What will Wilfried Zaha add to the England squad?

Wilfried Zaha has been called up to the England squad and will hope to play some part in the game against Sweden.

Although, it is only a friendly it is a huge achievement for a Championship player to be called up and so far this season the Crystal Palace player has been in fantastic form and has caught the attention of manager Roy Hodgson. His club are flying in the league and now under new manager Ian Holloway he will be given even more chance to express himself on the pitch, as the former Blackpool man wants his team to be attacking and create chances. But, the big question is, does he deserve his call up?

A lot of people believe that he is good enough for the Premier League and has been linked with a lot of different clubs since making his debut in 2009. But, he has stayed at Crystal Palace and will be hoping that his and his current clubs form can continue and they can both play together in the Premier League. He has now played over 100 games for the club and in the last two seasons he has played over 40 games which a lot of players can only hope to play, especially at his age.

He will add something different to the England squad and will be a breath of fresh air which most England supporters have been crying out for. Too long have England fans had to watch mediocre and uninspiring performances and they now just want someone to get them off their seats which players like James Milner (who does a solid enough job on the wing defensively, but against opponents England should be beating, he should come nowhere near the first 11) and Theo Walcott (who has largely underperformed internationally since his hatrick against Croatia) don’t do often enough.

It would be far more exciting turning on an England game and watching Zaha and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wings then it would certainly make a lot of defences frightened and the England strikers would be expecting a lot of chances to come their way. For too long, England games have been a chore to watch and giving players like Zaha a chance will make fans a lot more optimistic about watching their country.

But why Zaha? Personally, I think he is one of the better English wingers and I am glad he has got a chance because it is more than likely that he will be a big star at club level and internationally. But, is the real reason they have called him up is to convince to sign him up for England instead of his country of birth Ivory Coast?

I don’t think this is the reason he got called up as Hodgson is now starting to give other players chances, such as Zaha and Everton’s Leon Osman and this can only benefit the national side. I hope he gets an appearance in Sweden and proves to everyone that he is a real talent, the only people that may not be happy are the Crystal Palace fans who will have to listen to even more transfer rumours about one of their star players.

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Who will be Crystal Palace’s next manager?

Crystal Palace are looking for a new manager after Dougie Freedman decided his future is away from the club and at Bolton Wanderers.

Freedman, has left the club in a lot better position than the one he took charge of and along with his playing career, he will always be seen as a legend by the fans and I’m sure a lot will want to wish him the best of luck at his new club. They, along with Freedman will have good memories over the last couple of years, including beating Manchester United in the quarter final of the Carling Cup and escaping relegation quite comfortably in the end. So, who will they get to replace him? Should they be looking for more experience this time to continue the good job the Scotsman had done or bring in someone that is young and exciting? However, one thing to take into consideration is still the financial side of the game, will they have to look at the unemployed list or can they tempt someone to leave their club? Obviously, they should get a compensation package from Bolton so they may just use this to get a new manager.

The favourite for the job currently is Steve Coppell. This is a very interesting one in my opinion because he left Bristol City after just two games and actually announced his retirement. However, a lot of fans will be in favour of this because he obviously has a lot of affection for the club and including caretaker spells has been in charge four times. His experience is not in question but he has been out of the managerial game for a number of years now so maybe he wouldn’t be the best choice right now. Also, he is currently the Director of Football at Crawley Town so they may have to pay compensation for him.

The next name is actually one that if they could get, would be a fantastic coup for the club as he will be linked with every job in the Championship until he decides to take a job. This man is Mick McCarthy and he would bring a lot to the club and could actually push them onto the next level and get Premier League football back to Selhurst Park. Gaining promotion with Wolves and Sunderland has made his CV even more impressive. Could Crystal Palace realistically get him though?

The final name that caught my attention is a former player, that actually has managerial experience, not only in the Championship but the Premier League and that is Gareth Southgate. Obviously, he started his career at the club and played over 150 league games so he knows exactly what the fans are about and even though things will have changed since he left, there is still the same passion about the club that was there back then. The only worry is that, he has also been out of the managerial game for a while and it might take him some time to adapt to the role again.

Other names that have been linked with the job are Andy Thorn, Lennie Lawrence and Karl Robinson. Would the Palace fans prefer one of these to get the job?

Who will Victor Moses play for next season?

Victor Moses’ future at Wigan Athletic is in doubt after a lot of interest in the winger over the last few months but the club are standing firm.

