Manchester city see champions league ban overturned

One of the biggest stories of the season so far has seemingly come to an end with Manchester City avoiding a two year ban from the Champions League, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared them of any wrongdoing.

This has been a long debated topic of whether 5th place would qualify as a Champions League spot, with many people calling for a harsh punishment in order for UEFA to ‘make an example’ of City. They have been criticised for not being strict enough with FFP and this result has left its reputation heavily damaged.

What were City accused of doing?

In November 2018 a German newspaper, Der Speigel, published supposed leaked documents of Manchester City overvaluing their sponsorship deal – misleading football’s top European body.

It was accused that they lied about this valuation in order to mislead UEFA for FFP rules – making it seem as though they were breaking even and not in a loss.

In February, the CFCB, an independent adjudicatory body, claimed that City bent the laws by “overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to Uefa between 2012 and 2016”.

They attempted to investigate but City refused to cooperate as they didn’t trust the CFCB and didn’t believe they were independent. The club were also punished for similar issues in 2014 and fined £49m.

It must be noted the owners always refuted the claims and were adamant they had not broken any rules.

What was the verdict?

The CAS claimed that the club were completely cleared of “disguising equity funds as sponsorship contributions”.

They did, however, state that Manchester City had failed to cooperate with the CFCB investigation and were still subject to a fine.

The original fine of 30m Euros was reduced to 10m Euros – a considerable drop. The two-year Champions League ban imposed on City has also been reversed meaning they will be allowed to play in the competition for future seasons.

What does this mean for FFP and this season?

Many fans have complained about the loopholes in FFP rulings as it allows bigger clubs who generate more revenue to spend more – whilst other clubs may struggle to grow due to financial restrictions on allowed losses.

Whilst the Premier League have different rulings to UEFA they still fall under the same umbrella terms, so the differences are minimal.

With its fractured reputation already, this decision has only exacerbated things for UEFA as people are calling into questions its legitimacy. After all, City broke similar regulations in 2014 and yet they haven’t been banned and have been given a reduced fine.

The failure to punish the richest clubs for breaking the rules means clubs will seemingly be able to get away with spending a bit more. If the fine is only 10m Euros like this case, then you can be sure many clubs would take that hit for success.

Where this leaves the ruling is yet to be seen, a reform in the system seems to be the most effective option, allowing smaller clubs to spend to help grow, whilst debt can be controlled to avoid clubs going into administration.

In terms of this season, it of course means that 5th place is no longer the golden ticket into the Champions League and the race for the top four will be even more intense now.

Whilst most people expected the decision to be overturned, it still offers up a very interesting end to the campaign as top four is absolutely vital. Whilst this damages Wolves and Sheffield United’s hopes of qualification; Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester will all be fighting more than ever now in these last few games.

For further discussion on what Manchester City’s European ban being overturned means check out the video below:

 

Liverpool Women’s Captain makes tough decision to put football on hold

Most people in sport right now are happy just to get back performing. But for one lady footballer she has made a decision to sacrifice playing at the moment.

Liverpool Women’s captain Sophie Bradley- Auckland has decided not to return back to the Liverpool squad for the time being.

Bradley- Auckland has made the choice of helping her family run their care home back in Nottingham.

The defender, who was named the clubs player of the year last season, is also the manager of Edenhurst care home in Nottingham.

“Unfortunately, with the current situation it’s made me have to make a decision. The fact is I can’t return to Liverpool until a risk isn’t posed on the care home.” she told the clubs website.

“We have got 24 people to look after but now we have got 24 very vulnerable people because of the virus, which is spreading very quickly. The people we look after, it would be very dangerous if any of them were to catch it.

“I’m still a Red. I will be back at Liverpool but unfortunately at this moment in time it is not possible for me to come, so I think it’s very much up in the air.”

Bradley- Auckland, who has played 28 times for England, joined the Merseyside outfit in 2018.

The club were  relegated from the Women’s Super League this season after the 2019-20 season was ended earlier than expected in May.

It is certainly a very brave decision from the 30-year-old defender to put her football career on hold. A decision I am sure she didn’t take lightly.

Overall, it takes a brave person to make a preference like this. Bradley-Auckland should be praised for her choice in putting not just her family first but deciding her football career must come second.

Sheffield United annihilate Chelsea as they vie for European competition

Heading into the match, Chelsea were in third place with hopes of keeping their Champions League spot. You couldn’t tell that with their lethargic performance as they got shutout by hosts Sheffield United, 3-0.

The Blues had most of the ball during the first half, with 76 percent of the possession. However, it was The Blades who were able to capitalise on their chances.

Sheffield United got on the board first courtesy of David McGoldrick’s first Premier League goal. After Oliver McBurnie’s volley was deflected by Ross Barkley and Reece James, and ultimately saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga, the 32-year-old was left wide open and found the back of the net.

 

Fifteen minutes later, in the 33rd-minute, the Blades extended their lead courtesy of McBurnie continued his excellent performance with a header after receiving a cross from Enda Stevens.

 

After very little action in the second half, Sheffield United pounced on a mistake by the Chelsea defense in the 77th-minute. Substitute Antonio Rudiger got caught up and couldn’t clear the ball, which led to McGoldrick having an easy chance for his second goal of the day.

 

Sheffield United moved into sixth place and next travel to Leicester City on Thursday. Chelsea, meanwhile, face the recently relegated Norwich City at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

See the updated Premier League Table in link below:

https://247-football.com/2020/06/25/premier-league-table/

 

World Cup winner Jack Charlton dies age 85

World Cup winner with England and former Republic of Ireland Manager Jack Charlton has died at the age of 85.

The former Leeds United defender had been diagnosed with lymphoma and also had dementia.

Big Jack as he was affectionately known, passed away peacefully at his Northumberland home on Friday, his family said.

Charlton, the older brother of Manchester United legend Bobby, was part of England’s World Cup winning side of 1966.

He spent his entire club career with one club- Leeds United- from 1950- 1973, making a record 762 total competitive appearances for the Whites.

With his time at Leeds United, he helped them to the Second Division Title (1963-4) and First Division Title (1968-9).

His spell at Leeds also yielded an FA Cup win (1972), League Cup (1968), Charity Shield (1969) and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cup’s in 1968 and 1971.

Charlton was called up to the England team just days before his 30th birthday and went on to make 35 international appearances and scored six goals.

He appeared in two World Cups and one European Championship but will be remembered most for his no nonsense defending as a centre back.

After his playing days were over, he decided to turn his hand to management and led Middlesbrough to the second division title in 1973-4.

He spent four years in the North East before resigning in April 1977, where he took charge of Sheffield Wednesday for six seasons.

Despite a short spell back at Middlesbrough as caretaker manager and one season at Newcastle, he always had aspirations to manage at International level.

He took charge of the Republic of Ireland national side in 1986 and led them to their first ever World Cup in 1990, where they reached the quarter-finals.

In his ten-year stint in charge of Ireland he also led the Irish to qualification at Euro 1998 and the 1994 World Cup.

In January 1996, Charlton resigned from his position and went into retirement.

Big Jack was a football man, loved and adored by everybody in the football world.

To spend an entire career at one club in today’s world is unheard off. To hear so many nice words said about such a gentleman speaks for itself.

Jack Charlton’s name will live forever with not just Leeds fans, but Irish football fans who fittingly called him a legend.

It would be fitting if Leeds United can go on and seal promotion to the Premiership in memory of not just Charlton, but two other greats who passed away this year. Norman Hunter and Trevor Cherry.

 

Champions League, Europa League draw

Manchester City will face Juventus or Lyon in the Champions League quarter-finals if they knock out Real Madrid in their delayed last-16 second-leg tie when the competition resumes in early August. Pep Guardiola’s side, who will learn the fate of their appeal against a two-year ban from UEFA club competitions for Financial Fair Play rule breaches on Monday, hold a 2-1 lead from the first leg in Madrid back in February.

Chelsea, the only other remaining Premier League club left in Europe’s top-tier competition, trail Bayern Munich 3-0 ahead of the return leg in Germany, with the winners drawn to meet either Napoli or Barcelona.

RB Leipzig, who defeated Tottenham to reach the last eight of the Champions League for the first time, will meet Atletico Madrid while Atalanta, playing in the Champions League for the first time, have drawn French champions Paris Saint-Germain.

On Thursday, UEFA announced the remaining last-16 second-leg ties in the Champions League will be single-leg fixtures and are set to take place in Lisbon, Portugal at either Sporting’s Estadio Jose Alvalade or Benfica’s Estadio da Luz between August 12-23.

Quarter and Semi-final draw in full
  • Real Madrid or Manchester City (1-2) vs Lyon or Juventus (1-0)
  • Winners to play Napoli or Barcelona (1-1) vs Chelsea or Bayern (0-3)
  • Atalanta vs PSG
  • RB Leipzig vs Atletico Madrid

Meanwhile Manchester United will play Copenhagen or Istanbul Basaksehir in the Europa League quarter-finals if they overcome Austrian side LASK.United are in a strong position to reach the next stage of the competition as they hold a 5-0 first-leg lead over LASK with the second game still to be played.

Wolverhampton Wanderers will face Sevilla or Roma if they progress in their tie against Olympiakos, which finished 1-1 in the first leg in Greece. The winners of those two quarter-final ties will then meet in the semi-final, meaning an all-Premier League contest in the final four could take place but unlike last season no all-Premier League final is possible.

A game against Inter Milan or Getafe awaits Rangers, but they must overcome a 3-1 deficit against Bayer Leverkusen with the second leg to come in Germany.

 

Should ex-pros help out VAR officiating?

VAR,  not for the first time this season, once again appeared in the spot light  following more controversy surrounding no less than three different incidents this week.

Incorrect penalty decisions were made by the video assistant referee in all three of Thursday’s Premier League games.

Tottenham should have had a penalty when Joshua King clearly shoved Harry Kane in the back, in their goalless draw with Bournemouth.

Bruno Fernandes won a spot kick, which should not have been given against Aston Villa.

James Ward-Prowse hit the bar after being awarded a disputed penalty against Everton.

With so many talking points raised about VAR, there has been a suggestion by former footballer Tim Cahill, than an ex-player should be involved to work alongside the VAR officials at Stockley Park.

Going forward, it would appear to make sense that somebody who has played the game professionally, and knows how players react in circumstances during a game, would know more than a referee, who in most cases would never have played the game before.

The only downside to this in my opinion would be would the VAR officials listen to what that person would have to say, take on board and put into practice.

Overall, on debatable decisions I am sure they would like some impact from the ex pro, but I fear that the final say on the decision would be down to the VAR official.

I am still unconvinced that they would generally be swayed by expert advice from somebody who has played and understands the game more.

It hurts me to say that I genuinely believe quite a few referees don’t know the game of football. It is not just about knowing the laws of football; it is also about knowing the game.

To simplify and eradicate even more controversy going forward, surely the on field official should be allowed to go and check the pitch side monitor, and then make his own decision.

All too often the man in the middle never goes ahead and puts this into practice. It is the VAR crew who in turn make their own decision, therefore undermining the person who is supposed to be referring the game.

My own solution to this mess would be simple really.

When an incident should be reviewed, let VAR tell the on field official how they see it.

The referee should then go straight to the pitch side monitor to make up his own mind and then decide what decision to go with.

The referee who is officiating the actual game must be the sole person in charge of events on and off the field, in my opinion.

Currently, it is a case of somebody many miles away making decisions that really should be made closer to home.

Orlando City score late-winner against Inter Miami on MLS return

It had been exactly four months since the last MLS game, when LAFC and the Philadelphia Union battled it out for a 3-3 draw. This season was supposed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the league but it turned out to be a disaster courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the league’s first match in 122 days, Orlando City were able to beat their in-state rivals, Inter Miami, 2-1. This was the first MLS match between two teams from Florida since May 26, 2001, when the Miami Fusion annihilated the Tampa Bay Mutiny 4-0 in Tampa.

The first half for both clubs was rather scrappy but it gave a chance to shake off the rust after not being able to play a competitive match since March. It was The Lions, however, that seemed to look sharper throughout the opening 45 minutes.

Two minutes after the start of the second half, Victor Ulloa delivered a brilliant cross to Juan Agudelo, who was able to find the back of the net. 

 

However, things took a turn for the worse for The Herons as they lost one of their defender’s in a scary moment. 

Miami’s Andrés Reyes collided with Orlando’s Dom Dwyer, a former youth player for Norwich City, Staines Town, and King’s Lynn, in the 51st-minute. This caused the Colombian international to have shortness of breath and had to leave the match on a stretcher.

After the match resumed, Orlando City were able to level the score at 1-1 in the 70th-minute, when Nani crossed the ball to Chris Mueller, who was able to score despite the ball touching goalkeeper Luis Robles’ hands.

 

With 10 minutes of extra-time added on due to Reyes’ injury, The Lions were able to take advantage.  Nani, who has won several trophies with Sporting CP, Manchester United, and the Portuguese national team, was able to score in the seventh minute of stoppage time to seal the victory for the hosts. 

 

Although the circumstances are not ideal with the games being played with in front of an empty field at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, fans can be excited to have soccer back in North America. In fact, the MLS has the privilege to be the first men’s pro sports league to return.

See full report on the NWSL return below:

https://247-football.com/2020/06/27/north-carolina-courage-defeat-portland-thorns-in-opening-match-of-nwsl-challenge-cup/

Aussie International signs for Arsenal Women

Arsenal Women have signed Australian defender Steph Catley from Melbourne Victory.

This past week the North London side have also signed Swiss midfielder Malin Gut.

In regards the Australian defender, however, the 26-year-old full back, has also played for the Portland Thorns, OL Reign and Orlando Pride in North America.

Catley, who has 82 caps for the Matildas told Sky Sports News she had her heart set on joining Arsenal after experiencing women’s football in Australia and the USA:

“I feel like I have experienced everything I can in the American League and now I want to challenge myself at one of the best clubs in the World.”

“If you look at all of the English clubs, they are all making big signings. Some of the best female players in the world are looking to come here.”

The Australian ultimately decided on joining Arsenal Women due to the manager Joe Montemurro and recent acquisition Caitlin Foord, who played a big part in convincing Catley to relocate to London.

She has also worked with Montemurro at Melbourne, where she made 51 appearances in five seasons, scoring seven goals.

The defender had a season at Portland Thorns FC, where she made 17 appearances, before returning back to Melbourne on loan for a further season.

In December 2015, Portland traded Catley to Orlando Pride in exchange for goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.

Catley signed two other loan agreements with Melbourne City for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, where she captained the side to two Grand Final Championship wins.

A low point of her career happened prior to the 2018-19 season where she underwent knee surgery. She recuperated, and went on to play seven games for City.

Her international career has seen her feature for the Matildas during the 2016 Rio Olympics and last year was rewarded with her performances by being named vice captain in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Said Benrahma- The Algerian whose taken the Championship by Storm

Said Benrahma is the name on every Championship fan’s lips this season as a series of sparkling displays have highlighted just how talented the 24 year old is.

A quick search of his name on YouTube and you’ll find some of the finest highlight reels in football, including an ingenious double nutmeg on Middlesbrough’s Lewis Wimg this term.

He is so good at sliding the ball through a player’s legs that Brentford B coach Sam Saunders recently told the Guardian:

“He could nutmeg a mermaid.”

Yet, Benrahma is so much more than just a tricky winger.

He has been the Bees creative force this season, forming an impressive attacking trio alongside Bryan Mbeumo and Ollie Watkins (who have been christened Brentford’s BMW) netting fifteen goals and providing six assists in the league.

Routinely deployed on the left wing, Benrahma loves to cut inside on his right foot and deliver a cross or have a shot on goal. He is one of the most technically gifted players in the division, with his dribbling often leaving defenders in knots.

His contribution to Brentford’s promotion push since the restart has underlined his importance to the Bees, scoring five and assisting one as Thomas Frank’s side have won all of their games since the break to sit just two points behind second place West Brom.

Three of those strikes came in the weekend’s game against Wigan, with the winger clinically dispatching the relegation threatened side with relative ease. His first was a well timed volley, the second an inch perfect cross come shot after he had tormented Byrne and the third a well placed shot into the far corner giving Marshall in goal, no chance.

Manager Thomas Frank was full of praise for the winger’s display, stating in his post match press conference:

“I think in general he has had a good season so far, but he has absolutely hit the ground running after this coronavirus break.

“He has added extra to his game, such as arriving in the box, and these last four games he has been getting better and better,  with his passing and his finishing.

“I have to praise him for his work ethic. He worked extremely hard. He has been good, he needs to keep it up.”

A Benrahma inspired Brentford then came from behind against Charlton at Griffin Park to continue their march towards promotion with a 2-1 win. Benrahma won and coolly converted a penalty to equalise before the Bees scored a second to pick up all three points.

He caused problems for Charlton all evening as he occupied a more central role, picking the ball up in between the lines and playing neat interchanges with Watkins.

His form this season will come as no great surprise to those who watched him at Griffin Park in his maiden campaign in England last season. He managed ten goals and fifteen assists last year as Brentford finished 11th but Benrahma has taken his game to new levels this year.

He represents another shrewd bit of business from the London club, as he was picked up in the summer of 2018 from Nice for a fee of £2.8 million, after catching the eye on loan in Ligue 2.

Having come through the youth ranks at Algerian side NRB Bethioua, Benrahma moved to France, linking up with Balma SC Colomiers and then moving on to Nice. He made his debut for the first team in 2013, aged just 18 but spent the majority of his time at the club in the reserve side before going out on loan. He left Nice having made 17 appearances, scoring three goals.

His first loan spell came in Ligue 1 with Angers, then he dropped down to Ligue 2 and had stints with Gazélec Ajaccio and Chateauroux. It was at the latter, which he first started to show his undoubted potential and came to Brentford’s attention. He scored nine goals in 31 appearances, aged just 22 and Brentford decided to take a risk and snap him up that summer.

He hasn’t looked back since and the Algerian is now surely worth at least ten times the fee Brentford paid for him. With a host of Premier League clubs sniffing around him, Benrahma is likely to leave if the Bees don’t make it out of the Championship this time around, having already talked of his desire to play in the top flight.

A full Algerian international, Benrahma has won three caps for his country and comparisons are often drawn between him and compatriot Riyad Mahrez. Both started their journey in Ligue 2 before lighting up the Championship and both are silky wingers who enjoy nutmegging opponents and creating chances.

