92 clubs favourite players – Chelsea – Juan Mata

If I had chosen to do this last season then there would not have been a problem with my selection for my favourite Chelsea player but things have changed over the summer.

The man that I enjoy watching the most is Juan Mata but unfortunately for me and a lot of other football fans Jose Mourinho isn’t giving us the opportunity to watch his talents on a regular basis. For one reason or another the Chelsea boss has decided he has better options in his squad and completely disregarded last season. Mata was in my opinion the best player in the Premier League last year and yes I am one of the few that believe he was better than Gareth Bale. In his 35 league games last year he got 11 goals and 17 assists which makes it even more remarkable that Mourinho doesn’t select him week in and week, and in total for both club and country last year in his 74 games he got 21 goals and 39 assists which means he was directly involved in 60 goals. It seemed like he was just going to get better and better but now that has all stopped and I have very rarely questioned the ‘Special One’ before but surely this is a massive blunder on his part. Yes he has multiple options to choose from but Mata has to be the first name on the team sheet for me, he is easily the most consistent of the attacking players.
Mata
His defensive side of the game has been questioned and if that is the reason he has been left out then maybe that is understandable but give the ball to Mata in the final third and chances will come and with Chelsea’s strikers not exactly hitting top form they need several of those at the moment. I am not going to say that the reason Chelsea have started slowly is because Mata has not been on the pitch but it is a factor that needs to be considered.

Mata at Chelsea needs to be given a role that Bale had at Tottenham, Cristiano Ronaldo has at Real Madrid and to a lesser extent Hatem Ben Arfa at Newcastle United. Just put him on the pitch and let him do whatever he wants, if you give him the ball your team will have a better chance of scoring simply because he is on the pitch. Will you be as solid defensively? No but sometimes you just have to say to these sorts of players go out there and enjoy what you are good at, taking players on, causing problems for the opposition defence and winning games of football basically on your own. This may sound like he is a ball greedy player but he has phenomenal vision and just look at his stats he clearly cares more about the ball ending up in the back of the net rather than scoring himself.

So the question is, should Mata be in the starting 11 every week? Has Mourinho got this one wrong? Does he now have to leave the club?

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92 clubs favourite players – Arsenal – Mesut Ozil

I have decided that over the next few months I am going to look at every team and choose my favourite player for each of the 92 clubs and comment on their careers, why I like them and what they do for their teams.

So the first of the 92 clubs is Arsenal and my favourite player has to be recent signing and record transfer for the club Mesut Ozil. The 24 year old is the first real world class player Arsenal have signed for a very long time and even those that went on to be considered world class were not exactly in the best of form and their careers had not taken off yet and by this I mean Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry. So far Ozil has lived up to his reputation as the assist king as he set up the opening goal on his debut against Sunderland and then followed that up with more in the win against Stoke City. For a 24 year old he has a lot of experience playing in over 100 games in the Bundesliga and La Liga so he should have enough knowledge and experience of the game to be able to settle in at Arsenal and prove to be one of the best in the Premier League.
Ozil
I was very surprised by this transfer for a number of reasons because I did not expect Arsene Wenger to splash out so much but they did need a new signing to keep the fans happy and also to push the club on and challenge for trophies once again. Another reason I was surprised was because of how much all of the Real Madrid players seemed to enjoy playing with Ozil and how important he was to the side, but with them bringing in Isco and Gareth Bale maybe they could not guarantee him first team football and also Carlo Ancelotti might have wanted to bring in his own players and make the team his own.

But back to the German midfielders qualities and they are easy to see because he can pick up the ball anywhere on the pitch and his first thought is how can I create a goal for one of my teammates which is obviously great in a team that loves to pass the ball but sometimes lacks the final bit of quality. Sometimes he is criticised because he does not get enough goals for someone that plays in such an advanced position but just look at the number of assists he gets and you can forgive him. In the Bundesliga he scored 13 goals in 101 games but assisted 38 and then in La Liga he improved further and got 19 goals in 105 games but got 55 assists. If he can replicate this then Arsenal will surely win a trophy.

