Should Steven Taylor have been called up to the England squad?

Steven Taylor has been in very good form in the last couple of weeks and possibly deserved a call up to the England squad this month.

Against Anzhi, he was yet again sublime particularly when Lassana Diarra looked certain to score not once but twice. The 27 year old put in two blocks and his contribution was arguably as important as Papiss Cisse’s last minute winner. This season it has been no surprise that when Taylor has been in Newcastle’s starting 11 they have performed better and looked a lot more solid with him at the back. One thing that does go unnoticed though a lot of the time is his passing accuracy, in recent games he has been close to 100% and he clearly has learnt a lot from his regular centre back partner Fabricio Coloccini in being composed at the back and building attacks from there rather than just sending it long and pointless as others do so often.

Taylor has been around the squad for a long time now since making his debut in the 2003-04 season and may feel that in that time he has deserved a call up to the full England squad. His record at youth level has been good for England and he even has a cap at B level but that full England cap still seems to allude him. He is everything you want in a centre back, he is brave and rarely loses the ball when it is in the air and has improved immensely when strikers or quick wingers are running at him.

With England struggling for options at the back these days it is a surprise to me that he didn’t get called up this time but if he keeps his current form for the rest of the season there is no doubt in my mind that the calls for him to be included in a squad will get louder and louder. There are only a few reasons why I think he won’t get called up and they are simply because England managers, including Roy Hodgson seem reluctant to come to the North East to watch Newcastle and Sunderland games so there is very little chance of a call up from either squad. But, possibly another reason is because he sometimes does things that are very strange and his antics could be costing him. He seems to do some things to get the crowd going and to get a cheer rather than just being more professional, an example of this is when he has laid on the ground to header the ball instead of just clearing it with his foot. Also, his actions towards Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic in the recent win showed a different side to him and if he did that on a national level it would be much bigger news and he would be criticised for it.

For me though, Steven Taylor should be in this England squad and could have even started because he is in better form than Chris Smalling. With Michael Dawson and Gary Cahill given opportunities already and not really making the position there own it may have been better to try someone like Taylor. Then there is Rio Ferdinand, is he still good enough? He probably is and I think Taylor and Ferdinand would have formed a great partnership.

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Chelsea’s best performance for years is enough to beat Barcelona

Chelsea beat Barcelona 1-0 to give them an excellent chance of qualifying for the Champions League final but it is still a tough task.

Di Matteo has now won 10 of his 13 games in charge of Chelsea

First things first, Barcelona were not at their best and even though they weren’t at their best they still dominated the game and possibly should have won the game. They had numerous chances to work Petr Cech who did pull off a few wonderful saves but on the whole they just missed chances, hitting the woodwork and missing guilt edged opportunities. In particular the Cesc Fabregas chance which was brilliantly cleared off the line by Ashley Cole, but in all honesty should have been a goal and Fabregas should never have given Cole the chance to hack it away.

Onto Chelsea and what has on a whole been quite disappointing, it was  a very good performance by them and the goal they now take to the Nou Camp should give them at least a lift and a bit of confidence. Roberto Di Matteo should be getting praised for what he has done because under Villas Boas the team from London were going out of the Champions League and may have not got as far as they have done in the FA Cup. His team selection turned out to be perfect, choosing Didier Drogba instead of Fernando Torres. This was a very big decision and in the end it made the difference with Drogba scoring the only goal of the game. He may have split opinion on his performance with him at times looking very strong and powerful with the Barcelona defence struggling to cope with him then at other times flopping to the floor at the slightest touch. With a lot of controversy about diving at the minute Drogba didn’t do anything to help the situation but in his defence the opposition players were doing very similar things and maybe it was just a little more embarrassing to watch him do it because of his size. However, I thought he had a decent game and held the ball up well and allowed his team to push out at times, he also took his goal brilliantly.

The defence deserves the most praise out of everyone and that includes John Obi Mikel who was fantastic and sat in the back four cutting out a lot of the little through balls that Barcelona like to play. He did give away a few free kicks in dangerous areas but he kept possession well when he had it and nullified the threat of the oppositions attacking players. In the centre of defence John Terry had arguably one of his best performances for a number of years but man of the match for me was Gary Cahill, for a player to play the way he did just a few months after being in a relegation threatened side was unbelievable. I think Cahill is good but I have said it before that he struggles when a striker has clever movement. He dealt with Lionel Messi better than most this season and even when his team were under pressure he bailed them out with a last ditch tackle or block.

It must have been a fantastic night for the Chelsea fans but they and the team know this tie is not over and it will be a lot more difficult in the away leg but at least they have something to hold onto. There is far more optimism that they will be in the final now than there was when the draw was made.

