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Premier League Review

I am starting this week’s review with the match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday night because it had a big talking point.

The game finished 1-1 with goals from Anthony Martial and a trademark long range effort by Ruben Neves. The result itself was interesting enough as its evidence that Wolves aren’t far away from the top six.

The talking point came when United were awarded a penalty with the score at 1-1 and last week’s scorer of a penalty Marcus Rashford went into conversation with Paul Pogba. The result of the chat resulted in Pogba taking the penalty and then subsequently having the spot kick well saved.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed after the game that the penalty duties are being shared between Rashford and Pogba and that “whoever feels confident on the day” should take it. This for me is a risky and strange policy as it adds an unnecessary seed of doubt and pressure to the taker, which showed its force again in United’s next match on Saturday, More on that later.

Moving onto Saturday’s roundup which I am starting at Anfield where the only two teams with 100% records in the league went head to head as Liverpool faced Arsenal.

Liverpool were controlling much of the possession and territory but Arsenal created good openings on the break from record signing Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

In the process, interestingly, Pepe became the first player to successfully dribble past Virgil Van Dijk breaking a record that has stood for well over a year, no mean feat. It has also become more evident that Liverpool are not performing as well in defence without Allison in goal and his deputy Adrian almost cost them another goal, as just like last weekend, one of his clearances went straight to the Gunners but luckily for him, Aubameyang, uncharacteristically, lacked composure.

Despite all of this, Liverpool’s territorial advantage paid off with them taking the lead through a Joel Matip’s header just before half-time.

After the break, David Luiz cost Arsenal any hopes, by first tugging Mohammad Salah’s shirt in the penalty area, with Salah himself scoring the penalty. It was the Egyptian once again who embarrassed Luiz by the touchline as the Brazilian needlessly dived in and Salah chipped the ball over him before running to the edge of the box and superbly curling into the bottom corner just before the hour. This ended the contest, although Arsenal did get a late consolation through Lucas Torreira.

The result means Liverpool are the only side in England with a 100% record and continues Arsenals poor record at Liverpool, however they can take something from the chances they created.

Now back to Manchester United who were playing Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, a venue where Palace hadn’t won since 1989.

United were dominant as expected, but couldn’t find the break through and Palace broke after 32 minutes which left Jordan Ayew one-on-one with David De Gea, who silenced the crowd by coolly slotting home.

There was yet more United penalty drama in the second-half when they were awarded a spot kick when Scott McTominay was bundled over. Everyone waited to see who would take the kick following Monday’s drama and this time it was back to Marcus Rashford.

However, he suffered the same fate as Pogba seeing his penalty cannon off the inside of the post. This only further strengthens my argument that Solskjaer’s method is an incorrect one. United continued to push and found an equaliser through summer signing Daniel James, who scored in consecutive home matches by curling in a delightful equaliser in the 89th minute following Pogba’s good tackle on Wilfred Zaha and with a neat build-up from Rashford and Anthony Martial.

The Red Devil’s thought they could still win it but were caught with too many players forward allowing Zaha to burst forward and find full-back, Patrick van Aanholt, who netted the winner in the 93rd minute, thumping in as the ball broke loose.

The result means United have picked up just one point from the last two matches and are showing they may struggle to get into the top four once again, a thought I had in pre-season.

Chelsea and Frank Lampard headed to Carrow Road to face a vibrant and confident Norwich side following their 3-1 win over Newcastle United looking for their first win of the season and Lampard’s first as a Premier League manager. Lampard continued to show faith in striker, Tammy Abraham and his decision paid off with the youngster scoring two excellent goals to open his Chelsea account. The first came after just three minutes, however, it didn’t take long for Norwich to hit back though, as just three minutes later, Todd Cantwell latched onto Teemu Pukki’s cut back.

Chelsea restored their lead 11 minutes after Cantwell’s equaliser for Norwich, Mount – cut inside the hosts’ defence and unleashed an unstoppable shot high into the net for his second goal of the season.

