As ever, this represents our estimation of Gareth Southgate’s thoughts. And we feel like we know him well. Numbers in brackets pertain to this ladder from October…

 

1 (2) Harry Kane
Twelve goals and five assists in eight qualifying games. His goal against Kosovo saw him become the first England player to score in every game of a qualifying campaign and it also took him back to the top of this ladder, mostly because he has never grabbed somebody by the throat in a canteen. Or at least he has never been caught grabbing somebody by the throat in a canteen.

 

2 (1) Raheem Sterling
Oh you daft bugger. There is no defending that. He is still England’s second-best source of goals and best source of running really fast and scaring the sh*t out of full-backs, mind.

 

3 (5) Harry Maguire
The only player to feature in all 720 minutes of European qualifying. And yet he still looks about half a second from dropping a bo**ock and a full second slower than most strikers he faces.

 

4 (4) Jordan Pickford
His place is safer than his hands.

 

5 (6) Marcus Rashford
Three goals in his last three England games as part of a really encouraging return to form. We would be astonished if Rashford is not in every England squad for which he is fit until the end of the next decade at least…

 

6 (3) Jordan Henderson
Two victories in his absence have damaged his cause a little, but it still feels like Henderson + 2 in that central midfield.

 

7 (7) Trent Alexander-Arnold
Remarkably, that’s the first time he has started back-to-back England games. Even more remarkably, ‘he’s yet to produce a performance for his country which doesn’t look like this one did – distracted, inaccurate, lacking in the locked-in intensity which seems as standard at Liverpool’ (and I absolutely agree with Seb Stafford-Bloor).

 

8 (10) Ben Chilwell
Perhaps those three assists against Montenegro – and solid defensive performance against Kosovo – will put an end to Gareth Southgate’s lingering and needless flirtation with Danny Rose. Chilwell is and should remain England’s first-choice left-back.

 

9 (18) Harry Winks
Six England caps, six England wins. And a goal and a man-of-the-match performance against Kosovo. It might well be Henderson, Winks + 1 with Declan Rice hopefully sidelined until he learns some of the basics of defensive midfield play.

 

10 (13) John Stones
‘Needs to play football. Absolutely needs to play football,’ is what I wrote last month. Now back in the Manchester City side and an England recall duly followed. 

 

11 (16) Nick Pope
Confirmation that he is England’s No. 2. And a clean sheet is lovely.

 

12 (17) Joe Gomez
What has become very clear is that Southgate has picked his four centre-halves and Gomez is on that list despite not playing a great deal of Premier League football. Luckily for him, Liverpool have an awful lot of games coming up. He might still be the big man.

 

13 (8) Jadon Sancho
His form has dipped for Borussia Dortmund
and he failed to pad his stats against Montenegro; just one assist from 90 minutes on the wing is not a compelling return from a 7-0 victory. Right now, he has slipped some way behind Rashford.

 

14 (15) Tyrone Mings
And there’s centre-half No. 4, who has (slightly awkwardly) claimed another cap and another clean sheet. He is literally the big man.

 

15 (9) Ross Barkley
It’s telling that he has played more minutes in this qualifying campaign than any other midfielder bar Henderson and yet almost nobody thinks he should start for England. Will he eventually be ejected like a stockier Ryan Bertrand? The initials are a clue.

 

16 (11) Declan Rice
As I wrote last month: ‘He is only 20, so there are caveats, but right now he looks far from good enough to anchor that England midfield. Still, we persuaded him not to be Irish anymore, so his squad place is probably safe for the foreseeable.’ We wanted him to be so much better than Eric Dier; he isn’t.

 

17 (12) Mason Mount
He has played a part in England’s last six games so he is clearly integrated into this England squad. Unfortunately for him, he has started twice and struggled twice. Fortunately, he can do this from the bench…

 

18 (14) Kieran Trippier
Called up but then left on the bench. It could be worse; he could be Kyle Walker.

 

19 (20) Tammy Abraham
His first England goal and confirmation – were it needed – that he is Southgate’s first-choice back-up to Kane.

 

20 (22) Fabian Delph
Even grown men need a comfort blanket. Let it go, people, let it go…

 

21 (19) Danny Rose
Clinging onto a place in the squad but for how long? Until Luke Shaw gets and stays fit, you should think. Right now, Rose is holding off Aaron Cresswell and Matt Targett in the battle to be the left-sided fireguard with the thinner chocolate coating.

