Tag: premier league

Shakespeare sacking no surprise

Imagine my annoyance on Tuesday afternoon when I was finishing off an article on the Premier League sack race and before publishing it Leicester City beat me to the punch, incidentally I had Craig Shakespeare in the silver medal position behind Ronald Koeman.

zutjylyfwri85vgzwt59e614c9ae65b

Shakespeare did well as interim manager but things never looked like working out when he got the job on a permanent basis. As first team coach under Claudio Ranieri, Shakespeare shared in Leicester’s remarkable title triumph of 2016. It also placed him in the perfect position to asses what was going wrong in Ranieri’s second season and after the Italian was fired Shakespeare quickly rectified the problems, stopped the tinkering and reverted to what made Leicester such a success in the first place- it worked as he pulled Leicester clear of trouble and into mid table safety.

But it’s becoming increasingly rare for interim managers promoted from the coaching staff to become successful managers. Liverpool’s boot room system worked brilliantly in the 70s and 80s as they moved from Shankly to Paisley to Fagan and finally Dalglish. More recent successful examples are hard to find- Harry Redknapp was promoted at West Ham after Billy Bonds was fired in the 90s and David O’Leary successfully stepped up at Leeds after George Graham left for Tottenham.

The difficulty of moving from interim to permanent boss is you need a plan to move forward not just the means to fix the old problems, Shakespeare never looked like having that in his locker. Leicester bought good players in the summer but the pieces didn’t seem to fit together- Iheanacho looked too similar to Jamie Vardy, Vincent Iborra wasn’t fit with only Harry Maguire seamlessly fitting into the team by replacing the ageing Robert Huth. Shakespeare was of course unlucky that Adrien Silva signed 13 seconds too late to play for the club until January, he and Iborra will make an intriguing midfield duo for the next manager.

The fixture list didn’t do Shakespeare any favours either, they started at Arsenal a game they deserved to win but snatched defeat from the jaws of victory- a game that turned on substitutions and Shakespeare got his wrong. The early fixtures then gifted them a trip to Old Trafford and home games against Liverpool & Chelsea. After coming through those difficult games with narrow defeats home matches against Bournemouth and West Brom became must win- Leicester drew both and the club’s Chinese owners pulled the plug.

It was ruthless but justified, Leicester still have the attraction of being recent Premier League Champions and have a squad with greater talent than two thirds of the Premier League, yet they are in the bottom 3.

The talent at their disposal and willingness to spend big (Slimani, Silva, Maguire, Iheanacho) should attract a big name to the club- I was aghast that Sam Allardyce was the first name in the frame, a move that would show a stunning lack of imagination and hand them a manager who would simply pull towards a 40 point survival target, mercifully that report appears wide of the mark.

Sean Dyche has got Burnley punching well above their weight and his growing reputation merits consideration for a next level Premier League club like Leicester. Marco Silva would have been a great appointment back in the summer but he’s now off the market. Chris Coleman will inevitably come into consideration after his successful stint with Wales, Coleman has proved he can handle big names (Bale & Ramsey) and successfully mould a team around them. He’s currently considering his future after Wales failed to make the World Cup and may opt to stay in post but he’s another Leicester will surely sound out.

Further afield former Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel has been mentioned, but he has a reputation as a spikey figure who might not fit with the club although there’s no denying he is a high calibre coach. One word of advice for Leicester’s board is steer clear of ex Premier League manager’s looking to get back in- the likes of Alan Pardew and Ian Holloway. Leicester are unlikely to hit the heights of 2016 again but they should be in a position to push for cups and European football, it’ll be interesting to see who they believe will be the man to take them there.

As for Shakespeare he joins that long list of very good coaches who couldn’t quite cut it as a manager. He may get another shot in a hot seat but it’ll likely be at a high end Championship club- Sheffield Wednesday might be a good fit. Otherwise a first team coach position will come along sooner or later, maybe even a position in Gareth Southgate’s backroom staff, he did previously have a seat during Allardyce’s brief stay at St George’s Park, but when it comes to Premier League hot seats most only get one chance and Shakespeare has had his.

 

 

Advertisements

Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal: Wenger proves a point

So far this Arsenal have won all their home games and lost both their away matches without scoring and given their record at Stamford Bridge this looked a home banker, but we were about to see a very different Arsenal.

Antonio Conte went with tried and tested with the recovering Hazard kept on the bench, whilst Arsenal Wenger resisted the temptation to start Sanchez which looked odd given the absence of Ozil.

In the early states Arsenal stayed compact but Willian’s pace from deep threatened to undo them. Fabregas & Kante probed but Arsenal appear to have learned from their shelling at Anfield.

On 15 minutes a quick Arsenal counter sae Bellerin pick out Welbeck on the edge of the box but his glancing header fell just wide and then Bellerin again got in behind and almost set Lacazette up but Luiz got in front of the Frenchman.

Then on 21 minutes a beautiful Fabregas pass saw Pedro through who beat the offside trap only to fire an effort straight at Cech. As the first half wore on it became apparent that Arsenal weren’t going to be outmuscled by Chelsea as has often been the case in recent meetings between these two with Xhaka and Ramsey showing resolute discipline in midfield.

848344142

Then on 41 minutes Ramsey turned Azpilicueta inside out and pushed an effort onto to the lefthand post. Chelsea were struggling to impose themselves with even Kante lacking his usual composure on the ball. But Morata always looked a danger on the countermand almost forced Monreal into an own goal before half-time but they went into the break at 0-0.

For the second half Bakayoko entered the fray for Chelsea and the game immediately became stretched. Tempers started to flare and on 52 minutes Luiz was booked for an attempted bicycle kick that (accidentally) wound up in Koscielny’s face.

5  minutes later Ramsey was teasing Chelsea again combing with Welbeck but Courtois snuffed it out. The game continued in the spirit of a derby with neither side finding the moment of quality needed to break the deadlock. On 66 minutes Sanchez was on and 2 minutes later Hazard was on. the 73rd minute saw a hefty challenge from Luiz on Welbeck saw the Arsenal forward replaced by Giroud.

Then Mustafa headed home from a free kick only to have it correctly chalked off for offside. Hazard then danced around the Arsenal backline only to shoot straight at Cech. Hazard provided the greatest threat in the last 10 minutes but on 87 Luiz followed through on Kolasnic and for the third straight time in this fixture Chelsea were down to 10 men.

With little time left Arsenal didn’t have the time to exploit their advantage and it finished 0-0. Arsenal will be the happier- a point at Stamford Bridge is always a point gained. They were disciplined and a world away from the shambles we saw at Anfield. That said without Ozil they lacked the incision to cut Chelsea open.

Chelsea themselves will not be too disappointed. For all the noise coming out of Manchester this season, The Blues are better defensively than City or United and have their most dynamic weapon coming back to fitness with only a 3 point deficit on top spot. They’ve also taken 7 points from games against Spurs, Arsenal and Everton. Would you bet against Hazard when the run in arrives?

 

 

 

 

Life after England

As Roy Hodgson prepares to re-enter the dugout with Crystal Palace how did his England predecessors get on when they left Wembley?

Bobby Robson

Unlike his successors Robson had already agreed to leave the England job before his last tournament at Italia 90.

Leaving England on a high Robson headed to PSV Eindhoven where he won back to back league titles.

He then took over at Sporting Lisbon where he employed a certain Jose Mourinho as his interpreter. Things didn’t work out between manager and chairman and Robson was fired in his second season.

Robson exacted revenge by joining rivals Porto and winning back to back league titles (again with the special one in tow).

From there this dynamic duo headed to the Nou Camp for the 96/97 season and won the Copa Del Rey & European Cup Winners Cup and finished runner up in La Liga. Barca then moved Robson to the boardroom to accommodate the more fashionable Louis Van Gaal (no really!)

e148282e7c4be1bd45c2a7b3f36f1440

The now Sir Bobby Robson finally returned to England after a brief stint back at PSV with hometown club Newcastle United in 1999. He guided the Magpies from the foot of the table to Champions League qualification. In the process he revitalised Alan Shearer and signed smartly including a young Jermaine Jenas for £5million. Despite bringing a standard of football rarely witnessed on Tyneside and stability the club hasn’t known since. But we was bizarrely sacked in 2004 after a (relatively) poor start to the season and not being able to sign Wayne Rooney ahead of Man United (that obviously wasn’t a great career decision from Wayne.)

