Back to life, back to reality

It’s been a few days now since the transfer window has closed and the Twitter fume seems to have calmed down and we can all assess our individual clubs with a degree of rationalisation.

Thousands of Liverpool fans took social media over the past few months to express their need and love for a certain centre back. Somehow by directly tweeting the owners FSG and CEO Peter Moore, who I might add has no role in player transfers, particular members of the public thought that would lead to the signing of Virgil Van Dijk.

Now I’ve only met Peter Moore once briefly, but I’m fairly confident that by receiving an expletive tweet from someone called Alan who lives in Birkenhead and has a profile picture of their favourite player would be the least of his worries. That was just a made up example but you get my point.

Social media can be the nicest place at times, a place of escape, a community, a place where you can share your thoughts with people who you share a common interest.

It can also be a narcissistic whole of death in which people vent their spline and define winning an argument by sticking caps lock for the full character length.

The truth is you can’t win an argument on Twitter and very rarely can you have a sensible, mature debate with someone.

Much of Liverpool’s transfer window was over shadowed by this and at times became unbearable.

Now not securing the signature of Virgil Van Dijk leads me to understand why fans became so frustrated. Every fan knew we needed a centre back, other fans knew it too! Going into the rest of the season with Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren, Ragnar Klavan and Joe Gomez with several competitions to play for isn’t ideal. Ok not ideal is an understatement, if Bambi was ever made into a play or pantomime Lovren would be a perfect applicant. And he isn’t the only culprit to make a mistake in that Liverpool back line. Its an obvious weakness and opposition teams will always look to exploit it when they aren’t worrying about Liverpool’s front line.

Im neither an FSG in or FSG out, my backside is well and truly parked on the fence but I see and hear people screaming for their resignation or for some multi billionaire owner to buy them out. Thats not how life works never mind football.

Yes ok Manchester City and Chelsea are very fortunate to have owners that will spend £50m on the likes of John Stones. But does spending more and more money really mean that is the way forward? Where is the fun in buying players willy nilly and not working hard for success.

Look at Spurs, hardly ever spend a penny and players are just about on minimum wage as far a the Premier League is concerned but they battle, they fight, they work together as a group in order achieve their targets. I know they haven’t won the league but they have come a lot closer than teams that spend £200+ a season to try and ‘buy’ success.

Liverpool haven’t bought Virgil Van Dijk and there is nothing that can be done about it now. Be annoyed, be frustrated but don’t bring that vibe to match day. At the end of the day we all support the badge on the front not the name on the back. Players, staff, owners and fans are all in this together. We support Liverpool because we love football. I don’t support Liverpool because I support the transfer window, that would be mental.

Klopp’s objective was to turn doubters into believers and in the odd case he turned Alberto Moreno into a footballer, but thats a whole other article. Liverpool have had a great start to this season, they haven’t lost a single and have progressed into the group stages of the Champions League for the first time in years.

I for one am entirely grateful the transfer window has closed and we can all concentrate on doing what we love most, watching football.

 

 

Ross Chandley

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Summer Transfers – Who’s made the best business?

As the summer transfer window has now come to its penultimate end, the world of football has seen the biggest transfer in history take place with €222 million forward Neymar taking the prize on his move to PSG.

With the value of players sky rocketing over the last couple of seasons, it’s interesting to see which signings will be worth their price tag, and which players will not fill their boots.

Lets start with Manchester City. The Manchester club were the biggest spenders in the Premier League this summer spending £220 million on a number of assets that Pep Guardiola has hand picked himself.

Firstly, there is the young goal keeper Ederson, the young lad from Benfica has now been handed the label of most expensive goal keeper in the world, being bought for £35 million by the Mancunians. A big gamble again from city with their choice of keeper but the early days of this season have shown that he seems a much more reliable and a stronger figure to have between the sticks. I think every City fan is praying for a world record bargain here with the 23 year old.

Man City have then gone on to add at the back, with Englishman, Kyle Walker coming in from Tottenham, Danilo from Real Madrid and Benjamin Mendy coming in from the French champions, Monaco. These are additions that needed to be made by Guardiola as the ageing back line was being exploited for its flaws at numerous stages last season.

With the new system Guardiola is trying to embroil into the City philosophy, the fresh injection of youth and pace could be exactly what City need to be able to break their poor run of disappointing form in the Premier League over the last couple of seasons – as its been quite obvious that is where the Blues have faltered.

My favourite signing the Catalan manager has brought in for city is Bernardo Silva. The Portuguese play maker is another signing from Monaco who has turned a number of heads so far this season with his impressive ball control and his eye for a pass.

The £43 million midfielder was a player who impressed against City in the Champions League last season, so the many city fans watching in great expectation will be itching to see how much Bernardo delivers – as he so far seems the perfect replacement for the Spaniard, David Silva who may arguably head to a slow decline as he gradually gets older.

