Category Archives: Manchester City

Premier league 2020/21: WHO CAN WIN IT?

The new Premier League season begins this weekend, unbeleivably as it seems like only yesterday we were waving goodbye to the last season.

Ahead of the 2020/21 season, we have some questions surrounding the top of the table. Can Pep’s Manchester City rid themselves of last years frailties and compete for longer this time? Or will Liverpool continue their consistency and defend their title?

Let’s not rule out the possibility of Manchester United’s continuing their progression and it would be almost insanity to dismiss Chelsea, given their spends, wouldn’t it?

Here’s how I think the teams involved in the upper echelons of the Premier League title race will play out in 2020/21…

Liverpool

The reigning champions. Jurgen Klopp’s side may have ended the season in somewhat bizarre fashion as they rather limped over the line following lock-down and title celebrations. That should not take away from the sheer dominance the Reds imparted on the Premier League.

While many people question the business, or lack of business done by the champions up until now, its my belief only minor changes are required, if any at all.

Natural left-back cover for Andy Robertson was required and has been found in Greek international Kostas Tsimikas.

One saga, which rumbles on is the Thiago Alcantara links, now joined by the Gini Wijnaldum to Barcelona rumours. Whilst many Liverpool fans may argue why not have both? I’m not sure there is room both in the current group, a squad that already boasts a plethora of central midfield options and the two players are of a similar mould.

The main bone of contention continues to be the back-up options to the starting XI. Should Klopp face a long-term injury to his front-line options the understudies may not be of a level required, although in truth that is the case of almost every team in world football. Not many can be a suitable understudy to Virgil van Dijk.

Overall, I believe Liverpool will go on to retain their title, the relentless nature in which Klopp has his squad churning out results is very difficult to keep up with week on week. Don’t be surprised by the growing influence of some of the younger players, in particular Curtis Jones, and also Naby Keita may finally find his feet in English football.

Manchester City

The main contenders to take Liverpool’s crown, Pep Guardiola’s well furnished Man City side.

There is little doubt 2019/20 can be viewed as somewhat of a failure from a sky blue perspective in Manchester. As glorious a victory as the Carabao Cup may have been, a side comprised of such talent and expenditure is expected to finish closer than 18 points off the summit. Not to mention the dismal UEFA Champions League exit.

That, however, was last term, how about now? The arrival of Nathan Ake certainly plugs a crack in the issues faced at City, a forced to be reckoned with going forwards, just ask Watford, but defensively they were often found wanting, just ask Adama Traore. However, I’m not sure Ake is the answer, for one the Dutchman is very much a left-sided centre-back, similarly to Aymeric Laporte. On top of which, despite being a more than decent operator at Premier League level, he isn’t elite, and City are operating amongst that level.

Elsewhere, the club has seen the departure of David Silva from the Etihad, a fine servant to the football club who leaves with the knowledge he will be forever immortalised in statue form. On the field, in a more mobile capacity, Silva is likely to be replaced by the much praised but lesser seen Phil Foden.

Pep has also spent £20 million on former Valencia man Ferran Torres, a 20 year old right winger who arrives with plenty of plaudits and provides competition to the likes of Rihad Mahrez, Bernado Silva and Foden himself.

Whilst the transfer window remains open there is always the chance City could strengthen further, although the Lionel Messi links have now subsided, as things stand in the week of the season’s opening day they haven’t addressed the areas of the squad suitable to overcome an 18 point swing.

Manchester United

Despite the obvious improvement in the past six months, particularly since Bruno Fernandes arrived back in January, there are still areas of weakness at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær is learning on the job somewhat and with that there is bound to come mistakes, certainly when up against seasoned campaigners over a prolonged period.

Despite the frailties, however, it should be another year of progression for the red half of Manchester, who have already bolstered their midfield ranks with the arrival of Donny van de Beek from Ajax. One or two more signings, particularly in defensive positions and they should find themselves cutting the gap to the top two.

Chelsea

Who haven’t they signed? One thing is for sure is the Blues are set to be an enthralling watch with the attacking prowess in their currently huge squad.

Boasting the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, to name but a few, Frank Lampard’s side will give anybody a match on their day, but it’s consistency they may lack to begin with.

They shipped goals all too regularly to maintain prolonged title challenge last term and as things stand that won’t change too much, despite the arrival of the vastly experienced Thiago Silva, it’ll remain a difficult ask to breach the gap to the top two.

Any Other Contenders

Whilst the Premier League has seen Leicester City win the title against the odds, it seems unlikely 2020/21 will see another Claudio Ranieri and Jamie Vardy shaped fairy-tale, but you never know. The main protagonists would of course be Tottenham and Arsenal, although the rivals may be best focusing on breaking into the top four instead of harbouring serious title ambitions.

Outside of the North Londoners, perhaps Wolves could be considered for a tilt for a time being, however a 38 game threat seems unlikely at this stage.

