All posts by Ese Agboaye

Top 3 Welsh Wonders in the Premier League

Since the evolution of the Premier League, there have been a flurry of Welsh players such as Joe Allen and 2016 Premier League winner Andy King. But who are the top three players?

 

Ryan Giggs

The former Manchester United captain has won (nearly) everything there is to win in club football, from league titles, to cups, including European glories and the FIFA Club World Cup. He also holds a unique record of scoring in every Premier League season (except in 2013/14).

Just a pity he never played in any international tournaments, but at least he was part of Team GB.

 

Gareth Bale

Since being plucked from Southampton by Tottenham Hotspur, Gareth Bale went from strength to strength, having first experienced Champions League football with the North London side back in 2010/11, and captured the imagination of fans with a memorable hat-trick against Inter Milan. Since then, he’s achieved more than he could ever imagine with Real Madrid, having won a league title, one Copa Del Rey, and four Champions League titles. Three of which were consecutive.

 

Aaron Ramsey

Aaron Ramsey signed on at Arsenal from Cardiff City in the summer of 2008. During the period, he showed promise, and his confidence improved from there on. Although he was showing he was the real deal, it all came crashing down in February 2010. A horror tackle by Ryan Shawcross saw Ramsey out for the rest of the season.

Thankfully, he recovered from that, and returned to form to help his Arsenal side end their wait for a trophy in 2014, and win two more along the way.

 

Special mentions: Ashley Williams – He’s been instrumental in the rise to prominence of Welsh football, having been part of the Swansea City side that won promotion in 2011 – thus being the first Welsh club to compete in the Premier League, and the side that won the League Cup two

 

Joe Allen – comically known as “the Welsh Xavi”, like Williams, he was part of a successful Swansea City side that won promotion, and was a regular feature at Liverpool until his unfortunate injury just before the 2015/16 season.

 

Andy King – Having signed for Leicester City as a teenager in 2006, the Barnstaple-born (qualified to play for Wales through his grandmother who is from Wrexham) midfielder didn’t experience Premier League football until 2014. His side stayed up in their first season back in the top flight, which included a memorable 5-3 win over Manchester United. He was a instrumental part of the incredible 5000-1 side that exceeded expectation. In doing that, he became just the fourth Welsh international to win the Premier League.

 

So, those are my top three Welsh players who have graced the Premier League. What are yours?

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Javi Gracia – How has he changed Watford?

Since their promotion in 2015, Watford, have endured a slow, but steady rise which has seen them battle promoted side Wolverhampton Wanderers for an all-time high of 7th this season. But how? Here, we take a look at how they’ve gone from an ordinary side, to a potential “force to be reckoned with”.

2015/16

In their first season back in the top flight under Quique  Sanchez Flores, their league form wasn’t great, having only mustered a win streak of four matches from late November, to late December. However, it wasn’t all bad as they did reach the FA Cup semi-final, with Odion Ighalo finishing as top scorer.

2016/17

The following season, it was all change as Walter Mazzarri became their manager. It wasn’t any better than the previous season, as they only managed three separate win streaks in September, the conclusion of January and the start of February, and early April. It was thanks to a Hull City side that were considerably worse than them that they managed to remain in the Premier League.

2017/18

Yet another managerial change happened, with Marco Silva coming in from relegated Hull City. The Hornets had a decent start to the season before it was alleged that Silva’s head was turned by another club ,and was mainly the reason for the sides downturn in form that saw them risking relegation. He was eventually sacked towards the end of January, and was replaced by Javi Gracia in the same month. Under Gracia, their form wasn’t better but did just about enough to stay up, including earning a memorable home win over Chelsea.

2018/19

Before the start of the season, they lost key player Richarlison to Everton, which prompted questions about whether they could stay up this season.

Despite, that their start to the season has been exceptionally good, racking up a win streak of four matches – their all-time best in the Premier League.

They are currently in the top 10, and are looking to beat both Wolves, and Everton to 7th securing European football, which would be an all-time best, and are FA Cup quarter-finalists again.

But how have they gone from being perennial strugglers to top 10 challengers? How has Javi Gracia changed the mentality of the side? The acquisition of Gerard Deulofeu seems to have the image of the club given that he’s come from Barcelona, rather than a Stoke City type of side. He has also maintained the role of Troy Deaney who is a fan favourite at Watford and he has been in fine form.

Gracia has seen the talent that Watford has, and has utilised them well. I like managers that come into the Premier League, and know that they can do better than the level the club is currently at. The likes of Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City, and Nuno Espirito Santo have shown that. 

Back to Gracia, I like what’s he’s done with Watford such as looking at ways to improve, and bettering the squad. He’s given them the belief that the squad can aim higher than just doing enough to survive like in previous seasons. Can he keep it up though? We’ll have to find out…

If Watford do indeed finish 7th, the Spanish manager would surely have to be nominated for Manager of the Season, right?

Liverpool or Manchester City: Who’ll come out on top?

Manchester City were busy winning the League Cup at the weekend, and you thought that would be an incentive Liverpool would take when they headed to Old Trafford. Instead, they came out with a draw. The result saw them return to the summit, but it was more “two points dropped” than “one point gained”.

Pep Guardiola’s side are able to take advantage of Liverpool slipping up when they take on West Ham on Wednesday, whilst Jurgen Klopp’s side faces Watford at the same time.

With 11 games to go, neither side can afford to drop further points from here on in, so without further ado, let’s see what’s in store for both sides.

Liverpool – W20 D6 L1

Watford (H)
Everton (A)
Burnley (H)
Fulham (A)
Tottenham Hotspur (H)
Southampton (A)
Chelsea (H)
Cardiff City (A)
Huddersfield Town (H)
Newcastle United (A)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)

Among their remaining games, there are some tough fixtures, along with a few “winnable” (saying it quietly) matches.

The key games for me (yours can differ) would be Chelsea at home – this was the game where they slipped up five years ago, so they wouldn’t want to do that again!

I’ve also picked out Newcastle United away. Cast your mind back to the 1995/96 season. Liverpool had just beaten a Newcastle United side going for the title, thus handing a resilient Manchester United side a massive incentive. Now fast forward to this year. The memory of THAT defeat will be fresh in the minds of older fans, so the home will be rallying on the Magpies to inflict revenge on what happened 23 years ago.

Manchester City – W21 D2 L4

West Ham United (H)
Bournemouth (A)
Watford (H)
Fulham (H)
Cardiff City (A)
Crystal Palace (A)
Tottenham Hotspur (H)
Manchester United (A)
Burnley (A)
Leicester City (H)
Brighton & Hove Albion (A)

Like Liverpool’s run-in, its best if I used the term “winnable” quietly as there can still be twists and turns!

Unlike Liverpool though, City still have other tournaments such as the FA Cup as they go for a historic quadruple (I don’t think its possible, but others think otherwise).

Of all their remaining games, one I’ve picked out is the Manchester derby. Last season, Manchester City had the opportunity to wrap up the title at home against their local rivals – what a game to do it in too, but United had other ideas. Still, City went on to win the league, but doing it in a derby game like Arsenal did all those years ago would’ve been so sweet!

Should they remain within touching distance of back-to-back titles, and Liverpool somehow trip up, they’ll once again be in with a chance of wrapping up the title in a derby, but this time, on enemy territory. Just imagine the scenes if the Citizens win the league at Old Trafford?! One can dream…

Back to Liverpool, it would appear that they haven’t been pushing as much in the cups in order to aide their title run. As “callous” as it seems, in a way, it does make sense as they’d want to play in fewer fixtures so that player fatigue doesn’t become an issue. But are they “disrespecting” the cups? That’s another discussion for another day…

As Liverpool have fewer fixtures to worry about, I feel they have the upper hand, but they’ve been here before, and we all know what happened next.

The test for Manchester City will be whether they can navigate their way to a fourth title whilst fighting on multiple cylinders. Can they achieve the impossible?

