Hodgson announces England Squad

Roy Hodgson has announced a rather inexperienced squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine.

Realistically England must win both matches to stand any chance of finishing top of the group and qualifying automatically for the World Cup, avoiding a playoff. (Table below)

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Any of the top 4 teams have a chance to finish top 2 which will ensure a nervy few fixtures before the group is out.

As for the squad, 19 year old Ross Barkley receives his first call up along with 22 year old Andros Townsend, who have shown signs of promise in the early season, along with 18 year old Raheem Sterling.

It must be asked however, is it too soon? Especially for Barkley. Townsend has a tad more experience, having impressed whilst on loan at QPR during the second half of the season. Barkley however has made just 15 Premier League appearances, mainly from the subs bench and although scoring his first Premier League goal against Norwich, are there better alternatives?

The experienced duo of Gareth Barry and Scott Parker are not included, along with Manchester City midfielder Jack Rodwell. Perhaps a better alternative would be Jordan Henderson, who has found his form for Liverpool in recent times and has more experience at all levels. Jonjo Shelvey, Leon Osman and Jake Livermore are other midfielders to have received caps under Hodgson.

Townsend is called up ahead of the likes of Spurs team mate Aaron Lennon, Stuart Downing and Adam Johnson, all of whom have greater experience. However with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain injured, I agree with the inclusion of Townsend.

Rickie Lambert is again called up after scoring on his debut against Scotland. With Andy Carroll still injured, Lambert provides a different option up top for Hodgson.

At the back there is no place for Michael Dawson or Joleon Lescott, who have both been playing for their respective clubs this season. Instead Phil Jones, who has been playing at right back, and Chris Smalling, who is yet the feature, have been selected. Along with Phil Jagielka. For me I would have Lescott and Dawson ahead of Smalling, who needs more game time, and Jagielka.

Despite a number of recent howlers, Joe Hart will keep his place, rightly or wrongly, ahead of John Ruddy. Fraser Forster has been called up after the injury to Ben Foster. Hart is a guaranteed starter for England and City so leaving him out would give him a gentle reminder that he needs to improve after mistakes against Scotland and Cardiff in recent weeks to follow up a poor season last time around.

England squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster, Joe Hart, John Ruddy

Defenders: Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Phil Jagielka, Glen Johnson, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Kyle Walker

Midfielders: Ross Barkley, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, James Milner, Raheem Sterling, Andros Townsend, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere

Strikers: Jermain Defoe, Rickie Lambert, Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Ashley Young

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Opening weekend: What have we learnt?

After a long summer away, the opening weekend of Premier League fixtures has been complete but what can be learnt from round 1 of the season?

Well the ‘big 3’ look strong. Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea all looked strong in victory. All played sensational football at times.

opening weekend1Champions Man Utd have had much doubt placed over them and new manager David Moyes over the summer but made a giant step towards proving the doubters wrong. Moyes will be excited at the connection between Welbeck, Van Persie and when he came on, Rooney. United’s 3rd and 4th goals in their 4-1 win away at Swansea were world class.

On Sunday, Chelsea played their first game of the second coming of Jose Mourinho. In the first half the blew Hull away, scoring two quick goals which could have been more if Lampard wouldn’t have missed an early penalty. They effectively settled for the win in the second half, with the score ending 2-0 but it was clearly evident that Chelsea had a few more gears to find if they needed them.

Monday night saw City demolish Newcastle 4-0 at the Etihad. At times the front trio of Aguero, Dzeko and Silva were unplayable, back to the best of their title winning season. With new signing Fernandinho partnering Yaya Toure in central midfield they looked in total control and were unlucky not to win by a bigger margin.

Newcastle in all honestly look hapless and their night was summed up when Steven Taylor was sent off for clattering Sergio Aguero round the back of the head. They also need a number of signings before the end of the window or relegation could be a serious threat.

There were also wins for Spurs, away at Crystal Palace, and Liverpool, who beat Stoke in the early kick off, both by 1-0. Both will be happy with their starts but know they will have to improve. Stoke could have so easily grabbed a point having missed a late penalty and Spurs had to endure a nervy final few minutes as Roberto Soldado’s penalty was the only time they were able to find the net.

What has been learnt is that Arsenal need new signings, and soon. The Gunners lost 3-1 at home to Aston Villa with a lackluster performance. The anger amongst the fans was clear to see. it is clear that Arsenal need to bring 3 or 4 through the Emirates door before the end of the transfer window or they face missing out on the Champions League which would be a disaster.

