Premier League predictions: round 26

Here are our predictions for the Premier League yet again! After the last round, Dan took five points, I got a dismal four and Alf took ten. One-zero. Ten.

Dan’s now on 95, I’m on 117 and Alf is sitting well clear on 128. But, as Liverpool have shown us time and time again, no lead is too big to blow.

Onwards we go!

Fulham v Manchester United

Alf: Manchester United won 5 of their 5 away games in all competitions while Fulham are still being Fulham. Ranieri’s not going to keep his job if he failed to win games – this one won’t be the one if he’s to achieve the target. FUL 1-3 MUN

Dan: Ok, so Fulham have conceded 55 goals. Nine more than literally any other team in the league. United have Antony Martial, Paul Pogba, and Marcus Rashford. Look away if murder disturbs you. FUL 1-4 MUN

Oli: Fulham are pretty awful defensively, as I mention every week, having conceded 55 in 25. Manchester United have just moved into fifth and would like to push on into the Champions League slots. They’ll win this easily. FUL 1-3 MUN

Watford v Everton

Alf: The “Marco Silva derby” part 2. Everton are pretty inconsistent these days and last time out, it was a 2-2 draw with Digne scored a last minute goal to save the Toffees. I believe that it’ll be a draw, yet again, for both sides and this time, goalkeepers will be busy. WAT 0-0 EVE

Dan: Everton’s solitary win in their last five game against Huddersfield, which is pretty pathetic. Watford haven’t won in four games. Two similar sides in need of points go at it, but both will come out with less than they wanted. WAT 1-1 EVE

Oli: I don’t like picking my own team to lose. But Everton really aren’t playing well recently and I don’t see any reason why they’re going to improve. Watford are actually pretty decent this season, and they’ll take the three points. WAT 2-1 EVE

Huddersfield Town v Arsenal

Alf: Remember last time out when Emery faced a new manager of a club in relegation zone? That’s right, they lost 3-2. While I’ll still expect them to win the game, it’s another away game for Arsenal and they’ll leak goals. This is why I won’t have high standards on this one. HUD 1-3 ARS

Dan: It’s Huddersfield. Not much else to say here. HUD 0-4 ARS

Oli: Arsenal have just been well beaten by Manchester City, which has to sting a little. Their earlier momentum has really slowed, and they’re down to sixth in the table. However, Huddersfield. HUD 0-3 ARS

Southampton v Cardiff City

Alf: RIP Emi Sala. You’ll be missed. Sorry for the short description but I truly hope that Cardiff will win this one. SOU 1-1 CAR

Dan: Both sides have the uncanny ability to get points where it matters. However, both struggle away. While I think this will be close, Southampton should get a vital three points at home. SOU 1-0 CAR

Oli:  I don’t normally pick Cardiff to take points, because come on. But they’re not doing so badly now, with a win against Bournemouth last week. I’m genuinely really worried about Southampton, because if they get relegated, all of their talent will go to Liverpool for peanuts. But I don’t think they’ll win this one. SOU 1-1 CAR

Crystal Palace v West Ham United

Alf: Palace are unbeaten in their last three games while West Ham are winless in their last three games. I guess it’s not hard for us to predict the winner, no? That’s right, the home side, who’ll do everything to preserve their winning run. CRY 2-0 WHU

Dan: Some how, crazily, West Ham picked up points against Liverpool. Yet they still haven’t won in four and will be a bit shaky. Draw for me. CRY 0-0 WHU

Oli: West Ham United have been slowly creeping their way up the table for a while, and they’ve just drawn against Liverpool – not a bad result. They’ll win this. CRY 1-2 WHU

Liverpool v Bournemouth

Alf: There will be a familiar name for LFC fans in this game. It’s Dominic Solanke, who left them in search for more playing time. Despite of that, this will never change the fact that Liverpool will prevail in this 90 minutes. Oh well… LIV 2-0 BOU

Dan: Ah Bournemouth, 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea one week, 2-0 loss to Cardiff the next. Yet Liverpool have now drawn twice in a row against mid table sides, and I the Bournemouth that thrashed Chelsea will turn up and hold the reds yet again. LIV 1-1 BOU

Oli: I’m getting the feeling Liverpool won’t win this one. I’m not sure what’s giving me that feeling. Maybe it’s optimism at the potential of the Reds throwing another lead away. Maybe it’s realisation that they can’t keep this going. Maybe it’s Maybelline. But Liverpool won’t win this. LIV 2-2 BOU

Brighton and Hove Albion v Burnley

Alf: Brighton are winless in their last three PL games while Burnley recorded 3 draws out of 3. To be honest, this will be naturally a draw as no one seems to have the quality to beat the other team. But I’ll predict a Brighton win if I have to pick a winner. BHA 1-1 BUR

Dan: Yet another draw! The Clarets are still yet to lose in the league in 201, but like Liverpool, have drawn their last two. With Burnley having a thing for drawing on the road, and Brighton an opponent of fairly similar stature, another draw seems the correct result for me. BHA 1-1 BUR

Oli: Yeah, this is looking like a draw. I’d explain more, but Dan and Alf have basically hit the nail on the head. BHA 1-1 BUR

Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City

Alf: A hard time to believe for Tottenham fans as Alli and Kane are out, which resulted in a weaker attack of the Tottenham team. But Tottenham will still be the winners of the game as they don’t play as individuals. Teamwork will win them games. TOT 1-0 LEI

Dan: Life finds a way. So does Mauricio Pochettino. With no budget, and his stars injured, he still gets results. A true great of the modern game. I love Poch. Oh, and Tottenham will win. But Poch is great! TOT 2-0 LEI

Oli: Tottenham, without basically everyone, still seem to find a way to play well. So many times, Spurs have turned nothing into something, and I see that happening again here. TOT 2-1 LEI

Manchester City v Chelsea

Alf: A proper dress rehearsal for the Carabao Cup final later this month. City won against Arsenal but Chelsea will be wary of the attacking combos of the home side. Nevertheless, Kepa, as a newcomer of the league, will have a hard time at the Etihad. MCY 2-0 CHE

Dan: So much of this result depends on which Chelsea turns up. Will it be the Chelsea that lost to Bournemouth. Or the one that beat City earlier in the season? I think it’ll be a mix – A Chelsea capable of giving City a game, but not winning. MCY 2-1 CHE

Oli: City really need to up their game, as we move into the final stretch of the season. They’ll throw their all at this match. Chelsea, meanwhile… who knows, really? If I was a Chelsea fan I wouldn’t be happy with their recent results, and I wouldn’t be happy with this one either. MCY 3-1 CHE

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Newcastle United

Alf: The wolves are bouncing back from their poor run and the magpies are flying under turbulence. Another magpie dinner for the home side on the cards. WOL 2-0 NEW

Dan: Honestly, Newcastle will do the opposite of what I tip no matter what. But look, Wolves are in much better form, despite the Tyne side’s win over City. They’re deservedly seventh and Newcastle is still inconsistent. Wolves win for me. WOL 3-1 NEW

Oli: Wolves really aren’t doing too badly right now. They just beat the greatest football team of all time, Everton, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they won this one fairly convincingly too. WOL 2-0 NEW

My thoughts on Emiliano Sala

My thoughts on Emiliano Sala

In England, right now, it’s transfer deadline day. That’s the same across Europe, in fact. At any other deadline day, I’m sure that’s where the football world’s attention would be almost exclusively directed. Who’s going where? What deals are going to shock us? How long can Spurs go without signing anyone?

But I’ll be honest, I almost completely forgot about the transfer window’s impending closure, and I think a lot of football fans have done the same. That’s not because this year’s January has been any more dull – ok, maybe it has – but because of the disappearance of Emiliano Sala, Cardiff City’s record signing whose plane went missing on the way from Nantes over to south Wales. It was January 21st when the plane left France and the day after that it was confirmed Sala was on board the aircraft. It’s now the 31st of January, ten days after Sala was due to arrive at his new club. In that week-and-a-half, I believe we’ve seen the best of the footballing community.

Image result for emiliano sala

After days of searching, efforts were called off on the 24th of January because Channel Islands Air Search just didn’t think it was possible to find Sala or pilot Dave Ibbotson. In the space of two days – that’s 48 hours – after the search was called off, donors had raised £260,000. That’s close to $500k in NZD. And that was in two days.

Just look at the way Nantes fans acted yesterday in their match against Saint-Etienne. The match was stopped in the ninth minute to allow the fans to have a tribute, with tifos and chanting all around. And it’s not like the Nantes fans stopped there – they kept chanting Sala’s name for goodness knows how long. There were even Cardiff City fans at the game that had flown over from Wales just for that.

Image result for nantes sala

Football – like any other sport, really – can be pretty divisive at times. Our tribalistic instincts really do come to the forefront when we’re in support mode. I could look at this in a more negative sense and argue that it’s sad that we need an event like this to bring people together. But instead, I think it says a lot about it that we come together in the first place. There are other walks of life where it seems anything that harms opposition is a benefit for yourself. Politics, especially, is an example of an environment where this seems to ring true.

Football fans around the world have put our differences aside for this. It’s the same way Dortmund fans put their allegiances aside and welcomed Monaco fans into their homes after the BVB bus bombing. It’s the same way the Premier League collectively mourned Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha after his unfortunate death in a helicopter accident. And there are other, perhaps more humorous examples that could be given.

When you’re 1-0 down in a football match at halftime, rolling over and not bothering to contest the second half is probably the worst possible thing you could do. Anyone who knows anything about football knows that you’re best off fighting onwards together, as a unit, as a team. You won’t get anywhere if the centre-backs disagree on who should take throw-ins and the wingers won’t cross the ball in cause they don’t think the forwards are any good. You do best together, and it seems with the events of the past two weeks, the football world’s realised that, and done it.

Image credit: http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/onesport/cps/480/cpsprodpb/34A8/production/_105408431_hi052008761.jpg

and  http://sf2.sport365.fr/wp-content/uploads/se/2017/08/sala-750×410.jpg

Premier League: Our round 16 predictions

In 8 days, this is the third(!) time I’ve written this post. The fixtures just keep on coming, and we here at FootyFans will be (badly) predicting it the whole way. Well, not all of us – Oliver couldn’t get his predictions in this week.

Oliver is knocking on the door as he leads the pack on 94 points, Alf continues to narrow the gap as he’s on 86, and I’m also starting to pick up more points as I sit on 71.

On with the tipping!

