92 clubs favourite players – Aston Villa – Gabriel Agbonlahor

The second of the 92 clubs I am going to choose my favourite player from is Aston Villa and they have been a solid team in the Premier League for a long time and have even qualified for Europe on several occasions.

The player I have chosen is someone that has been at the club through some tough times and also some good times and that man is Gabriel Agbonlahor. He has played for Villa under six different managers and has the achievement to have scored under every single one of them. This includes Kevin MacDonald, David O’Leary, Gerard Houllier, Alex McLeish, Martin O’Neill and now Paul Lambert. It was under O’Neill that he really started to show his potential by scoring 49 goals in 175 games and helping them to good finishes in the league. This season so far the goals haven’t been flowing for him but in his first five Premier League games he has assisted four goals and shown that he has had to adapt his game over the years from a central striker to a winger and he is still a massive threat to every team.
Agbonlahor]
It did take him a few years to adapt to the new role after an impressive start to his career as a striker. In his first four full seasons at the club he scored double figures in all of these in the Premier League and now has 63 goals in the league all together and will be hoping that he can get into the elite group of players that has scored 100 goals in the Premier League in the coming years. Last year he returned to goal scoring form by getting 12 goals in all competitions and by linking up with Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann he will get more opportunities to score and assist goals.

Personally I think Agbonlahor should have been given more chances in the England set up, he does have three caps and performed quite well in all of the games particularly in a win against Germany where he had a goal disallowed and caused real problems with his pace. Recently England have been struggling to find consistent wingers and front men which is why I cannot believe he hasn’t even been called up recently. His form is certainly better than Ashley Young and adds a lot more going forward than James Milner. Plus he has a lot more experience than Andros Townsend and Raheem Sterling and is still only 26 so he has a lot to offer.

He came through the Villa youth team so obviously the fans are going to like him a lot but something else that makes them love him is the fact that he has a brilliant record against one of their nearest rivals Birmingham City. Scoring four times in seven games in the Midlands Derby is a very good record and his performances have helped his side beat their rivals in five of the seven games you know the fans will have a lot of respect for your talents.

Who is your favourite player at Aston Villa? Does Agbonlahor deserve another chance on the international stage? Can Paul Lambert get the best out of Agbonlahor?

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Will Thomas Muller join a Premier League club this summer?

Thomas Muller scored in the Champions League final for Bayern Munich but he may be on his way out of the club this summer.

Muller also has 10 international goals for Germany

Last season he spent a lot of time on the bench and it would seem that the 22 year old wants to be guaranteed first team football. He did actually play 53 games last season which is the most in his career but a lot of them were from the bench and he does have the ability and the talent to be a regular in a lot of sides all around Europe. He did still however manage to score 11 goals and play a major part in Germany’s Euro 2012 campaign in particular the qualifiers where he started all 10 games and contributed seven assists. Muller’s versatility works for him and against him because he can play in any of the forward roles which means he is always there in case of injuries but whenever everyone if fit he is put back on the bench just in case someone isn’t having an effective game or is struggling with an injury. But his main strength is his composure as he never looks fazed and if he is given an opportunity to score he will usually take it.

So would he be interested in a move to the Premier League and which teams would he realistically sign for? Tottenham Hotspur are the first team that spring to mind as they are in desperate need of a striker with Jermain Defoe being the only experienced striker at the club and it is not clear whether he will stay either. Muller would fit perfectly into their side with him able to capitalise on the through balls from Rafael Van Der Vaart and the crosses of Gareth Bale, I am sure he would score plenty of goals in England.

Another team linked with a move is Manchester City who will be linked with any player that becomes available and has proved to be a good player for their club. But, I could see them going for the German international because it looks like they may lose out on Robin Van Persie. With them interest in him it suggests to me that they are in the market for a new striker and Muller would fit the bill as he can play in a front two or three and will do a job out wide for them. If Edin Dzeko leaves I think he would be a perfect replacement.

The team that he scored against in that Champions League final, Chelsea have also been linked with a move for him and even though they have spent a lot of money so far this summer they haven’t really invested in their strike force and after losing Didier Drogba they will need some reinforcements for the currently inconsistent Fernando Torres. Daniel Sturridge is still at the club but he probably didn’t play as much as he would have hoped after Roberto Di Matteo took over so he will be hoping for more starts this year. But the new manager may look elsewhere and Muller could be a good signing for them and with Romelu Lukaku joining West Brom on loan they definitely need a new striker at least for backup.

