Why the Premier League should shut down for 1 month because of the Coronavirus

There comes a time where we need to reflect in moments of danger and chaos and perhaps the Premier League needs to follow suit after a huge increase in Coronavirus cases this past week. Up to 18 players were diagnosed positive in the last few days and this follows on from over 30% of first team players who have had the virus, at what point do you stop playing?

The Coronavirus earlier in the year halted play in England for 3 months and yet really what has changed since then? True we have a better understanding of the virus and vaccines are now ready but they are being staggered out meaning that most of the country won’t actually have received the jab until much later next year.

Then we have the problem of a new variant. One does have to wonder why such a high profile sport like football hasn’t stopped at least for a month? Do club owners think it is alright for their players to get the virus? True we haven’t witnessed any serious illnesses from footballers or death which is a blessing, but scientists have talked at length of long covid and anyone can carry on to have symptoms and have damaged organs. Or are footballers simply immune to the dangers of the virus because they are fit and healthy?

In any regards it seems very careless to carry on. Of course any football fan wants football to carry on and having it stopped feels like the end of the world in some respects, but it is not just the players that have to be protected. For example what of the players families and friends, it just feels like the virus could spread even more.

West Bromwich Albion manager Sam Allardyce is correct to suggest that football for now needs to stop. He made a very good point of his age. Allardyce is 66 and in the danger zone if he were to get the virus and he pointed out that players may be able to brush it off but less so older people, and managers of course fall into that group. If players are getting the virus, surely managers will follow. Of course it has happened already, look at West Ham’s David Moyes. Thankfully his case was mild but that doesn’t mean to say the next one will be.

It is a very unfortunate situation and one could well believe that the Premier League are throwing caution to the wind. What will it take for the FA to say a break is needed? It would make sense with the increased cases and the fact that vaccines are now being rolled out having at least a months break and having players self isolate seems to be the correct thing to do.

We all love football, but some things are simply more important at this time.

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Premier League Game of the Week: West Bromwich Albion 1-5 Crystal Palace

It started with an own goal, granted but it ended with the redemption of Christian Benteke as Crystal Palace bagged a superb victory over West Bromwich Albion winning 5-1.

Crystal Palace have been hit and miss this season, for every win over Manchester United at Old Trafford there has been defeats against Newcastle and Burnley and the result has seen Roy Hodgson’s team already become a mid table team. Too good to get involved in a relegation dog fight but too inconsistent to push for Europe. At the weekend there was evidence for the former.

The own goal to open the scoring was like a stake in the heart for Slaven Bilic’s team who unlike Palace are going to face a fight for survival. Coming into this game West Brom had lost 60% of their games, but had given up wins for draws, with just one victory so far this season which came against Sheffield United the one team even worse than the Baggies.

But the home side struck back quick through a neat shot by Conor Gallagher who was incidentally set up by Darnell Furlong who had scored the own goal moments before, the first redemption of the match. But much credit would also have to go to Semi Ajayi whose world class pass to open up Palace set up the goal.

It was a first half that West Brom played well in, four shots on target to Palace’s one, and the half finished 1-1. But there would still be problems for West Brom after Matheus Pereira was sent off. He fell in a clash and on first look it looked like he caught his studs on Patrick van Aanholt. It seemed harmless enough but perhaps VAR was right to call back the incident. Pereira had his eyes locked on the Palace player and was sent off. Without that there could have been much optimism for Bilic, but he would never have foreseen for what was to come. It would be a painful 45 minutes that would see a further 4 goals with 10 men.

The red card had hampered the home side and took the wind out of them, and it was something Palace could feel as the 2nd half kicked off. Soon it would be 2-1 to Palace after a beautiful strike from Wilfried Zaha who is living up to his £80 million price tag from last summer, when there were reports he would leave the club. Zaha would go on to score again.