Can Tottenham Hotspur still finish third?

Tottenham picked up a point at Stamford Bridge but is that really good enough if they want to finish third in the Premier League and challenge for the title in years to come.

Spurs couldn’t afford to lose the game and maybe this is why in the first half it was such a poor performance and they couldn’t get their normal passing game going. There were no quick counter attacks and anytime they had a chance to make a through ball the player on the ball decided to pas it square or back to the defence. However, they did create a chance right at the end of the half which Rafael Van Der Vaart should have done better but the Chelsea players did put their bodies on the line to make sure they made it to half time on level terms.

The cautious start would have seemed unnatural for Spurs but when you take a closer look at some of their score lines against teams in the top half it is not that surprising. Against Liverpool they played in exactly the same way and were fortunate to get anything from that game even though Gareth Bale missed a one on one near to the end. This is starting to be a problem for them as they also couldn’t hold onto a lead away to Newcastle United as Shola Ameobi scored a late equaliser.

A lot of people will be saying that the team aren’t performing because of the speculation about the England job and maybe that is playing on Harry Redknapp’s mind but the players are not playing to their full potential and they have to take the blame for it themselves rather than blame it on things they can’t control. They were missing Aaron Lennon today which does change the way they play but in the big games, their attacking players seem to go missing anyway. I think Bale is one of the best players in the Premier League but against their rivals he seems to be very quiet especially in the first half against Chelsea. However, in the second half he did look the most likely to make something happen and hit the bar with a header.

The second half was a massive improvement but still not as good as we have seen them this season. Emmanuel Adebayor had a chance when he rounded Petr Cech but couldn’t get it past Gary Cahill who had ran round on the cover. Luka Modric was the player that played through Adebayor but even he wasn’t as influential as he could have been today.

Man of the match went to Kyle Walker which in all honesty proves that it wasn’t a great game. He did perform well but when you are saying the right back was the best player on the pitch you know the attacking players haven’t performed brilliantly.

Tottenham should finish in the Champions League places and this should have been good enough but the fans expectations were raised as the season went on and now fourth place seems like a bit of a disappointment. None of the fans would have complained at the start of the season but now they are gutted Arsenal could finish above them, this just shows how quickly expectations change in football.

Cahill to Chelsea- Good move?

The Gary Cahill transfer has finally went through but is he the man to stabilise the Chelsea defence once again. Surely, he has to do a better job than David Luiz and Alex this season, however, his former side Bolton are struggling at the bottom of the table and although Cahill cannot be solely to blame he hasn’t helped his team and they have one of the worst defensive records in the division.

So will he be a success at Chelsea or not? Will he be able to establish a solid partnership with John Terry in the heart of the Chelsea defence?

A short answer in my opinion is probably not. This is because he is a very good defender but I don’t think he will be able to perform against the best strikers in the world when he plays in the Champions League, whenever Bolton played Chelsea he got outmuscled by Didier Drogba but in his defence on his day Drogba can do that to any defender. But it’s not this part of the game that worries me the most, it is his lack of pace and occasionally poor positioning which has cost Bolton many goals. He gets pulled around by strikers with the slightest bit of clever movement all the time and when they run at him, he doesn’t know what to do at all.

Why will he not succeed at Chelsea? Because he is a younger version of John Terry and this season in particular has shown his frailties and exactly the same as Cahill, one bit of movement or pace and he is in trouble. Terry is a very good leader and a good captain but other than this I do not understand why he has been at a top club all these years.

When Mourinho was the manager he knew that Terry was a good leader but probably doubted his defensive abilities and the reason they succeeded under him was because he had the experience of Ricardo Carvalho playing alongside him who was very quick to read the game and must have saved Terry on countless occasions. That’s why it is no surprise to me that when Carvalho left for Real Madrid, Chelsea began to struggle and did not look solid at the back anymore.

Chelsea have not replaced Carvalho and maybe he did his job so effectively that they took him for granted and did not realise how difficult it would be to replace him. Gary Cahill will just add to the list of players that were given the opportunity to replace him but will most likely fail. I like Cahill but not alongside Terry as they are too similar and will be exposed especially against their title rivals.

I think Chelsea should have spent their money on a different type of centre back, someone like Coloccini at Newcastle who is a very good reader of the game like Carvalho was and is having undoubtedly his best season in the Premier League.

Or maybe everyone is reading this wrong and Andre Villas Boas doesn’t rate John Terry and has brought in Gary Cahill to replace him. Especially if Terry is banned for his alleged racist remarks towards Anton Ferdinand. That would most definitely stir things up at the Bridge and make everyone realise that Villas Boas is in charge and nobody is irreplaceable and bigger than the club.