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!

League One clubs sticking up for fans!

Football today is ruled by one thing, money. The top flight clubs seem to have it in abundance, yet some of them make the fans pay through the nose to support their club.

The fan is the little man, the smallest, yet most vital cog in the football machine. Without fans, the game would not exist, well not in its current form anyway. Bar a few clubs, ticket prices have generally sky rocketed over the past few seasons and have often been the causal factor in large numbers of debates and protests. I mean, who can forget the 77th minute protest by Liverpool fans at Anfield against Sunderland, which seemed like a brilliant idea at the time but was attributed as the main factor the Reds capitulated and dropped a 2 goal lead to draw the game.

All in all, fans are generally taken for granted, so it’s wonderful to see them being given something back for their long-standing commitment to the club they follow. Unfortunately, it is not one of the Premier League big boys forging the way in this matter, but two League One sides that have made football headlines in the last few days and all for the right reasons!

I’ve heard of a ‘kid for a quid‘ advertising before, where a child can get into the ground for a solitary pound if they are attending with a full paying adult. I must say, I have never heard of any fan being able to attend a game for £1. Until now. Up step Rochdale to hopefully change the way clubs think about generating interest and giving kids the opportunity to soak in some live football. It means that you could take the entire family, grab a pie and a drink for each person a
nd you’ll probably spend less than £25 based on a family of four. Phenomenal!

rochdale

The game in question is being played tonight and is against Port Vale, so if you’re in the local area get yourself down. I think this is such a big step forward and many clubs could learn from it. The additional interest and media discussion regarding Rochdale is helping the club become more recognisable, it should see a bumper crowd fill Spotland and hopefully will prove to be a long-term success.

The next League One side causing a stir for all the right reasons is Bradford City. The ex-Premier League club have been in and out of the limelight for some years, and not always for positive reasons. Being up north the cost of a season ticket, in theory, should be lower than down south, and this is purely based on average income of people in the relevant areas. However, Bradford City have not just set a reasonable price, they have effectively offered the opportunity to watch all of the home league games in the 2017/2018 season for around £6.50 per game, absolute madness!

bantams

It’s always important in remembering that taking stances like this allows many more people a way into football, to pay £149 for a season-ticket and therefore 23 league games, is brilliant. Almost any person will be able to afford such a ticket and this will therefore make the Bantams a much more accessible prospect, rather than face losing any support to either local rivals or any of the Premier League big boys.

Both of these schemes will hopefully boost attendances, and generate the next generation of staunch football fans. I’ve always been a firm believer that it is far better to have a higher attendance, as this gives the best chance to create a phenomenal atmosphere and think this should be done by keeping ticket prices as low as possible. Obviously, it is not possible for all teams to do this and for example, a League Two side would probably only see a negligible benefit by lowering the ticket price.

I am not naive enough to believe this sort of thing would be a long-term strategy but knowing these clubs are thinking of the fans and taking that into consideration gives you a little bit of hope, just when it seems to be dripping out of football.

There is very little else to say, other than ‘thank you‘ and ‘congratulations‘ to the Dale and Bantams boards respectively. Long may this continue and, hopefully, other clubs will take note of your example and begin to follow it.

league-one

It’s no nay never…

This is my first Burnley specific blog piece, I have written a couple of others regarding other bits of football but thought that I would start writing articles on the club I love the most!

I thought now would be a good time to start because we are two thirds of the way through the season and have performed remarkably in the Premier League, but we are now coming off an extremely embarrassing result.

Having been at the FA Cup game against Lincoln City, I am an extremely disappointed fan, our players have fed off the amazing Turf Moor atmosphere since Sean Dyche has been in charge. This has been most evident this season where ‘Sean Dyche’s Claret and Blue Army‘ have one of the best home records in the Premier League, however it was distinctly lacking during the recent FA Cup game.

The away fans were by far the louder and created an amazing atmosphere, and their team played magnificently and as James Tarkowski said in his post match interview, Lincoln City are currently playing far above their current league position. This shift from the usual atmosphere appeared to create doubt amongst the players, and to an extent bred a nervousness when it came to taking the chances we had.

I don’t want to waste too much time discussing the Joey Barton debacle, or the referee, as this has received the most discussion since the game from both sets of fans. I will say Barton was pathetic, but I do not believe his actions were as bad as made out. Matt Rhead (Lincoln’s best player during the game) put himself about a bit and played much like Ashley Barnes does for us against other Premier League teams. There was good old fashioned bite in the fixture and whilst this may have contributed to our downfall, it should not be the main focus point.

