How long can Tottenham hold onto Christian Eriksen?

Tottenham were once again thanking the efforts of playmaker Christian Eriksen, with the Londoners scoring late against Sheffield United in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg. The game looked set to be going into extra time, but a quick counter attack saw the Dane put through on goal, and he made no mistake with his finish in the dying minutes of normal time.

The 22-year-old scored twice in a 2-2 draw against the Blades that saw Tottenham into the Capital One Cup final with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline over two legs. His first goal was a curling free kick that deceived the United goalkeeper with reverse swerve, and his brace came following a swift break through the middle, before the Dane finished low via the post after being put through on goal.

It’s been a common occurrence this season with Eriksen striking late in so many games already, and his incredible fitness levels are certainly a factor. The former Ajax man has been covering more ground than his teammates in games, and such incredible stamina means he’s always a threat when the opposition defence are tiring.

But with Eriksen making the headlines nearly every week, how long can Tottenham hold on to him for? Spurs face a difficult task of finishing in the Champions League, with Arsenal, Southampton and Liverpool for competition, which could well see the 22-year-old seek pastures anew as he’s sure to be inundated with interest in the summer.

Tottenham’s lack of progress in the Premier League in the last few seasons has meant their star performers continue to be sold to other sides offering them European football and the chance of trophy success. Midfielder Luka Modric joined Real Madrid in the summer of 2012, forward Gareth Bale joined the Spanish outfit in the summer of 2013, and Christian Eriksen could well be next.

He’s been outstanding this season for the Lilywhites, scoring and assisting 11 goals in 24 games in all competitions, while creating 53 chances. Eriksen hasn’t missed a game in the league so far either, with manager Mauricio Pochettino having been somewhat reliant on his individual brilliance.

So how long will he remain at White Hart Lane? Reports are linking the playmaker to Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, Manchester City, and Liverpool, but Spurs won’t do any business in January. They know they need to secure a top-four finish to stand a chance at keeping him for another season, but how long can they realistically hold onto him for?

Sturridge return can’t come soon enough for Liverpool

Liverpool recently crashed out of the Capital One Cup, with the Merseyside club losing to Chelsea over two legs in the semi-finals. Brendan Rodgers’ side were guilty of missing many good opportunities to stun the hosts, but failed to make the chances count.

In both legs, Chelsea barely tested goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, but they found the back of the net when it mattered most, and Liverpool are certainly missing a natural goalscorer of their own who is the difference in tight affairs.

In the second leg, the Reds boss had Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert to bring on in pursuit of a goal, which did little to change the outcome. But they will have striker Daniel Sturridge returning to the side, potentially making the bench for their weekend clash against West Ham United.

“He’ll hopefully be ready by the weekend. If he is on the bench it means he can contribute. He trained very, very well. It was as comfortable as he’s looked. All we can do is make sure he is in the best possible condition that he can be, both physically and mentally, and that will give him a chance to stay fit,” said Rodgers.

Sturridge has been out of action since the end of August. He’s scored one goal in three league games this season, which is still more than Mario Balotelli. His first 18 months with the club proved his worth, with the England international’s prolific form in front of goal exactly what Liverpool are currently missing.

10 goals in his first 14 league games following his arrival from Chelsea was a taste of things to come, with the 25-year-old netting 21 goals in 29 league games in his first full season with the Reds. This campaign has seen the Merseyside club struggle for goals with Sturridge and Luis Suarez (now of Barcelona) not being available, but the former’s return could be pivotal to their chances of success.

Form has been much improved of the club of late, but they are struggling to put away the chances that are coming their way. Sturridge needed a half-chance to get himself on the scoresheet, and that’s exactly the player Rodgers has been in need of this campaign.

His return can’t come soon enough for Liverpool, with Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini not coming close to filling the void that had been left after he picked up his lengthy injury.

Newcastle Players: Interesting Facts

As one of the most well-regarded and celebrated teams in British football, Newcastle United’s exploits on the pitch are well known, the team having been a firm fixture in national leagues throughout the team’s 121-year history. Though we’re all aware of the side’s actions over at St James’, the exploits of players off the pitch are far less well known. We decided to do a little digging to find out what strange, interesting and exciting discoveries lurk beneath the black and white veneer.

