United – 19/20 Lineup Prediction

Well, if you thought last season was a mess from a Manchester United perspective, this summer its becoming a even bigger farce.

Not enough transfer activity (In or Out), Pogba’s Asia Tour where he’s declared he wants a fresh challenge, and Lingard’s escapades on holiday this week, its been a horrible start to the summer.

With what Ole has to work with right now, along with what I consider to be realistic possible United transfers (one’s that we’ve hard about so far anyway), I’m going to attempt to predict the United team for the new season, and the options Solskjaer has in each position..

So, here’s the team I’d go with:

Goalkeeper:

This could be an interesting one. David De Gea would be the obvious choice for number one, even with his terrible end to last season, he’s saved them so many times over the last 4/5 seasons his status in United’s team shouldn’t even be called in to question.

But, with Buffon leaving PSG this summer, you have to wonder if the French Champions will coming knocking. With no Champions League football at Old Trafford, and all the negativity surrounding the side at the end of last season, there probably wouldn’t be a better time to leave, and who would blame him.

If he was to leave, United would have good options with Sergio Romero who’s never let them down as a second choice so far. Dean Henderson would also be a good option, England’s U21 Goalkeeper for this Summer’s European U21 Championships, and part of Sheffield United’s promotion winning side last season.

Right-Back:

Maybe slightly premature, but I’ve gone with Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right-back. Although these are only rumors at the moment, there seems to be a strong possibility the Crystal Palace man will end up at Old Trafford.

It seems as it the fee will be around the £50m mark, which seems very expensive for a player with only one season of Premier League experience, but you have to consider that he’s only 21, accompanied with the fact clubs know United are desperate, plus he’s English which tends to add a extra 25% to any Englishman these days.

Deigo Dalot had a reasonable first season for a youngster at the club last time out as well, so he will be a very good backup option too. I’d be surprised if Matteo Darmian was still at the club come the end of the Summer window.

Centre-Back:

It will be a huge disappointment for United fans that it doesn’t seem they are going to land the Centre-Back they so desperately need. Links with Harry Maguire seem to have gone quiet, with interest in West Ham’s Issa Diop being more heavily rumored this week. But unfortunately, I think it maybe a case of United having to stick with what they have this season.

United were at their best last season when Chirs Smalling partnered Victor Lindelof, so I’d be surprised if Solskjaer went with anything else. The Swede Lindelof rapidly improved last season, and will be a certain starter next season.

The other Centre-Back spot will be up for debate, with Smalling and Eric Baily fighting it out for that place, I just think Smalling may win that race due to experience. Phil Jones is another option, but don’t think him or Smalling are the most popular with United fans. Similar to Darmian, I’d be surprised if Marcos Rojo was still a United player come the end of the window.

Left-Back:

This one is pretty cut and dry, I don’t think they’ll be too much doubt that Luke Shaw will be the left back for next season. Despite a poor final few games, for me he was the Red Devil’s player of the season last year, certainly the most consistent. Even though many will consider him “the best of a bad bunch”.

Ashley Young provides a backup option in that position, who again wasn’t the most popular among the Old Trafford faithful at the back end of last season.

Centre-Midfield:

Again, its an area that United really needed to improve which hasn’t come to any fruition so far this window, and with Paul Pogba announcing he’d like to try something new on his “Tour of Asia”, some may argue this is United’s most problematic area after the departure of Ander Herrera. Bruno Fernandes and Adrien Rabiot have both been linked with United, but neither anything more than backpaper headlines so far.

The Defensive Midfielders of Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay are at opposite ends of their careers. McTominay is young, inexperienced, but had a great end to last season, where as the highly experienced Matic looked leggy, slow, and as if last season was maybe one too many for him.

At the moment Brazilians Fred and Andreas Pereira are the only two backup options, which I’m sure is definitely a concern for Solskjaer. Fred really struggled in his first season at the club, and I think its fair to say certainly wasn’t Solskjaer’s cup of tea. Where Pereira is young, but looked promising during games last season, definitely worth keeping around the squad in my opinion.

Moving on to the headliner, Paul Pogba. As he did last summer after the World Cup, he seems to be trying to force a move elsewhere, which will no doubt infuriate the United fans even more. In terms of stats, Pogba was outstanding last year, and even made it in to the Premier League Team of the Season.

However United fans will know only too well that he can be a “Jekyll and Hyde” type player, meaning he’s either the best, or the worst on the pitch. After his altercation with fans after the final day of the season defeat to Cardiff at Old Trafford, I felt it was inevitable he’d try and move on this summer, and so it’s been proved.

Personally, I think Pogba will leave, and I’d try to sell him for anywhere between £100-£125m, as having him in the squad would be toxic to the others if he wants out. We saw it under Mourinho, how stubborn and egotistical he can be, so if the deal was to be done early, Ole and the club can look to replace him in good time.