Bournemouth vs Liverpool

Dan

Liverpool’s unbeaten streak has to end. It has too. And what better team to end it than one of the most criminally underrated in the league? I’m backing Bournemouth to win here. 2-1 Bournemouth

Alf

Bournemouth may have lost the last few games but they all hit the back of the net successfully as a consolation. Liverpool just won against the Clarets, although Salah’s not scoring, Firmino and Shaqiri will be there to take the points back home. 3-1 Liverpool

Image result for liverpool

Burnley vs Brighton

Dan

Brighton struggle on the road, while Burnley aren’t too bad at home. Sean Dyche & Co should be able to eek out a 1-0 here. 1-0 Burnley

Alf

Yes, Burnley may have lost against a quality Liverpool travelling party but finally, they’ve scored a goal. Hopefully, this will help to gain the confidence of the forwards. Brighton, though, would not want to leave Turf Moor with nothing. It’s going to be a draw. 2-2 draw

Manchester United vs Fulham

Dan

United continue to just draw with sides, both good and bad. I can see that sort of mediocrity continuing, when you look Mourinho’s struggles and Ranieri’s quality. 1-1 draw

Alf

The Fulham players must be jotting notes when they were watching Arsenal playing against their opponents next game. Honestly, Mourinho should go when if the home side get nothing after the 90 minutes. It should be an easy win, on paper. 4-1 United

Image result for jose mourinho

Arsenal vs Huddersfield

Dan

Undefeated in 20 games in all competitions now, Arsenal continue to show just how much they have improved under Emery, and Huddersfield should be brushed aside fairly easily. 3-0 Arsenal

Alf

I’m a bit disappointed that my team slipped the lead twice when they faced Manchester United to force a draw. To be honest, in the “Herbert Chapman derby”, Arsenal should be able to get the points, but they won’t win big like last season, where they humiliated the visitors 5-0. 2-0 Arsenal

Cardiff vs Southampton

Dan

Southampton have a new manager, so this could potentially go anyway. However, Cardiff have won 3 out of their last home games and are proving a tough challenge, and a challenge that Southampton will not be able to overcome. 2-1 Cardiff

Alf

It’s Ralph Hasenhüttl’s first game in charge as the Saints manager. It’s also his first 90 minutes in England and is not going to be a smooth sailing for the former RB Leipzig boss. Cardiff will be working hard to get the win and force the Saints to make mistakes. But that’s okay, who doesn’t? 1-1 draw

West Ham vs Crystal Palace

Dan

With six goals and two wins in their last two matches, I think we are finally seeing the West Ham we thought we’d see at the start of the season. If they can keep that sort of form up against Palace, then it’ll be another easy win. 2-0 West Ham

Alf

Palace lost the M23 derby away against Brighton. West Ham won against Cardiff. The scores for both fixtures were 3-1. Is history going to repeat itself? I think so. 3-1 West Ham

Image result for west ham

Chelsea vs Manchester City

Dan

God damn it Chelsea. Two weeks ago, I was confident that this match was going to be City’s first defeat. But, then you had to go and fall out of form. I hate myself for doing so, but I’ll tip City to win here. 2-1 City

Alf

Chelsea were beaten 2-1 away by the Wolves while City won 1-2 away against Watford. Sarri will demand his men to put up a good fight to against the table toppers. Not going to lie but I really like the away kit of the visitors this season (you won’t see me later, I guess). 3-1 City

Leicester vs Tottenham

Dan

Leicester are another criminally underrated side, and beating them is no easy task. They’ll be able to frustrate Tottenham a lot in this game, and come out with a point. 1-1 draw

Alf

Well, it’s Tottenham and they’re visiting Leicester. Unless the Foxes are planning to stage a comeback like what Arsenal did in the North London derby, I can see the Lillywhites to grab all 3 points back to north London. 3-0 Tottenham

Newcastle vs Wolves

Dan

I have to pinch myself to remind myself that yes, Wolves did actually Chelsea. Considering the inconsistent form, and goal scoring issues of both teams, I can see this being a goalless draw, although I don’t think it’ll be boring. 0-0 draw

Alf

Did anyone really expect the Wolves to win against Chelsea? Even I myself was surprised! Newcastle will be an uphill climb for the wolves but they’re hungry enough to catch the magpies off guard for a tasty “chicken dinner”. 3-1 Wolves

Image result for wolves fc

Everton vs Watford

Dan

When you compare the two teams, Everton have proven that slow and steady wins the race, as they sit in the top six while Watford, despite their electric start are in 11th. With their superior quality, Everton will show Watford who’s boss. 2-0 Everton

Alf

The “Marco Silva derby” is finally here. But the Premier League is no place for sentiment. Everton do have an advantage in getting the points but Silva, as the former Toffees coach, knows how they’ll do it. If it’s not a draw, I don’t know what it is.2-2 draw

 

 

Football’s golden oldies – the oldest football players around the world

Earlier this week, the Wellington Phoenix announced their signing of Australian goalkeeper Ante Covic as an injury cover for Filip Kurto. Covic isn’t a bad goalkeeper – he’s represented his country and he’s played in three European countries as well as Australia. However, he’s also forty-three years old, two months older than his own manager Mark Rudan. That puts him at the older end of active players, but he’s not the oldest. Let’s look at who is.

Across Europe

Before we can go up, we have to go down. The Premier League doesn’t currently have any players as old as Covic, but it does have 16 players over the age of 35. Twelve of these players are goalkeepers, with the exceptions being Glenn Murray, Jermain Defoe, Phil Jagielka and Bruno Saltor, the oldest outfield Premier League player at the age of 38. Only one player crosses the line into 39 – Crystal Palace keeper Julian Speroni.

Image result for julian speroni

La Liga’s oldest is 38-year-old Juanjo Camacho at Huesca, while Serie A has Stefano Sorrentino, 39. The Bundesliga goes up to 40 with Claudio Pizarro of Werder Bremen. Ligue 1 has two more 40+ players, Gianluigi Buffon, 40, and Montpellier captain Hilton, 41.