My Team of Euro2012

Euro 2012 has been one of the better international tournaments in recent years

Goalkeeper- Gianluigi Buffon- The Italian has been in fantastic form and has produced a number of wonderful saves throughout the tournament. But the main reason I have chosen him as my number 1 is the fact that he has marshalled the defence in front of him superbly even though there have been a number of changes at the back for them.

Right Back- Joao Pereira- For me he did a very good job and was consistent in every game, although he didn’t stand out because of other players in the team, he did not let them down and was very good defensively with little support from Nani on the right hand side. He clearly has a very good footballing brain as he knew that when Coentrao went forward he had to stay back. He has possibly been the most underrated player in the tournament.

Left Back- Jordi Alba- The new Barcelona man wasn’t even a left back until recently but now he looks like he was born to play in that position. He was rarely beaten by a winger and stopped a lot of crosses coming in. But his main strength is going forward and his movement was sublime at times and he gave Spain a bit more width which they lack at times.  You have to be a special player if you add something to the World and European Champions.

Centre Back- Sergio Ramos- Another player that has changed position recently and has done very well there. The Real Madrid defender has carried on his club form for Spain and hasn’t given their opponents a sniff and that is why they have only conceded one goal this tournament. He still adds a threat going forward and he has shown when the pressure is on he remains calm with a wonderful penalty against Portugal.

Centre Back- Mats Hummels- He may not have been very well known outside of Germany but the 23 year old will have caught the eye of a lot of clubs during the tournament. He has everything a centre back should, he is quite quick, good positioning and his marking was on a whole superb.

Centre Midfield- Steven Gerrard- The England captain for me was their best player and seemed to be lifted by getting the armband for the tournament and he didn’t let anyone down. His free kicks were always dangerous and his defending was top class, he blocked a lot of shots and covered a lot of ground. If only England had got him into more attacking positions they may have gone further in the competition.

Centre Midfield- Andrea Pirlo- My player of the tournament by a long way. This has been competition, by himself basically he has dominated teams like England and Germany and even in the opening group game against Spain he looked like the best player on the pitch. His passing accuracy must be one of the best in the tournament but it’s not just his accuracy, it seems like very pass he makes has been well thought out and will create something.

Centre Midfield- Xabi Alonso- You have to have a Spain midfielder in your team and Alonso has been the best in the competition in my opinion. He is the most important to the team as he plays a very unique role, basically he sits alongside Busquets who gives him the ball at every opportunity and looks for a playmaker. Without him in the side I think a lot of their attacks would break down a lot earlier and is irreplaceable in the side.

Right Winger- Alan Dzagoev- Remember him from the group stages? Russia in their opening game and it was largely down to this man as he scored twice and ripped the Czech Republic defence to shreds. Then in the second game he scored against Poland with a header which just showed another attribute that he has. The most disappointing thing about Russia going out was that I couldn’t get to see more of him but he did enough to be in my team of the tournament.

Left Winger- Cristiano Ronaldo- Ronaldo started off the tournament pretty slowly and missed guilt edge chances against Denmark but after the Holland game, I’m sure a lot of people were asking whether this would be Ronaldo’s tournament and when he scored against Czech Republic it seemed even more likely however it wasn’t to be and his decision not to take a penalty against Spain cost the team.

Striker- Mario Balotelli- If he didn’t produce against Germany in the semi final he wouldn’t have got near this team however he did and could now win the Euros and the golden boot. He had been performing quite well, and causing problems for defenders but he wasn’t putting away his chances which meant he was criticised. However, the England defence couldn’t get to grips with him and the Germans had no answer to him.

Player of the day- Mario Balotelli

Italy will meet Spain in the final after beating Germany 2-1 which could well be called the Balotelli semi final.

Mario Balotelli produced one of the best performances in his career as he scored twice and was a constant menace to the Germany defence. His first goal was quite predatory as his clever movement managed to get him away from his marker and power home a header from about six yards leaving goalkeeper Manuel Neuer with no chance. The second goal was really poor defensively again from Germany as it only took one long ball from the Italians to create a chance. Balotelli was through and hit a powerful shot which once again Neuer could do nothing about. In the very last minute with Germany pushing forward they won a penalty and Mesut Ozil scored but there just wasn’t enough time for them to get an equaliser. It was a disappointing performance from Germany both defensively and offensively but they still created a fair few chances and especially early on they forced Gianluigi Buffon into a few saves. Italy deserve their place in the final with this performance and will give Spain a good game and they have a very good chance of beating them. They were given no chance to beat them in the group stages but they have got better and better as the tournament has gone on and the Spanish have got worse in my opinion.