If Benrahma, who was nominated for the Championship Player of the Year, manages to emulate Mahrez’s career trajectory he may well go down as one of the best bargain signings the Championship has ever seen.

For now, his focus will be on finishing the campaign strongly and propelling Brentford to the big time.

With just four games left of the regular season and potential play off dates to come if Brentford can’t pop West Brom to second place, now is the time for Benrahma to show his quality and provide for Brentford when they really need him.

Martial, Rashford and Greenwood – the Premier League’s deadliest front three

Much has been made of Manchester United over the past five/six years of football, with the loss of a plethora of attacking talent the club has been criticised for its poor recruitment. Yet for all the money they have spent two of their dangerous front three are academy graduates.

Perhaps slightly under the radar is the fact they have scored more goals than Liverpool’s much-talked about front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. Granted United have played lesser opposition in Europe but it is still an impressive feat nonetheless. This article takes a look at their development as a front three.

Mason Greenwood

Possibly the most exciting out of these talents is 18-year-old Mason Greenwood. The Bradford-born striker scored two wonderful goals against Bournemouth as his side tore them apart 5-2. This took him on to a tally of 15 goals in all competitions this season.

For a young player playing his full debut season that record certainly makes for impressive reading. ESPN even tweeted out how he has scored more goals than Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria put together.

 

If Greenwood was to score another five goals during the rest of the campaign, he would help break a very impressive long-standing club record.

It will be the first time that three United players have scored 20 or more goals in the same season since 1964-65, when Denis Law (39), David Herd (28) and John Connelly (20) did the same thing.

 

Given the fact he only recently started playing consistently in the Premier League you have to be impressed with numbers he’s managed to put up.

A real earmark of his play has been the quality of his finishing, his two goals against Bournemouth showed fantastic shot power and accurate finishing, the ability to do that at this level and at only 18 years old, it shows he could be the real deal. In fact he has already outscored Marcus Rashford’s debut season. So in that sense he’s showing more promise.

In fact, only Michael Owen , Robbie Fowler and Wayne Rooney have scored more goals in a single Premier League campaign at the age of 18 and under. The esteem of that company alone should give you an idea of his talent.

United have been longing for their academy talents to replicate the class of 92, and while a group of that caliber is extremely rare, Greenwood certainly has the potential to be a superstar for club and country.

Marcus Rashford

A hero on and off the pitch this season. It feels as though Marcus Rashford has been around for a while and you’d be right in thinking that considering he has played 206 games for the club (according to transfermarkt). Alongside this he also had 38 caps and 10 goals for the England first team – so he has plenty of match experience for a 22-year-old.

Over his time at the club he has amassed 65 goals and 35 assists, which when looked at is a pretty impressive number. Rashford has long been criticised for his lack of goals, particularly in the Premier League.

That is within reason, before this campaign the most he’d scored was 10 goals, and he’s smashed that with 15 this time around. The England striker has improved every season – scoring 5, 5, 7, 10 and now 15 goals. A steady rise but a clear improvement in form.

He’s now hit 20 first the season in all competitions, easily performing at his best, which could be due in part to the creative talents around him like Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, etc.

Perhaps the role of a Manchester United no.9 is one that has put added pressure on his ability to perform at the highest level. The controversy surrounding his position (was he an inverted winger or a striker?) stunted his growth as he was moved around the pitch constantly.

This campaign has shown that he does have a real ability to grow and evolve into a word-class attacking player, and if this steady upwards trajectory continues who knows how many goals he could get.

His positive charity work outside the game has also earned him respect and admiration, and he has proved he has a mature head on his shoulders and at such a young age too – that can only bode well for his attitude on the pitch.

Anthony Martial

Martial has had an odd time at Manchester United. The Frenchman came in for a lot of money and has always had buckets of ability. His debut goal against Liverpool is still a thing of beauty. Despite this we have yet to really see his true potential.

Perhaps his disappointing career for France has removed him from the spotlight – scoring one goal in 18 caps. In 213 appearances for United he has 68 goals and 35 assists, only marginally better than Marcus Rashford.

Now at the age of 24, Martial would ideally need to find his form and we have seen his talents fully with this post-lockdown campaign.

He equaled Rashford’s tally of 20 goals for this season and at times has looked unplayable. His long range goal against Bournemouth tells you all you need to know about the ability of the man.

A lot has been made of his attitude and at times he hasn’t looked settled at the club but the return of this post-lockdown United has seen a complete u-turn in the player. Pogba and Martial both look happy at the club – the addition of Bruno Fernandes has apparently had a great impact on the dressing room atmosphere.

Martial seems like a player that thrives off the ability of those around him and this allows to play with a great deal of confidence. At times, he has looked lost but others he has looked like a real superstar.

His current form suggests that he is happy to stay and has found a team he can believe in and enjoy playing with. So from a United point of view, long may it continue.

What can they achieve?

The question on every United fans lips is now, can they achieve greater heights?

The beginning of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign as manager was faultless but it took a real nose dive and you could forgive people for thinking the same thing could happen again.

If the form of these three players continues in the same fashion, we could see a very dangerous United side going into the next campaign. With the Europa League still to content for, there is a lot of hope surrounding the club that a season, which looked dead and buried, produce a European trophy and Champions League football.

With such a small gap between this and next season though, you have to wonder how United will compete next year. It appears, however, Solskjaer could be building a fantastic team. Defensively there is still work to be done – but the future certainly looks a lot brighter for the red side of Manchester.

The race for europe

As the Premier League Table shows the race for European Football next season has heated up, It seemed before the restart that Chelsea and Leicester City were pretty secure in the Top 4 but their form and the impressive way in which Manchester United in particular have restarted have tightened it up. United have Won all but one of their Matches , Leicester have only won one which was their last outing, leaving United only 2 points behind Chelsea and 3 Behind Leicester. Wolves suffered a damaging defeat to Arsenal on Saturday which sees them 3 points of a Champions League place.

We asses who is best placed to qualify based on the remaining fixtures and current form.

Leicester have what looks like a tricky run in starting with a trip to Arsenal, who are in the race for at least a Europa League place. Then they face a Bournemouth side with everything to play for followed by games against another two sides with european qualification hopes in Sheffield United and Totenham before finishing against Manchester United in what could be a pivotal match.

Chelsea have play Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, Norwich, Liverpool and Wolves. They should be confident of picking up enough points for Champions League Next season.

Manchester United are away at relegation battlers Aston Villa, before hosting Southampton and travelling away to Crystal Palace before finishing with West Ham (H) and Leicester (A).

Wolves start their run in away at fellow european contenders Sheffield United, Then Everton at home and Burnley Away who haven’t ruled themselves out of Europa League contention. Their final two matches are at home to Crystal Palace and away Chelsea.

As it stands with a Top 5 finish enough to qualify for the Champions League I’d predict the current top 5 staying as they are with Wolves having just to much ground to make up.

We now turn our focus to Europa League qualification with Wolves almost certain to at least take one spot Arsenal, Sheffield United, Burnley, Totenham are the main contenders for the remaining two spots.

Arsenal have a key next 3 matches as they face Leicester, Totenham and Liverpool before a double header against relegation threatened Aston Villa and Watford.

Sheffield United had a poor restart until a 3-1 win against Totenham, this run has pulled them out of Champions League Contention however Europa League is still likely on their first season back in the premier league. Although their run could prove problematic as they play Wolves, Chelsea then Leicester before Everton and Southampton.

Burnley are in contention following a good restart and they face a West Ham who are improving in their battle to stay up and champions Liverpool in next 2 games. Before playing Wolves, Norwich and Brighton.

There is a key match in the race tonight as Totenham play Everton with the winner in a good position. After this match Spurs play Bournemouth, Arsenal, Newcastle, Leicester and Crystal Palace. whilst Everton play Southampton, Wolves, Aston Villa, Sheffield United and Bournemouth.

Man City Women snap up Chloe Kelly on Free Transfer from Everton

Man City Women have bolstered their ranks ahead of the upcoming WSL season with the signing of talented striker Chloe Kelly from Everton.

The England international, rejected a new contract with the Toffees to sign for the Citizens on a three year deal. She will wear the number nine shirt at City, and is new manager Gareth Taylor’s  first signing since taking charge.

The 22 year old started her career at Arsenal, scoring just 22 minutes into her debut against Watford in the Continental Cup in July 2015. She made a further 12 appearances for the Gunners, scoring two more goals, before heading to Everton on loan.

The club were in the WSL 2 at the time and Kelly made nine starts, netting twice, as Everton finished top of the table in the Spring Series. She then returned to Merseyside for a second spell when Everton were promoted to the WSL 1 in 2017.

She made the move permanent in January 2018 and hasn’t looked back since, playing 32 games and scoring 11 goals, earning plaudits for her terrific performances up front.

The majority of those strikes came in 2019-20 as Kelly enjoyed a stellar season. She bagged nine goals in just twelve games in the WSL before the campaign was abruptly ended due to the coronavirus pandemic as Everton finished sixth.

She declined to extend her stay on Merseyside, citing her need to challenge for trophies and to play in Europe as a determining factor in her switch to City.

Kelly is also experienced on the international scene having featured for the Three Lions from U15 level right through to senior level, making her debut for the Lionesses as a substitute in a 3-0 win over Austria in November 2018.

She was also part of the England U20 side who won bronze at the 2018 FIFA U20 World Women’s Cup and has since won three more caps for England.

Upon putting pen to paper, Kelly told City’s official website of her delight at joining the club:

“I’m unbelievably excited. I’m just so happy to have the deal sorted and I can’t wait to get going – I’m honoured to be a City player.

“Manchester City are a hugely ambitious club whose aspirations match my own and as soon as I had my initial discussions with the staff, I knew there and then that it was the place I wanted to be.”

She credits new manager Gareth Taylor, who has taken the reigns after Nick Cushing’s departure, for persuading her to choose Manchester as her new home, stating:

“Having spoken to Gareth too after he joined the team, I could sense immediately what a great manager he is and I was excited by the idea of working with him.”

The signing represents a huge coup for Man City, who were cruelly pipped to the title this season on points per game by Chelsea, who had a game in hand before the curtailment of the WSL.

Taylor expressed his delight at the signing to City’s official website:

“We’re thrilled that Chloe has put pen to paper to join us here at Manchester City.

“She is an incredibly exciting young talent who has broken onto the scene in the Women’s Super League and the England set-up in recent years, but there’s still so much more to come from her.”

City also announced that defender Gemma Bonner has penned a two year contract extension, with the 28 year old telling City’s site:

“I’ve had a really good two years, especially last season. I played some of my best football with some incredible players around me, so I can’t wait to continue that journey.”

The Telegraph has reported that City are close to further strengthening their squad, having agreed deals for Lyon duo Lucy Bronze, who left City for France in 2017 and Alex Greenwood who previously featured for rivals Man United.

They signed short term contracts to allow them to play in the Champions League with the French champions but they are set to leave once the tournament is concluded in August.

Sky Bet Championship Weekend Review

Leeds continue their march towards the Premiership. In form Bees put pressure on top two. Bottom two suffer heavy defeats.

League leaders Leeds United strengthened their position at the top of the table after completing a 3-1 victory at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

The visitors took an early lead when Patrick Bamford slotted home after just seven minutes. Kalvin Phillips curled in a superb free kick to give the visitors a two-goal lead at the interval.

Adam Armstrong pulled a goal back for Rovers with an outstanding free kick, only for Mateusz Klich to restore Leeds two goal advantage for their 11th win on the road this the season.

High flying Brentford strengthened their play-off place with a 3-0 victory against Wigan Athletic at Griffin Park and turned up the heat on their bid to gain automatic promotion.

Said Benrahama’s hat trick, saw the Bees set a club record after a fifth successive win without conceding a goal. The Algerian forward has now hit an impressive 14 goals for the season.

The heavy defeat ended what has been a turbulent week in the Latics history after the club went into administration on Wednesday. The loss to Brentford also saw Joe Garner see red late in the game.

Josh Onomah’s stoppage time winner kept Fulham’s automatic promotion hopes on track after the 95th minute winner was enough for the Londoners side to grab all three points against Birmingham City at Craven Cottage.

A fourth successive defeat resulted in Bristol City removing Lee Johnson from his post immediately after the 1-0 loss to Cardiff City at Ashton Gate on Saturday.

Danny Ward climbed off the bench to net a late winner for the Bluebirds, who are now unbeaten in five games and keeps them in the play-off mix. Remarkably, this is the 16th goal scored by a Cardiff substitute this season.

The East Midland derby between Derby County and Nottingham Forest lived up to its billing with both sides getting a share of the points at Pride Park.

The hosts were indebted to Chris Martin’s 97th minute goal to rescue a point against fellow promotion hopefuls Forest. Martin bundled the ball home from close range moments after Rams substitute Martin Waghorn received a straight red card. Earlier it was the visitors who drew first blood when Joe Lolley struck for Forest.

Huddersfield’s hopes of pulling away from the bottom three and Preston’s play-off aspirations both suffered a blow as they played out a goalless draw at The John Smiths Stadium on Saturday.

A remarkable afternoon from Ivory Coast international Yakou Mieite helped Reading to their first win in four games with a 5-0 victory against lowly Luton Town at Kenilworth Road.

Mieite completed an 18-minute hat trick before he added his fourth of the afternoon in the 62nd minute. George Puscas header was the icing on the cake for the visitors on 57 minutes, who are now nicely positioned in the middle of the table.

It was an afternoon to forget for The Hatters, who remain at the foot of the table and five points adrift from safety with five games to play.

Stoke City handed out a 4-0 drubbing to Barnsley at the Bet 365 Stadium on Saturday.

The Potters raced into a two-goal lead inside the opening ten minutes through Sam Vokes and Tyrese Campbell.

Cambell bagged his second of the  afternoon before the interval, with substitute Tom Ince netting three minutes from time to complete a comprehensive victory which leaves Stoke two points clear of the bottom three and Barnsley still four points off Safety.

Swansea City continued their challenge for a play-off place after a 2-1 victory against Sheffield Wednesday at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.

After a goalless first half, the deadlock was broken when Liverpool loanee Rhian Brewster scored. Andre Ayew struck the Swans second goal from the penalty spot. Atdhe Nuhiu headed in an injury time consolation goal for Wednesday, who drop to 15th place.

Jordan Hughill’s delicious lob proved the winner as QPR defeated Middlesborough by a single goal at the Riverside on Sunday. The defeat leaves Neil Warnock’s side in the bottom three, one point away from Hull in 21st place.

West Brom closed the gap on leaders Leeds to just a single point after a 4-2 win over Hull City on Sunday afternoon.

Charlie Austin opened the scoring for the Baggies in the fourth minute, only for Kevin Stewart to level for Hull, before Ahmed Hegazi  restored West Brom’s lead before half time.

Hull quickly drew level inside three minutes of the restart through Mallik Wilks header. Within seconds West Brown regained the lead for the third time in this enthralling match when Kamil Grosicki scored.

Grady Diangana restored West Brom’s two goal advantage with fifteen minutes to go. Deep into injury time Albion were reduced to ten men when Hegazi spoilt his afternoons work by picking up his second yellow of the game. However, the result left WBA with a healthy five-point cushion over the play-off pack with five games remaining.

 

Vardy hits 100, But should Leicester be worried?

Jamie Vardy was back in the goals in usual fashion as the foxes comfortably dispatched Crystal Palace 3-0. However the fact this result was somewhat of a surprise represents the poor form Leicester have been in since the turn of the year.

Before the Palace game, Vardy had been on a barren run in front of goal and the race for top 4 was seemingly ready to kick Leicester out. So can they keep this run of form or is it just a rare win? Let’s take a look:

The pessimist and optimist view

Their start of season form saw them compete with Liverpool for the title but a huge drop off since then has seen them come within only 3 points of dropping out the top 4 entirely.

So should their fans be concerned? Yes, it was a convincing win but it bucks a trend of poor performances. Their restart began with 2 losses and 2 draws – scoring only two goals in the process and being knocked out of the FA cup.

A common critique of this Leicester side is where the goals would come from should Vardy lose his form, and that has been shown with their recent form. This included being knocked out of the EFL cup semi-finals by strugglers Aston Villa, and a February month with no wins from 4 matches – only scoring two goals and losing to bottom club Norwich.

Looking at them in the Premier League form table since matchday 20 until now they sit in 9th, whereas the teams they are competing with all sit in the top 6, so if they are to retain their position they could do well with picking up some form.

Vardy was struggling with form during this period and results reflected that. It’s no coincidence that they won this game comfortably with him scoring. Whether Leicester can pick up some form depends highly on their star man performing, which really shows just how good Vardy is.

Whilst this all stacks up as just a buck in the trend, those results have a history of kickstarting a season again. When a team goes through a rough patch, a win can completely change the mentality. Just look at Arsenal in the last few games.

So whilst you could say their overall form hasn’t shown the consistency needed, maybe this result was what the club needed to get that going again – you don’t become a bad team overnight after all.

A Fairytale story

Let’s forget the slightly pessimistic view for a second and appreciate the story of Jamie Vardy. He made his Premier League debut at 27 years of age and has flow into a prestigious 100 club.

Considering the relatively short amount of time he has spent in the top flight the company he holds now in Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer and many more is remarkable.

His rise to prominence of course came when Leicester won their unbelievable Premier League trophy; with him, Mahrez and Kante being highlighted as key players.

He was even linked with Arsenal once the season had ended, but many brushed him off as a one season wonder. Despite his amazing goal record you could be forgiven for thinking he was a one season wonder.

He still remains quite the underrated striker, with many people talking about Aguero, Aubameyang, Rashford, etc.

Taking a look at his goal record you can see he has consistently been up there with the best strikers in the league:

Screen Shot 2020-07-05 at 17.31.17

Yet we don’t always here the same praise for him as we do for the other top strikers in the league. Maybe the unfashionable name and controversy with his wife has had some form of subconscious effect.

Whether he is talked about or not, the fact of the matter remains that he is Leicester’s key man, and if he can pick up the goals again, the golden boot and Champions League football could be on the way to the King Power.

We had a chat with FoxesFancast about Leicester’s season and form since the restart. The interview also features the fans relationship with the owners and the future.  

