The Premier League Returns!

IT’S BACK! 

They call it the best league in the world and, of course, it is hard to disagree. A plethora of talent is disbursed across the whole league, on any given day a team challenging for the title can be beaten by a side struggling in the bottom three and it all kicks off at 19:45 as Arsenal host Leicester City at the Emirates.

Of course, this season is not just another season, it marks 25 years since the very first Premier League season and Manchester United fans across the world will be hoping that the Red Devils can mark this season with the same title-winning performances as they did all those years ago.

It will be a tough ask for them now they are back in the Champions League but like the last few summer transfer windows, they’ve not been afraid to splash the cash. They currently stand at having spent an eye-watering £179.5m on three players.  It’s hard to see them finishing outside of the Top 4 this season, but you never know.

By far and away the biggest spenders of the window have been Manchester City and this will heap the pressure on Pep, as the board and fans alike will expect instant and long-lasting results. There can be no fade away, no bad patches, no dips in form. This will create a new pressure for the squad he is building and it will take the likes of Otamendi and Kompany in the dressing room to make sure this does not affect the team performances. It will be a tough ask but they have a very capable squad.

Turning to the reigning and defending champions, Chelsea. They have had a very mixed summer, losing Matic, trying to offload Costa and missing out on Lukaku before settling on Morata. The general thought of the football world is that they cannot defend their title and there are also reports that Antonio Conte is not a happy man and may even consider resigning. This would be a massive shock and not something I expect to happen. They should still finish Top 4, comfortably, but they cannot afford to rest on their laurels.

Of course, they aren’t the only teams involved in the Premier League and the standout transfer window so far has been for Everton. They have bought quickly and filled in key areas of the squad. Davy Klaassen is a fantastic addition and also bringing Wayne Rooney back is a real confidence booster for the club.  There have been no other real fantastic windows for clubs, although odd signings have peaked the football fans interest. Namely Lacazette coming over to England and joining Arsenal, it is worth noting he had a decent debut in the Community Shield and will hopefully settle well in England so we get to see the best of him.

This time of year always calls for predictions. Here at Taylor’s Football Talk, we have had a few discussions and the general consensus is that nobody can agree on a title winner. There have been tips for both Manchester clubs and having looked at the signings, I feel like Manchester City ought to win the league but I believe the red side of Manchester will be the ones celebrating, as Pep needs to tweak his tactical style, which I am unsure he will want to do.

At the other end of the table, it is generally agreed that Huddersfield will feature in the bottom three come May 2018 and both Brighton and Swansea have featured on more than one prediction. My own personal predictions are as follows:

  • Manchester United
  • Manchester City
  • Chelsea
  • Arsenal

There are now two notable absences from the Top 4; Liverpool and Spurs but this is not without justification. Tottenham are playing home games at Wembley and this will affect their phenomenal home form from the last couple of seasons and Liverpool could well lose Coutinho before the end of the transfer window.

My thoughts on the bottom three are:

  • Brighton
  • Swansea
  • Huddersfield

I am a Burnley fan, and I have some serious concerns about this season but I believe the Clarets will survive by the skin of their teeth. Also Newcastle will be in the mix, as will Watford. Ultimately, I believe that if Swansea lose Gylfi they will struggle to pick up the necessary points to stay in the league. Other than that, I feel a lack of Premier League experience will hurt Brighton and Huddersfield, which will undoubtedly impact their points tally come the end of the season.

As so many others will be, I am so happy the Premier League is back. Make sure you’ve got your fantasy football teams done, crack open a cold one and enjoy the season long rollercoaster!

How to solve a problem like Arsene Wenger?

There are two camps of Arsenal fans and there have been for some time; ‘Wenger in‘ and ‘Wenger out‘. The numbers fluctuate all the time, with fans swinging from camp to camp depending on the result that has just come.

With that in mind, the members of the latter of the two groups will be at possibly the highest level for some time. A 5-1 demolition by Bayern Munich brought the cloud of doom over the Emirates team, as the club are pretty much out of the Champions League in the last 16, again. Couple that with the most recent result, a 3-1 loss away at Anfield, and the subsequent drop to fifth place in the league table, the pressure is really mounting on the Frenchman.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times about football being a business, and nobody embodies this more than Arsene Wenger. From a boardroom level, he has been the single most consistent Premier League manager of all time (bar Sir Alex Ferguson) and kept, what once was, a very poor squad in the top four and therefore in the Champions League.

He has guided them through a turbulent financial period, as the club moved from Highbury to the Emirates and become one of the most profitable clubs in England. Arsene Wenger has always guaranteed top four football, and with that the additional revenue of the Champions League.

When you look at his record pre-2004, it was extremely good. Having taken charge in October 1996, Arsene guided the Gunners to three Premier League titles and three FA Cup wins. This was followed up in the 04-05 season with another FA Cup and then followed a move to the Emirates. It took another nine years for a trophy to be brought back to Arsenal when they won the FA Cup in 13-14, narrowly beating Hull 3-2 after extra time.