Arsenal. I’m not too sure what is going on there. Mr Wenger is staying for another season, which has recieved mixed opinions. The biggest signing the Gunners have made is French forward, Alexander Lacazette, for a club record £52.7 million. This got all Arsenal fans excited after he scored a great header on the opening day of the season.

He seems to have the potential to fill the spot of the big striker they need to be scored 20+ goals a season, a position they’ve arguably needed to fill since Henry. However, what else have Arsenal done? With the poor performance away at Liverpool hovering over their shoulders, Arsene Wenger is under a substantial amount of pressure to deliver a positive season this time around – but can he do it with the squad he’s got? I’m not sure.

Arsenal have not spent enough money in my opinion this summer, and with Alexis Sanchez wanting to leave, it would be thought that it would most definitely cause a stir of upset in the changing rooms. Also, injecting all your trust into such a young lad as Rob Holding at the back, I just can not see the Gunners turning around any success this season.

Moving across London, to Chelsea. I think the uncertainty behind Antonio Conte’s future at the start of the summer has prevented them from making some of the signings that he wanted to make. However, if I was a Chelsea fan I would not be complaining about Alvaro Morata coming into the ranks.

The £75 million man has impressed so far with a goal and assist on his debut, and seems to have the knowledge of a highly experienced centre forward with his impressive link up play and movement with his teammates.  This is a lad I am excited to see make the most of his opportunity at Chelsea this season as it looks like Diego Costa is not playing for Conte’s side again.

The signing of Monaco midfielder Bakayoko is another good singing who highly impressed for the French side last season. A £39.7 million fee sounds reasonable for the young lad, who is bound to slot perfectly into the departed Nemanja Matic’s spot.

The injection of youth and strength is what Conte will need this season, if they want to compete in both the league and the Champions League this season.

Manchester United and Jose Mourinho have made some excellent business this season (as much as it hurts to say) with Romelu Lukaku signing for £90 million from Everton, he seems a guarantee to score goals this season. The addition of Zlatan Ibrahimovic for another season is also a move I think Mourinho needed to make, to make the more regular games much easier to manage.

The signing that has caused the most turned heads for United this season has been the former Chelsea man, Nemanja Matic. An interesting singing from United as I did not think Chelsea would be open to letting him leave – but football is football.

He has controlled the midfield well when he’s played, and it’s allowed Pogba to have more freedom, which is what I think he’s needed. I think United have made some good business this window, and you cant deny that the front line is looking as strong as ever. It will be interesting to see how United cope with their league form when the Champions League gets into full flow.

My favourite signing in the Premier League that I have been most surprised by is Renato Sanches signing to Swansea from Bayern Munich on loan. The promising centre midfielder has shown great potential for his club when he has been given the opportunity and for his national side of Portugal. It will be interesting to see how well he does this season, but I’m confident he will be a great addition for the Swans.

Finally, how could I finish this post without mentioning Paris Saint Germain. Is it unfair? The French club have spent 220 million Euros on Neymar from Barcelona which has taken every football fan by surprise. He is bound to do well and in my opinion, he’s next to win the prestigious Ballon D’or after Messi and Ronaldo have had their time.

As well as Neymar, the Paris side have managed to sign French wonder-kid Kylian Mbappe on loan. The young lad has impressed massively as Monaco and has had every leading side in world football interested.

Are they now good enough to win the Champions League? Who knows. But I’ll definitely be watching in great expectation when watching that forward line.

 

Can West Brom challenge for European football this season?

West Bromwich Albion are a football club which have developed a reputation under Tony Pulis that they are a club that plays boring football with little possession. However, it can be said that under the so called ‘boring football’ Tony Pulis has never finished lower that 14th with West Brom and last season they managed a very respectful 10th placed finish, not bad for a team of West Brom’s stature.

After the 2016/17 season which saw West Brom finish 10th, their second best finish in the Premier League, Pulis has made significant progress with his squad after getting rid of players that were no longer needed and recruiting players that will take them to the next level.

Firstly, we will start with their outgoings. In my opinion Pulis has gotten rid of some real dead wood over the summer with Callum McManaman and Darren Fletcher leaving The Hawthorn’s. Callum McManaman made a great start to his career with Wigan Athletic and made the move to West Brom with the hope that he could take his game to the next level. Unfortunately, injuries and a lack of playing time has hindered his progress meaning that at this moment he simply isn’t good enough for the Premier League and so his move to Sunderland was in both parties interests. Darren Fletcher was a player that was a good servant for West Brom and was a player that maybe Pulis would’ve kept but I doubt that he would of played every game for West Brom considering his age and especially with the calibre of players that Pulis has brought in. A move to Stoke was again the right move to take for both parties and I’m sure Fletcher will have a good stint at Stoke. So with West Brom getting rid of these two players it opened the door for their replacements and then some more.