I’ve been asked where the title will be won and lost. There seem to be question marks around Liverpool, but not so much around Manchester City. We’d all like for the title race to go down to the final day like it did in 2012, but I don’t think that’ll be the case this time around.
You can argue that Liverpool have the edge as they don’t have as many fixtures coming up, but that was thought to be the case five years ago, but it ultimately wasn’t.

For that reason, I believe City have the edge as they have more competition driving them on.

Can Manchester City claim their fourth title, or will Liverpool finally win a first Premier League era title?

Four managers that could replace Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea

Chelsea managers in the past have always been “under pressure” and under “intense scrutiny” over the years, but none more so than Maurizio Sarri.

Sarri has been doing well, especially at the start of the season, but in recent weeks, his Chelsea side have been struggling, and results such as being thumped 6-0 by Manchester City, and a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Bournemouth do little to help the cause, which has led to widespread speculation that Sarri could be sacked soon.

But why? His tactics, commonly known as “Sarriball” haven’t won over the fans, with the home support venting their fury following his sides FA Cup exit at home to Manchester United.

Could his time be up? If so, which managers could replace him? We take a look at who could be the umpteenth manager at Stamford Bridge since Roman Abramovich took over the club in 2003.

Diego Simeone, Mauricio Pochettino, Arsene Wenger, and Zinedine Zidane are just four of the high profile names being linked with the job.

We’ll start alphabetically, and go with current Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Pochettino – who has also been linked with a move to Old Trafford, doesn’t have trophies to his name, but does get the best out of players, and will surely be likewise at Chelsea.

Since coming to the Premier League, Pochettino has somewhat overachieved at Southampton, guiding them to an 8th place finish before going on to manage in London where he has turned Spurs’ from being happy with a top-four finish to title challengers. This season has been difficult with stadium issues being a stumbling block, coupled with not being able to spend money in either transfer windows. So either issue hasn’t helped, but so far, he has shown that he can pull through difficult situations.

Next up, its the animated Diego Simeone. He’s been linked with the post in the past, so its no surprise his name crops up again. Unlike his Argentinian compatriot, Simeone does have titles to his name, having won two Europa League titles (2012 & 2018), one league title (2014), and one Copa del Rey (2011). Oh, on top of those, he’s also overseen his side win one Spanish Super Cup (2014), two UEFA Super Cups (2012 & 2018), and two runners-up finishes in the Champions League (2014 & 2016).

His current side has gone from strength to strength over the years, from being a Spanish equivalent of Tottenham Hotspur (in my opinion anyway) to muscling with the big boys. He has also shown that he has what it takes to compete at the top, especially as he’s very good at competing in bad situations.

Arsene Wenger – this sounds like an odd one as being an Arsenal fan, I can’t picture Wenger managing another Premier League club.

He has an eye for young talent, and would get the best out of players like Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi (with the latter not getting much game time). He was under intense scrutiny in his last few years, but has often produced good results, even when up against it.

It would be rather strange to see him at a different Premier League club. Imagine a slightly young Sir Alex Ferguson rocking up at Tottenham Hotspur? Yes, it’s THAT strange!

Lastly, Zinedine Zidane. – He has been a surprise package, having not had managerial experience prior to taking over the reigns at Real Madrid (however he did coach the youth side,

Having won three successive Champions League titles, one La Liga title, one Spanish Super Cup, two UEFA Super Cups, and two FIFA Club World Cups, his CV shows why he’s a strong candidate. His tactics show that he’s one who plays interesting football that’ll get fans up on their seats. He’s not a “park the bus” sort of manager.

As I was typing this, news came that Chelsea have been banned from signing players for the next two transfer windows, and that’s something that may turn off managers I’ve put in this list, but maybe not Pochettino (or Wenger) so they can step forward.

But that’s just my view. Which manager do you think is best suited to potentially replace under pressure Maurizio Sarri?

Who could hold the key to keeping star player Eden Hazard at Stamford Bridge?