Edwin Huxley - Friday 17.01.14, 09:44am
Hull City have completed the signing of Everton striker Nikica Jelavic on a three-and-a-half-year deal for a club record fee believed to be in the region of £6.5million. Steve Bruce had been looking at bolstering his attacking options in a bid to avoid relegation this season, and the signing of Jelavic is expected to be followed by another striker, with West Brom’s Shane Long tipped by Betfair to be the next to join the Tigers this January.
Jelavic arrives at Hull following a mixed two years at Goodison Park. After arriving at Everton from Rangers for £5.5million at the beginning of 2012, the 28-year-old forward went on to score nine goals in his first 13 appearances for the Toffees. Last year wasn’t as successful for the Croatia international, however, scoring just three goals during the entire year and slipping down the pecking order following Roberto Martinez arrival in the summer.
With Jelavic looking to improve his World Cup hopes ahead of this summer’s tournament in Brazil, the striker has now joined a Hull side that are 10th in the Premier League, five points ahead of the bottom three, but still among the favourites with Betfair to be right in the relegation dog-fight this season.
“I hope that we can build on the great start to the season and become a really strong Premier League team over the coming years. It is a good club. It didn’t take long to realise that it was right for me. It’s a newly promoted club, but I can see straight away that there is a lot of ambition here,” said Jelavic.
After scoring twice for Everton in the FA Cup before signing for Hull, Jelavic will be hoping he can build on his brace and go on a similar scoring streak to the one he went on following his arrival at Goodison two years ago. If Jelavic can score 10 or more goals before the end of the season, Hull could well prove many Betfair fans wrong and avoid the drop this season.
Edwin Huxley - Monday 13.01.14, 18:38pm
West Brom have made the somewhat surprising decision to appoint former Real Betis manager, Pepe Mel, as their new head coach on an 18-month contract. The Spaniard arrives at The Hawthorns to replace Steve Clarke as West Brom manager, filling a position that had been available since December.
Clarke was relieved of his duties following a poor run of four straight defeats left the club as a popular pick for relegation with football betting fans. While the Scotsman’s departure came as a surprise to many Baggies fans, the appointment of Pepe Mel will have been equally as eyebrow raising.
Despite leading Betis to the Europa League at the end of last season with a seventh place finish in La Liga, Mel was given his marching orders from the club he made his name with as a player after a disappointing start to the season.
After being linked with the job in the immediate aftermath of Clarke’s sacking, Mel had initially distanced himself from the position, although the 50-year old has now decided to accept the offer from the Premier League strugglers.
West Brom sporting and technical director, Richard Garlick, told Albion’s official website: “I’m delighted to welcome Pepe to the club. His appointment concludes an extensive recruitment process during which we have cast the net far and wide to identify the most suitable candidate to take the club forward.”
“Pepe was a strong contender from the outset due to his impressive achievements and has emerged as our number one candidate. He is a forward thinking coach whose teams are renowned for playing an attractive and positive style of football.”
Mel had a relatively successful playing career before stepping into management, making a name for himself as a striker with Betis after coming through the ranks at Real Madrid.
Going straight into coaching after hanging up his boots with CD Coslada, Mel cut his coaching teeth in the lower leagues with the likes of Murcia and Tenerife before stepping up to take charge of Getafe, Rayo Vallecano, Alaves, and Corinthians.
The Spanish coach takes over a West Brom team deep in relegation trouble. With no Premier League experience as a player or a coach, West Brom fans will be rightly concerned as to whether the club have made the right decision to hire Mel as the man to save the Baggies from the drop.
It remains to be seen how well the new man is backed in the January transfer window, but Mel is inheriting a West Brom squad that doesn’t have too much wrong with it. A tweak here, a prolific goalscorer there; the Baggies could very well finish this season safely nestled in mid-table.
Terry Lane - Wednesday 01.01.14, 11:49am
Jose Mourinho has suggested his team needs two stellar signings. One would surely be a world class striker after attempts to lure Wayne Rooney to Stamford Bridge failed in August, resulting in Chelsea and Mourinho turning to Russia and veteran striker, Samuel Eto. Eto & Fernando Torres have shown sporadic displays of their previous peak performances. But Chelsea lack and desperately need a proven, inform world class ‘20 goals a season ‘ striker – the likes of Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney, Gonzalo Higuain, Robert Lewandowski or Radamel Falcao. Can the ‘happy one’ and the temptation of Russian millions be enough to help Chelsea sign a big star name in the January Transfer Window?
Chelsea isn’t the only team that are a striker light if they are going to challenge for this seasons’ Premier League title. While Manchester City and Manchester United squads boast four strikers each that could walk into the starting eleven of most Premier League teams, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool will also be considering any top strikers that may help their push for a Premier League title this season.
Furthermore, squad players not getting as many first team chances as they would like may well be tempted to hand-in a transfer request if they believe circulating rumours. The likes of Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Demba Ba (Chelsea) & Jermain Defoe (Spurs) may well consider a move to be their best option, especially as this is a World Cup year!
In July Christian Benteke handed-in a transfer request amidst media speculation that the young Belgian striker was wanted by several top clubs. He later signed a new contract and Villa allegedly turned down an offer from Spurs that fell short of their £25 million price tag. Personally, I could see Benteke moving to Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool or Chelsea. Though considering Mourinho has publicly declared Romelu Lukakua to not be ready to play for Chelsea, I wonder if he believes Benteke could be a more perfect replacement for Didier Drogba.