For West Brom who don’t necessarily spend a lot of money their spending in the summer transfer has been nothing short of perfect for the direction that the club wants to go in. The club first signed veteran defender Gareth Barry from Everton for an undisclosed fee. The 36 year old, who signed on an initial one year deal, is the perfect replacement for Darren Fletcher as he brings with him a wrath of experience from his fine career that saw him win the Premier League during his time with Manchester City. After the signing of Barry followed another major coup for the club as they signed striker Jay Rodriguez from Southampton for 12 million pounds. Rodriguez will be a great partner up front for Salomon Rondon as he will peel off and make runs for Rondon to flick balls into. Rodriguez fell out of favour at Southampton after his career stalled when playing for Southampton away at Manchester City Rodriguez ruptured his ACL after a tackle which ruled him out of the World Cup in Brazil. He didn’t play a single game the following season and never got back into the main striker spot at St Mary’s. West Brom is the perfect club for Rodriguez to rebuild his career and he is already off the mark this season after scoring a header against Stoke in their recent 1-1 draw. Later followed the signing of Scotland international Oliver Burke who joined West Brom from RB Leipzig for 15 million pounds. Burke who is Scotlands most expensive player ever will be hoping that his move to West Brom will bring him the game time he so desperately craves. And finally West Brom got a real bargain on transfer deadline day as they signed Arsenal left back Kieran Gibbs for just 7 million pounds. For Gibbs it was a no brainer as he was getting little game time at Arsenal and with it being a World Cup year the move to West Brom was a no brainer.

With the squad Tony Pulis has at his disposal the fans must really be thinking that European football is a realistic aim and i would back them as a dark horse to be troubling the top six for this season. In terms of teams it can be said that if they make The Hawthorns a real fortress then the top teams will not be looking forward to playing them and teams like Arsenal could suffer.

They have made a good start to the season already being unbeaten with two wins and a draw and they sit in 5th place level on points with Manchester City and I can see them having a great season.

Let us know what you think about West Brom’s chances for this season and who else you think could be in for a great season by writing in the comments section below.

Notts County Transfer Window Roundup: Good Enough For Promotion?

With the first Summer transfer window under the belt of Owner Alan Hardy and Manager Kevin Nolan at Notts County Football Club, we look back at the signings made and positions addressed in this off season.

Notts finished another disappointing season down in 16th position in League 2 at the end of the 2016/2017 season, after being saved from the serious threat of relegation by the takeover of the club by Hardy and the subsequent managerial appointment of Nolan in January 2017. The ex-Newcastle man turned the Magpies’ fortunes around and went on to win 10 of the remaining 21 games, drawing another 4, and securing Notts’ position in the football league for another year. However, it was clear to everyone associated with the club that signings were needed, and positions needed to be strengthened to ensure that Notts are heading in the right direction and can go along with Alan Hardy’s plan of being in the Championship within 5 years.

The first two signings addressed what was arguably the biggest issue for Notts last season, and the few seasons previous. Lewis Alessandra was brought in from Hartlepool United for an undisclosed fee, and Terry Hawkridge was signed on a free transfer from FA Cup quarter finalists and newly promoted Lincoln City. These two signings meant that Notts had signed two out-and-out wingers to create chances and register goals and assists, and contribute to a greater threat than has been present in the past.

Another massive issue with Notts County’s squad in 2016/2017 was the amount of goals conceded. Notts let in 76 goals last season, and had the second leakiest defence behind relegated Leyton Orient. Everybody was well aware that this was unacceptable, including Nolan, who moved to sign a new left back and centre back to try and solidify Notts’ weak back four. Dan Jones and then Shaun Brisley were signed on free transfers from Chesterfield and Carlisle United respectively to shore up the defence. Brisley is a combative centre back who is an imposing figure in both boxes, with Jones being extremely effective in dead-ball situations as well as completing marauding runs up and down the left flank.

It’s not often that a team in League 2 can announce the signing of a current international footballer, but Notts did just that with the signing of Liam Walker. Albeit being a member of the Gibraltarian National team, it was considered an astute signing by the Magpies, obtaining the creative central midfielder from Europa FC on a free transfer, who had just won the Gibraltarian First Division and reached the second qualifying round of the Europa League.

Notts have turned to the other side of the River Trent for some loan signings this Summer too. It must be said that Nottingham Forest have some great young talent in their ranks that need game time, and it’s about time that Notts tapped into that potential and took those players on loan, benefitting both Nottingham clubs. This season, those players came in the shape of Jorge Grant and Ryan Yates, both on season long loans. This saw the return of Jorge Grant, who was one of Nolan’s deadline day signings in the January transfer window. Grant proved a massive hit with the Notts County faithful and management alike, scoring 6 goals in 17 games in the second half of the 2016/2017 season. He has returned to Notts for the full season this time around, despite having offers from League One and the Scottish Premiership, and fans are hoping for him to make the same impact this season too. Yates came in as a relative unknown, but has shown his quality straight away and is proving a fan favourite already with his no nonsense tackling and ability to dictate the play in the centre of the park.