With over a month left in the transfer window anything can happen (Messi), but for now it’s back to back Liverpool glory. After-all, top flight domestic titles are like Mersey Ferries, you wait 30 years for one and two come along at once….

What would Lionel Messi bring to the Premier League?

In our latest 24-7 football podcast we discuss the big story surrounding Lionel Messi and his potential move from FC Barcelona.

What would Messi bring to a club? How much would you pay? And more…

You listen to the podcast by clicking on the links below:

https://soundcloud.com/adam-stephens-425096853/24-7-football-episode-4

You can also watch the webcast here:

Jordan Henderson Wins FWA Player of the Year

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is the recipient of this year’s Football Writers Association Player of the Year award, after a stellar season with the Reds.

The England international fended off stiff competition from Man City’s Kevin De Bruyne, Man United’s Marcus Rashford and club teammates Virgil Van Dijk and Sadio Mané to scoop the prize, the oldest individual honour, which has been handed out each year since 1948.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alisson were also in the running, but Henderson won it comfortably, taking home almost a quarter of the votes.

Speaking to the FWA after the announcement, Henderson said:

“I’d like to say how appreciative I am of the support of those who voted for me and the Football Writers’ Association in general.

You only have to look at the past winners of it, a number of whom I’ve been blessed to play with here at Liverpool, like Stevie (Gerrard), Luis (Suarez) and Mo (Salah) to know how prestigious it is.”

Henderson added:

“I accept it on behalf of this whole squad, because without them I’m not in a position to be receiving this honour. These lads have made me a better player – a better leader and a better person.”

The award takes into consideration a player’s performance both on and off the pitch during the season. Overall, there is no doubt Henderson has played a significant role in both those categories.

On the pitch, Henderson has inspired Liverpool to Premier League glory, netting four goals and providing five assists, as the all conquering Reds left numerous records in their wake. Yet, his influence on the side is much more than stats.

He is the lynchpin of Jürgen Klopp’s midfield and exemplifies the high energy, all action philosophy that Klopp has instilled at Anfield. He is often deployed as a deep lying playmaker, or in the a scene of Fabinho, as a defensive midfielder. He breaks up opposition play before starting Liverpool counter attacks with his excellent passing ability.

His stamina and tenacity, are some more of his admirable qualities along with his exemplary leadership. Many players have lauded his professionalism, evident in each of the interviews he conducts after every game, while they also applaud the way he trains and carries himself.

His importance to the team cannot be underestimated. Liverpool have won 27 games in which he has played this season and in his absence a loss of drive and purpose is felt. This was evident in Liverpool’s draw with Burnley and loss against Arsenal.

Off the pitch, Henderson also gained nationwide plaudits, as the leader of the #PlayersTogether campaign. He contacted each of the 19 other Premier League club captains to explain his vision for setting up the campaign which would help to raise millions for the NHS and various other causes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The initiative has already made a £4 million donation to the NHS, and is firmly behind the Black Lives Matter campaign.

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis explained in an interview how Henderson spearheaded has spearheaded campaign, stating, “He’s effectively been the captain of this group of players involved in the initiative.”

FWA chair Carrie Brown followed that up by commenting:

“Jordan is a player his team-mates look to on the pitch and who his rivals look up to off it.

“The voting criteria for the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year is one who leads by precept and example and in this country’s darkest moment, Jordan, unprompted, personally rallied club captains to establish #PlayersTogether. He is a truly worthy winner of our award.”

Despite Henderson’s great achievements this year, it was one of the closest races for the award in recent years.

Kevin De Bruyne, Marcus Rashford, Virgil Van Dijk and Sadio Mané could all feel aggrieved not have scooped the gong after their terrific showings this campaign.

Runner up De Bruyne has scored 11 and provided a further 22 assists this term despite City’s struggles, whilst Marcus Rashford has enjoyed his best season in front of goal this campaign.

The striker has 17 Premier League goals to his name in 2019-20 and has also contributed significantly off the pitch.

He lobbied successfully to reverse the government decision to end free school meals to vulnerable children during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as teaming up with the charity Fareshare to provide thousands more children with free meals.

Last year’s PFA Player of the Year winner Virgil Van Dijk has largely slipped under the radar this season, although this is through no fault of his own. He consistently performs at such a high level that only his rare mistakes are ever really highlighted.

He rarely seems to break a sweat and is so calm and composed in possession. He has helped Liverpool to keep 15 clean sheets this season and makes the players around him feel more secure.

Sadio Mané, a sure fire front runner for this year’s PFA Player of the Year (which is announced later today) along with Henderson and De Bruyne, will also be disappointed to miss out.

He has been Liverpool’s talisman for most of the campaign, scoring 17 Premier League goals, which has won the Reds a staggering 18 points in their title winning season.