Juan Mata will be the ready made replacement after signing a new contract with the club, but I’d be strengthen with another creative midfielder. Someone like James Maddison from Leicester would be great in my opinion, but only time will tell how the club handle the Pogba dilemma.

Wingers:

I suppose this is a position which Solskjaer will feel he can work with, but there a wide spread variety of problems with each of them individually, it will be interesting to see if he can get tune from any of them.

Lets start with the right hand side, and Jesse Lingard. After his recent Social Media video mess, Solskjaer or someone within the club really needs to sit him down and get him to concentrate on his football again. Stop with the Instagram and Snapchat stuff for a bit, and rediscover some of the form we saw from him during the 17/18 season. After a good World Cup last summer, its gone under the radar how much of a flop Lingard was last season, a lot more was expected of him.

He’ll likely face competition from United’s only new signing so far this summer, Daniel James. A lot is thought of James, who is versatile and can play down either side, but I’d predict he’ll be a impact player rather than a starter. But who knows if he comes in and makes an immediate impact then there has never been an easier time to cement a position in a United side.

Down the left, I’d expect to see Martial starting. But similar to Lingard, someone really needs to have a word with him to sort his attitude out. On too many occasions towards the back end of the season, he appeared lazy and sulky, the same sort of traits we saw under Mourinho and assumed were caused by his man management. He could be a huge impact for United, IF someone gets his mind right.

Alexis who is another option down the left brings a totally different problem. Looked lost during most of last season, heavy touches, sloppy in possession, arguably one of the biggest flops even by United’s standards in recent years. I originally thought the club might try and loan/sell him on the cheap this summer, but I guess that’s easier said then done. I doubt it, but maybe Solskjaer can help to turn his fortunes around next season.

Strikers:

If you believe the papers, then you’d be forgiven for thinking that Romelu Lukaku looks set for Inter Milan just 2 seasons after his £75m move from Eveton. I’m personally a fan of Lukaku, a great poacher if given the right service I’m not sure its a good idea to hold anyone at the club against their will, so I’m assuming he won’t be with United come August.

Marcus Rashford will be the obvious choice upfront at the moment. Rashford started brilliantly when Solskjaer first was appointed, but as did many of the squad faded out as the season went on. Ole will be hoping he can rediscover the goalscoring form Rashford was showing during Decemeber, January & February last season.

Unless United can get Mauro Icardi from Inter Milan as part of the Lukaku deal, its unlikely United will bring in another forward. Mason Greenwood came in to the side during the back end of the season, and looked sharp. A good young player with a high reputation. It would be good to see him introduced to provide Rashford with some much needed backup, and playing on Thursday’s/Sunday’s will certainly take its toll on the squad.

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Premier League Preview – Gameweek 31

There are just 5 Premier League games this weekend, as the other half are involved in FA Cup ties. Here are the games that are on this weekend:

Saturday 16th March

West Ham United vs Huddersfield Town

Burnley vs Leicester City

Bournemouth vs Newcastle United

Sunday 17th March

Fulham vs Liverpool

Everton vs Chelsea

West Ham vs Huddersfield

I think this is probably considered a more important game for Huddersfield rather than the Hammers. Bottom of the league, and 19 points a drift of safety, it seems more like “when” rather than “if” the Terriers will be relegated. It would be the most unlikely escape if it was to happen at this stage!

West Ham are in on mixed form, with 2 wins, 2 defeats and a draw from their last 5 games. With the Hammers sitting in 9th place, it’s where many expected them to be after the money that was spent during the summer. The West Ham faithful will be desperate to see a big push to end the season.

Score Prediction:

West Ham 2-0 Huddersfield

Burnley vs Leicester City

Sean Dyche’s Burnley will be looking to return to winning ways. After 3 defeats in a row, and only 1 win in their last 5, they will find themselves being drawn in to a relegation battle if they don’t pick up their form soon. They will need more of the same from in form Ashley Barnes to keep them away from the bottom 3 in the last couple of months. Burnley are normally a tough side to beat at Turf Moor, which could work to their advantage over the next few weeks.

Leicester in truth don’t have an awful lot to play for even this early, as being in mid table they won’t be involved in any relegation scraps or competing for any European spots. But with newly appointed Brendan Rodgers planning for next season, his players have plenty to play for in terms of their own personal futures. This should be motivation enough for them to keep their standards high until the end of the season.

Score Prediction:

Burnley 1-1 Leicester City

Bournemouth vs Newcastle United

After a strong start to the season, Bournemouth have slumped down the table as the season has gone on, currently occupying 12th position. That being said, they have been without their star man Callum Wilson in recent weeks, and the striker came back from a 6 week knee injury lay off with a bang, helping himself to a goal and assist against Huddersfield last time out.

