Jack Grealish was the best player on the pitch when Aston Villa drew 2-2 at Old Trafford last weekend. No-one else on either side could have scored that beautiful goal; very few players in the Premier League could have. Reports of his current buyout clause range from £30million to £70million. But just how much is Grealish worth?

As he picked the ball up on the left of the area, he already knew what he was going to do. His opponent Andreas Pereira had no idea. Earlier in the game – in a similar position – Grealish went to the byline and pulled the ball back with his left foot and on another occasion played a slide rule pass to his overlapping fullback.

A cunningly laid trap or fateful coincidence? What came before made little difference to the majesty of the goal Grealish was about to score, but was vital in creating the doubt that enabled him to do so.

The Villa midfielder didn’t look at the ball until the final point of contact – the whipped shot into the postage stamp located at the corner of post and bar. Before then he took three almost imperceptible touches, focusing his gaze not on the ball but avidly on Pereira’s feet, knowing the Brazilian would make the first move. And at the merest hint of motion from the midfielder towards the byline, Grealish made his own move, cutting in on his right foot to score one of the memorable Old Trafford goals, in front of the Stretford End.

Jack the lad – revitalised and much improved – is back.

First impressions are hard to shake, particularly when they are entrenched through a series of tabloid news stories that support the initial suspicion. But don’t be fooled by the slicked back hair, fake tan and low-slung socks that remain: this is a very different Grealish to the one relegated from the Premier League in 2016.

He’s still the cocky, brash, well-preened Brummie icon. But now, instead of using his sculpted calves to strut the length of Broad Street, he’s using them to glide past defenders and put them on their arses, like a Chris Waddle of old or a George Best of older.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was predictably asked about rumours linking the 24-year-old with a move to United post-game and gave the stock manager response of not being able to “talk too much about other teams’ players”, while simultaneously eulogising over him. Pep Guardiola has described him as “exceptional”, while everyone else remains bemused by his exclusion from the latest England squads. Speculation linking him with a move away will roll on in line with the exponential improvement in the maturity and calibre of his performances.

Villa use him in a roaming role, starting from the left. It’s not his most effective position or the one he wants to be playing, but one that utilises his talents in the way that serves Dean Smith’s side best: a team that lacks creativity needs their most inventive asset as close to goal as possible. But despite the position he plays for Villa, his aesthetics and the perception they’ve created, he’s much less a show pony than a conductor.

He’s not quite a Jorginho or Fabinho, but still the player capable of controlling the speed and direction of the football his team plays. A Big Six side would likely use him as a number eight, a position from which he could use his dribbling expertise to build attacks from deep and not necessarily deliver the final ball, but more often the pass before that killer blow.

To Villa, the question of how much Grealish is worth and how much Premier League football is worth are one and the same. With him they sit 15th in the table, one point above the relegation zone. Without his three goals and four assists – which if anything belittles the worth of his all-round game – they would be level on points with Norwich in 19th.

Letting him go in January would be tantamount to football treason. He’s more Villa than Harry Kane is Spurs or Trent Alexander-Arnold is Liverpool. Grealish is the lifeblood of his football club, and he – along with the fans – will fear what would happen should he up sticks and follow the lure of Champions League football – where his talents belong.

Tottenham have come closest to luring Grealish away, with the man himself admitting his head had been turned in the summer of 2018 with an offer on the table from Spurs. But when the north London side were unwilling to increase their £25million offer to £32million, the deal fell through and Grealish remained at his boyhood club.

If Villa now offered Grealish to any club with the means to spend £32million on the Birmingham-born midfielder, he’d be gone before you could say “Peaky Blinders”. He’s a ready-made leader with extraordinary talent, now without the can he do it in the Premier League? caveat or previously lingering doubts over his commitment to his profession. This is a footballer capable of more, but understandably tied to the club and community that have given him so much. He won’t be there forever, Villans, so just enjoy him while you can.

Oh sorry, what’s he worth? F*** knows…a lot.