Mané was one of the best players in the league, tormenting defenders with his remarkable turn of pace, his expert first touch, and clinical finishing. He was one of Klopp’s most important signings and his finely getting the recognition his performances over the past few years has deserved. He would be my pick for PFA Player of the Year.

For the FWA Player of the Year award however, I do think it is difficult to look past Henderson for all that he has achieved both on and off the pitch. He is a true leader, a remarkable athlete and fantastic midfielder who will go down as a Liverpool legend and deserving recipient of the award.

24-7 Football Webcast and Podcast Series

The next instalment in 24-7 football’s podcast series – This episode features writer Tom Parker and in the first part looks at his background in sports journalism and also how Manchester City were able to overturn their two year European football ban.

The second part of the third episode that features writer Tom Parker. We look at the race for the top four in the Premier League and also examine whether current RB Leipzig coach, Julian Nagelsmann will manage in England’s top flight.

You can listen to both parts of the podcast by clicking on links below:

https://soundcloud.com/adam-stephens-425096853/24-7-football-episode-three-part-one

https://soundcloud.com/adam-stephens-425096853/24-7-football-podcast-episode-three-part-two

You can also watch the webcast here: 

 

FA cup semi-final previews

The FA cup returns this weekend with an exciting round of fixtures set in store. The fixtures are the competition’s most competitive final rounds in the last few years.

The North side of London and Manchester will be competing for glory as Arsenal face off against Manchester City and Manchester United play Chelsea.

I give my thoughts on both fixtures as an exciting weekend of football awaits.

Arsenal vs Manchester City

Well this one could be predictable…

After a torrid return to football, Arsenal have looked much improved since their defeat to Brighton and despite a 2-1 loss to Spurs, they will go into this game with decent spirits.

They have looked more resolute in defence overall, a mistake for Tottenham’s opener can’t be forgotten. Ultimately, you would expect Manchester City to tear them apart much akin to the match played last month.

Pep Guardiola’s side have been rather inconsistent with their results, smashing Burnley and Liverpool but losing to Southampton and Chelsea – in both games they looked fairly shaky in defence.

Having said that, Guardiola has an imperious record when it comes to the domestic cup competitions. The Citizens have won eight out of a possible nine trophies (including Community Shields). They have also only lost one game at Wembley under Guardiola – although it was to Arsenal.

Such a record cannot be understated considering the venue and Gunner’s recent record against Manchester City makes for grim viewing for Arsenal fans.

The last time Arsenal won was in the 2017 FA Cup semi-final. Since then, they have played seven times – with City winning all of them and scoring three goals in six of those matches. They’ve also only conceded twice.

While Arsenal look improved under Mikel Arteta, the quality City possess is simply too much for this current crop of players for the red side of North London. I will expect them to put up a spirited fight but Manchester City’s near faultless record will continue.

Bukayo Saka offers them a great outlet and being potentially put up against an inconsistent Benjamin Mendy could be an interesting battle. City’s forward options should have no issues against Arsenal’s shaky defence.

David Luiz and Sead Kolasinac had a poor game against Spurs and they will be in trouble against much better opposition. Midfield also remains an area of question for Arsenal, coming up against Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Fernandinho, etc. will hopefully make for entertaining viewing from a neutral standpoint.

Arsenal will be boosted after their impressive win against champions Liverpool, but their poor record will stand true with this fixture.

Score Prediction: Arsenal 0-2 Manchester City

Manchester United vs Chelsea

United are coming into this game in terrific form, despite dropping points against Southampton they’ve scored goals for fun and at times looked defensively resolute.

Chelsea have been in decent form too but have shown plenty of inconsistency, losing to West Ham and Sheffield United. They look weak at times and can struggle in front of goal, whilst their midfield hasn’t been as effective as before.

Their options in attack are strong too, Christian Pulisic has been in inspired form since the restart. Hakim Ziyech is training with the club but isn’t allowed to take part in the remaining fixtures.

Manchester United are also gifted in attack, they have one of the most in form front threes in Europe and a brilliant midfield duo in Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes. Chelsea have shown fragility in defence so you could see United causing them plenty of problems.

Chelsea, like Arsenal, don’t have a great record against their opponents, in fact the last time they beat United was the 2018 FA Cup final. A very odd similar set of circumstances.

Since then, they’ve lost four out of six meetings – drawing the other two. They’ve actually lost their last three encounters, with an aggregate score of 8-1.

Frank Lampard will see this as the best chance of silverware this season. Chelsea are all but out of the Champions League, so this remains their only hope of domestic or European success.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær does have the option of the Europa League but I’m sure another trophy to fight for would be ideal to try and get United back to the force they were.

This game is huge for both clubs and managers, so should make for a tense contest. Both sides need silverware and their managers need some success to give themselves more time and improve their reputation.

With the fight for the Champions League places approaching a tense finish, this result could give the winner a huge mental edge when it comes to ending the season on a high.

I think United’s recent record and current form will get them through this game – although it will be very close.

Score Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea