European Super Cup win proves Jurgen Klopp has banished ghosts of the past

The sight of Jurgen Klopp sprinting across the pitch at the sound of the full time whistle is one we, as football fans, have witnessed more than once over the last year or so. Indeed, the German coach has done a lot of winning of late and he kept that trend going by leading Liverpool to the European Super Cup on Wednesday night.

It wasn’t as convincing a win as the victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the final of last season’s Champions League, only seeing off Chelsea in a penalty shootout, but nonetheless, it was a result that saw Liverpool get their hands on a second piece of silverware in the space of just a few months.

Some people see the European Super Cup as nothing more than a glorified friendly. There is something in that, but victory in Istanbul on Wednesday night proved that Klopp has banished the ghosts of the past. The German has become a hardened winner over the past year to 18 months.

This was always the criticism of Klopp – for all that he had turned around the fortunes of Liverpool, he had still win a title until last season. Worse still, there was a common suggestion that the Reds froze on the big stage, that Klopp lacked the necessary quality to get his team over the line when it mattered most.

Of course, winning the Champions League last season quelled these criticisms, but beating Chelsea in the European Super Cup went some way to proving that it wasn’t a fluke. That Liverpool now have that trait that all legendary teams have – they want to collect trophies and winners’ medals.

There was mocking of Liverpool’s reaction to Adrian’s penalty save from Tammy Abraham, the moment that saw the Merseysiders come out on top, but this was the sign of a team that has grown to crave winning. They will carry that into the 2019/20 Premier League season as they attempt to catch Manchester City at the top.

Klopp has always been a master at generating a positive dressing room environment. His players want to play for him, would do anything for him. But now Liverpool’s players are playing for more than just their charismatic German coach. They’re playing to win and the European Super Cup win demonstrated that. Klopp has taken Liverpool to the next stage.

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Three U-23 players to keep an eye on throughout the Premier League season

As gameweek one has come to an end, a large number of Premier League supporters will have already predicted which teams will have a successful season and which specific individuals will go on to being the game changers compared to the rest of the players in the top flight of English football.

Meanwhile, a small group of young talents are aiming to have a bright season at a personal level and are looking to make a name for themselves. A lot of these youngsters will be looking up to the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, James Maddison and Matteo Guendouzi, players who had their breakout moment over the last 12 months and are now seen as a hot property by their club and manager.

With no further ado, it’s time to look at the three U-23 players to keep an eye on this campaign.

Callum Hudson-Odoi

Although he has had a decent amount of first-team experience under Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri, Callum Hudson-Odoi will be hoping that the managerial arrival of Frank Lampard will allow him to play on a regular basis. Also, the fact that Eden Hazard left a month ago and the club are not able to bring in any players for another transfer window, it may grant him a couple of chances to prove himself.

Currently on the sidelines after rupturing his Achilles’ tendon at the end of last season, the 19-year-old is expected to return to full training over the next couple of weeks before he begins to feature on the pitch once again. Once he gets going and is back on the pitch, there is no doubt at all that he goes straight into the Chelsea team, as they are currently lack pure quality in the final third of the pitch.

With the side missing a player that can take the game by the scruff of the neck or create something out of nothing, the return of Hudson-Odoi would help the team’s creativity and movement on and off the ball massively whilst the likes of Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham will benefit from his presence. For the sure, the departure of Hazard may hurt the Blues mentally in the long run, but they have a player in Hudson-Odoi that can confidently open up a defensive side and come up with the vital contributions. 

Max Aarons

Reviewing Norwich City’s last year in the Championship, they could have easily fallen down into the play-off area rather than winning the league, if it wasn’t for the crucial shift that Max Aarons had completed on both sides of the pitch. From being a speedy outlet on the flanks as a full-back to completing the required defensive duties, the youngster has it all to be a top player in his specific position.

If he goes on to replicating the same types of performances in the top tier of English football, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur gain interest in the player once again. However, the standards between both leagues are massively high, as Aarons’ discipline and positional awareness will have to be top notch in what could be his breakout year of his professional career.

Given that the attacking-minded players in Emiliano Buendia and Todd Cantwell are expected to be constantly marked by the opposition, Norwich have a full-back to rely on to make those striding runs down the wings and to put in the inch-perfect crosses into someone like Teemu Pukki. Also, a consistent campaign for the rising talent could see him become one of the best players in his department within the league.