On the other side of the coin, Villa played incredibly well. The front trio of Benteke, Agbonglahor and Weimann played phenomenally and can cause all sorts of all problems to any defenders in the league. Villa could have a much better season than last time out.

opening weekend2At the other end of the table, all three newly promoted sides lost their first games of the season but not much should be read into this as in reality they all had tough fixtures.

As mentioned, Palace lost at home to Spurs, which is no disaster. Yes Spurs dominated the game but Palace kept the score to 1 and could have snatched an equaliser late on. A lot more will be learnt as Palace go away to Stoke next weekend.

Hull showed enough in the second half of the game away to Chelsea that they will give a good account of themselves this season. They looked particularly comfortable when they brought the experienced Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore on. Again, we will learn a lot more about Hull in their next fixture as they entertain Norwich in the first home game back in the Premier League.

Cardiff lost 2-0 away at West Ham on their return to the top flight, again another tough match. It may take more time for the new major signings to gel having only recently signed the likes of Gary Medel and Steven Caulker. We perhaps learnt that Cardiff might struggle for goals, although new signing Andreas Corlenius didn’t feature and Cardiff fans will hope for him to be their main provider of goals this term.

Elsewhere there were wins for Fulham, who won away at Sunderland thanks to a goal from Pajtim Kasami, Southampton, who grabbed a late winner away at West Brom courtesy of a Rickie Lambert penalty whilst Norwich and Everton played out a 2-2 draw at Carrow Road a game in which young Everton midfielder Ross Barkley impressed and Ricky van Wolfswinkel scored a debut goal.

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Premier League players to watch out for

With the new Premier League season starting on Saturday, it’s time to look at some of the players who may make a big impact in the league this season.

Name: Matej Vydra

Club: West Brom

Age: 21

Position: Striker

About: Vydra joined West Brom on loan from Udinese this summer. The Czech international had an impressive loan spell at Watford last season, scoring 22 goals for the London club on their way to the Playoff final. At 21, the 5ft 11 striker still has a lot to learn but has the ability to cause real damage in the Premier League. Vydra has pace and power along with a clinical finish and could be a successful signing for Steve Clarkes’ West Brom.

Name: Nathan Redmond

Club: Norwich City

Age: 19

Position: Winger

About: Redmond joined Norwich from Birmingham this summer after 3 years as a senior at Birmingham. Last season featured in 38 of the Midlands’ club 46 matches, contributing 2 goals. Redmond impressed during the season however, enough to be called up to Stuart Pearce’s England Under 21 squad for the summer’s European Championship. Redmond is a quick and lively winger with bags of talent and skills to take on players and this should help him to adapt to the Premier League without any problems.

Name: José Campaña

Club: Crystal Palace

Age: 20

Position: Center Midfield

About: Impressive youngster Campaña joined Palace from Sevilla this summer having been at the Spanish club from a school boy age. Campaña has played for Spain from Under 16 to Under 20 level, captaining the Under 19’s in their European Championship win in 2012 and captaining the Under 20’s in recent times. He has been compared to Santi Cazorla with his playing style, being known for his ball control and ability to pick a pass from midfield. Campaña could be key in Palace’s fight against relegation.

Name: Andreas Cornelius

Club: Cardiff City

Age: 20

Position: Striker

About: Cornelius is another new transfer, having joined Premier League new-boys Cardiff City from FC Copenhagen this summer. The 20 year old is a full Danish international with 7 caps and 1 goal. Last season, Cornelius broke into the Copenhagen team, scoring 18 goals in 32 league games. At 6ft 4, he is a tall, powerful striker, good in the air and strong at holding the ball up. At just 20 he also has time on his side and will be sure to get game time at Cardiff, having been signed for a then record transfer fee of around £8 million.

Name: Marco Van Ginkel

Club: Chelsea

Age: 20

Position: Midfield

About: Van Ginkel signed for Chelsea from Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem after 4 years at the club. At the age of only 20, Van Ginkel has already played over 100 senior games and is a full Dutch international having made his debut in 2012. Last season he scored 8 goals in 33 league appearances for his club. He has described himself as a box to box player who covers a lot of ground and can score a goal. After his £8 million move, the 20 year old will hope to get plenty of game time under Mourinho as he looks to develop as a player.