Robson’s truckload of trophies after England enhanced his reputation beyond measure, upon his death in 2009 Sir Bobby’s passing was mourned across European football.

Graham Taylor

Taylor left Lancaster Gate with his reputation in tatters and it didn’t improve on his return to club management with Wolves where he couldn’t orchestrate promotion to the Premier League and was fired after just one year.

in 1996 he returned to his spiritual home of Watford after his former chairman Elton John repurchased the club now in League One. Taylor restored his reputation with back to back promotions and put Watford in the Premier League for the first time. With limited resources the Hornets lasted just one season and Taylor retired in 2001.

Watford-Manager-Graham-Taylor-With-The-Play-Off-Cup-Nationwide-League-Division-One-Play-Off-Final-1

He then surprised everyone by going back to another old haunt- Aston Villa. He had one uneventful season under the moribund Doug Ellis regime before stepping away from management and eventually entering the Watford boardroom in 2009 and eventually became honory life president of the club.

Football mourned his passing earlier this year but nowhere was his loss more keenly felt than at Vicarage Road.

Terry Venables

Venables left Wembley on a footballing high after Euro ’96. But his legal troubles were mounting and shortly afterwards he was banned from being a company director.

On the pitch he took over the Australian national team job and things started well making the confederations cup final in 1997. He then guided the Socceroos to a World Cup playoff against Iran but 2 late goals conceded in Sydney saw the Australians miss out on away goals and that was that.

He then turned up at Crystal Palace where new owner Mark Goldberg promised a Venables/ Gazza dream team and delivered the first half of his promise. But things descended into chaos on and off the pitch and Venables only stayed 10 months.

Then in 2001 He moved into a co manangent arrangement at Middlesbrough with his former England assistant Bryan Robson. He helped the club avoid relegation and secure mid table stability, but El Tel didn’t fancy moving to Teesside so the arrangement was short lived.

The next move stunned football- he joined high flying Leeds in the summer of 2002. Unfortunately the club was drowning in a tsunami of debt and star man Rio Ferdinand was immediately sold. But Leeds still had a squad capable of competing and things got off to a promising start with an early season win over Ferdinand’s Manchester United and giving James Milner his league debut. But things soon went pear shaped and by Christmas the club were out of Europe and dropping down the league. In January Chairman ‘Publicity’ Peter Ridsdale began a fire-sale of the clubs top stars. But the team still fielded 11 internationals and the FA Cup offered a last chance of a trophy, until they crashed at local rivals Sheffield United in the quarter finals. Venables was fired but the financial mess at the club meant Venables escaped some of the blame.

ridsdaletelend

If Leeds was a shock move his next was Earth shattering- he rejoined England as Steve McClaren’s assistant. But things went wrong from the start and England suffered a miserable and ultimately failed qualifying campaign. Some (i.e. Jeff Powell) argued Venables had too little influence in the set up, but his finger prints were clearly on some of McClaren’s decisions- notably the switch to 3-5-2 for the awful performance in a 2-0 loss to Croatia.

Since then El Tel has returned to his adopted home of Spain where he owns a very nice hotel and restaurant where he presumably entertains guests with his Careoke machine.

Glenn Hoddle

Hoddle left the FA in late 1998 with a well earned reputation as a tactical innovator and tactless man. He returned to management a year later with Southampton where he started well and got the club clear of relegation. But 1 year later his dream job came up- Tottenham.

article-2607887-004CAEE200000258-568_634x538

After an acrimonious split with the Saints, Hoddle arrived at White Hart Lane in April 2001 where his first game was bizarelly the FA cup semi final against Arsenal, which ended in the then customary defeat. The following season started well and in September the visit of Manchester United saw Spurs 3-0 by half time, they then shipped 5 second half goals and went down 3-5. But Hoddle still guided them to the League Cup final where they were surprisingly beaten by Blackburn.

