Premier League Review Round 15: Superb Silva, dominant De Gea and safe Sam

Prem 2017


Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to December. Welcome to the feasts, festivities and the family feuds. Most importantly, welcome to the football. On this final month of 2017, the Premier League will delve into 6 rounds of tantalising drama. Apologies for the lack of PL Review for the previous match day; December can be one of the most busy as well as most wonderful times of the year. But fear not, this week we reflect on a round of fixtures which arguably produced the crowning battle of the season thus far…

Superb Silva

This was the weekend we look to the top of the tree. Manchester City were victorious (*systematically repeats) against David Moyes’ West Ham United. The Citizens have now recorded 13 straight victories in the league, matching the feat of Antonio Conte’s Chelsea last season, ironically who went on to lift the trophy in May. 8 points clear already going into December, they obtain a fantastic team-spirit, work-ethic and the resoluteness required to triumph in May. Another City comeback was required, quite the hallmark these days. Nicolas Otamendi equalised, but one player stood out amongst the talent.

Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports produced a bold statement. In spite of the magnificent Kevin De Bruyne and City’s prowling forward line, he singled out David Silva – the match winner – as the man for Pep’s side. Carragher claimed that Silva was Manchester City’s all-time greatest player. Frankly, no one can begrudge him of such accolade. There are an array of legends to choose from; Summerbee, Bell, Aguero, Toure, Goater. But Silva has been the linchpin in the most decorated era of City’s history. Since his arrival from Valencia in 2010, Silva has consistently showcased such a claim; look at his passing, his vision, the way he can weave between midfield and defence and how, on many an occasion, he has bamboozled opposition defences contributing goals and assists aplenty. His winner against West Ham, a sumptuous flick past a star-jumping Adrian after a superb burst onto a De Bruyne assist, demonstrates his willingness to work and synergy with fellow maestros. Carragher’s claim is a rightful one. Just look at Pep Guardiola’s reaction to Silva penning a new deal to 2020 this week, shaking his hand mid-signing. Guardiola like all of us see’s how vital Silva is to City’s interchanging fluidity, but also realises how lucky City and ultimately we are, to have him in the Premier League. The City faithful label him El Mago – the Magician. He is producing the spells that could lead City to the pinnacle, heights even Dumbledore himself dare dream of, a treble?

Some appreciation must be paid to West Ham and Moyes as well. They came to The Etihad and didn’t just park, they had a plan to prey on City’s chinks in armour. Dealing with balls into the box is becoming a bit of an issue for Guardiola, Southampton should have scored twice from corners in midweek and Angelo Ogbonna netted with a bullet header on the stroke of halftime. The energy of the side to get into Manchester City’s faces, plus better defensive organisation and counter attacking instinct can help Moyes to lift his side from a sombre defeat. Adrian was mesmeric between the sticks, providing a generous headache for Moyes on his goalkeeper selection for the upcoming London Derby against Chelsea. It was a display which hinted that The Hammers could have the iron to drag themselves away from trouble. However, as displayed at Everton, they can’t show a soft underbelly when falling behind, like they have on oh so many an occasion already.

Dominant De Gea

Arsenal versus Manchester United. Last season, it was fair to say this classic didn’t live up to the heights of the previous battles of old adversaries. But this season, oh my. An absolutely sensational game, the best of the season. The 3-1 defeat was unlucky on Arsene Wenger’s side. In attack they were slick and opened up Mourinho’s United rearguard on many an occasion. With 33 attempts on goal to United’s 8, Wenger can be right to feel aggrieved. He stated that United rode their luck at times, but acknowledged United’s counter-attacking ruthlessness, spearheaded by two goals from a rejuvenated Jesse Lingard, himself off the back of a mesmeric solo effort against Watford on Tuesday. There was one thing – for once – that Wenger and Mourinho could agree upon; the brilliance of David De Gea.

The Red Devils and Spanish Number 1 was bewilderingly excellent. He made a joint Premier League record of 14 saves in a game. The tagline ‘Dave saves’ could never be more appropriate. His performance in the view of his manager was ‘a world’s best’ and that’s hard to dispute. I’m unsure of De Gea’s ancestry, but with those reflexes a cat of some sort must be in there. There are too many masterpieces to select from, but his double save from the brilliant Alexandre Lacazette, palming away a firmly struck low effort with one strong wrist before sticking a foot out to deny Alexis Sanchez’s certain rebound was the pick of the best. He had no right to save the follow up, but De Gea simply has no regard for the norm. A truly awesome goalkeeper, worthy of being in the same ilk as Peter Schmeichel. It was vital for United to gain 3 points, it provides a glimmer of hope in their title aspirations. But their biggest test is to come, in a mouth-watering Manchester Derby at Old Trafford on Sunday. The dismissal of Paul Pogba was a dampener for Mourinho’s delight under the North London lights.

For Arsenal, Saturday’s defeat no matter how harsh was their 5th out of 15 league games. Despite the performance, they now have lost to Liverpool, United and City and drew at Stamford Bridge, taking 1 point against the current Top 4. For all attacking flair defensive frailties and – with dilly-dallying from Shkodran Mustafi which led to the second goal – arrogance was there for all to see. There was one example on Antonio Valencia’s opener in which 5 Arsenal defenders are drawn to the ball leaving Valencia in acres to drill home. I don’t understand how – with the defensive rock Steve Bould was in his playing days as Wenger’s assistant – Arsenal seem so unorganised. The form of Alexis Sanchez must also worry Gunners fans, his all round play wasn’t up to his exceptionally high standards and showcases a mind wondering elsewhere. The appreciation between Mesut Ozil and Jose Mourinho also reasserts being a matter of when, not if, the former Real player and manager will be reunited at United. A successful season for Arsenal must be either the Top 4 or Europa League and a Cup, the league even in December looks long gone.

Safe with Sam

Big Sam. Win on a Saturday, clean sheet, pint of vino, repeat. Did we expect anything different with Sam Allardyce returning to management? In the week he returned to Everton, The Toffees have scored 6 times and conceded no goals. An upturn in the form of Wayne Rooney – on the back of an inspired hattrick and an utterly stupendous halfway line effort against former gaffer Moyes – Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (both of whom netted against The Terriers) has helped to fill the supposed void left by Romelu Lukaku. At the back; in Jordan Pickford The Blues have an outstanding goalkeeping talent on their hands, one that should surely protect the English goal come the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Everton are still a way off where they want to be, considering the expenditure spent in the summer, but this is a start. Now in the Top 10 and looking upwards rather than below, they can go into Sunday’s Merseyside Derby with hope.

For David Wagner’s Huddersfield, it was another defeat on the road. I mentioned in the last review how in awe I was of the togetherness of the club and the energy and willingness displayed by the players, but ultimately they need to start showing ruthlessness in front of goal to prolong their Premier League fairytale. They have scored 9 times this season, nowhere near enough to survive, a lot of faith in The Terriers surviving will go on a stalwart defense. But if the opposition score first, Town haven’t shown much character or threat in getting back in the game, especially away from The John Smith’s Stadium. Huddersfield already have a ‘six-pointer’ coming up at home to Brighton on Saturday. Chris Hughton’s side also tasted a Merseyside masterclass from a ruthless Liverpool on Saturday, they like Town will be vying for revenge. If Wagner wins over Hughton, Huddersfield will be on 18 points, not a bad return approaching the halfway point. They need to capitalise, a defeat will leave Town fans feeling humbug rather than jolly coming into a packed festive calendar.


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Premier League Review Round 13: Hornet’s sting, Terrier torment and Hughton’s (near) Heroics

Prem 2017


In this week’s Premier League Review, we analyse how the newly-promoted sides are fairing amongst English football’s elite. Despite a weekend where all three lost, is there reason for optimism running into the Christmas calendar, or is this year’s festivities already looking a lost cause?

A Silva-lining for the Toon?

On Saturday, Newcastle United welcomed Marco Silva’s Watford to St. James’ Park. Described by the Newcastle Evening Chronicle as ‘Pygmies in a land of Giants’, Watford were looking to inflict a detrimental defeat against Rafael Benitez’s Magpies. This fixture stuck strictly to the form book; Watford have now won four consecutive games in the league on the bounce; whilst the Geordies are now firmly overlooking their shoulders, precarious of being sucked into the mire of the relegation zone.

Watford possess a setup that Newcastle fans must envy. Fluid, attacking vigour coupled with astute signings and an aspirational young coach. Will Hughes is seemingly starting to fulfill his prodigy status in the midfield, scoring in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. Through watching the game, you see in Richarlison and Marvin Zeegelaar that the Hornets now have the quality and pace up top to sting sides at their will; netting 22 times, the 6th highest total and only 18 off last season’s entire tally. They look like a side only likely to improve, given the youthful acquisitions and finally, a sense of stability at the club. They deserve the plaudits.