Name: Jozy Altidore

Club: Sunderland

Age: 23

Position: Striker

About: Altidore returns to English football this season after having joined Sunderland this summer from AZ Alkmaar. He spent the 2009/10 season on loan at Hull, where he failed to impress, but his game has developed since then, having scored 31 goals in 41 appearances last season in Holland. At 23, he has bundles of international experience, having made 60 appearances for the US National side, scoring 17 goals. Altidore is a big, strong and powerful center forward and at 6ft 1, will be a lot to handle for any Premier League center half.

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Premier League preview (Part 4)

The Premier League starts again on Saturday with what promises to be an intriguing season after a summer of changes throughout the league. This blog takes a look at Sunderland to West Ham and my prediction of how they will do.

Sunderland 18th

Will crazy man Di Canio upset the Black Cat’s chances this season?

Transfers: Sunderland have made a number of signings in this seasons transfer window. The biggest of these being Jose Altidore from AZ Alkmaar. 7 other players have arrived at the club including Emanuele Giaccherini from Juventus, El-Hadji Ba, Vito Mannone from Arsenal, David Karlsson, Mobido Diakité, Cabral from Basel and Valentin Roberge. Will all these players be able to gel into a team? Simon Mignolet has left the club to join Liverpool, as has James McLean, who joined Wigan.

Manager: Paulo di Canio. To all extents, di Canio can be described as a bit of a loose cannon, from his eccentric playing days to his colourful managerial career, trouble has followed him around. Sunderland is his first Premier Leauge job and he did well to keep them up last season. There is no doubting his footballing talent and ability but does he have the right attributes to manage a squad of players?

Expectations: After a disappointing season last times around, Paulo Di Canio will hope his men can push on this season. They have certainly made a lot of signings but question marks will hang over whether these players can gel. There is always a lingering issue hanging over the head of manager Di Canio. His eccentric, no nonsense style could work either way for Sunderland but more than likely in a negative way and for this reason the Black Cats may find it difficult and relegation could be a real possibility for the Black Cats.

Key player: Stéphane Sessègnon. The Benin international attacking midfielder has been key to the success’ of Sunderland in recent years and that will continue this year. Proven to be a constant menace in the Premier League in his time at Sunderland he may provide the constant amongst a summer of change in the Sunderland playing ranks. His ability on the ball creates chances for others in the team.

Swansea 7th

Swansea’s metaphoric rise looks set to continue after an impressive summer.

Transfers: Swansea have been impressive in the transfer window, bringing in Wilfried Bony from Vitesse Arnhem for around £12 million. The club has also signed England international Jonjo Shelvey and center back Jordi Amat. Young Spaniard Alejandro Pozelu has joined from Real Betis alongside team mate José Alberto Cañas, who arrives on a free transfer.

Manager: Michael Laudrup. After a glittering career, Laudrup has a big reputation in football. His early managerial career is only enhancing that after successful spells at Mallorca, Getafe and now at Swansea. He lead them into Europe last season and is known for his good man management skills as well as his footballing knowledge.

Expectations: Swansea City and their style of football have been a breath of fresh air in their two seasons in the Premier League. Under the guidance of Michael Laudrup, things continue to improve. Swansea will have no problem finishing in the top half with the quality the possess throughout the pitch. Pushing for the top 6 may be tough but be sure that Swansea will be knocking on the door of the big boys this season.

Key player: Ashley Williams. Keeping hold of center half Williams could be the most important bit of business for the Welsh club this season. Williams has been a key player for the club in the Premier League and has attracted interest from big name clubs in recent times. His composure at the back is vital for the Swans who have a host of attacking talent.

Tottenham 5th

The Gareth Bale transfer saga can only be bad news for AVB and Spurs

Transfers: Like other clubs, the majority of the talk over the summer has been about the departure of key players. Gareth Bale has attracted heavy interest from Real Madrid, with rumours of the Spanish club launching a world record bid for the Wales international. Spurs have made some clever signings in the window, which should not be overshadowed by the Bale sage. Roberto Soldado has joined from Valenica and the Brazilian Paulinho from Corinthians. Young Belgium winger Nacer Chadli has joined from FC Twente as Spurs bolster their options.

Manager: André Villas Boas. After a short, unsuccessful spell at Chelsea, Villas Boas was appointed as manager of Spurs in 2012. AVB, as he is known, spent time of his early career managing the British Virgin Islands before assuming a role as Mourinho’s assistant first at Porto and then Chelsea. He grabbed his first taste of management in Portugal at Academica before moving to Porto, and then like Mourinho, Chelsea.