This signing is also great for the younger players at Arsenal like Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere who should learn a lot from him in training and will also take them to the next level. I also think Olivier Giroud and in particular Lukas Podolski (who he plays with on the international stage) will love playing with Ozil because he will create chance after chance for them.

Who will be Manchester City’s next manager?

Manchester City are looking for a new manager after they decided Roberto Mancini had not done a good enough all round job.
Man City
In their statement they seemed happy with the work the Italian did on the pitch but his work off it was not up to standard. Mancini did not have the greatest relationship with the board or his players and this has ended up working against him. But, I think he still did a good job and even if the players didn’t like him they still performed to a high level. The question now then is, would they have played even better if they had a different manager? The City board obviously feel that they will and with no trophies this season it was time to go. I really hope this isn’t the start of things to come at the club because I thought they understood football a bit more than other foreign owners and won’t just keep sacking managers every time they have a poor season. Mancini is a good manager but even at Inter Milan he never really came close to winning the Champions League so he was always going to get sacked sooner rather than later at Man City if this didn’t change.

But who will get the job next? The clear favourite is current Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini. Make no mistake about it Pellegrini is a fantastic manager but he is also one of the most unlucky managers in world football. If you look down his honours as a manager there isn’t a lot to see but when you actually look at the statistics it makes you realise how brilliant he is. In his one season at Real Madrid they finished with 96 points, scoring over 100 goals and somehow still failed to clinch the title. It seems like he is going to get the job and he will yet again be a success but will he get the luck at Man City?
Pellegrini
Jose Mourinho is also being linked with the job and this seems very unlikely at the moment with everyone expecting him to join Chelsea in the summer. But if Man City really want the ‘Special One’ then I think they could convince him to join them because they have a lot of money and the board seem a little less controlling than Roman Abramovich at Chelsea so that may just sway his decision. Very unlikely at this stage though.
Mourinho
The next option is someone that I feel has been harshly criticised this season and that man is Rafael Benitez. In my opinion he has done very well at Chelsea and could leave the club with a European trophy and a third place finish. I understand with the team he has they should possibly be closer to the title but with a 56% win record in the Premier League he has proven that if he is given a full season then they will be right in the mix come the end of the season. He came close to winning the title with Liverpool and now with Alex Ferguson leaving Manchester United the title race will be wide open and his experience of being at the very top might just give him the advantage.
Benitez

Who will be the next Manchester United manager?

Alex Ferguson has announced that he will be retiring at the end of the season so Manchester United will be searching for a new manager.
Manchester United
Whether you love him or hate everyone simply has to respect Sir Alex because of his phenomenal record. In my opinion he has finished in the perfect way, delivering the title comfortably and bringing through a lot of good young players that will be the future of the club for many years to come. I don’t know how long he has been thinking about this decision but he has definitely wanted to make sure that the club are still the top team in England after he has finished. Nobody can compare to his record of 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, two Champions Leagues, a Cup Winners Cup, Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup, Club World Cup and 10 Community Shields. He has so far been in charge of 1497 games and won 893 of those, giving him a 59.65% win record but what is even more remarkable is that he only lost 267 games. But now it is time to move on and search for a successor that can continue his work.