But we can go higher.

Across the World

Let’s look at international players. It’s increasingly common for footballers to retire early from international service, for a number of reasons – for young players to come through, to focus on club commitments, etc. And this isn’t so bad if you play for, say, Germany, where there’s a talent pool big enough to bring someone into your shoes.

That’s not really applicable, however, for a smaller country, somewhere without the population or facilities to excel in football – or much else, for that matter – but still loves the game. Somewhere like Andorra, the nation of one of the three active international players over the age of 40.

Juli Sanchez was born in 1978. He’s had a decent career by Andorran standards, playing in his home country as well as Spain and Portugal. He made his debut in Andorra’s first FIFA-recognised match, and he managed to get on the scoresheet in their win over Belarus in 2000, their first-ever. He’s played 70 games now for the tiny Pyrenees nation. In many ways, his career is the story of football in Andorra. And he’s still kicking – he played in Andorra’s most recent match, against Latvia, as a substitute.

Image result for andorra

For our other two international players over 40, we’re going to leave Europe in favour of the Caribbean.

I can’t find much information on Benny Labadie – perhaps it’s a side effect of playing for the U.S. Virgin Islands. In any case, he was born in 1977 and is forty-one years of age. He spent seven years at Skills F.C. in the Saint Croix Soccer League – there are two separate leagues in the Virgin Islands for mainly geographic reasons. He now plays for Rovers in the same league, he’s a goalkeeper, and that’s about all there is to know. Oh, and he started the Virgin Islands’ most recent match, a 3-0 loss to Barbados in November.

But there is one current international player that is older, and we don’t have to go far to find him.

400km southeast of Saint-Croix, we find the nation of Dominica. There’s only seventy thousand people on the island, and as such, quality footballers are had to come by. This explains the case of Euclid Bertrand, who was born in 1974 and is 44 years of age. Bertrand isn’t a bad footballer, having played in sixteen matches for Dominica, including just a month ago against Sint-Maarten. He’s also got five years’ experience up in Canada – not bad for a Dominican given the rest of their squad either play at home or elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Image result for dominica

But we can go higher.

At Club Level

Remember Essam El-Hadary? Of course you do. The Egyptian shot-stopper became the oldest ever player at a FIFA World Cup earlier this year when he played against Saudi Arabia – and saved a penalty – at the age of 45. He’s been left off the internationals part of this article simply because he retired from international football after the World Cup. However, he’s still playing club football, having left Saudi club Al-Taawoun in favour of former club Ismaily back in Egypt. His 46th birthday is in January, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

He’s by no means the only one still kicking at 45 – there’s also Oscar Perez, currently at Pachuca. Also a goalkeeper, Perez has 57 Mexico caps and went to two World Cups – 2002 and 2010. He’s not still playing international football, unfortunately, but he’ll be 46 in March and one can assume he won’t stop playing club football.

Image result for oscar perez

We can go older than both El-Hadary and Perez, though, and we’re going back to Andorra to do it.

Leonel Gancedo’s a pretty experienced footballer. He’s played for River Plate and Osasuna among other clubs. He’s got a Copa Libertadores in his trophy cabinet, along with six other competition wins. He retired at the start of 2009, at the age of 37, and one would assume that that was the end of Leonel Gancedo.

It was not. Encamp in Andorra hired him as player-manager in September this year, and Gancedo’s played fifty-one minutes over the course of three matches. He’s not done well at all, as Encamp are sitting in last place with one point and five goals scored in ten games, but he does get the distinction of being the world’s oldest footballer.

Well, no he actually doesn’t. We’re going across Europe, and across Asia, all the way to Japan.

The story of Kazuyoshi Miura

File:Kazu Miura, Roberto Baggio and Tsuyoshi Kitazawa.jpg

We’ve all heard of Stanley Matthews, haven’t we? The Englishman was one of the greats of the first half of the 20th century in footballing terms. He played a very long career, 1932 to 1965, and played for England for twenty-four years. He spent nineteen years at Stoke City and fourteen at Blackpool. He’s a true legend of the early game.

Kazuyoshi Miura’s not had that same loyalty – he’s played for thirteen clubs in his career, only two of which he’s been at for more than five years – but he has broken Matthews’ record as the oldest-ever professional footballer, which he achieved in March 2017. He’s played in a few countries – Brazil, Japan, Italy, Croatia and Australia – and he picked up almost ninety Japan caps in his ten years of international football before he retired in 2000 aged 33.

Since 2005 he’s been playing for Yokohama FC (no, not F. Marinos) in the Japanese second-tier. He’s seen twelve managers in that time, and even though his role has been somewhat diminished under new boss Edson Tavares, he’s still going at it at the age of 51. And I, for one, don’t see him stopping.

5 things noticed in Arsenal’s 10 game winning streak

5 things noticed in Arsenal’s 10 game winning streak

As an Arsenal fan myself, I expected my favourite club to struggle under the first year with Unai Emery, who became Arsène Wenger’s successor.

In spite of the first two defeats in the Premier League, they’re in, currently, a 10 game winning streak, which is impressive. Here are some points I’d like to take note of during these games. Continue reading “5 things noticed in Arsenal’s 10 game winning streak”

Premier League – Our round eight predictions

Premier League – Our round eight predictions

We all love the Premier League, no? As an Arsenal fan, with the victory against Qarabağ, I couldn’t believe that the team are winning 8 games in a row (Dan’s gonna kill me when he returns). Can they make it 9 this Sunday?