But perhaps it was a day for Christian Benteke to remember, his goals were not memorable but they were important for a player who has come under a lot of pressure for not producing the goods at Palace, well now he scored 2 goals in one game and his confidence looked reinstalled. It was telling how West Brom had given up, after having their five shots on target in the first period they managed none in the second half to Palace’s five.

Next week it is back to the hard grind for Palace who face league leaders Tottenham, at least they are at home but the Eagles will have to bear in mind that Jose Mourinho’s team have lost just once this season.

For West Brom they are in 19th with six points. Fulham give them hope and it means a win could see Bilic’s team escape the bottom three next weekend. The problem is they face a tricky tie away to Newcastle. You sense that Bilic’s time is running out though and he will have to start picking up the points.

As for Roy Hodgson,the veteran manager is having a very solid season and maybe the form of Benteke and Zaha will make it a memorable one.

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Jose Mourinho is right to quash talk of a league title as the media put needless pressure on Tottenham

Everyone’s at it, and it is something that the press dearly love- raising up a team, selling the fans the hype and then watching when it all goes wrong. Everton fans have already witnessed it this season. After winning their first 3 games of the season and then holding the champions Liverpool to a 2-2 draw, there was talk that Carlo Ancelotti was about to deliver Everton their first league title since 1987. After four games….

Aston Villa were next on the agenda because, at one point, a team that escaped the clutches of relegation on the last weekend of the season were now the only side left in the Premier League with a 100% record. Because Everton and of course Liverpool were in the mix we were reminded that there was a 1980s vibe to the league campaign- that’s all very well but were the media jumping the gun? just a bit it seems.

Now attentions have turned to Tottenham, because even though the club have dropped a few points, they are starting to find the goals and form and have crept up to 2nd place, swishing past Liverpool who dropped 2 points with a draw at Manchester City this past weekend.

From their first 8 games Tottenham have won 5, drawn 2 and lost 1 and that defeat came in the opening weekend of the season against Everton, so they haven’t tasted defeat in the league for 2 months. That is impressive, the club have scored 19 goals and only Chelsea with 20 have more. Spurs also have the joint best defensive record in the league conceding 9 so far.

The talk is beginning that the club could be title challengers and for a brief moment the club did go top of the table after their 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at the weekend. That victory came courtesy of a Harry Kane goal- his 150th league goal for the club.

Jose Mourinho has been asked the inevitable question that Tottenham are league contenders and quite rightly he has had to bat the question away. Even if in his mind this is how he feels, he will know so well how quickly football changes, that one week you can be 2nd and just a point behind the leaders and within two be down to fifth place and looking over your shoulder at who is sixth and seventh.

Also talking of the title is no good for the players- forget about Liverpool having to wait 30 years, for Tottenham this season it will be 60. That is an incredible weight to carry and it is something that Mourinho will be all too aware about. However even if Tottenham had won league titles in the past decade and had enjoyed much trophy success there has to be some perspective, only 8 games have been played and the gap from 2nd where they currently reside to 6th is just 2 points. There are no big gaps and nothing to suggest that this league title can be wrapped up by any one team.

Let’s look at last season it was Jose Mourinho who was then out of a job who called Liverpool to win the league title and it was November, just like now. Of course the biggest difference was that Liverpool had pulled out an 11 point gap, challengers Manchester City were looking fatigued, and they were the only challengers that season and the campaign of course had started in August and was 3 months old.

Of course there have been moments that have made anyone who loves football sit up and take notice. The first quarter of an hour against West Ham was an exercise in supreme attacking which saw Tottenham score 3 goals. And no one will forget the 6-1 mauling they have Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Tottenham also have the deadliest strike partnership in the league in Harry Kane and Heung- Min Son who have scored between them 15 goals of the 19 the club have netted so far. And Kane has been involved either scoring or assisting in 15 of the 19 goals.

Matt Doherty in defence is current ranked as the clubs best defender with 10 points and he has shown over the past weeks of being a brilliant buy in the summer, it’s as if he has been with the club for a few seasons. Special mention should also go to another defender in Sergio Reguilon who has assisted in 2 goals this season. And of course the return of Gareth Bale with his experience will be very welcomed. The Welshman has already secured 3 points for the club with his winning goal against Brighton earlier this month.

