Leicester City are a Premier League team that certainly possess loads of proven potential.
Having completed the 2020/21 season in 5th position and narrowly missing out on a Champions League spot, it is fair to say that the footballing world had been expecting bigger things from Brendan Rogers’ side this year.
However, the Foxes currently lie mid-table in the EPL and more than 10 points away from a top 6 finish.
It is difficult to pinpoint one single reason behind the team’s underperformance in the current campaign.
This leads us to the conclusion that there may perhaps be a number of aspects that have caused the side’s below-par performance.
The Long Term Absence of Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy is a player that has been instrumental to Leicester’s rise to the top in recent years.
There is no question that the striker has provided his side with a very reliable source of goals for many consecutive seasons.
He has also served as the main target man and a central focus of Leicester’s attacking-minded strategy, which has proven to be a large part of the team’s long term success. In the 2019/20 season, the Englishman finished as the top scorer of the Premier League campaign with 23 goals.
There is no doubt that the playing quality and immense loyalty that Vardy has shown to the Leicester side has earned him respect and admiration from the world of football at large.
Aside from the player’s ability and praise, Jamie Vardy has struggled to maintain match fitness in the current campaign due to a string of long term injuries that continue to keep him out of the side.
Although it is true that Leicester are the 4th highest-scoring team this season, the absence of their danger man upfront has dampened the team’s attacking prowess while also altering their style of play.
This has meant that Brendan Rodgers has been forced to change things up in his forward lineup with the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho, Patson Daka, Harvey Barnes and others featuring as the main men upfront for large parts of the season.
However, it seems that the ex Liverpool manager is yet to find a playing combo that yields the desirable attacking output, as the starting lineup continues to change more often than not.
Such disruption in playing personnel is likely to be a primary cause behind Leicester’s underperformance this season.
In addition to Vardy’s time on the sidelines, the Leicester squad has also been riddled with injury in other areas of the pitch.
The likes of James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Jonny Evans, Timothy Castagne and Wesley Fofana are all examples of players who have spent a lengthy spell on the sidelines this season.
This has largely affected player availability and squad depth for Brendan Rogers, adding to further disruption to the side’s campaign.
In fact, at one point in the season, Leicester’s injury list was so extensive, that the side was forced to delve into the transfer market to acquire emergency defensive expertise in the form of Jannik Vestergaard from Southampton.
This addition certainly strengthened the squad, however not enough to challenge the team’s previous campaign display.
End of Season Slump
The congested fixture list that arises at this time of year, alongside an intense shortage of players, has given Leicester City a monumental challenge that is proving to be too difficult of a task to overcome.
The Foxes have only been victorious in 4 of the side’s last 10 Premier League fixtures, emphasising a further slump in form over the tail end of the current campaign.
With the side currently sitting 10th in the table with a few games to play, it is also most probably too late to earn a place in Europe next season.
Due to Leicester’s series of struggles, the side is likely starting to show signs of intense emotional and physical exhaustion.
The Reds were in action once again this week as the team’s immensely busy fixture list continued.
It was the Italian underdogs, Inter Milan, who put up a greatly convincing display in what was a tremendously ‘high stake’ encounter.
Although Liverpool proceeded to the quarterfinals thanks to a superior aggregate scoreline, it was the Italian side who earned a narrow victory on Wednesday evening.
This highlights the fact that the Reds indeed possess a number of vulnerabilities, which creates a degree of worry for future games as they attempt to add additional silverware to the season’s campaign.
In order to better understand the possible reasons behind the team’s most recent loss, let’s delve into an analysis of their latest Champions League fixture, while highlighting 3 main talking points from the game.
Diogo Jota’s Recent Dip in Form
Diogo Jota has certainly played a greatly pivotal role in the team this season, however, since returning from a spell on the sidelines, as a result of an ankle injury, it feels that the Portuguese attacker has just not been his usual self.
Jota made his official return to the pitch in the club’s Carabao Cup victory against Chelsea in which he positively contributed towards a winning penalty shootout.
Despite this, it has been noticed that his recent matches have been greatly lacklustre and off-the-pace compared to the attacker’s past displays in which goals and assists were always in absolute abundance.
Honing in on the Inter Milan encounter specifically, it is fair to say that the player’s performance was far from his best.
Jota was guilty of being caught up in possession on plenty of occasions which gave the opponents lots of easily avoidable opportunities to penetrate our defence.