Man of the match- Mario Balotelli- The Manchester City striker was in fantastic form and his two goals were just superb and in my opinion his performance was the best of any striker in the competition, especially in the first half. His partnership with Antonio Cassano worked well and is developing with them each create chances and now Balotelli grabbing the goals. His movement was the most impressive part of his game as the German defence who hadn’t really been tested that much could not contain him. He has all the attributes to be the best striker in the world one day and maybe now he will start to show his potential on a regular basis.

Balotelli scored 17 goals in 32 games for Manchester City last season

 

Player of the day- Andrea Pirlo and would the Italian get in the Spain team?

England have crashed out of yet another tournament after losing in a penalty shootout against Italy, however they were massively outplayed by their opponents.

The Italians deserve their place in the semi finals and they will give Germany a better game than England would have so at least it will be a good game to watch. It is disappointing that England have gone out on a personal level but to be fair to the players and Roy Hodgson nobody really expected us to win the group so that should be seen as a massive achievement. But, onto the game and it was all Italy and they had numerous chances to win the game and had a lot of attempts on Joe Hart’s goal. Mario Balotelli was threatening in behind with his pace and was almost through one on one but was blocked out by John Terry. The game finished 0-0 and in extra time the pattern of the game didn’t change and the Italians poured more and more men forward with Antonio Nocerino having a goal disallowed just before it went to the dreaded penalty shootouts. Italy won 4-2 with Ashley Young and Ashley Cole missing. I enjoyed the Italian penalties actually as they mostly showed their composure and showed the English how it was done. Balotelli’s was brilliant as no keeper would have saved and Andrea Pirlo’s well it is difficult to describe it as he was under so much pressure and he had took it like he didn’t have a care in the world and it wasn’t in front of millions of people around the world.

Man of the match- Andrea Pirlo- The Italian midfielder is my player of the tournament as he has just been fantastic, every time he gets the ball he produces something special, his through ball to Balotelli was outstanding and his awareness was incredible. He picked up the ball near his own box and casually chipped the ball through right into the path of Balotelli who just couldn’t take the chance. He could have got man of the match just for his penalty but his passing is in my opinion unrivalled as not many players can drop in deep and play little one twos then play a cross field pass with so much accuracy. A lot of people will argue that Spain’s midfielders are better because they have a better passing average but Pirlo dictates a game by himself whereas Xavi and Xabi Alonso etc do it more as a partnership. That is just my opinion and I think if he was Spanish he would get into their first 11.

Has Pirlo been the best player at Euro 2012?

Player of the day- Mesut Ozil

Germany must now be the favourites to win the European Championships as they just keep getting better and better as the tournament continues.

The Germans were far too strong for the Greece who were very negative themselves and in the first half is showed as they struggled to get into their opponents half. Germany had all of the ball and created numerous chances and should have been well ahead before halftime however they had to wait for their left back Philipp Lahm to score from outside the box, at first glance I thought the keeper should have done better however it did swerve and was hit incredibly well. The second half started exactly like the first but surprisingly Greece grabbed an equaliser from a counter attack through Georgios Samaras who slid in and there was a feeling they could go onto win the game. Goals from Sami Khedira who was fantastic on the day, Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus in the space of 15 minutes ended the contest and sent the Greeks home. There was still enough time for Dimitris Slapigidis to grab his second of the tournament from the penalty spot after Jerome Boateng handled in the box. So, Germany are looking impressive and what makes it even more remarkable is that they changed their front three for this game and started Andre Schurrle, Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose instead of Lukas Podolski, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez. It just shows they have so much strength in depth and have enough quality to win the whole thing, their attacking talent is amazing and I always look forward to watch them.

Man of the match- Mesut Ozil- For me it doesn’t matter who plays for Germany as the front three, if this man is behind them then they will get chances and should be able to score goals. He was sublime in this game and the only thing that was missing from his performance was a goal, he created chances and always wanted the ball. Even when he gives a bad pass it doesn’t damage his confidence and it does not stop him from trying a difficult through ball the next time he gets. This is a very good attribute as a lot of other players go hiding and just play a simple pass.

The playmaker has been at Real Madrid since 2010

Player of the day- Steven Gerrard plus My hatred for ITV!

England have won Group D after beating Ukraine while France couldn’t get the win they needed as they lost against Sweden however they still qualified.

France decided to play a few of their fringe players with Hatem Ben Arfa and Yann M’Vila who have hardly kicked a ball this tournament getting a start and Laurent Blanc’s gamble did not pay off. For me the big mistake was leaving out Yohan Cabaye who had been in superb form so far and is someone who I consider to be undroppable at both club and international level. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sebastian Larsson scored the goals and they sent their fans home happy. France will now face Spain in the quarter finals.