 

22 (32) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Back-to-back England starts for the first time since March 2018, when he was set to start in England’s World Cup midfield before injury struck. “We’ve a huge belief in him,” said Southgate. “Whether it’s as a midfield player – where he’s excellent with or without the ball, provides a goalscoring threat, works hard for the team and presses well – or a wide player or a forward player, we’ve got huge belief in him.” And that versatility might well be what keeps in this 23 ahead of more vaunted competition.

 

23 (23) Tom Heaton
The old man completes the 23. For now.

 

24 (21) Callum Hudson-Odoi
Reclaimed and then lost his Chelsea place, while his 59 wasteful, hesitant minutes against Kosovo suggested that he might be better getting some more England experience with the Under-21s this season while he searches for his form.

 

25 (24) Callum Wilson
Nobody takes three strikers for a one-striker system. Especially when the third striker on the list has stopped scoring.

 

26 (26) James Maddison
Most chances created by Englishmen this season:
Trent Alexander-Arnold (42)
Jack Grealish (25)
James Maddison (24)
Mason Mount (23)
Raheem Sterling (22)

Sorry James, but we don’t think Gareth likes the cut of your gib. Or the gib of…

 

27 (35) Jack Grealish
Though at least Southgate hinted that Grealish could be the next cab off the attacking midfielder rank. That’s progress.

 

28 (25) Kyle Walker
Sip sliding away. Slip-sliding a-way.

 

29 (31) Fikayo Tomori
They definitely didn’t bring him on for a few minutes to claim him from Nigeria (oh yes they did). But most importantly for this ladder, he was in the squad ahead of the falling Michael Keane.

 

30 (30) Dean Henderson
England’s…No. 4. England’s, England’s No. 4.

 

31 (29) Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Clearly, Southgate is not a fan of a 90s-style full-back.

 

32 (34) Dele Alli
Back in the Tottenham side at least. Shame it’s a really poor Tottenham side.

 

33 (27) Michael Keane
We may never see him in an England shirt again.

 

34 (28) Jesse Lingard
We may never see him in an England shirt again.

 

35 (33) Eric Dier
We may never see him in an England shirt again.

 

36 (40) Phil Foden
We will surely see him in a (senior) England shirt soon, but first Pep Guardiola needs to give him more than Carabao Cup football.

 

37 (NE) Aaron Ramsdale
The Bournemouth goalkeeper is making a compelling case for a long-term battle with Henderson.

 

38 (36) Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Love the player, hate the injury.

 

39 (37) Luke Shaw
Love the player, hate the injury. And the body type.

 

40 (42) Dwight McNeil

 

41 (41) Rob Holding
42 (38) Angus Gunn
43 (39) Ryan Sessegnon
44 (43) Max Aarons
45 (NE) John Lundstram
46 (NE) Harvey Barnes
47 (44) Reiss Nelson
48 (45) James Tarkowski
49 (47) James Ward-Prowse
50 (50) Phil Neville

 

Sarah Winterburn

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder believes Dean Henderson’s England call-up could pave the way for more of his players to be included in Gareth Southgate’s squad.

Henderson, on loan at Bramall Lane from Manchester United, became the first Blades player to be handed a place in the full England squad since Brian Deane in 1992 when Southgate turned to him after Aston Villa’s Tom Heaton withdrew through injury.

The 22-year-old was an unused substitute for the recent Euro 2020 qualifying games in Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

Given the impressive early-season form of the likes of Jack O’Connell and George Baldock, who also qualifies to play international football for Greece, Wilder sees no reason why they should not end up on Southgate’s radar – if they maintain the high standards they have set in the Premier League.

“George and Jack have just got to keep playing well. The exposure the Premier League gets, they will not do themselves any harm, will they? If they get their club form right, then the rest takes care of itself.

“It was a fantastic experience for Dean. Now his challenge is to stay in the squad by playing very well for us. He’s working extremely hard and I’m delighted he got his reward with England.

“It was a reward for not just a good start to his Premier League season, but his performances right the way through for us and for England at Under-21 level before.

“He has to keep improving and taking his game to the next level, which is playing for the national side and doing very well for us. When that happens? We will only know with time.

“But Dean is a confident boy, he backs himself to do well. He wants more and I love that attitude. It runs through my squad.