For Newcastle the return of captain Jamaal Lascelles and the mesmeric Mikel Merino is essential. Rafa is a coach with the nous to drag them away from trouble, but he needs the support from the boardroom. With a bid of £300m being tabled to Mike Ashley this week from PCP Capital Partners (headed by Amanda Staveley, who also helped ADUG to purchase Manchester City in 2008), a solution to the ownership requires a solution promptly. The side in front of goal obviously lacks Premier League quality. Transfers are a necessity, for the gates Newcastle receive, being the 5th lowest spenders before the season seemed bemusing. The determination to complete the takeover is the only merry news in a sobering month for Newcastle.

When City came to Town

When you looked at this fixture before Sunday, only one outcome was possible. Huddersfield were coming off the back of a 4-0 annihilation at the hands of a resurgent Bournemouth, whilst Manchester City were on a run of 10 consecutive league wins. It seemed a case of how many, rather than the result.

However, with that fanbase, David Wagner’s Terriers are always going to pose a threat at the John Smith’s Stadium. Town have only lost twice at home this season, to last year’s runners-up Tottenham and to City on Sunday. Two things impressed me; firstly the raucous atmosphere engineered by the Huddersfield faithful. With that intensity from the stands it is always likely to be reciprocated by the players on the pitch, producing shocks like the famous win over Mourinho’s United last month. The second asset to catch the eye is the defensive set up; organised and assured, they certainly at the back look stable, keeping five clean sheets in the process. Such exploits have even lead to muted calls for an international call-up for German and last year’s Championship Play-Off hero Christopher Schindler. I hope Town survive, it’s a spectacle to see how united the club is; from the chairman to the fans. The club’s tag is ‘The Pride of Yorkshire’, they are certainly endearing themselves to such a claim.

For Manchester City, in the words of Benjamin Mendy, ‘they keep eating’. They are the first side to win 11 consecutive matches in the league, but Sunday’s triumph could be a defining moment in the Citizen’s season. It was the first occasion since 1995 in which City came behind from a Premier League match at half-time to claim victory. Raheem Sterling produced another remarkable display; his work with Pep Guardiola over the summer is reaping rewards. With 12 goals in all competitions he has already usurped his career-best tally and on Sunday, he ran the Terriers ragged, winning a penalty before a fluky but deserved goal in the dying embers. City are not the full package yet, tests will surface over the packed Christmas fixture list and when injuries start to accumulate. But if it was Christmas Day with people dwelling on the feast, Manchester City would be the turkey, the showpiece with various combinations and an audience vying for more. They keep eating.

A Bright result to take forward

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho reserved significant praise for Chris Hughton’s Brighton and Hove Albion in his post-match interview. He claimed that Albion were United’s ‘hardest match’ of the season thus far; and that they ‘probably’ deserved more than the result they were inflicted. The press unanimously supported Mourinho’s interpretation, with good reason. Brighton were organised but were intent on causing the Red Devils food for thought, with Anthony Knockaert being unlucky in flashing an effort across the face of David De Gea’s goal. Summer signing Pascal Gross was a constant threat. Hughton’s Brighton side, unlike his former employers Newcastle, have defensive stability and an attacking threat to boot. Out of the three promoted sides, to me Brighton look like they have jelled the most within the Premier League, I don’t expect to see the Seagulls sinking come May.

For United, it took a deflected Ashley Young effort to produce a nervous three points. The goal was eventually credited to the unfortunate Lewis Dunk, a player who has scored own goals versus both Manchester side’s this season. Romelu Lukaku seems bereft of confidence and they attacking impetus, like in Basel, seemed limited. But it is another victory, to keep a waning title race alive, for now. United welcome City in a mouthwatering proposition at Old Trafford on December 10th. With 11 straight wins at home, coupled with only letting in 6 goals this term, they stand a chance of narrowing the 8 point gap. But a return to potency up front is a must, otherwise the moon over Mancunia will be beaming blue come the holiday’s.


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Watford’s recent success highlights the need for consistency

Watford


Watford are in their third Premier League campaign since promotion from the second tier of English football in 2015. A club that have not had much consistency in this top flight stint have started the current campaign extremely well. New manger Marco Silva is highly rated and his recruitment and style of play have attracted interest from other clubs. Watford will want to keep hold of him and the players that are excelling and achieve the consistency they need with the Portuguese manager.