Newcastle’s form has drastically improved of late, 3 wins in their last 5 games have seen the Magpies climb away from that relegation dog fight. Although Rafa Benitez will still know his side need at least another couple of victories to make sure his side are totally safe.

Score Prediction:

Bournemouth 1-1 Newcastle United

Fulham vs Liverpool

Probably the game of the weekend from a neutrals perspective, as Liverpool look to heap pressure on title chasers Manchester City, who are in FA Cup action.

The Reds visit Fulham at Craven Cottage, who are fighting for their lives currently occupying 19th position in the table. Scott Parker will be in the dugout, incredibly Fulham’s third Manager this season! Lots will question whether he has the pedigree to keep the club a float, but what a result this could be, and it could change the course of the Cottagers season.

But Klopp’s Liverpool will be coming to Craven Cottage on a absolute high, after a brilliant win away in Munich in mid week. To add to that, as I’ve already mentioned, they’ll be desperate to keep the pressure on City when they return to Premier League action next weekend. Midweek’s night in Munich may taken some energy out of the Liverpool legs, so it’s up to Klopp to get his team fired up for this one!

Score Prediction:

Fulham 0-3 Liverpool

Everton vs Chelsea

It’s normally an interesting game between these two, especially at Goodison Park. In years gone by, Chelsea have won it in dramatic fashion, I’ll always remember Didier Drogba’s late stunner in 2006 when Chelsea were the team to beat in the Premier League at the time. But times have changed now, Chelsea aren’t quite the dominating force they were back then.

Its been a mixed bag for Everton this season really, for the quality of players they brought in during the summer I’d probably class them the biggest under archivers so far. A single victory in their last five games will be a concern for Marco Silva, who I think is one of the managers who is most under threat in the Premier League. A home victory against Chelsea would certainly easy the pressure and get the fans back on side.

Chelsea have turned the corner slightly from a very rocky spell themselves. After a thumping defeat at the Etihad and Kepa’s Cup Final antics against City, a couple of wins in their last 3 Premier League games as well as a safe passage through to the Europa League quarter finals have eased the pressure on Sarri. But Chelsea will be desperate to win to keep hopes of Champions League football returning to Stamford next season!

Score prediction:

Everton 1-2 Chelsea

Title Twists & Turns

There are now just 10 Premier League this season. Scary how quickly that’s gone right?! Well this week, I’m focusing on the Title, and the chase of the top 2; Liverpool and Manchester City.

With just one point in it at the top, will Liverpool hold their nerve against last years Champions? Or can Pep mastermind yet another trophy for the Blue half of Manchester? I’m going to do my best to predict the remaining games for each.

However the circumstances of the games are going to be hard to guess, as towards the end of the season the sides at the bottom will have as much to play for as the Top 2.

Liverpool

My Prediction for Remaining fixtures:

Everton (A) – Draw

Burnley (H) – Win

Fulham (A) – Win

Tottenham (H) – Draw

Southampton (A) – Win

Chelsea (H) – Draw

Cardiff (A) – Win

Huddersfield (H) – Win

Newcastle (A) – Win

Wolves (H) – Win

Total Points: 93

Liverpool’s fantastic season has shown signs of easing up in recent weeks, 3 draws in their last 5 Premier League games isn’t title winning form. We nearly saw Klopp’s temper boil over a few weeks ago after a 1-1 draw away to West Ham, where the Reds were particularly disappointing going forward. It was similar away at Old Trafford last weekend, where I think Liverpool missed a massive opportunity to put pressure on City, given the fact United had a weakened team out with so many injuries.

That being said, when they are firing, they can certainly find the net. Klopp’s men have scored 8 goals in their last 2 Premier League games at Anfield, with Saido Mane being the top pick for Klopp right now. And defensively, Liverpool have been fantastic throughout the season, with Virgil Van Dijk being one of the players of the season so far. Liverpool haven’t conceded in there last 3 Premier League games, and they’d love to keep that going this weekend at Goodison Park.

The classic stereotype at his time of year is normally Liverpool “bottling” it at the final hurdle. But I think Klopp has truly installed some grit and character about this Liverpool side, and even when the magical front 3 of Salah, Firmino and Mane aren’t at their creative free-flowing best, they always seem to find a way. Although they have a reasonably good run-in, games against Spurs and Chelsea will be tough, and with Liverpool still in the Champions League there could still be the risk of injury/tiredness. This could be a concern, given they don’t quite have the squad depth City have. Will 93 points be enough for them to snatch the title from City?

