What is the point of pre-season?

Pre-season, huh, what is it good for? Well not preparation judging by the opening two rounds of Premier League football from 2016/17. All those tours, all those ‘tournaments’, the transfers and money spent and yet, the teams that have a settled starting line up at this point of the season are few and far between.

 

This had led to an underwhelming start, with competitors lumbering, slowly emerging from the cocoon of July, rather than exploding into life. Yes, there have been exciting new signings scoring (Zlatan!), new managers emoting (Conte) we’ve had villains (Costa) and late winners (Costa again), so why the sense that something is missing? Continue reading “What is the point of pre-season?”

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Will Hart go on (and on) for Manchester City?

There is a scene in the Head and Shoulders advert running throughout the European Championships that featured the back page of a red top newspaper emblazoned with the headline ‘Hart Under Pressure’. The camera then cuts to our Joe (mercifully free of dandruff) who is in the process of being measured up for a snappy new suit. ‘Pressure?; he shakes his head at the camera dismissively. In a sorry case of life imitating art(?), England’s number 1 will have woken to some eerily familiar back pages after he was dropped for Manchester City’s opening game of the season. Continue reading “Will Hart go on (and on) for Manchester City?”

The Premier League Contenders from the North

As we move north, the three biggies from the North West really start to put the cat amongst the pigeons on trying to predict this season’s Premier League.

 

It’s been a summer of change and transitions from Liverpool to Manchester. As Pep and José decide to kick start their rivalry from Spain in the same city and Jürgen Klopp finally gets his pre-season, it could be more than feasible to see all three of Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United vying for title honours come April and May next year. Continue reading “The Premier League Contenders from the North”

How much is too much for a Premier League Centre Back?

£40m or £50 – how much is too much? That seems to be the question plaguing Pep Guardiola and the hierarchy at Manchester City in this summer’s second most tedious transfer saga.

 

It is surely one of the most decadent and carefree transfer windows in recent memory and the value of Stones; a player with undoubted ball-playing ability but who is unproven as a defender who can defend, is a key barometer of the spiralling fees that clubs are prepared while jostling for position in England’s top flight.  Continue reading “How much is too much for a Premier League Centre Back?”

JG’s Transfer Update Pt.2

Here we are with pt.2 of JG’s transfer round up and its full of the big hitters. It’s L to W, taking in the likes of Liverpool, United, City and Spurs and the newcomer who loves being linked with the big names – Middlesbrough. Continue reading “JG’s Transfer Update Pt.2”

Engand vs. Iceland Match Preview

Game of the Day: England vs. Iceland, Nice, 20:00

The round of 16 may have been a mixed bag so far, but there are lessons to be learned for England ahead of a potential banana skin against Iceland in Nice on Monday evening.

Teams seem to be tiring in the heat, but instead of trying to wear Iceland out over the course of the 90 minutes, Rooney et al would be best served going against the grain of the tournament to date and starting fast. If England can do something they haven’t managed so far and get an early goal, they will surely make life much easier for themselves and have a better chance of tying up the result without the need for extra time. Continue reading “Engand vs. Iceland Match Preview”

Group E Final Round Preview

Games of the Day
Italy vs. Republic of Ireland, Lille, 20:00
Sweden vs. Belgium, Nice 20:00

Standings
Italy – 6pts
Belgium – 3pts
Sweden – 1pt
Republic of Ireland – 1pt

As the Italians stride through into the next round, Belgium finally turned up to the party after a 3-0 defeat of the Republic of Ireland.

Both games would appear to be something of a dead rubber in Group E, with Italy and Belgium both favourites to pick up a further 3pts come this evening and whilst Italy potentially have the harder task against Martin O’Neil and Roy Keane’s Republic of Ireland side, it’s hard to imagine much change in the standings.

It seems very strange to say that Italy are a surprise package but given that this current Italian squad was widely regarded as the worse this century, their performance against Belgium was so well thought out and executed it seemed that the Italians could waltz their way to the pointy end of a major tournament once more. Fast forward 4 days and such claims seemed premature as Conte’s side laboured to a 1-0 victory against a massively under-whelming Swedish side. Continue reading “Group E Final Round Preview”

Group B Final Round Preview

Games of the Day
Slovakia vs. England, Saint-Etienne, 20:00
Russia vs. Wales, Toulouse, 20:00

Standings
England – 4pts
Wales – 3pts
Slovakia – 3pts
Russia – 1pt

As Euro 2016 rolls into the final round of group fixtures there is both relief and sadness; it is quite the commitment to watch three live games per day and remain a functioning adult, but no 5pm game on Monday will leave an insurmountable void, filled only with local news, Home and Away and (gulp) The One Show. Then there is the entire lack of live games on Thursday and Friday; it’s almost like there is something more important than football happening instead? Continue reading “Group B Final Round Preview”

EURO 2016 – The Injured XI

Whilst some superstars from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and further afield will be plying their trade in France this month, others will be watching from their living rooms with their feet up.

Through no choice of their own, some of the biggest names in world football have been robbed of the opportunity to play at the European championships through injury. Like Franck Ribery in 2014, Carlos Puyol in 2012, and David Beckham in 2010, these stars could potentially miss out on one of their respective nation’s biggest footballing moments. Instead they will be watching from afar and hoping that (in some cases) they will be fit for the start of their domestic campaign… Continue reading “EURO 2016 – The Injured XI”