More Premier League action coming up? Check out our match previews here!

Round seven of the English Premier League season takes place this weekend.

Here’s a look at all the upcoming fixtures this weekend.

Sheffield United v Liverpool

Key men: John Egan (Sheffield United); Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

Prediction: Sheffield United 0 – 2 Liverpool Continue reading

Predicted lineups for gameweek 3 of the Premier League

It’s time for gameweek 3 of the Premier League season.

Here’s a look at all the predicted lineups for the ten fixtures over the coming weekend.

Aston Villa v Everton

Aston Villa XI: Heaton, Elmohamady, Engels, Mings, Targett, Jota, McGinn, Luiz, Grealish, Trezeguet, Wesley

Everton XI: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne, Gbamin, Gomes, Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Kean

Questionable: Digne, Baines (Everton)

Out: Chester, Hause, Kodjia (Aston Villa); Delph (Everton) Continue reading

EPL Player of the Week – Gerard Deulofeu (Watford)

deulofeuThe date was October 18, 1986 and Watford – managed by legendary boss Graham Taylor – beat visiting Aston Villa 4-2 at Vicarage Road. Little did anyone know at the time, but that match would go on to live long in the history of Watford Football Club. For in that game, Hornets striker Mark Falco netted a hattrick. He also scored against Villa the following year, before an unbelievably barren run saw Watford fail to even score against Villa again until late 2015 when they would win 3-2 at Villa Park – some 28 years later. The match in question however, until very recently indeed, held another record – it was the last time a Watford player had scored a hattrick in the top flight.

Continue reading

Should Premier League clubs take a punt on John Terry?

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Once Aston Villa’s play off dreams were left in tatters by Fulham, you knew it wouldn’t be long before the clearout began.

Sure enough, just a few days later, the Villains announced, through their social media channels, that captain John Terry was leaving.

Unable to continue to pay his not insignificant wages, regrettably the Midlanders were left with little choice.

The swiftness with which the announcement has come, however, should help both player and club and for that, Villa should be applauded.

He leaves behind a gaping hole and Steve Bruce is unlikely to be able to fill it with someone of Terry’s calibre.

For all of his off-field shenanigans, Terry remains the consummate professional on the pitch.

A true warrior, he commands respect with ease and continues to lead by example.

Despite his advancing years – he’ll be 38 halfway through the 2018/19 campaign – there still seems to be enough in his natural game to suggest that a handful of Premier League clubs offering him a one-year deal wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility.

He’s lost a yard of pace, and that’s to be expected, but his positional sense and reading of the game are still top class.

Still as fit as a fiddle, some of his old school training workouts at Villa – up and down each set of stairs in the lower Holte End – would put some of the youngsters to shame.

The lack of take up from Premier League clubs for his services this time last year would indicate that the buyers market is a small one, but there’s arguably a few clubs that would benefit from his experience.

Coming home to west London could be an option, with Fulham, the club who denied him a top flight return at the first time of asking, one who could afford his salary.

Neil Warnock at Cardiff is precisely the type of manager who would love to have Terry at the heart of his backline, but whether owner Vincent Tan is willing to put his hand in his pocket isn’t known at this juncture.

If he keeps himself fit over the next couple of months and into pre-season, there’s no reason that he can’t earn himself a contract.

And being back in the English top flight would be the most appropriate way for him to bring the curtain down on what’s been a fabulous, if controversial, career.

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John Terry Will Be a Championship Player Next Season

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With the passage of time, new eras arrive while others meet their end. Sir Alex Ferguson lowered the curtain on an era completely of his own in 2013 when he retired from managing Man United – a position he had held for some 27 years.

On the other hand, Arsene Wenger’s era as manager of Arsenal is to continue for a little while longer, much to the chagrin of some sections of supporters and the delight of others. Continue reading

Don’t worry Aston Villa, Tony Xia has arrived

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Aston Villa may still be licking their wounds after being relegated to the Championship but on Wednesday they did at least have something to cheer about with the announcement of a new chairman.

Meet Tony Xia a 39 year old Chinese millionaire who is walking the walk and talking the talk. Xia was quick to his marks commentating that he is ready to invest £50m into the squad and will weed out the talented but lazy players. He also assured fans to “forget the past and think we are going to enter into a new age.” Xia also backed the plan to use youngsters from the club’s Academy.

But Xia’s most striking remark was his ambition for the club where he insisted that within five years Villa could be challenging for a regular top six place. Xia didn’t stop there though and added that in the next ten years Villa should be aiming high amongst Europe’s elite.

Xia in one afternoon injected more positivity than Villa could in 9 months, though he was cautious and said that the main priority was getting out of the Championship. As for outgoing chairman Randy Lerner his ten year reign at the club was in short much ado about nothing. He did oversee three seasons where the club made the top 6, but Villa finished in the bottom five on five occasions under his chairmanship. Just two years ago Lerner put a price on the Midlands club at £200m but if reports are right Xia has landed himself a bargain with a £60m purchase.