St. James Park

Moussa Sissoko: French international player Moussa Sissoko made fans angry when he gained two yellow cards during the game against West Ham. Thanks to a errant ball kick and a vicious challenge against Andy Carroll, the well-rounded midfielder received two yellow cards and was sent off. The troubles didn’t stop there for Sissoko though; after the match Pardew was quoted as saying he was in discussions with the player regarding the need for him to give a substantial sum to charity as an apology to fans!

Various Players’ Habits on the Road: Playing for a team as large and famous as Newcastle FC entitles one to quite a large paycheck, and as such football players have become known for glitzy mansions, flash suits and cars that are rarely seen on the roads. That’s all fine, of course, but it recently emerged that players were doing a little more than spending their earnings. An anonymous ex-player recently revealed how, when in the team’s touring bus on drives to away games, he and the team used to enjoy gambling. However this wasn’t a few games being played online at, and indeed perhaps JackpotCity’s commitment to responsible gambling would have come very much in handy if the boys had been gambling over the net. Instead, players were regularly stopping off at banks, withdrawing £30,000 and betting and playing casino games on the tour bus itself! This was over ten years ago, so let’s hope these kinds of shenanigans don’t occur as frequently nowadays!

Laura Wareham: Goalkeeper for the Newcastle United Ladies team, Laura Wareham has been quite the force on the city’s female team, and by the sounds of a recent story, a real slugger at that! The player recently collided with a defender, hurting her neck, but decided to play on (until the agonising pain forced her off the pitch). Later, it so transpired that the player had broken her neck, defending her goal despite the injury! If that’s not determination and drive, we don’t know what is!

Is Louis Van Gaal ripping the heart from Manchester United?

With Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal being rumoured to be selling long-serving midfielder Darren Fletcher this month, is the Dutch boss ripping the heart and soul from Manchester United?

“It could be that Darren Fletcher might have played his last game for the first team of Manchester United. I’m led to believe that he wants to play first team football. That’s why he wants to leave Manchester United and he wants to carry on playing at the highest level in the Premier League,” said close source James Cooper.

Should Fletcher leave, the Scotland international will end a 20-year association with the club that has seen him win every major trophy under former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, while making more than 340 appearances. Such long-serving departures have been commonplace with Van Gaal’s reign at United, however.

Danny Welbeck was surprisingly sold to Arsenal, Patrice Evra joined Juventus, Tom Cleverley was loaned out to Aston Villa, and Rio Ferdinand was released to Queens Park Rangers. Players that have been part of great success in the club, but now disbanded.

Van Gaal has struggled upon his arrival at Old Trafford, with Manchester United having only amassed the same amount of points as they did under predecessor David Moyes last season, and the club’s missing identity has been a particular critique from football pundits.

Under former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, the squad would always be full of academy talent, and long-serving individuals engrained in his attacking philosophy, but Van Gaal has replaced a lot of players with foreign additions that has seen the side inconsistent in the league so far.

Manchester United do look on course for a top-four finish, but purely down to the failings of sides around them. After 22 games last season, the top-four were all pulling away on tallies of 43 points and above from fourth upwards.

Losing Darren Fletcher will be a big blow, as many feel his career would have ended with the Red Devils under a different manager, with how keen Ferguson and Moyes were to keep the more experienced players in and around the squad during their respective spells in charge.

This summer, Van Gaal brought in six new players, that also saw 10 first-team players exit the club. Such a massive overhaul can have an adverse effect on the players still getting to grips with the change in style, culture, and football. Experienced stars are useful for bedding stars into the club, but such identity is being lost with United following Van Gaal’s movements in the market.

The Lancashire club would prove themselves on their youth policy, and creating a family in the squad, but is the 63-year-old ripping out the heart and soul of Manchester United?

Coquelin’s rise in the Arsenal side vindicates Arsene Wenger’s youth philosophy

Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin has shone upon his introduction to the first-team this season, and it’s come as a great surprise for the supporters, while also vindicating manager Arsene Wenger’s philosophy as a coach.