Sean Longstaff

Newcastle United are going through a serious transition period, as they attempt to put the Rafa Benitez era behind themselves as well as produce new memories under manager Steve Bruce. Though, one of the positives that the Toons will have become aware of throughout this year, has been the incredible rise of central-midfielder Sean Longstaff, someone who spent a crucial loan at League one side Blackpool during the 2017-18 season and is now being a regular starter in top flight football.

At the age of 21, the youngster is living the dream that all young English football supporters have of playing in the Premier League and for their local club. And not only that, he received a new four-year deal back in November 2018, and is already expected to receive another huge increase over the next couple of weeks, as Manchester United were regularly interested in the Newcastle-born midfielder in recent months.

If Longstaff can go on to reaching his potential and the expectation of the Newcastle supporters, then the team will surely have stabilised midfield that allows them to push for success in the domestic competition and also aim for a higher finish in the league. If and once that eventually happens, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the club requesting for £50million and over for the player, purely to ward off any interest from other clubs.

How will Chelsea’s Transfer Ban affect their Season?

Chelsea might have finished third in the Premier League last season, picking up European honors along the way, but it was far from a success in the eyes of some supporters.

27 points separated them and second-placed Liverpool, meaning manager Maurizio Sarri’s first ever trophy wasn’t enough to keep him in a job. They’ve turned to Frank Lampard- from Derby County- who is a Blues legend following his success on the field with the club.

If he wants to be the same off the field, he has a huge job. The BBC reported how they failed to overturn a two-window transfer ban, effectively condemning them to pretty much the same squad this season as the last one. Couple that with Eden Hazard’s departure for a fee believed to be around $108m, and they’re arguably weaker than last season.

Can they still be a success, despite the obvious obstacles they face? Or will they continue in the pattern of the last couple of years?

There are plenty of positives; one of Sarri’s main faults was his reluctance to hand first team experience to Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The latter won’t be able to help for much of this season, as he ruptured his Achilles tendon in a friendly and won’t be back until at least November, according to Football London.

However, there is plenty of youth waiting to impress this season and are expected to get the chance due to the ban on incoming players. Tammy Abraham has impressed in loan spells with Bristol City and Aston Villa, with his time at Villa Park last season a raging success. His goals have been credited with firing them back to the Premier League and he looks ready to take on the top flight.

Lampard will be expected to attack much more than Sarri and Conte before him, which might be a big ask without one key man.

They’ll miss Hazard’s creativity, but in Mason Mount they might have a home-grown alternative who can break through as well. He was on loan with Derby last season and had a whole year to impress his new manager.

He even earned an England call-up from Gareth Southgate whilst in the Championship. Southgate has a good eye for spotting young talent; in Coral’s guide to last year’s World Cup managers, they note how he had three years of experience with the Under 21s before becoming England manager.

If Lampard shows belief in promoting players from Under 21 to senior football, he could be rewarded. Mount is much like Lampard was as a player; how the Blues could do with him to have the same input.

They will also be able to call on 20-year-old United States international Christian Pulisic, who was bought from Dortmund in January and loaned back for the rest of the season. He’s a new face, something different to add to the squad. He’s a winger who will likely be Hazard’s replacement, although he’s got a lot to prove at such a tender age.

Chelsea of 2019/20 will be youthful; they’ll be fighting against the odds and playing the underdog. In truth, they could be about to reap the rewards of their previous policy of loaning out lots of their players.

There isn’t a good reason why they can’t be back in the top three come May, not with the collection of talent they’ve amassed over the last couple of seasons.

Man Utd 4-0 Chelsea: The Red Devils kick off the season in winning ways

The main focus of gameweek one in the Premier League was bound to be on Manchester United versus Chelsea, especially when the other top teams in the league had won their respective games. Given that the final positions in the table always come down to the head-to-head between the top-six sides, it was important for Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to get going on a high note and make a statement.

Overall, the match was completed in a typical fashion that the supporters of Old Trafford have been used to in recent years, where they start off very slow before ending the match with the three important points. Chelsea got off on the right foot and went close with Tammy Abraham hitting the post and Emerson smashing the crossbar, however, it was Marcus Rashford’s penalty in the 18th minute that opened up the game and allowed everyone to witness a more end-to-end match.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors in the second half, as the individual mistakes and the poor man-marking allowed the hosts to score two quick goals between the 65th and the 67th minute through Anthony Martial and Rashford once again. Not only that, Lampard’s options from the bench were not great to create a comeback, whilst Solskjaer was able to give both Daniel James and Mason Greenwood the game time they were in need of, with the former bagging his first ever goal for the club.

Here are the three factors we learnt from United’s first league game this season…

Clinical showing despite nervy periods

There are no doubts at all, that Chelsea were the better side in the first half, from controlling possession of the ball to creating chances patiently, but only the end product was missing. Had they still had the final third quality of Eden Hazard in the team, they would have put the game to bed by the half-time break and the Red Devils would have found it very difficult to turn it around. However, United were fortunate and took the lead from the penalty spot, and from there, they were constantly aiming to pounce on the counter.

After the break, Solskjaer’s men took things up a notch or two whilst Lampard’s boys were unable to be more productive and effective in United’s penalty box. Once the decisive second goal came through for the side from Anthony Martial, it was more or less over, with Chelsea trying to make the most out of any possession they had, whilst United were happy to sit deep and continue to counter when required. In the end, the hosts showed their patience in both phases and were able to adjust to some tactical tweaks, whilst the visitors were unlucky and fell apart as the goals were conceded.

Exciting debuts for the new summer arrivals

When deciding who would start in the huge fixture against Chelsea, Solskjaer was bound to use the new boys in Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, two players who instantly made an impact in the backline and were able to ease the pressure off the team on many occasions. If neither of them were on the pitch yesterday, the Blues would have easily scored one or two goals in the first half, or even more.

With how the two defensive additions recently performed, individuals such as Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones aren’t expected to make a return into the starting line-up anytime soon. Maguire’s appearance at the heart of defence was huge for the side, as he was able to guide the team forward on the ball and was regarded as a rising leader when needed. Meanwhile, Wan-Bissaka played a crucial role of his own, stopping Chelsea to break on the counter time and time again, and helping the team to recycle and utilise possession on both sides of the pitch.

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are on the rise

At this moment of time, it can easily be stated that both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford will be played on a regular basis and also along with each other, something that couldn’t be done effectively the last two seasons due to the presence of Romelu Lukaku. Though, with the Belgian forward now at Inter Milan, the duo have a lot of expectations and high standards on them, with both players potentially in need of scoring around 40-45 goals in order for the team to finish within the top four.

With the club failing to bring in a replacement for Lukaku on deadlind day, a lot of the pressure has now been passed onto Martial and Rashford, as well as the other attacking-minded players in the squad. As long as the pair keep up with how they performed yesterday, in terms of the dribbling ability, movement on and off the ball along with an improvement of their work rate, United should be just fine in the long run.

Predicted lineups for the first weekend of the new EPL season

The English Premier League returns on Friday night when European champions Liverpool face Norwich City at Anfield.

There is a full programme of matches on between Friday night and Sunday afternoon with all 20 Premier League teams in action on the opening weekend.

Here are our predicted lineups for those EPL fixtures so have a read in preparation to get your EPL fantasy season off to the perfect start.

Liverpool v Norwich City

Liverpool XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Keita, Salah, Firmino, Mane

Norwich City XI: Krul, Aarons, Klose, Godfrey, Lewis, McLean, Vrancic, Buendia, Stiepermann, Hernandez, Pukki

Questionable: Milner (Liverpool); Klose, Tettey (Norwich)

Out: Clyne (Liverpool); Zimmerman (Norwich)

West Ham United v Manchester City

West Ham XI: Fabianski, Fredericks, Balbuena, Diop, Cresswell, Noble, Rice, Fornals, Antonio, Haller, Anderson

Manchester City XI: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko, De Bruyne, Rodrigo, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Aguero, Sterling

Questionable: Fabianski, Noble (West Ham); Laporte, Sane (Man City)

Out: Mendy (Man City)

Burnley v Southampton

Burnley XI: Pope, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Pieters, Lennon, Cork, Westwood, McNeil, Barnes, Wood

Southampton XI: Gunn, Valery, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Ward-Prowse, Djenepo, Adams, Ings

Questionable: Tarkowski, Long, Brady (Burnley)

Out: Defour (Burnley)

Crystal Palace v Everton

Crystal Palace XI: Guaita, Ward, Dann, Sakho, Van Aanholt, McArthur, Milivojevic, Meyer, Townsend, Benteke, Ayew

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

Questionable: Sakho (Crystal Palace); Delph, Baines (Everton)

Out: Tomkins (Crystal Palace)