 

 

“These boys want to prove themselves – all of them. Some have had opportunities and others have not. But they feel this is where they can play their best football, at this club and in this division.”

The Blades resume their Premier League campaign against Arsenal on Monday night and Wilder is waiting on the fitness of John Fleck, Oli McBurnie and David McGoldrick.

McGoldrick has missed the last four matches with a groin problem while fellow striker McBurnie (knee) and midfielder Fleck both withdrew from the Scotland squad through injury.

Henderson has already returned fit and well from England duty and Wilder will be hoping Republic of Ireland trio Enda Stevens, John Egan and Callum Robinson do likewise.

 

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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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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Leeds United are the favourites to win the Championship with odds of around 6/4 across the bookmakers.

That’s perfectly reasonable given the size of the club, how close they came last season, and the pedigree of their manager.

The relegated duo of Fulham and Cardiff are just behind in the betting, with West Brom also heavily fancied to gain promotion.

A word of caution, though, before you lump your mortgage on Leeds to win promotion this season: In the last 19 years, fewer than half of the pre-season promotion favourites have achieved that goal.

Last season, Championship winners Norwich City were an outsider at 25/1 – the biggest outsiders to win it this century actually, and runners-up Sheffield United were 28/1.

The Championship is, quite simply, an incredibly tough competition to predict.

Why is the Championship so unpredictable?

It’s tough to put your finger on any one reason, but it certainly seems to be becoming more unpredictable by the year.

A large reason for that at the moment is the tightening of financial restrictions on clubs, which is causing many to slash their budgets to avoid taking a points deduction similar to that which Birmingham City received last season.

Birmingham City

The Blues were docked nine points for ‘breaking Profitability and Sustainability regulations’ after the Football League found they were £9.787m in excess of the permitted financial losses over a three-year period.

Birmingham have since sold their star player, Che Adams, to try and bring their finances back in line with the regulations and they are not the only club forced into such action.

One thing is for sure, though: even if you could identify a specific reason why the Championship was so unpredictable, you’d be crazy to ‘fix’ it.

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder says the Blades have landed their “number one target” after re-signing goalkeeper Dean Henderson on a season-long loan from Manchester United.

The 22-year-old was an ever-present in the Blades’ promotion-winning campaign last season and kept a total of 21 clean sheets.

Before completing his loan move to the Blades, Henderson signed a new deal at the Red Devils that will keep him at Old Trafford until 2022,  with an option to extend for another year.

Wilder told his club’s official website: “Dean was always our number one target. We’ve had to fight to get a good deal and that’s part and parcel of our approach in the transfer market.”

Henderson’s return swiftly follows the arrival of midfielder Ben Osborn, who became the Blades’ sixth summer signing after joining from Nottingham Forest.

The Forest academy product made 230 appearances for the Reds in all competitions having made his debut against Ipswich in March 2014.

The 24-year-old joins for an undisclosed fee and has agreed a three-year deal.

“He’s been a fantastic player for Forest in the Championship and I know for certain that two or three clubs in January were sniffing around to take him,” said Wilder.

“He’s got a lot of attributes that will help us, going forward, and we’re looking forward to him pulling on a red and white shirt.

“We are putting together a group that’s got to be competitive in arguably the best division in the world.

“We’re not getting flustered with people talking about where we are getting our players from, we’re delighted with the work we’ve done, I’m really excited and seeing the players we’ve got in the building already, from Jags (Phil Jagielka) to the likes of Ravel (Morrison), Lys Mousset, Callum Robinson, Luke Freeman and now Ben Osborn.”

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Sheffield United have confirmed the signing of midfielder Luke Freeman from QPR for an undisclosed club record fee.

Freeman is the Blades’ first summer signing since winning automatic promotion to the Premier League.

“Luke Freeman arrives at Bramall Lane on a three-year deal, with the Blades paying QPR an undisclosed club record fee for the 27-year-old midfielder,” the South Yorkshire club announced on their official website.

Dartford-born Freeman scored eight goals in 48 appearances for QPR last season and was voted player of the year by the club’s fans.

On the deal, manager Chris Wilder told the official website: “Luke gives us balance off his left foot. His stats add up and all the eyes we’ve had on him have come back with glowing reports.

“He’s one of the best players in the Championship and he can play in a number of positions. Luke is ideal to complement what we already have at the club, I think he will be a good fit for us.”

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League