In a frantic first half Norwich equalised again and it was no surprise that it was Pukki, who scored his fifth goal of the season. Despite Norwich’s second leveller, Chelsea continued to pressure their opponents’ shaky defence; Mount and Christian Pulisic both saw efforts go wide within moments of the second half getting under way.

Abraham’s second goal saw him become the youngest Chelsea player to score twice in a Premier League fixture since 1998, twisting and turning and tying Grant Hanley and Jamal Lewis in knots before firing an unstoppable drive past Tim Krul.

The Blues thought they had scored again when Kurt Zouma poked a loose ball home, but it was ruled out by the video assistant referee after substitute Olivier Giroud was judged to have fouled the Norwich keeper, Tim Krul.

Lampard now has his all-important first win as Chelsea boss and will be looking to build on this victory.

Watford against West Ham is a match between two sides hoping to challenge in the top half of the league table.

However, only one of the two sides looked like they had that in them in this match at Vicarage Road and that was West Ham.

They have some terrific creative midfielders and their record signing striker, Sebastien Haller scored his first two goals for the Hammers as they ran out 3-1 winners.

Mark Noble’s third-minute penalty set West Ham on their way to their first win of the season after Manuel Lanzini had been fouled by Abdoulaye Doucoure.

Watford responded with a well-worked Andre Gray goal, with the forward drilling home a right-foot shot from Will Hughes’ pass.

It was then Haller who took centre stage as he led the line in exemplary fashion and contributed to all three West Ham goals. He displayed his predatory instincts that allowed him to comfortably claim his first goal for Manuel Pellegrini’s side before acrobatically doubling his tally.

Watford did create plenty of chances mainly through Gerard Deulofeu who had seven shots on goal, with only a close-range strike that hit the West Ham crossbar finding the target, alongside Hughes’ extraordinary miss from a yard out after Gray had squared the ball with the score at 1-1, that summed up the hosts’ lack of potency in attack.

At the other end the presence of Haller, Anderson and Lanzini provided too much power, pace and guile for the Watford defence to cope with. Gracia’s side now face a challenging sequence of fixtures – with a home game against Arsenal sandwiched between trips to Newcastle and reigning champions Manchester City – having shipped 41 goals in their last 18 matches.

At the same stage last term Watford had collected nine points after an impressive start, but a pointless return this time around represents a complete reversal of fortune.

Sheffield United were looking to back up their first win back in the top flight but came up against a Leicester City side that were just too good for them on the day.

Ayoze Perez robbed defender Chris Basham before James Maddison played a deft pass with the outside of his foot into space, allowing Jamie Vardy to race in and power home left footed. Vardy – a boyhood Sheffield Wednesday fan – had been booed throughout and duly cupped his ears in celebration. Billy Sharp and McBurnie’s second half introduction seemed to raise home spirits and suddenly Leicester’s midfield seemed unable to close spaces as quickly. It was Oliver McBurnie, who scored the equaliser from Sam Baldock’s pin-point delivery – proving why the Blades paid Swansea £20m for the striker.

They were level for just eight minutes, however, as substitute, Harvey Barnes, scored a marvellous winner six minutes after coming on, Barnes fired a half-volley from the edge of the box which flew past home keeper Dean Henderson.

Saturday’s final match saw a south coast derby as Brighton met Southampton, Brighton have started the season impressively, whilst Southampton headed into the encounter pointless and this showed in the early stages as Neil Maupay and Martin Montoya both had chances.

However, the game swung the visitors’ way when Florin Andone was dismissed following a rash challenge that left Yan Valery withering in agony near the halfway line. A challenge that Brighton manager Graham Potter said he “can’t defend”.

The Seagulls responded well, initially, with Lewis Dunk’s header chalked off by VAR, but the Saints capitalised on their numerical advantage in the second half. They took the lead through Moussa Djenepo, who came on as a substitute eight minutes into the second half and his impact was almost instant, cutting in from the left and curling into the top corner just two minutes after entering the fray.

A late Nathan Redmond goal secured the points for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.