In harsh reality, many agree that the attacker was even possibly the worst performing player on the pitch.
Let’s be fair, it has to be expected of a player who is returning from a spell on the sidelines, to be slightly rusty and short of match sharpness.
Therefore, it only feels right to say that Jota should be granted a bit more time to return to his pre-injured form before such strong judgements are formulated.
However, this does not take away from the importance of such a narrative in this current moment, as an underperforming attacker has the potential to place huge added pressure on an already busy period of football.
Furthermore, although the Reds got away with it this time (only based on aggregate), future games in which an attacker underperforms, may not play out in the same vein.
This is a primary piece of analysis that was drawn from the Reds’ recent loss at Anfield and certainly something worth keeping an eye on for Liverpool’s season run-in.
Luis Diaz, a Much-Needed Addition To the Team.
The January transfer window took many Liverpool fans by surprise as the Reds sealed a last-minute shock deal to acquire the services of Columbian star, Luis Diaz.
The player has proven to be a greatly exciting addition to the squad and has already made his mark by injecting loads of energy into games while also creating plenty of offensive chances.
The no. 23 has also recently become a go-to pick for the team’s starting lineup having been chosen to start in 3 of the Reds’ last 5 matches.
Prior to the player joining the team, Liverpool were believed to be well covered in terms of back-up attacking playing options. However, as a result of Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota’s simultaneous injuries, and their time spent on the sidelines, such a luxury quickly disappeared.
This meant that the signing of Luis Diaz, all of a sudden became a greatly important move on the part of Liverpool FC and could arguably even prove to be the most pivotal moment of the club’s season.
Diaz was introduced to the team late on in the club’s defeat to Inter Milan on Wednesday night and proved to make a strong positive impact to the team’s performance, despite only playing for 7 minutes.
This game once again showed just how well the Columbian has fitted in at Anfield. His fast pace and forward-thinking playing style is a breath of fresh air and gels with the team’s current strategic approach to the highest degree.
Although he was unable to turn the game around after being subbed on, it has to be said that Diaz is an incredibly exciting player and someone with the potential to greatly drive a successful Champions League campaign for the Reds this season.
Alexis Sanchez; Lucky Not To Be Sent Off in the 1st Half
The Champions League encounter between Liverpool and Inter Milan proved to possess a fair share of ‘sting’ and aggression. Fouls were committed in great amounts as the referee awarded a total of 9 yellow cards throughout the evening.
It was Alexis Sanchez who became the central talking point in the 1st half, as the player committed a risky high tackle challenge on Liverpool midfielder, Thiago.
After initially seeming to be greatly hurt by the challenge, Thiago was able to shake off, what proved to be only a little knock, while Sanchez proceeded to express his apologies for the dangerous tackle.
Replays indicated that this was indeed a studs-up challenge which landed above the Spaniard’s ankle, causing many to ponder about the possibility of a red card. However, such thoughts were quickly squandered by the referee.
It was indeed not Alexis Sanchez’s night, as the player was shown a 2nd yellow card after a reckless challenge in the 63rd minute, leaving his team with 10 men for the final third of the match.
Although Liverpool were given this extra window of opportunity to stamp their presence on the game, it makes one wonder how the outcome may have been different should the Inter Milan striker have been sent off in the 1st half, as it would have surely altered the Italian side’s style of play, and maybe thus the result of the match.
Nevertheless, it is the Reds who advance to the next round of the competition.
It is clear that Wednesday’s encounter against Inter Milan was not short of ups and downs. It is Diogo Jota who struggled to display his expected levels of quality for the Red’s. However, in a more favourable light, he is thankfully on the mend from a very recent injury while Luis Diaz continues to show his immense class and prowess.
With these points in mind, it is believed that things are looking good for the Reds, who advance to the next round of the tournament and anxiously await the draw for the Champions League round of 16.
Having Cristiano Ronaldo back in the Premier League has increased the excitement factor and should make this one of the most thrilling title races in years.
While fans of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea were gutted to hear that Ronaldo, one of the greatest footballers of all time, had returned to the league, it’s only upped the ante.
As a Liverpool fan myself, I’m not Ronaldo’s biggest fan but I’m a football fan first and as a lover of the Premier League, it’s great to see the Portuguese back in England.
