All posts by danclubbe

DOES NEW LIVERPOOL SIGNING MEAN Something’s jota give?

Liverpool’s recruitment kicked into gear in dramatic fashion last weekend as they unveiled the signing of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich, quickly followed by Diogo Jota from fellow Premier League club Wolves.

It was the latter which caught many by surprise, without being linked to the Portuguese star, suddenly he was a Liverpool player as the Premier League champions tied up a £41 million deal to sign the 23-year-old.

Often used as a wide forward Jota ticks the ‘need backup for the front three’ box in Jurgen Klopp’s squad. Although it remains to be seen who may depart Anfield in the coming weeks, coupled with options such as Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri, Takumi Minamino as well as a host of youngsters, it seems the Reds have now got all backup bases covered.

Just where will Jota fit in with the title holders?

Often used as a left inside forward throughout his career in Portugal and since his arrival in England, Jota is capable of operating through the middle although it seems likely he will mainly be used out wide.

Although currently occupied by Sadio Mane, Jota will see his fair share of match action. It has long been used as a stick to beat Klopp’s Reds but their apparent nonplussed attitude towards domestic cup competitions could well change with additional strength in depth.

Jota could well make his Liverpool debut in such a competition when they travel to Lincoln City on Thursday night for the Carabao Cup Third Round.

Whilst the infallible Liverpool front three are arguably the best in the world it is a fair argument to say without one the others fail, as well as the drop off in quality with the previous understudies being too high to afford to rest anyone during even the most strenuous periods.

Now, however, with quality of the likes of Jota waiting in the wings, Klopp will be far more willing to perhaps rest his star men in certain matches, as well as having the capabilities from the bench to change the direction of travel of a match should it not be going his side’s way.

The Stats

From a numbers perspective whilst Jota doesn’t quite match up with the current Liverpool wide men, although neither Mane or Salah were hitting the numbers they are now prior to their Anfield arrival. Klopp and his staff could well be about to take another prestigious talent up a number of levels.

Jota struck 33 goals in 111 league Wolves performances, and has also recently bagged his first international goal amidst his first four caps.

In 34 Premier League appearances last term, the Portuguese star scored seven times and assisted once. By comparison Mane scored 18 times and assisted seven in just one more outing.

Clear to see the position sharers are somewhat apart on the numbers front, although that gap could be accentuated by the differing levels of teams they were in.

Summary

Ultimately Jota is unlikely to be a regular starter to begin with and at just 23, the Portuguese international has plenty of time to grow into his Reds career, without any pressure to begin with.

Jota will most likely be utilised at the forefront of what Liverpool will hope to be a prolonged cup run, whilst providing an energetic and slightly alternative option off the bench in Premier League action.

Should, god forbid, any of the front three pick up an injury, Jota at least offers high quality backup with proven English top flight experience. Something almost everybody can agree was previously missing from the squad, despite the unrivalled success of the last 18 months.

Liverpool v Chelsea: preview

Liverpool continue their title defence on Sunday with a trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday where they will face a new look Chelsea side.

Jurgen Klopp’s Reds will be looking for a more assured performance from his side after they were involved in a thrilling if a little nervy, opening day clash with newly-promoted Leeds United.

Liverpool came out 4-3 winners thanks in the main to a hat-trick from Mohamed Salah, the Egyptian will be hopeful of continuing his form at his old employers on Sunday afternoon.

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea were perhaps second best for much of their first game of the season against Brighton & Hove Albion. Despite a lacklustre performance, the Blues came out on top as 3-1 winners as summer signings Timo Werner and Kai Havertz both made their Chelsea debuts.

The Match

After an eight goal thriller in July at Anfield between the two neutrals might be hopeful of a similar goal-fest.

However it seems unlikely, albeit Lampard’s side remain a little top heavy and Liverpool have shown possible defensive frailties in recent fixtures.

The clash will also bring together two managers who have been having somewhat of a public spat over transfer fees, although the Blues boss is making most of the noise.

The pairs differing opinions follow a pitch-side argument during Liverpool’s 5-3 victory in July. Lampard showing his displeasure at the awarding of a free-kick, which was subsequently scored by Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Key Men

Mo Salah’s performance last week was of the very highest order and makes him the important player for the Red’s ahead of Sunday’s encounter. Not just a hat-trick but Salah was sublime throughout and look at his sharpest best.

Timo Werner showed moments of his ability on Monday night and Chelsea fans will be excited from what they have seen from their new man. The German forward was widely expected to join Liverpool so this will be an interesting match-up.

Team News

Liverpool report with almost a clean bill of health bar Kostas Tsimikas who is still unavailable after testing positive for COVID-19 on international duty.

The Reds do have their very latest signing Thiago Alcantara available, although he is unlikely to feature having been with the club less than 72 hours.