Anyway, Dan’s trip to Samoa with technical difficulties (this is the reason he’s not providing the descriptions this time) is why I’m in charge of the predictions this week (he’ll be back soon). Let’s kick off the predictions with a bang!


Brighton vs West Ham

Alf

Beating the Red Devils can be seen as a great achievement, let’s hope that the Hammers will continue their streak. 2-1 West Ham

Blake

The Hammers are starting to pick up steam, finally, with seven points in three games. Brighton away will be a challenge, but not one they can’t overcome. 2-1 West Ham

Dan

3-2 West Ham


Burnley vs Huddersfield

Alf

Will be a hard fight for the Clarets but they’ll win at the expense of David Wagner’s job. 1-0 Burnley

Blake

Huddersfield are really quite terrible, aren’t they? Three goals scored so far, sixteen conceded, two draws only. Burnley, like West Ham, are starting to improve and will win easily. 2-0 Burnley

Dan

1-0 Burnley


Palace vs Wolves

Alf

The hungry wolves are hunting for the eagles, who doesn’t seem to be able to fly any higher. 2-0 Wolves.

Blake

The two least goal-friendly sides in the Premier League go up against each other. There have been thirteen goals in Crystal Palace’s PL games this season and fourteen in Wolves’, against an average of 19.9. The trend should continue. 0-0 draw 

Dan

1-1 draw


Watford vs Bournemouth

Alf

The Hornets may have lost against Arsenal but they’ll be buzzing back home with strength. 2-1 Watford

Blake

Two teams I certainly didn’t expect to be in this position seven games in go head-to-head and I can’t see either of them having enough quality to win, nor enough weakness to lose. 2-2 draw

Dan

2-1 Watford


Leicester City vs Everton

Alf

With Jamie Vardy on fire, I believe that there will be more goals. 2-2 draw

Blake

Everton ostensibly played a second team in the EFL Cup in midweek so I can’t imagine there’d be any major selection problems. The Foxes have been good but they haven’t played half-decent opposition since they lost to Bournemouth and I think the same will happen here. 2-1 Everton

Dan

2-1 Leicester


Tottenham vs Cardiff

Alf

Barça are no Cardiff. End of. 3-0 Tottenham

Blake

Cardiff really are a bit useless too. Spurs are a good side, even if they haven’t been stellar so far this season, and they’ll take advantage of the Welsh side’s weaknesses to put a few past them. 4-0 Tottenham

Dan

3-0 Tottenham


Manchester United vs Newcastle

Alf

If Mourinho doesn’t win this one, it’ll be the end of an era. 1-0 United

Blake

United have lost to West Ham and drawn with Valencia in the last week, and I’m not seeing any signs that they’ll improve by much. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll win, it’s Newcastle they’re playing. But it won’t be convincing. 1-0 United

Dan

1-0 Newcastle


Fulham vs Arsenal

Alf

Calum Chambers may be able to face his parent club but that’s another story for another time. And is it the time for the Gunners to show their away kits? 3-1 Arsenal

Blake

Say what you like about Arsenal but they’re not a bad side. They’ve just beaten Qarabag playing what looked like a somewhat half-hearted lineup and I think they’ll win again. Fulham haven’t impressed many people this season, but they’ll at least have a say in this match. 3-2 Arsenal 

Dan

1-1 draw


Southampton vs Chelsea

Alf

A one-sided contest expected. 3-0 Chelsea

Blake

What happened to Southampton? Three years ago I would have said that the Big Six was becoming a Big Seven. They’ve really fallen by the wayside. Chelsea, on the other hand, have rebounded from a poor season and are doing well. They’ll win this one, no question. 3-1 Chelsea

Dan

2-1 Chelsea


Liverpool vs Manchester City

Alf

An improved LFC squad should be able to win this one. 2-1 Liverpool

Blake

Liverpool put their best side out at Chelsea and drew. They put them out again in Napoli and lost. They’ll do the same, against the incumbent champions, and they’ll lose again. 2-1 City

Dan

3-2 Liverpool

An XI of French-born footballers playing for other countries

An XI of French-born footballers playing for other countries

In the wake of the 2018 World Cup, many people were speculating on the origins and background of the French team. It’s hard to blame them – after all, the side doesn’t exactly look like twenty-three randomly selected French lads. The point made by many was that France’s victory was a victory for Africa too, since they contributed so much to the team. This, of course, was controversial and led to people from all walks of life weighing in with their opinion.

Instead of talking about that, however, I think there’s an important point to be made in the reverse. As opposed to looking at perceived foreigners in the French set-up, we’re going to look at French-born players with other international sides. It’s a better side than you might expect so let’s jump straight in.

In goal, we’ve got Anthony Lopes of Portugal.

Image result for anthony lopes

Anthony Lopes is in between the sticks for our side. The Portuguese shot-stopper was born near Lyon and came through Les Gones’ academy before making his debut for the club in 2012. Still at Olympique after six years in the first team and eighteen at the club, Lopes was Rui Patricio’s backup for the 2016 European Championships which Portugal won.

Our fullbacks are Raphaël Guerreiro and Faouzi Ghoulam.

Image result for raphael guerreiro

Guerreiro is one of world football’s underappreciated talents. Born in northern Paris, Guerreiro is half-Portuguese and used this to his advantage, becoming an important player in Portugal’s Euro win in 2016 and being nominated for Young Player of the Tournament. He’s also had a successful club career with Stade Malherbe Caen, Lorient and Borussia Dortmund and was in the Champions League Breakthrough XI in 2016.

Image result for faouzi ghoulam

Faouzi Ghoulam, meanwhile, plays his international football for Algeria. The left-back has 35 caps for his country at the age of 27, and went to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. In terms of his club career, Ghoulam has been at Napoli since his move from boyhood club Saint-Etienne four years ago and has been solid at the back there, being linked with just about every English club at some point.

In the middle of defence, we’ve got Kalidou Koulibaly and Medhi Benatia.

Image result for kalidou koulibaly

Ghoulam’s Napoli teammate Kalidou Koulibaly is also French-born, hailing from the north-east. He spent his formative years at Metz before a 2012 move to Genk in Belgium and a switch to Napoli two years later. Koulibaly went to Russia for this year’s World Cup and has twenty-eight caps for Senegal in four years. Oh, and Chelsea may or may not be interested in him.

Image result for mehdi benatia

Medhi Benatia is the most experienced player on our team so far with time at two of Europe’s biggest clubs and four consecutive league titles under his belt. Hailing from Courcouronnes in southern Paris, Benatia joined the academies of Guingamp and then Marseille before graduating into the first team. Time at Clermont, Udinese and Roma followed, before moves to Bayern Munich and then Juventus. Internationally, Benatia has fifty-five games for Morocco.

Running the show in the middle of midfield, it’s Adrien Silva and Geoffrey Kondogbia.

Image result for adrien silva

The final member of our Portuguese delegation, Silva is in the same boat as Guerreiro – although unlike Guerreiro, Silva’s famly returned to Portugal when he was eleven and therefore he went through Sporting’s academy. Silva was loyal to the Verde e Brancos for fifteen years total, before his move to England and Leicester City. He also played a role in Portugal’s Euro triumph and went to the World Cup in 2018.

Image result for geoffrey kondogbia

OK, so Kondogbia has played for France before, but he’s switched his international allegiance away so he’s all good for this list. Kondogbia is from Nemours, forty kilometres south of Paris, and played for Lens in his youth. Moves to Sevilla, Monaco, Internazionale and then Valencia followed. Kondogbia has also played five friendlies for France, but has changed his allegiance to the Central African Republic (a republic in the central bit of Africa).

Out wide, there are Riyad Mahrez and Yacine Brahimi.

Image result for riyad mahrez

It’s easy to forget that Riyad Mahrez is just twenty-seven years of age, what with the frankly ridiculous career he’s had. He never joined an elite academy, instead playing for Quimper in the fourth tier before moving to Le Havre, and then Leicester City where he won the league title and the Premier League Fans’ and Players’ Player of the Year awards. Earlier this year he transferred to Manchester City. Internationally, Mahrez has represented Algeria at the 2014 World Cup and has almost forty caps. Oh, and he came seventh in the Ballon d’Or 2016.

Image result for yacine brahimi

Porto winger Yacine Brahimi is our other French Algerian. Originally from Paris, Brahimi joined the PSG academy in 2004 before moving to Stade Rennais, making his debut in 2009. Transfers to Granada and then Portuguese giants Porto followed, and he’s been linked with English teams including Liverpool and Everton. He also has thirty-nine caps for his country and represented them at the 2014 World Cup.

And our attacking partnership are Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gonzalo Higuain.

Image result for pierre emerick aubameyang gabon

Aubameyang is Gabon’s captain but was born and raised in France, and lived there until his 2007 move to Milan’s academy. The striker stayed at the Italian club until 2011 when he moved back to France with Saint-Etienne, and in 2013 he joined German side Borussia Dortmund, winning the Bundesliga top scorer award in 2017. In 2018, Arsenal signed Aubameyang for £56m. Internationally, he’s only the top scorer of all time for his country of Gabon.

Image result for higuain

Yep, you read that right. Higuain was born in France as his father was playing for a French team, Stade Brestois 29, at the time of his birth. It didn’t take long for him to leave – he spent his first birthday in Argentina – and to this day he’s never played for a French club, being the only player on this list (apart from Silva) not to have done so. Internationally Higuain’s not done badly – three international silver medals is pretty neat – but you have to think he would have taken a World Cup with France if he had the opportunity.

And there you have it, folks. Yes, I know about Toko Ekambi, or Ayew, or Harit, Bolasie, Bentaleb, whoever. This wasn’t an easy list to make.

Images: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/ff/35/f9/ff35f9139a1bd408dbb1a1a4384b8c8f.jpghttps://images.performgroup.com/di/library/omnisport/65/2a/raphael-guerreiro-cropped_sadu505de4pd1mdlndofl947y.jpg?t=739525917&quality=90&w=1280https://images.performgroup.com/di/library/GOAL/cc/8c/faouzi-ghoulam-napoli-2017_gj5wx209dmyd1eqxwjp7qo58f.jpg?t=650110520&quality=100https://images.performgroup.com/di/library/GOAL/16/a3/kalidou-koulibaly-napoli_1acj84171g6z51mvgp0icf0o7j.jpg?t=-1708635135https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Moroccan-footballer-Mehdi-Benatia.jpghttps://images.performgroup.com/di/library/GOAL/26/be/adrien-silva-leicester_vzgrt5wqqim21pfw8wzhsp6v2.jpg?t=967334994&quality=100http://www.squawka.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/GettyImages-689471078.jpghttps://premierleague-static-files.s3.amazonaws.com/premierleague/photo/2018/07/13/c3294e0c-20b3-4239-9af8-c63380ea47fb/TF_18188.jpghttps://e2.365dm.com/18/08/768×432/skysports-yacine-brahimi-porto_4381191.jpg?20180805110346https://cdn.images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/67/590x/Aubameyang-934607.jpghttps://images2.minutemediacdn.com/image/upload/c_scale,w_912,h_516,c_fill,g_auto/shape/cover/sport/fbl-friendly-esp-ita-real-madrid-milan-5b7159dbc445672401000001.jpg