Expectations: André Villas Boas will be hoping to land Spurs a Champions League spot this season after narrowly missing out on the last day of last season. Despite their new signings, without Gareth Bale this could be tough. The Welshman at times carried Spurs last season with performances of individual brilliance. Even if Bale stays, after the saga of the summer, he isn’t likely to be the same player which is a shame because with an on form Bale, this team could seriously challenge. Instead, they may miss out on Champions League football again as they are likely to contest the 4th place spot with North London rivals Arsenal again, who may just pip them yet again. If Bale does leave and Spurs spend the money wisely, there is no reason why they can’t challenge for the title but the situation with Bale needs to be resolved sooner rather than later.

Key player: Roberto Soldado. For a number of years Spurs have been lacking that proven striker to fire them the goals. Many have tried, including current strikers Jermaine Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor but it has never quite been enough. In Soldado they have a striker who will score them the goals but will it be enough to fire them into the top 4 this season? Probably not.

West Brom 15th

Steve Clarke’s men look to have stood still as others around them move forward.

Transfers: West Brom are one of a few teams to have not spent any money this summer. Former Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea striker Nicholas Anelka has signed on a free as well as 32 year old Uruguayan interantion Diego Lugano. A big miss for West Brom will be Romelu Lukaku, who hasn’t returned to the club after his loan spell last season. Matej Vydra has joined on loan to try and fill the void left by the Belgian striker.

Manager: Steve Clarke. After years of being a number 2, Clarke was appointed as manager of West Brom in 2012. Having worked under the likes of Mourinho and Kenny Dalglish, he learnt a lot which he brought to his first season of management in which he lead West Brom to 8th place.

Expectations: West Brom will hope for another solid season in the Premier League but they may find that more difficult this time around. Other teams around them have improved their squads dramatically whereas West Brom have arguably weakened following the departure of Lukaku. The midlands team could flirt with relegation for the first time in a number of years this season but should have enough quality to keep them out of it.

Key player: Jonas Olsson. The experienced center half has been key at the heart of West Brom’s defence for a number of years. The Swedish international is solid at the back and if he performs in the same way again this season, West Brom could be a hard nut to crack.

West Ham 13th

West Ham’s style of play should see them steer well clear of the relegation zone

Transfers: West Ham completed the signing of Andy Carroll, after his loan spell last season for a fee of around £12 million. He at times last season showed glimpses of the form he had at Newcastle, encouraging signs for the Hammers. Another signing from Liverpool is England international Stewart Downing. Goalkeeper Adrian has also joined the club from Real Betis alongside Romanian defender Răzvan Raț on a free transfer.

Manager: Sam Allerdyce. Big Sam has plenty of experience in the Premier League with Bolton, Blackburn, Newcastle and now West Ham. He is known for his physical style of play which has brought him success wherever he has managed.

Expectations: After a decent first year back in the top flight, Sam Allerdyce will be hoping for more of the same again this term. With limited additions, the London club may struggle to progress but with their willingness to play Allerdyce’s style have football, should have no fears about being dragged into a relegation battle. A mid table finish for them.

Key player: Andy Carroll. If West Ham can get Carroll fit and playing at his best again, he can be a handful for any defender in the land. The tall, strong England international had lost his way after his big money move to Liverpool but at West Ham last season he showed at times, what he can do. If he can do that again this season, expect him to be back amongst the goals.

  1. Chelsea
  2. Manchester City
  3. Manchester United
  4. Arsenal
  5. Tottenham
  6. Liverpool
  7. Swansea
  8. Newcastle
  9. Everton
  10. Aston Villa
  11. Norwich
  12. Southampton
  13. West Ham
  14. Fulham
  15. West Brom
  16. Cardiff
  17. Hull
  18. Sunderland
  19. Stoke
  20. Crystal Palace
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Premier League preview (Part 3)

The Premier League starts again on Saturday with what promises to be an intriguing season after a summer of changes throughout the league. This blog takes a look at Manchester United to Stoke and my prediction of how they will do.

Manchester United 3rd

Can Moyes fill the big hole left by Sir Alex?

Transfers: The marquee signing has so far evaded David Moyes as he looks to get his feet under the table at Old Trafford. In fact, the tale of the summer has been the transfer request of Wayne Rooney. His likely departure would leave United short of a striker. Moyes has missed out of Barcelona pair Thiago and Cesc Fàbregas as he looks to strengthen his midfield. Wilfried Zaha has arrived at the club after being signed by Sir Alex in January.

