What’s happening to the Premier League after Project Big Picture, the Super League and pay per view?

As far as public relations go it hasn’t been a great month for the English Premier League. From meetings involving only the elite clubs or the so called big six, to a super league and now pay per view TV fans and clubs will rightly be questioning just what is going on with the most popular league in the world?

Project Big Picture was halted in its tracks earlier this month but as most observers have commented it isn’t dead in the water and will most probably resurface with different negotiations. But something else has now surfaced from those initial meetings with the big six clubs which is that the other 14 Premier League clubs were not notified of the first meeting. Simply being kept in the dark, which is odd in that in this day and age that is a hard thing to do, and so it proved. There is also a feeling of us and them and that cannot be good for the league even if it is good for the big six.

And who are the big six? Liverpool historically are and certainly in the last 18 months have reinforced that fact by winning .the Champions League and the league title, but it took them 30 years to win the latter. Manchester City would have been laughed out of the big six room 8 years ago, but wealth has landed them a meeting, and true they have won plenty of league titles now to be included. Chelsea’s strengths seem more fitted to the 2000s than the past decade and indeed in the present day but there are enough kids donning their shirts and the club still has the power to buy some of Europe’s best players.

Manchester United are with Liverpool the biggest club in England, so it feels like a no brainer to include them, but they have also been a shadow of their great sides for the past seven years. And then we have the curious cases of both Arsenal and Tottenham. History is putting them in that room because Arsenal have not won a league title for 16 years and next year Tottenham will be celebrating 50 years without a league title. Whilst a club like Everton for example may not be in favour wouldn’t the Merseyside team have a good shout of being in the room compared to Tottenham?

There is also talk of a European Super League. Money is king in football and the clubs taking part will become mega rich, winners of the competition could walk away with over £100m. In essence a super league would feel like the present day Champions League except there is one sticking point, there will be no relegation or promotion. Whilst one could expect the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona to participate,what value do the other teams have, except for being really good in this present time to qualify?

With no promotion though it means that teams in Europe who do not make the elite cut will always feel second rate and will always end up with second rate players. There will be no hope although domestic leagues could become more competitive as teams out of the top 5 would strive to upset the ‘balance of the elite’. Also going back to England, they have initially been quoted 5 clubs for the Super League. So which big six club misses out? Questions questions. A Super League wouldn’t mean the end of the Champions League though but a re branding where the top teams simply would not take part. But UEFA will be frustrated and sadden if this goes ahead, as they will lose sponsor power and an undermining of their elite competition- but how can they react?

There is an agreement in place until the 2024 edition of the Champions League so one would think that a Super League couldn’t start until 2025, but this is football and anything can happen.

Finally the pay per view nonsense has to stop, and this isn’t in favour of the fans. In England Sky and BT have never shown every Premier League game live and the PPV is only about showing those extra games that wouldn’t normally be shown live to fans for an extra fee. There seems little wrong with it, although the price does seem unfair. At £14.95 per game that seems quite steep to just watch one match on television. One hopes that the price will be lowered but die hard fans are not helping that fact given that PPV viewing figures are showing that 40,000 are watching each game- so for the clubs this is a huge success. The aim was always to have roughly the same viewing figures as the attendance in grounds.

A future worry for PPV would be if clubs get greedy with television and decide that the biggest games will no longer be free. After already paying a subscription to a service this would feel like a hard slap in the face. Could we for example have a PPV situation where Manchester City and Liverpool are playing each other in a title crunch game?

Given that even the Champions League final isn’t shown on terrestrial TV anymore nothing can be ruled out of a game which has sadly turned to opportunism and greed bang in the middle of a pandemic.

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Chelsea back on track but is star striker Timo Werner struggling?

After Chelsea destroyed a very good Crystal Palace side 4-0 the Blues look back to form and focused after a shaky start. The victory has put Chelsea into 7th place and they are now just two points behind the top four. It was a game that means the club have gone unbeaten for the last two.