Promotion

Watford returned to Premier League football in 2015. They finished second in the Championship, behind Bournemouth, although they had four managers in the season. It was a chaotic start to the campaign which saw three managers leave by the time the first week in October had finished. When promoted they parted company with the manager, Slaviša Jokanović, who had steadied the ship and helped them achieve promotion. The replacement was Quique Sánchez Flores who put in place the foundations that are currently being built on.

Watford in the Premier League so far

It was all in all a great first season in the Premier League for Watford. a thirteenth placed finished in the league that signalled they had not struggled with relegation. A brave FA Cup run settled the fans even more, seeing their side reach the semi-finals. A run that saw Watford beat Arsenal 2-1 at The Emirates in the quarter-finals of the competition. Unfortunately for Sánchez Flores the Watford board did not share his opinion that the season was successful and his contract was not renewed and he left the club at the end of the season.

“The club and me don’t have the same point of view about the season. We don’t have the necessary conditions to activate the clause to renew my contract so I will leave Watford as a consequence. I felt completely happy with this year and I have enjoyed this experience.” (Quique Sánchez Flores)

Walter Mazzarri replaced Sánchez Flores and it proved a return to reality for Watford. While money was spent and good players brought to the club nothing clicked. The team struggled all season and five straight defeats at the end of the season, the last of which was a 5-0 humiliation at Vicarage Roads at the hands of Manchester City, highlighted were the club where. They finished seventeenth due to the late slump but were never in real danger of being relegated as they were six points clear of the relegation zone. It was announced before the City game that Mazzarri would leave the club at the end of the season.

Improving fortunes

This campaign has produced fresh hope around Watford Football Club. Marco Silva, although joining from relegated Hull City, has brought an entertaining brand of football to Vicarage Road. Sitting pretty in eighth place in the league only four points behind Arsenal and Liverpool and five behind Tottenham is a good way to measure the early season form. A 3-3 opening day draw with Liverpool was exciting and a 2-1 home victory over Arsenal is a stand out result so far. A three game losing streak was brought to an end recently when Watford saw off David Moyes’ West Ham to regain some momentum.

Silva was able to recruit well over the summer. He made Tom Cleverly’s move from Everton permanent after he spent the second half of the 2016/17 season on loan at the club. He also signed Nathaniel Chalobah from Chelsea who had been on loan at the club in 2012/13. In signing these two players he brought in people with an understanding of the club. They understood the values and history of the club due to representing Watford before and this helps them settle quicker.

Will Hughes was brought in from Derby County for £8 million. Although Hughes has struggled to break into the side his quality cannot be denied. He had been linked with a move away from Derby for some time before joining Watford. He had been linked with a move to Liverpool in the past.

Left-back Marvin Zeegelaar joined for under £3 million from Sporting Lisbon offering experience at the highest level after playing for the Portuguese side five times in the Champions League last season. Silva was also able to snatch Andre Gray away from Premier League rivals Burnley to improve his goal getting options. As well as these three loan players came in – André Carrillo (Benfica), Orestis Karnezis and Molla Wagué (both Udinese).

While all these are superb signings for Watford one stands out from the rest. They were able to attract Brazil u20 prospect Richarlison from Fluminense. The move believed to be in the region of £11.5 million was greeted with great excitement.  In the campaign before he joined Watford he scored 18 goals in 22 appearances for Fluminense. The Brazilian is mainly utilised on the left wing but can play comfortably in any attacking position.

He provides excitement and a real goal threat as his direct style of play adds something different in Watford’s attack. He is currently Watford’s top scored with five goals in all competitions.

Adding these players to the foundations that were in place when Silva joined the club leads to the potential for success. A top half finish should be the lowest aim for the club this season, it could be better if the players fulfilling their potential at the moment continue to do so.

Worries for the future?

With the joys of overachieving and playing entertaining football come some negatives. When players perform and managers get the team set up in an attractive and successful way rival clubs start to monitor these individuals. Watford will have to deal with this in the near future.

Dutch manager Ronald Koeman left Everton and Silva has been linked with the job. ‘The Toffees’ missed out on what appeared to be their initial choice to replace Koeman as Sean Dyche distanced himself from the job. Attention soon shifted aggressively onto Silva. Watford must keep hold of Silva and seem determined to do so turning down £10 million which Everton offered to secure the services of the ex Hull City manager.