The England game wasn’t the most exciting and their fans will take confidence from the result however their performance still wasn’t great going forward even with the returning Wayne Rooney in the starting 11. The first half showed England struggle to break down teams that aren’t the best at defending and when they did take the lead early in the second half, it was largely down to a mistake from the Ukrainian goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov. However, it is worth saying that the cross from Steven Gerrard was fantastic and Wayne Rooney had to be in the right position to header home. It wasn’t the most exciting game but England were very lucky when the ball seemed to cross the line before John Terry managed to clear. How the fifth official missed it I will never know and it just shows that they actually are pointless and do nothing. Also, it looked as though the ball hit John Terry’s hand later in the half but that also wasn’t given.

Man of the match- Steven Gerrard- It wasn’t the greatest performance from England but their captain showed his worth by supplying the cross for the goal and putting in a number of other threatening crosses. He linked up well with both Rooney and Danny Welbeck at times and that will be important against better teams. Plus, his partnership with Scott Parker is getting better and better by the game as they know where the other is on the pitch and if they should go forward or sit back and protect the back four. It is refreshing to see Gerrard playing well after all the years of seeing him struggle alongside Frank Lampard. He has easily been England’s stand out player this tournament already and he is finally showing his true ability at international level and is a fantastic example to everyone when he is on the pitch.

Gerrard is closing in on his 100th cap for England

Finally, I would just like to say I really hate coverage of the England games, especially on ITV as the commentators aren’t impartial at all and try to claim that England are the best thing in world football. They are not and they think every player is brilliant. They don’t even care that much about the opposition and will not even give them that much credit. They hardly talked about Ukraine when their shot crossed the line, instead they focused on how well John Terry did to get back into the right position but who cares about that, he didn’t stop the goal and if the fifth official was awake or we used goal line technology then it would have been a goal so why praise him? Then instead of saying that would have changed the match, they talked about the Germany game at the World Cup. Football doesn’t revolve around England and it is no wonder England fans are always naive and think they can win big tournaments. I support England but I hate the way ITV portrays the players and it really makes me hate watching the national team and that is without even mentioning Adrian Chiles.

Player of the day- Cristiano Ronaldo

Germany are looking like the team to beat as they came through the group of death with nine points and in each game looked very good.

Portugal will be joining them in the knockout stages and their game was the one I decided to watch as I personally felt that Germany would win their game and ultimately eliminate Denmark which did happen. Denmark actually surprised me a lot this tournament and maybe deserved to go through as they were very consistent and if only they had performed better in the first half against Portugal they would have finished second.

So onto the game I watched, Holland started the brighter and looked like they would cause Portugal some problems and they took the lead through a wonderful finish from Rafael Van Der Vaart and at that point I thought they would go onto win the game by at least the two goals needed to qualify but a lack of passion and drive has been evident all tournament and some of the players looked like they would have rather been on their holidays. Poor defending allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to break through the offside trap and finish off a one on one. The second half the Dutch were even worse and their attacking players were not performing and didn’t create much and yet again Ronaldo was able to grab a goal from a counter attack.

Man of the match- Cristiano Ronaldo- The man has the burden of being the best player on his shoulders and it isn’t like being at club level where Real Madrid can look towards Mesut Ozil or Karim Benzema to step up. He seems to have to do it all, as his support in Helder Postiga and Nani is nowhere near the quality of his teammates. His two goals were at crucial times and he held his nerve and confidently put them both in the corner. His all round game in the tournament has been fantastic in my opinion and he should have had more goals but he has frightened defences and could lead his country to the final.

Ronaldo cost Real Madrid £80 million in 2009

Portugal will take on Czech Republic and Germany will take on Greece and I fully expect these two from group B to go through however football is a funny game and anything could happen so maybe one of these will fall.

Players of the day- Simon Kjaer and Mario Gomez

Group B took centre stage in the European Championships with Holland taking on Denmark and Germany playing Portugal.

The first game of the day provided the first real shock in the tournament with Denmark playing superbly and beating Holland after a terrific goal from Michael Krohn-Dehli. The Dutch side had a lot of attempts but were unable to score with Robin Van Persie in particular being very wasteful. The Arsenal man had a few chances but his finishing wasn’t up to the standards we now expect and his control was also off at times. A big question for the manager is, does he start Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the next game which has now became a must win? Arjen Robben hit the post and Denmark rode their luck and on another day they could have conceded two penalties however the luck was on their side and maybe they deserved it.

