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!

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New Manager, Same England?

It seems a long time ago that Sam Allardyce made his bow as England manager and now the players have returned to their club teams and will be getting ready for this weeks action. England made the difficult away trip to Slovakia, a team they had drawn 0-0 with in the recent European Championships which was obviously quite shocking seeing as we played free-flowing and attacking football, dominating teams and absolutely battering them (or not).

What could we expect from Big Sam’s new England side – from his club history, it would have been organisation, a solid defensive base, playing to achieve results and this was summed up in his pre-match comments where he confirmed a draw would be a good result in the groups toughest game.

big-sam

By now, we all know the result, a 1-0 victory courtesy of a stoppage time goal from Adam Lallana. In the end, 3 points, a winning start and plenty of positives on that front. However, the pre-match comments, alongside the static and dull performance does not do a lot to fill the England fans with a lot of confidence. I mean, if I had travelled to Slovakia and heard that a draw would have been fine to the team, then I would have been most annoyed.

To say it wasn’t an enthralling encounter could be one of the understatements of the year – England did not have a shot on target whilst Slovakia had 11 men on the pitch, which is worrying. It shows we have continued our struggles to break defensive teams down and this is not a trait Big Sam brings with him from his previous clubs. As mentioned above, it took until the fifth minute of stoppage time for the break through to come along. This winning goal was met with relief, sheer relief that we had finally managed to make the break through and I would liken our performance to that of Liverpool against Burnley at Turf Moor – dictated play, had a number of shots and a massive amount of possession but lacked a cutting edge. I feel we need to use the pacy wide players we have to better effect, stretch the game to the flanks and drive the ball in across the box – it could be worth gambling on a developing Rashford (especially with his debut hat-trick for the under 21s) or bringing back a fox in the box like Jermain Defoe, just to have that great movement in the 6 yard box which is a nightmare for central defenders (like Rashford’s goal against Hull a couple of weeks ago).

I feel the Big Sam appointment could potentially mirror David Moyes at Manchester United in some ways, obviously, he isn’t taking over the most successful manager England has ever had – but he is coming from a smaller background in terms of his previous jobs and this can bring a defensive mentality. It could breed a culture of play not to lose rather than play to beat the opposition, which is the manner England should be playing. England should be looking to beat any team we come against, there are a few nations we could not be classed as better than but as a top international side, we need to play with an attacking swagger that will beat teams, create an aura where teams do not look forward to playing us  and cannot simply put 10 men behind the ball knowing this will work and keep us quiet.

It’s obviously impossible to judge how England will progress under Big Sam, and with the most difficult group game out of the way we can try to look forward with nothing but optimism because Big Sam has never really failed at a club and could be the one to strengthen England in tournament football – because it looks as though we are going to qualify with ease if the first result is to go by.

Keep your eyes out because there will be another blog post tomorrow night looking ahead to the weekends action!

An exciting new debut

Big Sam’s England debut is on the horizon!

It’s the morning after the night before and the small amount of dust created by Big Sam’s first England squad is settling. In my last article, I said it would be a case of tried and tested for Big Sam following his confirmation that Joe Hart would 100% be selected and this has proved to be the case.

Firstly, I am quite a big fan of Joe Hart as a person and think he has a lot of passion, desire and ability, all of which we have seen for both England and Manchester City for a number of years. I’m sure Joe Hart will not be fussed about the critics and writers’ ever depleting opinion of him since the absolute stinking Euro 2016 campaign; however, following the arrival of Pep Guardiola, the emergence of Willy Cabbalero and arrival of Claudio Bravo, the Manchester City fans seem to be right behind Joe Hart with masses of support being shown in the recent Champions League qualifier against Steaua Bucuresti.

I’ve already had debates about his inclusion with some friends and I definitively fall into the camp that thinks Hart should be in the squad. For me we have four ‘keepers that should be in consideration for the England squad; Butland, Forster, Hart & Heaton. I know there are others such as Foster & Pickford but I don’t think they have the ability or consistency at this stage of their career to be included in the England squad. As Butland is yet to play this season due to injury, the ‘keepers picked themselves for me. Despite that, people are still desperate for Hart to be dropped – why? I can’t understand the thought process in dropping him for maybe Foster or Pickford, as this will leave the ‘keeper section with minimal international experience.

Turning to the defenders and there are no big surprises, the pre-announcement talk of John Terry being recalled have come to nothing and this has resulted in Chris Smalling being called up despite only playing a handful of minutes for Manchester United this season and the ever ageing Phil Jagielka makes his England return, which is slightly uninspiring. I think it goes to highlight the lack of strength in depth we currently have at centre half.

The big section of the squad for me is midfield. We see Michail Antonio (pictured below) called up and in line to make his international debut, which I think is great as he is a pacy direct player and will give England genuine width. Danny Drinkwater makes a return after his strongest performance of the season against Swansea.

Michail-AntonioAntonio lines up for debut

However, for me they are not the talking point of the midfield selection. The continued and persistent selection of Jordan Henderson is unbelievable, having seen him play live this season against Burnley, I can categorically say he brings nothing other than hard work. Obviously, professional managers see something in him the majority of fans do not. It’s also interesting to see that Rooney has been registered as a midfielder, which is somewhat of a surprise seeing as Mourinho has pushed him forward again this season. A resurgent Raheem Sterling is included in the squad alongside Theo Walcott – I think these two selections along with Antonio’s inclusion give us some insight into Allardyce’s thought process for how England should play.

There are three strikers that have been announced; Kane, Sturridge and Vardy. All now have some international experience and a lot of Premier League goals between them. I do have to question the inclusion of Sturridge as he has done little to nothing this season and looked lost when Liverpool lost 2-0 away at Burnley. I like Sturridge, I think he can score a lot of goals when he is fit but I would have been tempted to look elsewhere for the 23rd player in this squad.

All in all, I feel underwhelmed by the squad Big Sam has announced. I feel it is a slightly missed opportunity and I am surprised not to see Mark Noble included in the first squad. However there is potential, I like the idea of bringing players in slowly but want to see Henderson jettisoned as quickly as possible and personally, I cannot wait until Andy Carroll is back fit as I think he will play a vital role in the England side if he can secure a starting spot at West Ham, likewise for Aaron Cresswell at left back.