Full video here:

 

Starlet Jones Signs Long-Term Contract With Liverpool

Champions Liverpool received a timely boost on Saturday evening with the announcement that youngster Curtis Jones had put pen to paper on a new five year contract to remain on Merseyside for the foreseeable future.

The 19 year old, who became Liverpool’s youngest ever captain when he donned the armband for the FA Cup replay victory over Shrewsbury, had signed a new deal in August, but was rewarded for his performances this season with a bumper extension at the weekend.

It has been a breakthrough campaign for the Scouser, who has been at the club since the age of eight and worked his way through the various youth ranks to the first team. He made his Premier League debut against Bournemouth in December before scoring his first goal for the Reds, a stunning long range winner against Everton in the FA Cup in January.

He continues to shine at youth level also, netting nine goals and contributing five assists in 14 appearances in the Premier League 2 and scoring five in four games in the UEFA Youth League, including his superb hat-trick against Napoli.

Jürgen Klopp has huge faith in Jones, a centre midfielder by trade who can also play on the left or in a more advanced attacking role. He sees him as a direct replacement for the outgoing Adam Lallana, who will leave Merseyside once the current Premier League campaign ends.

Klopp and his staff and have been impressed with Jones’ showings this year and were keen to tie down his long term future at the club as they already look ahead to next campaign and the challenge of retaining their Premier League.

Upon signing his new deal, Jones told Liverpool’s official site, “For me, as everyone knows, it’s massive. It’s my boyhood club and it’s the whole of my family’s club as well, so for me it’s huge.

“I think the environment is all positive and keeps me as positive as I can. Of course, we’re working with a great manager and around the best team in the world, so for me it was easy and I’m extremely proud.”

 

Moroccan Right Back Achraf Hakimi Signs for Inter Milan

Italian giants Inter Milan have secured the signature of highly rated 21-year old defender Achraf Hakimi from Real Madrid.

Hakimi, who made 17 appearances for Los Blancos after rising through their youth ranks, has penned a five year deal with Antonio Conte’s side, who currently sit third in Serie A.

Dani Carvajal currently occupies the right-back spot at Los Blancos so Hakimi was unwilling to take a back seat after an impressive loan spell in the Bundesliga. This caused the Real Madrid youth product to request a move away from the Bernabeu.

Subsequently, Inter paid €40 million (£36 million) with €5 million add ons for the CAF Young Player of the Year winner. He was pictured in Milan for his medical on Tuesday, and confirmed the move on his official Instagram account this evening.

Real Madrid also released a statement on the departure of Hakimi saying:

“The club want to thank Achraf for all these years of dedication, professionalism and exemplary behaviour since he arrived at our academy in 2006 and wish him luck in this new stage of his career.”

Hakimi has spent the past two seasons on loan in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, where he played 70 games, scoring 12 goals and striking up a potent partnership with Jadon Sancho on the right flank.

He put in some particularly impressive performances in the Champions League, providing a hat-trick of assists against Atletico Madrid last season, before scoring braces against both Slavia Prague and his new employers Inter in this year’s group stages.

Lucian Favre tended to use Hakimi as a right wing-back in a 3-4-2-1 formation, given his ability to attack at pace and deliver pin-point crosses. He is also defensively, very sound, adept at playing long balls which open up opposition defences.

It is likely Conte will utilising the Moroccan in a similar role, given his reputation for setting teams up to play with a three at the back and having creative wing-backs as attacking outlets.

Hakimi is equally capable of playing as a winger, having featured there during his days in Real Madrid’s academy, whilst he can also slot in at left back.

At just 21 years of age and with over 100 senior appearances to his name, Hakimi is certainly a very exciting signing for Inter as they look to challenge Juventus.

The Nerazzurri have not won the league title since 2010 and acquiring a new superstar in Hakimi will certainly make them a formidable opponent in Serie A next season.

Written by Lauren McCann and Jonathan Abraham

League of Ireland Given Green Light to Resume On 31st July

The FAI have announced that League of Ireland is set to return on 31st July after a vote by clubs this week.

The 2020 League of Ireland season had been suspended after just five games as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, with Shamrock Rovers sitting top having won all their games to date, three points ahead of last year’s winners Dundalk.

Sligo Rovers are bottom of the table, having failed to pick up any points in their first five games, while Cabinteely are the current leaders of the First Division.

All teams will play 18 games, including those which have already taken place, a condensed version of the 36 game season in the Premier Division, with 27 games taking place in the First Division.

Promotion and relegation are still in place, including play offs, after clubs chose this out of the four options presented to them from the National League Executive Committee, as the best format to continue the season.

There will be automatic promotion and relegation whilst the ninth placed team in the Premier Division will face the winner of the playoffs (comprised of the second, third fourth and fifth placed teams) from the First Division, the first time this has been introduced, after it was proposed ahead of the start of the current campaign.

The sticking point surrounding the restart of the league was largely the relegation proposition, with many clubs unhappy at the prospect of two teams being relegated in a reduced 18 game season.

The Premier Clubs Alliance yesterday wrote to the FAI on behalf of the majority of the clubs in the Premier Division to express their dismay at the promotion and relegation scenario in the current option taken to restart the season.

They believe the National League Executive Committee, who made the controversial call, was ill advised and called for an immediate investigation into their decision from the FAI.

Waterford and Sligo, were two of the clubs to publicly criticise the proposal, with Sligo releasing a statement which reads:

“This format was of particular disappointment to the club and is something we sternly object to. We believe it is grossly unfair, unjust and do not see the matter as concluded.”

Fixtures for the return are still to be announced and it is not yet clear whether spectators will be allowed in the stadium.

The government have said that outdoor gatherings of up to 500 people will be permitted in the Republic of Ireland from the 20th July, which could open the door to a limited number of fans being allowed to attend games.

Many clubs have been training since the start of June, in staggered groups. In accordance with FAI guidelines, they can schedule friendly matches from the 11th July, 10 days before the proposed restart.

In a statement, FAI Interim Deputy CEO Niall Quinn said:

“It’s good that we can now start to look towards a return date and also that we have clarity on what the fixture list will look like and the plan for the rest of the season.”

The FAI also declared that they are committed to playing out the 2020 FAI Cup, albeit in a slightly different format.

Quinn explained:

“What we’ve discussed at this point is that the eight quarter-finalists will complete the FAI Cup after the SSE Airtricity League season has ended, and they will be rewarded for getting to that point, to help them financially for the remaining Cup matches and the longer season.”

Real Madrid all set to launch Women’s team for 2020/21 campaign

Real Madrid has finally ended its wait to launch a women’s team by buying out Madrid based club CD Tacon for 300,000 euros.

Los Blancos were one of the few remaining major European clubs not to have a women’s team but now have been encouraged to invest in the women’s game following in the footsteps of other leading teams such as Manchester United and Juventus.

The official name of the Spanish club is set to be Real Madrid Femenino, replacing that of CD Tacon and the merger will be confirmed once the men’s La Liga season ends on 19 July.

Following the confirmation of the takeover, President Florentino Perez said:

“Real Madrid must be part of this worldwide phenomena and the time has come to face this new challenge and build a football team which is able to compete and of which we can feel proud.”

Madrid’s impending arrival on the Women’s European stage arguably leaves German Bundesliga’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund as the biggest European club not to have a senior women’s team.

Unlike the men’s team, however, the women’s side in the short term at least will be playing catch up with fierce rivals FC Barcelona Femeni and Atletico Madrid Femenino, whose teams are already firmly established in the women’s game.

Players from other leading European clubs have stressed what ‘a huge positive’ the introduction of Real Madrid to the women’s game will be.

Lyon forward, Ada Hegerberg, who was the first winner of the Women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, said:

“I’m hoping they will stabilise the investment over a long period and that they have a long-term perspective because it can’t happen overnight.”

This view appears to be shared by the Real Madrid President, who, despite the obvious pressure of competing for instant success, has stressed that Los Blancos are planning to invest in young Spanish talent rather than recruiting from abroad.

Indeed, steps have already been put in place so that this is enforced, as there will also be Real teams between U16 and U19 level.

Perez added:

“CD Tacon was chosen because this club has an academy structure which allow us to remain loyal to our philosophy from day one.  As such, we will look to scout, train and develop young talent.”

These positive actions already taken by Los Blancos seem that to indicate they are intent on contributing to the sport’s continuing development and growth and with the top two Spanish Leagues set to go professional next season, the future of women’s football in Spain certainly appears to be heading in the right direction.

Bayern Munich agree fee for Manchester City winger

Manchester City have agreed a £54.8 million fee for Leroy Sane to complete a move to Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich. Sane will reportedly sign a four-year deal worth around £385,000 a week.

The German international turned down a new contract with City, who had been willing to pay only around half the wages Bayern have agreed.  The Citizens ultimately decided to sell him rather than risk losing him for free next year when his contract expired.

Sane will now fly out to Munich to complete the move and will stay in Germany for the rest of the season, rather than return for City’s Champions League campaign.

A move to the German giants was on the cards last summer, only for Sane to suffer a serious knee injury during the community shield which ruled him out of action for ten months.

Despite City valuing him at an astonishing £140 million a year ago, getting almost £55 million for the 24-year-old would appear to be some exceptionally good business done by Pep Guardiola.

However, this move would be a disappointing end to Sane’s City career that appeared at one time to be heading for great things at the Etihad after he was crowned PFA Young Player of the Year in 2018.

Sane, was understood to be shocked to be left out of Joachim Low’s German World Cup squad- at the time a move that was quiet baffling- after his magnificent contribution of 10 goals and 15 assists to the record breaking City side, who became the first to break the 100 points barrier in an English top flight season.

In his total appearances of 90 games for City in the Premiership, he has scored 25 goals with 28 assists in a side that has won 68 times, with only nine defeats.

Sane, certainly looks likely to become one of the key components of Hans Flick’s German machine. Not only will the German Champions have the likes of Thiago, Javi Martinez and Alphonso Davies in midfield, they will be now able to throw Sane into the mix as well.  Ultimately, City’s loss looks to be Bayern’s gain, with the German champions squad for next season enhanced by the signing of Leroy Sane.

Already this season Bayern’s strength in depth of their squad is frightening. Enough already to secure the Bundesliga title and the possibility of the Champions League, which is still up for grabs. Adding Sane into this quality squad will only see Der FCB continue to dominate German football for the foreseeable future.

 

Vivianne Miedema named Football Writers Women’s Footballer of the Year

Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema has won the Football Writers’ Association Women’s Footballer of the Year award by the narrowest of margins. Miedema claimed the award by just a single vote after missing out last year by the same margin.

She was pushed all the way in the voting by Chelsea’s Bethany England and follows Lionesses forwards Nikita Parris (2019) and Fran Kirby (2018), to be named the third FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year.

Chelsea’s Norwegian talent Guro Reiten and Lyon’s England defender Lucy Bronze were joint third. Both players were named ahead of Manchester City and England Women’s World Cup 2019 Bronze Boot winner Ellen White.

The voting panel also gave special praise to: Steph Houghton and Lauren Hemp from Manchester City, the Chelsea pair of Erin Cuthbert and Sophie Ingle, Rachel Furness, Beth Mead of Arsenal, Lauren James of Manchester United and Chloe Kelly from Everton.

The 23-year-old Miedema was the Women’s Super League’s top scorer this season with 16 goals in 14 appearances. This included a double hat-trick in Arsenal’s 11-1 drubbing of Bristol City in December. She is also currently her country’s leading goalscorer with 60 goals, and also helped Holland reach last year’s World Cup final.

Runner up, England helped Chelsea win this season’s WSL title after the Blues were declared champions on a points-per-game basis and moved above Manchester City, who were top of the table at the time when the league was halted back in March due to the pandemic. The 21-year-old had another outstanding season for Chelsea, scoring 21 goals in all competitions in their 2019/20 double winning campaign.

Bronze, who earlier this week signed a two month contract extension until August 31st at Lyon to enable her to compete in the Champions League when it resumes later in the summer.  The England full back has subsequently agreed terms to join Manchester City ahead of the new Women’s Super League season. It is also understood that Alex Greenwood has decided to join City along with former Everton forward Kelly.

City, who finished runners up to Chelsea in this seasons truncated campaign will start the new season with no less than 12 regular England internationals including Captain Houghton and England’s most capped player Jill Scott.

Are Real Madrid now La Liga favourites?

Due to Liverpool’s Premier League dominance this season, many fans have cast an eye over European football in the search of a title race. It looked like a fantastic one was forming in Germany, with Bayern Munich stumbling through the campaign and all of Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Borussia Mönchengladbach showing impressive form.

Unfortunately, the appointment of Hansi Flick by the Bavarians turned out to be a stroke of genius, as they put together an incredible run only losing twice in the Bundesliga between 9th November and the end of season. The 1-0 win over Dortmund after the season’s restart all-but-killed the title race with six games to go.

Serie A was also shaping up very nicely, with Inter Milan and Lazio giving Maurizio Sarri’s ailing Juventus side a run for their money. Juve have since improved slightly but that tile race is very much still on. It’s Juve’s to lose, however, as they’re now four points ahead of Lazio with 10 games to go and eight points ahead of Inter.

The closest major title race now appears to be in La Liga. Unfortunately, it’s only a two-horse race and it’s between two of the biggest teams in the world. In a similar style to Bayern, Real Madrid started the season horrendously but now appear to have found some impressive form.

They sit two points ahead of Barcelona having played the same amount of games. Los Blancos have won their last five La Liga fixtures and put themselves in a great position to win their first title since 2016/17. It would also serve to keep Barcelona at arms-length in the fight to have the most La Liga titles in the history. If Zinedine Zidane’s men can deliver the title this season, they’ll have 34 titles in comparison to Barcelona’s 26.

In terms of the run-in, Barcelona have a very tough couple of games coming up. They’re home to Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night and then have an away trip to sixth place Villarreal. After that, however, the fixture list looks more desirable. They have the derby vs bottom-side Espanyol at the Camp Nou, followed by a trip to 14th place Real Valladolid. Next up is a home game vs Osasuna who sit in 11th and they round off the campaign away at 16th placed Alaves.

Real probably have the toughest fixture list out the two sides but not by a clear margin. They have three games that could be very difficult. The first is at home to fifth placed Getafe. That game is followed by a trip to San Mames to play Athletic Bilbao. A more appealing home match against Alaves is followed by the visit of Villarreal to the Santiago Bernabeu. They finish the season away at Leganes.

Barcelona have made a stuttering restart to the season, with draws against Sevilla and Celta Vigo allowing Real to claim top spot. Quique Setien’s inability to get the best out of Antione Griezmann is starting to cause fractions at the club. As well as this, the recent swap deal involving Arthur and Miralem Pjanic now means that one of Barca’s key midfielders is likely disgruntled at being forced out the club that he had no initial interest in leaving.

Beyond this title race, Barca seem to be a club in turmoil. Their recent transfer dealings have been questionable to say the least. Their wage bill is full of wasted talent that it will be hard to offload in a Covid-19 effected transfer market. Lionel Messi seems to look more unhappy game by game and the majority of the first choice eleven are heading well into their mid-30’s. It’s this ageing squad factor that makes the Arthur and Pjanic swap deal even more unusual. Arthur is 23, and Pjanic is 29.

Less and less players seem to be graduating from La Masia to any great effect in the first team, with Ansu Fati the current exception. Just in the past few days it’s been announced that promising academy full backs, Marc Cucurella and Marc Jurado, will be leaving the club.

Real Madrid seem to be riding the crest of a Karim Benzema’s inspired wave right now. The French forward has come into his own as the club’s main man since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure. The return of Marcos Asensio from a lengthy injury spell has given them a new attacking option, and the youthful Vinicius Junior is starting to fulfill his considerable potential.

If Barcelona were to deliver a third successive title to Catalonia, there’s a very real chance that it would merely paper over some very big cracks at the club. Setien hasn’t settled in as expected, and the squad is in need of a major overhaul.

A title for Real on the other hand may be the springboard for another era of dominance. While their squad still has some players the wrong side of 30, it looks in better shape than their fierce rivals.

Arjun Robben is set for Emotional return to his boyhood club

Arjen Robben has surprised the football world by coming out of retirement to make an emotional return to boyhood club FC Groningen.

The 36-year-old announced to the world of social media on Twitter that he was making a shock return to Groningen, after his wife Bernadien persuaded him to get back to playing again for the Dutch side.

In the video clip posted by Robben he says:

“Dear football friends and FC Groningen fans. I was 12 years old when I started playing in FC Groningen’s youth academy. After a wonderful adventure of 18 years, we’re coming home. We’re coming home in this difficult time of crisis, one that also hits FC Groningen.

Robben continued:

“These past few weeks I’ve had many conversations with club staff and maybe more than anything I’ve listened to the call of our supporters. A comeback as an FC Groningen player, I started to play with this idea and now I’ve made it my mission.”

Robben was also inspired to launch his comeback after the club showed him a montage of basketball legend Michael Jordan’s career. Officials from Groningen met with the veteran Robben just days after he retired from football back in May 2019. While that initial approach failed to convince him, further talks last month helped him make his mind up to return back to playing in the Eredivisie.

After joining Groningen back in 1996, the winger progressed to the first team where he made 46 appearances in two seasons, with eight goals to his name. PSV Eindhoven  recognised his talent and snapped him up in 2002 where he played for two seasons scoring 17 goals in 56 appearances. In his debut season for the club he helped them lift the Dutch title for the 17th time.

Both Alex Ferguson and Roman Abramovich quickly became fans of the talented Dutchman, with United making a bid to PSV, which was soon turned down. Almost immediately Chelsea owner Abramovich moved in and offered the Dutch club 18 million euros that was snapped up straight away as he made his move to England in 2004.

Robben was at the West London club for three seasons, making 67 appearances and scoring 15 goals as well as helping Chelsea to back-to-back Premier League titles. His last appearance in a Chelsea shirt was in the FA Cup Final of 2007, which the Blues won in extra time against Manchester United.

Robben moved to Spain in August 2007, when Real Madrid secured his services after signing a five-year deal with the Spanish giants. He went on to make a half century of appearances for Madrid and hit the net 11 times.

In August 2009, Robben moved to German side Bayern Munich for around £25 million, where he spent ten successful seasons making over 200 appearances for Bayern and finishing one short of a century of goals. He also helped the club to eight Bundesliga titles as well as five German Cup wins.

