Stoke City: where has it all gone wrong?

Stoke City

On losing to fellow Championship strugglers, Huddersfield Town earlier this month, Stoke City were consigned to a tenth match without a win this season. An unwanted record that extended to the back end of last campaign – the Potters failed to win any of their final six games, claiming a measly four points from a possible 24. Last weekend saw Stoke win their first game of the season, against Swansea City, but they are still rooted to the foot of the table.

It was less than a decade ago that Stoke made the final of the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history, eventually losing to Manchester City by a narrow 1-0 scoreline. That achievement won them a place in the Europa League – their first appearance since the 1974-75 UEFA Cup. They had a good run, making it through two qualifying stages, finishing second in group E to Beşiktaş, before losing in the Round of 32 to Valencia. From five seasons of sitting comfortably in mid-table of the Premier League (including three successive ninth-place finishes), the 2017-18 campaign saw Stoke relegated in nineteenth position with just 33 points.

Championship odds (https://www.betfair.com/sport/football/english-championship/7129730) don’t favour the Potters to do well this season, or even avoid the drop at this early stage. But where has it all gone wrong?

Goals… or lack of

It’s a well-known fact that goals win games and having a world-class striker can obviously improve your side somewhat. But over the course of the last two seasons, Stoke have struggled up front. In their relegation season, they scored just 35 goals (averaging less than a goal per game) and their top scorer was Xherdan Shaqiri who bagged eight of them. Last season, they didn’t fare much better – scoring 45 goals (again, less than a goal per game) and nine of those were scored by top scorer, Benik Afobe.

So far this campaign, the Potters have scored 11 goals, which isn’t the lowest in the division, but in their opening games, they’ve conceded 22 times, more than any other club.

The club’s top scorer last season is yet to make an impact this campaign, with Afobe featuring just once in the Championship so far. Fellow strikers Lee Gregory and Sam Vokes hardly boast admirable returns, with one goal to Gregory’s name and none for Vokes. The squad are clearly crying out for a proven goal scorer.

Managerial woes

Since Tony Pulis left for the second time back in May 2013, and the sacking of Mark Hughes in January 2018, there’s been something of a revolving door for managers at the bet365 stadium.  

To some extent, Hughes steadied the ship, guiding Stoke to three-successive top-10 finishes, as well as cup runs that saw them reach the fifth round of the FA Cup and semi-finals of the League Cup. Prior to his departure, the club had the worst defensive record in the Premier League and occupied the final relegation place.

Hughes’ replacement, Paul Lambert, wasn’t able to keep the Potters up. Despite improving their defence, Stoke remained a weak attacking threat, winning two and losing seven of their final 16 games. Lambert left in the close season to be replaced by Gary Rowett. Once again, in a results-driven business, the club weren’t winning games, and after a poor return from less than 30 games in charge, Rowett was dismissed.

Nathan Jones had already guided Luton Town to promotion and the club were on course for a second success in as many seasons, but Jones jumped ship to manage Stoke. In his debut season, Jones won just three of 21 games, but in the transfer window, was given the funds to assemble his own squad, signing 10 new players. Despite the recent win over Swansea, Jones has previously admitted he’s resigned to losing his job, claiming it’s ‘not worked out’; while the fans are understandably frustrated and calling for his head. 

Will Jones be able to mastermind the turnaround, or who will come in and change the Potters’ fortunes?

Struggling Arsenal managed to win against Newcastle

footy

The recent performance of Arsenal has not been good so far. After being beaten by both the Manchester teams, they could not even earn the valuable points in their recent matches against Southampton and West Ham. That is the reason they are placed at the fourth spot after Manchester United and Chelsea in the Premier League table.

Therefore, the recent win against Newcastle must be a huge relief for Wenger whose team is currently five points lagging behind Chelsea. Mesut Ozil did the magic in the 23th minute of the game for the struggling Arsenal and remained till the end of the game. It was a brilliant first half volley that got them the lead.

However, this game also showed the problem which has been recurring throughout the season for Arsenal- not being able to take the chances which they create. Seeing the huge quality difference between the two teams, the dominance from the Arsenal side should have been complete. However, we did not see that happen. Though the win was not as convincing as it should have been, however a win is still a win and the Arsenal’s celebration is not out of place.

The Arsenal side would now be playing against West Ham in their next match. That game is expected to be easy for them. However, the game after that could be a real challenge for them as they will be up against the stronger opponent Liverpool. That is a game which might be of interest for both fans and punters around the world. If you are punter, you could avail from free bets and get bonus codes and know sign up offers from all the top rated UK betting sites. Read reviews for the valuable information or follow the tips for becoming a smart punter. Closely follow all the latest offers of Betfred, Paddy Power, Betway, Coral and all the others, so you can choose the one that fits you the best.

The experiments of Arsenal coach Wenger seemed to work well against the Newcastle team. He brought in Ainsley Maitland-Niles while Alexandre Lacazette was placed for Olivier Giroud.

Although Alex Iwobi and Alexis Sanchez became close to scoring, however the lead came only after the 20th minute of the game. Ozil showed a perfect combination of grace and power to give his team a lead early in the game. When the ball came to Ozil, he used his left leg to deliver the volley past Rob Elliot despite the fact that he was off balance and that he had the time to bring the ball down.

Later, Wenger appreciated that goal calling it “superb” and further commending him in such words: “Usually, he is the guy who 99 per cent of the time in this position, controls the ball and gives it someone else.”

Arsenal were looking very good in the first half of the game. However, by the second half their game looked more defensive. It felt like they had secured the win, and therefore the point of urgency was devoid from their game. Ultimately they prevailed, yet one could see that it was a lot tense towards the end of the game than it should have been.

If we talk about the Newcastle team, the situation for them is looking pretty grim now. Rafa Benitez would definitely have been dissatisfied with the performance of his team. But looking at their performance so far, it was not to be expected that they would win this game. It is been their eighth defeat of the previous nine games, and therefore has seen them drop down to the eighteenth position of the Premier League table, ahead of West Brom and Swansea City only. Benitez has been trying to bring his team up by imploring his players to strengthen their attack and exploit the weaknesses of the opposite team, but so far they have not worked.

 

 

The Newcastle Problem

In the mid 1990s Kevin Keegan performed something of a revolution at St James Park and against the odds turned Newcastle United into title contenders. Not only that, but during the 1995-1996 season he led Newcastle unto a 12 point lead, so convincing that many bookmakers paid out on them lifting the trophy.  They went onto to several 2nd place finishes and had a good run…but then it all went wrong! The nights at the Nou Camp and the consecutive Cup Finals seem oh so long ago now for the toon army faithful and seemingly for the last decade a spiral of decline has been in place. Many blame Mike Ashley….but have the fans got a role to play in this?

The issue can be dated back to that 1995-1996 season when Newcastle thought they had the title won. The 12 point lead was broken down, the title was lost and in my eyes the club never recovered. It was at this stage that fans began to view the club as bigger and more important that it actually was on a national scale. Other than Alan Shearer, Newcastle failed to capture big name players, those players to take them to the next level, and the fans couldn’t understand why and turned on the manager, the club and the director. The simple fact is, that without a winning history, without those trophies and without that special appeal Newcastle were not able to attract who they needed to stay in place….they joined a long list of the teams who have had 2-3 seasons of wonder and faded away.

This “big club” mentality feeds down and the fans got impatient with managers, proven guys like Sam Allardyce were pushed out when in all fairness, better jobs could have been done with time. Newcastle couldn’t understand why two relegations occurred and, more of an issue perhaps, the 6 back to back defeats to local rivals Sunderland.

It all foes down to what I call the Newcastle Problem…..that the club and the fans see them as bigger than they are. Yes they have a loyal fanbase with a huge stadium that is sold out whoever the opposition is…but this doesn’t put them on a par with the top 6 teams in the Premier League.

If Newcastle can just get to grips with the fact they are a middling Premier League team, expect the odd relegation battle and perhaps a drop in division and build from there, they can function much better than they now do. Rafa Benetiez has crafted a team for the Championship which they won, but then wasn’t given the support to make them a Premier League team. And what has this been hampered by? All the sale talks…..which hinge on the factor I have mentioned before, Newcastle are not the club they believe they are and that is why they are not getting the right buyer with the right price.

A whole new mentality is needed at St James, more akin to local rivals Sunderland, or selling clubs like Southampton, if they are to turn themselves into Premier League mainstays once again. Until then, I pity the Toon Army as they will continue to be just a footnote….

What happened to Wimbledon?

I am just about young enough to remember a time when a Wimbledon side, led by Vinnie Jones and a hard hitting squad of English players, was topping the Premier League table. Indeed, the fabled cup win from 1988 is still fresh in the conscious as is their dramatic rise from obscurity to the top flight. But within a few years of that triumphant run to the top of the Premier League Wimbledon had collapsed, were out of business and reformed under the banner of two new clubs! MK Dons are essentially the team Wimbledon were but the AFC Wimbledon club is the one with the heart.

So what happened and can another other teams learn a lesson from this demise?

Wimbledon found them in the Premier League at a time when the money was starting to grow. It was nothing in comparison to what a middling team can earn in the division today, but still the money was flooding in and everyone around was investing in cheap foreign players with a new technique, new skills and a raised standard. The league began to be graced with the finest players in the world and with a push to getting in the Champions League the top half a dozen Premier League clubs began to invest. Wimbledon didn’t….even in the season they looked on for a top 6 finish; they did not spend the money. The club had been built on the premise of hard hitting English players with a certain style of play that worked well in the 1980s but was not compatible with the modern day game. They did not change with the times and that was one of their major issues!

They didn’t learn the earlier lesson from 1988 when they shocked the world and won the FA Cup, taking down Liverpool on their way, and were the talk of the nation. At that point they could have set aside time to build for the future and establish a club that could repeat the feat. They were the most talked about team in England and yet they did not back this up by going after players to improve.

The relocation issues did not help. Crowded in London, being an unfashionable team and not able to draw crowds who would rather flock to the more fashionable and successful clubs, drove the clubs owners into the controversial move to Milton Keynes which killed the heart of Wimbledon.

At the end of the day, a lack of ambition killed Wimbledon. This probably comes from always being the underdog and always being “the little club done well”. But that can only last so long in an industry where money talks and the game moved beyond what Wimbledon were all about.  They failed to adapt to the changing game, stuck to their roots of old fashioned English players and it backfired. There will never be another club like Wimbledon, and the absence of the club is sadly one of the many casualties of the modern game in the Premier League mega-money era of English football.

A High, a Low and a Close One: Brighton’s First Top-Flight Adventure

The 2017/18 Premier League season will be Brighton’s first in the top flight since 1982/83. Back then, Margaret Thatcher was preparing to embark on a second term of office, Spandau Ballet’s True sat proudly atop the charts, and a future king was only just learning to walk. Although 1983 signalled the start of a drab era in the club’s history, the previous four years had been a very remarkable story of defiance.

Having been tipped for promotion last year by Sports Predictor, Brighton & Hove Albion (if nothing else) already boast a story which has produced material perfect for a pub quiz. To that end, three events from the club’s first top flight adventure stand out prominently from the rest…

Between the Goldstone Ground and the Falmer Stadium, Brighton played at the Withdean Stadium, which has become synonymous with some of the club’s darkest moments from the past three decades.

  1. The opening act

Brighton are scheduled to open the club’s second top-flight adventure with a home match against Manchester City. The two-time Premier League champions are the bookies’ favourites to lift the domestic game’s biggest trophy again, and as such, there are distinct echoes back to Brighton’s very first top flight season. Alan Mullery’s men opened the 1979/80 First Division with a match against giants Arsenal at the Goldstone ground – and duly received a 4-0 roasting.

Difficult though the 1979/80 proved to negotiate, Brighton’s first ever away win in the top flight came against none other than reigning European champions Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

  1. Anfield rapped

The Seagulls held their own in the interim years, but by the 1983 New Year, Brighton were in the throes of a dismal season that would end in relegation. Unsurprisingly then, nobody gave Brighton a prayer when a beleaguered squad travelled to Anfield in February 1982 to take on reigning league champions Liverpool. Then managed by the apparently invincible Bob Paisley – who was, in fact, six months from handing the reins over to Joe Fagan – the Reds dominated proceedings. However, the day would be Brighton’s.

By now under the stewardship of Jimmy Melia, Brighton performed with the sort of spirit that had been sorely lacking in the league. A Kop End goal from Gerry Ryan gave Brighton the lead, before Craig Johnston equalised. In a perfect climax, former Anfield hero Jimmy Case leathered the ball past Bruce Grobbelaar for the winner.

Brighton’s FA Cup adventure of 1983.

  1. Wembley heartache

High on the pomp that only a win at Anfield can ever create, Brighton dispatched Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday to set up what remains the club’s most recent cup final to date. Brighton’s opponents were Manchester United, and though the Red Devils were not yet the colossus they would become in due course, they were nonetheless heavy favourite to lift the cup.

In a spirited performance worthy of the Rocky film franchise, the blue half of a 99,000-strong Wembley erupted into raptures when Gordon Smith opened the scoring on 14 minutes. Goals from Frank Stapleton and Ray Wilkins put Manchester United ahead, but Gary Stevens equalised just three minutes from time to take the final to a replay.

No doubt exhausted by their superlative exploits, Brighton were collectively crushed in the replay, going down 4-0 with two goals from United captain Bryan Robson. It was a sad, and perhaps unjust, end to a season that would precipitate 34 years of misery and frustration in the wilderness of English football.

Unsurprisingly, upon supporting their side to promotion this year, the Brighton faithful beheld their club’s return to the English top flight with tumultuous adulation, showing in no uncertain terms that they are ready to leave the past exactly where it belongs.

Trailblazing Tottenham Trivia: Up for the Cups

Delli Ali Spurs Quiz

Admittedly, there is a considerable amount of ground to cover before Tottenham can even dare to envisage equalling Arsenal’s haul of three Premier League titles. However, as key moments in Tottenham’s history will indicate, records are there to be set – and broken. Founded in 1882, the club took only 19 years to rack up its first major achievement, and establish itself as a potential goldmine of trivia and ‘pub ammo’.

1901 – Tottenham become first FA Cup-winning amateurs

In winning the 1901 FA Cup final, just seven years before becoming a professional club, Tottenham became the first amateur team to win England’s flagship knockout tournament. The Lilywhites are still the only team to win the cup as a non-league side, and barring a miracle far greater than Leicester’s title win of 2015/16, they will remain so until the very end of time.

Under player-manager John Cameron, Tottenham’s very first FA Cup match of the twentieth century was played on 23 February 1901 against Bury at White Hart Lane. A 2-1 victory saw Tottenham proceed to the quarter-finals, where another home tie – against Reading – yielded a 3-0 win. West Bromwich Albion awaited Tottenham in the semi-final, but the Baggies were somewhat distracted by a relentless fight to regain the club’s top flight status. A 4-0 win for Tottenham set up a final with first division Sheffield United.

The final was played at what is today known as the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. The Blades had only recently secured mathematical survival against relegation, and appeared jaded against a Tottenham side playing without pressure. Despite taking a tenth-minute lead through Fred Priest, Sheffield United eventually buckled, with a brace of goals from Sandy Brown either side of half time giving Tottenham the lead.

Hence the club motto, Tottenham had dared to do, and with 51 minutes played, could now dare to dream. On 52 minutes, Tottenham dared to dwindle, and paid what could have been the ultimate price. An equaliser from Walter Bennett proved to be the last goal of the match, with Tottenham barely clinging to the hope of becoming FA Cup winners.

At 20 stone, William ‘Fatty’ Foulke proved a towering presence in the Sheffield United goal.

Burnden Park was only closed as recently as 1997, but in hosting the replay, it had the privilege of witnessing a unique piece of history. The second encounter was every bit as gruelling as the first, but a well-conditioned Sheffield United went in as 1-0 leaders at halftime, with Fred Priest once more the opening goalscorer.

One can only imagine the rousing speech uttered by John Cameron, but Tottenham came out as an indefatigable force after the break. High on half-time oranges, Cameron himself scored the equaliser just eight minutes into the second half. Further goals, from Tom Smith and Sandy Brown, sealed victory and an F.A Cup win that would echo through the generations to come.

1963 – Tottenham triumph in Cup Winners’ Cup

Tottenham would set another notable record in 1920, when (as a second division side) the Lilywhites gained promotion with a total of 70 points. In today’s second tier, that tally would barely scrape a playoff place – but this was back when only two points were awarded for a win. Tottenham won 32 games from a possible 42 and scored 102 goals, and like the club’s FA Cup win of 1901, it is a record that is now guaranteed to stand the test of time.

Though crowned English champions in 1951, the dawn of the 1960s truly represented Tottenham’s most recent golden era. In 1960/61, the club became the first to win a domestic double, but it was at the end of the 1962/63 season that Tottenham would accomplish that which no other English club had dared to do.

In Jimmy Greaves, Tottenham boasted a striker very much in the mould of present-day hero Harry Kane, who is surprisingly priced at 3/1 and tipped to once more be the Premier League’s top goalscorer next season. After successfully defending the FA Cup in 1962, a Tottenham side managed by Bill Nicholson found itself making a short journey north. The destination was Ibrox, with Glasgow Rangers awaiting the Lilywhites in what promised to be a ferocious cross-border battle.

Already 5-2 up on aggregate, the Tottenham squad that took to the Ibrox pitch on 11 December 1962 could not rest on their laurels. With Tottenham drawing first blood, all realistic fears of a comeback from Rangers were quashed. Beaten though the Rangers squad must have collectively realised they were, the Scottish Cup winners fought a brave and defiant battle to the last:

Now safely through, Tottenham were drawn against Slovan Bratislava in the quarter finals. In front of a 32,000-strong Tehelne Pole Stadion, Nicholson’s side were stunned 2-0 by the Czechoslovakian heavyweights. Humiliated and wounded, Tottenham would be brutal in their vengeance for the return leg. Jimmy Greaves scored twice en route to a 6-0 win over Slovan Bratislava, and there were also goals from Dave Mackay, Bobby Smith, Cliff Jones and John White.

After a brace of relatively straightforward semi-final wins, yielding a 5-2 aggregate victory over Yugoslavian side OFK Beograd, only Atletico Madrid stood in the way of Tottenham and ownership of an unprecedented piece of history. Though Tottenham only had a 2-1 lead by the hour mark, the navy and white section of the Feijenoord Stadium in Rotterdam erupted three times without reply, with a brace of goals from Terry Dyson sandwiching an obligatory Jimmy Greaves goal to give the final scoreline a deceptively slanted look.

With a 5-1 rout of the Spaniards, Tottenham duly became the first ever British team to win a major European cup.

2010 – Tottenham ‘two good’ under Redknapp

Tottenham would go on to win two more European cups, lifting the UEFA Cup in 1972, and again in 1984. The first of those triumphs saw Tottenham become the first British team to win Europe’s secondary club competition. After remaining one of football traditional giants throughout the 1980s, the 1990s and 2000s saw undulating fortunes for the men from the Lane. After a dismal start to 2008/09, Harry Redknapp took the reins and guided Tottenham to mid-table respectability.

The following season, Redknapp’s side defied the odds and finished fourth, to qualify for the Champions League. Tottenham survived the qualifier, against BSC Young Boys, and proudly took their place amongst the European elite for the first time since the competition’s rebranding in 1992. Nobody expected Tottenham to get anywhere near the final – and they didn’t. However, Tottenham had one more record to set.

5th May 2010 – Tottenham beat Manchester City to fourth place with a win at the Ethiad Stadium.

In a group containing the reigning cup holders Inter Milan, Tottenham were a potent force. The Lilywhites scored ten goals in three home matches, including a famous 3-1 win over the holders. Curiously, Tottenham scored eight times in their away matches, but took just two points from nine. In doing so, Tottenham became the first team in history to score two goals or more in every Champions League group game.

Seven years on, Tottenham fans have every reason to be excited ahead of the 2017/18 Premier League season, with the club having now finished in the top three for a second consecutive year. Nobody is in any doubt as to which record Tottenham want to smash next. Chelsea’s record title-winning tally of 95 points is impressive, and is likely to remain unbeaten forever. Yet, as the famous motto goes: “to dare is to do” – and attempting to become the first Premier League side to hit 100 points is as big a dare as it gets.

Can Everton Break Into the Premier League Top Four Next Season?

Source: Everton Football Club via Facebook

Everton have been quite busy in the summer transfer window so far. The Merseyside outfit are on a spending spree like never before and have recruited a number of players in order to reinforce their squad for the 2017-18 Premier League campaign. Among the players that the Toffees have signed are attacking midfielder Davy Klaassen from Ajax, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from Sunderland, defender Michael Keane from Burnley, and forward Sandro Ramirez from Malaga.

England international forward Wayne Rooney has also returned to Everton after leaving Manchester United, while right-back Cuco Martina has switched to Goodison Park following his release from Southampton at the end of the 2016-17 season. There are talks that Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud could make a move to the Merseyside outfit before the summer transfer window shuts.

It seems that Everton are determined to have a very successful 2017-18 campaign. During the 2015-16 season, Koeman’s side ended up seventh, as many as 15 points clear of seventh-placed Southampton. The Toffees are better than the rest of the teams in the Premier League, but are they good enough to merit a place in the top six or even the top four? Given the amount of money the Blues have spent so far this summer and the ambition of the club’s majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, it would not be far-fetched to suggest that they have their eyes on the Champions League places.

Bookmakers, though, do not seem to be giving Everton too much of a chance of finishing in the top four. According to many bookies, the Toffees are only 10/1 to end up in the Champions League places. One can understand why the odds are so high. The Premier League top six is one of the most competitive in the world, with Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arenal and Tottenham Hotspur all expected to fight for the Premier League title next season. Given the signings that Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs have already made this summer, it is only going to be more competitive next season than it was in 2016-17.

However, bookmakers do not always get things right. After all, they had Leicester City at 5000/1 to win the Premier League title back in the 2015-16 season. A cheeky wager on Everton to sneak into the top four of the Premier League next season ahead of Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur may not be a bad idea, especially with free bets for 2017-2018 already available. Everton ended up only eight points behind sixth-placed Manchester United last season; this time they have a stronger squad, which will enhance their chances of a top-four finish.


Goodison Park walls” (CC BY 2.0) by Ben Sutherland

Arsenal slipped out of the Champions League places last season for the first time in 20 years, while Liverpool just about managed to sneak into the top four. Both the Gunners and the Reds should be in the sights of Everton, who should also be aiming to leapfrog Tottenham next season. True, the North London outfit ended up second in 2016-17 and third in 2015-16, but they do not have a good record at Wembley and could struggle next season.

With players such as Rooney, Morgan Schneiderlin, Barkley and Klaassen in the team, Everton fans should be optimistic about a hugely successful 2017-18 campaign. Big things are happening at Goodison Park at the moment, and one should not be surprised if the Toffees break into the top four next season.

How can Wenger turn things round and make Arsenal Champions?

Arsene Wenger out

Sanchez

Last season seemed to be dominated by discussion over the future of the longest serving manager in the Premier League Arsene Wenger. Despite 20 years of success, consistent top 4 finishes and memorable moments, the pressure began to mount as it became clear Arsenal were going to miss out on the Top 4. With no Champions League football and unease around the club, just how can Wenger turn things around and make Arsenal Champions?

One key thing he needs to do, which is easier said than done, is turn the fans negativity away. Nothing breeds failure and defeat at a club more than negativity, and speaking as a Sunderland fan I have seen this first hand. Whether it be bold tactical decision or major signings Wenger needs the fans back on board. A winning start would ease these….

…but then again Arsenal always start well. One thing Wenger needs to do is work out how to stop the mid season slump that has hit them in recent years. The typical post-xmas fade needs to be eliminated….a bigger squad, bringing in a different kind of player??? Whatever it may be he needs to address it.

Indeed, bringing in that player who can “do it on a wet Tuesday night in Stoke” is something to consider. Although Arsenal have some of the world’s finest players in their ranks, they have often missed that Tony Adams/Patrick Vieira type figure who is not only a leader on the pitch but can take a testing game by the scruff of the neck and grind out winds. The invincible did this time and time again so Wenger has it in his DNA, he just needs the players who can carry out his wishes.

Speaking of those world class players…..Wenger needs to not only keep the likes of Ozil and Sanchez, but make sure they are singing off the same hymn sheet. Is Alexis Sanchez motivated by making Arsenal the best he can or does he want to shine to force a move away? If the latter is true then cutting losses may be an option but a motivated and driven Sanchez may just be key.

One thing Arsene Wenger will certainly have to do is balance the tricky Europa League commitments where they will no doubt be favourites to lift the trophy. Although he is used to European Football, the Europa League is vastly different from the Champions League with a fuller schedule, more tricky places to go and indeed the Thursday night games messing up weekend fixtures. Wenger needs to decide quickly his approach…does he go all out to win the contest and ensure Champions League football, or does he treat it as a second priority until the latter stages? Manchester United have shown the blueprint of how to win this tournament, Arsenal would be wise to follow and should they you would get enhanced odds on them being victorious in Amsterdam next summer.

This could be the hardest season of all for Wenger. If he thought that last season was tough, the reaction to him should Arsenal start badly could be even worse. What he needs is to turn the negativity into positivity and there is no reason, that with a couple of key singings, they could be challenging for the title again in 2017-2018.

 

Do Spurs Have What It Takes to Win the Title?

Delli Ali Spurs Quiz

Delli Ali Spurs Quiz

Source: Tottenham Hotspur via Facebook

For the second year in a row, Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur fell short in the Premier League title race despite challenging near the top of the table for the most part of the campaign. On paper, Spurs have the talent required to emerge victorious at the top level of English football but it may all come down to whether the north London side are made of the right “stuff”.

Some teams have it, others don’t. In recent years, Tottenham have come under scrutiny for succumbing to pressure at the worst moment; that cannot happen if Pochettino’s men want to win the title. With some good fortune and astute activity throughout the summer transfer window, Spurs may get their hands on England’s top-flight crown for the first time in the Premier League era.

Defensively, Spurs are arguably the strongest side in the Premier League. According to news outlets, Kyle Walker looks set to join Manchester City for an estimated fee of £60 million this summer and Tottenham fans will be preparing for life without the England international.

However, Kieran Trippier is capable of stepping up to the plate in his absence. The 26-year-old was a regular for Spurs at the backend of last season and there is no need for Pochettino to invest heavily in a new right-sided defender at the present moment. WhoScored statistics show that Trippier ranked as Tottenham’s seventh-best performing defensive player last season – ahead of star centre-back Toby Alderweireld.

Harry Kane Spurs Quiz

Source: Tottenham Hotspur via Facebook

With Alderweireld and co. standing strong in front of Hugo Lloris, Tottenham are blessed with a title-winning defensive unit. In the 2016/17 campaign, Spurs conceded just 26 goals; the second-best record in the Premier League. Following the 7-1 victory over Hull City on the final day, Pochettino’s men also had the best goal difference in England’s top flight. Their tally of +60 was eight clear of Chelsea and Tottenham will be keen to build on their success ahead of next season.

Preparation ahead of the new campaign will be key and Pochettino will have one eye on the International Champions Cup in July. If Spurs, priced at 10/1 to win the title as of June 8th, want to compete with the best teams in the world, it might be wise for the north London side to take the competition very seriously indeed.

Throughout the summer, football fans can keep up with the latest odds, scores, and tips via Footy Accumulators’ Acca Tracker. This app allows punters to track the results of their bets and, with big games against Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, and Roma fast approaching, there are plenty of opportunities for Spurs fans to get involved, especially with an array of free bets from bet365, BetVictor, and others to choose from.

If Spurs can prove their worth against some of Europe’s biggest sides, many will fancy Pochettino’s team to lay down a serious marker for the title. And Harry Kane will head into the new campaign knowing that his goals may turn out to be decisive in the title race. The Spurs man won the Golden Boot award for the second season in a row despite missing over three months through injury and it would take a brave man to back against Tottenham if Kane is fully fit and firing on all cylinders.

Harry Kane Tottenham Quiz

Source: Tottenham Hotspur via Facebook

In 38 appearances, Kane scored 35 goals and Pochettino knows that he must continue to build around the England international in order to keep Spurs in contention. Dele Alli, one of the most talented youngsters on the planet, has formed a solid partnership with Kane and another acquisition could give Tottenham a new dimension in attack.

Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa could be on Pochettino’s radar and he is certainly gettable for the right price. The Brazilian has struggled to impress since Carlo Ancelotti arrived at the Allianz Arena and a move to the Premier League would appeal. Tottenham’s involvement in the Champions League will certainly help them to attract elite talent this summer…

Ross Barkley has been linked with a move to Spurs for the past few months but Tottenham don’t really need any more creative midfielders. Pochettino wouldn’t turn the England man away but upsetting the balance of this solid Spurs midfield could have an adverse effect in the long run. If nothing else, his impact and drive to perform better could push Tottenham’s existing stars to improve further.

Signing a couple of players will help to keep everybody on their toes and Tottenham’s stock as potential champions will be bolstered by any arrivals. With Kane leading the line, Spurs are in with a decent chance of lifting the title next season. Pochettino is building a monster and Tottenham could finally fulfil their potential with a bit of luck.

What is wrong at Liverpool?

Earlier in the season, the Jurgen Klopp revolution over at Anfield was in full swing. The team played a unique brand of football, were easy on the eye and racking up the points and looked like serious contenders for honours across all fronts. It is a common joke amongst football fans that the Liverpool faithful claim “it is out year next year”  but for once it truly felt like it was and Anfield had so much optimism.

Roll the clock forwards to the first months of 2017 and how things have changed. On the pitch the team have lost the spark, the result have been poor and rivals seemed to have found simple ways to stop Klopp’s taruhan bola system. But it is the same system as always…..Liverpool can take down the bigger teams but cannot pick up the points against the strugglers.

The 1-1 draw at Old Trafford and home point against Chelsea are results that fans should not grumble too much about, and indeed the emphatic wins over Arsenal and Spurs are proof that Liverpool can truly live it up with the best of teams. The big occasions bring out the big performances and the top sides in the Premier League fear playing Liverpool as they know these performances can be destructive

But the teams struggling at the bottom of the table can see Liverpool as a potential chance to pick up points. Away defeats, and comprehensive defeats at Hull City and Leicester City are evidence  that this team, this year, with these players are NOT title contenders. As March began the team were 14 points off the title pace and seemingly destined for a battle to get a Champions League spot.

If Liverpool and Klopp fail to get a Champions League spot this season then it is clear that something needs to be done to address why they can perform in the bigger games and not defeat the smaller teams. Who does the blame lie with? Jurgen Klopp indeed is much more animated and involved when he knows he is on  TV in the bigger games and does this translate to the players. Does Klopp’s tactics need called into questions? Indeed….there have been many times during his reign that he has shown tactical naivety when it comes to dealing with teams who place 11 men behind the ball.

What about the players? Do they struggle to get motivated for the away trips to the less glamorous locations in the Premier League? The blame could also lie with Klopp. In this writers opinion, Jurgen Klopp is enticed by the glitz and glamour of the big occasions  and has neither the support, or players with the right mentality to be able to truly get the results against the team who shuts up shop. Does Klopp need help from staff around him with more experience of Premier League teams who are tricky to play against or does he need to rethink his whole system? Whatever the case something needs to be done fast!

Arsenal look to bounce back from Bayern Munich humiliation

Arsene Wenger out

Arsene Wenger’s team travel to the 5,000 capacity Borough Sports Ground to face Sutton United in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday evening.

Sutton United, the National League side, have already eliminated Wimbledon and Leeds United en route to their first ever fifth-round appearance and were awarded with a dream tie against The Gunners. They will be looking to become the first non-league team to reach the sixth round of the FA Cup in its current format.

Arsenal suffered humiliation in their crushing defeat to Bayern Munich during the mid-week Champions League fixture and the FA Cup remains their most realistic chance of silverware this season as the Premier League title looks like it’s out of reach – however you can check out the live odds for the Premier League title if you feel Arsenal will close the 10 point gap between them an Chelsea.

Arsene Wenger has come under intense pressure this week, however has stated that he will be managing next season. He said, “no matter what happens, I will manage next season, whether it’s here or somewhere else. That’s absolutely for sure.”

When discussing the 5-1 defeat in Germany, he goes on to say “on a night like that, of course I hate defeat and I hate to lose games. I want to do extremely well for this club and I feel a big responsibility.”

“It is difficult to take, but I have the strength and experience to respond. It all went wrong for us after half-time. I think we looked quite defensively solid in the first half. We lost Laurent Koscielny in the second half and after that we lost our structure and our organisation. We were a bit naive for the goals we conceded. At 3-1 I felt we were mentally affected by the result and much more vulnerable.”

He goes on to say “everyone focuses on the next game, to take care of the consequences a disappointing result can have on everybody’s spirit and to make sure we bounce back and focus on the next game.”

“We have to deal with the media and our job is to and analyse with clarity what happened. We can’t influence the last result.”

“I always had in my head that it was a very important game. In my head I have had a team that will start and play there, for a week or 10 days now. That result we had at Bayern Munich will not influence that selection.”

“The FA Cup is one of our targets. It’s te next game and for us to bounce back after the game we just had, it becomes a very important game. But it always was, in my head.”

Arsenal, who could reach the sixth round for the fourth season in a row, must be wary of a potential cup upset. However, Sutton United manager Paul Doswell is remaining cautious. “There’s two ways of looking at it” says Doswell. You either get the likes of Ozil and Sanchez and Giroud – and you can just keep naming them – in which case we would lose the game comfortably but the lads would get the experience of having played a Premier League giant.”

“If you see Ozil and Sanchez on the team sheet our chance doesn’t come beyond nought. Or you go the other way and you play a team of under-23s that are still internationals mixed in with one or two of their squad players, and that gives us that one percent chance that we’d be after.”

Chelsea’s 2017 Summer Signings Rated

Following their procession to the Premier League title last season, many felt that Chelsea had one of the strongest squads in the division. By all accounts, Antonio Conte had devised a winning formula and the Blues appeared to have strength in depth all over the pitch.

The 2017 summer transfer window, however, proved problematic for the Blues, with Nemanja Matic departing for Manchester United and Diego Costa falling out of favour and manufacturing his desired move back to Atletico Madrid.

Despite missing out on primary target and former striker Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea still parted with over £170 million during the offseason.

It’s still very early days, but here are the six first-team summer signings ranked this term by Blues blog Chelsea FC Online:

6. Danny Drinkwater – £34m from Leicester City

The three-time capped England midfielder is ranked in sixth place purely due to the fact he is yet to feature for the Blues this season. The England international has been acquired from Leicester in an attempt to rekindle his potent partnership with N’Golo Kante in central midfield, and only time will tell if moving to Stamford Bridge was the correct move for him and the Blues.

5. Willy Caballero – Free Transfer from Manchester City

The Argentinian shot-stopper was brought in to provide cover to Thibaut Courtois following the departure of Asmir Begovic to Bournemouth. In his only appearance, against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup, he looked assured and is a logical backup to the Belgian number one, who will be able to impart some of his knowledge and experience.

4. Davide Zappacosta – £22.5m from Torino

The Italian right wing-back looks a tailor-made fit for Conte’s 3-4-3 system. His energy up and down the field is essential and he looks very comfortable in forward areas – scoring a goal against FK Qarabag on his home debut. Victor Moses currently occupies the RWB slot but Conte will be delighted to be able to rotate in his back line should he wish to do so.

3. Tiemoue Bakayoko – £36m from Monaco

As an integral part of Monaco’s success last season, much had been made of Bakayoko’s move to West London and the imposing Frenchman has delivered. With time on his side (aged 23), he looks to have all the attributes of a top midfield player and looks well set to fill the void left by Nemanja Matic in the middle of the park.

2. Antonio Rudiger – £31m from Roma

The German centre-back has thoroughly impressed since his arrival from Roma and has looked composed in his seven appearances in all competitions so far. The emergence of Andreas Christensen, as well as the arrival of Rudiger, has given Conte food for thought in the centre of defence, with David Luiz and Gary Cahill’s places in the team under threat.

1. Alvaro Morata – £56m from Real Madrid

The Spanish hitman has instantly delivered on his large price tag by bagging seven goals already this term. Conte will be delighted with how his marquee summer signing has performed and his recent injury will be a big blow to the Blues in the short term. On his return, he will be looking to continue his strong start and fire his team back up the league, keeping them in contention for trophies on four fronts.

 

Liverpools Transfer Dealings

lfc-transfers

It would be more than fair to say that Liverpool’s transfer kitty has been splashed around, wasted and splashed around again over the past decade in a quest to help them climb back to the top of the Premier League tree. Many an expensive player has been bought and sold on for a loss without making an impact. But what of their Transfer Dealings in the 2016 window. Is it enough to drive Jurgen Klopp’s team into that top 4 where they feel they belong or will it result in another season of frustration at Anfield? According to the TransferMarkt Liverpool have only spent £501,000 on a net basis!

Sadio Mane arrived for £35 million in the latest of a long line of players to make their way from the South Coast to Merseyside. The Price beggars belief in certain extents, but with Mane’s potential to up his game, and his proven track record in the Premier League, it may be worth the gamble. I suspect he will beat his tally of 11 goals last season. Check here for other football betting tips

But one transfer everyone, especially those in the North East questioned, was the £23 million splashed out on Georginio Wijnaldum from Newcastle. In one or two game last season, he shone in a bad team but to justify that price tag is bizarre. If one transfer this season showed there was far too much money kicking around in the Premier League it is perhaps this one!

Are these signings to inspire the Anfield faithful? Do they get you dreaming of title glory and booking tickets for Europe next year? Or does the lack of ambition and high prices played for these places resign you to another season of “also rans”?

However, Liverpool accountants can justify themselves by pointing to the £15 million taken in for Jordan Ibe. When I first saw this story, I was convinced it was a misprint and was supposed to be £1.5 million…but now. Bournemouth, a team who were several leagues lower only a matter of years ago, paid a whopping £15 million for an unproven player who Liverpool were glad to see the back of. Now you have to say…that’s good business. In fact, the £13 million for Joe Allen and the £26 million received for Christian Benteke, despite being a total flop, were very smooth bits of business on Liverpool’s behalf and meant that, rather shockingly, despite all the new TV money coming in and available to spend, and despite the over inflated figure they paid for their transfers coming in, they ended up making a profit at a time when most clubs cannot spend their money quick enough! Even the £3 million gained for the unknown Brad Smith is a figure that you have to stop and look at twice. Football has officially gone off the wall in insanity!

It would take a betting man to make any sort of bold predictions for or against the likely success of Jurgen Klopp this season, but it sure will be an interesting ride. Champions League contenders or battling for 5th? Who knows where the Kop will be taken this season…

 

Footie Quiz Club Profile: Manchester United

Man Utd Badge

Man Utd Badge

Glory Years

With 20 league titles to their name, Manchester United are one of the most successful clubs not only in England, but in World football. Success has always come naturally to United who have both attracted and produced some of the finest players in the history of the game. The tragedy of the 1958 Munich air crash was followed by years of success including a European Cup win in 1968, the first English side to achieve such a feat. United stumbled through the following decades, involving an unexpected relegation but bounced back into the top flight with immediate effect.

It was however the appointment of a young Scottish manager named Alex Ferguson that heralded the arrival of a new era of dominance at Old Trafford. Ferguson moulded United into the dominant force in British football and United won 13 Premier Leagues from its adoption in 1992. The five FA Cups won in the Ferguson era turned United into the most successful Cup team in British football history. With four league cups and 11 Community Shields to boot, the Ferguson era had its fair share of silverware. But the prize of the Champions League eluded Ferguson until one famous night in the Nou Camp in 1999, when United scored twice in stoppage time to defeat Bayern Munich and be crowned Champions of Europe. The side repeated the feat in equally dramatic fashion in 2008 defeating rivals Chelsea on a penalty shoot out on a rainy night in Moscow. When Ferguson retired it signalled the end of an era for United and after a rough spell with David Moyes in which the club missed out on Champions League qualification, Louis Van Gaal seems to be well on his way to restoring United to the glory days of old.

To see how much you know about Man U then try our free Quiz.

Players on Footie Quiz

Notably players and former players who have specific quizzes on our site include:

George Best

Bryan Robson

David Beckham

Eric Cantona

Michael Owen

Paul Scholes

Roy Keane

Ryan Giggs

Wayne Rooney

Sir Alex Ferguson

and the legendary Dion Dublin

Footie Quiz Stats

At the time of writing there are currently 1803 fans registered on the site making them the most popular supported club amongst our members.

There are currently 547 questions about the Reds in our databank.