Barclays Premier League Previews (SW-WA)

Barclays Premier League Preview: Swansea City

Manager: Francesco Guidolin

Stadium: Liberty Stadium (Capacity: 20,972)

Captain: Ashley Williams

Top Scorer: Andre Ayew (12)

Biggest Signing: Leroy Fer (£4.8 million)

Last Season: 12th

Prediction: Relegated

Swansea have become a shining beacon for Welsh sport over the past few seasons as a rugby heartland has seen their local football team become household names and dominate the back pages.

Swansea City despite not performing the tricks they should have last season managed to pull themselves well clear of the relegation fight that was captivating to the last.

ASHLEY WILLIAMS

Swansea captain, Ashley Williams.

The Welsh club do seem to often bring some attacking verve to their play and they certainly aren’t frightened of hitting teams on the break with the pace some of their midfielders possess to not use that talent would be absurd.

The Swans will have their work cut out this season though, Middlesborough, Hull and Burnley all have strong squads and with teams such as Sunderland strengthening over the summer it could be a tough season at the Liberty Stadium.

Recruitment is in one word, underwhelming. The capture of Fer is a coup for the club but other than that the other names don’t scream quality. No really high profile departures is big plus especially keeping skipper Williams despite interest from Premier League rivals, Everton.

LEROY FER

Leroy Fer in action for Norwich.

IN

Leroy Fer (Queens Park Rangers, £4.8 million)

Mike van der Hoorn (Ajax, Undisclosed)

Mark Birighitti (Unattached, Free)

OUT

Alberto Paloschi (Atalanta, Undisclosed)

Raheem Hanley (Northampton Town, Free)

Kyle Bartley (Leeds United, Loan)

The pursuit of Fernando Llorente is ongoing but other than that business looks to be done at the Liberty Stadium any other outgoings would be a shock with Everton cooling their interest in Ashley Williams.

My Swansea City XI (4-5-1): 1 L.Fabianski; 22 A.Rangel, 5 M.van der Hoorn, 6 A.Williams (Captain), 3 N.Taylor; 23 G.Sigurdsson, 7 L.Britton, 8 L.Fer, 24 J.Cork, 20 J.Montero; 10 A.Ayew

Barclays Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino

Stadium: White Hart Lane (Capacity: 36,284)

Captain: Hugo Lloris

Top Scorer: Harry Kane (25)

Biggest Signing: Vincent Janssen, Victor Wanyama (Undisclosed)

Last Season: 3rd

Prediction: Champions League

Tottenham would have been the story of the season if it weren’t for Leicester and their unbelievable title win.

Packed full of England stars Dier, Kane, Alli, Walker, Rose they should be match for any team even though many of those players were so under par at this summers Euros.

KANE

Harry Kane was singled out for his poor performances at Euro 2016.

The squad believe they can do it, they know they have the quality and fanbase to win the league, Pochettino is a very capable manager and he has taken the league by storm first at Southampton and now Spurs.

If the big clubs falter again it could be another chance for Tottenham to shock the fans and pundits alike. The top four has to be the aim for this ambitious club and they should look to make this a regular occurrence.

Recruitment has been strong bringing in some talented players whilst not losing any players so far.

Victor Wanyama scores for Southampton against Hull City in the Premier League at the KC Stadium

Wanyama bolsters options in midfield.

IN

Victor Wanyama (Southampton, Undisclosed)

Vincent Janssen (AZ Alkmaar, Undisclosed)

OUT

There are rumours we could yet see both the departures of Fazio to Roma and Alex Pritchard is generating interest from Championship duo Brighton and Norwich. No big names have been linked with moves though.

My Tottenham Hotspur XI (4-2-3-1): 1 H.Lloris (Captain); 2 K.Walker, 4 T.Aldeweireld, 5 J.Vertonghen, 3 D.Rose; 15 E.Dier, NA V.Wanyama; 20 D.Alli, 23 C.Eriksen, 11 E.Lamela; 10 H.Kane

Barclays Premier League Preview: Watford

Manager: Walter Mazzarri

Stadium: Vicarage Road (Capacity: 21,500)

Captain: Troy Deeney

Top Scorer: Odion Ighalo (14)

Biggest Signing:  Isaac Success Ajayi, Jerome Sinclair, Christian Kabsele (Undisclosed)

Last Season: 13th

Prediction: Safety

Watford had a good season last time out and found themselves well above the drop zone and keeping themselves well away from danger.

