Only seven teams looking to retain 100% Premier League record

As we head into the second weekend of the new Premier League season, only seven from 20 teams will be looking to keep up a 100% record.

Already at a three point disadvantage, Arsenal failed again to win at home in their opening game.  This time it was Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool beating Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, who between them scored seven goals in an exciting match that had more to do with defensive frailties than attacking prowess. Not for the first time, the final whistle and another defeat at the Emirates Stadium was greeted with a loud chorus of boos.  While the annual ‘why doesn’t Arsene Wenger spend the money’ debate ensued.

Leicester City were beaten 2-1 in a shock result by newly promoted Hull City who went into the game without a manager and a depleted squad.  Michael Phelan showed great tactical awareness by closing down the space for Leicester to run into.  Leicester looked rusty and bereft of ideas.  It could be a long, hard and frustrating season for Claudio Ranieri and Leicester City as opponents wise up to how best play against, rather than into the hands, of last season’s Premier League Champions.

Similarly, Tottenham looked a little off the pace against Everton at Goodison Park.  New manager Ronald Koeman had the Toffees playing more as a solid unit – attack-minded but with the ability to defend.  Everton went ahead with an early free-kick by Ross Barkley and bossed the first-half.  But Spurs began to turn it on after the break, and were unfortunate not to sneak a win. That said, a draw was a fair result.

Both Manchester clubs began with an expected three points.  Manchester United had an easy win away to Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring on his Premier League debut and looking sharp for the challenge. While Manchester City struggled to get passed Sunderland with their new manager, David Moyes.  Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola had their teams passing and playing with more confidence.  But I still feel  Man City are still a few players short of playing the high-pressing, fast-paced Guardiola way and expect more players to be either sold or pushed out on loan, to make way for more new faces before the end of August.

Chelsea also made a bright start against a below average West Ham on Monday night.  Antonio Conte had Chelsea playing quick one-touch football and most importantly, desire had returned to the likes of Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic.  Kante made a very impressive start to his Chelsea career.

Swansea City and West Brom were the other winners last weekend with 1-0 away results at Burnley and Crystal Palace respectively; and while West Brom will have a tough time to contain Everton, Swansea could well be holding on to a 1005 record thus far, with a home match with Sunderland.

With less than two weeks to go to the end of this transfer window it will be interesting to see where Joe Hart is playing come September, and how that effects his ability to retain the no.1 shirt for England after a very poor Euro 16 campaign. With none of last season’s top six in the market, Everton look favourites to continue spending and offer Joe Hart a first team place; and following the signing this week of Yannick Bolasie from Crystal Palace, Everton could be ready to agree the sale of Romelu Lukaku back to Chelsea.  Though I’m not 100% sure Everton, Lukaku or Chelsea want the move.

Crystal Palace lost no time replacing Bolassie with Christian Benteke from Liverpool; and though I think Benteke will do well for Alan Pardew and the Eagles, it is at best, a side-step rather than a step forward.

This weekend’s fixtures start with Manchester United taking on Southampton tonight (Friday) at Old Trafford and I’m confident Jose Mourinho’s first home game will result in a further three points and another convincing victory.  Southampton start another season without their best players from the previous campaign and another new manager.  Claude Puel follows Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino in attempting to keep stability in the Premier League for the Saints after losing top scorer Pelle to China and their player of the season, Mane to Liverpool.

So, along with Manchester United, who else do I expect to be sitting at the top of the table with 100% records come Sunday evening?

Manchester City should overcome Stoke City in a tight game at the Britannia Stadium, especially as England goalkeeper Jack Butland has been ruled out from an early return from injury. Liverpool will beat Burnley convincingly as they continue to push forward under Klopp; and a rejuvenated Chelsea should be too strong for Watford where another new manager and continuing turmoil off the pitch will surely take its toll this season.