“How much you wanna risk?” – An overview of Arsenal’s missing pieces of the transfer puzzle

“How much you wanna risk?” – An overview of Arsenal’s missing pieces of the transfer puzzle

Frankly speaking, despite the fact that Emery did bring quality players (e.g. Leno, Sokratis, Torreira) to the Emirates, as an Arsenal fan, I’d say, the club’s transfer business is all but a work in progress.

The Spaniard basically solved the goalkeeping problem and helped to clear the “dead woods” of the squad, yet it was not enough. To become a potential title contender again, there is still stuff which needs to get done and positions to be filled in.

  1. The centre-back position. Sokratis is okay but still needs time to improve. Mustafi can score goals but his defending skills are awful. Koscielny is currently injured. The crisis requires an immediate solution to end it.
  2. The winger position. Aubameyang is an experienced and versatile forward, yet he’s ageing like Mkhitaryan. Ramsey and Özil can feature as wingers, which isn’t their natural positions. A young attacker should be sought for bolstering their offence.
  3. The midfield position. Xhaka is consistent in being awful these days with Ramsey rumoured to depart from the Gunners squad. Guendouzi is yet to be a mature CM. A solid midfielder like Patrick Vieira in the past is needed.
  4. The playmaker position. Mkhitaryan is okay but with Özil sometimes disappear in big games, I’m surprised that no one’s mentioning that Arsenal would need someone like Santi Cazorla, who made things easier when he’s present.
  5. The left-back position. Monreal is a solid LB but he’s ageing. Kolašinac is an “up to standard” player but sadly, is injury-prone. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is an adaptable player who plays better in midfield. Another headache for Emery.

So what are the possible options to be explored by the Arsenal transfer department? In my opinion, they are, but not limited to:

  1. Jamaal Lascelles. The captain of Newcastle United is both a solid defender and a leader in the dressing room, which is something missing in the Arsenal XI. They can also consider promoting Julio Pleguezuelo, another player who shines under club legend Freddie Ljungberg’s guidance.
  2. While someone like Ousmane Dembélé or Neymar Jr. (in your dreams, Alf) is a good choice, it may be seen as “pricey”. Giving the youngsters, like Reiss Nelson (upon his loan return from Germany), Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith-Rowe the chances can be seen as an alternative.
  3. I sincerely hope that Arsenal will consider Casemiro, who’s an important yet underrated element of the Real Madrid squad. The same goes for Taulant Xhaka, who’s a Basel player. I’m not sure if he’s a good pick for the Gunners but I believe that Granit can do better if his brother is there.
  4. Arsenal missed out German “wonder kids” Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka who are now playing for Crystal Palace and Bayern Munich respectively. Christian Pulisic may be the answer that Arsenal want but the question is, will the scouts pay attention to him?
  5. Layvin Kurzawa can be a nice addition to the Arsenal team as he understands Emery’s tactics. On the other hand, Jordi Alba, who’s currently out of favour under Ernesto Valverde, is another feasible bet for the Spaniard.

Sure, Arsenal has star players in their team (at least Özil is still there). But in the end, I hope that Stan Kroenke, Ivan Gazidis and Unai Emery will come to terms and understand that the club needs a huge revamp of the squad.

Just hope that Kroenke won’t become a Scrooge in the times of team rebuilding and get Emery the cash he deserves. After all, money can be mighty if it’s used in the right areas (looking at you, Manchester City).

David Beckham’s Miami MLS team finally has a name

David Beckham’s Miami MLS team finally has a name

After years of wait, David Beckham has finally announced the name and logo of his MLS club. The Miami-based side will take the name Club Internacional de Futbol Miami, or Inter Miami for people who just can’t be bothered with all that nonsense.

We’re finally getting closer to the club’s launch after a saga lasting since 2013, and Inter Miami are poised to enter the league in 2020. By then, FC Cincinnati will already have been promoted from the United Soccer League, the second tier of football in the United States. Miami will join Major League Soccer alongside a team from Nashville, Tennessee, which is yet to be named.

Image result for miami mls stadium
This is the proposed stadium for Overtown.

Beckham’s side are developing well, but there’s still progress to be made. Their stadium location is not yet finalised with Beckham wanting to build a 25,000-seater stadium on the waterfront. There are also proposals to build either near Miami International Airport or in Overtown, in the north of the city. Miami Fusion, who played in MLS from 1998 to 2001, had their home games at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, however this only seats 17,000. Of course there are other grounds available in the city, such as the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium, but two gridiron teams already play there.

The side had been called many names throughout the past few years. Beckham’s ownership group commonly referred to them as Miami Vice or Miami Current, and the project in general was known as Miami Beckham United. Inter Miami will not be the first side in MLS to use a Spanish-influenced name. That honour goes to Real Salt Lake from Utah and Chivas USA based in Los Angeles, who each joined the league in 2005, although Chivas no longer exists.

Image result for beckham miami mls team
Blue? They’re pink now!