The Hornets played well and and former manager, Flores gave Watford, led by Deeney and Ighalo up front a distinctive style, a style that saw the side score goals and made them difficult to beat.

DEENEY

Troy Deeney is key to Watford

Teams travelling to Vicarage Road will face a very tough task of breaking down a thoroughly prepared team with a huge amount of desire to prove they have what it takes to succeed in arguably Europe’s most competitive league.

The north London club will look to their new manager and hope for consolidation this season and while I expect Bournemouth a team that came up with Watford to struggle this squad seem a lot more likely to build on last seasons form.

Recruitment wise a few clever signings have been made, they mostly increase depth within the side, not really any stars involved but with 38 games in a Premier League season, depth is key.

IN

Isaac Success Ajayi (Granada, Undisclosed)

Jerome Sinclair (Liverpool, Undisclosed)

Chrisitan Kabsele (Genk, Undisclosed)

OUT

Almen Abdi (Sheffield Wednesday, £4 million)

Gabriele Angella (Udinese, Undisclosed)

Josh Doherty (Leyton Orient, Free)

Joel Ekstrand (Released)

Lille forward Boufal remains a target but it is unlikely a move will be done this summer, transfer business looks like it is done for Watford.

IGHALO

Igahlo celebrates a goal with the mascot.

My Watford XI (4-4-2): 1 H.Gomes; 2 A.Nyom, 6 C.Kabasele, 15 C.Cathcart NA J.Zuniga; 11 N.Amrabat, 8 V.Behrami, 4 M.Suarez; 21 I.Anya; 9 T.Deeney (Captain), 24 O.Ighalo

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History Made

Wales are through to the semi-finals of the Euro’s, they beat Belgium 3-1.

Not such a one man team anymore, goals from Ashley Williams, Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes sealed the win. A win orchestrated by Chris Coleman.

Gareth Bale is the star he puts his team on this level, this unattainable level without the Real Madrid star.

BALE.jpg

Wales’ star man, Gareth Bale.

Bale’s sheer brilliance, this raw talent honing his skills amongst the best players in the world, he in his right up there with the best in the world.

It is not just Bale that has been good though, Aaron Ramsey has endured a mixed season for London club, Arsenal but in the red of Wales has been immense.

Robson-Kanu looks like a quality striker, surely a club won’t be too hard to find after a performance like that.

The whole back four including captain Ashley Williams has been tremendous, the team have only conceded four goals, two of which came against England in the only game in which Wales looked slow.

England have been humiliated whilst Wales have risen to a level that may well take them to a European title.

It’s all set up to be a cracker brilliance v belligerence, Bale v Ronaldo, Wales v Portugal.

Three Lions Without Heart

England have been dumped out of Euro 2016 at just the last 16 stage having been defeated 2-1 by Iceland in Nice.

England did not deserve and more so they have shown nothing to suggest they are a good side over the course of what has been at best a mediocre tournament for most teams.

England showed no desire, no bravery, no will to win. It was not good enough and has never been good enough. The players showed no willing to change the game to become heroes, they have come up against four teams all of whom showed more desire and bravery than England did.

Roy Hodgson’s reluctance to play Jamie Vardy who has changed things every time he came on including the equaliser against Wales led to this. His dropping of Adam Lallana hurt England, his loyalty to Joe Hart lost the game, his faith in Raheem Sterling sealed England’s fate.

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Joe Hart has had his critics over the tournament.

His resignation sums up England really, resigned, underachieving, overpaid. A team picked from a country approximately the same size as Leicester.

Roy Hodgson leaves his post and that should improve England to an extent, it may bring excitement and pace to this England side. England need to look at the blueprint of what Eddie Jones has done to the national rugby team.

Bring back England’s traditional strengths and bring through the young players, players like Lingard, Rashford, all of those players that Gareth Southgate had faith in.

England have to start again drop the players that failed their country Hart, Rooney, Sterling, the new era is here and must be ushered in.