Chelsea expect to have Werner available after picking up a knock against Brighton. However the Blues could still be without Ben Chilwell, Christian Pulisic, Thiago Silva and Hakim Ziyech.

Prediction

Expect an attacking match between two entertaining sides but the Premier League champions to come out on top 3-1

five youngsters to watch in the Premier League

As the Premier League season kicks back into full gear with everyone in action this weekend, what better time than to look at five youngsters who could be set for breakthrough campaigns in 2020/21.

Rhian Brewster – Liverpool

Liverpool player for now, but a lot perhaps depends on where the 20-year-old does end up. Should he remain with the Premier League champions? It is unlikely the former Under-17 World Cup Golden Boot winner will get the game time required to have an impact, however, should his much talked about departure come to fruition – this could well the year Brewster makes it on the biggest stage.

Jamie Shackleton – Leeds United

Leeds born and raised. Jamie Shackleton made 22 Championship appearances during the Whites title-winning campaign and could be set to have a big impact on the highest level. An England Under-20 international with a forward-thinking nature from midfield, the 20-year-old who possesses bags of energy could well be one to impress from the eye-catching Marcelo Bielsa side.

Tyrick MitchellCrystal Palace

The left-back from the Palace academy. After joining at a young age from Brentford, Mitchell looks set for a big season in Roy Hodgson’s squad. The 21-year-old looks set to put serious pressure on Patrick van Aanholt for the number one choice and started in the absence of the Dutchman in the opening day win against Southampton at Selhurst Park.

Khanya LeshabelaLeicester City

South African born 20-year-old who has been around the first-team squad during pre-season. To date Leshabela’s appearances have been restricted to Under-23 outings, however, do not be at all surprised to see his name make its way onto at least Brendan Rodgers’ bench during the season. A powerful runner who is tricky on the ball and blessed with pace and can play both centrally and out wide.

Regan Slater – Sheffield United

A product of the Blades youth system who has captained numerous academy sides at Bramall Lane. There are extremely high hopes Slater. The 21-year-old made his first-team debut way back in 2016 against Grimbsy Town, becoming the youngest Sheffield United debutante in the process. Slater has since spent successful loan spells at Carlisle United and Scunthorpe United, expected to stay with Chris Wilder’s squad this time and could have a major impact on the season.

When you are forced to put these lads in your FPL team later in the season, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

EFL OPENING WEEKEND ROUNDUP

Whilst the eyes of the football world focused mainly on Liverpool against Leeds and Chelsea’s new look squad, under the radar dotted around the UK the English Football pyramid also began the 2020/21 campaign this weekend in earnest.

Here is your roundup of all the goings on and everything you need to know!

Championship

All three relegated clubs kicked off their season with wins as they all look to bounce back at the first time of asking. Norwich striker Adam Idah grabbed an 80th minute winner away against Huddersfield Town, whilst an early Craig Cathcart strike was enough to give Watford an opening day victory against Middlesbrough.

A Bournemouth side under new management after Eddie Howe’s departure got themselves entangled in a classic with Blackburn Rovers, the Cherries running out eventual 3-2 winners thanks to a late goal from Arnaut Danjuma.

Last seasons play-off final runners-up Brentford lost their opening day clash away at Birmingham City. Swansea City who made the play-offs semi-finals in dramatic fashion kicked off their season with an impressive away win at Preston North End, Wolves loanee Morgan Gibbs-White with the only goal.

Other Results

Wycombe Wanderers 0-1 Rotherham United, Barnsley 0-1 Luton Town, Milwall 0-0 Stoke City, Cardiff City 0-2 Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City 2-1 Coventry, QPR 2-0 Nottingham Forest, Derby County 0-2 Reading.

League One

There was plenty of goals around League One as Sunderland began another season in the third tier with a 1-1 draw at home to Bristol Rovers.

Ipswich Town kicked off what they hope will be a successful season with a 2-0 win against Wigan with Teddy Edwards and Gwion Edwards on the scoresheet, whilst Swindon Town were perhaps most impressive on the day as they ran out 3-1 winners against Rochdale.

Northampton Town and AFC Wimbledon played out a 2-2 draw at Sixfields Stadium with all four goals coming in the first half.

Other Results

Lincoln City 2-0 Oxford United, Doncaster Rovers 1-1 MK Dons, Gillingham 0-2 Hull City, Portsmouth 0-0 Shrewsbury Town, Fleetwood Town 2-1 Burton Albion, Plymouth Argyle 1-0 Blackpool Town, Accrington Stanley 2-0 Peterborough, Crewe Alexandra 0-2 Charlton Athletic.

League Two

The story of the day in League Two came at Roots Hall, but it wasn’t for Southend United. Instead Harrogate Town in their first ever football league game ran out 4-0 winners with a Jack Muldoon brace at the heart of the victory.