It is not just Silva who has his suitors. Richarlison has attracted interest from Arsenal. ‘Gunners’ manager Arsene Wenger has highlighted the young Brazilian as a potential replacement for Alexis Sanchez if he does leave in January or when his contract runs out in the summer. It would be hard to resist a move to Arsenal as the club has a great reputation and is consistently involved in European competition.

Conclusion

Silva has achieved a great start to his career at Watford. However, interest from other clubs produce interesting questions. Will the Watford manager have the clubs history with managers in the back of his mind if the option to leave becomes available? It would be difficult not to. The three previous seasons have seen six managers take charge of the club.

“I know the speculation and I know some of you raise doubt about commitment. Me and my players put in a very good answer [against West Ham]. Speculation can happen but it is not fair to doubt commitment.” (Marco Silva)

Consistency is key in football and it is ironic that Watford who have chopped and changed manager, even when it was not the right choice, now find themselves in this position. Perhaps it is a problem of their own making. Watford should do everything in their power to keep Silva at the club and fight for the consistency they need to become successful, if they do not they will find themselves going round in circles until the inevitable relegation battles arrive on their doorstep.


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Premier League Review (Gameweek 12)

Prem 2017


Welcome to S57 on Sport’s inaugural Premier League Review. Throughout the course of the remainder of the season, we promise to provide a concise and informative reflection on the weekend’s talking points. Minus Garth Crooks, his pretentious analysis, and 24 years worth of experience as a professional footballer.


Wenger keeps North London Gunning for more

At 14:30 on Saturday afternoon I was completely perplexed. It was not because the form book was flung from The Emirates window, it was the manner of Arsenal’s performance. I had not expected The Gunners to compress Tottenham’s supposed dominance and excerpt themselves in a top-of-the-table clash. In counteraction to their inept display against seemingly champions-elect Manchester City, Arsene Wenger produced a tactical masterclass which bewildered the Lilywhites.

Look at Alan Shearer’s synopsis on Match of the Day. Arsenal pressed in packs; buoyancy from a scintillating forward line of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette gives hope that this season can bear fruits for the red of North London. Defender Shkodran Mustafi’s return shored up a frail-looking defence, but it was Ozil who was undoubtedly Arsenal’s star.

Ozil has come under considerable criticism in his time in England since his £42 million switch from Real Madrid 3 years ago, but this was debatably his finest hour in an Arsenal shirt. Pulling the strings from midfield and dissecting Spurs backline at ease, it was the German’s tenacity in helping his side press and run Tottenham into committing an array of errors which impressed me, condescending critics views that he does not ‘graft’ enough for his side. His weight of delivery, albeit from a controversially awarded free-kick, was a joy for Mustafi to plant his head onto giving his side what would become an unassailable lead. It was his 45th assist in 4 years in England, more than any other player.  Genius underappreciated.

As for Tottenham, it is another heavyweight clash where they have fallen short away from home. Already this term, they have lost to Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal and they hold one victory at the Emirates Stadium in 10 seasons. Tottenham need to show signs of progress and begin the deliver, otherwise Pochettino’s men, for all their credit, will be looked back on as the ‘what if’ side.


Pogba supplying Mourinho’s va-va-voom

If Ozil’s genius is under-appreciated, their can be no denying Paul Pogba’s influence on this Manchester United side. With the game etching in Newcastle’s favour, it was Pogba with the addition of shimy and cross who found Anthony Martial inside the penalty area to nod home and ignite a comeback. The Frenchman also added a goal to his performance after an astute head down from Marcus Rashford. But it is Pogba, and his sharpened red locks who will rightfully steal the limelight. In each of the 3 matches United have comeback to win under Jose Mourinho, Pogba has either assisted or scored in every one of them, signifying his importance in riling up his side for the fights that will ensue throughout a busy festive calendar.

The return of the charismatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as well as Romelu Lukaku’s first goal in seven games, has returned a sense of optimism to the Theatre of Dreams, especially after a compounding defeat to Chelsea before the international break. The performance echoed the confidence displayed by the Red Devils at the season’s opening, conveniently whilst Pogba was pulling the strings.

For Rafa Benitez, he can be inspired by his team’s first-half performance. An impressive showing from £10m signing Jacob Murphy demonstrates reasons to be cheerful, but the second half collapse was concerning. The Geordie fanbase was probably the highlight of Newcastle’s evening under the floodlights; the 3,100 travelling army provided rapturous support. They realise their side, considerably lacking in Premier League quality, will need all the help to preserve their Premier League status come May. A takeover and a transfer kitty may be done for January, the Magpies need it, quickly.