Manager: David Moyes. Moyes has perhaps the biggish shoes to fill in the history of shoe filling, replacing Sir Alex at United. The former Preston and Everton manager is experienced in the Premier League but not at the top level. Will he be found out at United? He has already won the Community shield as Manchester United manager.

Expectations: Manchester United fans will be hoping David Moyes can retain the title in his first season at Old Trafford. Realistically that me be difficult as the Red Devils go through a transitional stage following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson after more than two and a half decades in the job. Of course the squad still poses great talent and will have no trouble finishing inside the top 4 but the title may be a step too far for Moyes’ men this time around.

Key player: Robin van Persie. With Wayne Rooney looking set to leave, United will rely on van Persie to score the goals he did in his first season at the club. There is no doubt the Dutch international has the talent to do that having netted 26 times in his first season at the club.

Newcastle: 8th

Will Kinnear’s appointed spell trouble for Newcastle and Alan Pardew?

Transfers: Newcastle’s search for a striker has been a very public one. Loïc Rémy has joined the club on a season long loan from QPR whilst Lyon striker Bafétimbi Gomis still evades the club. The club has managed to keep hold of starts like Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa which could be key.

Manager: Alan Pardew. It must not be forgotten that former West Ham and Southampton manager Pardew led Newcastle to a 5th place finish 2 seasons ago. Has his role as manager been undermined by the appointment of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football though? Pardew is well backed by the Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, having been given a 8 year contract in 2012.

Expectations: Newcastle will look to improve this season after struggling last time around. After an influx of signings in January, the Toon improved to steer clear of the relegation zone in the second half of the season. The arrival of Loïc Rémy should see more goals and finally replace the gap left by Demba Ba as Newcastle push back towards the top half of the league. With Joe Kinnear being appointed as Director of Football, Newcastle do have the ability to self implode, just as they did when they were relegated in 2009.

Key player:  Hatem Ben Arfa. Newcastle’s inability to keep the France international fit last season contributed to their struggles. The 26 year old featured in just half on Newcastle’s Premier League games last season. On his day the wide man can cause problems to any full back in the division and with an eye for goal, Pardew will be hoping to keep his talisman fit throughout the season.

Norwich 11th

Hughton has spent big as Norwich look to improve.

Transfers: Norwich have spent big this season, signing 3 players above their previous record transfer fee. Dutch international duo Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer have joined the club from Sporting Lisbon and FC Twente respectively. The Canaries also ended the long running transfer saga of Gary Hooper, who joins the club for £5.5 million. Exciting England Under 21 international Nathan Redmond joins the club from Birmingham along with Swedish intenational Martin Olsson. Javier Garrido completed his permanent move to the club. Club legend Grant Holt has departed the club however, joining Wigan.

Manager: Chris Hughton. Hughton was thrown into the spotlight after replacing Paul Lambert at the beginning of last season but managed to steer Norwich away from relegated. A quiet and calm manager, he goes about his business in a professional manner and is much respected within the game.

Expectations: Chris Hughton’s men will look to push on from their 11th place finish last season. After a dramatic second half of the season collapse which nearly saw the Canaries dragged into the relegation battle, Norwich needed to spend big this summer, and they have. Expect another mid table season for the Norfolk club again.

Key player: Ricky van Wolfswinkel. The £8.5 million signing comes with a lot of expectation on his shoulders to deliver. His scoring record for Sporting Lisbon speaks for itself it’s just a question of can he adapt to the Premier League. If he can then Norwich have an exciting player on their books.

Southampton 12th

Second season syndrome shouldn’t be a problem for Pochettino’s men.

Transfers: The Saints have improved their squad with the impressive signings of Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren for a combined fee of about £21 million. They should provide strength to the core of the team. Southampton will hope to sign an attacking player before the transfer window shuts.

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine replaced controversially replaced Nigel Adkins as Saints manager last season. However he proved his doubters wrong by climbing Southampton up the table. The former Espanyol player and manager will hope for another successful season this time around as he enhances his reputation.

Expectations: Southampton will look to build on an impressive first season in the Premier League. Pochettino has improved his squad enough to keep them away from any relegation battle. Without the signing of another striker, Southampton may struggle to break into the top half, so a mid table finish can be expected for the south coast side.