I’m hoping it ends in tears for him and Manchester United fans as I’ve wasted no time telling my friends but his display in the 4-1 win over Newcastle United suggests a title could finally be on its way to Old Trafford.
Ronaldo scored a brace and while the first goal was a fortunate one due to the rebound from Mason Greenwood’s shot, the second goal came about from his world-class movement, explosive pace and pinpoint finishing.
My only reason to be happy was that I have him in my FPL team and I regret not making him captain even though Mohamed Salah still earned me decent points with his MOTM display at Elland Road against Leeds United.
The interesting thing about Ronaldo returning to England is that at 36, he won’t be able to play every league game while also starting every Champions League game for Manchester United.
He might be a freak of nature as far as his physique is concerned and he’s always been famous for taking very good care of his body but the intensity in England is far different to Italy and Spain.
Yet, with Ronaldo hungry for goals and looking to win a second Balon d’Or with United, he will want to top the goalscoring charts in every competition he plays in.
However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be more than aware of the risks of overplaying a 36-year-old and so it’s going to be very fascinating to watch the power dynamic between player and manager play out this season.
Ronaldo commands any dressing room he’s in but Ole will need to maintain his position as the leader at United otherwise things will be primed to go horribly wrong if he’s made to look weak in front of a squad now blessed with winners like Raphael Varane.
For the casual Premier League consumer, Ronaldo’s return is the best news the league has received in recent years but for Man Utd’s rivals, it’s bad news…
The first international break of the new season is upon us and there will be no Premier League action for a while, so at Premier League Central, we have decided to take a look at the standout performers across the first three rounds of matches.
While it does not always translate to eventual success, a good start to a Premier League season usually helps set the tone for the rest of the campaign. A couple of sides have flown out of the blocks this term including current leaders Tottenham Hotspur, last year’s dark horses West Ham and European champions Chelsea to name a few.
As always, certain players have been at the heart of their team’s early success and without further ado, here are our top five in no particular order:
With four goals and three assists in the first three games, Antonio has arguably been the best player in the league so far. His link-up play with the likes of Said Benrahma and Pablo Fornals has been a thing of joy to watch. The striker, who recently switched his international allegiance to Jamaica, has recovered from an opening-day penalty miss versus Newcastle in style and has not looked back ever since.
Mason Greenwood started the season as United’s number nine due to an accumulation of factors such as Edinson Cavani’s injury and Anthony Martial’s struggles with form. The teenager has more than held his own, netting in each of his side opening three fixtures where he has single-handedly won them four points. While the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo might see him moved out wide, the youngster has shown that he is more than capable of performing anywhere in the front line.
Tottenham remains the only team not to have let in a single goal and this is in no small part thanks to their goalkeeper and skipper Hugo Lloris who has made the most saves with 12 across the first three matchdays. The Frenchman endured a relatively disappointing campaign last time out but he looks to be back to his best on the evidence of his performances this term.
After leaving Leicester City in January, Gray moved to Bayer Leverkusen in a bid to get his career back on track. Eight months down the line and the 25-year-old is enjoying his football again, albeit now at Everton who splashed €2m in the summer to acquire his services. With two goals in his opening three games, that fee is beginning to look like a thrifty bargain.
Benrahma’s first season at the London Stadium did not go as planned as he struggled for form and fitness, scoring just one Premier League goal in 30 outings. Fast forward to the new campaign and the Algerian now looks every inch like the player who convinced the Hammers to fork out €23m to secure his signature last year. With two goals and assists apiece already, his partnership with Antonio upfront could lead West Ham to another memorable campaign.
Starting on Friday with Arsenal vs. Brentford, the 2021-2022 Premier League season is not short of headlines.
Will Manchester City make it four titles in five years? Can Chelsea or Manchester United capitalize on their big money signings from the summer? Will Liverpool rebound after an injury-ridden season?
How about the challengers? Can Mikel Arteta finally fulfill his promise to bring Arsenal back to prominence? How inspired will Tottenham (and specifically Harry Kane) play under new manager Nuno Esperito Santo? Will another team, perhaps Aston Villa, Everton, or West Ham, sneak into a European place? Can newly promoted Brentford survive in their first season in the top division in over eighty years?
The top teams have remained steady, but we’ve seen several unlikely teams contend with the elite in recent years. Furthermore, we’ve soon emerging newcomers to the Premier League and young prospects take the competition by storm.