Will Ford

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Arsenal legend Paul Merson explans why his former club should approach Mauricio Pochettino to replace under-fire manager Unai Emery.

Arsenal have won just four of their 13 Premier League games this season, leading many to question Emery’s position at the Emirates.

Arsenal were held to a 2-2 draw by 19th-place Southampton at home on Saturday afternoon, with the Gunners fans booing at the final whistle.

A host of some of Europe’s top bosses – including Max Allegri and former Gunner Mikel Arteta – have been linked with a move to north London, and Pochettino is the latest man to be tipped to succeed Emery, having been sacked by rivals Tottenham last week.

The Argentine took Spurs to the 2019 Champions League final and oversaw four successive top-four finishes in the Premier League, establishing himself as one of the best young coaches in England.

And despite his past ties with Arsenal’s fiercest rivals, Merson believes ‘top manager’ Pochettino is the ideal man to take over, partly because Arsenal would not need to fork out any money for compensation.

“Arsenal should go for Mauricio Pochettino,” the former Arsenal midfielder told Sky Sports. “He’s not won anything, but he improved Tottenham over five years, tenfold. He’s a top manager and he is about at the moment.

“I know he managed at Tottenham, but George Graham had been at Arsenal when he went the other way. You’ve got to get past that sort of stuff. These top managers don’t come along too often, where you don’t even have to pay anything for them.

“Can I see it happening? No. Should it happen? Yes. But it won’t happen. The days of the rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham are not what they were. When I was growing up, it was the big football match.

“For some of these players, that’s no longer the case. It’s probably Chelsea or Manchester City or Liverpool. It’s not the highlighted fixture anymore as there’s not a lot of home-grown players in the teams.

“You don’t have to pay compensation for him, and if you are going to bring someone in, he’s got to be better than the manager you’ve got.”

 

 

Merson is desperate to see a significant change made in the Arsenal dugout but thinks Emery will ultimately be granted an extended stay of execution, even if another loss is posted at Norwich on Sunday.

“I still see Emery being there for a while. They had a chance to get rid of him before the international break,” he added.

“They looked at the fixtures and saw Southampton at home, Norwich away. They thought they would win both and everything would be rosy in the garden again. But they were fortunate to draw with Southampton with some of the chances they had, and they’d recently lost 9-0.

“Their confidence was low, but they never looked like they would be on to a hiding. There wasn’t too much respect and they came and thought they had a chance.

“I’m a great believer in if you keep doing the same things, you get the same results. Something needs to change. The players are not that good, but at the same time, results have to be better than what they are.

“If you’re a football manager and you arrive at a club, the team must improve, and the results have to improve. If they don’t then you won’t be in the job for long. That was a fact when I was playing, and it will be a fact in 30 years’ time.

“It’s worrying times, and with Norwich away this weekend, I think Emery will do well to get on the coach if they don’t win that game.”

Before their trip to Carrow Road this weekend, Arsenal host Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League on Thursday, where a win will be enough to book their spot in the last 32.

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Spanish manager Unai Emery has been given a month to save his job at Arsenal, according to a report.

Officially, Emery retains the full support of his board for now, but that stance could change if no improvement is made on the field over the coming weeks.

In an unusual start to the Premier League season, Arsenal find themselves in only sixth place despite being above fellow giants Manchester United and Tottenham.

Arsenal have only won four of their first 12 matches this season and there has been an over reliance on new captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s goals to get points on the board.

And the Daily Mirror claims that Emery now has seven matches to save his job, five in the Premier League against Southampton , Norwich, Brighton, West Ham and Manchester City and two in the Europa League versus Eintracht Frankfurt and Standard Liege.

There is a ‘belief inside the club that sacking the Spaniard will still not solve the crisis’ at Arsenal.

Some at the club think Emery ‘faces an impossible task to ­revive’ Arsenal with Arsene Wenger’s legacy ‘destroyed by a string of disastrous high-level ­appointments.’