But the most exciting game of the weekend could be Leicester v Arsenal at the King Power Stadium.  Leicester will need a Plan B if Drinkwater is not given space and time to find Vardy as he makes his darting runs behind the defence.  But Liverpool showed the Arsenal defence, weakened further by injury as well as a lack of pace, are very vulnerable if put under pressure.  If they’re unable to break up Leicester’s game, Arsenal could find themselves in another high scoring thriller.

The English Premier League 2016/17 Season Preview

Premier League 2016/17 SeasonIt’s back! Today sees the start of the 2016/17 English Premier League season, and one thing everyone and his dog appear to agree on is the 2015/16 Premier League season was a one-off.  Not only were 5,000/1 Leicester City crowned champions by 10 clear points, Arsenal, Manchester City and Man United  faltered with a stop / stop season, while Liverpool‘s chances were savaged by an injury crisis and Chelsea went into complete meltdown, and only scrapped into the top half of the table all season.

Tottenham and Leicester were the only two consistent teams throughout the whole season. Both played exciting football that relied on pace and fitness.  But Spurs choked as they entered the final straight.  The path to glory was left for Claudio Ranieri and Leicester to win the Premier League.  But this season will be a lot different.

There are no less than eight new managers; and with the arrival of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho in Manchester and Antonio Conte at Chelsea, expectations are super high; and winning the Premier League is once again back on the agenda for all three of the so-called ‘big four’.  

But with Man City, Manchester United, Chelsea,  Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and possibly Leicester all realistically looking to compete  for a top four finish, this could be the season that Arsene Wenger and Arsenal miss out on Champions League Football.

Chelsea and Manchester City have made some marquee signings but it is Man Utd who have led the transfer headlines.  Jose Mourinho targeted four stellar signings that along with goalkeeper David De Gea, will become the new look spine of Manchester United; and if Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pogba & Mkhitaryan hit the ground running, it will interesting to see where Wayne Rooney fits in to this team.

The two Manchester clubs of managers go head-to-head as the bookies favourites to win the Premier League.  But I think it might take some time for both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho to get their teams playing the way they want to.  While Chelsea appear to be quietly going somewhat under the radar. The fourth team I believe will make this season a much closer fought won, is Tottenham.  But this depends if Mauricio Pochettino can strengthen his squad in the next couple of weeks and that the Euro 16 finals hasn’t drained the confidence of his England players.

Buzzin Football Premier League 2016/17 predictions:

Premier League to be won by no more than three points by either Manchester City, Man Utd, Chelsea or Tottenham.

Arsene Wenger and Arsenal miss out on qualification to next season’s Champions League.

Liverpool, Leicester & Arsenal to fight it out to the last day of the season for a top six finish.

Hull City (Tigers) to be relegated with a Premier League low record number of points

Three from Hull, Swansea, Sunderland & Burnley to be relegated.

How bright is the future of the England football team?

Big Sam Allardyce to become the next England ManagerSo, as the FA look forward to the start of another record-breaking, money-swamping, ego-bloated Premier League season, following the abysmal performances and eventual collapse of the England national team in Euro 2016 against Iceland – a country with the population of Croydon and more volcanoes than professional footballers – the English Football Association have yet another chance following a tournament failure, to ‘get it right next time’.

With that in mind, who wouldn’t be excited to know they are in talks with Big Sam Allardyce to become the next England Manager.

It’s funny how all the football pundits, journalists and so-called football ‘experts’ (especially ex-professionals who apparently have an insider’s understanding of how to play football because once upon a time, they under-performed and failed miserably in an England shirt too) were all singing England’s praises before the start of the Euro 2016 finals in France. Roy Hodgson was being talked up for selecting a young, exciting squad and England was being tipped to make the quarter-finals, semis and by some, even win the tournament. This euphoria followed an unbeaten qualifying campaign. Neither of which is something new. Nor were the poor performances, no plan b or lack of quality when faced with an opposition who played as a team, were not afraid to receive the ball, and above all, didn’t resort to kicking the ball around as fast as possible in headless chicken fancy dress costumes when they went behind.