Pulis put out of his misery

It surfaced on Monday afternoon that Tony Pulis had been dismissed of his managerial duties at West Bromwich Albion. The appearance of the club’s Chinese owners symbolised unrest within the hierarchy, now they require a replacement. Assistant coach Gary Megson will take charge of affairs until a new appointment is made. After Saturday’s performance, it’s an understatement to say whoever comes in has an almighty task to hand.

Chelsea battered The Baggies. Despite feeble attempts to suppress the talent of Eden Hazard and co, it eventually showed. Hazard bagged a brace, coupled with Alvaro Morata’s 8th goal in 11 league games for The Blues and a Marcos Alonso effort which consigned Pulis’ fate. But is the manner of Alonso’s finish, in acres of space from a Fabregas delivery, which showcased defensive frailties unreciprocal of Pulis’ ethos. There was no effort to save the manager’s skin, although no win in 10 games is a statistic that can’t be saved.

Pulis will find work, with his nous of never being relegated as a manager, don’t be surprised of seeing his at a Premier League struggler soon. Heck, West Brom would do with help at the moment. With fixtures away to Tottenham and Liverpool and Manchester United visiting The Hawthorns in the next 6 matches, don’t expect a miraculous upturn in fortunes anytime soon. Worrying times for Albion fans, but at least you don’t support West Ham.


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Everton facing serious problems

Toffee Trouble


Everton’s 2-2 draw against struggling Crystal Palace was cited as a positive by stand in manager David Unsworth. Everton were behind twice in the game and the way the draw was achieved was in some ways impressive. However, Everton should be overcoming these challenges if they wish to get back to were they once were. Many problems are apparent at the club and the new manager that comes in, whoever that may be, faces a big challenge to turn the club around.

“It’s horrible for any coach to be sat there after one minute 1-0 down, but the lads were terrific and showed great fight and desire to come straight back and I’m very proud of them.” (David Unsworth)

Decline since 2014

While it is easy to look at recent issues the club is paying for a few seasons peppered with bad decisions. The 2013/14 saw manager Roberto Martinez finish 5th in the Premier League. Martinez improved the squad with 3 loan signings – Gareth Barry, Gerard Deulofeu and most importantly Romelu Lukaku. The on loan Belgian striker would prove vital for ‘the Toffees’ over a period of time. In his season on loan he top scored for Everton with 16 in all competitions.

Both Barry and Lukaku made their moves to Goodison Park permanent in the summer of 2014. Samuel Eto’o joined on a free and Brendan Galloway and Muhamed Besic made the move to the blue side of Merseyside that summer also. That took their summer spending to £36 million which is low for the quality of players they brought in.

Only 12 games were won in the Premier League for Everton in the 2014/15 season leaving them in 11th place. They were knocked out of the FA Cup and League Cup in the 3rd round and they reached the last 16 in the Europa League.

This represented a failure. No European football next season meant that Martinez was already under pressure going into the new season.

The same place finish, 11th, in the 2015/16 season saw Martinez’s employment with the club come to an end. Sub par recruitment and no sign of improvement were the reasons Martinez could not continue. While there was an improvement in the domestic cup competitions, Everton reached the semi finals in both, the lack of success in the league and failure to qualify for Europe was simply not good enough.

The new man coming in, Ronald Koeman, joined from Premier League rivals Southampton. Fortunes improved but certain problems were apparent. Lukaku had grown as a player, improved and was depended on highly by Everton to score goals. Koeman’s first season in charge saw Lukaku score 26 goals in all competitions. The closest rival he had in terms of goalscoring was Ross Barkley with 6 goals. Improvement in the league proved that the club were focusing on league objectives as they went out in both domestic cups in the 3rd round.

2017/2018 – A disaster so far

Interest in Lukaku was present for a long period of time. The summer transfer window saw him switch to Manchester United and Koeman had a serious problem. Money in the bank but teams knew they had it. Prices inflated and deals stalled. It was a tough time for the club and manager.

Big money was spent on Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen, Jordan Pickford and eventually Gylfi Sigurdsson. Wayne Rooney made a return to the club in an attempt to bring some star quality.

The biggest frustration during this period is the Ross Barkley situation. A real talent who was vital to Everton in recent times trying to force a move away and Koeman taking a hard stance. He made an example of Barkley and the situation was negative for the player, club and the manager, fatally, suffered from.