A source told the Daily Mirror: “The DNA that made ­Arsenal the club it was has slowly but surely drained away.

“Appointments have been made – both before and after Wenger’s departure – that either didn’t work out or aren’t working out.

“Long-serving members of staff have been shocked by what’s ­happening to the club.”

There has been a lot of upheaval at the Emirates Stadium since Wenger left with Edu appointed as the club’s new technical director, while Steve Morrow left his position as head of youth ­recruitment.

The source added: “To say it was a shock to see so many good people leave so suddenly is an ­understatement.

“Steve Morrow, in particular, is a huge loss. He is someone who is ­respected throughout football and is seen as having the potential to be a director of football.”

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Winners

Manchester City
Another 3-0 win in Kharkiv, but this was a far more important victory than a year ago. City did not play with any great style, or at least only did so in short bursts, but what mattered is that they showed their teeth.

People like it when City lose and, back home, the defeat to Norwich is still a punchline. The schadenfreude has evidently tweaked Pep Guardiola, too, and he was irritated enough to call back to the media’s heckling of him during his first season. A little strange; it has been more than three years.

But that just underlines how important this was. To get off to a good start in the Champions League, of course, because that’s always useful, but also to change the conversation. With that in mind, this was precisely the right moment for City to effortlessly dominate a side on their own pitch and remind everyone of their power.

And what a terrific performance from Fernandinho. Yes, Guardiola can afford to be a bit experimental with his centre-backs, but don’t underestimate the challenge of occupying an unfamiliar position at this level of the game.

 

Valencia
Our early winners. despite the chaos.

 

Erling Haaland
How much fun was that to watch? Haaland had scored three hat-tricks in the Austrian Bundesliga already this season, but for most of us this was a first glimpse. He’s a spectacle, in the true, ‘who the f**k is that?’ sense? By all accounts he possesses a slightly alternative personality away from the game (Google the story about the Champions League anthem) and he seems very off-beat in front of the press. On the pitch, though, he plays like a PG monster from a child’s nightmare.

He shouldn’t be able to move like that. Does that make sense? He’s too big, he’s too square and he has that ever-so-slightly crouched posture when runs which makes it looks like he’s swimming. So: a vast body with disproportionate limbs and a big, friendly looking face. If he was chasing you, you’d definitely run away.

Soon, he’ll take up residence in the gossip columns. He’ll be seized by the have-a-go analysts and lavished by the kind of hyperbole that will make it impossible for him to surprise us ever again. For now, though, he’s just a big, goofy teenager doing amazing things at the summit of the game.

And he also looks like he could eat Roy Keane for breakfast, which his dad probably doesn’t hate.

 

Jesse Marsch
The only shame of Haaland’s hat-trick was that it overshadowed his manager’s own accomplishment. On Tuesday night, Jesse Marsch became the first American to coach a team in the Champions League. By half-time, after a staggering 45 minutes and with a 5-1 lead, he knew he was about to become the first American to win in the Champions League too.

It’s quite a story. Five years ago, Marsch was coaching at Princeton University, and even then just as an assistant. He did spend three years in charge of the New York Red Bulls and, obviously, has benefited from the club’s network and pathways, but this has still been jet-powered rise. And a challenge, too. When he was appointed by Salzburg, the home fans hung a banner behind one of the goals in protest. A couple of months later, his team have won their first seven league games of the season, a division record, and currently boast a goal-difference of +28.

Add six more goals and three Champions League to that growing CV.

 

Mats Hummels
What a performance. That Barcelona forward line obviously isn’t what it was, but Hummels was outstanding in that goalless draw and clearly the game’s best player.

Which might be of interest to Jogi Loew, who forcefully retired Hummels from international duty at the age of just 30. You suspect that it wasn’t an entirely sporting decision, because Hummels is no wallflower, but it doesn’t look like a particularly smart one, either – particularly given how poorly Germany defended in that recent lost to Holland.