For decades now England has underperformed on the big stage. This isn’t new, but deep-rooted. It started in the 1970s when England failed to even make the World Cup finals for over a decade At the same time, there was an emergence of a new style of European football. While West Germany (as it was known then) continued to play solid, cautious football with a strong team ethic, Holland (also known as Netherlands) began playing a slower, more skillful game that promoted individual flair and ability but still with a strong team spirit. This evolved from the exciting flair of the Brazil 1970 team – possibly the best football team of all time – and infiltrated Spanish football in the 1980s when Dutch legend Johan Cruyff became manager of Barcelona. England’s style of fast, furious, aggressive football was no longer good enough to compete at the highest level. While I can understand the achievements of 1966 and 1970 were still fresh in the memory when England failed to qualify for the 1974 and 1978 World Cup Finals, by the 1980s the English FA had the chance to address the endemic problems in English football coaching that start with young kids and proliferates through grassroots and professional levels.

Apart from a brave attempt in World Cup 1990 and again helped by home advantage in Euro 96, England’s place in the hierarchy of national football is no longer at the

top table. The only difference with the over-enthusiastic and under-performing Euro 16 debacle was this time the capitulation was against a debutant country the size of Iceland. England achieved a new rock bottom in embarrassment and under-performance. But however frustrating it is to see overpaid primadonas fail miserably once again to play for their country at the level they play for their clubs, be careful not to agree with the wrong excuses. Forget ‘tiredness from a physically draining season’, too many foreign players, money or lack of commitment. England’s failure at every World Cup and European Championship finals comes down to one thing – the English way of playing football. Until that changes at schoolboy and grass roots level and permeates to the top level of English football, England will continue to fail at every major tournament.

Jurgen Klinsmann was at the heart of rebuilding Germany when they hit a low 10 years ago. They looked not just at the national team’s performances but at the whole structure of German football. Look where they are now.

The future of England isn’t bright. According to the English FA, the future is… Big Sam Allardyce!

Wembley Arch displays Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité ahead of England v France

Wembley Arch displays Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité ahead of England v France
Wembley Arch displays Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité ahead of England v France

Wembley Arch will display the national motto of France, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (liberty, equality and fraternity) for the England v France friendly.

Supporters going to the England v France frindly tonight are advised to get to Wembley Stadium as early as possible to avoid queues and to support commemorations of the tragic events in France.

The FA plans to appropriately remember Friday’s Paris incidents and encourages England fans to support the following initiatives:

  • England fans are asked to respect the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, the words of which will be displayed on screens inside the arena
  • La Marseillaise will be sung after God Save the Queen, in a change of protocols
  • Materials will be on seats in the east side (England Home End) of the stadium, which will form the French Tricolore when fans hold them aloft during the anthem
  • A minute’s silence will be observed prior to kick-off
  • Please ensure that you take your seats no later than 19.55 to observe the minute’s silence and national anthems
  • Both teams will wear black armbands during the game
  • The England team will make a gesture of solidarity to the French team prior to kick-off

Will Jose Mourinho be sacked this week & replaced by Diego Simeone?

Chelsea suffered a third straight defeat in the Premier League away to Mark HughesStoke City yesterday, leaving them in 16th position, just three points off the relegation places. It’s the first time they have lost three consecutive Premier League matches since 1999, when Mark Hughes was leading the line for Chelsea.  How they could have done with a little ‘Sparky’ magic yesterday, as by all accounts they played well but failed to convert several chances.

Each week someone says the situation at Chelsea is shocking, believing Jose Mourinho and Chelsea will turn it around and start an ascent up the table and finish in the top four. But with each week and each defeat the pressure grows and the questions mount.  Chelsea have now lost more games in the Premier League than Manchester City, Arsenal and Man Utd combined.

The no-nonsense hiring and firing brand of leadership shown by Roman Abramovich in the past has been put on hold to give Mourinho more time than any other Chelsea manager has endured since his reign.  Carlo Ancelotti was sacked months after winning the Premier League Title & FA Cup double, and Roberto Di Matteo suffered a similar fate after guiding the club to its only ever Champions League victory.  But Mourinho’s return, a ‘second coming’ for many Blues fans, appeared to be somewhat of a longer term commitment by both club and manager when Chelsea offered a four-year contract to lure Jose Mourinho back, for what was deemed ‘unfinished business’; and his return to English football was greeted with open arms by the media and football fans alike; and with Sir Alex Ferguson retiring, the Premier League needed more characters.

Last season Chelsea romped home to win the Premier League, while bagging the Carling (League) Cup along the way.  With a new spine to the team consisting of Thibaut Courtois, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, added to a new lease of life from an ageing John Terry, Jose Mourinho‘s Chelsea were head and shoulders above an average list of under performing teams; and that for me, is where the problem started. They were crowned Premier League Champions and unlike previous summers, appeared to rest on their laurels somewhat by not strengthening the first team.  A summer long tussle with Everton to sign the young, promising John Stones at least highlighted where Mourinho saw a weakness.  But a last minute scramble to sign Pedro ahead of Liverpool appeared somewhat more in desperation than commitment.  Poor results in pre-season, an extra week off and then being beaten by Arsenal in the Charity Shield was surely enough to shake the champions from their slumber.  I wasn’t the only one who thought Swansea City were going to feel the brunt of Jose Mourinho and Chelsea’s thunder on the opening day of the new season. The game ended 1-1 though Swansea were very unlucky not to take all three points at Stamford Bridge.

Now, 12 games into the 2015/16 Premier League season and Chelsea have lost no less than seven matches; and where over the past two seasons they have averaged over two points a game, this season it is less than one.  Though it sounds ridiculous, the fact is Chelsea are currently showing relegation form. So is Jose Mourinho going to be given a further stay of execution as we head into the international break? At least until the end of the season. Or is this the right time

to consider all the issues and baggage that Mourinho is now carrying and once again sack the two faces of Mourinho – happy and special when he’s winning and an indignant, immature and bad tempered sulky pants,  when he loses.

Roman Abramovich said, of all the managers he has sacked, he only regrets Carlo Ancelotti.  Ancelotti is currently available. But believing he was ‘disappointed’ by the sacking, I feel it will take more than an excessive amount of money to bring Ancelotti back to Stamford Bridge. There’s the possibility of a caretaker manager until the end of the season when it may be easier to prize a top manager away from their current position.  This worked out well previously for Chelsea when they appointed Rafa Benitez, who not only steadied the ship but also had Chelsea playing exciting, expansive football with Oscar, Eden Hazard & Juan Mata offering Abramovich a taste of the Barcelona style he so adores; and it’s no secret that he has previously attempted to woo Pep Guardiola, whose contract with Bayern Munich ends this summer.

So is there any other big names that would be able to turn Chelsea’s fortunes around?  One comes to mind.  A manager who has had success both in Europe and La Liga over the past few seasons, who already knows Thibaut Courtois, Diego Costa & Radamel Falcao. Diego Simeonethe Argentina player known to England fans for getting a young David Beckham sent off for ‘that’ flailing leg in the World Cup.

What Diego Simeone has acheived with Atletico Madrid has been nothing less than amazing.  His teams play an exciting, attack-minded style of football that would please both Chelsea fans and Roman Abramovich; and though there are many factors to Chelsea not performing on the pitch, it is clear they are distinctly missing the goals of Diego Costa.

So, the question I believe will answer the dilemma Chelsea face right now is, can Jose Mourinho deliver a top four finish this season, and if not, do they write the season off and start afresh with a new manager, one that could steer Chelsea back to winning ways and be a major force in Europe.  For what it’s worth, my money is on Jose Mourinho being sacked this week and replaced by Diego Simeone.