Onto Sunday’s matches and a Tottenham Hotspur side buoyed by gaining a point at Manchester City took on a Newcastle United side with no points and were embarrassed by Norwich last weekend, surely this could only end one way. In fact, Newcastle looked like a completely different team from last weekend, credit to Steve Bruce for that, they were superb in defence and caused Spurs problems on the counter attack.

It was from one of these counters that they took a surprise lead through record signing Joelinton, this his first goal since joining. Spurs were caught with too many players forward and Joelinton controlled Christian Atsu’s through pass beautifully before drilling past Hugo Lloris.

Spurs enjoyed the majority of possession and territory but couldn’t find the creativity to unlock an excellent back five of Newcastle.

Cristian Eriksen and Giovani lo Celso, both started on the bench and came on together after an hours to try and add this creativity.

Lo Celso, nearly made the difference with a pass to Harry Kane in the penalty area and Kane went down under a challenge by Jamal Lascelles.

The Newcastle defender appeared to slip and dive across Kane, as he knew he had no chance of getting to the ball, clever or reckless the referee and the VAR decided it wasn’t a penalty.

Spurs created more opportunities the best of which fell to Lucas Moira, who shot over from eight yards after being found by former Newcastle player Moussa Sissoko, who was unsurprisingly roundly booed throughout by the toon army crowd.

Spurs couldn’t find a way through and from evidence of this and other weekend results we could be heading towards another two horse race for the title.

There was a meeting between the last two sides to finish 7th in the league at Molineux, where Burnley were the visitors to Wolves.

It was the Clarets who were the more effective side and eventually took the lead through an excellent strike from Ashley Barnes, his fourth goal in three Premier League games this season.

Burnley were denied a second goal when Rui Patricio produced an excellent save to keep out Chris Wood, while Ben Mee headed against the bar with the rebound coming off Wolves defender Ryan Bennett and hitting the post.

However, Wolves were awarded a penalty in the dying moments when Erik Pieters fouled Raul Jimenez.

After a video assistant referee check, Jimenez stepped up to calmly roll the ball past Nick Pope and earn Wolves a third successive Premier League draw.

Despite this lacklustre performance from Wolves, I wouldn’t be worried that they are set to suffer like Burnley did last season in the league due to being in European Competition.

The Final Match of the weekend was a routine win for champions Man City away at Bournemouth. Another goal apiece for Aguero and Sterling meant they lead 2-0 at half time. Bournemouth rallied and substitute Harry Wilson’s superb 25-yard free-kick raised hopes of a fight-back, However Aguero pounced for City’s third after good work from Silva. Wilsons strike means he has scored two stunners in his two first premier league matches.

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Brexit: How will it affect the Premier League?

It comes without surprise that all 20 of the current Premier League clubs were against Brexit in the first place. With Britain set to leave the EU on March 29th, and a ‘no deal’ Brexit looming closer by the minute, what will happen to The Premier League and English football in the future? 

 

The first likely outcome of Brexit on English football is the restriction on the movement of players from Europe to the UK, and vice versa. Players will most likely have to acquire work permits when transferring from The UK to Europe. It is estimated that only 60% of all players in the top flight are UK nationals, so there is major potential of future issues within the league. The clarity of movements in the transfer market may be completely hindered, with it being harder for Premier League clubs to sign European talent, and harder for players with UK citizenship to move to European clubs. Furthermore, with the Champions League quarter finals set to take place just two weeks after the March deadline, and four out of eight teams being from the UK, how will the final three stages pan out?

 

Another potential issue Brexit may reveal regards the 1995 Bosman ruling. The Bosman ruling has made a vital development to football around Europe, allowing players to act as free agents once their contract with the club has expired. The ruling came after three separate legal cases between Jean-Marc Bosman and UEFA, The Belgian FA and Bosman’s club at the time – Royal Football Club De Liege. Bosman won his case at The European Court of Justice in 1995. With the UK departing European jurisdiction, and it no longer being a requirement to follow EU law, UK players could potentially be at risk from a lack of free movement. 

