old will be battling it out with Kyle Walker for the next couple of years for the starting RB position when it comes to England duty though.

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Always does a good job and quietly goes about his business. This season he has really impressed onthe eye though, leading the assist charts for defenders. A constant threat down the right-hand side for Liverpool, one of the Reds key players. 

Klopp will be delighted with his full back’s form this season.

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Sadio Mané £34m (June, 2016) UNDECIDED

The former Red Bull Salzburg player spent two seasons at Southampton. Unknown quantity in his first season but give Koeman his credit he clearly knew about Mané’s raw ability.

 Unbelievable acceleration and became a major part of the game plan for Southampton & a fan favourite. During his 2nd season, you could see the writing was on the wall for Sadio, after being fined for turning up late to team meetings several times throughout the season.

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It’s too soon to decide if his Liverpool career will be one which will be looked back on fondly or not, but he’s off to a great start so far. Scoring against Arsenal on the opening day of the season, and then scoring the winner in the Merseyside derby. Liverpool will be thankful that Coutinho is back playing, with Mané off for ACON duty.

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So there you have it peeps, let’s hope for two great cup legs and see who ends up on top.

 

Ta,

 

Tom