All posts by Adam Stephens

Thiago Alcantara joins Liverpool – Who is the Spanish Midfielder?

Premier League Champions Liverpool have signed Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara for an initial £20 million, which could potentially rise to £27 million through add-ons. 

The 29-year old is in the final year of his contract with Bayern Munich, but Thiago had already made it clear to the European Champions that he wanted a new challenge.

Equally Bayern Munich have decided that they would like to recoup some of the money for some of the money they paid for the midfielder rather than risk him leaving for nothing at the end of the season. 

Thiago’s arrival at Anfield would potentially pave the way for Giorginio Wijnaldum to join his former national team manager Ronald Koeman, at Barcelona. 

Who is Thiago Alcantara?

Thiago was born to Brazilian parents. His father was a World Cup winner while his mother was a volleyball player.  He moved to Spain at a young age and at the age of 14 he signed for FC Barcelona. 

The Spanish midfielder made his debut at the Nou Camp in 2009 against RCD Mallorca. In 2011 he made his first appearance for the Spanish national side in a friendly against Italy.

In total, Thiago played 68 matches for the Catalan side and scored seven goals. He then, however, made the switch from the Spanish La Liga to the German Bundesliga, joining Pep Guardola at Bayern Munich in 2013. 

During his time with the Bundesliga giants, as well as securing last season’s Champions League trophy by beating Paris Saint Germain, he won an impressive seven consecutive Bundesliga titles, four German Cups and the Club World Cup.  

What kind of player is he?

Thiago Alcantara is a top quality deep lying playmaker that is composed on the ball and keeps things ticking over in the centre of the park. His range of passing is nothing short of phenomenal. 

The Spanish international certainly represents terrific value for the Premier League Champions, and he will certainly provide them some much-needed control in the midfield area.  

Indeed, when Thiago was 22-years-old former manager Pep Guardola has previously said that he can play three or four positions. The midfielder, however, is well accustomed to playing in a 4-3-3 system, so he would easily slot into the reds midfield. 

In short, he will give Jurgen Klopp’s side another top quality option in a vital area of the pitch. 

What do you think? Do you believe that Thiago Alacantara will be a success at Liverpool?

Jack Grealish commits future to Aston Villa

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish has ended speculation regarding his future with the club by signing a new five-year deal, keeping him at Villa Park until 2025. 

The England midfielder has been linked with a move to Manchester United this transfer window, but he has now confirmed via the club’s Twitter account that his immediate future will be at Villa Park. 

This news will come as a welcome boost to Villa fans, to secure the services of their captain, who has been at his hometown club since he was eight-years old. 

Grealish made his debut for the club towards the back end of the 2013/14 and stuck by Villa despite their relegation in 2016. 

The England international played a crucial role in his team’s return to the top flight and was their top scorer in their first season back in the Premier League. 

Grealish said:

“I am delighted to make this commitment to Villa. It is my club, my home and I am very happy here. The owners have made it very clear to me how ambitious they are and how they want to build Aston Villa.  There are exciting times ahead and I am glad to be apart of it.”

Villa Chief Executive Christian Purslow, meanwhile, said: 

“We are determined to build a top team around him and are delighted that he is extending his contract and committing to the club that he loves.”

Indeed, the Villa owners have clearly demonstrated their ambition for the club this past week as they not only secured Grealish’s future but they have signed last season’s Championship joint-top scorer, striker Ollie Watkins from Brentford for a club record fee of £28 million. 

The midlands side have also brought in full back Matty Cash from Nottingham Forest and look set to add the likes of goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez from Arsenal and former Chelsea striker Betrand Traore.

Despite the influx of signings, the aim for Villa is clearly still remaining in the top flight this season and with these latest additions they certainly look to have a fighting chance of achieving this.

Where do you think Aston Villa will finish this season? Do you think they have what it takes to remain in the top flight for the second season running?

WSL RoundUp Week Two: Champions Chelsea register first win of the 2020-21 Season

The latest round of Women Super League matches incredibly featured two sides scoring nine goals past their respective opponents. 

Indeed, WSL Champions Chelsea registered their first win of the campaign with a 9-0 win over Tanya Oxtoby’s Bristol City side.  

Emma Hayes’ Blues were ruthless in front of goal in an impressive team display, which saw nine different goal scorers.  England International Fran Kirby opened the scoring with her first WSL goal for 16 months since returning from pericarditis. 

The West London club doubled their advantage 16 minutes later through Norwegian defender Maren Mjelde from the penalty spot after Yana Daniels fouled Ji So-yun. 

Scottish winger Erin Cuthbert then ensured that Chelsea’s impressive performance continued as she provided the free kick for Melanie Leupolz to head home, before she scored herself from a long-range strike just outside the penalty area. Millie Bright then headed in the Blue’s fifth just before half time.

Things did not improve for The Robins in the second half as PFA Player of the Year Beth England tapped in from close range, before new signing Niamh Charles got in on the act by scoring on her first appearance for her new club.  