The lack of trophies aside, there is the transfer history. Looking at Arsenal’s transfer history it is more a case of good players seemingly slipping through the net and into an Arsenal shirt, rather than a list of exemplary players and big characters.

For every Thierry Henry, there is a Francis Jeffers. Every Van Persie has his Chu-Young Park. The lists seem to be endless and what is more evident is that over the last few seasons there has been a lack of real improvement. For about 5 seasons, if not longer, it has been blatantly obvious where Arsenal’s squad was lacking, but it hasn’t been addressed. We’ve seen the arrivals of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, amongst others, but Arsene Wenger has failed to address the lack of grit in the middle of the park and not brought in a centre half that is a leader and organiser.

The club attempted to finally sort these issues in the summer by completing the signings of Granit Xhaka and Mustafi at centre half. Famed for stuttering in the transfer market, they got the Granit Xhaka deal done early and this was a promising sign for the Gunners but they stalled over the Mustafi deal and this cost the club dearly.

Whether Granit Xhaka will flourish into a Premier League enforcer, or even a top midfielder, is still very much in doubt. Whilst Mustafi does look like a good signing, Koscielny is now getting to the very edge of his peak so you would think a title would have to happen sooner rather than later, and with Wenger in charge it doesn’t look like happening.

Alongside the transfer flops, there are the near misses, Benzema should have signed for Arsenal in the last four summers, Gonzalo Higuain has been rumoured, Suarez nearly happened, and so on, and so forth. Again, this is another understandable bone of contention for most Arsenal fans. I appreciate there is a wage structure at Arsenal, but an unwillingness to push the envelope and increase this has no doubt hampered the recruitment process.

It is really easy to see why Arsenal fans move themselves into the ‘Wenger out‘ camp, and it is hard not to forget the history when it is exactly that, history. He has won a lot with Arsenal, and has also had one hand on the Champions League trophy in 2006. Despite all of this, it cannot be argued that he has not delivered the amount of silverware required for one of the biggest clubs in England.

I generally think consistency is the key to success, but there comes a time when your former glory can transform into anger from the fans, where Arsene Wenger was once adored by all, he is now resented by a slight majority of fans and it is conceivable this number could sky-rocket by the end of the season. In the immortal words of Harvey ‘Two-Face‘ Dent in ‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”.

Arsene Wenger is perilously close to becoming the villain for all Arsenal fans and another FA Cup with a fourth place might not be enough to see him get through the summer with the full support of Arsenal fans.

There is the question of who would replace him, there has been mention of Eddie Howe but Bournemouth’s form over the last couple of months has put pay to that. The resignation of Luis Enrique from Barcelona will put a bit of pressure on Arsene as well, not only because it is another candidate for his current job but there is speculation that Arsene could move the other way.

The main target appears to be Max Allegri from Juventus. Reports vary, with some stating this is simply a rumour and others advising he has pretty much already signed on the dotted line. Whether or not Allegri would be a success is a matter for another blog, but Arsenal fans will look to Antonio Conte, and Chelsea’s current dominance, and will have a great deal of excitement.

Ultimately, I think it will be Arsene Wenger himself that makes a decision as to whether he will be at Arsenal next season, although it is looking less and less likely.

FA Cup Glory? No thanks, I’d rather have a pie.

The Sun and controversy have never really been too far away from one another. That has struck once again, with Wayne Shaw (now ex-Sutton United) at the middle of a media frenzy regarding an 8/1 bet for him to eat a pie during the fifth round FA Cup game.

I think it is important to really start with the fact that Wayne Shaw has now resigned from his position at Sutton United, which is a great shame as he would have been a true part of FA Cup folklore, being a 45-year-old goalkeeper that is the antithesis of the modern-day professional footballer.

Upon seeing the original tweet from Sun Bets, my initial reaction was that of the club being underhanded and having set the stunt up for extra money and in an attempt to garner as much attention as possible! My view has slightly changed since the story initially broke and more information has come to light regarding the situation.

Wayne Shaw, I believe, did not feel he was doing anything wrong by partaking in this possible light-hearted action, but in the strict world of football that is not the case. It may have been naivety on Shaw’s part or maybe he was egged on by the club or their new part-time sponsor, to ensure that there would be a continued interest in the club.

It is extremely disheartening that a club would go to such levels to try to progress their stature within the game, when they had already done so well on the plastic pitch. You would also hope that a man partly living his dream, and lining up (albeit on the bench) against one of the biggest sides in Europe would not risk his position by helping a few mates gain an extra bob or two but you cannot rule it out. That would lead me to be most suspicious of The Sun or Sun Bets more specifically, as this was most likely a PR stunt orchestrated by them.

All of this has taken a much more serious turn, at Shaw’s expense, as he now finds himself without a club. At the age of 45, he will not find himself another club but he will find himself a huge amount of support from the various Social Media websites. The Sun have a HUGE amount of responsibility for this, as the market they offered was frankly disgraceful. The market was offered purely on the basis that Wayne Shaw is an average bloke with a bit of excess weight, on that front, they deserve all of the extra negativity this will bring! The Sun needs to take a lot of steps now to help Wayne Shaw to move forward, whether they will or not, is a different matter.

Nevertheless, ‘Piegate‘ will rumble on for a few more weeks and really does highlight a potential issue in the novelty betting market. Gary Lineker has posted a tweet saying that we would all be on the gravy train if we were in a position of being subject to an 8/1 betting market.

img_6731

Great pun aside, I genuinely think this is an inappropriate tweet to send out, Gary also nonchalantly goes on to dismiss that this situation is comparable to arranging cards & throw-ins, which is possibly fair but it isn’t a huge jump to make.

Of course, the above has detracted from the magnificent story of Sutton United, the Vanarama National League and could somewhat impact the achievements of Lincoln City. The differences between each respective story should not be so vast, as prior to this weekend the players have achieved the same feat, however the people behind the scenes have now highlighted the huge differences in the professionalism at each club.

Luckily for the Vanarama National League, Lincoln City are flying the flag for non-league sides and will do so against the same side that knocked Sutton United out last night.

Whichever side you take, whether it is the fault of The Sun, Sutton United or Wayne Shaw himself, it really serves to show the FA needs to work extremely hard to explain the issues this scenario can create and to educate anybody that may be subject to this sort of “opportunity” in future.

FA Cup Glory? No thanks, I’d rather have a pie.

The Sun and controversy have never really been too far away from one another. That has struck once again, with Wayne Shaw (now ex-Sutton United) at the middle of a media frenzy regarding an 8/1 bet for him to eat a pie during the fifth round FA Cup game.

I think it is important to really start with the fact that Wayne Shaw has now resigned from his position at Sutton United, which is a great shame as he would have been a true part of FA Cup folklore, being a 45-year-old goalkeeper that is the antithesis of the modern-day professional footballer.

Upon seeing the original tweet from Sun Bets, my initial reaction was that of the club being underhanded and having set the stunt up for extra money and in an attempt to garner as much attention as possible! My view has slightly changed since the story initially broke and more information has come to light regarding the situation.

Wayne Shaw, I believe, did not feel he was doing anything wrong by partaking in this possible light-hearted action, but in the strict world of football that is not the case. It may have been naivety on Shaw’s part or maybe he was egged on by the club or their new part-time sponsor, to ensure that there would be a continued interest in the club.

It is extremely disheartening that a club would go to such levels to try to progress their stature within the game, when they had already done so well on the plastic pitch. You would also hope that a man partly living his dream, and lining up (albeit on the bench) against one of the biggest sides in Europe would not risk his position by helping a few mates gain an extra bob or two but you cannot rule it out. That would lead me to be most suspicious of The Sun or Sun Bets more specifically, as this was most likely a PR stunt orchestrated by them.

All of this has taken a much more serious turn, at Shaw’s expense, as he now finds himself without a club. At the age of 45, he will not find himself another club but he will find himself a huge amount of support from the various Social Media websites. The Sun have a HUGE amount of responsibility for this, as the market they offered was frankly disgraceful. The market was offered purely on the basis that Wayne Shaw is an average bloke with a bit of excess weight, on that front, they deserve all of the extra negativity this will bring! The Sun needs to take a lot of steps now to help Wayne Shaw to move forward, whether they will or not, is a different matter.

Nevertheless, ‘Piegate‘ will rumble on for a few more weeks and really does highlight a potential issue in the novelty betting market. Gary Lineker has posted a tweet saying that we would all be on the gravy train if we were in a position of being subject to an 8/1 betting market.

img_6731

Great pun aside, I genuinely think this is an inappropriate tweet to send out, Gary also nonchalantly goes on to dismiss that this situation is comparable to arranging cards & throw-ins, which is possibly fair but it isn’t a huge jump to make.

Of course, the above has detracted from the magnificent story of Sutton United, the Vanarama National League and could somewhat impact the achievements of Lincoln City. The differences between each respective story should not be so vast, as prior to this weekend the players have achieved the same feat, however the people behind the scenes have now highlighted the huge differences in the professionalism at each club.

Luckily for the Vanarama National League, Lincoln City are flying the flag for non-league sides and will do so against the same side that knocked Sutton United out last night.

Whichever side you take, whether it is the fault of The Sun, Sutton United or Wayne Shaw himself, it really serves to show the FA needs to work extremely hard to explain the issues this scenario can create and to educate anybody that may be subject to this sort of “opportunity” in future.