But talk of the title does seem very premature, the club are in the mix but then again so is Leicester and Southampton and the Foxes have actually won the league in 2016 and yet no one is quite talking them up just yet. The ever looming threat of Liverpool remains and the champions are in 3rd place only denied taking over Tottenham by goal difference. And everyone expects that Manchester City will recover to go on a run and we haven’t even mentioned Chelsea who are in 5th and undefeated in 9 games in all competitions.

Perhaps we will have a clearer picture in the next month when Tottenham will have what looks like a nightmare fixture list- Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Leicester. Get through those mostly unhampered and there could be cause to start talking of league run ins. But as anyone who has followed football for years will tell you, in most seasons title talk should be reserved until just after the Christmas period, that is the vantage point where we can see which teams have it and which teams look likely to fall off.

Admittingly Tottenham are heading in the right direction, this is something that Mourinho is fully aware of, he just doesn’t at this point of the season need reminding from the media. He needs himself to remain grounded as do his players as the games are going to come thick and fast, as they say it is one game at a time.

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Will West Ham be relegated under David Moyes?

It’s fair to say that David Moyes second term with West Ham has not started well and the pressure will be on the club after they crashed out of the FA Cup losing to West Bromwich Albion. Is David Moyes the right choice for the club?

The Hammers have not looked good under the Scotsman with only his first game back in charge showing any positives. In that the Londoners beat Bournemouth 4-0 and showed an attacking flair so rare under Manuel Pellegrini the former coach who was given his marching orders in December only to be replaced by Moyes.

There just seemed to be a collective sigh of disappointment but inevitability when Moyes was named as manager. He had been at West Ham before of course, indeed his last job was at the club, where he had rescued them somewhat but with nullifying football and a 29% win rate. It was interesting recently when Everton visited the London Stadium. Of course Moyes most infamous years were with Everton. But both clubs are in the same boat now, the same level if you will and yet Everton have moved on and have Carlo Ancelotti as manager, West Ham are stuck in the past with a manager who doesn’t seem to have the correct ideas for the club.

Since the Bournemouth win, the Hammers have lost to Sheffield United, drew with Everton and lost in a heavy 4-1 defeat against Leicester. In between all of that was a win- in the 3rd round of the FA Cup against Gillingham, but with all due respects to the club no Premier League team would live on that win for more than 48 hours.

The club are in 17th just but a slip into the bottom three does look inevitable. In two days’ time they will play their game in hand, a match that could give them breathing space. But as luck would have it that game is against current European and World club champions Liverpool, who of course have not lost a match in the Premier League in over a year. Add to the fact that Moyes had a terrible time when playing Liverpool in the Merseyside derby and you more than likely will have another loss for the Hammers.

To add insult to injury West Ham will play Liverpool again in a few weeks time up at Anfield before having to encounter Manchester City. If we look at the clubs next 8 fixtures they will be lucky to get 7 points, based on their fixtures and by then it will be the end of March and relegation could be a possibility.

The bookmakers have Norwich far and away out to go down and next up is Bournemouth who are priced up at 1.80 (4/5). West Ham are currently 2.75 (7/4) whilst Everton who are a same boat team as we discussed before are now 66/1. See the difference?

One has to wonder what was running through the clubs owners minds when they decided that Moyes would be the right choice to lead the club forward? In truth they didn’t trust their own instinct only giving him an 18 month contract.

Everything feels so utterly predictable for West Ham right now. The fact that they went out to WBA in the cup is a feeling of deja vue over other cup years. But the fact that WBA’s manager is Slaven Bilic a former manager of West Ham and a cult player at the club just rubbed big gritty salt into the wounds of a club who also seem to have lost their identity. Bilic himself touched on this last week claiming that the new stadium for the Hammers is devoid of atmosphere.