Record signing Pernille Harder then opened her goalscoring account with an impressive backheel into the net before Australian international Sam Kerr completed the rout.

The other team to score nine goals past their opponents was Arsenal, who secured a 9-1 win over London rivals West Ham. 

The match was selected as a test event for the reintroduction of crowds and the 734 fans certainly got their money’s worth. 

The two sides were evenly matched in the first part of the game as Jill Roord put the Gunners ahead with a side-footed finish before the hosts equalised through a Kenza Dali half volley just outside the area. 

The game, however, was effectively over as a contest when Hammer’s captain Gilly Flaherty was sent off just after Arsenal had retaken the lead through Dutch international Vivianne Miedema.

Midfielder Kim Little finished off a fine team move before England striker Beth Mead made it 4-1 to the North London side just before the break.  

The second half saw further misery for the home side and their fans as Roord scored a further two goals to ensure she went home with the match ball for the second game running.  

In between Roord’s goals Miedema was able to add another to her tally before Leah Williamson and Caitlin Foord completed the scoring, which saw the Gunners move to the top of the table, with two wins out of two and managing to score 15 goals in the process.    

New signings Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood meanwhile were unable to inspire Gareth Taylor’s Manchester City side, who, were held to a 0-0 draw in their first home match of the campaign by a stubborn Brighton team.

The other side of Manchester, however, had no such problems as they achieved their first three points of the campaign away at Birmingham City.  Casey Stoney’s Manchester United were successfully able to overturn a 2-1 half-time deficit thanks to two goals from Kirsty Hanson, who inspired United to a 5-2 win.  

Elsewhere, Reading were able to recover from a disappointing 6-1 opening day defeat to Arsenal with a strong first half display against newly promoted Aston Villa.  Goals from Amalie Eikeland, Laura Bruton and a Fara Williams penalty ensured The Royals of a commanding 3-0 lead at half-time.  

Although a penalty from Stine Larsen 11 minutes from the end offered the midlands side a way back into the game they ultimately never looked likely to threaten to get back into the match. 

The final WSL game saw Everton maintain their impressive start to the season with a 1-0 win over Tottenham.  The North London club were minus their new marque signing Alex Morgan, and ultimately did not offer much going forward.  Subsequently, they slumped to defeat on Merseyside, thanks to a header from England international Izzy Christiansen. 

What next?

The Women Super League takes a two-week break with the next round of games being played on Sunday 4thOctober.

Before that though, the weekend of the 26/27thSeptember features Women’s FA Cup Quarter Finals, which includes a North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham. WSL Champions Chelsea, meanwhile, travel to in-form Everton, while Championship side Leicester City take on Gareth Taylor’s Manchester City. 

The remaining Quarter Final sees Hope Powell’s Brighton host Midlands side, Birmingham City. 

Women’s FA Quarter Final Ties

Saturday 26thSeptember

Arsenal Women vs Tottenham Women (12:30pm)

Everton Women vs Chelsea Women (1pm)

Leicester City Women vs Manchester City Women (1pm)

Sunday 27thSeptember

Brighton & Hove Albion Women vs Birmingham City Women (3pm)

Should Lucy Bronze now be considered the best England player of all time?

This week England full back Lucy Bronze returned to the Women Super League, signing a two-year contract with her previous club, Manchester City. 

Bronze concluded her three-year stay with Olympiqe Lyon Feminine by lifting the Champions League last month as the French side secured the trophy with a 3-1 win over Frauen Bundesliga Champions VlB Wolfsburg in San Sebastian. 

During her remarkably successful time with the French Champions, she won all that was available to her: claiming three Champions League titles, three league titles, two Coup de France Feminine and a Trophee des Championnes.

Indeed, the 28-year old also secured a number of individual allocates, including the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year in 2019. 

On Bronze’s return to Manchester, Head Coach Gareth Taylor said:

“She is an unrivalled talent and her endless individual and team awards only scratch the surface of what a superb player she is, not only at Club level, but also internationally with England.”

For the Three Lions Bronze has also produced some memorable moments, one that immediately springs to mind is that stunning goal against Norway in their last 16 game back in 2015.

This, however, begs the question, should she now be considered the best female player that England has ever produced?

Well, when you think of great England Women footballer’s one name that immediately springs to mind is Kelly Smith.

Smith was able to successfully represent the Three Lions for the best part of two decades earning 117 caps. She was one who arguably blazed a trail for future England footballers such as Bronze. 

During her club career she scored a remarkable 125 goals in 144 games for Arsenal Ladies over three separate spells with the Gunners. 

Smith also played for a number of American football teams such as New Jersey Lady Stallions, Philadelphia Charge and New Jersey Wildcats in her eight years in the USA. 

Ultimately, Smith ended her career with 20 trophies in three separate, which included starring in Arsenal’s amazing 2006-07 season where they secured the Quadruple.  She played a key part of this success by scoring 30 goals in 34 matches across those four competitions.  She was also presented the FA Player of Year award twice. 