The next season saw an encouraging start quickly fly south and a disappointing 10th place finish, Hoddle was fired early into the 2003/04 season. He then masterminded 2 seasons of Wolves forever stay in the upper middle of the Championship.

Since then Hoddle has set up an academy for ex youth team players trying to restart their careers and become an ITV pundit. Strangely given his distinctly mixed record in club management plenty of ex players and football journalists (well Henry Winter) persistently campaign did his return to the England dugout.

Kevin Keegan

Keegan left England by his own admission because he wasn’t up to international football management. Just over a year later he returned to club management to retry is favourite trick- reviving a fallen giant. This time it was Manchester City, Keegan got them promoted at the first attempt with a typically cavalier brand of football inspired by playmakers Eyal Berkovic & Ali Bernabia.

Keegan largely bought name veterans notably Stuart Pearce & Peter Schmichael and this odd combination of entertainers and Dads Army secured a top hand finish, UEFA cup football via the fair play league and 4 points at the expense of United.

kk_2002_2421154k

Dads Army was reinforced by Robbie Fowler & Steve McManaman but the following season saw a 16th place finish.

Keegan stayed one last season before retiring and seeing City into their new home at Eastlands and a top half finish. Keegan announced his retirement from competitive management and set up a Soccer Circus- no really!

So it was to everyone’s surprise when in January 2008 Keegan reappeared at Newcastle. To Newcastle fans it was the second coming, to everyone else it was doomed to failure. Not that Keegan was a bad manager but only Newcastle would think conjuring up a Geordie Messiah from a Soccer Circus and think he would deliver a title challenge. With Mike Ashley now running the club it was always likely to end badly, particularly with Dennis Wise appointed Director of Football over Keegan’s head. After 9 months it was over and Keegan has stayed away from the frontline ever since. But Keegan has always done the unexpected so…

Sven-Goran Eriksson

Sven left the 2006 World Cup in apologetic mood after England’s early exit ,(back when the quarterfinals was considered early for England).

Most expected he’d return to Serie A where he’d enjoyed great success prior to his England stint. But he took a year to return to the game and when he did it was with Manchester City. City had just been taken over by Thai billionaire Thaskin Shinawatra.

Needing to overhaul a relegation candidate squad Sven signed a mass of players including Gelson Fernandes, Martin Petrov, Verdan Corluka & Geovanni with the need for quantity over quality.

Erikkson surprised everyone by making the early premier league running and scoring an early win over Ferguson’s United- revenge perhaps for all those England squad pullouts!

Sven1504_468x450

However they couldn’t retain their brilliant start and started to slide down the table. Then February 2008 brought the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster and unbelievably the fixture computer through out City at United for that weekend. The teams played in their 50s strips in tribute and City fans impeccably observed the minutes silence with some attributing this to the calming influence of their manager. A game that was supposed to be about United’s past ended up hinting at City’s future and a shock win, it was the first double City had scored over United in the Premier League era. City finished the season with their joint Premier League points record and UEFA cup football but a final day 8-1 drubbing persuaded Shinawatra to fire Eriksson.

City fans were outraged and Noel Gallagher offered to give Sven a ‘big kiss’ for turning the club around, its a what might have been for Sven had he survived another year- the following summer the Abu Dhabi billions rocked up in Manchester.

The next step was a move back to international football with Mexico but things quickly fell apart and the World Cup qualification campaign dropped off a cliff and Sven was sacked at the mid way point.

His next move was a return to England as director of Football at Notts County but the backers pulled out within weeks and Sven left in a hurry with the cls debts mounting.

Sven did however make it to the 2010 World Cup with Ivory Coast. The draw was awful (Portugal & Brazil) and an injury to Didier Drogba didn’t help and the Ivorians departed in the group phase.

A few months later he was back in England with Championship strugglers Leicester, Sven got them out of trouble but couldn’t push them beyond mid table so it was another short stay although he did sign Kasper Schmichael.

Since then Sven had been in the mega bucks Chinese Super League where he still quietly presides the touch line.