The 4-0 score line was obviously one sided and Chelsea deserved their win but without looking at the scorers list you could have been forgiven that at least one of the goals had come from star striker Timo Werner, but sadly that wasn’t the case. One has to bring up the question is Germany’s number 1 choice struggling in the Premier League?

True it is very early days and some strikers do take time to adapt. Chelsea have brought in so many different faces that as a team the club are expected to take time to gel together, but football is a business and sport that doesn’t allow too much time. The league is a month old and Werner has hardly made an impact.

Werner has scored in the Carabao Cup but in the Premier League he is yet to register a goal. Is that cause for concern? Many would say no, but the player himself just like any other striker will be worried that he hasn’t got that first goal. Strikers live for goals and it is what gives them confidence to get more and play better.No Chelsea fan wants to be reminded of the likes of two great strikers who failed at the club in Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres. And that is the key here just because you are a world class striker doesn’t mean every club and every league can fit into your game.

Werner has 1 assist for a goal in the four games that he has played and most damning could be if you have the German in your fantasy team as he has zero points so far.

The critics have been kind and Werner has received no negatives despite going a month without a goal in the league. This is because he is a new signing and he will be allowed time. But if we are in November and he still hasn’t registered the pressure will start to build. At the same time Werner has proven in the last few years that he is a top striker and the betting would be that he will end up having a successful season with Chelsea.

For now the money spent on the player has not been justified and manager Frank Lampard may have to switch his system which has seen Werner play a slightly deeper role to a more advanced one if he wants to see the goals. Only time will tell.

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Napoli the losers in Allan deal

There’s an art form to knowing when to sell players. The selling club must navigate a fine line, to dance their finest tango, in a bid to make sure they produce a sizeable profit. Generally there are three roads for them to take.

The first road usually ends in the club striking prematurely, accepting a good offer rather than holding on for another season or two in the hope that player X develops even more and commands an even bigger figure. The second road tends to end with the club striking when the iron is hottest. This scenario is when player X is at the absolute pinnacle of their game, combined with them being relatively young and there is ample room to shift the player on in the future. Continue reading

Can Harry Maguire keep his captaincy after arrest in Greece?

It’s been a terrible week for Manchester United and England player Harry Maguire who was arrested and then charged in Greece whilst on holiday, the question is now what will happen to him professionally?

Details are still sketchy about what actually happened when Maguire was on holiday but it seems that he was drinking and got into a scuffle or at least a shouting match with some members of the public. Soon after the police got involved and Maguire may have had a confrontation with them. After being taking to a cell reports suggest that Maguire told the police he was a very rich man and could pay them. That is of course bribery and seems to have back fired on Maguire.

This is a mess no doubt and just looks bad anyway you look at it. An Englishman abroad… but at the same time if Maguire was taunted in the first place this is not good. Can’t a famous known figure enjoy themselves without being verbally abused? Some would say that Maguire visited a tourist hot spot and should have known better though, that the life he leads means he will be a target. Well Maguire has found out the hard way.

There was a feeling that Maguire would be found not guilty but that hasn’t happened and the report has come back pressing charges on the footballer. This means in theory he could face jail time, although by Greek law that probably won’t happen and instead he will be fined- money he tried to part with a few days ago.

But Maguire’s professionalism will surely need to be questioned after this incident. Some of the accusations against the player are not befitting of someone who also leads his team. For England manager Gareth Southgate named Maguire as his starting captain for England’s next international games a day before the guilty verdict and it will be interesting to see if Southgate keeps that decision.

It has been reported that United manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer is having talks with Maguire about his captaincy and he could be stripped of it even if Solskjaer supports his player he may need to act on the guilty verdict.

If anything this has been a learning curve for Maguire and his next holiday will surely be more private. Overall Maguire has had a decent season with the club and he should be able to recover from this controversy- he will at least have a chapter for his future book wrapped up.

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Liverpool are Premier League champions but who were their best players this season?