Now sitting 16th in the league and struggling for form David Unsworth is taking on managerial duties. Some time has gone by since the sacking of Koeman and still Everton have not replaced him with a permanent successor.

What went wrong?

A lot has to be said for the recruitment in the summer. There were some good signings in Koeman’s defence. Keane came in from Burnley. He is a good age and had been excelling at his previous club. Pickford is a superb goalkeeper and is only getting better. If Everton can build a solid defence in front of him they have the making of a solid unit at the back.

The big issue that ultimately found Koeman in trouble was the lack of income splashed out on a goalscorer. Lukaku had carried the team since his arrival. Without his goals the club would have found themselves in danger earlier. He scored goals and is a great hold up player. Holding it up brought players in deeper roles into the game and offered them space.

Rooney came in and given recent form it was clear he was not in a position to fill the void left by the Belgian. Sandro Ramirez came in from Malaga, but at 22 years of age and with little experience it would be too much to ask of him to start scoring regularly instantly. The signing of Olivier Giroud could have changed this, a move that Koeman said was close.

Creative players Klaassen and Sigurdsson have failed to make an impact. Klaassen has played 11 times in all competitions and failed to score and Sigurdsson has the single goal to show for his 16 games for his new club.

A major issue in the Everton side at the moment is the lack of pace. The front players are not the quickest and Rooney and Sigurdsson both drop deep and it can ease the pressure on the centre backs knowing that that space is vacant.

What does the future hold?

It will continue to be a difficult season for ‘the Toffees’. There is a real unbalance in the squad and goals will be difficult to come by.

Will they survive? Realistically there is far too much experience for the team to be relegated. The quality of the players at the club will lead them to a mid table finish and another season losing ground to the teams at the top of the table.

The new man coming in will have a job on his hands. It looks likely that Watford manager Marco Silva is the favourite, even though Watford are rejecting advances from Everton, but Unsworth is also fancied by the club. First choice for Everton was Sean Dyche but they have had no luck in luring him to Goodison.

It will not be a season to remember for Everton fans. This season will be a battle. If they can bring Silva to the club the future will be something to look forward to. The club has money and a decent foundation to build around. A manager of the calibre of Silva will bring fresh ideas and a stylish type of football. Whoever the new manager is their main priority will be bringing goals and pace to the side.


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Hammers managerial reshuffle

Slavan Moyez


Slaven Bilic’s time in charge of West Ham United has come to an end. It has been coming for sometime as the club have dipped in form and struggled to adapt to a new stadium. The new man coming in, David Moyes, is looking to reinvent himself after his career snowballed after a poor showing at Manchester United. Can he find the form that sparked his glory days at Everton? Or will we see the Moyes of more recent times continue to suffer?

Bilic had to go!

Bilic joined the club in 2015 and hit the ground running. He fired the team into a 7th place finish exceeding expectations at the time. A busy transfer market saw the new boss bring in the likes of Dimitri Payet, Michail Antonio and Angelo Ogbonna on permanent deals. West Ham’s squad was bolstered further by some impressive loan players coming in. Carl Jenkinson, Manuel Lanzini, Victor Moses and Alex Song all came in for the season and helped West Ham reach the upper mid table.

Unfortunately for the former Croatian national team manager he could not carry it into the 2016/17 season. Payet, who had been the catalyst for so much glory for ‘the Hammers’, left and the loan players returned. Lanzini joined on a permanent deal and was successful but it was not enough. The other signings brought in by Bilic struggled. Money was splashed on Andre Ayew from Swansea. Further funds were used on Robert Snodgrass and Jose Fonte in January but West Ham failed to reach the heights of the previous season. They struggled to an 11th place finish, which did not look like a success after achieving 7th place.

The performances got worse at the start of this season. Only 2 league wins for Bilic in the opening 11 games meant that he had to leave. Although he attracted players such as Javier Hernandez and Marko Arnautovic he could not turn it around. A come back win against Tottenham in the League Cup bought Bilic sometime. But ultimately 11 goals scored, 23 conceded and lying 18th in the league is simply not good enough for a club like West Ham.

Moyes’ last chance

If David Moyes has anything going for him it must be the hunger to succeed and prove everybody wrong. He has struggled ever since leaving Everton. Succeeding Alex Ferguson really effected the Scotsman and in recent roles he has failed and been sacked. Can he rediscover the formula that saw him achieve so highly at Everton? He does not have a choice. If he wants a successful future in football management he has to turn West Ham around.

It has been a difficult first day with West Ham’s Managing Director Karen Brady having made comments about the incoming manager when he was at Sunderland. A comment Moyes made to a female reporter after an interview caused controversy and Karen Brady accused the then Sunderland manager of sexism. His first task will be getting Brady on his side as the club will have the option to get rid of Moyes at the end of the season if things do not go to plan. An uneasy position for Moyes but one he could not realistically argue against.

There are some positives for Moyes. West Ham are a big club and the players they currently have are good to work with. Their is potential in the squad and because they did not perform well for Bilic does not mean they will not get behind the new boss. In January they will have money to spend. He will be able to get some of his players in and build the squad. If he gets that right and can tap into the potential of the current squad he can succeed.

Moyes has got his chance. It is time for him to step up and regain some credibility. It will be difficult for him given his history but he has shown in the past he is a good manager and West Ham have a solid foundation to build on. Unfortunately for Bilic he achieved too high in his first season. Expectations were raised by the 7th place finish and the pressure in the Premier League to improve year on year grew and ultimately was his downfall. Moyes must come in and steady the ship. It will take some time to get West Ham back in the top half but Moyes has the ability to do it even if he has not shown in recently.


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Arsenal need Ozil now more than ever

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Mesut Ozil splits football fans. Some think he is world class, others think he is lazy and inconsistent. Love him or hate him he is one of the biggest stars in world football. This was evident when he decided to come to the Premier League in 2013. Leaving Real Madrid and becoming Arsenal’s record signing at the time, Alexandre Lacazette broke that record this summer. Arsenal only have 3 FA Cup wins to show for Ozil’s time in London. With so much expectation on his shoulders has his time been a success?

Initially the signing looked fantastic for Arsenal. Even though Real were looking to offload Ozil to balance their squad after a busy summer of buys they still got a wonderful footballer. A indirect triumph came in the way of their rivals Tottenham losing Gareth Bale which in turn made Ozil available for ‘the Gunners’ to sign. The majority of football fans thought that Madrid had made a mistake. Even their star players thought so.

“He was the player who best knew my moves in front of goal … I’m angry about Özil leaving.” (Cristiano Ronaldo, 2013)

Ozil was greeted with hero status at The Emirates Stadium as you would expect. He was the marquee signing that year with very little going in and going out of the club. It showed. Not much changed for Arsene Wenger’s side as they retained fourth spot in the league. However, there was the first of Ozil’s FA Cup successes in his first season. It looked like great progress for Arsenal, their first trophy in 9 years. The new German playmaker would feel no more than satisfied with his first season performance scoring 7 times and creating 11 in all competitions.

It is often suggested that Ozil needs players around him. Wenger possibly had that in the back of his mind when he signed Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona in the summer after their domestic cup victory. He must have also felt the club needed more to challenge on all fronts. An early season boost saw them claim the curtain raiser, the Community Shield.

They also improved their league position to third but never looked as though they would lift the trophy. Defending the FA Cup was special, but it was not enough. The season did not feel like a success. Ozil did not improve either, 5 goals and 9 assists. He missed a chunk of the season due to injury which may have affected that.

Another 2 seasons passed by and Arsenal claimed another Community Shield and another FA Cup. They finished second in the league before falling to fifth last season. They started this campaign with another Community Shield success but it feels like the set of players are underachieving. Ozil’s Arsenal career stands in the balance. He is 29 and will want to add some serious silverware to his collection. Playing 169 times for Arsenal scoring 33 times and notching up 59 assists are good numbers but he can be better.

Arsenal need to grow to help him succeed or else he will be open to leaving. Rumours that Jose Mourinho wants to snatch him will strike fear into Wenger. He will not want a repeat of Robin van Persie leaving to their arch rivals.

Ozil is a superb player, he creates for others around him. When times are good he performs and is in a league of his own. When they are going wrong he disappears. Ozil is a luxury player and unfortunately for him at the moment many around him are. Wenger likes to play in a certain way and even though everybody involved in football suggests he should sign some defensive players he does not.

Arsenal must keep the German World Cup winner if they want to progress and clinch the league title. If Wenger can assemble the pieces around him the sky is the limit. It will mean the long term Arsenal manager will have to stray away from his comfort zone and sign some physical defensive players. He brings something different to the team and losing him now would be a disaster for the club. He is the key to the success of the club, Wenger must keep him.


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