Aside from being an immensely popular club player, Robben has had a wonderful international career in the Orange shirt of Holland. He made his debut in 2003 in an international friendly against Portugal at the tender young age of just 19. He went on to collect 96 caps between 2003 and 2017, scoring 37 goals, before retiring from international football in 2018.

 

 

Danny Ings keeps proving doubters wrong

In a normal world we would have been enjoying the Euro’s but circumstances beyond our control means the tournament will have to be put on hold for another year.

If Euro 2020 would have gone ahead, there would have been one man who would surely have been part of Gareth Southgate’s England squad, Danny Ings.

The Winchester born 27-year-old is already a contender for the Golden Boot award, having hit 18 Premiership goals so far this season, after a brace against Watford at the weekend and is only one behind Jamie Vardy.

Ings started his career in the youth team at Southampton but was released as a schoolboy. Little did they know at the time that they would be calling for his services again in helping the Saints maintaining their stay in the Premiership.

The prolific striker had two seasons at near rivals Bournemouth back in 2009-11 where he made 27 appearances for the Cherries with seven goals to his name.

In between his time with Bournemouth he was sent out on an initial one-month loan to non-league side Dorchester Town, where he scored on his debut against Ebbsfleet United in a 2-1 home defeat. His loan spell was eventually extended by the Conference South side, with Ings grabbing a further three goals in eight more appearances.

In August 2011 Championship side Burnley secured his services. He went on to play 122 games, hitting the net 38 times. His impressive appearances for The Clarets was rewarded when he won the Championship Player Of The Year at the Football League Awards  in 2014.

A year later Ings joined Liverpool, making his debut in a 3-0 loss to West Ham at Anfield. In October Ings suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his left knee and was ruled out for the rest of the season.

However, Ings proved the doubters and everybody wrong by making a quick recovery  and returned back to the side to feature in the final match of the season against West Brom.

Ings, has always had to fight of injuries in his career and suffered another setback when he damaged his right knee in a League Cup match against Tottenham that would require another spell on the sidelines, this time it was nine months.

In September 2017, Ings made his first appearance in 11 months since his injury when he came on as a substitute in the 2-0 defeat to Leicester City in the EFL Cup. He spent a total of four seasons at Anfield, making just 14 appearances with three goals scored.

Due to the form of Liverpool’s magnificent trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino, Ings felt disillusioned and requested a move away from Liverpool. Ings joined Southampton on an initial loan spell in August 2018, which eventually turned into a permanent move. Since the move back to his original club, Ings has scored twenty-five goals for the Saints and this season in particular has looked a classy forward.

One can’t deny that Ings is such an important player for the Saints. If he gets a chance, he rarely misses.  This is a sign of a quality striker.

When you consider the setbacks he has had to suffer- two really bad injuries- he has always come back a better player. He leads the line brilliantly, and at 27 has still got more years in him-injuries permitting.

Although, Euro 2020 will now be 2021 make no mistake that Danny Ings name will still be on everybody’s lips come next year when Southgate names his squad for the Euro’s.

Interested in finding out which players are due to be released from their Premier League clubs this summer?

See details here in link below:

https://247-football.com/2020/06/29/which-players-have-been-released-from-each-premier-league-club/

 

FOREST SOLidify PLAY OFF PLACE

A brace from Lewis Grabban and a late strike from Ryan Yates secured Nottingham Forest a vital 3-1 win over Huddersfield Town at The City Ground.

A goal either side of half-time from Grabban, which took his tally for the season to 19, put daylight between Forest and their struggling visitors and Yates put the icing on the cake with a near-post finish five minutes from time.Juninho Bacuna was shown a straight red card late on for a dangerous lunge on Nuno Da Costa before Karlan Grant scored a penalty in the final minute of six minutes of stoppage time after Joe Worrall shoved Fraizer Campbell to the floor inside the box. The win moves Forest seven points clear of the pack chasing the play off places and seven points behind the automatic promotion places.

The Reds should have been in front inside four minutes. Joe Lolley went on a strong run down the right-hand channel and pulled the ball back into the penalty area for Sammy Ameobi but having picked his spot, the winger crashed his effort against the base of the post.

Brice Samba was called into action on 15 minutes as he was forced to push behind a curling free-kick from Alex Pritchard from the edge of the penalty area before two resulting corners from Huddersfield caused problems with Forest at full-stretch to clear the danger.

The visitors were enjoying the better of the exchanges midway through the first half. A clever free-kick routine saw Karlan Grant drill an effort towards goal from inside the box but Ameobi did well to turn it the ball over the crossbar from inside his own six-yard box. They had a strong shout for a penalty when Ben Watson tripped Pritchard but the referee saw nothing doing.

Two minutes before the interval and Forest had the breakthrough. A deep corner from the right drifted all the way out to Centre Back Joe Worrall in the left-hand channel, he delivered an excellent ball back into the penalty area and an unmarked Grabban produced an excellent thunderous first-time volley to beat Jonas Lossl at his near post.

Just 50 seconds into the second half, Forest doubled their advantage. Ameobi slipped a ball through behind the Huddersfield back four and Grabban let it run in front of him before he slid a low strike under the body of Lossl into the back of The Terriers’ net. As Huddersfield were pushing for a goal at one end, Forest were looking to extend their lead at the other and they sealed the points with five minutes to play. Yates got across his man at the near post and was in an excellent position to stick a foot out and send Lolley’s corner into the net from close range.

Huddersfield saw their afternoon brought to a disappointing end courtesy of Bacuna’s late red card. Referee David Webb had already awarded Huddersfield a free-kick before Bacuna hacked Nuno Da Costa down with a poor challenge on the halfway line and it was enough for Webb to show the former FC Groningen man a straight red.

The visitors did grab a consolation goal in the final minute of stoppage time after Worrall shoved Campbell to the ground inside the penalty area. Grant stepped up to thump the ball beyond Samba into the corner of the net to give them a late goal to take back to West Yorkshire.

Nottingham Forest head coach Sabri Lamouchi was pleased with the victory over Huddersfield but felt there was room for improvement in the performance.

“It was a good result but I am not so happy with the performance because we can play much better. I know that but I am probably impatient with the players because after three months, the most important was to win today and congratulations to the boys.

“To play at The City Ground when usually the fans are always behind us, to play in an empty stadium in this atmosphere is so strange. So congratulations to the boys, the great performance was to win. I am not happy for the goal we conceded or the way we played sometimes, but I am happy because it is a fantastic gift for me from the players after exactly one year here. “It was important to win for the confidence and for the next game in three days. On Wednesday we play again and then against Derby. Now we start the final rush and we are in the race.It is a tough schedule, tough for us but for all the teams. Now we start the money time.”

Read a full review of championship matches this weekend here: https://247-football.com/2020/06/29/championship-review-warnock-starts-with-win-leeds-go-marching-on/

Which Players Have Been Released From Each Premier League Club?

With the end of June fast approaching players across the country who haven’t reached an agreement to extend their contracts will be leaving their respective clubs and can sign for other sides on a free transfer.

Premier League clubs have already published their lists of players who will be released on the 30th June, here is a look at each of the twenty clubs and their departures this summer.

Arsenal

Only one players so far is set to leave the Gunners on the expiry of their contract and that is youngster Tobi Omole. The 20 year old defender has featured regularly for Arsenal’s U23 side but hasn’t made a senior appearance for the first team, despite signing his first professional contract in 2018.

Aston Villa

Relegation threatened Aston Villa will have a number of departures this summer, before their fate has even been decided. Fourteen players will leave the club, including James Chester, Andre Green and Callum O’Hare.

Chester and Green have taken up the option to extend their loan deals at Championship sides Stoke City and Charlton respectively. Academy graduate O’Hare meanwhile, who made nine appearances for the first team, played a staring role for Coventry in League One as they clinched promotion to the Championship.

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Borja Baston and Ross McCormack were other high profile stars exiting the club. Hepburn-Murphy spent 15 years at Villa in their various youth ranks whilst Spaniard Baston was a January deadline day signing from Swansea who made just two appearances for the side.

McCormack’s ill fated spell was finally brought to a close with the expiration of his contract, four years on from his £12 million move from Fulham.

Third choice goalkeeper Matija Sarkic has agreed an extension to see out the current campaign, but will be released after it is concluded.

A number of U23 players are also leaving the club with Jack Birch, Anton Hooper, Dutchman Colin Odutayo, striker Dimitri Sea and New Zealand goalkeeper Jamie Searle departing.

Bournemouth

Another club who are involved in a relegation dogfight, the Cherries will let eleven players leave at the end of their contracts, including a number of big names.

Jermain Defoe, who has been on loan at Rangers since January last year will exit the club along with £15 million winger Jordon Ibe, who has flattered to deceive on the South Coast.

Ryan Fraser, who has been linked with a number of other clubs, rejected the chance to sign a short term extension to see out the end of the season, and so will leave Eddie Howe’s side on June 30th after making over 200 appearances for the club.

Youngsters Charlie Seaman and Tyrell Hamilton, who were both playing non league football this term, will also be leaving the club. Australian Brad Smith has extended his loan stay at Cardiff City, and will leave Bournemouth once the Championship season ends.

Long-serving midfielder Andrew Surman, and full back Charlie Daniels alongside back-up goalkeeper Artur Boruc have all accepted an extension to keep them at the Vitality Stadium until the conclusion of the current Premier League season.

Brighton

Brighton, who have impressed since their return to action after the enforced break due to the coronavirus pandemic, will let nine players leave the club, including a number from the youth team.

English trio Luca Cocoracchio, Archie Davies, Lewis Freestone, Welsh midfielder Jordan Davies and Finnish goalkeeper Hugo Keto have been released, alongside centre back Kacper Lopata and Serbian striker Bojan Samoukovic.

Beram Kayal who has been with the Seagulls since 2015, has signed a short term extension, having returned from his loan spell at Charlton in January following an injury. Ezequiel Schelotto has also signed an extension to keep him at the Amex until the end of this campaign having already played eight times for Brighton this term.

Burnley

Burnley, like Bournemouth, will allow a number of first team squad members to depart Turf Moor at the end of this month. Aaron Lennon and Joe Hart will move on, having played peripheral roles this term.

Irishman Jeff Hendrick, a key cog in the Burnley midfield, is also set to leave having rejected the offer to extend his contract for next season. Goalkeeper Adam Legzdins will also become a free agent, leaving Burnley having failed to make a single appearance in his three year spell at the club.

Tunde Bayode, Christian N’Guessan, Henri Ogunby (who signed a short term deal in January) and Joel Senior, all members of the U23 squad, will also be released.

Chelsea

Chelsea’s squad overall, which began last summer under Frank Lampard will continue, with big hitters Pedro and Willian set to leave the club having failed to reach an agreement to extend their contracts beyond the current campaign.

Pedro has already chosen to link up with Serie A side Roma for the 2020/21 season, whilst cult hero Willian has admitted he could yet extend his stay at Stamford Bridge despite interest from other Premier League clubs.

Other plays exiting the club include defender Josh Grant, who spent the first half of this season on loan at Plymouth, Marcel Lavinier, who has been with the club since the age of seven and Richard Nartey who made 25 appearances for League One side Burton this campaign.

Crystal Palace

No first team player will leave Selhurst Park this summer, in a huge boost for Roy Hodgson, as five members of the development squad have being shown the exit door.

Dion-Curtis Henry who spent time playing in the National League South this season, Kian Flanagan, who was the U23 Young Player of the Year last season and Jason Lokilo, who made his senior bow for the club in an EFL Cup tie against Ipswich in August 2017 join Jacob Mensah and Joe Tupper in leaving the club.

Everton

Carlo Ancelotti’s Merseyside rebuild will begin in earnest this summer, and the club has started by releasing some dead wood from their squad.

Back-up goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg will depart once the current campaign is over to join his former side Ajax, whilst Cuco Martina, signed on a free transfer from Southampton in 2017, will also move on.

Luke Garbutt, who came through the Toffees’ academy system will also be allowed to leave once his contract expires, having spent the past four years on loan in League One and the Championship. Outcast Oumar Niasse, a £13.5 million signing from Lokomotiv Moscow four and a half years ago, is the fourth and final first team player to be released.

U23 players Morgan Feeny, Alex Denny, Matty Foulds, Manasse Mampala and Korede Adedoyin will all leave Everton along with Kieran Phillips, who will depart once he completes his loan spell at Huddersfield.

Leicester City

Long serving midfielder Andy King will leave the Foxes this summer, after 378 appearances during a 15 year spell with the club, which saw him win the Premier League in 2016. He has spent the past two seasons on loan in the Championship after falling out of favour but he will go down as a club hero among Leicester fans.

U23 captain George Thomas, first choice goalkeeper Viktor Johansson, Irish midfielder Conor Tee and Ryan Loft will also say their goodbyes at the end of this season. They join Rhys Davies, Ed Elewa-Ikpakwu, Justen Kranthove and Bruneian Faiq Bolkiah in leaving the club.

Liverpool

The Premier League champions will wave goodbye to Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne this summer, two men who played a starring role in Klopp’s early years in charge of the Reds before injury derailed both their careers on Merseyside.

Lallana was offered a short term extension to his contract, to ensure that he can pick up a Premier League winners medal, although right back Clyne was not afforded the same luxury and will leave on the 30th June.

Third choice stopper Andy Lonergan has also been handed a short term extension to complete the season at Anfield.

Liverpool will also let Academy prospects Isaac Christie-Davies, who played against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup earlier in the season, goalkeepers Shamal George, Daniel Atherton and Kai McKenzie-Lyle leave the club along with defender Jack Walls.

Manchester City

City’s big name departure is of course David Silva, who will bring the curtain down on his glorious ten year spell in Manchester once the current campaign ends, having signed a short term extension to see out the end of the season.

The Spaniard has won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups, five EFL Cups and Teo Community Shields during his time with the Citizens, as well as amassing over 300 appearances, scoring 58 goals in the process and going down as a true City legend.

His next destination remains to be seen as the 34 year old reportedly has offers from across the globe.

Claudio Bravo, City’s second choice goalkeeper is also set to depart the club this summer. After signing from Barcelona in 2016, the Chilean endured a difficult first season as the number one shot stopper at the club, before he was replaced by Ederson in 2017.

Since then the 37 year old has been playing second fiddle to the Brazilian, appearing predominantly in cup competitions. He has been linked with a host of clubs including Arsenal and Celtic, according to the Manchester Evening Standard.

Joining them in leaving the Etihad this summer are Ghanaian midfielder Ernest Agyiri and goalkeeper Thomas Scott.

Manchester United

United will wave goodbye to eight academy players at the end of the current season. Of those leaving, Cameron Borthwick- Jackson is the only player to have featured for the first team, making 10 appearances for the Red Devil’s. He has spent this campaign on loan with League One side Oldham Athletic.

Irish goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara will depart, after spending the majority of his United career on loan at lower league clubs. Nineteen year old Dion McGhee, Demetri Mitchell, who scooped the United Reserve Player of the Year in 2018, Englishmen Aidan Barlow and George Tanner, goalkeeper Alex Fojitcek and midfielder Ethan Hamilton have also been released.

Newcastle

Goalkeeper Rob Elliot will bring his nine year stay on Tyneside to an end this summer. The Englishman last made an appearance for the Magpies in 2017 having fallen down the pecking order at the club.

Jack Colback will also leave Newcastle at the end of the campaign, having spent the entirety of last season on loan at Nottingham Forest. Academy graduate Jamie Sterry joins him in departing, having made three appearances for his boyhood club.

Youth players Luke Charman, Victor Fernandez, Liam Gibson and Nathan Harker have been released after their contracts expired.

Norwich

Basement side Norwich will allow seven players to leave the club upon the expiring of their contracts this summer.

They are all members of the U23 squad, with the majority having spent this campaign out on loan. Diallang Jaiyesimi, Mason Bloomfield, Timi Odusina, Saavas Mourgos, Alfie Payne and Billy Johnson played their football away from Carrow Road, whilst Tom Scully remained at Norwich in the U23 squad this term.

Sheffield United

The Blades, who have enjoyed a fairytale first season back in the Premier League, will see a raft of players leave the club this summer.

First team squad players Leon Clarke, Jack Rodwell, Phil Jagielka, Kieron Freeman, who have made a combined seven Premier League appearances this season have all signed short term extensions but are still likely to exit the club once those expire.

January signing Connor Leak-Blunt has also signed a short term extension, after impressing with the U23 side.

Mark Duffy, who has been at Bramall Lane since 2016, playing over 100 games for the club will depart this summer, along with Ricky Holmes, who has announced his retirement from football after a back injury.

They join youngsters Ta’Shae Andall-Gibbons, Keenan Ferguson, Oliver Greaves, Callum Gribbin (formerly of Manchester United), Harry Sheppeard, Samuel Ompreon, Reece York and Jake Young I’m waving their goodbyes to Bramall Lane.

Ben Heneghan and Nathan Thomas will also be released having spent this campaign on loan at Blackpool and Carlisle respectively.

Southampton

The Saints will allow long serving defender Maya Yoshida to leave Saint Mary’s, once his contract expires. The Japanese international has not been offered a short term extension and so will leave the club on 30th June.

Cedric Soares, has also left the Saints, joining Arsenal on a permanent deal, despite having failed to register a single appearance since his loan move to the Gunners in January.

Twenty-three year old Marcus Barnes, who made his first, and only appearance for Southampton in an FA Cup tie against Derby in January 2019 will leave along with U23 goalkeeper Alex Cull, defender Simon Kozak, midfielder Harlem Hale, Irishman Aaron O’Driscoll and forward Christian Norton. Goalkeeper Jack Rose, who spent time on loan at Walsall this year, will also be released.

Tottenham

Jan Vertonghen has signed a short term extension, to keep him at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium until the end of the current campaign, although his future at the club after that remains to be seen.

Third choice goalkeeper Michel Vorm has also penned an extension to see out the season at Spurs, but he is set to depart after it expires.

U23 quartet Rayan Clarke, Phoenix Patterson, Maxwell Stratham and Jonathan Dinzeyi have had their contracts extended until the end of the current Premier League campaign, with their long term futures still to be decided. Twenty year old defender Tariq Hinds has been released.

Watford

The Hornets, who are hovering dangerously over the drop zone, will allow up to eleven players leave Vicarage Road this summer.