With a growing treatment table of midfielders, as well as Mathieu Flamini & Mikel Arteta being out of contract in the summer, many felt the Londoners were going to shop for a commanding player to help nullify the threat of the opposition in the shape of Sami Khedira (Real Madrid) or Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), but instead the answer to their problem was right under their nose.

Francis Coquelin, 23, was on loan with Championship side Charlton Athletic this season, but was recalled by Wenger to come into the side during the injury crisis. He’s since made seven Premier League appearances, averaging a tackle or interception every 11 minutes.

Talks about a new contract are said to be in the offing following the Frenchman’s rise in the first-team, and his manager has been full of praise, saying: “I saw that he made huge improvements in training, and since I have played him, he is doing well. He is a very young player. You look just at what happens on the pitch. Win the ball and make a good pass, in his position that is important. We have offered him a new deal.”

The Arsenal boss also said Coquelin would likely be the answer to the club’s alleged need for a holding midfielder, and Wenger’s ethos has to be praised as a result. Signing a Khedira or Matuidi standard of player would set the club back more than £20M in today’s market, so having Coquelin – who has been at Arsenal since he was 17 – is a perfect option for them.

Wenger has been criticised for his faith in the youngsters, but he’s currently been vindicated for trusting his signings, rather than needing to spend high amounts on European talent. There was a question if Coquelin would be ready to be thrown straight in the deep end, given he was playing for Charlton earlier this campaign, but if your philosophy revolves around youth players, eventually the time has to come to give them a chance – something Wenger will always do.

The French midfielder could now become a mainstay as Arteta & Flamini’s successor, which has effectively cost Arsenal next to nothing.

Europa League stars who could add vital points for your Fantasy League team

As the Europa League enters the knock-out stages next month, it remains to be seen who will emerge from the pack to go all the way and win the prestigious tournament. The inclusion of teams who finished third in their Champions League group has added extra spice and quality to an already star-studded line-up that could produce high quality football matches. From Tottenham Hotspur playing Fiorentina to Wolfsburg facing Sporting Lisbon, there are already some mouth-watering ties to look forward to, with the two-legged system introducing away goals which could be so crucial in the later rounds. Although Roma may be considered obvious favourites for the Europa League success due to the wealth of world class talent manager Rudi Garcia has at his disposal, tournament football often has a nasty habit of producing the unpredictable which gives the remaining 31 teams more than a chance to lift the trophy at the Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw, Poland.

Morgan De Sanctis: Roma may be left licking their wounds after an agonising exit from the Champions League in which they had control of their own destiny, but let their hold on second place slip to allow Manchester City to go above them on the final game of the group stages. They continue to enjoy another excellent season in Serie A, with Garcia’s side in close pursuit of Juventus in second place, but the Europa League will provide a wonderful opportunity for Roma to win silverware. While the likes of Radja Nainggolan, Kostas Manolas and Adem Ljajic have been superb, goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis is head and shoulders above his team-mates in fantasy league points. 10 clean sheets in 16 Serie A appearances may owe an element of credit to a strong defensive unit, but De Sanctis has stood up strong when called upon to save his team and, despite his advancing years, has shown he has a few more years left in the tank. He will need to be on his guard against Feyenoord who have the quality to cause problems, although Roma are strongly fancied to get past their Eredivise counterparts and progress to the last 16.

Harry Kane: Wonderful performances in the Europa League group stages have seen Harry Kane emerge as one of the best young strikers in Europe. The 21-year-old is undoubtedly enjoying the best form of his career, with his purple patch in front of goal extending to the Premier League where he has scored 6 goals in as many games for Tottenham. He represents excellent value for money for any fantasy league manager at just 2.5 million, and although Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli have scored more points this season, Kane is showing the sort of clinical finishing that may be integral towards Tottenham’s push for fourth place in the Premier League. More importantly, Kane and his team-mates will have to at their very best to get past Serie A Fiorentina in what promises to be an intriguing tie between two of the strongest teams remaining in the Europa League.

