2018/19 Premier League Preview

Admittedly this post is late. So, too is the World Cup Review which will be published in the next two days. The delay to this post was down to me not having the finishing touches done. However, I have not changed the bulk of the text since it was written on Friday.

Just four weeks since the conclusion of the World Cup in Russia and a new season of the Premier League has begun. From now until May, we have 380 games of top-flight football to be nervous, sweat over in the hope it benefits our teams and enjoy.

The 2017/18 season was a historic one full of twists and turns up and down the table apart from the top spot. Manchester City under manager Pep Guardiola was the runaway champions as they set the new records left right and centre. After a 1-1 draw with Everton in their second game, they went on to win 18 consecutive games to set a new Premier League record. They also set new records for most goals scored over a 38 game season and the most points. In doing so, they became the first side to reach 100 points. They were almost unstoppable. However, an invincibles season eluded them as Liverpool inflicted their first defeat of the season at Anfield in January. That was their first of only two defeats as Manchester United inflicted defeat on them at the Etihad to extend the title race by only one week. read more

Premier League 2017/18 Battle for PL Survival: who will go down?

I have not done anything on football for a long time now. For my plans in 2018, I said I would commit to continuing to produce Match Thoughts posts when I caught up with the monthly review posts. This has not materialised due to a mix of personal circumstances and balancing other priorities. Instead, for the remainder of the season, I will turn to a series of questions to answer in the closing weeks of the season. This starts with the battle for survival in the Premier League.

As the Premier League returns this weekend following the final international break before this summers World Cup, most teams only have seven or eight games left and the bottom of the table could not be tighter. Whilst one team are well adrift in 20th, the other two teams in the bottom three are only a matter of nine points away from 10th. That means anyone of West Brom, Stoke City, Southampton, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Huddersfield Town, Swansea City, Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion, Watford and Bournemouth are all in the relegation picture. But, who do I think it will be?

West Brom

Position: 20th, 20 Points
Played 31, 3 Wins, 11 Draws, 17 Defeats, 29 Goals Scored, 49 Goals Against, -25 Goal Difference
Manager: Alan Pardew
Top Scorer: Solomon Rondon 6
Remaining fixtures: Burnley (home), Swansea (home), Manchester United (away), Liverpool (away), Newcastle United (away), Tottenham Hotspur (home), Crystal Palace (away). read more

Match Thoughts: Newcastle United 1-0 Crystal Palace

Even before kick-off for the ninth round of Premier League fixtures, the league had its second managerial casualty of the season. Leicester City parted company with Craig Shakespeare after only 6 months in charge following their 1-1 draw with West Brom. Quite naturally, they won their next game; 2-1 at Swansea City. There were also shocks as Brighton won their first away game in the Premier League defeating West Ham 3-0 prompting speculation over the future of manager Slaven Bilic while Huddersfield Town defeated Manchester United 2-1. Chelsea narrowly avoided another scare coming back to defeat Watford 4-2 at Stamford Bridge. Super Sunday threw up the anticipated classics of Everton vs Arsenal; the away side winning 5-2 at Goodison Park and Tottenham Hotspur defeating Liverpool 4-1 at Wembley.

England Headcoach Gareth Southgate in attendance sat alongside Managing Director Lee Charnley and in close company of Sting and Jimmy Nail, a poor quality game fitting for Southgate's presence [Image from NUFC.com]
England Head coach Gareth Southgate in attendance sat alongside Managing Director Lee Charnley and in close company of Sting and Jimmy Nail, a poor quality game fitting for Southgate’s presence [Image from NUFC.com]

Unfortunately, as a Newcastle United fan, I find myself discussing one of the low scoring games and arguably the one of least quality as it took 73 minutes for either side to register a shot on target. It was perhaps fitting then that England head coach Gareth Southgate was in attendance and no sighting of Amanda Staveley after the businesswoman entered a period of ‘due diligence’ in the days leading up to the game. read more

England EURO 2016 Part Two: Who should replace Roy Hodgson?

Roy Hodgson (pictured) resigned minutes after Iceland defeated England at EURO 2016; the FA are still looking for a successor...
Roy Hodgson (pictured) resigned minutes after Iceland defeated England at EURO 2016; the FA are still looking for a successor…

After the debacle that was England’s humbling 2-1 defeat to Iceland (I’m not intending to insult Iceland; they did marvellously well at EURO 2016 but this match, in particular, was a huge surprise) in the second round of EURO 2016; Roy Hodgson resigned minutes after the final whistle. So, The Football Association (FA) are now on the hunt for a new manager for the national; senior men’s team. In charge of this recruitment is chief executive Martin Glenn, Dan Ashworth; Director of elite development and vice-chairman David Gill.

Their task will be to find the best man for the job and hopefully someone who will secure a knockout round victory at a major international tournament. It’s something Roy Hodgson failed to achieve and in actual fact England have failed to do so since a David Beckham free-kick defeated Ecuador in Germany 2006. This three-man team are already underway in the recruitment process of replacing Hodgson with reports of Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce and Hull City boss Steve Bruce being interviewed within the past week. read more

England EURO 2016 Part One: What went wrong?

Introduction
Roy Hodgson (pictured) resigned minutes after Iceland defeated England at EURO 2016

It’s 11pm on Monday 27th June 2016 and English football has just experienced one of its darkest nights; a humbling defeat and a Head Coach resigning. Things had been promising in the early stages as Wayne Rooney put England in front from the penalty spot in the first few minutes. What happened next was sheer humiliation as the smallest nation at EURO 2016 yet again showed fantastic resilience to turn the match around within minutes and hold on to the final whistle. Iceland, a nation that had never before been to a major tournament had set up a quarter-final tie against hosts France and knock England; the home of football out of another tournament with a whimper. Roy Hodgson knew this was the end and promptly resigned minutes after full-time stating ‘Now is the time for someone else to oversee the progress of a hungry and extremely talented group of players’.

This piece shall answer a key question; what went wrong for Roy Hodgson and England at EURO 2016? I will concern myself with just EURO 2016 and not a post-mortem of English football in general (more English coaches, more grassroots football etc.). read more

Euro 2016 Preview

We are just a matter of hours away from the start of the European Championships; affectionately known as the Euros! When France and Romania kick off on Friday night, they will start a whole month of football (10th June to 10th July) and the 15th edition of this tournament. The tournament has changed a lot since it began in France back in 1960. Having started with 4 participating teams from an eligible 17; the 2016 tournament will feature 24 teams! France host this tournament for the third time in its history (having also hosted Euro 82) while Spain come into the tournament as defending champions and the only nation to have defended this title (2008 and 2012).  This will also be the first time since Portugal in 2004 that one nation alone is hosting the tournament as Austria and Switzerland followed by Poland and Ukraine hosted the 2008 and 2012 tournaments respectively.

Map of the 10 venues in France
Map of the 10 venues in France

The initial tournament in 1960 used only two venues. Fast forward again to 2016 and this time France are using 10 stadiums spread throughout the country. read more