Bournemouth v Sheffield United

Bournemouth XI: Travers, Stacey, Steve Cook, Ake, Daniels, Wilson, Billing, Lerma, Fraser, King, Wilson

Sheffield United XI: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Baldock, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens, Freeman, McBurnie, Sharp

Questionable: Steve Cook, Daniels (Bournemouth)

Out: Francis, Kelly, Brooks, Stanislas, Gosling, Lewis Cook (Bournemouth)

Watford v Brighton

Watford XI: Foster, Femenia, Dawson, Cathcart, Holebas, Capoue, Doucoure, Hughes, Pereyra, Deeney, Deulofeu

Brighton XI: Ryan, Duffy, Webster, Dunk, Montoya, Stephens, Propper, March, Gross, Trossard, Maupay

Questionable: Deulofeu (Watford)

Out: Bissouma, Izquierdo (Brighton)

Spurs v Aston Villa

Spurs XI: Lloris, Walker-Peters, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Sissoko, Winks, Ndombele, Lamela, Kane, Moura

Aston Villa XI: Heaton, Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Targett, Jota, McGinn, Hourihane, Grealish, El Ghazi, Wesley

Questionable: Davies, Aurier, Dier, Wanyama (Spurs); Nyland, Steer, Konsa, El Ghazi (Aston Villa)

Out: Foyth, Son, Alli (Spurs)

Newcastle United v Arsenal

Newcastle XI: Dubravka, Manquillo, Lascelles, Fernandes, Schar, Willems, Hayden, Shelvey, Longstaff, Almiron, Joelinton

Arsenal XI: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ozil, Lacazette, Aubameyang

Questionable: Ritchie, Colback (Newcastle); Lacazette (Arsenal)

Out: Yedlin, Lejeune (Newcastle); Bellerin, Holding (Arsenal)

Leicester City v Wolves

Leicester XI: Schmeichel, Ricardo, Morgan, Evans, Chilwell, Tielemans, Ndidi, Ayoze Perez, Maddison, Gray, Vardy

Wolves XI: Patricio, Bennett, Coady, Boly, Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Castro, Jimenez, Jota

Questionable: Mendy (Leicester); Doherty, Jimenez (Wolves)

Out: n/a

Manchester United v Chelsea

Manchester United XI: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Pogba, McTominay, James, Lingard, Rashford, Martial

Chelsea XI: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Christensen, Emerson, Jorginho, Kante, Pedro, Mount, Pulisic, Abraham

Questionable: Pogba (Man Utd); Kante, Willian (Chelsea)

Out: Bailly (Man Utd); Rudiger, Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea)

 

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Preview of the opening weekend of the Premier League season

The English Premier League returns to our screens this Friday night when Liverpool welcome Norwich City to Anfield.

Daniel Farke’s newly-promoted Canaries are back in the top flight for the first time since May 2016.

Farke led Norwich to the Championship title in May and the 42-year-old German coach will be eager to make a good and lasting impression on the Premier League.

Liverpool, however, will want to start with three points and after their impressive Community Shield display against Manchester City last Sunday, you’d be a fool to bet against Jurgen Klopp’s side. Continue reading

Wayne Rooney has made a good choice to join Derby but has not treated DC United fairly

Wayne Rooney has always said that he wanted to start coaching once his career was coming to an end and the latest news is that he will become a player/coach for Derby County in England’s Championship.

But how does that leave DC United, Rooney’s current team in the MLS?

The choice that Rooney has made is good for him and in some ways understandable but at the same time it does leave a question of loyalty to his American club. Rooney has made a fantastic impact in the MLS, Where DC United have gone from being near the bottom of their conference to mixing with the top teams, they will make the final play-offs this season as they also try and win their conference. On top of that Rooney has been amazing on and off the field. Scoring brilliant goals, linking up well with the team, being influential in the dressing room and the fans have absolutely loved him. Had he stayed it could be argued that he would have made a much bigger impact on American soccer than even David Beckham.

Rooney had signed a 3 year contract with DC United and that is set to be terminated after 18 months. Just half his time, and yes there is a question of what do contracts actually mean?

Of course there are two sides to Rooney’s switch. The first is that the move should be good for him. He obviously wants to coach and that is going to start in his home country England. Derby has been a good starting point, after all it worked for Frank Lampard who stayed just a season before getting the high profile job at Chelsea. Rooney will learn from current manager Phillip Cocu and will also play for the club possibly for six months, maybe a season and a half.