Steve McClaren

McClaren exited Soho Square to a flurry of kicks and punches (not literally). Given in England he was associated with umbrellas and failure like no man since Neville Chamberlain, the only real option was to look abroad.

In in the summer of 2008 he pitched up at Dutch side FC Twente. Things didn’t start well- he decided to give his first press conference in Dutch. The only problem being he didn’t speak Dutch so he just did a bit of schpeaking like thish. HE described his side as ‘masshive underdogsch.’

But Schteve (that’s the last one I promish) had the last laugh guiding Twente to 2nd place in Holland in his first season. Despite the sale of star forward Marko Arnautovic, McClaren bought well with Bryan Luiz & Miroslav Stoch. Twente stormed up the table on the back of a near perfect home record. Twente came out on top of a tight title race and won their first Eredivisie title with McClaren named manager of the year- redemption!

136360564

McClaren decided to twist rather than stick and continued his continental odyssey in the summer of 2010 with German side Wolfsburg. But despite a decent start things quickly went downhill and McClaren was fired after only 9 months in charge.

He then returned to England with Nottingham Forest but that only lasted 10 games and by 2012 he was back at Twente without his earlier success.

In the summer of 2013 He joined QPR as a coach but in September McClaren returned to Derby where he’d served as both a player and coach. McClaren enjoyed an excellent season finishing third- had he been there from the start they might have got automatic promotion but they had to make do with the playoffs.

After beating Brighton, Derby secured a place in the final ironically against QPR. In the build up McClaren pointed out he ‘wouldn’t be taking a bloody brolly’. Derby dominated the game but lost to late Bobby Zamora goal.

Derby entered the 2014/15 season as promotion favourites and remained in the automatic promotion places but a dramatic late season collapse saw Derby miss out on even a playoff spot and McClaren was fired again.

In the summer of 2015 McClaren finally got back to the Premier League with Newcastle. McClaren became the only manager to persuade Mike Ashley to loosen the purse strings and signed Georgino Wijnaldum & Akexsander Mitrovic. Predictably Mitrovic got an early red card and lengthy suspension and the season spiralled into relegation trouble with McClaren getting fired in March and The Toon relegated 2 months later.

The Newcastle affair sent McClaren back to square one and Steve is now at Maccabi Tel Aviv as a consultant.

Fabio Capello

Had Capello left England just before the 2010 World Cup (when Inter were sniffing around) he’d have had his pick of top club jobs. However by the time he left England in early 2012 he was damaged goods.

Eventually he settled on the Russia national job. His first task was to qualify for the 2014 World Cup- something he comfortably managed.

fabiocapello_2919845

The finals group looked passable with Belgium, Algeria & South Korea. But a disappointing draw with South Korea put pressure on the Russians going into the headline encounter with Belgium. The Russians were resolute and tough but eventually succumbed to a late Divock Origi strike.

It would all come down to a final showdown with Algeria- who’d given Capello’s England a tough time in 2010. Russia got a dream start through Alex Kokorin’s 6th minute strike. Russia controlled the first half but Islam Slimani struck with a close range header (something Leicester fans have rarely seen), Russia couldn’t summon a response and were out in Round 1. Financial problems at the Russian FA saw Capello’s hefty salary delayed and Euro 2016 qualifying got off to a ropey start and Capello was sacked.

For the last year Fabio has been enjoying footballs highest paid retirement home of the Chinese Super League where he and Sven can compare bank balances.

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: It’s grim up North London

It’s Groundhog Day at Arsenal, after the usual loss at Stoke came the gutless first visit to a top 6 rival.

The build up was dominated by two selection shocks, Liverpool dropping of keeper Simon Mignolet and Arsenals’s of record signing Alexandre Lacazette.

The early skirmishes saw Arsenal struggle to cope with Liverpool’s pace and movement leading to an Emre Can header whilst Danny Welbeck blew a presentable chance for the gunners. On 10 minutes the ever dangerous Mo Saleh should have made the breakthrough with a close range effort saved by Petr Cech.

The inevitable Liverpool goal duly arrived after just 16 minutes, the inventive Can sent Joe Gomez away down the right and his inch perfect cross was nodded home by Roberto Firmino.