Moses has played 72 games in the Premier League

Manager Roberto Martinez clearly wants to keep him and owner Dave Whelan will not sell him unless it is right for the club which could well mean that Moses has to stay at the DW next season whether he likes it or not. I don’t think it would be a bad thing for him to stay as he has only had two full seasons in the Premier League and is only 21 so why not stay and get more experience which he would not definitely get at another club. Plus, if Wigan can build on their good end to the season they may not be in a relegation battle next season so it could be a good place to be. Moses only missed one Premier League game last season and he must enjoy being classed as one of their best players and maybe he should show some loyalty to the club as a lot of clubs were interested in him when he was at Crystal Palace but nobody else took the chance. Last season he scored six goals and got six assists which shows he does have the quality to be a success and would flourish at a top six club.

The main club chasing him are Chelsea who are reportedly putting in a final bid to test Wigan and it is believed to be around £7.5 million which may be slightly too much for him and Wigan may have to accept the offer. They may try and hold out for £10 million but if the final offer is true then I think they will accept if they get the chance to loan a player off Chelsea too. Moses shouldn’t join Chelsea and I hope current teammate Franco Di Santo tells him that first team opportunities are hard to come by and at this stage of his career he has to be playing games. I can’t see him playing ahead of Eden Hazard and Marko Marin so he would spend a lot of time on the bench.

Arsenal may be a better option for Moses as they are looking likely to lose Robin Van Persie this summer and Theo Walcott seems reluctant to sign a new contract so there could be a place up for grabs. Arsenal would have a lot of pace in their team if they could sign him and their front three would look very threatening with Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. However, is Moses good enough to be first choice for a team that is competing in the Champions League and may be expected to challenge for the title?

So maybe he needs to be looking slightly lower down the table if he wants to leave and Liverpool could well be interested in him as they need a replacement for Dirk Kuyt. With Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing failing to deliver in their first season they definitely need more of a threat from a wide position. Rodgers likes to play 4-3-3 so he could easily fit into that formation but I think this transfer will all depend on Craig Bellamy’s future, if he leaves then Moses would be a great signing.

Who will Andrew Johnson play for next season?

Andrew Johnson’s contract is up at the end of the season and it is looking increasingly likely that he will be not be a Fulham player next season.

Johnson has scored 147 goals in his career

Fulham rejected a bid for him in January from QPR which suggested that they wanted him to stay or maybe they just felt that QPR would come in with a better offer if they rejected it. He has played over 100 games for Fulham in all competitions in his four seasons at the club but has only scored 27 goals with a lot of them coming in the Europa League against opponents who Fulham should have beaten anyway especially in the earlier rounds of the competition. His 13 league goals have not been enough although he did suffer a serious injury in his second season at the club which may have hampered his progress. The transfer fee they bought him for was rumoured to be over £10 million and he certainly hasn’t lived up to that price tag.

But could he still do a good job in the Premier League for Fulham or should he be looking elsewhere? In my opinion he has to leave as Fulham have started to play a different way under Martin Jol and I can’t see where he would fit in. Also the form of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey has made it difficult for him to force his way into the team when he is fit.

So the next question is whether he is still good enough for the Premier League? This is a little harder to answer because he is getting towards the end of his career and he may not quite have the same attributes as he used to but it does also mean he has a lot more experience. He will have to adapt his game slightly as he does not have the pace he used to have, although he should still have his clever movement and will cause teams problems. At Everton, he wasn’t a consistent goal scorer but I thought that he showed enough quality to be a very good Premier League player. However, yet again the goals weren’t exactly flowing and 17 in two seasons in the league was possibly not good enough for the money they paid.

At Crystal Palace he got 21 league goals for a team that eventually got relegated which shows that he must have been a good player seen as though he almost kept them up on his own. This is why I believe one of the promoted teams should take a chance on him as he can score goals from few chances like at Palace and he might just give one of the teams a little bit more experience. Reading would be a good fit in my opinion and would be a slightly different option to Noel Hunt and Jason Roberts. Although he is quite similar to Adam Le Fondre.

I also think he could do well at Wigan as he would fit into their hardworking ethic and Johnson never stops running and works hard for the full 90 minutes and the one thing that is missing from the Wigan side is a clinical and proven goal scorer. Johnson could just be the man to take them from a battling relegation side to a mid table team.

Should Nathaniel Clyne stay at Palace?

Nathaniel Clyne has been offered an improved deal to stay at Crystal Palace but there is uncertainty whether he will stay at the club.