The club’s colours will be black, white and pink, with a fairly similar shade of pink to Italian side Citta di Palermo. Beckham has said of the logo that he was inspired by typical South American club logos. Clearly they’ve paid attention to detail – the sun in the middle of the crest has seven rays, a homage to Beckham’s iconic No. 7 jersey.

When the club join the league in 2020, provided everything goes to plan, there will be 26 clubs in MLS from seventeen states plus D.C. and three provinces of Canada. Expansion is expected to continue further, with the league aiming to reach 28 teams eventually. These extra teams would likely be in Detroit, Sacramento or San Diego.

Image credit:                                                                                                                                          http://worldsoccertalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/miami-mls-stadium-overtown.png https://img.rasset.ie/000f4d81-800.jpg                                            https://footyfans.org/files/2018/09/internacionalmiami-1-300×225.png

 

Clint Dempsey retires: A look at the career of an American legend

Clint Dempsey retires: A look at the career of an American legend

The footballing world heard the news today that after fifteen years, over two hundred goals and six trophies, Clint Dempsey has announced his retirement aged 35.

Now, when I think of Dempsey, what comes to mind is his time at Fulham in the Premier League, and of course, with Seattle Sounders in Major League Soccer. I think of his international career, in which he scored fifty-seven goals over the course of fifteen years. I think of his iconic No. 2 jersey he wore with both Tottenham Hotspur and Seattle. And of course, I can’t forget the time he stole an official’s notebook and tore it up on the field.

But of course, there’s more to Deuce’s career than that. I figure now’s a good time to take a look back on it, so we’re going to do just that.

Dempsey’s early life wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. Born in a small city in eastern Texas, he grew up living in a trailer park and kicking a football around with the other kids there. He only really got his break by a stroke of luck, being noticed by a scout whilst juggling on the sidelines of his brother’s game. Eventually, he was forced to quit because of financial constraints but team-mates offered to pay some of his fees. His sister passed away when he was just twelve years old, but this gave him a new motivation to keep succeeding.

After success playing for a top-level Dallas youth side, he moved across the country to South Carolina and Furman University to study health and exercise science. And yes, of course he joined the football team, the Paladins, scoring seventeen goals in three years there and leading them to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament for just the second time in their history.

Dempsey was selected in the first round of the 2004 MLS SuperDraft by the New England Revolution. Now at the age of 20, Dempsey had to make an impression for the Revolution if he really wanted to push on – and that he did, starting all matches but one and picking up MLS Rookie of the Year 2004. The year after, he pushed on further, reaching double digits for the first time and taking the Revs to the MLS Cup Final. And in 2006, despite injury problems, he still managed to score eight goals in twenty-one matches and went to the World Cup in Germany, being the only US player to score a goal.

Of course, foreign sides started to take interest, as they do, and Fulham swooped in to sign him for $4 million USD. This might not sound like a lot, but it was 2006 and this was the most an MLS player had ever been sold for. And with that, Dempsey was a Cottager.

I would be lying if I told you he adjusted right away. In that first half season, he struggled. Dempsey netted only one goal in twelve matches, not exactly great for a forward. However, this was the goal that secured a 1-0 win over Liverpool, which kept Fulham in the top-flight. It was the season afterwards he really started to push on, with one goal becoming six, then eight, then nine, then thirteen. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s worth remembering that there’s only so many goals you can score when you play for Fulham.

In this time, he scored some pretty important goals. For example, in 2010, he scored the winner against Juventus (yep, this actually happened) with a well-taken chip, which has been called one of the most important goals, if not the most important goal in Fulham’s history. He took this side to the Europa League final, where they lost to Atletico Madrid. And also in 2010, for the second World Cup in a row, he managed a goal, against England in a 1-1 draw.

It’s now 2012. Dempsey’s just had the season of his life. He’s scored twenty-three goals – seventeen in the league – and he’s become the first American to reach fifty goals in the Premier League. The FWA Footballer of the Year award rolls around and he manages to come fourth, behind Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes. Of course, playing this well, there’s only so long he could stay at Fulham and in August 2012, he crossed London to Tottenham Hotspur.

Dempsey stayed at Spurs for only a year, scoring seven goals in twenty-nine league matches. His form outside of the league was better, with five in fourteen, but he wasn’t reaching the heights he had at Fulham, or that other strikers at the club had. That season, he was outscored by both Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe, and instead of being in a starring role like he’d been in at Craven Cottage, he was one of the supporting cast. It’s no surprise that just a year later, he went back to the United States, and barring a two-month loan back to Fulham, that’s where he spent the rest of his career.

The first half season at Seattle Sounders wasn’t a great one, as Dempsey scored once in nine league games. However, he flourished in 2014, scoring fifteen times in twenty-six matches, his best season ever in MLS. He also managed ten assists and took the Sounders to a Supporters’ Shield win.  And of course, he scored at the World Cup, after just half a minute against Ghana.

From here, Dempsey’s career began to wind down. Fifteen goals became ten, then eight. In 2017, he had a better season, scoring twelve in the league and winning the Comeback Player of the Year, but with poorer fitness leading to speculation about his retirement, it was clear his career was coming to an end. After just one goal this season, Clint Dempsey retired.

The influence he had on the sport in America cannot be understated. Players like himself and Landon Donovan helped to elevate football in the United States to higher than it had been before. Dempsey brought America to the Premier League, sure, but he also brought the Premier League to America. He gave Americans someone to root for, and I think that will be his real legacy: bringing American football and European football closer together.