Without further ado, here are the Premier League Central’s picks for the upcoming season:
After spending upwards of ₤225 million in last summer’s transfer window, Chelsea were well-stocked throughout the team. Or so they thought. Despite the additions of Edouard Mendy and Ben Chilwell in defense and the emergence of academy products Mason Mount and Reece James, Frank Lampard struggled to get the best out of his attacking players.
The first problem, coaching, was quickly fixed with the hiring of Thomas Tuchel who helped Kai Havertz, Jorginho, and even Timo Werner to a degree rediscover their class. The only missing piece was a consistent, clinical finisher and Romelu Lukaku should bring just that to the Blues.
With confidence, continuity, and Kante on their side, Chelsea enter the season with one of the most formidable squads in recent memory. Assuming the backline can hold up, look for Chelsea to lift their sixth Premier League trophy.
Top 4: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United
These four teams have separated themselves from the rest of the league. However, where they finish relative to one another is a difficult question to answer.
Despite last season’s injury struggles, Liverpool still managed to finish 3rd and look forward to the return of talisman Virgil van Dijk. We should expect Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to bounce back from a disappointing campaign. Furthermore, the likes of Thiago and Diogo Jota have settled in and should really really show their class this season.
Manchester City go into the season defending their title but with concerns. Many of their top players, including Kevin de Bruyne, Ederson, and John Stones just recently returned from holiday. Phil Foden is injured. Furthermore, players such as Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, and Aymeric Laporte are all considering moves away. Despite the record signing of Jack Grealish, City may regret now buying an out-and-out striker.
Finally, Manchester United targeted areas of need with the signings of Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane. Questions persist in the midfield. Will Paul Pogba—on an expiring contract—play like he did for France in the Euros? And what’s to make of Donny van de Beek? Can Edinson Cavani carry the scoring load for the Red Devils with Marcus Rashford on the sidelines for several months?
Relegated: Norwich City, Crystal Palace, Brentford
Last year, Fulham and West Bromwich Albion dropped back down to the Championship after just one season in the top division. In fact, 7 out of the 15 newly promoted sides in the past five years were immediately relegated.
Norwich City are notorious for flip-flopping between the Premier League and the Championship. The Canaries have been promoted to the top division four times in the past eight years, never once lasting more than a season. Daniel Farke’s side has done little to suggest that this season will be any different.
Crystal Palace have always dangled slightly too close to the relegation battle for comfort. After seeing a remarkable eight first-team players leave as their contracts expired, they have really only replenished in the heart of defence with the signings of Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen. If Wilfried Zaha doesn’t carry them, they will really struggle for goals. The hiring of Premier League legend Patrick Vieira is also questionable, given his lack of success as a manager in MLS and Ligue 1.
Finally to Brentford, the new darlings of the Premier League. Manager Thomas Frank has done brilliantly to get his side promoted, despite consistently selling their best players. However, questions remain with the backline and overall depth of the side. They’ll need new signing Kristoffer Ajer and star striker Ivan Toney to perform to stave off relegation.
Player of the Season: Mohamed Salah
At this point, Mohamed Salah has become the Sergio Aguero of the Premier League. Everyone knows that he is amongst the best few players in the league, contends for the Golden Boot every season, and is absolutely vital to the success of his side.
However, Salah will benefit from something he hasn’t had in his Liverpool career—a long summer to recharge. The Egyptian has a chip on his shoulder, seeking a new deal and revenge for last season’s shortcomings. An injury to Kevin de Bruyne should also improve his chances.
Golden Boot: Mohamed Salah
After winning the Golden Boot in two of the past three seasons, Salah fell just one short of becoming just the third player to achieve the feat on three occasions last season. With a healthy Liverpool side (for now), a disgruntled Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku needing time to reacclimate to the Premier League, and Jamie Vardy aging, I’d put my money on Salah.
However, if Liverpool get more contributions from Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Diogo Jota, perhaps an under-the-radar player could swoop in. Don’t be surprised if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Raheem Sterling have a say.
Golden Glove: Alisson
Despite their injury crisis at centerback, Liverpool still finished the season 3rd in goals allowed. With the return of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip and the addition of Ibrahima Konate, Jurgen Klopp’s side suddenly looks strong in this position. Furthermore, we could see resurgent seasons from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, along with better protection of the backline with a more consistent triumvirate of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, and Thiago in midfield.