 

The FA has already made a pre-Brexit statement regarding all teams in the Football Leagues. Back in November, they stated that every roster must consist of a minimum of 12 players from a UK background. This could have a positive and negative effect on the league; forcing managers to train with a more ‘British’ based team, leading to further player development and possibly lead to a stronger English, Welsh and Scottish national teams. However, it could lead to a lack of European talent in Premier League teams. Talented players such as Van Dijk, De Bruyne, Sane and Hazard may aim to look at joining major clubs in Europe, to mitigate against the uncertainty that Brexit may bring. Premier League scouts will most likely put their focus on British talent, and the number of European players brought to the top flight could be dramatically reduced. Furthermore, more pressure may be weighted on football academies, as there is an increased need for young English talent. This would lead to the increased development of young English players, the likes of Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Callum Hodson-Odoi all generated their success through excelling in their respected football academies. Could Brexit result in a breakthrough for unseen flair?

 

The main question on everyone’s mind is “Can Britain beat Brexit?” Although the outcomes still remain indistinct, it is clear that it could be rough. Lets just hope that it doesn’t tarnish our league and restrict the luminous football we are all so familiar with. 

Can Wolves break into the top 6 in the next three seasons?

Wolverhampton Wanderers are undoubtedly having a fantastic season currently sitting 7th in the premier league , will we see them push even further and challenge for the top 6?

Wolves have been a team to watch ever since the Fosun takeover in July 2016. The Wanderers have been very active in the transfer market over the past couple of seasons with the signing of key players such as Ruben Neves , Adama Traore , Rui Patricio , Diogo Jota and powerhouse central defender Wily Boly. Spending over 100 million it was a busy summer for Wolves however they managed to accumulate 20 million from outgoings.

17/18 Summary

On the 31st of May 2017 Nuno Espirito Santo was appointed Wolves boss. Wolves ended up having an immense season , winning the championship comfortably. Ruben Neves ended up living up to the hype and Wily Boly turned out to be an excellent loan signing. 3 of their players made the PFA championship team of the season.

18/19 So far

In pre season predictions Wolves were never specified in the relegation picture nonetheless they also weren’t deemed to be only one place behind Chelsea at this stage of the season. Wolves had a blistering start losing just one of their first eight games , additionally picking up 1-1 draws with both Manchester clubs. Despite the Wanderers having a poor run of games losing 6 out of 7 games in October through to the end of November. They were strong enough to bounce back with 3 wins in a row beating Chelsea , Newcastle and Bournemouth. Still in the FA Cup Wolves could potentially be going to Wembley, however a revolutionised Manchester United team stand in their way. Wolves have been consistently picking up points for the duration of the campaign and are set out for top 10 finish come may.

How can they break the deadlock of the top 6 ?

As many people believe there is a great boundary between the top 6 and the rest of the league , it tends to be because the “Top” teams can attract better players as a result of European football and their status in the game. Nevertheless Wolves have been able to attract many high calibre players such as Joao Moutinho , Rui Patricio and Diogo Jota. Wolves’ outstanding performance in the league will also increase interest from players around Europe as they will look to build on a solid season.

Wolves are now recognised as a rich club with ambitious owners , despite Wolves already achieving a considerable amount they want to accomplish more. Wolves already have a stable Premier league team and their owners are highly ambitious and keep injecting money into the club. Should Wolves finish 7th place and gain European football they will be able to take the next step up and attract top 6 quality players. Despite it being a challenging task we’ve seen many clubs break into the top 6 before. On the other hand clubs like Everton can never seem to break the top 6. Its clear that it takes good management to become a top 6 club , Nuno Espirito Santo has done a tremendous job therefore Wolves are the front runners to break into the top 6 . Fosun international stated earlier this year they are targeting to win the Premier league by 2025 , this obviously puts pressure on the management team and also states Wolves are an enthusiastic and determined to become a top English club. Providing Wolves sustain the improvement they have a prospect of finishing in the top 6 in the coming seasons.

Do you think Wolves can win the Premier League by 2025 ?


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?

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?