It’s not just that Hummels remains an excellent player, it’s that he comprises the balance of attributes that Loew seems to need at the centre of his defence. On this evidence, none of those abilities are on the wane yet.

 

Adrian
Just for his save, because if he never makes another appearance in the Champions League, which he probably won’t, then that’s quite a memory to take away.

It was fortuitous, because when a cross is hung up to the back post like that, there’s only so much a goalkeeper can do. The coaching instruction is presumably for him to just put himself in position to hopefully be hit by the ball – the Schmeichel starfish technique, for instance, which was actually a very passive position.

But this wasn’t just that; Adrian wasn’t just hit by the ball. Dries Merten’s technique was perfect; it was a really well-struck shot and, no matter how many times you watch, it still seems unlikely that – 1) Adrian will be able to hang in the air long enough to make the save and 2) have the necessary finger strength to gain proper purchase on the ball.

Let’s not rank it. Who cares how it measures against other excellent saves? This was just brilliant, brilliant goalkeeping.

 

Losers

Tottenham
Back to where they were, then, because everything that was good about Spurs at the weekend dissipated during the flight to Greece. They played with no pace, no accuracy or control and, most concerningly, without any authority over the game even after finding themselves two goals ahead.

That’s one of the anomalies about Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino. No matter how long this group stays together and what they experience, they never seem to acquire the ability to properly protect leads. Sometimes that can be excused on account of the opposition or scenario. More often, though, it can be traced back to inexplicable errors which, really, have no justification.

As they didn’t on Wednesday, when Christian Eriksen’s cheap turnover and Jan Vertonghen’s rash challenge allowed Mathieu Valbuena to equalise from the penalty spot.

Just calling it ‘Spursy’ is irritating, because it implies that the players have no responsibility and that, ultimately, the club’s flawed DNA can always just be used as an excuse. It’s not a curse, it’s just rubbish defending and Tottenham are guilty of it far too often.

“It’s not about tactics or quality players but the level of fight. You need to match the opponent in aggressivity, excitement, motivation. That is the first demand – you need to work. It’s not only the responsibility of one person; it’s everyone’s responsibility.”

Mauricio Pochettino is correct in his diagnosis, but so what? Five years in and his team are still kicking themselves in the balls on a semi-regular basis. This is why they haven’t won anything. It’s not the absence of some elusive fortitude, it’s because – for all their very real, very substantial improvements – they remain a fundamentally sloppy football team, prone to wavering concentration and poor decisions. They can still be brilliant to watch and their fans rightly love them for that, but how precise are they? How much detail lies behind Pochettino’s approach?

Those aren’t rhetorical questions, it’s genuinely difficult to know the answers.

Let’s not lose sight of a bigger picture: it wasn’t important that Tottenham won in Greece, it was just essential that they didn’t lose. But that not withstanding, this was still a dreadful performance which will have to be their worst of the campaign if they’re to do anything of note in the Champions League this season.

 

Christian Eriksen
And that’s why nobody bought him. He’s regularly (and correctly) identified as the side’s most important component, but he still takes far too many games off to be worth the kind of fee that Daniel Levy was asking for.

It’s not intentional, Eriksen is far from lazy, he just doesn’t possess the mental appetite for the game that very best players all share. He doesn’t have the slightly sociopathic quality that instructs that sort of drive and that’s probably why, unfortunately, he’s prone to making the same mistakes so often.

Think back to the Champions League quarter-final last season and the pass he gave away in the build up to Raheem Sterling’s disallowed goal. How does a player not learn from that kind of mistake? How is that, four months later, he can find himself in a similar situation, leave the ball hopelessly unprotected, and then fail to react properly when it’s stolen from him?

 

Liverpool
No, it shouldn’t have been a penalty but, yes, Liverpool still deserved to lose.

More here on a sloppy first night which has made a simple group much harder than it should have been.