But what do we know about the businessman? Well he is the owner of Recon Group and employs tens of thousands of workers in different countries. He is according to him an Aston Villa fan, might be good friends with the Chinese President and loves football. In fact he used to play non professionally as a striker.

He has already spoken to many candidates for the manger’s job according to his words and bookies believe that ex Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo who led the club to the 2012 Champions League title is the firm favourite. Also in the running is Nigel Pearson, Steve Bruce and David Moyes. Though reports say that the talks with Di Matteo are at an advanced stage.

The future then looks bright for The Villans who will want and need all the advantages they can get to get out of the notoriously difficult Championship and back where the club feel they belong in the Premier League.

 

 

 

Premier League clubs in danger of following Aston Villa’s example

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This Premier League season has given the middle ranking teams in the division hope for the future – hope that they could ‘do a Leicester City’ and launch a surprise title challenge. But the plight of Aston Villa should be a warning to those same sides, and some of the ones above as well.

It’s not that long ago that Villa were among a clutch of clubs in contention for a Champions League place. That they will start next season in the Championship instead is a legacy of years of mismanagement – of selling the team’s most important players and not re-investing that money in the squad, of spending money poorly when it was spent, and of regrettable managerial appointments that were more intended to manage the team’s decline, not taking it to the next level.

Villa, from European football under Martin O’Neill, now belong to the likes of Swindon Town, Sunderland and Derby County as the worst teams, on a points basis, to feature in the Premier League. A confused management structure, an uninterested owner, an unbalanced squad and the wrong man in the dugout have all culminated in an inevitable – but not unavoidable – drop to the second tier.

The fate of the Midlands club was sealed long before relegation was confirmed. The writing was on the wall for some time, and for some clubs, the beginning of the same process can be seen. Action needs to be taken now to avoid following the same path, with Stoke City, Swansea City and Crystal Palace all offering warning signs, though it’s Everton who should be most concerned.

Everton and Villa engaged in some epic encounters when David Moyes and O’Neill sat on the respective benches. They’re now separated by some 25 points, Villa rock bottom of the table and the Toffees hovering in mid-table. There were only nine points between them in 2014-15, when Everton finished 11th and Villa 17th, down from the 34 of 2013-14, Roberto Martinez’s first year at Goodison Park. Everton racked up 72 points then – in the two seasons to follow, they’ve managed only 16 more than in that one campaign.

The Blues’ FA Cup run, ended on Saturday in semi-final defeat to Manchester United, shouldn’t cloud the assessment – this is a team in trouble. No wins in seven games, no clean sheets in seven games, only four home league wins all season – Villa the only team with fewer – and only nine clean sheets in 34 league games are troubling statistics. Then there’s the signing of striker Oumar Niasse, a purchase of almost £14m with no starts and no goals since January, and concern over the future of John Stones and Romelu Lukaku. For them, read Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke.

Everton’s potential slide to Villa-like depths is still at the avoidable stage. There is still time for owner Bill Kenwright and new investor and major shareholder Farhad Moshiri to arrest the decline. Doing so won’t be easy – and it will start with a new manager – but it can be done. And it has to be, otherwise next season it could be Everton who do a Villa.

Jack the Lad: Why Grealish Needs to Pull His Weight for Aston Villa

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He was one of the few bright spots, alongside an FA Cup final appearance, for Aston Villa in the 2014/15 season: finally, a home grown talent that had come through the youth team who was ready to make waves on the big stage.

Jack Grealish’s performances helped his side to avoid relegation, and created a buzz around a player who had joined the club as a six-year-old. Scouts from the big clubs looked on admirably, but for the time being at least the 20-year-old is very much an Aston Villa player.

And then he went and messed it up.

Grealish was photographed inhaling nitrous oxide in the spring of this year after making his first team debut. But that’s not the end of the world.

Then as he enjoyed the last few months of being a teenager, he did what plenty of teens do: went on a summer holiday with his friends, had a bit too much to drink and found himself slightly worse for wear in Tenerife’s famous ‘strip’.

Again, no problem. He’s just a young man enjoying himself in the off season.

But the third time is certainly not a charm for the young Englishman. Within hours of Villa’s 0-4 tonking at Everton, Grealish was photographed enjoying a night out on the town. Supporters were incensed – how could he be out having fun when he should be at home hurting after such a heavy loss?

Manager Remi Garde agreed and took a dim view on the matter: the midfielder has now been dropped from the first-team squad for Saturday’s crucial game with Watford, and will now be made to train with the under 21 squad.

“You have to behave as a professional and it was not the case this time for Jack,” Garde said. “He will not play with us, which is already a big punishment for a player. Now we will see the next step.”

This is the cautionary tale for any young sportsman or woman: and it is one that has been played out time and time again. We all remember Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne’s trials with alcohol that would largely curtail a young man with the world at his feet, whilst Paul Merson – another world-class talent that could have achieved anything – was doomed by booze, drugs and gambling habits.

“I’d love to sit down with him for an hour, and go through my experience,” Merson has come out publically and said. “I would say to him: ‘For the next 10 years of your life give it everything you’ve got to grasp hold of this.’ He’s got unbelievable talent. He’s a good player, but it soon goes.