The favourite to take over is fellow Scotsman David Moyes who has been doing a very good job at Everton. He has been in charge of the club since 2002 and has been one of the best managers in the Premier League since then, overachieving several times and leading them into Europe on a number of occasions. However, the only worry that could occur is whether he is a big enough name and get the respect of the international players already at the club. Also, he hasn’t won any trophies in his 11 years at Everton, with the closest being a defeat in the 2009 FA Cup final.
David Moyes
Jose Mourinho is also in the running for the post but I am unsure whether this is possible because it does seem like he will be joining Chelsea in the summer after Rafael Benitez leaves the club. But, if they cannot agree a deal with Real Madrid then that could leave the door open for the team from Manchester. I do think that he would be interested and it would be his way of showing that he is the best and the special one by replicating and possibly surpassing Sir Alex’s record.
FC Internazionale Milano vs AS Bari - Serie A 2009/2010
Another name that I do believe deserves a mention is Jurgen Klopp because he is one of the best up and coming managers in Europe. He is only in his second managerial position but he has got Borussia Dortmund into the Champions League final this season and has got the team playing some fantastic football with a good young team. This is where I think he fits in with the way things are at Old Trafford because he will look to the youth and bring in younger players. If he gets the job then I believe he will be a massive success and improve the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp

Who will win the Champions League?

The Champions League has reached the quarter final stage and it is quite wide open at the minute and it is difficult to pick a winner.

Looking at the teams, the favourites are still Barcelona even though they may not have been as dominant as usual in recent weeks. However, they proved to the rest of Europe that they are not going to be easy to knock out. 2-0 down after the first leg, they managed to win the second leg 4-0 and put on a fantastic performance. I do think they can win it but must perform better away from home.

Spanish rivals Real Madrid are second favourite, and you can understand why. They may even be a little annoyed that they aren’t considered the favourites by the bookies but with Jose Mourinho in charge and Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch they look a force and will do everything they can to win the competition. For me I think they can win it because in Mourinho they have one of the best tacticians in world football and some may argue that this is his competition.

Third favourite are Bayern Munich and they probably would have been more fancied had they not limped over the line against Arsenal. After securing a 3-1 away win, it should have been comfortable, however they lost the second leg 2-0 and only went through on away goals. This has obviously caused some concern but it really shouldn’t because they have a fantastic team and they may have just been slightly too complacent. Plus there manager will want to leave the club on a high and win the big trophy.

Another team from Germany have also made it to the quarter finals and Dortmund could be the dark horses in this competition. In the last couple of years they have been a breath of fresh air and will certainly give anyone a game. Throughout the squad they have very good players that have been underrated and maybe don’t get the spotlight as much as they should. Players like Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze are just two that have finally caught the attention this season.

In the Champions League there are always fantastic teams and this year realistically anyone could win it. Italian giants Juventus will not want to be wrote out just yet and will feel that they will be picking up the trophy at the end of the season. Experience has been key and they have been very quiet for a number of years now and may have been fortunate with their last draw against Celtic but they still comfortably beat the determined Scottish side.

Even the sixth favourite team have a chance of winning the competition. PSG have the players, they have the manager and they have the experience to win games when they probably haven’t been at their best. Zlatan Ibrahimovic could have a big say in where the trophy goes, when he is on form he can be lethal but too often he isn’t quite at it. If he and the rest of their attacking talent like Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore backing him up they should score goals against anyone but can they keep it tight enough at the back?

Galatasaray were probably just happy to get to this stage but with recent signings of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder they may have just set their sights a little higher and they could win the tournament. A lot of people will write them off but it isn’t always the most glamorous club that wins the trophy, just look at Porto when they won it. Also, going to Turkey is never easy and they may get a lot of joy at home in an intimidating atmosphere.

Finally, Malaga are also still in the tournament and for me they are the only team that I don’t believe could win it and that is unfortunate because they did very well getting through the group stages and then knocking out Porto. All the other teams will be hoping to draw Malaga but that could work in their advantage, being the underdog.

It is difficult to bet against Barcelona and they are the team I think will win it but it all depends on the draw, so if they don’t my second pick would be Bayern Munich.

Who do you think will win the Champions League?

Assesment of English teams in Europe this week

The English teams in Europe this week all had tough tests and it ended up being a difficult time for some.

Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United all had games this week. To start with Manchester United were at home to Real Madrid and after getting a 1-1 draw in the away leg, they may have been slight favourites to go through and when they went 1-0 up at Old Trafford they seemed to have one foot in the next round. However, Nani was sent off and the game was taken away from the quickly with goals from Luka Modric and the returning Cristiano Ronaldo ending their hopes this season. The turning point was the red card and it was dangerous play but in my opinion it should have only been a yellow card and Man United should have been in the next round.

Should Nani have been sent off?

Should Nani have been sent off?


Now, the Europa League first legs were taking place and Chelsea were playing Steaua Bucuresti and Rafa Benitez wasn’t given any help from his opponents. His time at Chelsea has been pretty close to a disaster with a lot of people unhappy with him in charge and the players not exactly playing to the best of their ability. They lost 1-0 but should go through by winning comfortably at Stamford Bridge but it is going to be more difficult than Benitez would have hoped.
Will it ever turn round for Benitez at Chelsea?

Will it ever turn round for Benitez at Chelsea?


Tottenham Hotspur had possibly the best looking tie on paper and one that could have went either way against Inter Milan. But they were too strong against the team from Italy and made them look very poor. 3-0 did not flatter them and they possibly should have had more. Gareth Bale added to his growing reputation by scoring the first and Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen were the other two scorers. Spurs do need to be careful and not concede early in the away leg but I feel they have done enough to get into the next round.
Will Bale become one of the best in the world?

Will Bale become one of the best in the world?


Finally, Newcastle United had the toughest tie in the Europa League but got through it and defensively performed brilliantly against Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala. They did not offer a lot going forward but could have nicked a result had Hatem Ben Arfa went for power instead of a chip. The two centre back James Perch and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa were fantastic and neither of them have been first choice in that position so far this year (with Yanga-Mbiwa only signing in January) and with Fabricio Coloccini injured at the moment they have both staked a claim for a starting place.
Newcastle's new Mr Consistent

Newcastle’s new Mr Consistent


So who had the best result in Europe this week? Who was the best player for an English team?

How will the English teams perform in the Champions League group stages?

The Champions League group stage has been drawn and even though English teams are usually very good at qualifying through their group it may not be as easy this team.

No doubt, Manchester City have the hardest group with Spanish giants Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund. Madrid may pose the biggest threat with Jose Mourinho as their manager and he will be desperate to win the trophy again. Cristiano Ronaldo is obviously one of their biggest threats but they have quality all through their side and if City want to prove they are one of the best teams in Europe they will have to top the group and show up the former Chelsea manager. But, City may not even get in the top two because Ajax have a lot of quality themselves with players like Christian Eriksen in their side and you cannot discount Dortmund as they should never have been in the bottom pot anyway and have won the German league twice in a row.

Now, neighbours Manchester United have a much easier task as they should top the group if they play to their potential and I can’t see Braga, Galatasaray or Cluj topping this group. The current Galatasaray squad contains a few former Premier League players in Milan Baros, Emmanuel Eboue and Johan Elmander so they will want to show their quality and show everyone they are good enough against English opposition. Braga are an interesting side but unfortunately for them they can never seem to take that extra step and compete right at the very top and are seen as the customary third place team in Portugal. Cluj will probably be the whipping boys of the group however it is worth noting that they have beaten Roma and drawn with Chelsea in the past so they may be dark horses.

Arsenal will face Schalke, Olympiakos and Montpellier in their group matches and they will also be hoping that they don’t have too many problems. Arsenal new boy Olivier Giroud will travel to the club he signed from a lot sooner than he probably expected and the French champions will want to show Giroud that he was wrong for leaving and should have stayed but I can’t see them posing too much of a threat. What separates Schalke from the rest in this group is they have a goal scorer that is feared all over Europe and can score all different types of goals and that man is Klaas Jan Huntelaar, he will try and show Arsene Wenger that maybe he should have tried to sign him instead of Lukas Podolski and Giroud. Olympiakos will always cause problems at home for any team so they will be relying on that and goalkeeper Roy Carroll may have a lot of work to do in the group stages.