Arsenal looked toothless and Liverpool were threatening to run riot. But Arsenal got a foothold in the game via a typical Karius goalkeeping mix up that although cleared sent a shudder through the crowd and Liverpool defence.

But the nerves were short lived, on 40 minutes Liverpool broke from their own box through the power of Can then the pace of Firmino and finally the beautiful angled finish of Sadio Mane.

Coquelin came on at the start of the second half and Arsenal at least showed early bite and application, but the only threats to Karius’ goal were again self inflicted as Welbeck almost got in from a casual back pass.

But on 56 minutes Liverpool sealed the win when they broke from an Arsenal corner and the excellent Salah burned past the Arsenal defence and picked his spot 3-0.

From then on it was just a case of how many as Liverpool passed their way around the training cones in blue shirts posing as Arsenal’s midfield.

Daniel Sturridge came on after 73 minutes and 4 minutes later he’d scored after another devastating counter orchestrated by Firmino and Can and ending with a fizzing cross from Salah nodded home for Sturridge’s 99th Liverpool goal 4-0 and that’s how it finished.

For Liverpool early season scepticism has given way to euphoria having moved up to 2nd in the League and a new Champions League adventure ready to begin. If they could add a top class keeper say Jack Butland and a dominant centre half say a certain Southampton player they will be in title contention.

As for Arsenal the next phase of Groundhog Day will see a trolley dash this Thursday and the ‘Wenger Out’ banners adorning the Emirates Stadium.

There was little for Wenger to take from this, with only Welbeck showing any hunger or fight. Arsenal’s midfield simply didn’t track back and Alexis Sanchez looks to have given up.

Arsenal’s FA Cup final display illustrated there is a good side in there somewhere but whether it’s the manger, players or boardroom malaise there’s something fundamentally wrong, I doubt it can be fixed over the international break.

England’s winner and losers Premier League Week 2

Winners

Phil Jones

Who’d have thought it, Phil Jones has been excellent this season. Fitting neatly into Mourinho’s land of the giants Jones has benefited from his manager’s unwillingness to trust new boy Victor Lindelof. He’s kept 2 clean sheets almost got a goal and has yet to do anything clumsy or stupid. Yet.

Phil-Jones-Football3651

Harry Maguire

Maguire was the one defender who looked competent in Leicester’s opener with Arsenal. Against Brighton he was masterful, defending solidly, pushing forward, spraying around some nice passes and scoring. If there’s such a thing as a £17m bargain Maguire is it.

nintchdbpict000346707332-e1503157616116

Jack Butland

Exceptional against Arsenal, Butland will surely be between the sticks against Malta when he may require a chair.

Nat Chalobah

Quiet last week, Southgate would probably have called him up to make a point about the need to play every week rather than sit on a champions league bench. No need for such politics based on his commanding display at Bournemouth. Except for that ‘Leave it’ incident, that was sh$te.

AFC Bournemouth v Watford  - Premier League

Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Gave the best performance of his fledgling Everton career at the Etihad. He has pace, provided an outlet an played Rooney in for Everton’s goal. Significantly he was picked to start over Alex Sandro.

Raheem Sterling

It wasn’t looking good for Sterling or City when Pep Guardiola sent him on at half time against Everton. His blast over the bar when it looked easier to score pointed to familiar failings but his fine finish for the equaliser suggested he’s learning. Looked sharp and creative as the 10 men searched for a goal.

Losers

Joe Hart

Moved to West Ham to reassert his authority, West Ham have conceded 7 goals in 2 games. Hmm.

Daniel Sturridge

Got a start and his big chance, he didn’t play badly but never looked like scoring in the 61 minutes he was on. 12 minutes after taking him off Liverpool got the break through with subs Mo Salah and Dom Solanke prominent in getting the Reds over the line. Sturridge may be waiting until the League Cup for his next chance.

Jesse Lingard 

2 games into the season and Jesse Lingard has played 2 minutes of premier league football.  Worse still Anthony Martial has come off the Manchester United bench twice to score, relegating Lingard to plan C meanwhile United are being persistently linked with a late transfer move for a wide man, uh oh.