Manchester City:

My Prediction for Remaining fixtures:

Bournemouth (A) – Win

Watford (H) – Win

Fulham (A) – Win

Cardiff (H) – Win

Crystal Palace (A) – Win

Tottenham (H) – Win

Man Utd (A) – Draw

Burnley (A) – Win

Leicester (H) – Win

Brighton (A) – Win

Total Points: 96

That’s right, according to my predictions.. City take the crown by 3 points.

Liverpool are a great side, and have been a fantastic watch this season, taking this City side all the way is no easy feet. But Pep’s City side are a winning machine. If it wasn’t for a 3/4 blip over Christmas, and that Mahrez penalty miss at Anfield, then the title would likely already be as good as won by now.

I don’t think we really need to talk too much about the quality City have, it’s speaks for itself. After their Carabao Cup victory last weekend, they are still going strong in all 4 competitions. Some people may consider that a problem, as it will mean City could end up playing a few more games than Liverpool. But given City’s squad depth and Pep’s tactics/selections, I can’t see that being a huge problem.

In City’s last 5 games, they’ve won 4/5, with a shock defeat away at Newcastle being the only loss. Defeats like this are the ones Pep Guardiola will be desperate for his side to avoid during the run in. And even though City sit in second right now, I’d probably rather be in the City dressing room during the last 10 games. Guardiola is a serial winner, he’ll certainly be relishing this title chase.

I’ll conclude by saying that I bet my predictions are way off come the end of the season. The teams at the bottom may battle for points, top players from either team could get injured or suspended, that’s the great thing about the Premier League.. it’s so unpredictable. But either way, I’d be surprised if this title race doesn’t go right to the final game, and hopefully entertain us right to the final whistle.

May the best team win..

Sarri Stay or Sarri Go?

No matter how long or short a Manager has been at a club, inevitably in modern day football whenever there a team is experiencing a bad run of form, there will be talk of his/her job being on the line, and lets be honest.. it probably is. The high stakes are becoming more cut throat every season, especially in the top leagues, because it’s easier remove a manager, then an entire squad of players right? This is the exact conundrum faced by Chelsea right now.
During this piece, I’m going to focus on the Manager, the Players and the Board at Stamford Bridge, to try and come to my own conclusion on what should happen next.

The Manager
Well, it goes to show much of a fickle sport football has become. Unbeaten in his first 18 games in all competitions,a fantastic record for any manager. We were seeing a possession, high pressing based game, and the Italian was bringing the best from the likes Hazard, David Luiz, Barkley, and even Kante in that right sided position. But whether you blame Sarri or not, you can’t deny the wheels have certainly come off in recent weeks.
I admit, when I saw the early stages of “Sarri-ball”, I found the setup strange, with Kante one of the best CDM’s in the World pushed out towards the right-hand side to make way for Jorginho. Talking of Jorginho, he was the man Sarri brought with him from Napoli to help enforce his style of play on the rest of the squad. A decision, and a style of play which has drastically declined in popularity of the last few weeks. Jorginho certainly hasn’t been the most popular figure with Chelsea fans lately either.
Has his style become too predictable? Certainly recent Premier League results would suggest teams have worked Chelsea out. A 2-0 loss against local rivals Arsenal a month or so ago, followed by a 4-0 defeat away at Bournemouth, with only a expected win against Huddersfield sandwiched in between the 6-0 battering at the Ethiad.. it’s been a bad few weeks for the Italian and his team.
Sarri has been quite outspoken with to the media as well, choosing to label them “Extremely difficult to motivate” after the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. But then again, he’s not the first to say similar about this group of Chelsea players in recent years..
The Players
Before blaming Sarri, do not underestimate how good this Chelsea side can be on their day, but on the other hand, remarkably inconsistent. Capable of winning the Premier League/Champions League/Europa League one season, then dropping out of the top four the next! Mourinho and Conte both suffered from the same fate, title winners during the 14/15 season, but 10th the season after!
Mourinho inevitably lost his job, replaced by Guus Huddink until the end of the season, which then lead to the appointment of Antonio Conte that summer. In his first season at the club, Conte won the Premier League with practically the same squad. But he suffered the same fate as Mourinho in his second season, slumping to a 5th place finish. Conte also left his position last summer.
What you have consider is, a lot of these players been in both of above squads, and the current one. So is it a coincidence that all of these top Managers don’t seem to be able to get the best out of the group consistently?
When you looked at the Chelsea side at the start of the season, winning with ease and really dominating teams, the side right now looks looks a feeble version of what we were seeing in those early weeks.
And the 11 hasn’t changed all that much, and is still very strong. A good young keeper in Kepa, strong looking back 4, a wealth of options in midfield including Eden Hazard, who is one of best Attacking Midfielders in Europe. Sarri has even strengthened the squad further, with Higuain signing in January who’s I’d consider an improvement to Morata (who left for Athletico Madrid during the window) and Giroud. Bottom line is, this isn’t a team that should be going to Bournemouth and losing 4-0, and smashed 6-0 away at City, is it? Surely that’s down to the players, and not tactics. They aren’t slight losses, they are hammerings.
As mentioned above with Sarri’s comments, Mourinho and Conte before him both had issues keeping the side consistent too. Hazard is the classic example: A world beater on his day, at the start of the season he was untouchable. But the little Belgian has gone a little of late, and Chelsea have suffered for it. On paper they have a lot of players that can make the difference.. Willian can provide some magic, Kante is one of the best CDM’s in the World, and Alonso is a terrific left back and a great option going forward, but all in all I think the Blues are far too dependent on Hazard to be that go to man. Others have to step up more when the Belgian is man marked or having a quiet game.
One positive is there haven’t been any real noises of discontent shown by players toward Sarri as yet, where previously you read a headline seemingly every week about Mourinho or Conte criticizing the players publicly or falling out with them behind closed doors. But IF the Chelsea board were to sack Sarri, how many Managers will Chelsea have to go through before they realize maybe this set of players are the problem?
The Board
For me, the Chelsea board, and you’d probably assume particularly Roman Abramovich have to change their philosophies if Chelsea are going to start to regularly challenge again.
The Chelsea owner has given the Club one of its finest era’s, I don’t think there can be any doubt. However, he, and the club in general have been able to build any stability or consistency to the success they’ve had. For me, that’s partly down to the gung-ho approach the board take when it comes to chopping and changing Managers at the club.
This goes back as far as Roberto Di Matteo: the Italian came in as a “Caretaker” Manager midway through the 2011/12 season, and delivered perhaps the clubs finest hours, the Champions League in Munich (along with the FA Cup) weeks before. However just 6 months later, he was dismissed after a bad start in the Premier League the following season. This is a pattern that has gone on and on since then, and you wouldn’t be surprised if Sarri wasn’t in the Chelsea dugout by the end of the season.
Manchester City have Pep and are going to remain consistent contenders, Liverpool with Klopp at the helm are building something big too. Spurs have been consistent in the top 4 too, where Manchester United and Arsenal have both lost long term managers and are excused for a few seasons to rebuild their respective squads. But Chelsea’s League finishes have been erratic in the last 5 seasons, anywhere from League winners, dropping out of the top four, all the way down to 10th!! Something has to change within the eithos of the club, and fast, if Chelsea are to keep up with the competition in the top 6.
Conclusion