“I’ll get him back on the straight and narrow.”

Let’s just hope that Grealish listens to those who have been there, done it and bear the scars. Boy do his teammates need him right now….

Goodbye to the British manager

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If British players are overpriced, then British managers are overlooked. Aston Villa’s sacking of Tim Sherwood and hiring of Remi Garde as his replacement brings the number of British or Irish bosses in the Premier League down to eight, less than half, and follows Liverpool’s decision to replace Brendan Rodgers with Jurgen Klopp. It’s not a new trend, but it’s one that shows no sign of abating.

Managers, like players, shouldn’t be judged on their nationality, and perhaps the real question is why more than half of the highest level of English football feels the need to look elsewhere when hiring. But it’s surely disheartening to British former players or lower league managers, who see their path to the country’s biggest clubs blocked by more fashionable names from foreign climbs.

It may be an inevitable step as more Premier League clubs fall under foreign ownership, or, if not foreign ownership, then a new type of owner who wants greater control over their investment. Are owners from abroad more naturally inclined to look abroad, given that they themselves have no geographic ties to the club they own? Does the generation of owners removed from the old prototype, the local-boy, fan-of-the-club-made-good best evidenced today by Bill Kenwright at Everton, see a structure more commonplace on the continent but largely viewed with suspicion in Britain – a head coach and a director of football – as a way of obtaining the influence they desire, or at least protecting their resources from wasteful spending?

Both Villa and Liverpool are under American ownership, John W. Henry and Randy Lerner approaching the world of sport and business in an entirely different way from what was usually the case in English football. Not necessarily better, or worse, just different. For Henry and Lerner, and the underlings who run the club day-to-day in accordance with the structure implemented by the owner, what has gone before, the manner in which their predecessors operated, matters little. Indeed, if their way worked, the clubs wouldn’t have been up for sale in the first place.

Klopp was immediately linked with the Liverpool vacancy when Rodgers was sacked in October, and indeed a number of supporters hoped he’d replace Rodgers the moment it was confirmed he was leaving Borussia Dortmund. Other names appeared on the bookmakers’ shortlist, but they were long, long odds compared to the German. It may never be known to whom Liverpool would have turned if they couldn’t get Klopp; perhaps they’d been burned on British managers by their experiences with Rodgers. Perhaps they’d have surprised us all and turned to a Garry Monk or an Eddie Howe.

Villa decided against a British manager, Monk, Howe or even David Moyes, at Real Sociedad. There’s been no return for Alan Curbishley, little involvement for Glenn Hoddle. Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher prefer commentary to coaching. If Sunderland had been unable to hire Sam Allardyce, would they have gone British to replace Dick Advocaat – Sean Dyche for example, or Steve Clarke?

We’ll never know, but it seems certain that if Jose Mourinho does get the push at Chelsea, his successor will be non-British or Irish. There are no credible candidates from the Home Nations, and that’s another issue that needs addressing. But as seen in Huddersfield’s pick of David Wagner, a former United States international who worked with Klopp at Dortmund, to replace Chris Powell, the trend is creeping into the Championship and beyond. Where next for the British or Irish manager?

Will Swansea City clash be Tim Sherwood’s last as Aston Villa manager?

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Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood will be getting a sense of déjà vu this weekend. The under-fire boss has a potential make or break Premier League game to come that could see his time at Villa Park coming to an end should his side fail to win. Rumours have been flying around for a matter of weeks about his impending sacking, and the club have been unusually quiet on the subject.

Sherwood’s pleas to get backing from the board have fallen on deaf ears, and it’s a similar situation to that of Tottenham before the English coach was relieved of his duties at White Hart Lane. For Aston Villa supporters, there has been too much talk without any results to back it up this season, and Sherwood knows he’s walking the tightrope if things don’t immediately improve.

He even admitted he would resign if things continued to slide. “Whenever I’m not happy with the situation, and I’m not happy in my job of work, then I would (walk away), 100%. Not now – and if I can take what I’ve taken over the last few months and still be happy, that tells you a lot,” he said. It’s the kind of talk unwelcome so soon before a crucial game, but potentially the last words of a manager who just hasn’t been able to build on a dream start to life in charge last season.

Among questionable squad selections, one big flaw supporters are losing patience with is the excuses. Sherwood is a very outspoken manager, which in turn sees him as a figurehead for criticism when things are going badly. He’s the face of Aston Villa’s struggles this season, and said on the matter: “I’ve taken the brunt of this football club over the last few months, everything that everyone wants to throw at it – negatives – it’s been on my head.”

“And that’s my job as a manager to take that responsibility. I’m not in the background, am I? I’m the manager, I get paid to stand at the front and take it on the chin and that’s what I’m doing. I am telling the players it’s a must-win (against Swansea) because I think we need to win a game sooner or later. Forget Wembley last season, this is a cup final.”

He’s not wrong. Aston Villa could see their deficit to safety even larger if they drop points to Swansea City, let alone Sherwood’s job on the line. Swansea’s poor form in recent weeks also gives the home side hope of picking up a positive result, so expectation from supporters is sky-high.