He was 100% right of course, but now the focus has to be on what major turn of events happens next at the club. The best thing would be that the current owners sell the club on, they have had their time, and it hasn’t all been bad, just very underwhelming. The roots of the club need to be pulled out, because the Hammers do have a decent team, much too good to go down, but where have we heard that one before?

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Slaven Bilic criticises West Ham’s stadium move, was he right?

Former West Ham player Slaven Bilic has criticised West Ham’s move to London Stadium. Bilic who commands much respect from the West Ham faithful is bringing his side West Bromwich Albion to the Hammers new ground to play out their FA Cup 4th round tie at the weekend.

Bilic played for West Ham at their old stadium the Boleyn Ground and also managed the team, in fact he was in charge when the club played their last ever season at the historic ground. Bilic said: It’s not an excuse, but if you ask me if it was better to play at Upton Park or not then there’s no discussion,” he said. ”It was more home, it was more hostile. Not one opposition player enjoyed it when they had to go to Upton Park. That’s a fact. The Olympic Stadium is very different for an away team. You enjoy it more.”

The Croatian went on to say,”what also changes are the fans. It’s like pubs; now you have modern bars. When you take people out of the pub and go to them, they don’t feel comfortable. They prefer pubs where it is packed and you are shoulder to shoulder. Like what Roy Keane said about the ‘prawn sandwich brigade’ – it leads to that. You don’t want to lose that hostile home advantage and there are very few of those traditional clubs left in the Premier League because the league forces you to become more a corporation than a football club.”

Bilic did not mix his words, but is he right about the new stadium? Well fans of the club do seem to think so, and whilst the stadium is modern and state of the art compared to the old ground it has completely lost it’s sense of atmosphere.

It’s a difficult situation for clubs now who don’t want to be seen playing in old stadiums that feel well past their prime and there does seem to be a pressure in the digital age to move on. Change of course is natural and in 100 years time West Ham most probably won’t even be at the London Stadium.

A reason they could move is that they don’t actually own the stadium and it is being paid by taxpayers, which is a disgrace in all honesty, though that argument is for a different day and topic. It does seem as if the clubs owners have made a mistake in moving though. Surely the biggest asset of moving ground would be for money reasons but it is reported once all rent has been paid that the club only make an extra £2m in revenues.

Was that worth such a drastic change, in losing that intimidating atmosphere at the club? At the same time even when they were at their old ground they had won nothing in over 35 years, so maybe the closeness of the fans to the pitch worked for some games, but overall did staying at Boleyn Ground really make that much difference?

Perhaps the problem is in ownership, David Sullivan and David Gold are true supporters and love the club but at the same time maybe there time with the club is up. Maybe change is needed on a vast scale. Relegation could well be a possibility this season and playing in the Championship in a 60,000 concrete bowl with less atmosphere doesn’t sound too appetising. If Sullivan and Gold do indeed love the club maybe they need to sell up.

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Having Rondon as main striker encapsulates Newcastle’s problems

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Try as he might, Mike Ashley just can’t keep out of the headlines for long, and as such, Newcastle United are, by extension, also front and centre more often than they’d like.

Perhaps garnering the column inches is Ashley’s aim, but the Geordie faithful would prefer it was because of a new record signing, or that things were moving in the right direction both on and off the pitch.

One thing is fairly clear at present and that’s how much of a miracle worker Rafael Benitez is. The Spaniard has kept a tight and steady ship at St. James’ Park, and that’s no easy feat considering what’s going on behind the scenes. Continue reading

Why are Allardyce and Pardew still seen as progressive?

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So, Sam Allardyce is given his cards yet again, this time at Everton. The fourth job in succession where he’s either been sacked or left via ‘mutual consent.’ Sacked in other words.

Alan Pardew was given the old heave-ho a few weeks ago, and incredibly West Bromwich Albion’s fortunes took a sharp upturn after he’d left.

What is difficult to understand is why the pair, and others of their ilk, continue to be seen as somewhat progressive and are almost the first port of call when Premier League coaching jobs are available.