The defenders contract is up this summer and he has been linked with some of the best teams in the country such as Manchester United and Arsenal but would it be better for his future to stay at Crystal Palace and gain some more match day experience instead of sitting on the bench and only playing in cup games. There is no doubt he is a very good player and is rightly linked away however I believe he is at the right club, alongside some other young talented players like Wilfried Zaha as well as a young manager that I think will go far in the game and has looked very impressive so far and could be considered one of the managers of the year. Dougie Freedman is doing the right thing with his youngsters as well because he has been playing them and praising them but he has also been mentoring them and this is why I think Clyne in particular will stay at the club at least for another season.

They are 16th in the table which doesn’t seem that impressive but with how things have gone over the last few years this is a massive improvement and the fans can see the club is going in the right direction. The young right back has been part of this improvement for many years now after making his debut in the 2008-09 season, winning many awards since then including the Crystal Palace Young Player of the Year twice, the Football League Young Player of the year award and even Crystal Palace’s Player of the Year award which is remarkable seen as though he is still only 21. It has been a meteoric rise for the youngster and even he probably can’t believe how well his career has gone and if he was at another club would he have played in as many games? The answer is no and because he has the experience and the ability he will probably go a lot further in the game than someone that comes through a Premier League youth team. How many 21 year olds can say they have played in every game in a single season?

Young players need their rest and it is a worry that he might burn out further into his career but I do not think this will be the case, he is a fantastic prospect and the Palace fans can be proud that he has represented his club in such an accomplished and mature way. They may feel slightly betrayed if he does leave in the summer but it can sometimes be difficult for young players to make such tough decisions. Palace may not get as much money as they should for him because it will most likely go to a tribunal and they will decide the fee.

In my opinion, he should stay for another year but even if he doesn’t he has done a lot for Palace and was thrown in at the deep and succeeded where a lot of players would have failed. So well done to Nathaniel Clyne and I hope he gets selected for the Olympic squad and makes all the Palace fans proud.

Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta makes it to 200 games in the Premier League

Mikel Arteta is set to become only the third Spanish players to reach 200 games in the Premier League when Arsenal take on QPR.

Arteta will be trying to help Arsenal finish third season

Cesc Fabregas and Pepe Reina are the only other two to reach the landmark but Arteta will be hoping that he will play a lot more games before he leaves England or retires. He first came to England in the January transfer window of 2005 when he signed for Everton on loan with a view to a permanent move at the end of the season to fill the gap left by the departed Thomas Gravesen. He was relatively unknown to English football even though he had a relatively successful spell in Scotland with Rangers but by the end of the season he was well known all around the country as he showed his fantastic passing abilities and his eye for a goal. He scored the first of his 33 goals for the club against Crystal Palace and was then signed by David Moyes at the end of the season for £2 million which now seems like a bargain.

In his first two full seasons with the Toffees he won the Player of the Year award and it seemed to be a pretty easy choice with him scoring three goals and providing seven assists in the 2005-06 season. The following year he arguably had the best season of his whole career scoring nine times and finishing third in the assists table in the entire Premier League with 12. In my opinion, Moyes deserves credit for Arteta’s career in England because he had been playing as more of a holding midfielder for his previous clubs and was just sitting in front of the back four so he could play passes but Moyes changed his game and made him more of an attacking midfielder so his passes would create more chances for teammates to score. In his remaining years at Everton, he didn’t quite hit the same amount of goals or assists but he was still very consistent and was one of the most underrated players in the Premier League. The Everton fans loved him but I think a lot of other fans didn’t quite see how effective he was but in their defence, to see how good he is you probably have to watch him for a full 90 minutes.

At the age of 30, it seemed to me like he was going to stay at Everton for the rest of his career but Arsenal reportedly offered £10 million for him. It must have been hard to take for the Everton fans that he got sold but in their manager and chairman’s defence they got a lot of good service out of him and made a profit of £8 million on him. He already has five goals for the Gunners and three assists which shows that his career is not coming to an end anytime soon. His free kick against Aston Villa was one of the best this season and with him already captaining the side in an FA Cup game against Leeds United, he could still play a very important part in Arsenal’s future.

Crystal Palace’s Dougie Freedman for manager of the year

Crystal Palace have been performing above expectations this season and a lot of the credit has to go to their young manager Dougie Freedman.

The former striker was given the job after George Burley was sacked initially as caretaker but then was given the job permanently in January and brought in his former teammate Tony Popovic and Lennie Lawrence to assist him. He had a pretty successful season last year keeping the team up with a game to spare which seemed unlikely at certain points in the season. Crystal Palace have been dogged with financial problems in the last few years and he has to deal with very little money and also being unable to offer players a good enough contract to keep them at the club.