BBC Match of the Day commentator Jonathan Pearce said:

“She had power, strength, a lovely eye for a pass, finishing of course and was so dynamic in the penalty area. 

“She was a leader because of the way she played, that she demanded respect from her opponents and team-mates.  She was the first England women’s football superstar.” 

In short, what Smith was able to achieve while the English game was not fully professional was terrific but Bronze is certainly on the right path to either match or surpass her.

It is, however, difficult to compare the two players directly as they play different positions.  Bronze is the epitome of the modern day full back, while she can also be utilised in midfield and at times the centre of defence, where as Smith applied her trade typically further forward as a striker.

Overall I would still consider to be Smith to be the greatest player to come from these shores having been able to perform at a consistently high level for a number of years, added to that Bronze has still to win a European trophy with an English club. 

The 28-year old, however, certainly is on the right path and comes back to the WSL at a time when the League has a chance to establish itself as the world’s finest women’s division.  

What do you think? Should Lucy Bronze be considered England’s greatest ever player? Would Kelly Smith still get your vote? Feel free to post in the comments below….

WSL RoundUp Week One: Jill Roord Hat-Trick inspires the Gunners To Victory

This past weekend marked the return of the FA Women Super League, where remarkably the last League matches concluded at the end of February. 

Joe Montemurro’s Arsenal, however, put the disappointment of last month’s Champions League exit to PSG successfully behind them with a resounding 6-1 victory over Kelly Chambers’ Reading, who had not played a game since February.

Indeed, the Royals new midfielder, Jess Fishlock did not have the dream debut, as the Gunners were ruthless in front of goal. Scottish international Kim Little gave Montemurro’s side the early lead with a composed finish from Leah Williamson’s pinpoint cross in the fifteenth minute.  While last season’s Football Writers’ Player of the Year, Vivianne Miedema, subsequently doubled the North London team’s advantage before Jill Roord was able to add a third just before half-time. 

Things did not improve for Chamber’s side in the second half as Little was able to successfully set up Roord for Arsenal’s fourth of the day.  Last season’s golden boot winner, Miedema then made up for an uncharacteristic miss by adding a fifth with a terrifically struck shot. 

Ten minutes from time, Roord was able to round off scoring for the Gunners by completing her hat trick after a lovely flowing team move. Ex- Arsenal striker, Danielle Carter managed to grab a late consolation for the Royals but by then the game itself was over as a contest.  

Last season’s WSL champions Chelsea, meanwhile, were held to a 1-1 draw at Manchester United’s Leigh Sports Village stadium.  The Blues took the lead in the 25thminute through Australian International striker Sam Kerr after she had managed to successfully convert a cross from Fran Kirby.  

Casey Stoney’s United, however, were always in the game and saw Leah Galton’s header hit the bar just before half-time.  The Red Devils were, however, able to grab an equaliser ten minutes from time when Galton was able to convert substitute Jackie Groenen’s cross.  

There was still time for Chelsea’s record signing and the most expensive player in women’s football history, Pernille Harder to make her much-anticipated debut, however, she was unable to find that break through as the game ended 1-1.  

Gareth Taylor’s first WSL in charge of Manchester City ended with a 2-0 victory over newly promoted Aston Villa.  England striker Georgia Stanway scored both goals in the first 21 minutes, which were created by two defensive mix-ups at the back by Villa’s defence.  Overall, Taylor would be encouraged by new signing Chloe Kelly’s performance, through out the game she was able to cause the Villa defence a number of problems. While the American, Sam Mewis also grew impressively into her midfield role as the game went on.  

Two goals from club captain Lucy Graham helped Everton get off to an impressive start as they secured a 4-0 away win against Bristol City, while two second half goals from Megan Connolly and Inessa Kaagman helped Hope Powell’s Brighton on the way to a 2-0 victory over Birmingham City.  

Finally West Ham’s Adriana Leon scored a brilliant goal in the WSL’s first London derby of the season as the Hammers kicked off their season with a 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur.  

What next?

This weekend’s round of fixtures kicks-off with West Ham hosting Arsenal, in a match that will be played in front of roughly 1,000 supporters. This is part of the Government’s latest pilot scheme of allowing people to attend sport.  The game will be due to kick-off at 5:20pm on Saturday 12thSeptember at Dagenham and Redbridge’s Victoria Road. 

On Sunday 13thSeptember sees the rest of week two’s WSL ties as Champions Chelsea will be looking to get their first win of the campaign at home to Bristol City.  While, Everton will look to build on their impressive start as they are at home to Tottenham Hotspur.  

Elsewhere, Manchester United travel to face Birmingham City, Gareth Taylor’s Manchester City host Brighton and Reading will be looking to bounce back from their heavy opening day defeat as they play newly promoted Aston Villa. 

September 12th

West Ham United vs Arsenal 5:20pm 

September 13th

Chelsea vs Bristol City 12:30pm

Everton vs Tottenham Hotspur 1pm

Birmingham City vs Manchester United 2pm

Manchester City vs Brighton & Hove Albion 2pm

Reading vs Aston Villa 2pm