Overlooking Allardyce’s penchant for a quick few hundred thousand which in itself is a thorny issue, to essentially bring in someone whose best years in management were almost two decades ago and expect them to perform miracles is asking for trouble.

He’s nothing but a saviour, and from the route one school at that.

His teams play as he did. Physically imposing, limited in their capabilities, but willing to battle all day long. Just the ingredients required if you’re in the midst of a relegation battle or need promoting from the lower leagues.

But a European push? Don’t make me laugh.

The Dudley-born former central defender likes to use ProZone and the odd sports science methodology to help get his points and tactics across, but he’s still the same old northern hoofer underneath the Emperor’s new clothes.

And yet, clubs are still falling for it. His agent must be on huge bunce because he’s the true miracle worker here.

Everton, like Crystal Palace, Sunderland and West Ham before them, now have to honour the outrageous contract that was negotiated whilst poring over what exactly they’ve paid him for, for the last six months.

Pardew is cut from the same cloth as Allardyce. Arguably, his last successful stint at any club came at West Ham, where he took them to the 2006 FA Cup final.

Only Steven Gerrard’s desire on the day took Liverpool to the promised land because for long periods, the Hammers were the better team in what has since been labelled the best-ever FA Cup final.

The following season, he took the Hammers on their worst run of defeats in 70 years, but somehow this was enough to convince Charlton Athletic to hire him just a fortnight after his dismissal in east London.

Charlton were in dire straits when he took them over, so their subsequent relegation can’t be pinned on him, but eight games without a win saw them in the Championship’s bottom three. Off he went again.

Southampton was his next port of call but player unrest and low staff morale, allegedly because of Pardew’s insistence at following outdated and unworkable methods, saw a swift exit.

Quite how he then went on to land one of the biggest jobs in the country – Newcastle United – is anyone’s guess… though they did also employ Allardyce!

A four-year stay wasn’t overly successful and neither did his stint at Crystal Palace where, finally, a chairman hit the nail on the head. Steve Parish said of Pardew “his style of football hasn’t and doesn’t work.” Hallelujah.

Five months at West Brom was more than enough for the Baggies, Pardew leaving the club at the foot of the table and 10 games without a win. Their relegation, despite Darren Moore’s best efforts, was ultimately down to Pardew.

Both Allardyce and Pardew are relics from the past, trying to make themselves relevant in a game that’s now far ahead of their level of understanding. Simply put, football has moved on. They haven’t.

There’s a reason why the pair keep being sacked from each club that offer them a route back, but perhaps their reputations are now so tarnished that everyone has learnt their lesson.

One can only hope.

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Hegazi a shining light in West Brom’s season of darkness

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Following Southampton’s 1-0 victory over Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion have finally been relegated, leaving their inspirational recent resurgence all in vain.

Having won their last three matches and been unbeaten in their last five overall, their eight year stay in the Premier League is over, after an enormously disappointing season.

One of the few players who can hold their head high, though, is their powerful Egyptian defender, Ahmed Hegazi, for he’s unquestionably been a shining light in their season of darkness, with his assuredness, physicality and determination proving vital for the Baggies. Continue reading

Premier League Expected Line-Ups – Week 38

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Burnley vs AFC Bournemouth

Burnley (4-4-1-1)

Nick Pope, Matthew Lowton, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Aaron Lennon, Jack Cork, Ashley Westwood, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Jeff Hendrick, Sam Vokes

Questionable: Ben Mee, Chris Wood

Out: Ashley Barnes, Robbie Brady, Scott Arfield, Steven Defour

AFC Bournemouth (3-4-3)

Asmir Begovic, Simon Francis, Steve Cook, Nathan Ake, Ryan Fraser, Lewis Cook, Andrew Surman, Charlie Daniels, Joshua King, Callum Wilson, Marc Pugh

Questionable: Harry Arter, Adam Smith

Out: Junior Stanislas

Continue reading