Another young Belgium striker that will be on the Premier League radar is Standard Liege’s Michy Batshuayi. The 20-year-old £8 million-rated striker has already scored 13 goals this season & is being touted as the ‘new Romelu Lukaku’. Other strikers that may be tempted to the English Premier League in the next few weeks include Diego Costa (Atlético Madrid) and Fernando Llorente (Juventus).
If recent January Transfer Windows are anything to go by, expect at least one big name signing and a last minute flurry of activity; and if Chelsea doesn’t sign a striker, I’ll eat my hat!
Terry Lane - Saturday 21.12.13, 16:44pm
Tubesology: The world according to Soccer AM’s leading pundit
Back in the day when Helen Chamberlain was joined on the sofa by co-presenter Tim Lovejoy, a young 16-year-old called Peter Dale joined Soccer AM – an anarchic football-related Saturday morning programme on Sky Sports. According to Lovejoy, Dale was only kept on because of his tea-making skills. But over the coming weeks, Peter ‘Tubes‘ Dale received an instant cult following when he would be ushered on to ask guests ‘one question and one question only.
Soccer AM’s very own, Tubes (AKA Peter Dale) releases his first book – Tubesology: The world according to Soccer AM’s leading pundit. The book includes Tubes own story along with many of his best bits, including some of his best questions, rubbish raps, and most embarrassing moments.
The brilliantly banal and funny line of questioning all began when he asked football legend Frank Worthington ‘whether he had scored more on or off the pitch’. From that moment on, he became a regular fixture. His well-loved ‘One Question and One Question Only’ segment has ever since, been a highlight of Soccer AM.
Armed with a unique and original style, and sometimes controversial and bizarre line of questioning, Tubes has been known to provoke unpredictable and often hilarious reactions from the celebrities he interviews. He was apparently put in a headlock by Denzel Washington after rapping: ‘You’re a top man, you are Den, I’ve been rapping since I was ten, rapping’s for life not just for Christmas’. So rubbish its brilliant!
Tubesology is a light-hearted book that will make a great Christmas gift for any fan of Soccer AM.
Tubesology – The world according to Soccer AM’s leading pundit is published by John Blake Publishing (hardback, £9.99).
Win a copy of Tubesology – The world according to Soccer AM’s leading pundit
Terry Lane - Monday 25.11.13, 19:25pm
Tonight’s midlands derby between Aston Villa & West Bromich Albion will probably be an open, exciting close affair and round off another great weekend of Premier League action with all teams completing 12 matches and almost a third of the season played.
Back in August, before a Premier League ball had been kicked, I wrote “Chelsea & Manchester City will lock horns as they do battle for the Premier League title.” I still believe that will be the case, come May. Furthermore, I also stated “I believe David Moyes and Manchester United will struggle with a post-Fergie hangover this season.” But I went on to say, Tottenham would become the top dogs in north London and Arsenal would need to look over their shoulders at an on-coming Liverpool in a race for fourth place and a back-door entry into next season’s Champions League. In my defence, these predictions were written ahead of Arsenal’s shock signing of Mesut Ozil.
As it happens, Arsenal and Liverpool lead the way as we head into December with Manchester City & Chelsea on their tails. Manchester United appear to be gelling but are still not the force they have been over the past 20 years; and though Tottenham had only leaked 6 goals before yesterday, they appear to be suffering from buying too many first-team players in the summer.
Not wishing to sound like a broken record, this season is living up to the speculation of being the most open and exciting Premier League season to date. Surprise results have kept things interesting, Manchester City losing at Cardiff & Sunderland; Chelsea losing at Newcastle & Everton; Southampton winning at Anfield & holding Man United at Old Trafford; Manchester United losing at home to West Brom. And there’s been a fair share of goals to add to the excitement.
Man City have scored no less than 13 in their last two home matches, hitting lowly Norwich for 7 and humiliating Spurs yesterday with a 6-0 drubbing. This followed a great weekend of Premier League football that started with the Saturday lunch-time Merseyside derby, a thrilling, end-to-end match that ended in a 3-3 draw. Other results saw Chelsea cruise past West Ham scoring three in the process and newly promoted Cardiff grabbing a last minute equaliser against Manchester United in a 2-2 draw where Wayne Rooney should have been shown a straight red for violent behaviour in the 8th minute.
The surprise of the season so far, is Southampton. Since his appointment in January, Mauricio Pochettino has had Southampton playing exciting football going forward, while managing to become one of the best defences in the Premier League. Pochettino has Southampton playing as a solid unit, and is bringing out the best of an average squad.
But as we get closer to the Christmas period I still believe ultimate success will be down to the size of each team’s squads. One or two untimely injuries to important players will have a say in how the Premier League plays out. To this end, I will stick with Chelsea & Man City, but only because of the quality of their second eleven.
On current performances and summer transfer failures, I would also suggest that the January Transfer Window will be interesting for Tottenham, Arsenal & possibly Chelsea to sign a top quality striker, and Man United to spend big on attracting a seasoned world class midfield general who could hit the ground running – the likes of a Cesc Fabregas or Wesley Sneijder.
It seems unthinkable for Manchester United not to be in the Champions League next season. But Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal & Liverpool are going to take some beating.