Finally, reigning champions Chelsea will be hoping to start their campaign comfortably and they will surely progress but may not get things their own way with Shaktar Donetsk, Juventus and Nordsjaelland in their group. The standout team is Juventus but they are not the team they once were even though they were very impressive in Serie A last season. But, if Chelsea can stop Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings in midfield they will have a great chance of winning the group. Shaktar are also a decent side and have won the Ukrainian title for the last two seasons so they may put more of an effort into trying to topple some of the bigger teams in Europe this year and it is always difficult to play away in Eastern Europe so that could be difficult for Chelsea. Nordsjaelland are the current Danish champions but not a lot is known about them so everyone is expecting them to lose all of their games but this could work in their advantage and they could pull off a few shocks

Will Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Dawson be the right options for QPR?

QPR manager Mark Hughes is reacting quickly to his side’s 5-0 defeat against Swansea City on the opening day of the season by trying to recruit some new defenders.

I was really surprised that Hughes didn’t try and strengthen the defence to begin with as they already had a decent enough strike force with Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cisse as well as the always unpredictable Adel Taarabt. Just look at the defence that started on the opening day, Fabio, Clint Hill, Anton Ferdinand and Nedum Onuoha with Ryan Nelsen on the bench. Fabio is only young and could improve but he is not the best at defending yet and looks better going forward. Anton Ferdinand has never been more than an average centre back in the Premier League and if he is first choice your team will mostly finish in the bottom half closer to relegation. Onuoha, just simply hasn’t lived up to his potential when he first came through at Manchester City and it could be a long season for him. Finally, Clint Hill, how on earth is he a Premier League? Yes, first season up leave him in there, but now the ambitions have changed and surely someone better should have came in.

QPR have bid for Michael Dawson and he has been a fantastic centre back for Spurs over the years, although he can be a little injury prone. But, he is exactly what the team needs, he isn’t afraid to put his head in where it hurts and just seems to want to block every shot and will throw his body in the way. He has played 242 times for Tottenham and this Premier League experience will be invaluable to QPR and he would play like a leader on the pitch whether he is given the captain’s armband or not. Now that it is known that he is available there may be other offers from clubs but I think realistically he will join QPR if he leaves Spurs because it means he can stay in London and they will surely offer him a very good contract with a high wage.

Dawson has four caps for England

Next, Ricardo Carvalho is reportedly close to joining the club on a season long loan from Real Madrid and even though he is 34, I think he is one of the best centre backs to have ever played in the Premier League. He made John Terry look like a great defender as Carvalho’s positioning got him out of a lot of bad situations and to me it is not coincidence that Terry has looked a shadow of his former self since the departure of Carvalho. He played 210 times for the London club but the only problem is that he only played 13 times for Real Madrid last season so there will be question marks over his fitness and form.

Carvalho has played 75 times for Portugal

These are the sort of signings Mark Hughes should have been making from the beginning but unfortunately it seems like he currently has 11 individuals on the pitch rather than a team and if he doesn’t sort that out soon then a relegation battle will be on his hand yet again.

Will Luka Modric stay in the Premier League?

Luka Modric is most likely going to be leaving Tottenham Hotspur this summer after an impressive Euro 2012 and some of the biggest clubs in Europe want the midfielder.

Modric has 17 goals and 26 assists in his 159 appearances for Spurs

Real Madrid are currently the clear favourites to sign him and I hope he doesn’t join the Spanish giants because he brings a lot to the Premier League. The Croatian joined Spurs in 2008 and has been a major reason why they have challenged for a place in the Champions league. He definitely doesn’t get the credit he deserves and is an example of players that are a lot better than there stats suggest, he hasn’t actually got that many goals and assists for the club but his performances have been sublime with his passing being accurate and usually the most important pass of an attack. He picks out his teammates time and time again which allows them to put in a cross or slide it through for someone else to shoot.