Key player: Gaston Ramirez. After a relatively quiet first season in the Premier League for his own standards, the Uruguayan international will hope to explode onto the Premier League scene this time around. Costing Southampton £12 million, the attacking midfielder already has 20 international caps at the age of 22 and will hope to be at World Cup next summer. If he plays well, expect Southampton to create many chances for the likes of Rickie Lambert.

Stoke 19th

Post Pulis’ Stoke could struggle as Hughes tries to adapt style.

Transfers: Stoke have made two transfers so far this summer as new manager Mark Hughes looks to improve his back line. Full back Eric Pieters and center half Marc Muniesa have arrived from PSV and Barcelona respectively. Stoke are still in the market for attacking players having been linked to a number of strikers.

Manager: Mark Hughes. It’s safe to say Hughes wasn’t the most popular choice amongst fans when he was names as Tony Pulis’ replacement this summer. He has a wealth of experience having managed, Blackburn, Fulham and QPR in the Premier League but didn’t last long at either of his last two jobs.

Expectations: After avoiding relegation last season, Tony Pulis decided to call it time as he left Stoke City. Mark Hughes may experience a Pulis sized hangover as he prepares to start his first season as Stoke manager. The side have been in decline over the last couple of seasons as teams begin to suss out their physical style of play and this could see them struggle this season. Relegation is a serious threat for the Potters as teams around them have improved drastically.

Key player: Ryan Shawcross. The big center half is a key player at the heart of the Stoke City side. Good in the air and strong in the tackle, he leads by example in the Stoke back four. If Mark Hughes’ men are to do well this season then Shawcross will certainly have to be on the top of his game.

  1. Chelsea
  2. Manchester City
  3. Manchester United
  4. Arsenal
  5. Tottenham
  6. Liverpool
  7. Swansea
  8. Newcastle
  9. Everton
  10. Aston Villa
  11. Norwich
  12. Southampton
  13. West Ham
  14. Fulham
  15. West Brom
  16. Cardiff
  17. Hull
  18. Sunderland
  19. Stoke
  20. Crystal Palace
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Premier League preview (Part 2)

The Premier League starts again on Saturday with what promises to be an intriguing season after a summer of changes throughout the league. This blog takes a look at the second five teams alphabetically and my prediction of how they will do.

Everton 9th

After Moyes’ departure, Everton may find it tough to reach the same levels this time around.

Transfers: New manager Roberto Martínez had no problem raiding his old club Wigan to obtain striker Arouna Kone. The striker joined for a fee believed to be around 6 million. Former Wigan duo Antolin Alcaraz and Joel Robles have also joined the club. The Toffees have also completed the impressive loan signing of Barcelona yongster Gerard Deulofeu. Everton have also so far managed to keep hold of star players Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini but interest is expected in the pair right until the end of the transfer window.

Manager: Roberto Martínez. Having been linked with it seems every Premier League job over the last few seasons, Roberto Martinez finally took the decision to leave Wigan after relegated last season to join Everton. Known for his fluid style of play and preference to play 3 at the back, will he be able to get his feet under the table at Everton after the departure of Moyes?

Expectations: Everton will hope to push for European qualification through the league this year. However, after the departure of long serving manager David Moyes, this may be difficult to achieve. Everton progressed a long way under Moyes and to maintain those levels may well be difficult.

Key player: Marouane Fellaini. The big afro wearing central midfielder was key to success of Everton last season and any success this season could hinge on Roberto Martinez keeping hold of the Belgium international. Fellaini provides a real goal threat from midfield and his height proves crucial in both penalty areas.

Fulham 14th

They say experience is key but Fulham’s ageing squad may find things harder in the Premier League this season.

Transfers: Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg is Martin Jol’s marquee signing this summer. The goalkeeper will replace veteran Mark Schwarzer after he left the club in the summer. Explosive, yet unpredictable, Adel Taarabt has joined on loan from QPR and the club has also completed permanent deals for 30 year old pair Derek Boeteng and Sascha Riether as well as Fernando Amorebieta on a free transfer.

Manager: Martin Jol. Jol arrived at Fulham in 2011 after a spell at Ajax as has kept Fulham steady ever since. A cool customer, Jol has has previous spells at Hamburg and Spurs. Jol is normally spot on with his tactics and after a long playing and managerial career, has a great understanding of the game.

Expectations: Fulham will be hoping for a comfortable season again but in all realism, their ageing squad may struggle. Jol has tried to freshen it up with the likes of Chris Baird and Mladin Petrić leaving the club. The goals of Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz should keep their heads away from any potential relegation battle though as they slip into the bottom half of the table.