Defensive stalwarts Adrian Mariappa and Jose Cholevas, along with back up goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes have signed short term extensions to help Watford in their fight to escape relegation.

Twenty-one year old midfielder Callum Whelan, who made his Watford debut as a substitute in the FA Cup game with Tranmere in January, before starting the replay a week later, has also renewed his contract until the end of the current campaign.

U23 captain Jamal Balogun, Jayden Bennetts, who also made his Hornets’ debut in the replay defeat to Tranmere, Kaylen Hinds, who scored Watford’s equaliser in that game, forward Micheal Folivi, defenders Lewis Gordon and Cameron Green and have all been released.

West Ham

Defenders Pablo Zabaleta and Carlos Sanchez, who have played 16 Premier League games between them this season, will leave the Hammers once their contract expires, with Zabaleta rejecting a short term extension.

Also departing the London Stadium are U23 players Anouar El Mhassani, Reece Hannam and Louie Watson.

Wolves

High flying Wolves will allow five players to leave the club once their contracts expire.

Jordan Graham, who has had five separate loan spells during his five years at Wolves has already left the club and is joined by Phil Ofosu-Ayeh who failed to make a single appearance in his three years with the club, young defender Connor Johnson, Irish winger Callum Thompson and Swiss midfielder Ming-Yang Yang.

Leeds United finally show their cutting edge!

A crunch game at the top of the Championship is a good time to start being able to finish off your chances. Well, ideally it’s something that you’d be doing all season. Although with Leeds, it can never be that straightforward.

In the end, however, a match against third place Fulham – key challengers for automatic promotion – towards the end of the season is a pretty good game to start finding that clinical edge.

Patrick Bamford after having a graphic displayed by Sky Sports pre-match highlighting his woes in front of goal compared to Aleksander Mitrovic, cooly slid in Leeds’s opener from the edge of the area in the 10th minute. 

True to form, Marcelo Bielsa decided that despite scoring, Bamford’s all-round game was not good enough and hooked him at half time. Him along with Helder Costa, who provided the assist. 

It felt like a true ‘Bielsa’ moment – valuing the system and team above all else. Subsequently, it worked a treat as Costa’s replacement Ezgjan Alioski grabbed a second on the break.  Just before fellow half time substitute Pablo Hernandez provided a gorgeous pass to set Jack Harrison free for a third. 

The Whites were clinical, incisive and displayed calmness when openings presented themselves. So, after a season of struggling to put away chances, why did Leeds suddenly click in front of goal? 

Leeds have had the most shots per game in the league with 16.3. They’ve also had the most on target with 5.2 per game and the most off target with 7 per game. They’ve even hit the woodwork more times than any other side in the Championship – having struck it 15 times this season. 

Swarming teams, dominating possession (Leeds’s average of 59.7% is the highest in the league) and creating chance after chance yet missing them has become typical for the Whites. 

Yet against Fulham on Saturday, they scored three goals despite having far less shots than their average of 16.2 – only managing 10 attempts. Of these 10 shots, however, half were on target – a far better ratio than their average.

Of these five shots on target, three were scored. It far outstrips their usual shot conversation rate of around 13% for the season. 

The answer to this puzzle is indicated by the possession stats from this game.  

In sharp contrast to most of their matches this season, Leeds only had 43% possession. This meant that they were playing on the break more often than usual, something which can often lead to a higher quality of chance being created.

In most games, the opposition tend to accept that Leeds will dominate the ball and fall back in numbers to defend. Leeds’s excellent possession play and speed with the ball still yields chances in good areas but more often than not the circumstances they are shooting are rather difficult.

Defenders are likely to be snapping at their heels and there will often be bodies to shoot through. Leeds’s players will often only have a split second to get their shot off before a defender comes clattering towards them. 

Against Fulham, Bamford was under no pressure as he stepped up to slot the ball accurately out of Marek Rodak’s reach. For their second, a counter attack left Fulham defenders flailing and off balance.  This provided Alioski time to steady himself before finishing easily into the bottom corner. 

Despite Harrison being under pressure from a defender behind him for Leeds’s third, a higher line than what the Whites usually face gave Hernandez space to pass into for Harrison to have a free run at goal. 

Some of Leeds’s most frustrating defeats have come alongside some of their highest possession statistics. They managed 69% against Cardiff last week, 70% in their 2-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest and a remarkable 77% in their 1-0 loss against Wigan. Losses against teams adept at packing the defence and being able to strike directly and on the counter. 

Ultimately, Fulham – who have the second highest average possession in the Championship with 58.4% – and their tendency to want the ball gave Leeds the opportunities they desired. Opportunities with more space in behind and more time for Leeds’s players to be able to pick their spots.

North Carolina Courage defeat Portland Thorns in opening match of NWSL Challenge Cup

Soccer is back in the U.S.! No, sports are back in the U.S.!

After Utah Jazz centre Ruby Gobert contracted the coronavirus, cancelling their matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 11, there have been no sports across the pond since. The NWSL officially became the first sports league to open up as the defending champion North Carolina Courage opened the Challenge Cup with a 2-1 against the Portland Thorns.

Also, the matchup, played at Zion’s Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, was one for the ages as it was the first time a women’s club soccer games was televised on network TV in the U.S.

After the first match ended with a tie at zero, the Courage were able to get on the board in the 75th-minute. Substitute Hailie Mace crossed the ball to Brazilian star Debinha, who headed the ball into the net from close range.

 

However, the lead was short-lived as five minutes later, the Thorns and recent World Cup winner Lindsey Horan had a long-range pass to Simone Charley, who headed the equaliser.

 

In the fourth minute of extra time, Lynn Williams had the game-winning goal after heading in a cross from Samantha Mewis.

 

Sports fans in the States were waiting patiently for the return of sports and the NWSL held the privilege of being the first league back in the U.S.

Interview with former England and Crystal Palace player John Salako

John Salako has had a successful playing career over a spell of 19 years. He featured for eight clubs as well as earning the right to play for England.

With the Premier League returning just over a week ago, Salako believes it was the right time to come back:

“We’ve longed for it. I was very much an advocate of getting football back.

“If anyone could do it safely I knew it was us, the Premier League, the Championship. We have got great staff and people in and around the grounds. The clubs are really well run now with the doctors and physiotherapists, the way it has been organised has been tremendous.

“The games have been fantastic, much better than I thought they would be. The crowd sound, they have put a lot into that and I think that has been a massive plus and at times when you are watching it on the television you forget that there isn’t a crowd there.”

There is understandably concerns for Premier League players returning back so quickly, but Salako recognises that circumstances have chanced since his playing days:

“In our day we would finish the season and we would have three to four weeks off. You would come back pre-season and you would need to build up a six-week programme to be fit enough to start playing.

“ These guys, however, a lot of them have gyms at home, tread machines and bikes, which would have kept them fit.  You are going to see a lot of muscular injuries that won’t be able to be prevented, as well as the heat and going straight back into that intensity of playing is part and parcel of the game.

“They are really at a level where they are proper athletes. The diet, nutrition and the psychological side of it and the training programme are fantastic and second to none. Overall, I’m delighted that they decided to go ahead and play it, and it’s going really well.”

Salako joined Crystal Palace at a young age, and has never looked back:

“It was fantastic, growing up and coming through the ranks at Palace then getting into the first team, getting to the cup final and then we finished third in the Premier League and you look back and think wow, that team was a damn good side.”

Salako also represented England and won five caps in his playing days.

“I got into the England side and went off to Australasia and unfortunately came back that winter and I ruptured my knee. I had two years of three major operations. I’ve managed to play 600 games and to have a half decent career, barring those injuries, I would have liked to have achieved a lot more, but life sometimes doesn’t work out that way.”

Apart from playing for Palace, Salako went on to manage the club for a season:

“I joined Palace just before my 14th birthday, and I was there until I was 26. I absolutely loved the club, it’s in my heart, that’s home for me and I coached at the under 13’s and 16’s level. Then, I ended up as first team coach, which once again was just incredible as having been out of the game for so long applying for loads of jobs and not even getting an interview.

“I was very motivated and ambitious as I wanted to be a manager. I done my coaching badges and having that opportunity to go back in and be first team manager was incredible. We stayed up, got to the cup final, then I ended up being squeezed out, as they thought they could improve in different areas.”

Palace are thriving at the moment under Roy Hodgson, and has nothing but praise for the former England manager:

“We saw Roy bow out of the England job and we sort of thought well maybe that’s the end for Roy.

“He’s been an incredible coach around the world and has done so much. Roy came in at a time when everyone had written Palace off. He managed to keep them up and then every season he has added and built on pretty much a shoestring budget and it’s been actually incredible, and so I couldn’t give Roy enough praise of what he has done with the tools he has had.”

Black Lives Matter has been a very important message in our lives at the moment. This is also something Salako feels very strongly about:

“It’s so disgusting what’s been happening to black people for so long and they’ve been persecuted and abused and the way that the police force do target and kill black people is disgusting and there is that racial bias through England, Europe and it’s disgusting in America, it really is so bad.

“What we saw with George Floyd is just beyond disgraceful and I think enough is enough, and that plane that flew over the Burnley game the other night saying white lives matter.

“I’ve heard that said a few times and really it’s quiet disheartening and heart-breaking, because it’s just missing the point as there is so much brutality and there is so much hype perpetrated towards black people just because of the colour of their skin and they really are racially down trotters. I’ve been lucky not to get massive amounts of it[racial abuse], but I can imagine people like Ian Wright and people who come from Inner London and I know they have a lot more and have to deal with it on a daily basis. Finally, I am hoping that we are all going to deal with it and take a big step forward and what the Premier League now are doing is hopefully going to have a massive impact.”

Listen to full interview with John Salako by clicking link below: 

https://soundcloud.com/user-365414754/john-solako-football

 

Who is Jude Bellingham?

Jadon Sancho. Lautaro Martinez. Erling Haaland. We see plenty of names being branded about as the next best young players but one player that has flown into the public eye recently is Birmingham City’s Jude Bellingham.

The 16 year-old turns 17 on the 29th and has amassed 33 Championship appearances since 2019, scoring four goals. He caught the attention of FourFourTwo magazine when he scored the winner for the Birmingham U23’s side against Nottingham Forest at the ripe age of 15. By March 2019, he’d made 10 development side appearances and bagged three goals. He was also being linked with top clubs around Europe, Borussia Dortmund being the most talked about name at first.

Bellingham then signed a two-year scholarship with Birmingham to begin in July 2019. He was part of the first-team squad in their pre-season training, played and scored in some pre-season friendlies and was subsequently given the number 22 shirt for the 2019/20 campaign .

On the 6th August 2019, Bellingham became Birmingham City’s youngest ever first-team player when he started an EFL cup tie with Portsmouth. At the age of 16 years and 38 days, he beat the record of 16 years 139 days that Trevor Francis had previously held. The Englishman also captained England U15’s in the 17/18 season and went on to do the same for the U16’s by the end of 2018.

In the current season he has played 33 times, as mentioned before and has played a mix of wing and central midfield positions. He has the physical presence needed for a central midfielder and has a good eye for a pass. For a young player he seems very composed and plays with a maturity beyond his years.

With four goals from midfield, you could also say he has a decent eye for goal, which at 16 is highly impressive. The Championship is a notoriously difficult league to play in and with him being able to establish himself, you would have to say the hype surrounding his talents is justified.

Pep Clotet and the club staff feel he is most suited to an advanced central midfield role.

Speaking in October, Clotet said:

“The only difference between a player who is 16 and a player that has a lot of years as a pro is the way they handle the load.

“He’s handling it very well at the moment and he’s a strong player so I don’t see why he can’t hack it.”

His performances have certainly garnered a lot of attention from Europe’s top clubs, with Bayern Munich now entering the fray alongside Dortmund and Manchester United. There were reports in January linking the youngster with a £50 million move to United, a deal that never seemed likely.

However, it does bring up the topic of English players going for a certain premium. As £50 million for a player who had only played half a Championship season seems very steep.

Bellingham will be able to sign his first professional contract when he turns 17 on Monday – he earns a measly £145 per week at Birmingham, which means clubs have just a few days to convince him to join them. Bayern Munich have made an effort to potentially hijack a deal to Dortmund, with Bellingham choosing the latter over United because of the success Jadon Sancho has had.

It would be difficult to see where he fits in at Bayern, whereas Dortmund you could assume Bellingham would get more playing time. Wherever his career path takes him, you can be sure that we haven’t heard the last of this starlet.

Australia and New Zealand Awarded 2023 Women’s World Cup

Australia and New Zealand will host the next edition of the Women’s World Cup in 2023, FIFA announced yesterday, after a long day of deliberation.

The two countries united to launch the ‘As One’ bid to host the tournament and they saw off a counter bid from Colombia to win the right to stage the tournament, the first which will be held over two continents, as Australia are in the Asia confederation whilst New Zealand are part of the Oceania confederation.

Australia and New Zealand’s ‘As One’ bid won 22 of the 35 votes cast by FIFA Council Members, as Colombia won 13. The South American country was the only rival for hosting the tournament after Japan and Brazil had pulled out of the race.

FIFA’s technical evaluation of Australia and New Zealand’s bid marked at 4.1 out of 5 compared to Colombia’s score of just 2.8.

The 2023 edition of the Women’s World Cup will be the first tournament to feature 32 countries, an increase from the current 24 sides, and in line with the format of the Men’s World Cup.

Australia and New Zealand have put forward the stadiums they plan to use for the tournament, which runs from July-August 2023, with eight grounds in Australia and five in New Zealand touted, in a total of twelve cities.

Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle, Launceston to be the Australian hosts whilst Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton and Dunedin will be used for the fixtures scheduled to take place in New Zealand, alongside Auckland. The first game will take place at Eden Park in Auckland, with the final set to take place in Sydney.

President of Football Federation Australia, Chris Nikou, told the BBC the forthcoming competition will be “ground-breaking”.

Nikou added:

“Not only will it be the first ever co-confederation hosted Fifa World Cup and the first ever Fifa Women’s World Cup in the Asia-Pacific region, but we will unlock the huge potential for growth in women’s football in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The president of New Zealand Football, Johanna Wood, said:

“We believe we have been given a treasure, and we will look after that treasure.”

The decision to award Australia and New Zealand represents a huge boost to women’s football in the Asia-Pacific region, and a number of players took to social media to express their joy at the announcement.

Australia Captain and Chelsea star Sam Kerr tweeted:

While, New Zealand defender CJ Bott said:

“The tournament going to be the absolute pinnacle and highlight of our careers.”

Both countries will be looking to better their previous showings at the World Cup now that it will be on home soil. The Matildas were eliminated from last year’s tournament on penalties in their last sixteen tie against Norway but will fancy their chances of winning their first World Cup crown with their hime fans behind them.

New Zealand meanwhile, will looking to progress past the group stage, having failed to make it out of their group in any of their previous World Cup appearances.

With football already Australia’s most popular team sport, the exposure, media attention and investment that hosting a World Cup will bring will certainly boost women’s football and it’s profile Down Under.

It will undoubtedly lead to a spike in the number of girls and women who take up the sport at grassroots level in both Australia and New Zealand and help to put football in Asia, a continent often over looked, on the map once again.

Want to here more about women’s football and the World Cup 2023 bid? Then feel free to have a listen to our new podcast episode by clicking on link here: https://soundcloud.com/adam-stephens-425096853/24-7-football-second-podcast

 

After a 30 year wait, what has made Liverpool so special this season?

Well for Liverpool fans the long wait is over. Thirty years ago, they lifted the title, that was in the nineties-1990 to be precise but for Reds fans they have had to endure a very long wait until they can rightly be crowned Premier League Champions 2019-20.

They will always be remembered for winning the title in what has been a strange year for sport. Despite not winning the Championship at their beloved home Anfield in front of none of their fans, Chelsea did Jurgen Klopp’s side a favour by beating Manchester City 2-1 at the Bridge. Once Willian confidently despatched his spot kick past Ederson, Liverpool fans could start opening the champagne or whatever else they fancied to toast their heroes.

It is Liverpool’s 19th top-flight title and surely their most satisfying in their long history.  Klopp’s side have produced the most memorable campaigns in the history of the Premier League, having amassed 86 points already with 28 victories, two draws and only one loss- a 3-0 defeat to Watford- along with 16 consecutive wins at home.

Liverpool look on course to break Manchester City’s 100-point haul from last season and have also hit 70 goals to date from their 31 games played.

It isn’t just about the threat they pose in front of goal from their magnificent trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino- 40 goals between them but their solid defence, which has only conceded 21 goals in 31 games.

Such has been their dominance this season, at one stage leading the table by 25 points – a record gap between a side in first and second in English top-flight history.

This season it is fair to say it has been a stroll for Liverpool in the Premiership, in comparison to last season when they amassed a staggering 97 points and losing just a single game all season but still had to settle for second best behind Manchester City, who beat them to the title by the narrowest of margins- a single point.

The appointment of the German Klopp has been pivotal in Liverpool’s success story.

He arrived at Liverpool in October 2015 following the sacking of Brendan Rogers. He came to Merseyside having led Borussia Dortmund to two Bundesliga titles.

In his four seasons to date he has led Liverpool to first, second, and two fourth placed finishes in the Premiership along with the coveted title of Champions League winners in 2019.

Aside from the front three, who have scored an amazing 211 goals in three seasons, the addition of a world class goalkeeper in Alisson and centre back Virgil van Dijk were crucial.

He has also improved players including Captain Jordan Henderson- who must be a strong contender for player of the year- and young defender Trent Alexander- Arnold.

The hard work has been completed, but as Manchester City will remind Liverpool if you have waited 30 years to win a premiership title that is a great achievement but it is always harder to defend it.

Next season will be the big test for Liverpool as they start the season as Champions. In the next few months will they be tempted to add to an already impressive squad? Or, will Klopp be happy with this current side, who he feels can be successful for many years to come.