 

How Far Can England Go?

England’s win over Wales on Thursday has made sure that their destiny is in their own hands and they won’t have to rely on other results to qualify for the next round.

Following Slovakia’s win over Russia on Wednesday it has sent England to the top of their group.

Hodgson has been heavily criticised for a number of reasons, firstly the fact that the Premier League’s most prolific striker, Harry Kane was taking corners and also the arguably negative approach that has been adopted over his tenure.

Today though the former Liverpool boss has to be commended his decision to introduce Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy at half-time proved to be inspired as both strikers scored goals to overturn the 1-0 half-time deficit.

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Roy Hodgson, England manager.

England have not done it the easy way conceding a late goal against Russia in their first game in Marseille and then having Gareth Bale give Wales a one goal half-time lead.

The character shown today and the way all three substitutes (Vardy, Sturridge and Rashford) played are encouraging for England. England could well progress to the quarter-finals should this form continue.

England should seal top spot this Monday when they play Slovakia in Saint Etienne. Wayne Rooney and his players will believe that should they play as they did in the second half and if Roy Hodgson does get his selection right then England could well impress a few people.

My England XI to play Slovakia (4-3-3)

1 Joe Hart; 2 Kyle Walker 5 Gary Cahill 6 Chris Smalling 3 Danny Rose; 20 Delle Alli 10 Wayne Rooney 17 Eric Dier; 22 Marcus Rashford 15 Daniel Sturridge 11 Jamie Vardy

England Encounter Europe’s Finest in Lead-Up to Euros

England have very little time to get themselves ready for the Euros in France, Roy Hodgson’s final squad before the championships has been named as the nation readies itself to play world champions Germany and the Netherlands.

Fans have looked and critiqued the selection by Roy Hodgson and with injuries coming to Joe Hart, Raheem Sterling and Ryan Bertrand selected their various combinations all over the country.

What do these friendlies actually mean in a football context? The answer is nothing, they offer nothing, there is nothing to play for, it feels as though UEFA have thrown these friendlies in to make sure the season finishes in May.

euro-2016-france.jpg

The European Championships will be hosted by France this summer.

Whilst the matches will be testing, England will not win anything even if they do win both matches comprehensively, the best we can hope for as English fans is that Roy Hodgson comes away with a clear idea of who will start for England come the Euros in the summer.

Questions over the availability of players leading up to June is also a pressing matter will Luke Shaw and Jack Wilshere be available? Two players that England would be blessed to have in the squad.

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Danny Rose has been in great form for Tottenham.

The inclusions of Danny Rose and Danny Drinkwater to earn their first caps is a welcome approach selecting players from the form clubs rather than the established order of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal who still provide a large chunk of the squad.

The inclusion of Delle Alli, Eric Dier, John Stones and Harry Kane also shows a trust in the young players of this country a policy that has been key to the Roy Hodgson era.

The draw was also kind to England, that also means these two games can act as an acid test for England are they good enough to compete with the best in Europe should they make it through their easy group of Russia, Wales and Slovakia.

euro-group-bThe interest in England has fallen in recent years due to the lack of flair and attacking play the current crop of stars have in their locker and the fact that all the money is in the Premier League these days, the fact that the new Wembley is also about as atmospheric as a graveyard have contributed to this lack of fans.

These games will provide us with a clearer idea of who will be on that plane to France in June.

England Squad:

On the Plane: Harry Kane, Joe Hart, Ross Barkley, Jamie Vardy, Raheem Sterling

In the Departure Lounge: Jordan Henderson, Ryan Bertrand, Chris Smalling, Delle Alli, John Stones, Fraser Forster, Luke Shaw (if fit), Jack Wilshere (if fit), Kyle Walker

Checking In: Danny Welbeck, Gary Cahill, James Milner, Eric Dier, Danny Drinkwater, Theo Walcott, Jack Butland, Danny Rose, Nathaniel Clyne

Packing: Kieran Gibbs, Adam Lallana

Booking a holiday elsewhere: Wayne Rooney, Phil Jones, Michael Carrick, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Phil Jagielka, Daniel Sturridge, Fabian Delph, Aaron Cresswell, Tom Heaton, Danny Ings