Key player: Dimitar Berbatov. The former Manchester United and Tottenham striker oozes sheer class on a football pitch and his technical ability will mean he will always score goals, the goals that should see Fulham stay away from any relegation battle.

Hull 17th

Steve Bruce’s Hull will have to fight relegation in their first year back in the Premier League.

Transfers: Hull City Tigers, as they are to be known, have been very active in the transfer window, improving all areas on the pitch. Scottish international Alan McGregor and the experienced Steve Harper have joined in goal. Former Wigan center half Maynor Figueroa and Curtis Davies provide some experience in the Tigers back line. Wide players Ahmed Elmohamady and George Boyd have joined after loan spells as well as strikers Danny Graham and Yannick Sagbo. Most impressively, Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore have joined from Spurs, the latter on a season long loan

Manager: Steve Bruce. Bruce has the one thing Hull lack the most, Premier League experience. Bruce played there throughout his career and has managed there for no less than 3 previous clubs, including his last spell at Sunderland. Bruce will have to use all of that experience if he is to guide Hull to safety.

Expectations: Hull will hope desperately that they can avoid the drop. They have made plently of signings but have they signed enough quality? In Huddlestone, Livermore, Figueroa and Graham, it would suggest yes. There is no doubt Hull could struggle in their first Premier League campaign since 2009/10 but should have enough to stay up.

Key player: Danny Graham. Graham has the experience of scoring goals at this level for Swansea, having found the net 15 times in his 18 month spell there, and will have to do so for Hull in order to give them any chance of avoiding the drop.

Liverpool 6th

Luis Suárez transfer saga provides black mark on a decent summer for Liverpool.

Transfers: Liverpool’s decent summer signings will be over shadowed by the transfer saga and impending departure of star Luis Suárez, who wants to leave the Reds. In terms of transfers, Simon Mignolet has replaced Pepe Reina as number 1 and attacking players Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto have joined. Premier League winner Kolo Toure has joined on a free transfer.

Manager: Brendan Rodgers. There is no doubt that Rodgers is a talented young manager having spent a lot of time learning the trade under Mourinho at Chelsea. He left Swansea to join Liverpool in 2012 with a big reputation after his success at the Welsh club. Rodgers has a style of play compared to those of Barcelona, he encourages short passing and a lot of movement from his players.

Expectations: Liverpool will hope to progress on recent seasons and push for the top 4. The Suarez saga may make this difficult for Brendan Rodgers’ side as they look set to miss out on the Champions League again. The club have more than enough talent to finish in the top 6 however.

Key player: Steven Gerrard. Captain Steven Gerrard has been and will continue to be key to any success’ for the Anfield club. The inspirational midfielder was back to his best last season and similar performances will see him boss games against any opposition in the league.

Manchester City 2nd

City’s new manager has spent big in order to win back the Premier League title

Transfers: Manchester City have spent big to make four big name signings. Spanish international duo Jesús Navus and Alvaro Negredo. Stevan Jovetić and Fernandinho have also joined as the blue side of Manchester have spent nearly £100 million. Manager Manuel Pellrgrini has promised to spend more. Carlos Tévez heads the list of players to have left the club.

Manager: Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean took over at City this summer, replacing Roberto Mancini. He has a wealth of experience in management having started in 1987. He made his name at Villarreal before spells at Real Madrid and Málaga. Having spent most of his career in South America and Spain, can he adapt his style to the English game?

Expectations: To all extents, City have spent big with one aim, to buy back the title. Second isn’t good enough for the oil rich, trophy hunting owner who will be expecting Pellegrini to win the title in his first season at the club. City are fully expected to challenge but the Mourinho effect at Chelsea could see them pipped into second.

Key player: Vincent Kompany. When the skipper plays well, City look solid as a unit. In their title winning campaign 2 years ago, Kompany was phenomenal but at times was criticised last season as City faltered. If Kompany plays well and leads by example, expect City to challenge.

  1. Chelsea
  2. Manchester City
  3. Manchester United
  4. Arsenal
  5. Tottenham
  6. Liverpool
  7. Swansea
  8. Newcastle
  9. Everton
  10. Aston Villa
  11. Norwich
  12. Southampton
  13. West Ham
  14. Fulham
  15. West Brom
  16. Cardiff
  17. Hull
  18. Sunderland
  19. Stoke
  20. Crystal Palace
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Posted in Football, Premier League

Breakdown of England squad as Hodgson calls up Lambert

Roy Hodgson has named his squad for England’s international friendly against Scotland, with a few suprise names included.