 

 

 

 

England Squad Announcement- Why fans should care

southgate-rooney.jpg

On Thursday lunchtime Gareth Southgate will announce his first England squad of the season. International squad announcements are usually followed by a collective groan. It’s the signal that a fledging season whose narratives we’re becoming engrossed in is shortly to be paused in order for England to take on the footballing powerhouse of Malta. It’s the footballing equivalent of a Theatre interval and the usher telling you the bar’s shut and we’ve run out of ice cream.

International breaks are tedious and I’d be happy to see friendlies restricted to the summer. However this squad announcement is more important than most.

Of course the first subject will be somebody not included: Wayne Rooney. Inevitably Southgate’s opinion and tribute to Rooney will be the headline but not the main event. Southgate handled Rooney well, taking the decision to drop him. Some will argue Southgate has egg on his face for attempting to recall Rooney but all he needs to say to that is he wanted to pick Rooney based on current form (which has been excellent).

Thursday’s squad will be the first of a World Cup year, with a manager keen to promote youth there will inevitably be new faces, with Rooney departing expect Southgate to hammer home the youth message. Coming only 2 games into the new season the number of new players will be limited with many young players thus far restricted to bit part roles in the fledging campaign. That’s normal until the autumn and the onset of injuries and two games a week forces managers to shift around their squads. It means players like Dominic Solanke, Will Hughes, Demarai Gray & Harry Winks all of whom could be in for a break out year will have to bide their time.

However Southgate’s squad will include some or possibly all of Jordan Pickford, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Nat Chalobah, Harry Maguire, Alfie Mawson, James Ward-Prowse & Tammy Abraham. Might there be another left field selection?- Marc Albrighton’s positive start to the season shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

There will be those veterans waiting anxiously by the phone to see if their lack of game time costs them an England place. Southgate has insisted it’s important players are getting a regular game so where does that leave Chris Smalling, Jesse Lingard, Jermain Defoe and Theo Walcott? It is hard to judge based on the limited sample size of 2 games another reason I suspect there’ll be a sizeable group from Everton whose Europa odyssey has seen them play 5 games already. Against City this week they started 8 English players, Calvert Lewin was particularly good although if picked he’d be on the bench behind Marcus Rashford so perhaps would benefit more from going with the Under 21s.

The Under 21’s are the other announcement of the week and fans should keep an eye on this one. The Euro Under 21’s in June marked the end of one squad cycle for Aidy Boothroyd and this week starts a new one. Many of the side that made the semis this summer are now over aged for the U21s meaning a squad reboot is upon us. For England that means the introduction of players from this summers 3 tournament winning squads, a nice position to work from.

Boothroyd has an embarrassment of riches to choose from and the likes of Solanke,  Calvert-Lewin, Tom Davies, Ryan Sessegnon, Phil Foden & Mason Mount could be forming an exciting new team. Whilst the World Cup is ultimately England’s goal the 2019 Euro Under 21s should be the next prize England are seriously hunting. Adding it to the Euro Under 19s, Toulon tournament double, Under 20 World Cup and 2014 Euro Under 17s all in the bag.

The accumulation of junior prizes is an essential part of success at senior level. But the tournament is a long way off and England face a tough opening fixture away to Holland, in a group that also includes Ukraine & Scotland. It’s also important to keep the momentum going from England’s excellent summer, the Under 17 World Cup is only a couple of months away and building interest in the face of an all consuming domestic season and an imminent senior World Cup is a tough challenge for the FA.

This week should provide some indication of where England are going, hopefully some progress on the pitch and 6 points in the bank.

Predicted England Squad;

Goalkeepers- Butland, Hart, Pickford

Defenders- Walker, Alexander-Arnold, Bertrand, Cresswell, Cahill, Keane, Stones, Jones, Maguire, Mawson

Midfielders- Henderson, Dier, Chalobah, Ward-Prowse

Wingers/ Number 10s- Alli, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling, Redmond

Strikers- Kane, Rashford, Vardy, Welbeck, Calvert-Lewin

Injured/ short of fitness Clyne, Trippier, Shaw, Rose, Lallana, Barkley, Wilshere

 

 

 

 

 

Man City 1-1 Everton: Rooney makes his point

The first Monday Night Game of the season started with fireworks before kick off leading to a hazy smog around the Etihad Stadium. But the expected fireworks on the pitch gave way to a tactical chess match between ex Barca teammates Guardiola & Koeman, City as expected dominated possession with Guardiola bravely opting for Leroy Sane at left wingback.