Premier League TABLE scores and fixtures

 

PosTeamPlayedGDPoints
1Liverpool (C)354993
2Manchester City355772
3Chelsea3514

60

4Leicester City352959
5Manchester United352659
6Wolves351155
7Sheffield United 35554
8

Tottenham

35952
9Arsenal35750
10Burnley35-850
11Everton35-1145
12Southampton35-1345
13Newcastle35-1643
14Crystal Palace35-1542
15Brighton35-1636
16West Ham United35-1534
17Watford35-2134
18

Bournemouth

35-2431
19Aston Villa35-2730
20Norwich (R)35-4121

Latest Results

  • Wolves 3-0 Everton
  • Aston Villa 2-0 Crystal Palace
  • Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal
  • Bournemouth 4-1 Leicester City
  • Manchester United 2-2 Southampton

Upcoming Fixtures

  • Chelsea vs Norwich  July 14 8:15pm 
  • Burnley vs Wolves July 15 6pm
  • Manchester City vs Bournemouth July 15 6pm
  • Newcastle United vs Tottenham July 15 6pm
  • Arsenal vs Liverpool July 15 8:15pm
  • Everton vs Aston Villa July 16 6pm
  • Leicester City vs Sheffield United July 16 6pm
  • Crystal Palace vs Manchester United July 16 8:15pm
  • Southampton vs Brighton July 16 8:15pm
  • West Ham United vs Watford July 17 8pm

You can see the run in and out assessment of the race for European Football here.

 

Interview with former Wimbledon, Brentford and Watford player Marcus Gayle

Former footballer Marcus Gayle has played for Wimbledon, Brentford and Watford amongst others in his footballing career. When he hung up his boots, he went in to coaching and for the past few years has been involved in a host of other projects.

Gayle has been enjoying some free spare time of late, due to the lockdown.

“I’ve quiet enjoyed the lockdown to be fair, I like the slowness of it, it’s calmed things down, I’ve used it as a time for reflection, sharpening my tools on my educational side and a bit more reading.”

Gayle has played for a host of clubs but it was his time at Wimbledon FC in the nineties that he remembers most:

“In the time of the mid 90’s when I started playing with them, I was there seven years and had a whale of a time and the crazy gang helped me mature from being a boy to a man in a short space of time because of the characters. It was a test every day mentally and physically at times.”

He was also fortunate to play international football for Jamaica:

“That was a brilliant period as well. I played for about two years. It was very colourful the characters again. It was a positive and historic moment as well. It was a beautiful experience playing in the world cup, you kind of dream off as a kid to represent Jamaica through my father.”

After his playing days were over, he turned to coaching and started on that path with a spell as Wimbledon’s reserve team manager:

“I played ninety-nine per cent of my career just focused on playing. I didn’t really give much thought into what to do next.

“The main thing was make sure you look after your money and if you’ve got time to do that you will have time to evolve into a different pathway. How it turned out at my days at Watford, I didn’t even see myself as a coach but others did. Indeed, the younger players were always tapping into my knowledge and I was unaware of what I could become.  They saw me as someone that they could go to in the club a senior statesman and they saw me as a coach before I even did.”

Gayle continued:

“The opportunity came around when I finished in 2008 to take over the reserve team, which I did for four years which was thoroughly enjoyable.

“It was just to prepare them because when you get into the first team environment it can be quiet harsh, like how are you going to cope with somebody telling you something, they are not going to ask for anything in the first team, they are going to demand or tell you and it won’t be in a nice way.”

Gayle eventually became manager of Non-League Staines Town, where he was based for two and a half years.

“I was well equipped for it.  I was happy in picking and choosing players and developing players, so I was really doing everything. I really did my apprenticeship at Wimbledon, so, to step into first team management was just like another move. You were playing in a decent league Conference South, you had a budget to deal with, which was totally fine but for me really it was giving young players an opportunity.

“There was always a reservation about managers not wanting to play young players as the their perspective is that he wants three points. He ain’t going to trust the youngsters but I was the complete opposite. I signed a lot of nineteen soon to be twenty year old players as the bulk of my squad just to trust me as a coach and I will be here step by step and let’s just give you the opportunity and that is what I did.”

Gayle is heavily involved with Brentford as a club ambassador, Kick It Out out and ambassador for Kick Off @3.

“I met the guys that founded that a few years ago and they just wanted my support for events and input as well. So, I was more than happy to do that so we have been doing that for the last couple of years. What they are aiming to do is to build up the rapport between young people through sport and the community police in general.

“I can see that there is a disconnect of trust, so they wanted to use sport as a way of unifying everybody at the same place same time and really build up trust and understanding between the two. I totally agree with this because I think there is the disconnect at times where the police may see youngsters as problematic . The aim is that we can all be united through sport and try and mend connections that are being broken at times.”

There has been a lot of talk recently of Black Lives Matter and the solidarity that everybody has shown towards this:

“I think the issue needs to be raised and the acknowledgement from the Premier League is great, having the slogans on the back of the shirts I’m not in full agreement with that as I just think that is going to open a can of worms and a wider debate and it clouds what’s really going on.

“It’s taken away what the message is, it’s not saying only black lives matter, we all matter however there is a disproportionate rate of certain teams that effect black lives in this country. That’s historical, systematic and those are the things that we need to have a big debate about.  This all starts with the leadership from the boardrooms etc.  and the people who make decisions in football there is hardly anybody of colour in these positions.

“They all, however, want to talk about race and equality but we are not even in the conversation, so we need to have our voice heard. How it is today, everybody is their own broadcaster. We don’t need to go to the mainstream media to put our voice out there as we have our own social media platforms as we all talk on that. I just think it is going to be problematic for the first twelve games or so but it’s going to open a can of worms later down the road, then, we will have different debates about different topics and where is it ever going to end.”

Incredibly, there are only six BAME Managers currently out of 91 clubs. This is a concern for Gayle:

“Even though it is six, it is better than how it was. To take six right now is an encouragement but my thoughts on that is again it is down to the leadership. The board room and the decision makers that appoint but ultimately, where is the transparency in the boardroom and openness. How are there black footballers playing for the top sides, winning titles, captaining those great teams and as soon as those players are retiring are deemed you are nowhere near good enough, compared to our white counterparts. The question is we want equality but we want equality to do the exact same thing the equal opportunity as a Wayne Rooney, a Frank Lampard, a Steven Gerrard and those are prevalent.  This is a fair debate to listen to!”

You can listen to the full interview with Marcus Gayle by clicking on the link below:

https://soundcloud.com/user-365414754/marcus-gayle-1

What is going wrong at Arsenal?

In years gone by the defensive woes that have plagued Arsenal would surprise many. Now it’s commonplace, and there are many fans bemoaning the lack of improvement in the last three to four years. The same soft underbelly is hurting them and defensive mistakes seem to never go away.

The return to the Premier League has probably left most, if not all Arsenal fans wishing it had never come back. Their 3-0 defeat to Manchester City was gifted to their opponents on a platter by David Luiz ( a real symbol for the defensive woes) and plenty of fans were straight on his back.

The issues stem further than simply David Luiz however. Despite his dismal performance, mistakes have always been in his DNA and with their other defenders not really up to scratch, you have to wonder what Arsenal’s recruitment system is doing.

The Brazilian is also set to sign his one-year extension, albeit as a 5th choice centre-half, if talks go smoothly. This ultimately shows how Arsenal are seemingly content with average players.

Aside from that there seems to be attitude problems at the club, issues that were brought to light by Neal Maupay in his post-match interview after Brighton’s 2-1 win.

The centre-half position has been a real issue for the Gunners and for several years they have failed to replace what is a glaring issue. Pablo Mari was brought in on loan in January but he’s only played two times and picked up an injury against Man City.

Sokratis had the potential to be an excellent addition but has proved inconsistent too. The same issues have also affected Shkodran Mustafi, who was solid at Valencia but has struggled in London. It seems as though no matter who they sign, the deals don’t work out.

The higher-ups at the club also have to take responsibility for the clubs failings, fans were crying out for defensive reinforcements this summer but the club spent £72 million on Nicolas Pepe instead.

While fans were pleased, you have to sit and wonder why they couldn’t have spent that on their defence. Kieran Tierney was a decent signing for £25 million but one man won’t be able to fix the issues they currently have.

Mikel Arteta said from the start he had a lot of work to do when he joined the club, and the Spaniard was certainly right on the mark. His starting lineups against Manchester City and Brighton weren’t convincing and the mystery surrounding Mesut Ozil is confusing as ever.

He hasn’t started either games, they surely needed him against Brighton but he was nowhere to be seen. The decision to bring Luiz on has to rest with Arteta but even he couldn’t have predicted the ‘disasterclass’ his player would’ve produced.

He has a lot to do with this squad of players, and he needs quality to be able to play the style of football he wants. Whether the club back him is another story.

Charlie Nicholas stated for Sky Sports:

“Wednesday was what I expected. The one scenario I did not expect was the team that Mikel Arteta picked. Mesut Ozil was dropped – he has been dropped before in these types of games. He went for youth and he can see where the future is,” 

Nicholas continued:

“I do not see it as a massive debate or crisis for Arsenal. They are ninth for a reason. There is a reason behind just the nine wins from 29. Over the last five or six years, Arsenal’s defence has been poor, not average, but poor. How a team can let this go on for so long is mind-blowing.

“They spent around £8m on David Luiz, who has won the Premier League and the Champions League. The craziness is that he was better than what was already there. That should show those players just how bad it is and also how bad it is for Arteta.

“There is nothing to say that it will take years. The board and owners do not have years as the crowd will turn on them if they do not identify that the defence is everything. It is the area that matters right now. If they do not address it they will get further and further away from it. This is a must. Whoever you must sell, the funds must go on defenders, and you start building again.”

Arteta will need time but the Emirates has become a toxic place over recent years and whether time is even a factor here is another question altogether. They played City with the mentality of a side scrapping around the relegation places rather than a team competing for titles.

The club very much needs a change in the way they think if they are to progress, in other words being a ‘big club’ with actions instead of pretending to be like one.

A lot of issues come down to Stan Kroenke and his mismanagement of the club. They had hope when Sven Mislintat joined the club as Recruitment Chief to try and revolutionise the way the club approached the transfer market.

The German had great success at Borussia Dortmund but things didn’t quite work out well for either party. Their Director of Football Raul Sanllehi has come under fire recently, with some of their signings under-performing.

Many fans are discontent with Kroenke’s reign and a lot feel there is no clear plan for Arsenal moving forward. They’ve taken a chance in a promising young coach in Arteta and if he’s anything like his former boss Pep Guardiola then they have a great coach at their disposal. However, he needs the support of a stable board and you have to question whether Arsenal have that at the moment.

The post-Wenger Arsenal was supposed to be one of promise and endeavour. Many neutral fans did say to be careful what you wish for and it looks like there could be more truth in that than first thought. Without a revamp in the board we might not see Arsenal improve much over the next couple of seasons.

Hearts benefactor James Anderson provides Scottish Women’s football with largest donation in their history

The Edinburgh-based investment manager James Anderson has donated £250,000 to the Scottish Football Partnership Trust to help women’s football in Scotland through the coronavirus pandemic.

The money awarded through the Scottish Football Partnership Trust has been described as the single biggest investment in the women’s game.

When asked what compelled him to make such a generous donation, Anderson said:

“Football is at the heart of communities across Scotland, and there are not many societal organisations that bring people together nowadays, to catch them in a net when they fall. When Covid-19 struck, I realised what a significant loss it would be for towns across the country if their local SPFL club’s very survival were threatened.

“This isn’t just about the passion on the pitch, which is why we love the game, but about the responsibility our clubs take in communities across Scotland. I’ve seen first-hand over the last few years what a difference clubs can make to people’s lives, and so I am very pleased to have been able to offer my support at this difficult time.”

Vivienne MacLaren, the chair of Scottish Women’s Football meanwhile said it showed the women’s game had not been forgotten.

MacLaren said:

“This support will help provide an incredibly powerful message to all girls and women in Scotland that their sport matters and has not been forgotten in the midst of this pandemic.

“We are very grateful to James Anderson for recognising this. We are delighted that we are able to deliver this funding via the SFP Trust and thank them for their support.”

The initial phase of funding will be distributed by the trust to Scottish Women’s Premier League One and Scottish Women’s Premier League Two clubs to sustain non-playing staff and key club infrastructure. Benefits will also filter down to other Scottish Women Federation member clubs, including those at grassroots level.

SWF have already decided how the windfall will be allocated. The eight SWPL1 clubs will receive £112,000 (45 per cent), which equates to just over £14,000 per team.

The ten SWPL2 clubs will get £62,5000 (25 per cent), while SWF are retaining £75,000 (30 per cent) to cover Covid-19 shortfalls. The entire Gift Aid element – £62,500 – will be used to give teams huge discounts on their 2021 affiliations.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster added:

“We know the positive power our clubs have within their communities. During this crisis, they have stepped up to support thousands of socially isolated and vulnerable people who desperately needed help.

“On behalf of every one of the SPFL’s 42 clubs, I want to sincerely thank James for his timely and extremely generous financial support at this critical moment.”

Written by Subeer Suri

Hawk-Eye apologises after Goal Technology error denies Sheffield United

The Operator of the Premier League’s Goal-Line technology has apologised for an error that denied Sheffield United a goal during their 0-0 draw with Aston Villa.

Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland carried Oliver Norwood’s 42nd Minaute free kick over the line but the referee, Michael Oliver did not receive a signal to indicate a goal should be awarded.

Following this unfortunate incident, Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder said:

” I think the goalkeeper was halfway in the Holt End when he caught it” 

Hawk-Eye subsequently responded saying:

“It unreservedly apologises and acknowledged that the ball had in fact crossed the line.”

The SMART products company also said that it was the first time that an error of this kind has occurred since it’s introduction to the English game in over 9,000 matches. 

Wilder, who was seen walking towards Michael Oliver at half time also said:

“We went to Tottenham last year and John Lundstram’s big toe was offside and I was hanging around for 10 Minutes in the pouring rain to await a decision.  I don’t understand why I can’t wait for 10 minutes in Birmingham!”

The body responsible for Premier referees’, The Professional Match Official Limited (PGMOL) when asked why the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) had not interfered, said:

“It had not intervened due to the unique situation that the on-field match official’s was not getting a signal.”

Former Premier League referee, Mark Clattenberg has since told the BBC that VAR should have helped Michael and his team as they were not sure what was going on.

Clattenberg, who has refereed over 300 matches in the top flight, said:

“That this system needs to be more looked at and it aso needs to work along side the VAR and the Hawk-eye Team who work so hard together to come to the right call on the pitch”

The Hawk-Eye Company has subsequently said:  

“Hawk-Eye unreservedly apologises to the Premier League, Sheffield United and everyone affected by this incident”

In what was the first Premier League match back due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the result leaves Chris Wilder’s side 6th in the League, while Villa remain in 19th.

Elite in Premiership could miss out in next seasons Football League Cup

After a delay of three months with the return of the Premiership, there are already people in the football world looking ahead to next season, as and when it will eventually commence.

One hotly debated topic on the agenda will certainly be what is eventually going to happen to cup competitions. With this in mind the League Cup- currently known as the Carabao Cup- could well see the top seven sides from the Premiership missing from the competition.

Due to what is anticipated to be a fixture pile up next season for teams involved in European competitions this could well see the League Cup played without the cream of the Premiership.

It was confirmed only this week that the Champions League and Europa League schedules will run into August, meaning involved teams won’t be able to play League Cup ties as things stand, with the EFL considering a change for the competition.

There are a couple of other possibilities that potentially could be considered. The first would be to do away with the competition for a season.  That would, however, cause financial damage to lower league sides who are already facing a very uncertain future.

Alternately, the EFL could decided on allowing the Premiership sides a chance to play their youth sides- something that Liverpool did against Everton earlier on this season, which didn’t go down well.  Surely, however, that idea would devalue a competition which has lost its appeal for the past few seasons.

In my opinion, I certainly like the idea of the top seven Premiership sides not playing in the Cup next season. This would at least give some club outside Manchester a better chance of cup glory. In six of the last seven seasons the Cup has been won by either City or United, so for footballs sake it would be wonderful to see somebody else raise the cup at Wembley.

In fairness to most of the Premiership sides, well certainly the top eight and sides fighting off relegation-the league cup has always been a distraction for them.

Some people may say that if it does come down to the top seven in the Premiership not being invited to feature in next seasons competition, the League Cup won’t be the same. As I mentioned earlier, this would give a glorious chance to either a lower ranked Premiership side, a club from the Championship or for a wonderful story. How about a lower league club getting to Wembley and lifting the trophy? The money earned from this experience would benefit these clubs more than the Premiership boys and would be something in the history of the club that they will be remembered by, and stay with them for many years.

Chelsea complete signing of Timo Werner

The 24-year-old German International Timo Werner will join the London side in July. 

Werner will see out the rest of the Bundesliga campaign with RB Leipzig. The player also announced his move on Twitter.

 

The forward has long been touted for a career at the top of the game since he broke through at Stuttgart and while he never hit huge numbers there was plenty of promise about him.  After turning 18 Werner signed a professional contract until June 2018 with VfB Stuttgart. He went on to score 13 goals in 95 league appearances, during which time he became the youngest player to make 50 Bundesliga appearances in the competition’s history. After the side were relegated he joined the then newly-promoted RB Leipzig in 2016.

He signed a four-year deal with a fee of 10 million euros- a club record at the time. Werner ended his first campaign with 21 Bundesliga goals as Leipzig qualified for the Champions League for the first time in their history. He is currently enjoying the most prolific season of his career so far having scored 32 goals and garnered 13 assists in 43 appearances in all competitions.

He has represented Germany at all youth levels (under-15’s through to under-21’s) scoring 34 goals in 48 matches. He has since scored 11 goals in 29 appearances for the senior national side.

Werner said:

“I am delighted to be signing for Chelsea, it is a very proud moment for me to be joining this great club. I of course want to thank RB Leipzig, the club and the fans, for four fantastic years. You will forever be in my heart. I look forward to next season with my new team-mates, my new manager and of course the Chelsea fans. Together we have a very successful future ahead of us.”

Chelsea Director Marina Granovskaia added:

We are very excited that Timo Werner has chosen to join Chelsea. He is a player who was coveted all over Europe and it is no surprise, he has that rare mix of being young and exciting and yet established and proven. We can’t wait to have Timo on board, but until then we wish him and RB Leipzig all the best for the rest of this season.”

Werner’s game plays off his pace and movement between the defensive lines. He is agile and able to find space regularly and his attacking runs are sure to cause many defences problems this season. He is certainly clinical and in a Chelsea side that have plenty of creative flair he is a player that could thrive under Lampard. With the addition of Hakim Ziyech they could have a formidable front three next season. After a positive first season Chelsea will be hoping to qualify for the Champions League, with it giving them to chance to attract more star players and build a title-winning formula under Lampard.