Although it is still unlikely at this stage he could still sign for a Premier League club and I think his style of football suits the English league rather than La Liga. So where could he go? Obviously, Manchester United would love to have him with their current midfield either ageing or not quite living up to their potential. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs have been fantastic servants but they cannot play every game and sometimes you need younger legs in there and with Park Ji Sung leaving for QPR there may be extra strain on Michael Carrick and new signing Shinji Kagawa. Anderson and Tom Cleverley can also play in the middle but I just feel Anderson has been a waste and underperformed massively while Cleverely doesn’t have the required experience yet to be first choice.

Chelsea were linked with Modric last summer but couldn’t get him and now maybe they have moved on so I don’t expect them to try and sign him, however, he would fit into their style of play now and could be just what they need, especially when defending their Champions League trophy. Michael Essien will be back to full fitness next season and Frank Lampard will probably not get dropped. The only reason they may want to bring him in is that their new signings don’t have that much Premier League experience between them so they may struggle to adapt to the league and he wouldn’t certainly do a job for the team.

Finally, Manchester City have been linked with a move, however you have to take everything you read about City with a pinch of salt because the papers will link the club with any player that has had a good season. They have enough cover in the midfield anyway and it looks like they are prioritising the signing of Robin Van Persie at the minute. I think if they do make a big signing this summer (either instead of or along with Van Persie) then it will be a centre back as that is where they are weakest.

Which clubs should be interested in signing Klaas Jan Huntelaar?

Klaas Jan Huntelaar has been linked with a move away from his current club Schalke and a lot of Premier League clubs will be interested in his services.

Huntelaar has scored 31 goals in 56 games for Holland

The Dutch striker didn’t have the best of times at the European Championships playing second fiddle to Robin Van Persie but that shouldn’t worry potential suitors as he had a fantastic season at club level scoring 48 goals in just 47 games which is a remarkable record. The 28 year old has played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe including Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan so he will not be fazed by joining any of the big teams in England. Personally I believe that at these clubs he was never really given a chance and if he was his goal scoring record would be even more impressive, at Real Madrid he only scored 8 goals in 20 games but he only started 13 of these and it was a similar story at Milan where he only got 7 goals in 25 games. He has proved he can score goals at all levels and I would love to see him in the Premier League.

The favourites to sign him would have to be Manchester United as he would fit into their style of play and I am sure winger Antonio Valencia would love to play with him as he is a striker that likes to attack the ball in the box and doesn’t mind putting his head in where it hurts. With the number of crosses the team puts in, Huntelaar could easily get 20 goals if he is first choice. With Dimitar Berbatov’s future at Old Trafford in doubt, I think Man United need another proven goal scorer to play alongside Wayne Rooney. Danny Welbeck has potential but he showed last season he isn’t always on his game and Javier Hernandez not quite replicating his first season form last year, Sir Alex Ferguson may just want to bolster his attacking options.

Liverpool are also linked with Huntelaar and he could easily strike up a good partnership with Luis Suarez. However the Uruguayan’s future at the club is also in doubt and he may be on his way this summer. I don’t see this as a bad thing and Huntelaar would be an ideal replacement, plus he may fit into new manager Brendan Rodgers’ style of play. He usually only plays one up front and he can play this role very well as he can hold up the ball very effectively. He is a lot better than Andy Carroll, so if they can sign him, it would be the end of the Geordies’ career at Anfield.

Finally, Tottenham Hotspur should definitely be looking at him as they only have one recognised striker in their squad at the minute in Jermain Defoe so they need more firepower for next season. They had Emmanuel Adebayor on loan last season but to sign him permanently they would have to pay his huge wage which they don’t seem to want to. Huntelaar, in my opinion is a better player anyway and would give them more than Adebayor. Plus his national teammate Rafael Van Der Vaart would help him settle in and would already have an understanding with him.