Cambridge United went second just a goal behind the newcomers as they beat Carlisle United 3-0 at home. Manchester United legend owned Salford City drew 2-2 with Exeter City.

Morecambe left it very late as they crept past Cheltenham Town, a 92nd minute winner from Carlos Mendes Gomes giving the Shrimps all three points in a 2-1 first day win.

Other Results

Scunthorpe United 1-1 Newport County, Oldham Athletic 0-1 Leyton Orient, Barrow 1-1 Stevenage, Bolton Wanderers 0-1 Forest Green, Port Vale 2-0 Crawley Town, Mansfield Town 0-0 Tranmere Rovers, Walsall 1-0 Grimsby, Bradford City 0-0 Colchester United.

With Carabao Cup action this midweek the EFL ties will begin again on Friday night with Coventry v QPR in the Championship.

Wanted man: a profile on james tarkowski

As the bids pour in from West Ham United for Burnley centre-half James Tarkowski, what better time than to profile the centre-half, who could end up fetching a hefty fee this summer, with a release clause apparently set an eye-watering £50 million.

A 27 year old Tarkowski may be no spring chicken, but unlike many top flight footballers his rise to prominence came rather later in his career than most.

Now a mainstay in Sean Dyche’s solid Burnley XI, it is safe to say Tarkowski earned his stripes before making it in the big time.

Early Life

Born in Manchester and with Polish family blood, hence the surname, Tarkowski joined the academy at Blackburn Rovers before his release at the age of 14 at his own request.

Following a spell of toughening up in adult football in the North West Counties league for Maine Road, the no nonsense defender was signed by Oldham Athletic when he left school on a two-year scholarship, and was handed a professional contract in 2011 at Boundary Park.

The now Burnley man’s first taste of pro senior football came on  22 January 2011 when he appeared as a second half substitute for the Latics.

Lower League Sensation

Tawkowski went on to make 89 appearances for Oldham in all competitions, but in truth he was showing signs of a far greater level than the club could offer.

Despite this, Oldham attempted to keep their man by offering him a new contract, before a then League One Brentford came calling in 2014. Soon-after the Tic was a Bee after the two clubs agreed an undisclosed fee and the centre-half put pen to paper on a three and a half year deal.

After playing a bit-part role in Brentford’s promotion to the Championship, it was in the second tier of English football when the Englishman began to show his true potential.

His form across his 57 Championship outings in two seasons brought the attention of multiple clubs, with Sean Dyche’s Burnley ultimately being the lucky side to secure his signature.

On 1 February 2016, Tarkowski signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with a promotion chasing Clarets side for another undisclosed fee.

In truth the defender hasn’t always been first choice at Turf Moor, suffering a watching brief for large portions of his early time at the club, until the departure of Michael Keane to Everton opened up a position in the heart of the Burnley defence, Tarkowski has never looked back.

Since 2017/18 he has played 103 Premier League matches, including appearing in each of Burnley’s 38 games last term, underlining his new found importance to Dyche’s side. No wonder the rough speaking manager is desperate to keep hold of his man.

England Honours

Having been eligible to play for Poland through his grandfather, On 15 March 2018, Tarkowski was named in the England squad for friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy, making his debut on 27 March at Wembley Stadium starting in a 1-1 draw with the Italians.

A man of currently only two caps, there is no doubt more will come should he continue his outstanding form in the future, wherever he plies his trade.

Where Next?

With reported major interest from West Ham, including two rejected bids to date, and with Leicester City seemingly monitoring the situation, where next for James Tarkowski? If anywhere.

Whilst there is no doubt his form and levels of consistency make him worthy of a move to perhaps the slightly upper echelons of the Premier League, £50 million seems a little extortionate, although for for £10 million less you’re getting half the player Harry Maguire is, and the 27 year old Burnley man certainly isn’t that.

The West Ham link seems a strange one, not because David Moyes’ squad wouldn’t benefit from the centre back, because they would. More because it’s somewhat of a sideways, arguably backwards move for him. Despite the perceived size of the clubs, the claret and blue of Burnley finished a full six places higher than the claret and blue of West Ham last term.

It could easily be argued the Leicester switch is a more desirable, viable and perhaps suitable one. A team who certainly threatened the top four for much of the season, have Europa League football, and will compete in the domestic trophies, is perhaps whereabouts Tarkowski should be aiming.

Ready For The Elite?

TalkSport host Ally McCoist did recently question why some of the big boys in the top flight weren’t making their enquiries, however a crack at the very elite levels may just be one tiny step too far for the twice capped England man.

That said Tarkowski did make the WhoScored.com European team of the season a line-up is based purely on statistics as Burnley kept the same number of clean sheets as champions Liverpool in 2019/20, largely down to that man leading the defence.