Interview with former top referee Keith Hackett

Former referee Keith Hackett began referring in local leagues in Sheffield back in 1960. He gradually made it onto an elite panel of referees and eventually had the honour of referring at International level.

With the return of the Premiership, he feels that they would have learned a lot from how the Bundesliga have returned to action.

“Hopefully in these situations they will share information across the countries.” he said ”I think they’ve already made it very clear in terms of what players can do in terms of spitting, mobbing the referee and confrontations and they[referee’s] are looking for a bit more discipline from the players.”

He also feels that this is the right time for the return of the Premiership:

“If it had gone on a bit later the Premier League would have had a very difficult decision and as we creep more and more towards the start of the new season the window of opportunity to get the season finished was diminishing so I applaud what they have done, I think they are taking exceptional care in terms of testing the players and making certain they are ok.”

The main concern on the restart will be the fitness levels of players. Hackett continued:

“I hope we don’t have the same in Germany where there was a considerable uplift in the number of injuries which was rather surprising because when you have a crowd that raises your adrenalin as a referee and the players and sometimes they do daft things and now there might be that they are over-stretching.”

He also felt that the officials were not quite up to their normal high standard:

“In a game of football that adrenaline rush that you get from fans keeps you on your toes and I thought in one or two cases in the Bundesliga games the referees seemed to drift a bit and loose a bit of concentration on the odd occasion and of course referees can’t afford to do that and if they do they are going to miss things and if they do that we are going to get the wrong decisions.”

Hackett also feels that some referees in the current game are not up to the standard that they should be:

“There are some referees on that list that I think are very lucky to be on that list and there are one or two passengers I think that need to move on, they need to be put under pressure in order to sustain the very top quality performances the Premier League and the Championship require.”

Hackett refereed at the highest level in English football for 23 years and loved his time with the whistle:

“Refereeing of football matches believe it or not is not a punishment it is an enjoyment and I think I got a lot out of referring from a satisfaction point of view, health point of view, it got me fit and mobile and of course the challenges of going around the world referring and at home as well as seeing the introduction of the Premier League and seeing that for the first two seasons get established.”

He was also in charge of a memorable match between Manchester United and Arsenal back in the 1990-91 season which saw a mass brawl on the pitch involving 21 players:

“It took me more by surprise than anybody and I learnt from it.” he said “The one thing is that you just needed to prepare a bit more, then perhaps I would have known there was a bit of ill feeling in the previous game between Winterburn [Nigel] and McClair[ Brian] and if I had of known that in fairness I might have been in their zone having a word of encouragement rather than a threatening word, but it all happened so quickly.”

He retired from refereeing in 1994, but was soon back involved in football:

“When I left refereeing my intention was to leave it for good, but I got dragged back to become the PGMOL boss and we started to introduce technology.” he said. “I watched rugby and was very keen on introduction the communication kits, so we introduced them. I brought in art monitors for the training. I was sat in the directors box at Old Trafford when Roy Carroll dropped the ball a yard over the line and at the following shareholders meeting of the Premier League I put forward a case for technology. I was asked by former Fulham Chairman Al Fayed what would I change in football and I said goal line technology and his answer was go and get it then.”

What does Hackett really feel about VAR

“I’m a believer in VAR. When I was referee we had three cameras. The modern game is 22 minimum. What I wanted with VAR was a balance to say look give the referee another look. What I’m seeing with these lines been drawn along the pitch, the technology is not good enough to make offside calls to the fractions that we are actually seeing, and I think that is where we should follow the MLS. Let the VAR assistant have another look and judge it on what he sees on the big screen. If he gets it wrong it’s far better to get it wrong that way than technology that is telling us it’s right, when generally I think we know that it is not.”

Click below to listen to the full interview with Keith Hackett: 

UEFA confirm Champions/Europa league and Euro 2020 fixture plans

The return of Europe’s top competitions have been discussed at length since domestic leagues confirmed their return plans. Today at last clubs and fans were given details as to how the knockout stages will be played out.

The club tournaments will be completed in August, with the Europa League being held in Germany and the Champions League being held in Portugal. These will take place from the Quarter final stage.

UEFA confirmed that the 12 original host cities will stage matches in next summer’s Euro 2020 finals. The competition will start on the 11th June 2021. The pushed-back play-off matches will be played during the international breaks starting on the 8th October and the 12th November, respectively.

The Champions League will restart with the second-leg matches of the last 16 games left over. These will be played on the 7th and 8th of August. The games yet to be played are: Manchester City at home against Real Madrid, Chelsea away to Bayern Munich, Juventus at home against Lyon and Napoli, who take their impressive 1-1 away result into their home leg, against Barcelona. UEFA said it has yet to decide whether to stage the games at home grounds or at neutral venues.

 

The subsequent knockout rounds will be played over one leg and will be hosted in the city of Lisbon, at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica and the Estádio José Alvalade, between the 12th to the 23rd August. The final has been scheduled for 23 August, also taking place in Lisbon.

The Estádio do Dragão in Porto and the Estádio Dom Afonso Henriques in Guimarães will also be added to the Lisbon venues for the Round of 16 should such measures be necessary.

The same applies to the Europa League which will resume the Quarter Finals on the 10th August. The remaining last 16 games will be played on the 5th and 6th of August. The venues will be stationed in Cologne, Duisburg, Düsseldorf and Gelsenkirchen.

 

Istanbul and Gdansk, the original host cities for the Champions and Europa League finals respectively, will now stage next year’s finals in 2021.

UEFA stated:

“A decision will be made in due course on whether these matches for which the first leg has already been played will be staged at the home team’s venue or in Germany.

“Inter Milan v Getafe and Sevilla v Roma, whose first leg was also postponed, will be played as a single leg at a venue to be confirmed.”

The Women’s Champions League will also be a knockout tournament, in northern Spain between the 21st and 30th of August.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin, said:

“I am delighted that we are able to resume almost all of our competitions. I am confident that we will not have to endure the fans’ absence for long and that they will be allowed into stadiums sooner rather than later.”

With many Women’s leagues not returning he was also keen to comment on the return on the Women’s Champions League:

“Particularly with the Women’s Champions League, it was important to send a strong signal that it is possible to complete this season, in a time where women’s sports have suffered substantially. This competition has exciting times ahead with the format change in 2021/2022 and we want to enhance the momentum in the women’s game, not lose it.”

Overall, with the return of the Premier League soon this is even more positive news for fans, so mark the dates in your calendar, the season is beginning to hot up again!

Bayern wrap up Bundesliga title – What makes them so successful?

Robert Lewandowski’s first half strike sealed Bayern Munich’s eighth successive title after defeating struggling Werder Bremen on Tuesday evening.

Bayern’s 11th straight Bundesliga win put them 10 points clear of Borussia Dortmund, who have three games remaining.

Not for the first time this season Bayern were far from their best, but like all great sides they know how to win tight games, which they have been successfully doing all season.

Bayern celebrated at the final whistle with shouts of delight from all the squad in a rain soaked Weserstadion. The Bayern machine wrapped up the Bundesliga title with two games remaining, having gone on an unstoppable run which yielded 22 wins in their last 23 games with only two points dropped.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Bayern this season after an embarrassing 5-1 defeat at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt at the beginning of November, the club decided to take the decision to remove Niko Kovac from his 16 month reign and replace him with Hansi Flick as an interim manager before signing a new contract until 2023 in April.

Bayern have certainly flourished under the 55-year-old, having taken 58 points from a possible 66 on offer, including winning 26 of his first 29 games in charge, yet their season is still far from over.

Having wrapped up the Bundesliga, they have also progressed to the final of the German Cup and are still in the Champions League and who is to say that they will not complete a unique treble.

Bayern have now reached a new peak after a record 30th title and look certain to continue dominating German football for a long time to come.

People can say that the Bundesliga isn’t the strongest league in Europe and you would always expect Bayern or Dortmund to be the sides favourite to be crowned champions. What, however, makes Bayern so much ahead of rivals Dortmund must be their all-round squad which oozes quality in every department. The likes of Alphonso Davies, Lucas Hernandez, Serge Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich and Ivan Perisic to name a few are class, and to think the likes of Philippe Coutinho can’t even get into the side at the moment. That just shows you the strength that they possess.

Take the evergreen Lewandowski, a proven goal scorer in this league with 31 goals already so far- his best haul in the Bundesliga- and a total of 46 in total in all competitions. This Bayern side is not just about the Pole’s goals. Look at Germany’s Golden Boot winner in 2010 Thomas Muller who has been a regular goal scorer for the Champions for many years. This season he is being crowned king of the assists with 20 thus far.

Flick’s team do not just have the experienced fire power up front, which makes them the class act that they are. It all starts at the back with experienced goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. The 34-year-old stopper has been in superb form this season alongside a solid defence that has conceded only 31 goals in 32 games.

Bayern have also set another record, by hitting 93 goals in their Bundesliga games, setting a new league best.

Overall with the calibre of players that Bayern have in their current squad, you would expect them to be dominating German football for a lengthy period, which is bad news for the other 17 clubs in the Bundesliga.

Golden Boy 2020 Nominees Revealed

Tuttosport yesterday revealed their long list of the 100 young footballers nominated for this year’s award, given to the best player under the age of 21 playing in a major European league.

Last year’s winner Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix fails to make the cut this time around, after he narrowly pipped Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho in 2019.

The Englishman is one of the favourites to scoop the prize this year, alongside club teammate Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich’s rising star Alphonso Davies. All three have had staring roles in the Bundesliga this term, with Sancho netting 17 goals in the league and providing 16 assists.

Nineteen year old Haaland only arrived in Germany in January, but already has 11 goals to his name in just 12 appearances whisky Canadian Davies has put in a number of eye catching performances at left back as Bayern Munich romped to their 8th consecutive Bundesliga title.

Twenty-three starlets nominated ply their trade in the top flight, coming from nine different Premier League clubs. One of them will be hoping to become only the fourth player to win the Golden Boy whilst starring in the Premier League.

Arsenal’s Trae Coyle, breakthrough stars Bukayo Saka, and Gabriel Martinelli as well as on loan St Etiene defender William Saliba make the list, alongside North London rivals Spurs’ duo Oliver Skipp and Ryan Sessegnon.

Both Manchester clubs have three young guns nominated, Phil Foden, Eric Garcia and Claudio Gomes for City and Angel Gomes, James Garner and Mason Greenwood for United.

European champions Liverpool are represented on the list by Scouser Curtis Jones, full back Yasser Larouci and Dutch centre back Sepp Van den Berg, whilst Norwich’s flying full back Max Aarons also makes the cut.

Chelsea have four nominees; Tino Anjorin, Scotsman Billy Gilmour, RB Leipzig loanee Ethan Ampadu and winger Callum Hudson-Odoi. Wolves’ Pedro Neto and Morgan Gibbs-White alongside Southampton’s Irish striker Micheal Obafemi complete the list of Premier League players chosen.

Two Americans make the long list for the award, which is whittled down to just 20 players through of a public vote, before a panel of 40 esteemed journalists choose the winner later in the year.

Nineteen year old Ajax defender Sergio Dest, who was named Ajax’s Talent of the Year makes the cut alongside Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna, who has enjoyed a breakout campaign, scoring once and providing an assist in 16 appearances this term.

Celtic’s young sensation Karamoko Dembele makes the list along with a number of La Liga stars. Valencia’s Ferran Torres and Lee Kang-In, Real Madrid trio Vinicius Junior, Takefusa Kubo who is currently on loan at Real Mallorca, and Rodrygo are also included alongside seventeen year old Barcelona star Ansu Fati, who has scored six goals already this term.

Rennes prospect Edoardo Camavinga and Brescia’s Sandro Tonali who are attracting interest from top clubs across Europe are some of the other notable inclusions. A shock exclusion was Birmingham’s sixteen year old wonder kid Jude Bellingham, who has registered 32 senior appearances, scoring four Championship goals, and is rumoured to have agreed a deal to join Borussia Dortmund.

Full List of Golden Boy Nominees:

Goalkeepers: Ionut-Casian Rus (Cluj)

Defenders: Max Aarons (Norwich), Ethan Ampadu (RB Leipzig), Benoit Badiashile (Monaco), Mitchel Bakker (PSG), David Colina (Hajduk Split), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Sergino Dest (Ajax), Tiago Djalo (Lille), Eric Garcia (Manchester City), Lutsharel Geertruida (Feyenoord), Ozan Kabak (Schalke), Yasser Larouci (Liverpool), Svetozar Markmovic (Larisa), Loic Mbe Soh (PSG), Juan Miranda (Schalke) Patricio Nehuen Perez (Famalicao), Jean-Claude Ntenda (Juventus), Strahinja Pavlovic (Partizan Belgrade), Eduardo Quaresma (Sporting CP), William Saliba (Saint-Etienne)

Midfielders: Yacine Adli (Bordeaux), Lucien Jefferson Agoume (Inter), Faustino Anjorin (Chelsea), Adil Aouchiche (PSG), Edoardo Camavinga (Rennes), Phil Foden (Manchester City), James Garner (Manchester United), Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolves), Bryan Gil (Leganes), Billy Gilmour (Chelsea), Claudio Gomes (PSV), Matias Goncalo Ramos (Benfica), Ryan Jiro Gravenberch (Ajax), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Mohamed Amine Ihattaren (PSV), Curtis Jones (Liverpool), Takefusa Kubo (Mallorca), Dejan Kulusevski (Parma), Alessio Riccardi (Roma), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Oliver Skipp (Tottenham), Dominik Szoboszlai (RB Salzburg), Sandro Tonali (Brescia), Hamed Traore (Sassuolo), Sepp van den Berg (Liverpool)

Attackers: Abel Ruiz (Braga), Karim-David Adeyemi (RB Salzburg), Marley Ake (Marseille), Angel Gomes (Manchester United), Myron Boadu (Alkmaar), Rayan Cherki (Lyon), Facundo Colidio (Saint-Truiden), Trae Coyle (Arsenal), Leon Dajaku (Bayern Munich), Jonathan David (Gent), Karamoko Dembele (Celtic), Sebastiano Esposito (Inter), Daniel Fabio Silva (Porto), Ansu Fati (Barcelona), Lyle Foster (Cercle Brugge), Zeljko Gavric (Red Star), Willem Geubbels (Monaco), Lorenzo Gonzalez (St Gallen), Amine Gouiri (Lyon), Mason Greenwood (Manchester United), Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund), Mamadou Kaly Sene (Juventus), Mohammed Kudus (Nordsjaelland), Diego Lainez (Real Betis), Kang-in Lee (Valencia), Daniel Maldini (Milan), Felix Khonde Mambimbi (Young Boys), Antonio Marin (Dinamo Zagreb), Alejandro Jose Mendez Marques (Juventus), Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal), Michael Obafemi (Southampton), Paulinho (Bayer Leverkusen), Pedro Neto (Wolves), Euclides Rafael Camcho (Sporting CP), Reinier (Real Madrid), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Rodrygo (Real Madrid), Miguel Romario Baro (Porto), Thomas Sabitzer (LASK), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Sergio Gomez (Borussia Dortmund), Mathias Soule (Juventus), Mateus Tete (Shakhtar), Ferran Torres (Valencia), Amad Traore (Atalanta), Lassina Traore (Ajax), Heorhiy Tsitaishvili (Dynamo Kiev), Yari Verschaeren (Anderlecht), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid), Dusan Vlahovic (Fiorentina)

‘Rooney rule needed at all levels’ AS bame candidates are still a huge minority

During Sky Sports’ Sunday Supplement show there was a big discussion on the current situation with BAME candidates for roles in football. With the current political landscape switching its primary focus to Black Lives Matter after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, discussions about race in football have been brought to the forefront.

What is the Rooney Rule?

The Rooney Rule is an NFL ruling that requires teams to interview ethnic minority candidates for head coaching and senior roles. This was started in America in 2002 in order to make sure African Americans has the same chances as their white counterparts. It was brought over to English football 2016 in order to try and initiate more equal management across the football league.

What was Discussed?

The panel suggested that the Rooney Rule should be strengthened across the EFL and used at boardroom level. Currently there are only six BAME managers that are employed across the 91 league clubs in England. The EFL introduced a ruling at the start of the season that clubs have to interview a BAME candidate for a vacant job. There are, however, loopholes to the rule as it only applies when there is a shortlist of interviewees. This assumes there is a an interview process, however, with this not being obligatory clubs can easily just appoint a manager without the need for such measures.

Some of the statements put forward in the panel discussion were that:

“The Rooney Rule should really be implanted properly across all 91 clubs and then also to have transparency, to have data to show who you’ve interviewed.

The FA have had a very positive policy recently in having a BAME coach in every single age group for England, from U15s to Gareth Southgate’s senior squad. I don’t see why that can’t be implemented for the 20 teams in the Premier League and possibly Championship. I don’t think it would be a financial problem for that to happen.

There are only 32 BAME coaches with the UEFA A licence. The LMA have said themselves they want coaches fast tracked for this qualification, to have more black coaches would mean a greater chance of getting a job. So that’s absolutely vital as well – and could happen very easily.”

It was also stated that clubs must be more vigilant with their reactions to racism. Rob Draper, chief football writer for the Mail on Sunday said:

“Clubs will sign up for anti-racism campaigns and they’ll all wear Black Lives Matter next week but when it comes to a player in their club accused of racism, you see the response and it can be quite different.”

He referred to the incidents between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra alongside the one including Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva. Liverpool have come under fire for defending Suarez after he was accused of racially abusing the Manchester United left-back. The team decided to wear t-shirts in support of their Uruguayan forward. This decision was subsequently condemned by former club captain Jamie Carragher. Bernardo Silva also came under a lot of bad press for tweeting out an image comparing Mendy to a black caricature with a design similar to early forms of blackface. While the criticism was actually split on two sides, Pep Guardiola came out and defended Silva for his actions.   The FA eventually did sanction Silva but it was for causing offence – not for being racist.

Whether the ruling is strengthened will be a matter for the EFL to work upon. With the lack of current diversity there will be many people hoping for change within the next fews years. In an era of political change this could be another step to reaching equality within sport.

Premier League return. No Fans, but who will it effect?