Finally after 30 years Liverpool are the champions of England after Chelsea beat Manchester City 2-1 last night. It meant that City could no longer catch Liverpool. Of course in reality with such a huge lead in the league it was always going to be a matter of time before Liverpool won the title, but the joy has been immense in and around the city of Liverpool.

The players and manager Jurgen Klopp have been stunned and emotional and who could blame them after the club have had to wait so long to see a league title. So far Liverpool have lost just 1 game this season and one game in the last 18 months in the league. It has been simply incredible and they could still beat Manchester City’s record haul of 100 points also.

As it stands Liverpool are the World, European and domestic champions, and not even Covid-19 which threatened to ruin their title run in could stop them. Congratulations to Liverpool and with Klopp as manager one could think that this could be the beginning of a dominating era for the club.

But who has stood out for them this season? Who has made that all important difference? Below we look at the 5 best players according to euro fantasy league’s rankings:

5) Andrew Robertson 80pts

Robertson is probably seen as the unsung hero, but he has been superb in defence for the last two seasons now and is indispensable for the club. He has been a part of a team that has kept 13 clean sheets and he has also assisted in 8 goals.

4) Virgil van Dijk 83pts

One of the truly best defenders in the world and only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo stopped him from capturing the best player awards. Confident, commanding he is like a rock and has really rose to his challenge in the back four. He has been involved in 5 goals and has helped keep 14 clean sheets. A towering presence.

3) Sadio Mane 94pts

Sadio Mane is a perfect example of a player that just gets better and better with every passing season. He is so competitive and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Not only has he scored 15 goals this season but has also assisted in another 7. A growing legend at the club.

2) Trent Alexander-Arnold 98pts

Proven to be perhaps the best defender this season for Liverpool, Still so young his best years are in front of him and yet he is a champion everywhere. He has kept 14 clean sheets and assisted in an incredible 12 goals- the most of any Liverpool player so far this season.

1) Mohamed Salah 107pts

Out in front is the Egyptian international. If some players are said to get better like a fine wine, then Salah is like the most expensive and elegant Champagne on the market. The striker is full of speed and his goals are simply magnificent, a world class player who has gotten better under Klopp. He has scored 17 goals this season and assisted in 7. That means he has been involved in 24 league goals for Liverpool from the 70 they have scored. That works out at almost a 35% contribution. Impressive.

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Losing to Manchester City should not dishearten Arsenal who can still have a strong finish in the Premier League

For many it was the way Arsenal lost to Manchester City when the Premier League re started on Wednesday night that would have been the biggest concern.Losing 3-0, having David Luiz sent off (is he the gift that keeps on giving)? And then looking at a meaningful statistic that was certainly damning, Arsenal had 0 shots on target. Ouch!

Many expected City to win and Arsenal to lose, after all the Gunners have been poor on the road now for a few seasons, and they were playing the current champions. However there was an uncertainty given that the game of course was played behind closed doors. But it made no difference, City would have won 3-0 with or without fans and played some great football.

As a result Arsenal remain in 9th place and despite their 7th loss of the season the mid week didn’t turn out too bad for the club given that Sheffield United who are above them only earned a point. In short they didn’t lose pace for a European place.

Arsenal need to regroup and refocus, the display they put in against City and Luiz’s sending off will give their next opponents Brighton cause for celebration, and Graham Potter’s side may well be welcoming Arsenal and thinking that they are there for the taking. Brighton have had some very good results lately against the Gunners and have beaten them 2-1 at the Emirates earlier in the season.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will be disappointed with the way his team lost at City but won’t forget that before the break for the Coronavirus Arsenal were one of the inform teams who had just recorded 3 wins in a row.

The Gunners are only 5 points from a Europa League place and whilst the Champions League looks a little off for them being 8 points adrift of Chelsea, if they can finish the season strong who knows what can happen?