 

Chelsea
There isn’t much point in doing game-by-game analysis of Frank Lampard, because we know he’s still learning and we knew that these kind of games would be a feature of this season. No, the defeat to Valencia wasn’t good, but it didn’t feature any new concerns or present problems with Chelsea that hadn’t already been diagnosed.

One thing though: get those set-pieces sorted. Rodrigo scored from one and Kevin Gameiro might have scored from another. Liverpool aren’t Tony Pulis’s Stoke City,

  

Antonio Conte in Europe
Conte can’t really do European football. Last time we saw him, his Chelsea side were being dumped out of the Champions League by Barcelona at the Round of 16 stage in 2017. True, he was likely preoccupied by that redundancy-baiting sulk at the time, but his Serie A-dominating Juventus side were hardly a European power either, exiting meekly to Bayern Munich in 2013 and, more embarrassingly, in the group stage a year later.

Stranger still, Juventus went all the way to the final the very next year, in Max Allegri’s first season in charge.

So there’s a something here and, as a result, familiarity in seeing Conte’s Inter, who are currently top of Serie A, being outplayed by Slavia Prague. They salvaged a late point through a fortunate deflection, but that flattered a horribly disconnected performance which Slavia didn’t quite have the composure to punish properly.

Conte’s football could never be described as exhilarating. Actually, its greatest virtue is its repetitive nature and percussive attrition, but it’s concerning just how loose Inter were and how far away from his ideals they seem to be. It’s early in his reign, that’s only to fair, but they really were hopeless.

 

Mason Mount
The last time Francis Coquelin played at Stamford Bridge he left humiliated, having been rag-dolled by Eden Hazard. On his return, he was evidently determined to leave more of an impression.

And he did. Whether there was any malice in his first half follow-through on Mason Mount is debatable – almost certainly there wasn’t – but the effect will be that one of the stories of the season will now be placed on pause. At the time of writing it’s not clear how serious the ankle injury is (although a scan has precluded ligament damage), but it was bad enough to see Mount leave the field and, presumably, will cost him a place in the team which faces Liverpool at the weekend.

Urgh. He’s one of the reasons to watch the Premier League at the moment and who wasn’t intrigued by Mount’s first steps in European football?

 

VAR
The sentiment behind Clear & Obvious is right, because nobody wants endless interference or to see tiny parts of the game being refereed. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what makes VAR such a difficult sell. The problem with this ‘high bar’ is that incidents are occurring which should be reversed – the Callejon penalty, Marc-Andre ter Stegen leaving his line – but which invariably aren’t because of that determination not to interfere.

The more that happens, whatever the intention may be, the more antagonistic it will ultimately become.

 

Lyon
The draw with Zenit now makes it eight Champions League games without a win. Stranger still, the last time they did win in the competition was against Manchester City at the Etihad.

Lyon are obviously no longer the club that won eight straight Ligue 1 titles at the beginning of the Millennium. The nature of French football has changed and their place in the domestic and continental hierarchy has been permanently altered. But this is still a team capable of doing more than they are.

Dembele, Depay, Aouar and Tousart may not be Juninho, Benzema and Govou, but it’s not as if they’re without talent.

 

Real Madrid
Big clubs have suffered at Parc des Princes during the group stage before, but this defeat felt more instructive. Not least because it was inflicted by a Paris Saint-Germain side without Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and without the customary reliance on individual power.

They just looked like the better team and, given what PSG represent in the modern game, that’s absolutely damning. But still very fair, because Real are in a terrible muddle and this felt like an accurate portrayal of what they are.

And what is that? A head coach with a very tenuous relationship with a few of his key players. A midfield which now looks tired and imbalanced and improperly weighted with attacking players. And a forward line which, last night at least, was propped up a by a player who the club tried to sell to the Chinese Super League over the summer.

When Zinedine Zidane first resigned, he made an excellent decision. He had his European Cups and a reputation which, because of that success, was very difficult to argue with. What he identified, most likely, was that the squad he’d been managing was reaching the end of its lifespan and that whomever was in charge over the next few years would have to suffer through transition.

And, unfortunately, although turning Florentino Perez down must be difficult, Zidane has stumbled his way back into the situation he did so well to extricate himself from. Remember that episode of The Simpsons in which Homer jumps out of a car which is heading off the edge of a cliff but somehow, inadvertently, rolls back in? Yeah, that.

 

Seb Stafford-Bloor is on Twitter.

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Send your thoughts to theeditor@football365.com in time for the afternoon Mailbox…

 

Johnny Nic neologism
I think it is time time for Football365 to add another new word to our lexicon. Now taking pride of place alongside the Proper Football Man is the Proper Football Fan (John Nicholson). The PFF only supports their hometown team–preferably while watching them loose in a driving rain storm while his friend in a trench coat . . . (long-time JN readers will know how story ends); uses the trope of everyone having their own idea about football to deny anyone who has an idea about football different from theirs from expressing it; hates the idea that people make money by presenting football to the wider public; believes that anyone who deviates from these principles is sell-out-tool of the man.

Sincerely,
Peter

 

…I admittedly struggled to understand the point JN was making in his piece. I was with him for paragraphs 1 and 2 (and that 2best” is subjective) then didn’t really get what he was trying to say. My summary is rather long, but I think that says more about the article…:

1. Nostalgia (declinism) is a real psychological phenomenon.

2. People with ideological views don’t necessarily identify their own hypocrisy (#Brexit)

3. Brexit, but also football

4. The opposite of “then was better” is “now is better”. (DS invents “hindshite”)

5. THE PREMIER LEAGUE INVENTED HINDSHITE TO MARKET THEIR BRAND

6. All Hindshiters call anyone who doesn’t agree a “dinosaur” and therefore (implicitly) fail to identify there is a middle ground

7. “Best” is subjective, it is therefore impossible to prove ether way.

8. 1/3 – paragraph discussing what “best” is despite concluding it is subjective.

9. 2/3 – paragraph discussing what “best” is despite concluding it is subjective.

10. 3/3 – paragraph discussing what “best” is despite concluding it is subjective.

11. Facts should be used to guide our decision on “best”. (finally building on para 7).

12. In reality then and now was/is a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the average.

13. The “Premier League Era” is an arbitrary line with zero use other than to reinforce the brand.

14. Any “in the Premier League Era” stat proves is proof you buy into hindshite.

15. We’re too polarised as a nation

16. We’re all miserable

17. Communism references, the PL re-wrote the past and we’re all buying it.

18. See the league for what it is.

Finally, I get it, and completely agree, you should judge the premier league based on what it is. However, I have some comments on the following paragraphs.

14. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the premier league era was a 20 team league (except for the 1st PL season), whereas the old first division was more. For goals in a season, I’d argue the different total number of game is a relevant factor to the statistic. If I had a good enough memory to use club sponsor to differentiate between a 38 and 46 game season you better believe I would. True it is arbitrary, but so is a season as opposed to a calendar year, yet one has a trophy.

15. I agree with this point, however the article polarises football supporters, so this article is more a symptom of the problem than it is offering a solution or a root cause (unless you actually believe the PL is to blame for Brexit).

17. This isn’t 1984. There’s nothing which says the Premier League is, and always has been the supreme league in the land. In fact, you mentioned “in the premier league era” in your article, therefore we (and you) clearly know there was a before.

So finally, in relation to real point of the article, when was it ever really “our” football? I think this is a generalised term for a time when clubs actually relied on match day revenue and therefore in effect fans had more power than they do now. If that’s your definition, start following the national league, or the Bundesliga with their lovely fan ownership models. If people stop going to PL games, or buying Sky Sports or BT subscriptions the next sale of broadcasting rights won’t bring in as much if they can’t gain revenue from advertising and subscriptions. This will increase as a % the reliance on match day revenue. Rinse and repeat, and football will be all “ours” again.

Just a thought, once gambling advertising gets banned from sports, we might already see a reduction of this, and it is betting companies who are willing to pay the big bucks for advertising.
Richard

 

Comparing Man Utd’s XI
Just read somewhere that Micheal Owen said that there is not much difference between Manchester united squad and the liverpool squad, wow…seriously? Lets not even talk about Manchester United bench with the likes of Rojo, Young, Mata, Matic, Fred, Greenwood, et all sitting pretty, instead lets compare Manchester United best XI with LEICESTER CITY’s XI (it would be an insult on Liverpool to make that comparison with Liverpool’s best 11).
De Gea is better than Schmeichel, yea..but Wan Bissaka, Shaw and Lindelof, are on current form inferior to Evans, Peirera and Chilwell.. Pogba has more pedigree than Tielemans (and I like Pogba), but comparing Ndidi and Maddison to McTomminay and Lingard is a non starter, James is good, but so is Ayoze…
Vardy is miles better than Martial or Rashford.. so a combined Man Utd/Leicester 11 will look like this.
DE GEA – Peirera, Evans, MAGUIRE, Chilwel – Ndidi, POGBA – JAMES, Maddison, MARTIAL/RASHFORD – Vardy
Kufre, Nigeria

 

More weight to the manager window argument
Further to my mail yesterday, today the news breaks that Huddersfield have appointed Lincoln City’s coach Danny Cowley six games into the season. To add insult to injury, Cowley is bringing his brother along, currently Lincoln’s assistant coach.

Of course Huddersfield’s Chairman Phil Hodgkinson was happy to say “We firmly believed that they were the best men to take us forward, and we didn’t want to give up on them”.

Did anyone of the assembled media multitude think to ask him the question “What about Lincoln City? You’ve taken not just their head coach but his assistant too, where does that leave them? Six games into the season, and they have no coach and no assistant, how do you feel about that?”

I’m sure you’d have got some platitude-ridden response, but internally Hodgkinson would be saying “F*ck Lincoln, not my problem”.

It’s time to stop the coach-poaching madness. The transfer window was introduced to stabilize the playing staff situation, and for the most part, it has succeeded. It’s high time to put the same controls in place for the people who (hopefully) have the most influence over the performance of a team and the well-being of the players from week-to-week.

Huddersfield want The Cowley Chuckle Brothers? OK, get the deal done in July. Don’t wait until September when you have one point from a possible eighteen and then kick Mark Hudson to the curb and pull the rug out from under the feet of another club.
Steve, Los Angeles.

 

Assessing Chelsea
Seeing as it’s international break, it seemed like a good idea to assess Chelsea’s performance so far. Results-wise, they could have been a bit better, but they could have been a hell of a lot worse. As games to watch, however, they’ve been great. That isn’t to say it’s all been dizzying highs, although I guess that’s pretty obvious to everyone. As well as some great attacking play and lovely goals, there have been plenty of moments of nail-biting tension at the ends of the games, particularly against Leicester, where Leicester could have easily grabbed a winner, and Sheffield United, where Chelsea unsuccessfully tried to prevent United from equalising. And of course, the opening game at Old Trafford, which is officially the terrifying low of the season so far. Ultimately though, we watch football for the entertainment, which is exactly what the games are providing this season (credit to the opposition too) and that’s why you’ll find that most Chelsea fans are happy with the way things are going this season.

The Old Trafford result seemed, and has indeed been treated like, a freak result. They scraped a point against Leicester, who I think have proven to be a good team so far and will do very well this year, and the game against Norwich was absolutely fantastic, with the first win and Abraham and Mount getting some wonderful goals. The only real disappointment has been the draw at home to Sheffield United, considering the way that they conceded in both the first and last minutes of the second half, denying them a win to take into the international break. There are plenty of more difficult fixtures coming up (Wolves, Valencia, Liverpool in quick succession after the break, how about that?), but there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful too, namely players to come back like Rudiger, Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, and of course, Kante. Reece James is another one everybody is looking forward to seeing play soon, particularly given Azpilicueta’s unfortunate Ivanovic-esque decline.

Another Chelsea fan wrote in fairly recently, seemingly pretty positive about Chelsea’s chances of making it out of their Champion’s League group. Most other Chelsea fans I’ve spoken to do not share his optimism, and while we certainly believe it’s possible, it’s going to be no walk in the park and possibly too tall an order. Anyway, it’s nice to be playing some strong but beatable European teams, all of which are relatively close too, which is great for the fans. That’s what you want from the Champion’s League isn’t it? And if these things mean anything, Ajax’s stadium was where Chelsea won the 2013 Europa League, and Lille was where Hazard was signed from, who won the Europa League with Chelsea in his first and last season. Which means Chelsea… will finish third and win the Europa League..? Yes, that’s what it must mean. But then, the last time Chelsea played Valencia in the group stage of the Champion’s League was in 2011, which means….

A cautiously optimistic and entertained plastic armchair Chelsea fan,
Juanito

 

De Bruyne on fire
I don’t know how he does it, but that guy is extraordinary, I just love watching him. He is the only player I still wish we never sold, never over complicating things; keeps doing simple things extraordinarily. By the way last night he had a hat-trick of assists and off course added a goal, and if he remains fit all through the season, Man City might win the UCL as well.
All hail the Midfield Maestro, KDB.
Meziri CFC, Anambra, Nigeria

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When does Liverpool v Arsenal kick off?

It’s the late kick-off on Saturday 24 August, so kick-off is at 5.30pm UK time.

Where can I watch Liverpool v Arsenal on TV?

The match is live on Sky Sports, so it will be screened on both Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League.

Build-up starts from 5pm on both channels, and if you don’t have Sky Sports you can get a Now TV pass to enjoy their coverage for one day only.

The match is also being broadcast live by the likes of beIN Sports, SuperSport, and NBCSports, so international viewers will certainly not be short of options.

Who is the referee for Liverpool v Arsenal?

Anthony Taylor is the man charged with keeping order at Anfield, and he’s a man with some history in the fixture.

He officiated in April 2015 when Arsenal won 4-1 at the Emirates, and he sent off Liverpool’s Emre Can late in the game.

Last season he took charge of Liverpool just three times. He was the man in the middle when they lost at Manchester City, but also for their home wins against West Ham and Bournemouth.

He refereed Arsenal seven times during 2018/19, including their 1-1 derby draw with Tottenham.=

Gary Beswick and Adam Nunn will assist Taylor, with Jon Moss the fourth official.

Meanwhile, the man hoping he won’t be the most controversial man involved is Stuart Attwell, who will be the man in the VAR hotseat.

What is the Premier League history of Liverpool v Arsenal

In a word: goals.

The fixture, particularly at Anfield, is the most consistently high-scoring one in Premier League history.

Last season, Liverpool won the corresponding match 5-1. The season before that was a 4-0 win for the Merseysiders, and the one before that was a 3-3 draw.

The most famous, or infamous, meeting between these two teams since the start of the Premier League in 1992 was their Anfield clash in 2009.

It finished 4-4, with the mercurial Andrey Arshavin scoring all four goals for the Gunners.

What is the team news ahead of Liverpool v Arsenal?

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker was injured in the Reds’ opening game of the season at Norwich, and his calf injury is expected to keep him out of this one too.

That means that deadline-day signing Adrian will continue, with 35-year-old veteran Andy Lonergan to provide the cover.

Full-back Nathaniel Clyne and Naby Keita are also still sidelined for Jurgen Klopp’s troops.

Arsenal could welcome Granit Xhaka back into the fold after he missed the win over Burnley with a back injury. That is likely to be the only change to the side that won at Turf Moor, with mystery still surrounding the availability of Mesut Ozil due to security concerns.

Hector Bellerin, Konstantinos Mavropanos and Kieran Tierney are all some way off fitness, although Rob Holding is back training again.

 

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