We were out battled during this game and further to our League Cup exit away at Accrington Stanley earlier in the season, it does make me question our players’ attitude against sides from the lower leagues (this may also play a part when we play away from home). Whilst we have made a conscious effort to have the minimum requirement as maximum effort, this is something that has failed to translate in the two cup games I have mentioned and in away league games at West Brom and Southampton, where we were comprehensively beaten.

Although the cup game was an embarrassment and we now form an unwanted part of history that could well stand for another 100 years or so, we need to take stock of the whole season.

The players and club have completely surpassed all expectations (well my personal ones anyway). We are currently 10 points above the relegation zone, with 13 games to go, and that is massively impressive. In addition to this, we have broken our transfer record on three separate occasions this season, really strengthening the squad as a whole. We are making massive steps forward as a club, and it is extremely important to remember that.

I have heard excuses that our Premier League games are much more important than the recent cup game (I assume as a poor justification for the loss), and to an extent this is the truth. Obtaining survival in the Premier League has to be our number one target and if we win three of our next four away games, the feat will all but be guaranteed, we will then be able to continue growing as a football club and move forward to start ensuring we become the next Stoke City or West Brom, and that we are a Premier League mainstay.

Whilst the cup game was a huge disappointment, and the idea that it would have been better to lose and play one or two less games is nonsensical, we are still moving forward as a club and doing so brilliantly!

Let’s do the same thing as we did with the Accrington Stanley result and put this behind us, dust ourselves off and kick on by winning our first away game of the season and securing Premier League survival!

Come on Sean Dyche’s Claret and Blue army. UP THE CLARETS.img_6635

Help, we’ve been Impvaded!

Well, as the dust settles following a quite frankly hectic day of FA Cup football that saw not only one massive upset but three. My earlier blog said that I thought Burnley would beat Lincoln, which in theory was a very logical statement.

I would like to start by saying congratulations to Lincoln City, having been a Burnley fan for some time, I have experienced big cup upsets (on the right side) in the League Cup where we got to the semi final and narrowly missed out on Wembley!

I mentioned the Cricket Field stand created one hell of an atmosphere, and today, it felt as though the entire stand was bouncing! The fans were fantastic, usually Turf Moor is one of the most hostile grounds an away team can face (hence the fantastic record this term), however the FA Cup does not have the same fans in the same places and meant the home support paled in comparison to the ‘Impvasion‘.

The goal we conceded was disappointing and very basic, it was a perfectly executed set piece though and entirely deserved! Burnley were outdone in every aspect today, the performance was full of lethargy, but today is not a day to discuss Burnley but a day to celebrate Lincoln City!

A game with little true quality, Muldoon’s touch shone through in the first half and although Burnley had one guilt edged chance in the second half, it wasn’t enough. Until the goal, the main talking point was a number of altercations between players. It would have been a shame if they were the MAIN issues being discussed after this historic occasion for Lincoln City.

This leads me to the pantomime villain for the day, step forward Joey Barton. I will set my stall out now and say that he has been one of the best Burnley players since he has been with us, he virtually carried our midfield to the Championship title last season. Today was the first time I had seen his well publicised idiocy on the football pitch. Joey Barton lowered the tone of the tie, but probably tried to get amongst it to try and spur Burnley players on to start performing.

Much has been made about the stamp and the dive of Barton, which is what it was, but there was a moment much earlier in the game than that where Rhead planted an elbow squarely into the side of his head. There was a lot of bite between the two for the entire game and it would be the wrong thing to focus on either way!

I am so glad that there was no controversial moment that lead to the result and it was an old fashioned goal that earned victory for the Imps. There is much to be lamented about the lacklustre performance from the Clarets, but so much more to be enjoyed in looking back at a thoroughly professional performance displayed by Lincoln City today!

Danny Cowley has compared Lincoln City to Burnley and I can see why, we won our league last year based on a 4-4-2 formation, which is what we were up against today. A solid base, with 4 attacking players (Hawkridge, Arnold, Rhead & Muldoon) giving the main threat and two players providing extra defensive protection. Lincoln played us at our own game and won! Fair play for that.

Fingers crossed this will help the Imps kick on even further and will not have a detrimental impact on Burnley’s season. Although, I really REALLY hope that Lincoln City get a home draw (or Manchester United away) in the next round so I don’t see any more posts about ticket allocation!

GOOD LUCK IMPS, GET YOURSELVES TO WEMBLEY!

Oh and for those that might have an interest, my daughter wants to go back and watch football (despite the result)!

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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!