Whether the club continue with Sarri or not, we ultimately all have own opinion on that. Personally, I wasn’t sure about the appointment in the summer, but after such a good start, I do think it would be harsh to sack him during the season, and I’m not sure what good that would do, or what kind of message that would send out to the squad.

But, IF he was to go, I think the Board including Mr Abramovich need to plan for the next Manager to be a longer term option, rather than as disposal as recent Chelsea Managers have been treated in the last four or five years. It doesn’t help having a new Manager every 5 minutes, and sends out the wrong messages to the players in my opinion.

The Premier League’s Most Underrated

With the Premier League returning this weekend, I thought it would be interesting to go through the most underrated players in each side:

Fulham – Tom Cairney

Perhaps underrated is the wrong term for Cairney. But as Fulham look to pull away from the bottom of the table, I think he ca play a big part in that. A lot is said about Ryan Sessegnon, Schürrle and Mitrovic, but Cairney was a key figure in Fulham’s promotion last season, so don’t be surprised if Cairney becomes a pivotal figure in the coming months.

Huddersfield – Christopher Schindler

With Huddersfield being one of the sides favorites for relegation this season, they will no doubt be dependent they will be very dependent on the German center-back. Personally I think Schindler is a very good player, and think he will play top division football next season whether with Huddersfield or not.

Cardiff City – Víctor Camarasa

If Camarasa was playing for a side in the top half of the Premier League, I guarantee he’d be well covered by a lot of people. Powerful, strong and creative, he’s certainly caught my eye in the games I’ve watched Cardiff in this season. If he can provide a little more end product, he could be the difference between Cardiff playing Premier League or Championship football next season.

Southampton – Oriol Romeu

Romeu has gone under the radar for many years at Southampton in my opinion. Strong, with a simple footballing mind and a good understanding of the game. Southamptons problems are in the goal scoring department, where he doesn’t really chip in with too many, but he’s a player I rate highly.

Crystal Palace – Patrick van Aanholt

van Aanholt is a player I really enjoy watching. Zaha gets all the plaudits at Palce, but I think a lot of van Aanholt‘s energy and product gets over looked down the Palace left. He can score and make goals, and is very good at taking the opposition back winger the other way.

Burnley – Johann Gudmundsson

To be fair, Gudmundsson has been covered this season by some pundits. But through most of last season and the early part of this I think his contribution was over looked by many. A winger with good dribbling skills, and quality end product from either side. He’s chipped in with a couple goals recently too to add to his game.