Ricardo Rodriguez: Although Xherdan Shaqiri took many of the plaudits for Switzerland at the 2014 World Cup, Ricardo Rodriguez also made a big impression as one of the best young left-backs in Europe. The 21-year-old Wolfsburg star has become an integral part of Dieter Hecking’s plans for the Bundesliga side, with his side performing wonderfully in the league and in the Europa League. Rodriguez has not only shone superb defensive qualities over the last two years, but has also shown a wonderful ability to get forward and contribute in the goals department; a brace in the 3-0 victory against Lille in the final group game took his Europa League tally to 3, while he has the same number of goals to his name in 12 Bundesliga appearances. It is unsurprising that Rodriguez is top of the fantasy league points for Wolfsburg, and at 5 million represents superb value for money.


Tricky fixtures see Roberto Martinez on the brink at Everton

Considering the praise Everton manager Roberto Martinez received around six months ago for leading the Toffees to their best points tally in the Premier League, it seems strange to think he’s potentially just a handful of games away from being sacked, but that’s the Spaniard’s reality at present.

Everton haven’t come close to replicating the highs of 2013/14, and are currently languishing in the bottom-half, enduring a six-game winless run on the division. It doesn’t get any easier for the Merseyside outfit, with a ruin of tricky games to come.

A resurgent Crystal Palace side at Selhurst Park will be a test, but clashes against Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal in the coming weeks won’t help matters. Form shown by Everton this season doesn’t give supporters much hope that they will pick up many points during that tricky period, which could see Martinez walking the tightrope.

No manager is unsackable, and drastic measures will certainly be taken if a club’s long-term future is at stake. Everton have enjoyed strong top-half finishes largely for the last decade in the Premier League, but are currently closer to the relegation zone than 10th place.

The season is well past the mid-point now, and Everton can’t hit last season’s points tally even if they won all their remaining league games. Everything in going against the manager at present, and there is only a slim hope in the Europa League that could turn things around in his favour.

Everton are being ruled out of a top-six finish in the Premier League already, while out of both domestic cups too, but their European dream remains the only solace from a disappointing campaign under Martinez. And he’s the man who shoulders the blame. Everton chairman Bill Kenwright won’t want to let the Spaniard go on a knee-jerk reaction. Any decision made won’t be on one result alone, but on the club’s future past this season.

Relegation is still a possibility, given the Blues are only four points above the drop zone at present. So their position in the table, and Premier League status are both under threat, they have a difficult run of games to come that could see problems ensue in the weeks ahead.

Do Newcastle fans regret Pardew exit?

With Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley admitting that a new appointment may not come until the summer – therefore leaving Newcastle in limbo for the rest of the season – are supporters regretting Alan Pardew’s recent departure as manager?

“Clearly my preference is to try to find someone to bring in now. However, if I have to wait until the summer for what I believe is the right individual, then I would rather wait. We’ve had about 80 applications. I hope by the end of this week I will have a better indication whether a decision can be made now or until the summer,” said Charnley.

Earlier into the new season, former Newcastle manager Alan Pardew found himself under intense pressure from his own supporters, who were demanding his sacking at the club. But he turned things around, and the boo-brigade appeared to have been silenced by an upturn in Premier League form.

However, the Crystal Palace position became vacant following Neil Warnock‘s sacking, and Pardew opted to return to his former club as a player to help keep the London side in the top flight, ending his four-year association with the Magpies in the process.

Since his exit at the end of December, Newcastle are winless in their last three Premier League games, while being eliminated from the FA Cup by bottom-of-the-table Leicester City. As for Crystal Palace, the Eagles have won back-to-back league outings and an FA Cup win since Pardew’s arrival, with only four points separating the two sides in the league too.

Newcastle are slowly sliding down the table, and they are keeping the supporters, players and staff completely in the dark about any managerial appointment. John Carver is the caretaker at present, but if a new face comes in, it will mean a new style of play has to be heard and adhered to, which can often see a transition period.