Ederson will definitely have a shout, given his 19 clean sheets being three more than any other goalkeeper last season. However, it’s hard to see the inconsistent John Stones and Joao Cancelo repeating their remarkable seasons from last year and, despite how good he is, one can expect a slight decline from Ruben Dias.
Manchester United’s backline looks strong with the addition of Raphael Varane, but concerns exist over their current goalkeepers. Dean Henderson has seemingly eclipsed David de Gea in the pecking order. However, Henderson is struggling with a bout of COVID-19 and De Gea commands huge wages. Furthermore, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw are just now returning from holiday, while Varane is yet to practice with the side. An acclimation period is to be expected.
Surprise Team of the Season: Watford
The Hornets are again back on the main stage after a one year respite following a five-year stint in the Premier League. Largely retaining the team that was relegated two seasons ago, Watford comfortably finished amongst the top two and are looking to restart another long tenure in the top flight.
Watford boast a solid mix of youth and experience. Goal contributions come in the form of Liverpool target Ismaila Sarr and Joao Pedro, just 23 and 19 years old, respectively. Premier League veterans Will Hughes, Tom Cleverley, Dan Gosling, and Nathaniel Chalobah provide steel in the midfield. Daniel Bachmann and Ben Foster give the side two great options to salvage points. Finally, the ever-present Troy Deeney remains part of the fold. Expect this side to not only avoid the drop but to surprise everyone and finish ahead of the bottom six.
Disappointing Team of the Season: West Ham
After an outstanding 6th place finish last season, David Moyes’ side wants to solidify their position in the top half of the Premier League. However, they just haven’t added the reinforcements needed to maintain their status. While all of the traditional top six along with Leicester, Everton, and Leeds have all strengthened, West Ham have done little in the transfer market as of now.
The Hammers received fantastic contributions from Declan Rice, Michael Antonio, and Tomas Soucek last season. However, it is likely that we see some regression from these players. The club also lost star loanee Jesse Lingard, leaving an obvious hole in the creative position. Moves for players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Filip Menkovic would change things. Too late now, but Danny Ings seemed like a great signing.
More than anything, West Ham may disappoint based on the expectations that were developed from last season.
Breakout player: Emiliano Buendia
The league alright got a glimpse of Buendia’s talent for Norwich two years ago, but the Argentinian is prepared to take the next step. We saw how important Jack Grealish’s creativity was to Aston Villa last season, especially when Dean Smith’s side lost the player to injury near the end of the season.
Buendia has the dribbling ability, positional awareness, and passing savvy to fill Grealish’s shoes. He also has quite a luxury of a supporting cast, with the ability to supply Ollie Watkins and the new signings Leon Bailey and Danny Ings. Few players will have more assists and chances created than Buendia this season.
Chelsea are on the lookout for a goalscorer, but what type of striker do they need?
The Blues are lucky in that they have arguably the most tactically flexible coach in the world. Able to switch formation from game to game, with expertly drilled players following his every word. However, his Chelsea side is in dire need of a consistent striker. Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski have been linked, among others, but who best fits this side?
They could go for a true number nine, someone who stays central, hold the ball up, run in behind. The two that stand out here are Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland. They’re the names you bring in to win a title. However, with the way Tuchel currently plays, speed is vital.
Haaland of course has it in spades, but he’d be incredibly expensive. Lewandowski on the other hand is far better in a team dominating the ball. His hold up play is excellent, he’s adept at finishing with either foot. However, at 32 years of age, will Tuchel look to bring in a younger model?
One question is that of Timo Werner, he was the man brought in to solve Chelsea’s goalscoring issues. However, he has struggled in front of goal this season. Noticeably, his best seasons have come when playing in a two striker system. A player who has also flourished in this regard is Lautaro Martinez.
Helping spear head Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan alongside Romelu Lukaku, he and Werner would form a youthful partnership. It would also give Kai Havertz the option of playing in his favoured position, behind the strikers. Alongside Werner he’d provide a more physical option, someone for the speedy German to play off. Do that, and we may see the striker who managed 28 goals in 34 Bundesliga appearances last season.
Whoever comes in, Chelsea are clearly on the rise. Well funded, having survived the pandemic better than most, they have the pick of Europe’s top talent. With Thomas Tuchel at the helm, and a new striker coming in, they could be the newest challengers to Manchester City.
Erik Ten Hag could be on his way to Spurs, the club responsible for what must be his most heartbreaking defeat ever.