Newcastle United – Ayoze Pérez

I think Perez is underrated in football for not just his contribution on the pitch, but for the fact he stayed with the club when they were relegated, played huge part in their promotion, and then another big part in keeping them in the Premier League last year. Great work rate, and a tidy finisher that can play up top, out wide, or probably in his favored position just off the front man. He’s loved by the Newcastle faithful, and I think a player that deserves more credit.

West Ham – Lukasz Fabianski

Fabianski has been the most underrated goalkeeper in Premier League football for seasons. At Swansea he made the most Premier League saves 2 seasons running, even though they were eventually relegated in the second campaign. Signed by West Ham in the summer, he’s already looked good, make top saves against United and Arsenal already this season.

Brighton – Mathew Ryan

I’m going for a goalkeeper again here. Ryan is a real presence in goal, tall and dominant when he comes to claim from crosses. He’s certainly a keeper that I wouldn’t have minded playing with, and he seems to command respect from the Brighton back 4.

Wolves – Conor Coady

I’ve watched Wolves a few times this season, and I have to say Coady has really impressed me. Strong, aggressive and good with the ball too, I’m surprised he hasn’t been called up for the England squads this season. That being said, with the National sides doing so well perhaps he’s just been unlucky. I know Wolves fans certainly rate him, but hopefully we may get to see him in and around the England setup some day.

Leicester City – Demarai Gray

Now here’s a player who I think is really underrated. Gray has been great for the England U21’s for a fair few years now, but has seemingly been overlooked by Garett Southgate. Maybe the same as the case for Coady, it’s just a hard time to force your way in to a successful England setup. Great dribbler, can play on either wing or as a 10, Gray is becoming managers dream after struggling to hold down a regular spot when he first joined the foxes. If he could chip in with a few more goals and assists, I’m sure he’d be getting noticed by the England boss.

Everton – Séamus Coleman

I’m sure the Everton fans out there will certainly rate Coleman very highly, but I think he’s underrated by most. Strong, aggressive right-back who is tremendous going forward too. He’s a player I throughly wish United had been able to sign a few seasons back, and to be fair would still be a great option for them.

Manchester United – Marouane Fellaini

I’m sure many of you will raise your eyebrows at this one, but hear me out. United have many overrated players in my opinion, and Fellaini has so often been the go to guy United have gone to when their blushes have needed saving. A nuisance in the opponents penalty area, and a strong presence wherever you put him, United need him and every club needs a player like him.

Watford José Holebas

If Holebas played for a side in the top 4, I think he’d have many admirers. Great left foot, strong and a willing runner from left back, he’s one of the reasons Watford have had such a great start to the season, but is overlooked because he isn’t on the score sheet or creating too many. But he certainly plays his part.

Bournemouth – Nathan Aké

The bigger overachievers this year, everyone is talking about Bournemouth at the moment. Wilson, Brooks, Fraser, but not too many mention Ake. Despite being on the small side for a centre-back, he reads the game so well and isn’t afraid to throw himself at anything. I’ve rated him for year, another player Chelsea should have given more of a chance.

Arsenal – Mattéo Guendouzi

Arsenal were hard team to pick from, as they are well covered and similar to United in the sense I think they have a lot of overrated players in the squad. But Guendouzi has really impressed me stepping in to the Premier League at just 19 years old. Against City and Chelsea he held his own and then some at the beginning of the season, I certainly think there’s more to come from him.

Tottenham Hotspur – Mousa Dembélé

Arguably the most underrated played in the Premier League in my eyes. Strong, agile, fantastic dribbler and generally just a player that can control the center of the park. There is a lot of talk of the Belgian leaving Spurs in January, which I think would certainly be somebody else’s gain. Perhaps he could provide more goals and assists, but he’s certainly a classy player and many clubs would be glad of him.

Chelsea – David Luiz

He’s a bit like marmite.. some fans don’t rate him, and some think he’s top quality, I’d certainly class him as the latter! Luiz is classy defender with the ball, unbelievable free kicks, and tough defender to boot. His positioning and concentration do wonder at times, but he’s one of the best defenders in the Premier League on his day.

Liverpool – James Milner

I’m going to go with Milner, purely because of you rewind back to August and the beginning of the Premier League season, you’d probably have wrote Milner off for any sort of regular game time. However, he started excellently in a central midfield role for the Reds this season, and has given Klopp a real headache when picking his midfielders.

And the great thing about Milner is he is so versatile. He can play anywhere, right-back, left-back, center midfield or on the wing, as well as taking penalties. He really is as close to a complete player as you can get.