Still with Rooney’s career and time on his side from a coaching perspective ahead, DC United have the right to feel aggrieved about his decision. They haven’t said anything at this point, but he was so popular with the club and fans, that they thought he would be around until at least the summer of 2021. Instead Rooney will leave at the end of the year. That is something because at least he will be playing for them when the crucial play-offs come up. Had he left now, it would have been very wrong.

Rooney has made a good choice, but his swift decision is still evidence that footballers seemingly live on a very different planet to the rest of us, where sadly some of the loyalty and passion and a further bridging gap between fans and players has developed.

Frank Lampard’s best eleven at Chelsea

Chelsea’s two-window transfer ban certainly makes things interesting for the start of Frank Lampard’s era at the club.

The former club-legend midfielder arrived this summer from Derby County, taking charge instead of the outgoing Maurizio Sarri who returned to his beloved Serie A, replacing Max Allegri at Juventus.

Lampard will have to rely on what talent is already at Stamford Bridge until next summer at least.

So, what is Lampard’s strongest eleven from the players available to him? The Blues lost Eden Hazard to Real Madrid this summer so it really does feel like the dawn of a new era at the club. Continue reading

Lampard to usher in new era at Chelsea

It’s a new dawn at Chelsea FC this summer.

Frank Lampard has returned to Stamford Bridge, the ground he once ruled over as one of the best goalscoring midfielders in the Premier League.

This time, Lampard is replacing Maurizio Sarri as the club’s head coach. Sarri, despite a relatively successful season at Chelsea, was glad to get the opportunity to return to Serie A, taking over Max Allegri’s mantle at league champions Juventus.

Lampard, arriving from his stint at Derby County where he led the Rams to a promotional playoff spot, knows that he will have to play the hand he has been dealt at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea are currently limited by a new player registration ban. Continue reading

The Big four in the Premier League have been quiet in the transfer market

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The summer transfer window in the Premier League has been open since May 16th and in that time 7 weeks there hasn’t actually been that much activity between the top 4 clubs who finished in those places in the Premier League. The ones where you expect them to break the bank and make massive signings just like they have in the past.

Is FFP to blame? Or is it a case of the teams are simply not finding the right players at the right prices to try and compete? There haven’t been too many eye catching transfers in Europe either although the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool both aiming to dominate football and be the best would have risen an eyebrow to the highly talented Joao Felix signing for Atletico Madrid a few days ago. So the money is there or thereabouts but where is the quality this summer?

Of course the window does not shut yet but in England it has changed. Years ago the window used to close on August 31st even though the league had in all of those cases already started. The window now closes just before the league starts and that has been the new given rule in England. So it will close on August 8th. That is just 31 days away, and that goes very quickly, will we see more big deals go through or is that it?

Champions Manchester City who have spent close to £500m since Pep Guardiola became manager have brought in just two players. Angelino from PSV and their big one Rodri from Atletico Madrid. Angelino cost just over £5m but much is expected of Rodri who cost the club £63m. Give or take City have spent about £75m this summer on players, a lot of money but not nearly as much as City would usually spend.

Premier League runners up Liverpool have been very quiet buying just one player, Sepp van den Berg from PEC Zwolle for just over £1m and it will be questionable if the player gets games in the league and he may be only used for the league cup. So manager Jurgen Klopp is keeping his chequebook closed but at the same time Liverpool do have a very strong team and he will be happy with what he has.

Chelsea managed 3rd place in the end in the league but unlucky for them they currently have a transfer ban from UEFA. It is something that the club are appealing but with days running out anyway it looks almost certain that the Blues will not be buying or be able to buy any new players this summer.

That leaves us with Tottenham. A team who went the past two transfer windows not buying anyone. Young prospect Jack Clarke has come from Leeds for just £10m but the big purchase has been for Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele who cost the club in the region of £55m, though that may rise.

All in all the big four clubs who finished in the top four last season have spent a combined £140m on players so far. Even taking into account Chelsea’s transfer ban this is a very low figure when you think of the TV deals that the clubs have been able to broker. We could also be fair and include Arsenal who finished 5th in place of Chelsea who can’t buy players.Yet even if we do this the Gunners have only spent £6m, with one player coming in on a free transfer.

Is the bubble finally bursting in the world’s most expensive league or should we remain more patient as the window closes by each passing day- either way we will find out soon enough.