His time at Ajax has been an unqualified success. Nurturing young players such as Matthijs De Ligt, Donny Van de Beek, and Frenkie De Jong, his side plays fantastic football. Playing with a 4-3-3, the old Ajax way, flying forward with pace and verve, it’s a side Johan Cruyff would be proud of. However, it seems he could be moving to London to join up with Tottenham.
In the aftermath of Jose Mourinho’s departure, the North London club have had a horrific week. Losing their premier managerial target in Julian Nagelsmann, as well as the League Cup final was disastrous. There are also questions over the futures of Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min. This, on top of losing the income that would have come from the Super League, leaves the North London club in a worrying situation.
Ten Hag however, is used to working on a budget. Unlike their European rivals, Ajax do not have the luxury of a huge budget. Instead they rely on their world-famous scouting system and academy. If Ten Hag can bring his staff with him to the Premier League, it could work in Spurs’ favour. However, this of course will not be easy.
One question hanging over Ten Hag is whether he is the calibre of manager Spurs needs to get back to the top. Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Juventus to name a few have all changed managers since his famous semi-final run.
This could be because of a number of other factors of course. He could have stayed out of loyalty, or Ajax could have merely defied him an exit. However, it is an intriguing side-plot if he does indeed move to Tottenham. Whatever happens, Tottenham’s incumbent manager has a truly incredible task on their hands.
The announcement of the European Super League’s (ESL) creation has rocked the world of football.
Twelve clubs, including six from the Premier League have allowed greed and blind ambition to turn them into pale imitations of the clubs they were. How would the likes of Bill Shankly and Matt Busby react to this news? Poorly you would suspect. So what happens for these clubs now? What happens to the fans?
For a start, almost every game these clubs play this season is effectively pointless. Liverpool’s game against Leeds United, a vital match for the top four race has been rendered irrelevant. All sense of competition in the Premier League and in Europe has been rendered mute.
Gary Neville described the decision as “Disowning your club stuff” on Sky Sports. Make no mistake, if you’re a local fan it’s too late to disown your club because they’ve already disowned you. According to the BBC’s Dan Roan, executives at ESL clubs are referring to these fans and others as ‘legacy fans’. They’re instead looking for ‘fans of the future’ who are looking for their clubs to sign as many star names as possible. It’s not just the ‘legacy fans’ who will suffer as a result of this, however.
Players from these clubs will never play international football again. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mason Mount, Phil Foden, will never line up for the Three Lions again. Assuming, of course, they stay at their clubs. That would be nothing short of a travesty. This though is where these clubs are playing a very dangerous game.
It’s hard to see the best players in the world being willing to forgo an opportunity to represent their countries. From the most recent England squad, only 10 of the 23 man squad would be eligible to play. It’s a similar situation across the world’s best national teams.
The Super League’s brand is all about having the best players and best clubs in one place. If the players are banned from playing for their national teams though, it’s hard to see them staying with these clubs. This automatically destroys any appeal the league might have had and makes it even more pointless. That’s not even mentioning the possibility of them not being able to play in their own national leagues.
However, it appears the sheer arrogance of these owners will see them push past this problem and attempt to form the league regardless. UEFA are no better, however. The Champions League and its promise of places for big teams who fail to qualify are every bit as ridiculous as the ESL. This ring-fencing of football for the elite simply has to stop.
Now the time has come for football as an entity to take a stand. Not UEFA, not FIFA, not Sky Sports or any major company, but the community of the sport. These clubs believe they can reap the financial benefits of the ESL, while playing in their domestic competitions. The sheer arrogance of this, the hubris displayed is stunning.
These clubs should be ruthlessly punished, and ruthlessly so. Relegation, points docking, nothing should be taken off the table. Whether or not the ESL does go ahead, these people need to be shown there are limits.
It’s a bit of a debate right now, so here’s how we think England’s squad should look at the Euros.
Gareth Southgate had looked to be heading in to play a 3-4-3, but in the last international break, we saw a return to the 4-3-3 in the most recent fixtures. This gives a lot more potential for flexibility and better suits a lot of the players in England’s squad.
Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson (Substitute: Nick Pope, Reserve: Jordan Pickford)
Nick Pope had a chance to stake his claim in the last international break. He didn’t take it. His lack of surety with the ball at his feet is not what Gareth Southgate looks for. On the other hand, Jordan Pickford has simply had too many high profile errors to be trusted for England. Dean Henderson on the other hand, has been England’s best keeper in recent months.