Moves were also made for players who would not yet be ready to play first team football, but would benefit from being at the club and could be brought into the team from next season. Names included Pierce Bird (Centre Back from Dunkirk FC), Elliot Hodge (Winger from Lincoln City), Callum Saunders (Striker from Crewe Alexandra), Ross Fitzsimons (Goalkeeper from Chelmsford City) and arguably most surprising and random of signings; Branislav Pindroch, a Slovakian Goalkeeper from MFK Karvina in the Czech Republic.

County finished their business by signing experienced right back Nicky Hunt, who played under Nolan at Leyton Orient, and will mainly be used as cover and protection for first choice right back Matt Tootle.

Nine players were released by Notts County at the end of last season, and with thirteen players brought in, it seems to be agreed by the whole fanbase that Notts have definitely strengthened over this off season. However some are not satisfied with the business and feel like another centre back and another striker should have been brought in, whether on a loan or a permanent signing. Nolan and Hardy have made it clear that only the right type of players will be brought in to the team, and they are only interested in signing players who will improve the team. Nolan also wanted a streamlined squad, and this could be beneficial with squad harmony and chemistry being built up over the season, or it could also be devastating if the squad is decimated by injuries.

Overall I believe Notts had a good transfer window, it definitely could have been better but the management and owner did a good job considering it was their first full transfer window together. But is it good enough for promotion?

Since Hardy bought the club and Nolan came in as manager, Notts County had been in the top 3 in-form teams in the League, and so off that basis alone Notts look strong enough to at least be in contention of being a promotion chasing team, and maybe looking a bit further up the table towards the automatic promotion spots if the season goes well for them. Whilst saying this, there is a lot of competition for the top 7 spots in League 2 this season, especially with teams like Luton Town and Mansfield Town spending big money to try and get out of the basement of the football league, as well as big teams being relegated from League One who will look to bounce back at the first attempt. Teams like Swindon Town and Coventry City immediately spring to mind.

Will Notts County finally improve their fortunes and finish in the play-offs this year? Only time will tell, but let me know in the comments section who you think will make it out of League Two come May 2018.

Manchester United transfer window roundup

Manchester United have made the perfect start to the Premier League season as they have a 100% winning record. This is largely down to the team ethic and how quickly the new signings have settled in. 

Over the summer Jose Mourinho made it clear that he would like to bring in 3/4 new players, and that number was hit as he completed the signings of Victor Lindelof, Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and he also bought Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the club.

Below I analyse each of the new signings the club have made.

Victor Lindelof – Despite been given his opportunities throughout pre-season, Lindelof rarely looked comfortable and it was apparent that its going to take him some time to gel with his new teammates.

For the opening game of the season Jose Mourinho went with the pairing of Eric Bailly and Phil Jones in the defence. This selection choice has proved to be a success as United have kept 3 straight clean sheets, and has kept Lindelof out of the starting eleven.

It is still very early days for Lindelof at Old Trafford and he cannot be judged just on pre-season performances, but he is going to have to take his chance when given it if he is to be a regular starter in the defence.

Romelu Lukaku – The £75m transfer for the Belgian striker was welcomed by many supporters. Having been left with only Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial as attacking options, it was a position that Mourinho had to add a quality player to and in Lukaku he has got that.

Lukaku has hit the ground running early as he has found the back of the net 3 times in 3 Premier League games, making himself an instant fans favourite. If he carries on his goal scoring form he certainly could be the difference between the ‘Red Devils’ winning the league title and not.

Nemanja Matic – Another signing of proven Premier League quality, as Matic joined United from Chelsea for £50m. Many fans were pleasantly surprised that Antonio Conte had sanctioned the move of the Serbian midfielder, after the ‘Red Devils’ took Romelu Lukaku from under the noses of the London outfit and the fact that United are title rivals to Chelsea.

The defensive midfield position was another position that needed an extra body, as Michael Carrick isn’t able to play week in week out anymore. Matic, like Lukaku has made a terrific start to his United career, picking up man of the match in the first game against West Ham and looking so comfortable in the other two games, has seen him become a vital part of the team already.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Ending United’s top goal scorer last season with 28 goals before his campaign was cut short due to a cruciate ligament injury, it is clear to see why Jose Mourinho has bought the Swedish striker back.

Every club Ibrahimovic has played for he has scored goals, and even though he has had a lay off with his injury I have no doubt that he will come back into the team this season and play his part in helping Manchester United compete in every trophy they compete in.

Manchester United fans are you happy with the signings your club made this summer? Let us know in the comments section below…

 

 

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