By the time, the Premier League restarts on Wednesday, it would have been exactly 100 days since Leicester City beat Aston Villa 4-0.

At the time, little did we realise that unforeseen circumstances would mean we would have to wait for over three months for the return of top flight football in England.

Despite being one of the latest leagues to return back to action – Bundesliga and La Liga ahead of Premiership – it will still be a most welcome sight for football fans to see once again.

It will certainly be different watching football to what it was over three months ago. Gone will be the sight of sold out stadiums along with genuine football fans chants. Instead it will see matches played behind closed doors, with relatively few people allowed inside the grounds.

Under normal circumstances with just nine games to go, the advantage of playing at home becomes quite significant, but with no sets of fans in stadiums any more for a considerable time this will alleviate the advantage that home sides will have leading up to the end of the season.

When the Budesliga returned a few weeks ago, very few people would have predicted in almost 95 per cent of games played thus far, the majority of wins have been secured by the away side.

This stat can be more than likely put down to the fact that by having no fans inside grounds there is clearly no advantage to home sides. It is also my belief that it will always favour the away side more as there is no pressure on them having to face a ground predominantly full of  home fans.

Both teams will also start on a level playing field having played no competitive football for a while. This could also throw up the strong possibility of there being a fair amount of surprising results left to come in this current season.

Under normal circumstances in terms of relegation you would look at the remaining nine games to come and predict how many points could sides potentially pick up, no longer will this come into play as I believe there will be some shock results to come.

Another point to consider will be the fitness levels of all 20 clubs. Now more than ever they will need to call upon their vast squad levels as I can generally see more players getting injured than before the shutdown.

I also believe after this enforced break it will work into the hands of the sides in and around the relegation positions. On their travels with no fans to face at grounds this will lift the pressure off them. It will also do so at home, by having no home fans groaning at any slight mistake players will make, this will benefit the struggling sides immensely.

What we can definitely say is that the return of football’s new version will be entirely different to what you and I have ever seen in our lifetimes. Get set for Premier League 2019-20 Part Two. Let the roller coaster ride begin and let’s get the show on the road.

Another fine mess from FIFA

A grassroots football club from Belfast has been hit with a staggering CHF 10.000 Swiss Francs (£8.5k) fine due to, what is essentially, an admin technicality over the registration of a talented young footballer.

TW Braga is a youth focussed, but football for all, club and academy that aims to provide quality coaching and education in addition to competitive games for their young footballers. Previously TW Academy struck up a rapport with the youth department of Primeira Liga side SC Braga. Following exchanges on coaching courses and a shared approach on development ideas, a unique affiliation and concept resulted in TW Braga. This also meant that they were able to transcend the traditional political lines in Northern Ireland that would create a welcoming and inclusive home of football for those from all backgrounds. In a very unwelcome and untimely situation during the current Covid-19 pandemic, world governing body FIFA have made a damning oversight by inflicting a heavy and disproportionate sanction on TW Braga. 

The reason for the fine is very disappointing yet there is much positivity in the background of the story due to the prominence and potential of a young trailblazing player who has certainly caught the eye. 

The Talented Protagonist

New York born Hassan Ayari came to the attention of TW Braga Academy Director Tim Wareing via a YouTube skills reel and following contact and participation in their programmes, his family had such a positive impression of the project and Northern Ireland overall.  They subsequently decided to uproot from the USA so that Ayari could pursue his dreams as a fully fledged member of the TW Braga set-up. In 2013 when the move materialised, the player was registered with the local league set-up in a ‘normal’ way by virtue of his Mother’s Lithuanian background. He therefore had travelled to Northern Ireland on an EU passport. Ayari’s progression included spells with Irish League sides Ards and Cliftonville. He returned to TW Braga before sealing a move to the academy of Sheffield United in 2018. The talented teenager is currently part of the Blades Academy U18 squad.

However, TW Braga have been hit with the hammer blow fine. FIFA stipulated that the correct registration processes were not followed after the transatlantic switch and Hassan Ayari needed international clearance, which never happened. The devastating news was received by Wareing in an email from FIFA, which has resulted in an existential threat to the viability of the whole club. The story has been picked up across the local media in Northern Ireland with outlets including: BBC NI Sport, UTV and Belfast Telegraph. Sky Sports News also ran the story as did O Jogo, the Portugese daily sports newspaper. 

The Director’s Response

24/7 Football spoke to Tim Wareing of TW Braga for more insight and to get an update on the response.  

24/7 – FIFA have set out a 30 day period for this fine to be paid. What is the outlook if this draconian fine is not paid within that time frame?

TW – “ We don’t know.  We asked for the grounds of the fine to be sent from FIFA, which has not haven’t arrived. We simply don’t have the money as a small grassroots club.  I haven’t worked from 18 March due to the Covid-19 virus as all coaching has stopped but I have continued to offer free online zoom training sessions from my back garden and from our YouTube channel.

Will they ban us from competing in Europe?  Will they ban us from competing in the Irish FA Small Sided Games program?  Who knows.  We had to have a plan b so we set up a GoFundMe page.  The generosity of people has been so humbling and offered our family, our club and all the players such a lift.  

24/7 – Tell us a bit more on the link-up with SC Braga.

TW – The Braga project started in July 2013. Hugo Vicente was the assistant academy director at SC Braga. We met previously on a coaching trip in Holland in 2009 (at the time he was working at Benfica). We became good friends & kept in contact. I visited him & SC Braga. Then we helped set up for Braga to come play in a tournament in Dublin. In preparation they came to Belfast to play my TW Academy. We drew 1-1 with SC Braga. Hugo couldn’t believe at the time the kids only came in for one training session per week & all played for different clubs. He said can you imagine what you can achieve if you have access to them three-four times per week & your own club! 

The concept was born then.  Due to the political divide in Northern Ireland we didn’t want to call our team after an area in Belfast. We wanted to be a club open to all. So linking our community program, TW Sports, with SC Braga we became known as TW Braga. We have players that come from all over Northern Ireland. Braga’s name from Portugal is bringing children from Protestant & Catholic areas together. I’m not sure SC Braga realise the positive impact & how their club brings children together in Northern Ireland.

We have teams from U6-U14, an over 40’s team, a disability team and a community programme offering Toddler Soccer (ages 2-5), Mini Soccer (ages 5 +) and a schools programme. 

24/7 – What potential knock on impact could this have on your young footballers in the academy? 

TW – We are confident we can raise the amount but imagine if we didn’t have to find that sort of money from people who are struggling up and down the country. Imagine instead if that money could be invested into the club how that would benefit our players!

24/7 – What message would you aim to relay to FIFA, at this stage? 

“When I was a kid I was so excited when I heard FIFA as that meant the World Cup or the new game for the Sega!  Now, they are so far detached from the grassroots game it is disgusting. If they were to send someone from their plush offices in Switzerland to see the impact our programme has in young people’s lives in Northern Ireland they might rethink.  Our programme isn’t just about football it is about people. It unites Protestant and Catholic children and their parents together.  Our slogan is ‘Creating Better Players, Better People.’ maybe FIFA should come and learn some important values from us.

Having said that it turns out we have broken a rule.  That can’t be ignored and I don’t wish to ignore that fact.  I believe the only thing we are guilty of is being naïve. We weren’t aware of the rule, we were misguided as a grassroots club.  I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus as that’s what has been done with us. The same player has been registered four times with three clubs in Northern Ireland so it begs the question as to how this has been missed by our governing body? For me we have been failed by the Irish FA, not just from a registration point of view but from a human and pastoral point of view.  We have been left alone to deal with FIFA.

I want to finish on a positive.  The people who have donated, who have shared, who have phoned, text, emailed, I thank them. The Northern Irish media have been amazing.  Many people forget that along with being a coach I am a husband and a father.  My wife and four children have suffered but the love and support that they have given, as well as from our families and friends has been life saving.”

Further Support

As mentioned, TW Braga have launched a public appeal for support via gofundme.com which has been linked at the bottom of this piece. We would encourage you to support them with what you can. Every little helps as the 30 day period is due to lapse in around 10 days from today.

The club has been greatly supported by another Northern Irish outfit who have been handed down a very similar fine due to an eligibility dispute. Kilrea United, a junior club from County Londonderry managed to raise in excess of £13,000.00 and have made a grand gesture of solidarity to TW Braga, to the sum of £1000.00 

24/7 Football would like to express our thanks to Tim Wareing of TW Braga for speaking to us and to offer our support to their appeal. For more information,  please go to the GoFundMe page here.

https://gf.me/u/x6wj2s  

RFEF Announce Top Two Women’s Divisions In Spain To Go Professional

Spain’s football governing body RFEF revealed on Wednesday their plans that both the Primera and Segunda Divisions will be granted professional status, in a huge advancement for women’s football in the country.

Before this decision was taken, both these leagues had amateur status. In order to transfer to a professional capacity clubs must meet certain criteria such as budgets, minimum employment contracts, working conditions and a minimum number of professional licenses.

Professionalised Committees will be put in place to help all clubs transition to their new professional status. In total, 48 clubs across both divisions will be attempting to make the switch to become a full time outfit.

The professional status of both these leagues will come in to effect for the first time in the 2020-21 season, after the current campaign was curtailed because of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Alongside these two football leagues, The Women’s Futsal League has also been granted professional status, with a further 16 teams hoping to transition to a professional capacity.

Spain follows in the footsteps of Denmark, England, France, Germany and Sweden as the other European countries to have professional women’s divisions.

This move will no doubt aid the Spanish National Team, who currently sit 13th in FIFA’s World Rankings, having made it to the Round of 16 at the World Cup in 2019.

Julian Nagelsmann – The Wonderkid Coach

As football fans we always seem to discuss who will be the next top player and which young stars are likely to reach their potential. One thing fans don’t always talk about is coaches and that will be the focus for this article. Football is having what we could call a “transition” period – all the top clubs are having issues of their own. Real Madrid and Barcelona are not the same forces they used to be and are trying to get back to their own glory days, particularly in Europe. The same applies for Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Juventus and even Arsenal. Liverpool remain the only complete article in terms of an elite team, what this means is new clubs have been given the opportunity to push for success and new coaches are all vying to leave their imprint on a changing football landscape.

We’ve seen a trend in younger managers being appointed with the hope of long-term success: Mikel Arteta, Frank Lampard, Marco Rose and Erik Ten Hag are just some examples of younger coaches aiming to create their own philosophy and ethos. However, none of them are as young as 32-year-old Julian Nagelsmann who is currently the manager of RB Leipzig.

Nagelsmann made headlines in 2015 when he was appointed head coach of Hoffenheim at the staggeringly young age of 28 – the youngest ever Bundesliga head coach. Hoffenheim were embroiled in a relegation battle and the local media ridiculed the decision. The man nicknamed ‘Baby Mourinho’ by former Hoffenheim keeper Tim Wiese defied the odds and steered the club away from relegation. They won seven of their 14 remaining games to finish one point above the relegation play-off spot. They subsequently made key signings the next summer: Andrej Kramaric from Leicester, midfielders Lukas Rupp from Stuttgart and Kevin Vogt from Cologne, plus former Bayern Munich forward Sandro Wagner from Darmstadt. With the momentum carrying on, Nagelsmann guided them to 4th place and their first ever taste of Champions League football. He then guided them to 3rd in his next season, before struggling the season after as they finished down in 9th. 

It was at the end of this campaign that he signed a four-year deal with RB Leipzig on the 21st June 2019.  Nagelsmann’s success with RB Leipzig has been well documented.  He has been able to implement his attacking style of play on to a team with better players, Timo Werner has been the biggest beneficiary of his system.

At Hoffenheim, Nagelsmann primarily used a 5-3-2 formation with his players being able to rotate through positions to cover each flank. RB Leipzig focused on a pressing style of football, which allowed them to slow down and reduce attacking impetus. This enabled them to provide themselves with options for counter-attacking. They attacked through the middle using Niklas Sule or Sebastian Rudy, with their strikers laying the ball off. At Leipzig he’s been able to rotate between a back four and back five depending on the opponent. Like with Hoffenheim, his Leipzig team are able to play fluidly with players that can rotate positionally and that can press opponents off the ball to concentrate play on specific flanks in order to increase turnovers. Allowing his opposition to play using the touchline means they can set pressing traps by using their narrow shape to overload the targeted side and keep shape within transition. 

In attack they rely on diagonal passes being made available through the use of ‘U’ shapes within midfield. This allows Leipzig to utilise either two advanced midfielders including a deeper pivot, or have one of their strikers move into a deeper position with a midfielder pushing on.

Another crucial cog in Nagelsmann’s style of play is a target man. This allows him to have a player, which his team can use as an advanced pivot to start attacks or relieve pressure of the defense by holding up long balls. It also means they can break the lines in attack with the target man being able to play passes to advanced runners.

RB Leipzig aim to have five forwards in attack: utilising two wingers, two inside forwards and a central striker. This shape allows them to play short passes in and around the box and create spaces for through balls. Dynamic midfielders such as Christopher Nkunku and Marcel Sabitzer have really helped show how Nagelsmann’s system work well with technically gifted and expressive players.

Having a five at the back allows the wing-backs to join in attacks but when changing to a four man defence they can use the extra midfielders to use an even more narrow shape. The front two become more involved in the press but also serve as the catalysts for counter-attacks. The wide midfielders can subsequently tuck in to form a 4-2-2-2 shape. Emil Forsberg and Timo Werner can also rotate within a 4-2-3-1 in order to use Forsberg’s creative passing in central areas, with runners playing off him. The addition of Dani Olmo in January means that 4-2-2-2 is certainly more dynamic and again more fluency with the plethora of attacking players. Their defence has also been a key anchor point in their success. Dayot Upamecano, Nordi Mukiele and Lukas Klostermann are some of the best examples of the talent they possess defensively not to mention Tyler Adams who has shown vast improvement under Nagelsmann too. The RB Leipzig coach has shown his ability not only to fit players into his way of playing but also improve them within that system.

Nagelsmann has proved himself to be the best young manager in the world. His tactical versatility and ability to create fluid shapes has led him to great success already. This was typified with their Champions League victory over Spurs. The ‘baby Mourinho’ showed up his older counterpart as they played them off the park in both legs. While their title challenge has faltered this season with one too many draws, his side are showing plenty of promise and could very easily improve their push for the Bundesliga title next season. If they can keep hold of some of their key players or find suitable replacements, you could see RB Leipzig evolve into a strong side over the coming years. Whether Julian Nagelsmann stays with the German side or not, it will certainly be interesting to see how his career develops.

FA Cup final to be renamed in support of ‘heads up’ campaign

The FA Cup final is to be renamed in support of Prince William’s ‘heads up’ campaign aimed at raising awareness for men’s mental health. The change in sponsor means Emirates will temporarily step down as the competition’s main sponsor for the first time since 2015.

What is ‘Heads Up’?

Mental health is a topic that has become something of a national importance, with deaths by suicide rising by 10.9% in the UK in 2018 (Samaritans). A shocking stat is that men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women in the UK. The Premier League started a ‘heads up’ campaign spearheaded by Prince William (HRH Duke of Cambridge) to raise awareness of men speaking out about mental health, taking place on the weekends 8th-9th and 15th-16th February.

The campaign also saw the clubs around the Premier League starting matches a minute late in order to show a promotional video for positive mental health. Many local charities got fans with mental health to speak out and reduce the stigma surrounding men and opening up about their emotions.

This move comes after a huge spike in the number of footballers looking for mental health therapy. With 355 professionals accessing therapy in early to late 2019. Olu Maintain, a former academy player, spoke out about his fight with mental health on a youtube series called “Man-up” from BBC Sport. We are seeing a trend of more players opening up about their issues.  

Jesse Lingard spoke about the issues he had in an interview with the Daily Mail and the topic has become something of huge importance within the football community.

In an an article from BBC Sport, Prince William stated:

“It’s quite timely bearing in mind what we’ve all been through with this pandemic [Covid-19].

“I think there’s going to be, sadly, a lot of repercussions from this in society, not just in football, in terms of people’s mental health.

“Hopefully the FA Cup can be a bit of a pivot that people can rally around.”

 

When does the competition restart?

The quarter finals are set to take place on 27th-28th June, with the semi-finals potentially being played on the 18th-19th July. You can see the fixtures here.

The Web Pod

This week 24/7 Football launched the first of a new podcast series that focuses on our website to discuss recent articles with our brilliant writers. We discussed the changes that the website has gone through, the fact that we’re not just looking to cover the standard four English divisions but also branch into more of the European Leagues, Non-Leagues and Women’s Football. We also discussed What more can be done to support EFL and Non-League Clubs?

The aim of the podcast series is to have one or two writers on the podcast each week to discuss in greater depth what it is they have written about as well as talking points from some of the trending issues in the footballing world.

This week we have Peter Moore joining us who talked us through his experience.

 

Watch Here:

A Look at Marcus Rashford’s Incredible Charity Work with FareShare

Manchester United and England international Marcus Rashford has been widely praised for the great work he has done in helping the most vulnerable children across the UK during lockdown.

The 22 year-old announced in April that he would be teaming up with British charity FareShare, the largest organisation fighting hunger and food waste across the UK. He aimed to provide meals to children who were missing out on their free school meals because of the closure of all schools.

Rashford told BBC News that growing up, he relied on the breakfast club and free school meals in his school, as his mother often worked late. This was therefore the inspiration behind his desire to get involved with the charity.

Rashford and Fareshare’s original target was to raise £100,000 to feed 400,000 children per week, but after the overwhelmingly positive response to the campaign, this was increased to the goal of supplying three million meals per week to vulnerable people by the end of June.

He took to Twitter on Thursday to announce that this target has also been reached, with the help of the generosity of people across Britain. He also confirmed that he would be doubling his personal donation to the charity, after donations surpassed £20 million.

Recognition for his stellar work came in May, with the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester giving him the Special Recognition Award in honour of his “outstanding activity and contribution to the community” in all that he has done for impoverished children across the UK.

This is on top of a number of other projects in which Rashford has contributed to in order to help children during lockdown. On Friday he held a virtual PE class on CBBC whilst he also took lessons in sign language in order to judge a poetry competition for deaf children.

He also vows to continue his excellent work in providing meals to children, stating on Twitter that he won’t stop until, “no child in the UK has to worry about where their next meal is coming from.”

THE FANS PLATFORM

%d bloggers like this: