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.

Business as usual as Manchester City and Liverpool get off to flying starts in the Premier League

So the Premier League has kicked off and it seems that it is business as usual as both the title favourites Manchester City and Liverpool got off to flying starts. Not only did they win their respective games they scored 9 goals between them.

Liverpool got the ball rolling (pardon the pun) when they beat Norwich 4-1 at Anfield on Friday night. It was always going to be extremely difficult for Norwich who have just been promoted from the Championship to take on the European champions and last seasons runners up in the league and so it proved. With ease Liverpool scored 4 goals and Norwich showed their naivety.

At the same time it wasn’t all plain sailing for Jurgen Klopp’s team and Norwich played some tidy football and created quite a few clear cut chances. If Liverpool who have arguably one of the best defences in Europe defend like they did on Friday night against a top 6 team they will suffer. Plus Alisson went off injured and Klopp will be hoping that his Brazilian goal keeper is only out for a limited time. Still it was a great start for Liverpool who will be looking to win their first league title since 1990.

The next day at lunchtime ended up being a miss match, when champions Manchester City went to West Ham and didn’t break sweat as they scored 5 goals with no reply. Raheem Sterling was deservedly the man of the match after he started his campaign with a fantastic hattrick. West Ham were toothless and unlike Norwich gave no fight and no hope as to how they will pick up points this season. Of course the Hammers have had some hyped arrivals in the likes of Pablo Fornals and Sebastian Haller and even though Fornals only came on from the bench in the 2nd half, he made almost no impact except for a teasing cross.

City were simply breath taking on the ball and the pace and fitness was evident compared to West Ham who are set for another frustrating season. The only other story to take from the game is VAR. It was used no less than 3 times and on each occasion got the decision right but there has to still be a question of is VAR good for football? Wasn’t the game supposed to be a simple one, that would include human error? After all England would not have become world cup champions in 1966 had VAR been in place.

True there has been shocking decisions in football, but it can work for and against your team. Maybe VAR takes that moment away in football.  Now when your team score, you will celebrate but perhaps have one eye on the referee and his assistants just in case. What will happen this season is penalties being retaken. It happened in the West Ham game when players encroached the area and it will happen when the goalkeeper leaves his line, and we can expect many penalty problems as a result.

The one damning verdict of West Ham’s defeat was the roar the fans gave as if they had scored a goal. They hadn’t, instead VAR had ruled out a City goal. Is that what teams outside the top 10 will be cheering about in the future?

 

 

The battle for Premier League survival intensifies

benitez smile

Entering the penultimate weekend of the Premier League Season, the battle to avoid relegation between Newcastle, Norwich and Sunderland is finely poised.

Following Newcastle’s recent resurgence under Rafa Benitez, the Magpies have climbed out of the relegation zone, after collecting 8 points from the last available 12.  That excellent run of form, beginning after a 3-2 defeat away to Norwich, has been inspired by the outstanding play of Andros Townsend and far improved defensive performances, directed by stand-in goalkeeper Karl Durlow.

Ironically since then the Canaries have lost each of their previous three games to slide to 19th place in the table, one below Sunderland who recently defeated Alex Neil’s side 3-0 at Carrow Road.

Subsequently the Black Cats have maintained their survival prospects by earning two creditable draws at home to Arsenal and away to Stoke.

Jermain Defoe’s last minute equaliser at the Brittania Stadium moved Sam Allardyce’s men to within a point of their fiercest rivals Newcastle as the battle for Premier League Survival intensifies.

Although this weekend none of the three sides involved can either secure safety or be relegated, the outcome of the fixtures will go a long way to determining the team who is to continue playing in the top flight next season.  The reward – along with the prestige – of doing so is estimated to be at least £100m.

In the ascendancy to earn that are Newcastle, who travel full of confidence to Villa Park to face already relegated Aston Villa. Victory for the Magpies is vital in their efforts to survive, since they have played a game more than both Norwich and Sunderland, who host Manchester United and Chelsea respectively.

As previously mentioned contrasting to Newcastle’s recent upturn in form, Norwich have lost 3 consecutive games, whilst Sunderland have collected only 5 points from their last available 27.

The Black Cats are well versed in finishing seasons strongly, as they have done in each of the past three seasons, and will require to do so again to retain their Premier League Status.  Ironically following tomorrow’s fixtures their remaining two opponents are the same as those of Norwich – mid-table Everton and Watford.

St James’ Park will be the venue for Newcastle’s final game against runners-up Tottenham, a week on Sunday, when the outcome of the battle for survival will be determined.  Should the Magpies emerge from that triumphant, then Mike Ashley’s decision to replace Steve McClaren with Rafa Benitez at the beginning of March will undoubtedly prove to be one of his best as Newcastle owner.

Naismith leaves Everton amid lack of opportunity

Naismith

Steven Naismith has officially left Everton for Norwich City, the fee undisclosed but rumoured to be around £8.5m. It’s a good deal for the Toffees if that is the price, a substantial sum for a player approaching 30 who wasn’t in Roberto Martinez’s first-choice XI, but the Scotland international will be missed nevertheless.

Naismith’s career at Goodison Park goes down as a curious one. Signed by David Moyes in 2012 when Rangers imploded, Naismith struggled initially. It became clear that the right of midfield wasn’t his position – too lacking in pace to provide the thrust needed from wide – and he didn’t have the appearance of an out-and-out striker either. Playing just off a lone centre-forward would prove to be Naismith’s best role but it wasn’t one he was able to fulfil under his fellow Scot – that was Marouane Fellaini’s domain.

Moyes left for Manchester United in the summer of 2013 and eventually took Fellaini with him, and it was the arrival of Martinez from Wigan Athletic that led to Naismith’s best times in Everton blue, and the finding of his best position. Martinez from day one has encouraged Everton to play passing football – a departure from Moyes’ more direct approach, though Moyes wasn’t the Neanderthal he’s sometimes characterised as.

Naismith in time showed himself to be a crafty player, capable of clever, quick passes in tight areas and with subtle, hard-to-track movement. He could have been tailor made for a Martinez team in that regard, and there were games when Naismith was out of favour that could have been turned by his introduction. Opposition defences learned to sit deep and get men behind the ball to frustrate Everton and prior to the emergence of Gerard Deulofeu’s devilish crosses, it was an easily stifled team.

But Naismith didn’t always get the nod and the gap in the squad he could have filled created by Fellaini’s exit was quickly taken by Ross Barkley. Martinez is enamoured with the young England international and understandably so, but Barkley is very much on a learning curve and the performances don’t always live up to the hype. Naismith never held the same faith of the manager, who picks Barkley week in, week out, almost no matter what.

Naismith, by comparison, scored a hat-trick against Chelsea in September and then disappeared. He didn’t even start that game, entering only as a substitute when Mo Besic went down injured. Naismith scored all three against the soon-to-be-ex-champions, from an unfamiliar left midfield role, and was barely seen again. As parting memories go it’s not a bad one to have, but there’s the feeling Naismith’s tenure could have been much more.