Manchester City – Fernandinho

A lot gets said about David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and the other City midfield men, but it really is Fernandinho who is the key to this City side. For me, he’s best holding midfield player in the Premier League, and possibly the world. Strong, fiery, and so quick to cover ground to help out his team mates. He can pop up with the odd screamer here and there as well. Top top footballer that goes under the radar at City sometimes.

Rooney: Respect a Legend

Last week when the story broke that Wayne Rooney would be making a farewell appearance for England at Wembley, I couldn’t believe the amount of storm it generated all over Radio and Social Media.

I listened many calls and read so many tweets about how “it’s disrespectful to other English players in form” and “Rooney has had his time”. I was a bit lost for words at the time, it shocks and frustrates me that we can’t appreciate greatness in our own era.

Manchester United favouritism aside, what Wayne Rooney has achieved with England is nothing short of outstanding. I can still remember him as the fresh faced teenager that made his debut against Australia. Strong, aggressive, and so confident on the ball, it looked like he’d already won 100 caps.

I think my best memories of Rooney were in Euro 2004. 18 years old, he broke the record at the time for the youngest ever goalscorer in a European Championship, he took the tournament by storm scoring 4 goals in his first 4 games before a badly timed injury saw his and England’s time cut short. A England side that contained Beckham, Owen, Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard.. but Rooney was the best of the lot, and arguably player of the whole tournament.

Sure, he had his moments. His sending off on the 2006 World Cup, and then ranting to TV cameras after a 0-0 draw with Algeria in 2010. I think both incidents were born out frustration that he didn’t hit the heights he knew he was capable of domestically in the big tournaments. The weight was the nation’s expectations were on his shoulders, and truthfully I think the pressure did get to him during that stage of his career, he’d probably admit that too. Major tournaments unfortunately alluded him for one reason or another after 2004.

His goal scoring and contribution in qualifications and friendlies however was outstanding, it felt like he scored in every England game at the time. I think the fact he was so good has been over looked, because after the golden generations of Beckham, Scholes, Gerrard, Lampard, Owen, Ferdinand and the likes, a lot of England fans were bored of the national team after that era. Perhaps disillusioned maybe a better term, that for years the National team underachived for the talent it had within it.

In more recent years, Rooney went on to captain England, taking them to the World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016 before retiring prior to this years tournament qualifiers. A fact that I’ve purposely not mentioned yet: He’s our Nations Top Scorer! If that doesn’t win him respect, then nothing will. For years a lot of you guys would have grown up on the legends of Bobby Charlton, Trevor Brooking, Gary Lineker, but none of them scored as many as Rooney. Surely that means he’s worth 10 minutes in a pointless friendly, right?

If you listened to the radio, you’d think you were selecting a 60/70 year old who can barely kick a ball anymore. Rooney still plays in America, and has actually played very well for DC United this season. With Vardy recently retiring, and Welbeck’s unfortunate injury, I’d say Gareth Southgate is probably quite thankful he has Rooney there for backup along with Harry Kane and Callum Wilson. Besides, many of the new young England lions squad seem to be absolutely delighted to have the chance to play and train with a legend like Rooney, so there are a lot more positives than meet the eye.


To wrap this up, we are a country that love to hate our own. Rather than salute the great players we have and build them, we do our up most to make sure they are on our back papers if not daily, weekly for their on or off the field lives, whichever sells more. Rooney has been under that lime light, and very little is said about his foundation and what he does for charity. He deserves whatever game time he gets in that fantastic Wembley atmosphere, and personally Wayne, I thank you for all the memories and the good times you’ve contributed to our National team.

Premier League: 10 games gone

Last weekend brought up the 10 game mark in the Premier League. It’s been a great start to the season, with Bournemouth being the surprise package for the right reasons, and Manchester United the biggest underachieved without doubt.

But for this article, I’m going to turn my attention to the Top 5 and the Bottom 5, to assess who is most likely to win the league, or find themselves back in the Championship.

Top 5

This is my predicted top 5 at the end of the season:

1) Manchester City

2) Liverpool

3) Chelsea

4) Spurs

5) Arsenal

Spurs are currently in 5th, after what I think you could consider a quiet beginning to the season. You can’t say it’s been a bad start, with them only being 5 points off leaders City, and Harry Kane sitting just two goal behind Eden Hazard at the top of the Leagues top scorers chart. Their performance at Old Trafford certainly showed they are capable, winning 3-0 on the red side of Manchester. Lucas Moura the star that night.

It’s been a slightly strange start for Spurs though, with the completion date for their new stadium being pushed back twice becoming a distraction.

For me, its going to be a very interesting battle for the final place in the top four between Spurs and Arsenal, it will be very close come May. The Gunners have looked much improved under Unai Emery this season, with Lacazette and Aubameyang both finding the net in recent weeks.