Let’s look at Arsenal’s remaining fixtures. The Gunners have 2 away games in a row coming up facing Brighton and Southampton. Whilst those games look tricky a good Arsenal side can win those. After that they will be at home to Norwich who are bottom of the league and one would expect another 3 points from them. Then they are away to Wolves and at home to Leicester, these will be difficult games, but still Arsenal could win at least one of them.

After that they face Tottenham in the derby, a game that could go either way with no fans and atmosphere. Their last 3 games are against Liverpool, Aston Villa and Watford. The match against Liverpool could be easier than expected given that the Reds should have wrapped up the title by then. But matches against Villa and Watford where both teams could be battling relegation could be close affairs.

It’s possible though that Arsenal could finish the season with 59 points, that’s the prediction here and yes that would fall too short for a Champions League place. Possibly a Europa finish is on the cards, but even then Arsenal might fight and play better not to finish so low in the league.

It must be incredibly surreal for fans to see their club down in 9th place, and without all of their draws (there have been 13 so far) the club would actually be fighting in the relegation.

The game at the weekend against Brighton is a huge one then, lose that and Arsenal could already be losing their direction so soon after the restart. The club are better than that and Arteta must break their away day hoodoo.

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Werner, Havertz, Chilwell who will join ambitious Chelsea?

The Coronavirus pandemic has made teams across Europe stop and think about transfers, and one could conclude that some teams have taken their eye off the ball given that some seasons are about to restart across Europe. That cannot be said of Premier League side Chelsea though who have been actively busy in the transfer market.

Names have been touted and in some cases it seems that Chelsea are coming very close to wrapping up a few signatures. Heading their list is RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner. Werner is only 24 and has been quite superb for the Bundesliga team. He has scored  75 goals for the club in the league alone from just 123 games and netted 92 goals in all competitions for the side.

Inevitably this has led Werner to stake a claim in the German national side where again he hasn’t let down scoring 11 goals from 29 games. Werner in a nutshell is hot property but because of his contract release clause he can leave his current side for around 60 million euros. In the current football climate that figure seems a steal. It is thought that Chelsea are in advance talks with his club and that in fact a deal has been agreed in principle. This would be a huge capture for Chelsea, arguably one of their finest buys in years.

However it would be staggering to think that no other club will come in for Werner. Perhaps though the pandemic has had a much more negative effect on some clubs than others and this could be an opportunity for the Blues to get what would be a bargain. Usually a player so good in Germany ends up transferring to Bayern Munich so it would also stop a normal tradition.

Then there is the case of Kai Havertz. The player is just 21 and as an attacking midfielder and winger has really impressed with his pace and skills with current club side Bayer Leverkusen. Another German player Chelsea see Havertz as a must buy purchase for their team but they may have competition from Real Madrid on that one.

Not that its his job but he also scores goals and great ones too and in his four seasons with Leverkusen he has scored 43 goals in all competitions including 15 this year and the player is getting better and better by each passing season.

Of course Chelsea have always been famous for having some of England’s young talent and it seems that manager Frank Lampard won’t let that running theme be an exception under his charge. That is why Chelsea are very interested in adding Leicester’s Ben Chilwell to their squad.

The 23 year old left back has had an impressive season with the Foxes who look set to qualify for the Champions League next season after a fantastic season with Brendan Rodgers in charge.

Chilwell has also broken into the England national team and already has 11 caps to his name. Chilwell could well be on his way to Chelsea with Leicester admitting that they are already looking for his replacement. He would cost Chelsea at least £60m.

All in then if you’re a fan of Chelsea you must be excited with the names that the Blues have been linked too. They already have a very good side and the fact that they are currently 4th this season proves that.

At this stage of Lampard’s managerial term with the club things look very exciting as the former legendary player looks to steer the club in the right direction.

 

Premier League: Best 11 Players of the Weekend

Because of the winter break in the Premier League there were just 5 games played at the weekend. All of the favourites won their games including Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool. But let’s take a look at the players who made a difference this past weekend in the Premier League.

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel- Leicester 7pts

A few goalkeepers earned 7 points but Kasper Schmeichel deserves credit as his Leicester side went away from home against a very difficult Wolves side and got a point, keeping a clean sheet too as the game ended 0-0. That was the goalkeepers 9th clean sheet of the season.

Defender: Romain Saiss- Wolves 5pts

It’s no mean feat to keep Jamie Vardy and co from scoring a goal and Saiss helped his side Wolves keep a clean sheet at home against the team in 3rd place. Saiss has 17 points this season.

Defender: Trent-Alexander Arnold- Liverpool 5pts

On fantasy ranking points Alexander Arnold is the best defender in the Premier League and he showed his qualities again as Liverpool beat Norwich 1-0 away from home to record his 12th clean sheet of the season.

Defender: Virgil van Dijk- Liverpool 5pts

His teammate van Dijk and recognised as one of the worlds best defenders also helped keep a clean sheet and the player now has 74 points in the fantasy rankings and is just 9 behind his team mate in 2nd place.

Defender: Wes Morgan -Leicester 5pts

Wes Morgan had a lot to do in the back four of Leicester as Wolves who were at home asked many questions of the Foxes. Morgan held his ground well and earned 5 points in the process.

Midfielder: Mesut Ozil- Arsenal 6pts

Ozil has been under pressure for the past two seasons for his performances, but against Newcastle he was on the ball. Not only did his side keep a clean sheet but he also scored a goal, his first of the season in the league.

Midfielder: Sadio Mane- Liverpool 5pts

Sadio Mane showed his qualities coming on late in the game v Norwich and ended up scoring the winner- a classy finish too. He dropped a point because he was booked in the final minute though.

Midfielder: Jordan Henderson-Liverpool 4pts

It should come as no surprise to see Henderson’s name on the team of the weekend yet again. He earned 4 points after a solid, professional display as Liverpool continued their unbeaten run this season with a 1-0 win over Norwich.

Midfielder: Lucas Torreira- Arsenal 2pts

It was rare joy for Arsenal and Torreira to win a game, and so many defenders ended the weekend with 2 points. Torreira deserves his place after a tormented time this season with Arsenal, he held firm and didn’t give Newcastle a look in.

Striker: Nicolas Pepe- Arsenal 8pts

Nicolas Pepe has been criticised this season as he has started his career with Arsenal very slow. But at the weekend he was on top form and earned 8 points after he scored a goal and he also assisted in the opening goal. In 240 seconds he showed why Arsenal had paid over £70m for him.

Striker: Heung-Min Son- Tottenham 6pts

If Tottenham are to finish in a Champions League place a large chunk of that could go to the fact that in Son they have a great striker. He scored 2 goals as Tottenham beat Aston Villa in a thrilling 3-2 win. He now has 9 goals for the season and looks in brilliant form.

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Are London clubs falling behind in the Premier League?

There was a time even in the Premier League era where London clubs dominated the league and its cups, but in 2020 one can question with all validity if clubs from the capital are rapidly fallen behind their northern rivals?

Let’s start with Chelsea who are arguably the best club in London of the past few years. Here is a team that won several league titles from 2005 and a few doubles and also of course won the Champions League in 2012 and have been to 2 Champions Leagues finals. Let’s not forget they are also the holders of the Europa League.

But they lost Maurizio Sarri at the end of last season and replaced him with Frank Lampard, a manager with hardly any experience though Chelsea being 4th presently is some kind of miracle given that the club were banned from a summer transfer window last year.

Chelsea are 4th and are having a decent season, they are also into the knockout stages of the Champions League but they do not look that strong in actually winning trophies this season. They have lost too many games at home, which is alien for a team that once went 4 years without a defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Then there is the curious case of Arsenal, a really great historic side, a team that were wooing fans in Europe in the early 2000s, winning multiple trophies in England and even going a season unbeaten. Since the early part of the 2010s though the Gunners have been going backwards. By every passing season, they have been taking one step forward and two back and this season has really underlined that, and with a thick black marker pen. They are currently in 10th position, this is a staggering decline, and yes the league positions are very close still, two wins could change a lot to their standing, but even still what are they doing in 10th anyway?