For so many years Newcastle supporters were begging owner Mike Ashley to alleviate Alan Pardew of his previous position at the club, and now they are falling apart after getting their wish. The 53-year-old left the club in 9th place, but they have since dropped two places already since his exit.

There’s plenty of the campaign still to go, but the exit of their former long-serving boss is having an adverse affect to form in all competitions.

Morgan Schneiderlin, Saints or Spurs?

Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin looked to be on his way out of St Mary’s this season after handing in a transfer request following links with Tottenham, but the French international was convinced to stay and has now played his part with the South Coast outfit enjoying a top-four place in the Premier League past the mid-point of the season.

Schneiderlin’s Southampton side are currently three places and five points ahead of Tottenham in the league, but the 25-year-old could well have an important decision to make regarding his future. Spurs are expected to make one last-ditch attempt to sign the outstanding midfielder this month, but the Frenchman will need to decide which club would be a better career choice.

“Something special is going on. We want to put Southampton in the spotlight. We want to reach the Champions League. That will be a shock for the country and the world. We want to change this tradition of it being all the big teams. To make it happen we need to be focused in every game,” said Schneiderlin.

Saints are currently overachieving in the Premier League, but they boast a strong squad, talented manager, and a playing style that has seen them earn shock wins against Arsenal and Manchester United. Tottenham may be below them in the table, but their past history suggests they are a regular top-six side consistently featuring in the Europa League.

There’s no guarantee Southampton’s squad won’t endure another summer collapse, while manager Ronald Koeman finds himself linked with the likes of Barcelona. But Saints have their destiny in their own hands, so there are certainly pros and cons to being at either club. Tottenham can afford more in the way of wages, but Southampton are in the driving seat this season.

Saints were on course for the top-four last season until the mid-point of the season, before a collapse saw them eventually finish 8th in the league table. Schneiderlin will be certainly fearful of a repeat, while having noted that Tottenham have finished 6th or better in the last five seasons. It’s a difficult decision to make if the Londoners make their interest official in the coming days, but the lure of playing for a club with a higher reputation, bigger pull in the transfer market, lucrative funds, while boasting consistently high league finishes could be a factor in Schneiderlin’s potential choice.

Wenger displays new-found tactics

Arsenal earned an impressive 2-0 away to Manchester City this weekend, which saw the Gunners having just 35% possession. Arsene Wenger’s men had a gameplan from the start to nullify the threat of City’s creative players, and it was very successful with David Silva and Sergio Aguero enduring quiet afternoons.

It’s not often that the Londoners allow so much possession to any opposition, with Arsenal normally synonymous with playing a high defensive line – and their players pressing in the opponent’s half – but this time the backline sat deep, and the midfield followed.

Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina was hardly called into action during the 90 minutes, and the centre-backs were barely breaking a sweat due to how organised the Gunners were. Manager Arsene Wenger was full of praise for his side’s discipline, and believed they controlled the game to keep City at bay.

“Our defence has been questioned a lot (this season). The target was to put it right, and to win a big game away in the league. (We showed) great unity, solidarity, togetherness and compactness in our team. We had the consistent discipline for 90 minutes that’s needed in big games, and we looked in control away from home. Finally (we‘ve) got a big win in a big game away from home,” he said.

The most pertinent question Wenger was asked in his post-match interview was why it had taken him so long to adopt this obvious tactic in the big games. The 65-year-old was cautious with his answer, insisting he’s played defensive in the past, but this really was a new-look to Arsenal that hadn’t been seen in years.

Arsenal have been on the end of thrashings in recent years against the elite clubs in the Premier League, with Wenger naming offensive-minded teams to try and match their opponents. It simply hasn’t worked time and again, but their new approach did the job perfectly.

Parking the bus and staying in the game means any half chance that went their way could be pivotal, and they were awarded a first-half penalty that Santi Cazorla scored from to give the Gunners the lead.

The last time Arsenal won in the league at the Etihad Stadium was 2010, and now many will be paying attention to see how often Wenger looks to play defensive again. Supporters had been crying out for the Londoners’ boss to finally adopt a ‘park the bus’ method, as humiliating losses had become too hard to take.