Having wrestled away the starting spot at Manchester United from David De Gea, he’s put in some excellent performances for the Old Trafford club. A vocal presence at the back, he would help command England’s defence. Capable of playing out of the back, and a reliable shot stopper, he should be donning the gloves for England at the Championships.
Right Back: Kyle Walker (Substitute: Trent Alexander-Arnold)
For all of the young talents in this squad, the sheer athleticism and flexibility of Kyle Walker demand he is included. Able to play as a wing-back, a centre back on the right side of the three or as a traditional right back, he is Southgate’s jack of all trades. Whilst not the best attacking outlet, when compared to Trent Alexander-Arnold, his sheer speed makes him a threat.
His ability to play in a back three also lends a reason for him to start. His presence allows England to switch up and allow a more attacking wing-back, such as Alexander-Arnold to come on and open up opposition defences. He’s also one of the elder statesmen in the squad, and his experience will be vital.
Centre-backs: Harry Maguire, John Stones (Substitutes: Conor Coady, Lewis Dunk)
This is arguably where England are weakest. John Stones and Harry Maguire provide the best options for the Three Lions. Joe Gomez if fit, would compete with these two, but given his knee injury, it looks like he’ll miss out. The major benefit with this pair is their comfortability on the ball. Both are happy to bring the ball out from the back, and will help England progress the ball.
However, neither are the most athletic of defenders, so the Three Lions will have to be careful of leaving them isolated. Maguire in particular, can look vulnerable when isolated against speedy strikers. However, they’re certainly the best options for Southgate. Where controversy arrives is in the form of backup defenders.
While Eric Dier and Tyrone Mings are Southgate’s go-to rotation centre-halves, the pair are in desperately poor form. This is especially obvious when you look at some of the other options. Conor Coady, despite a poor season at Wolves, has performed well for England, and is another who is more than capable on the ball. Meanwhile, Lewis Dunk has been a consistently brilliant marshal of Brighton’s backline, and is comfortable playing in a back four or three.
Left-back: Luke Shaw (Substitute: Ben Chilwell)
Luke Shaw has gone from being a bit of a joke, to being arguably the best full-back in England this season. Similar to Kyle Walker, he’s adept at playing either as an orthodox left-back, or on the left of a back three. He’s more than happy to get forward with the ball, and is a solid defender. Where he was previously accused of lacking was his creativity going forward. That’s changed now.
He’s created 3.3 shots per 90 on average for the last 12 months according to FBref. This puts him higher than 96% of his contemporaries. His fabulous cross for Harry Kane against Albania in their recent match was an excellent showcase of his ability. Ben Chilwell, now playing for Chelsea represents a great back-up for Shaw but hasn’t been performing at the same level.
Declan Rice is by far the first choice for England. Capable of playing in a midfield two or as a lone six in a 4-3-3, his versatility alone marks him out. A physical player, he likes to engage in challenges and break up play, often acting as a foil for a more attacking midfield partner. However, this season at West Ham, he has started to take on more responsibility with the ball at his feet.
While playing at a slightly lower standard, Kalvin Phillips is a worthy deputy. Since reverting to a deeper playmaking role under Marcelo Bielsa, he has become a vital player at Elland Road. While an active defender, where he’d be best utilised would be someone to assist in counter-attacking in the England set up. His ability to find attackers from range would be excellent against a high-pressing outfit.
Advanced midfielders: Jordan Henderson and Mason Mount (Substitutes: Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham)
For the number eight roles in front of Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson and Mason Mount are the obvious choices. Henderson is every bit the kind of veteran midfielder that is required in tournaments such as this. Famous for his vocal leadership, and his seemingly inexhaustible engine, he provides the experienced head in a youthful England squad. He also has the discipline to cover any full-backs his right-back might make ahead of him.
Mason Mount completes the midfield. His tenacity, both on and off the ball provides England with a driving force from midfield. Incredibly adept at receiving the ball, he’s more than capable of beating the press and breaking opposition lines. He also adds a goal threat from midfield, with three goals in England’s last seven matches.
Finally there’s Jude Bellingham, one of the standout midfield talents in the world, never mind England. Despite his tender age of 17, he is a regular starter for Borussia Dortmund. A true box-to-box midfielder, he’s an extremely capable option, with his recent display against Manchester City impressing many observers.