This is a club who once kept the same manager for 22 years and yet have seen 3 different faces in the dug out this season alone in Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg and now Mikel Arteta. It is early days for Arteta so no judgement is meant to be passed but it is now 7 games in charge in the league with just 1 win. Underwhelming doesn’t come close, and Arsenal look a shadow of themselves.

Tottenham do not look like the team of the past two seasons and could fail to make the Champions League, this after reaching the final in 2019. Finally there is the case of another high profile London club in West Ham. A sacked manager and bringing back one in David Moyes who had already failed at the club the first time makes little sense. The Hammers have a fantastic 60,000 seater stadium and despite all of that they could be getting relegated, they are currently in the bottom three and have some very hard fixtures to come.

And the top two places in the league are being occupied by Liverpool and Manchester City two teams up north and just a few miles from one another, there has been a shift in the Premier League but it has also seen a rapid decline of the London based clubs.

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Were Everton wrong to turn down Barcelona’s €100m bid for Richarlison?

This week Barcelona made a surprise bid for Everton striker Richarlison and reportedly offered the club €100m euros. It is thought that Everton immediately rejected the offer, but were the Premier League side wrong to do so?

Barcelona have been panicking of late after the news that striker Luis Suarez will miss four months of the season which will effectively rule him out for the rest of it. The Catalan giants have been looking to secure a striker, but finding a good one is always traditionally hard in the January transfer window. Not many people would have thought the club would be asking Everton for one of their players, but according to many reports that is exactly what they did.

Everton want to build with what they have and it is obvious that manager Carlo Ancelotti was having none of it, and the thought of selling Richarlison was rejected. There is no clear news about what happened behind the scenes, would the Everton board have sold the Brazilian if they didn’t have such a strong headed manager like Ancelotti in charge? If as expected Ancelotti was against the sale and yet Everton had gone through with it that could have started a snowball effect with the Italian manager which could have led for many problems for the club.

However Barcelona’s bid did seem like a fair one. Everton bought Richarlison for £40m 18 months ago and they would have doubled their profit on the player. Whilst Richarlison has shown promise he has failed to be consistent enough. True the club started to struggle under Marco Silva this season but Richarlison wasn’t able to lead the team as they nosedived near to the bottom three.

In 57 league games Richarlison has scored 21 goals, that isn’t by any means terrible but neither is it good for a player that another team are willing to spend so much on. This season he has scored 8 goals from 22 games. Dominic Calvert-Lewin who is the same age as Richarlison has played the same games and scored 10, and really looks to have grown as a player since Ancelotti came in.

It’s a tough one for Everton then. Because Richarlson let’s face it on his day is the clubs best player, a piece of star dust that can turn the game. But at the same time Barcelona offered a lot of money. There are really many ways of looking it. Imagine if Everton were in the bottom three or 17th and needed his goals, then it would make sense to reject the offer. But Everton are 7 points clear of the relegation zone and they will almost certainly be safe this season. The club need the extra funds too after posting a year end loss of £110m.

But the club also need to be run properly, and had they sold him they would be a man down for the rest of the season, they wouldn’t have found a decent replacement with just a couple of days left.

Does this mean that Richarlison could leave in the summer though? You could forgive him for having his head turned at the thought that Barcelona wanted him, and if the club still feel the same way at the end of the season then Everton will have a huge battle on their hands to keep him.

Perhaps the best solution has already been made. Keep him until the summer and if there is interest and the money is good don’t let this one run and run if the player wants to leave, make it happen and invest wisely.

So Everton could have taken the money now and sold him, but you can see the clubs point of view, and perhaps they have, for now, made the right decision.

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