Man of the match- Simon Kjaer- This was a really difficult one to choose because anyone of their players could have won it. Simon Poulson at left back was fantastic going forward and for the most part he kept Robben quiet. Daniel Agger, showed everyone how good he is and the Liverpool player was always there with a crucial tackle or block. Niki Zimling and William Kvist combined well and stopped the Dutch team playing through the middle of the pitch forcing them out wide. Michael Krohn-Dehli obviously scored the goal but it was his all round performance that was particularly impressive, he was confident on the ball and every opportunity tried to take on his fullback and succeeded regularly. But I went for Kjaer, because he marshalled Robin Van Persie and then Huntelaar very well and when he had the ball he never gave it away and was quick to start counter attacks for his side. Dominant in the air and showed enough pace to deal with any threat as well as having almost perfect positioning for most of the game.

Simon Kjaer is only 23 and will have a good career ahead of him

The next game was one of the most anticipated games of the tournament but it didn’t live up to its billing with Portugal deciding to play for a draw and rarely threatened going forward. Despite that, they almost took the lead just before halftime when Pepe hit the underside of the bar. Germany couldn’t find much space and their better players were unable to get into the game much. Lukas Podolski on the left wing hardly had a touch, Thomas Muller sent in a few crosses but most of them were poor and didn’t reach one of his own players. Mesut Ozil was always trying things but he couldn’t find a killer pass. In the end the goal from Mario Gomez who managed to power home a header from a deflected cross.

Man of the match- Mario Gomez- Like in the first game it was difficult to choose but for a completely different reason. There were no stand out players and nobody really looked on form. Cristiano Ronaldo could have been in with a shout because every time he had the ball at least he tried to make something happen. But I gave it to Gomez as he did what nobody else could do and that was put the ball in the back of the net. He hardly had a touch, but he did his job better than anyone else and to me he has won the game for Germany, he was probably the only player on the pitch that could have scored that header so the match winner gets the vote for me.

Mario Gomez scored 41 goals for Bayern Munich this season

Will Lucio join the Premier League this season?

Inter Milan defender Lucio’s agent has claimed that he will be leaving the Italian team this summer and is looking for a new adventure in Europe.

Lucio has played 105 times for Brazil

The Brazilian international has had a fantastic career so far winning many trophies including the Bundesliga three times, Serie A once and the Champions League as well as many cup competitions. He has also played over 100 times for his national team Brazil and helped them to win the World Cup in 2002 which just shows he can perform on the biggest of stages. He first came to Europe to play for Bayer Leverkusen and instantly adapted to German football, not only defending well but also adding goals from defence with his power in the opposition in the box as well as his forward runs in open play. For Bayer Leverkusen he played and scored in the 2002 Champions League final but unfortunately they went on to lose to Real Madrid 2-1. After scoring 18 times for the club, he joined Bayern Munich and went onto even greater success, while he was in the team they were very successful in their own country and even though they couldn’t replicate that form in Europe he was still considered one of the best defenders in Europe.

Even though he was getting older his services were in great demand and he joined Inter Milan and in his first season won the treble in Italy. Inter won the Coppa Italia, Serie A and Champions League against his former club Bayern Munich. He barely missed a game throughout the season and now at the age of 34 he could still make the difference to a lot of teams in Europe. So who could he join in England?

The first team I think he could do a good job is at the current champions Manchester City. When Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott were injured last season  they struggled with Stefan Savic and Kolo Toure not looking up to the challenge and costing their team on multiple occasions. I think Lucio would just add extra experience and make a difference particularly in the Champions League because the current team have a lot of world beaters, but how many have actually won the Champions League or World Cup?

Manchester rivals United, should also be looking at him as Sir Alex Ferguson knows they need to improve their team this summer and although I was quite impressed with Jonny Evans this season, I think Lucio is a lot better than him still. Plus Ferguson doesn’t mind bringing in experience as we have seen in the past with players like Laurent Blanc. With Nemanja Vidic struggling with injuries this season he may not be able to get back to his high standards when he returns and with Rio Ferdinand also getting older he will not be able to play as many games next season. Yes they do have Phil Jones and Chris Smalling but they have been used in different positions throughout this season and that little bit of extra experience may have got them over the line this season and secured the title for them.

Finally, Arsenal always need a centre back. Laurent Koscielny has had a very good season in my opinion but he does still make mistakes and Thomas Vermaelen has struggled with injuries at times this year. Lucio is also a lot better than Per Mertesacker and the Brazilian would fit into Arsenal’s style of play a lot better as he is one of the best ball playing centre backs of the last 10 years.

He may not be as quick as he used to be but he still has a lot of very useful attributes and would add something to the very best teams in the Premier League so I think if any of these teams get a chance they should definitely sign him up.