Despite this, I think Arsenal may just slip below Spurs. I still wonder about them defensively, even Torreira has made a excellent start and has helped to tighten things up a little. But they still look vulnerable, especially at centre-back, their is still a lot more work to be done. If that is something Emery can address in January though, it could be a game changer.

The highest finishing London side in my opinion will be Chelsea. I wouldn’t call them a surprise, but it has surprised me how quickly the players have adapted to Sarri’s style. Eden Hazard has probably been the player of the season so far, and is currently the leagues top scorer.

That being said, I’m not 100% convinced by them defensively either, and probably a bigger problem is their lack of a prolific striker, which compared to City and Liverpool could be a telling factor. Morata and Giroud need to chip in with more goals if Chelsea are to finish above of either of them.

Liverpool have arguably looked the strongest team in the league so far this campaign. Defensively, Alisson, Van Dijk and Gomez have solidified what has been a poor defensive side for a few seasons.

In midfield there is a lot of energy, and good squad depth as Klopp has barely played Fabinho yet this season, and he’s one of Europe’s most highly rated. That speaks volumes for how good the evergreen James Milner has been for the rest so far.

Upfront, Saido Mane has been in great form, with Salah not quite so hot as he was this time last season, but still exciting and dangerous as part of that front free with Firmino also.

As good as Liverpool have been, I can’t look past Manchester City winning the league again this season. The funny thing is, City don’t look as if they’ve got out of 2nd gear yet. Two 5-0 wins, and 6-1 would suggests otherwise, but really I think they’ve toyed with teams this far, and all this has been without arguably their best player, Kevin De Bruyne, who is just returning from injury. That being said, Bernardo Silva has really impressed me whilst the Belgian has been out, chipping in with 3 goals and an assist to show for some great performances in the City engine room so far this season.

Guardiola has a well drilled unit, defensively and at the top end of the pitch. They have threats from everywhere, and the characters to provide the bit of magic to dig out results when the tough gets going. Apart from a draw away at Wolves, it’s been a near perfect start other than a away draw at Wolves for the champions, and I can’t see past them lifting the Premier League trophy at the end of season.

Bottom 5

This is currently how the bottom 5 of the Premier League look:

My predictions:

16) Fulham

17) Newcastle

18) Fulham

19) Cardiff

20) Huddersfield

I’ll admit, I’ve redrafted the order of the above teams about 20 times.. and I can ultimately see teams like Brighton and Crystal Palace being dragged in to the mix. But for the sake of the article, I’m going to assess the bottom 5 as it stands;

Let’s start with Southampton. The Saints should be fine, but they need to start finding the back of the net a lot more. They’ve scored the joint least goals with bottom of the league Huddersfield, that should send out a warning for Mark Hughes’s side. However, they do have the likes of Danny Ings in their ranks, who is well capable of finding form. I do think they will be fine come May.

Newcastle are a very difficult team to judge. It really does depend what business they are willing to do in January. I know you can say that about any of the Premier League teams, but Newcastle really are very dependant on what they can bring in. With what they have now, I feel they may find themselves drawn in to the relegation dog fight, as I’m not sure they are strong enough at either end.

But if they are able to bring in a couple of fresh faces in January, they could find work their way towards the middle of the Premier League table rather than battling at the bottom. Rafa Benítez is one of the best around, it’s about time he was backed in the market.

Things haven’t quite clicked for Fulham yet, and defensively they’ve looked pretty vulnerable in recent weeks. At the start of seasons I genuinely thought Fulham would be somewhere near mid-table, but the set of signings brought to the club certainly haven’t gelled together yet. This needs to be rectified, and pretty quickly.

In the likes of Schürrle and Mitrovic, they have enough experience to turn their bad start around, but it needs to happen soon before the other teams around them start to pull away.

Cardiff started as many had expected, taking 3 games to score, and 9 games to register their first Premier League victory. But they are slowly coming to grips with the Premier League, and you can guarantee Neil Warnock will always get his side up for the fight in every game. A lot of their new signings are also starting to warm to the division too, Camarasa is someone who is starting to impress me, I think there is more to come from him.

If Cardiff can make the City Stadium a fortress, then they stand a chance, but ultimately I can see them heading back to the Championship in May.

I wrote Huddersfield off with my predictions back in August, and unfortunately there have been few signs that they will prove me wrong so far this season. After a bad start, scoring the joint least goals in the Premier League so far this season, I will say they were quite unlucky against Liverpool when I watched them a couple of weeks ago.

But realistically, I don’t know where there goals or clean sheets are going to come from. I hope they stick with David Wagner though, as I don’t think there are too many better managers to get them out of the situation the club are in.

So those are my predictions for the 5 at either end, but as they say.. anything can happen, and I’m sure will, it is the Premier League after all!