Meanwhile Koeaman shrewdly opted for a fiesty midfield dropping playmaker Davy Klaassen for the more energetic Tom Davies and relying on the pace of Dominic Calvert Lewin to break, often down City’s left in the space vacated by Sane.

Within 25 minutes both Davies and Morgan Schniederlin had picked up bookings, setting the tone for a feisty encounter. City’s first big chance came when Jordan Pickford saved a Nicolas Otamendi effort only to paw the ball into the path of Sergio Aguero who couldn’t finish clinically and Phil Jagielka tidied up.

City started to build momentum on the half hour mark and a De Bruyne break put Aguero through but Jagielka managed to keep him at bay, moments later David Silva struck a thunderous drive against the foot of the post. But Everton broke and an awful attempt at back tracking from Sane gave Calvert-Lewin space to pick out Rooney from the edge of the area, the Man United legend smacked the ball against the legs of Ederson and into the City net 0-1.

But just as the watching Gareth Southgate was preparing his Rooney recall speech for next week, Rooney gave the ball away in midfield and Silva forced a smart stop from Pickford.

Manchester-City-v-Everton-Premier-League

With a few minutes left in the  half City were preparing for a siege of the Everton box when Kyle Walker was harshly sent off for a second yellow. Walker backed into Calvert-Lewin, it was soft but not the smartest move from a man who’d been booked minutes earlier.

For the second half Guardiola brought on Raheem Sterling for the ineffective Gabriel Jesus. Despite their numerical disadvantage City gradually built momentum with Everton keeping them at arms length for the first 15 minutes of the second half.

Seeing his side dropping off too much Koeman took off Davies & Ashley Williams for the more dynamic Klaassen and record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson for his debut, Guardiola countered with the introduction of Danilo & Bernardo Silva.

For all the doubts over Ederson’s command of his penalty area his distribution is first class and a long clearance on 70 minutes ended in a clear sight of goal for Bernardo, 4 minutes later Sterling showed his usual composure in the box to blast over from 15 yards. Sterling almost made amends 2 minutes later with beautiful bended ball for Danilo who forced a great save from Pickford. Then On 82 minutes Sterling found his shooting range as the otherwise excellent Mason Colgate’s tame defensive header fell for Sterling who volleyed home from the edge of the box 1-1.

836367012.0

On 88 minutes the heated temperature saw Schneidlerlin sent off for a challenge on Aguero. Earlier City players felt Calvert-Lewin had made a meal of the Waker challenge, if that was the case Aguero made a 5 course banquet of this clutching is leg theatrically ensuring the referee reached for his cards. As the minutes ticked down Everton almost got Calvert-Lewin clean through whilst a touch from Klaassen denied Silva a clear cut chance for City.

1-1 was ultimately a fair result that showcased City’s slick attacking play but raised other concerns for Guardiola. Ederson remains a worry in goal with City facing greater defensive examinations on the road. Another surprisingly is Aguero who continues to look short of his usual confidence in the box. One big plus for City remains the return to fitness of Kompany, Otamendi & Stones looked more secure with the club captain in the backline although the back 3 is clearly still a work in progress,  whilst Guardiola will be counting the days until Benjamin Mendy is fit to take over the left back position.

As for Everton the result confirms they are a coming force likely to challenge for the top 6 and a cup rather than the title itself. Rooney was magnetic in the first half but his powers faded in the second, the England recall debate will fill plenty of column inches this week although the pacey Calvert-Lewin might have made a stronger case for inclusion.

The fact City’s opening game lead to more talk about Guardiola’s chinos than anything that happened on the pitch spoke volumes about the routine nature of that win. This match was hardly a disaster for City but with with Mourinho’s thunderous start to the season across town there’s plenty for Pep to ponder.