One of those is Southampton striker Rickie Lambert. The 31 year old scored 15 goals goals in his first season in the Premier League and Hodgson has decided to give the former Rochdale and Bristol Rovers striker a chance to win his first cap.

Another included is new Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha. Zaha featured for the Under 21’s in their dismal performance at the European Championships and after a strong pre-season at United, has been included and looks set to gain his second cap. Zaha is the only member of that Under 21 squad to be given the call.

England captian Steven Gerrard as well as goalkeeper John Ruddy and Arsenal midfieler Jack Wilshere return to the squad after injuries kept them out of the recent friendlies against Ireland and Brazil.

Wayne Rooney is included despite his current off field problems as he tries to seal a move away from Manchester United.

Full England Squad:

  • Joe Hart
  • Ben Foster
  • John Ruddy
  • Leighton Baines
  • Ashley Cole
  • Phil Jagielka
  • Phil Jones
  • Gary Cahill
  • Chris Smalling
  • Kyle Walker
  • Glenn Johnson
  • Steven Gerrard (C)
  • Frank Lampard
  • Michael Carrick
  • Jack Wilshere
  • Tom Cleverley
  • James Milner
  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
  • Theo Walcott
  • Wilfried Zaha
  • Ashley Young
  • Wayne Rooney
  • Jermain Defoe
  • Danny Welbeck
  • Rickie Lambert

Likely Line Up

I expect Hodgson to line up with a 433. I can see him going with the young Manchester United pair Phil Jones and Chris Smalling at center half, as he looks to build towards next years World Cup. I expect Leighton Baines to play at full back instead of Ashley Cole.

Michael Carrick will play the holding role in midfield, giving the returning pair of Gerrard and Wilshere more licence to attack from midfield.

Seeing as it a home game I expect England to play with two out an out wingers, instead of starting James Milner in the wide role as Hodgson tends to do in big games, with the Arsenal pair Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, fresh from his goal against Brazil, to start. Despite his problems Hodgson will stick with Wayne Rooney in attack.

It has to be expected that Rickie Lambert and Wilfried Zaha will appear from the bench at some point during the game.

.                                Hart

.   Johnson      Jones      Smalling      Baines

.       Gerrard        Carrick         Wilshere

. Walcott             Rooney        Oxlade-Chamberlain

Squad breakdown: 

(Number of players from each club)

  • Manchester United: 8
  • Chelsea: 3
  • Arsenal: 3
  • Spurs: 2
  • Manchester City: 2
  • Liverpool: 2
  • Everton: 2
  • Norwich: 1
  • Southampton: 1
  • West Brom: 1

(Age)

  • 19 – 1 (Oxlade-Chamberlain)
  • 20 – 1 (Zaha)
  • 21 – 2 (Jones, Wishere)
  • 22 – 1 (Welbeck)
  • 23 – 3 (Walker, Smalling, Cleverley)
  • 24 – 1 (Walcott)
  • 25
  • 26 – 2 (Hart, Ruddy)
  • 27 – 3 (Milner, Rooney, Cahill)
  • 28 – 3 (Young, Baines, Johnson)
  • 29
  • 30 – 3 (Defoe, Jagielka, Foster)
  • 31 – 1 (Lambert)
  • 32 – 2 (Cole, Carrick)
  • 33 – 1 (Gerrard)
  • 34
  • 35 – 1 (Lampard)

(Appearances)

  • Joe Hart – 32
  • Ben Foster – 6
  • John Ruddy – 1

Goalkeeper average:  13

  • Leighton Baines – 17
  • Ashley Cole – 103
  • Phil Jagielka – 18
  • Phil Jones – 7
  • Gary Cahill – 16
  • Chris Smalling – 6
  • Kyle Walker – 5
  • Glen Johnson – 48

Defenders average: 27.5

  • Steven Gerrard – 102
  • Frank Lampard – 97
  • Michael Carrick – 29
  • Jack Wilshere – 7
  • Tom Cleverley – 9

Midfield average: 48.8

  • James Milner – 38
  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 12
  • Theo Walcott – 33
  • Wilfried Zaha – 1
  • Ashley Young – 28

Wingers average: 22.4

  • Wayne Rooney – 83
  • Jermain Defoe – 54
  • Danny Welbeck – 16
  • Rickie Lambert – 0

Strikers average: 34.5

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Posted in Football, International
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