Meanwhile, Phil Foden provides the opportunity to bring along a specialised attacking midfielder. Able to play as a 10, as an eight, or a right-winger, his ability on the ball is almost unparalleled in this squad.
Left-Wing: Jack Grealish (Subs: Marcus Rashford)
Jack Grealish has gone from a prospect to a standout talent in the Premier League. The most fouled player in the division, he is a brilliant dribbler of the ball, and capable of outrageous skill. He’s often compared to Paul Gascoigne, and it’s easy to see why, given the stylistic similarities between the two. However, for all his qualities and his creativity, he’s not a true goal threat. That’s where Rashford comes in.
Where Grealish is a gifted dribbler, who looks to act as a playmaker, Rashford is a direct, inside forward. He’s at his best carrying the ball into space, where his sheer pace makes him truly terrifying for defenders. Having him as a player to run at tired defenders late on is a fantastic option.
Centre Forward: Harry Kane (Substitute: Dominic Calvert-Lewin)
This is certainly the easiest pick for the starting XI. Aside from Robert Lewandowski, as a true number 9, Harry Kane is unrivaled. Capable of dropping deep, playing off the shoulder, and finishing off either foot, he’s a masterful striker. His passing ability is also a vital weapon for this England squad. With the speed of England’s wide forwards, for Kane to be happy to drop off and drag defenders out of position allows for more of a goalscoring threat from the wide players.
The option off the bench is Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Capable of playing in a front two or as a lone striker, his main threat is in the air. If a route one option is required, he’s the perfect option. If England are down, and he’s receiving service from out wide, he could be a potent weapon for Gareth Southgate.
Right-wing: Raheem Sterling: (Subs: Jadon Sancho)
Where Jack Grealish’s technique is what attracts a coach, it’s Sterling’s speed on the ball that puts him in the starting XI. Few attackers in the world run with the ball as well as Sterling, with his pace and low centre of gravity making him a nightmare for defenders. This added to his tournament experience, and his in-game intelligence makes him a sure-fire starter.
To back him up, Sancho is the perfect option. Capable of playing across the front line, he’s the perfect rotation for Gareth Southgate’s squad. In arguably his worst season as a starting player for Dortmund, he still has six goals and nine assists in 21 Bundesliga appearances. While he hasn’t always performed at his best for England, he’s far too good to not be in the squad.
The best English striker since Wayne Rooney, there’s no question of Harry Kane’s quality.
As the Tottenham fans sing, he’s one of their own. Like Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, when you think of Spurs, he is the face of the club. A brutally efficient striker and a vastly underrated creator, he’d be contending to start for any team in the world. However, with Aguero set to leave Manchester City, his name is being linked to a move to the Etihad Stadium. This and the talks of a move to Spain will have Spurs fans worried.
However, this has all happened before, hasn’t it? Spurs finish the season, Harry Kane scores an incredible number of goals and a trophy once again eludes them, but he stays. Now though, it’s starting to feel different.
For so long, he’s been talked about as a progeny, but now at 27-years-old, a decision has to be made. Many players have had to answer this question before. Do you leave your boyhood club for the chance of riches?
As he gets older, other strikers are going to be more prized. Already Erling Haaland is at the top of club’s shortlists for their ideal striker, rather than the Englishman. If he doesn’t make their move soon, it’ll surely be too late. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be done this summer. However, with the number of clubs looking for a number 9, now is the prime opportunity for him to make a move.
Of course, this is not an easy decision. A similar situation faced Steven Gerrard at Liverpool. Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Chelsea among others chased him, but he chose to stay. However, there’s one crucial difference. Gerrard didn’t win as much as he could, but he still won trophies, often dragging his side to them almost by himself.
Kane on the other hand hasn’t. If you think of Kane’s truly iconic performances, they’re mainly in North London derbies. The lack of silverware to go with this, for a neutral fan is concerning. Now, of course, there is the possibility that Spurs win a trophy with Kane leading the line.
However, that time doesn’t look like it’s getting closer. Spurs’ best players are getting older, and with Daniel Levy at the helm, and a global pandemic to contend with, a big spend isn’t on the horizon. If the Englishman bets on Spurs and it doesn’t work out, it’d be a sporting tragedy. For all Kane’s goals, all his talent, he could end his career without a trophy to his name.