This season, he has guided the club to a respectable position in the league and are an outside bet to finish in the playoff places and the manager is quietly confident they could just spring a surprise and finish above teams with larger wage bills. This is a remarkable achievement as they were one of the favourites to get relegated and in fairness to the bookies, looking at the squad, they probably should have been down the bottom of the league. One of his greatest qualities is that he gives his players confidence and trusts them to do their jobs and this is why some of the younger players in the squad have performed exceptionally well, Wilfred Zaha in particular. Zaha was linked with a move away from the club but I believe that Freedman convinced him to stay and convinced him that if he plays first team football instead of the odd game in the Premier League he will become a better player. A lot of players allow their heads to be turned but obviously the boss has kept him focused and he is looking better and better every game.

Some of the results this season have been impressive, beating Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup and drawing 0-0 with league leaders West Ham at Upton Park. These are big results for the team but more importantly for the fans as they can see that this team under Freedman are going places and if they keep the squad together they could be genuine promotion contenders in the next few years.

The board will also be happy with their choice and the run to the Carling Cup semi final, which they were unlucky to lose on penalties, will have helped the club financially and the extra income will have pleased the board as they would not have expected the team to get so far.

Freedman deserves a lot of recognition as he has arguably done more for the team than anyone else has for their club. Yes the teams at the top get all the praise but sometimes you have to look down the table and see that some managers are performing above expectations and these deserve more credit than they get from the media in particular. A 37% win record is good for a manger that is at a team that aren’t expected to perform well and has limited experience.

The worst way to win… Penalties

Penalties is the most heartbreaking way to lose a game of football especially if you went down to ten men during the game like Crystal Palace did away to Cardiff. After Patrick McCarthy got sent off for two bookings, the Palace team defended brilliantly and did everything they could to keep Cardiff from scoring.

Cardiff missed opportunities and over the two legs they probably deserved to win the tie but Crystal Palace must feel hard done as they put in a very committed display and a draw would have been fair but the rules state that the tie had to be decided that night and when it came to it their players failed to keep their cool missing three of their penalties. With Jonathan Parr missing the target completely and both Jermaine Easter and Sean Scannell seeing their spot kicks saved by Tom Heaton they must be travelling back to London deflated and absolutely devastated to have missed their best opportunity of getting to a cup final in a long time.

Tom Heaton will be seen as the hero and will grab all the headlines in the morning papers whereas Kenny Miller who actually missed for Cardiff will hardly be mentioned unlike the Palace players that missed will be portrayed as villains.

Although this isn’t directly the same it is yet another time when England have failed to win a game because of penalties. England have been knocked out by Portugal and Germany which was heartbraking both in 1990 and 1996.

So what goes into taking a penalty? The most important thing a player needs is confidence and players that put their names forward deserve great credit as they are basically putting themselves forward to be shot down as they have put all the pressure on themselves to succeed as their opposite number, the goalkeeper, can only be a hero because nobody expects him to save the penalty.

The longest walk a player must take in his career is when he knows it is his turn next and has to walk from the centre circle to the penalty spot and look at the fans behind the girl which will either be his own who will be trying to encourage him or towards the opposition fans who will be doing all they can to put off the player. That walk must be so nervous and basically takes away the majority of a players footballing ability because it is one kick and one opportunity and although people say practice makes perfect, it doesn’t matter how often you practice taking penalties, you may choke on the big stage or the keeper could pull off a great save.

Another thing that would make anyone feel nervous is when a player places the ball and is all set to take it and then the referee tells them to replace the ball, it must ruin all momentum and cause panic as the player will be focused then all of a sudden they are taken out of the zone because the referee has spoke to them as the best penalty takers block out all the noise around them and just hit the ball.

Another thing that is important to remember though and the best advice to give to someone taking a penalty is that the goalposts do not move, they are in the same place every time and you are only 12 yards away. If you are a striker and you have a chance from 12 yards unmarked you are expected to score and most good strikers do put them away and therefore every penalty should go in.

However as I have said pressure can get to everyone and if a chance falls to you in a game it is a split second moment whereas you have so much time to think about it when taking a penalty especially in a shootout.

So is a penalty shootout the best way to end a game? In my opinion, yes because games have to come to a conclusion in some way and even though it is slightly unfair, every single player is under the same pressure and therefore it just comes down to whoever can hold their nerve the most.