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.

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Reading in the Championship

Reading have returned to the Championship after just one season in the Premier League and they will be hoping to return under Nigel Adkins.
Reading
Adkins is a good Championship manager and I expect him to put together a side that will challenge for promotion and I personally feel that Reading could be the most likely of all the relegated teams to get back into the Premier League at the first time of asking. The former Southampton manager does obviously have a promotion under his belt and this will stand him and the players in good stead as they already know what the Championship is about. It may have been an unsuccessful season in the Premier League but I do not think the club are in a bad position and relegation is not a disaster, but the most worrying thing for the fans is the fact that they did not invest very much in the playing squad and that ultimately cost them. They have recently released five players and I was a little confused by some of the decisions because they would have been good players in the Championship. Noel Hunt and Simon Church can score goals in the second tier so I expected at least one of them to stay.

Looking at the players that can get them promoted they certainly do have some quality especially for the Championship. Alex McCarthy was called up to the England squad for the game against Brazil and this just goes to show that he has a lot of quality and they do need to keep hold of him because he impressed me and will be vital. New signing Wayne Bridge is also a good addition because he proved at Brighton last season that he can be one of the best left backs in the division and his experience will be crucial.
Wayne Bridge
Reading’s midfield is interesting because a lot of them fall into the category of too good for the Championship but not good enough for the Premier League. This includes Jobi McAnuff and Jimmy Kebe, their pace and directness is effective in the Championship but for some reason they just could not replicate it last season. I do really like Danny Guthrie and think he should still be a Premier League player and he proved at Newcastle that he can be a good player and is usually consistent but it has not quite worked out for him at Reading and I think he owes the fans a good season next year.
Reading v Crystal Palace
Adam Le Fondre needs to be used more next season because in my opinion and especially under Adkins he was not played anywhere near enough. He is a goal scorer, yes he might not add much in terms of build up but he certainly knows where the goal is. Reading are lacking in the forward positions but Nick Blackman could be a good signing in the long run, he only played 11 times and eight of these were from the bench so he also did not get much of a chance.
Reading v Everton

Who will be Blackburn Rovers next manager?

Blackburn Rovers are searching for their second manager of the season after sacking Henning Berg after just 10 games in charge.

Berg, was only given 57 days but the board have decided that he is not the right man to take the club forward. Firstly, I would just say that I did not think this was a good appointment in the first place and although a lot of Blackburn fans will disagree with me, I thought Steve Kean was actually doing quite well for them this season. He had got a good squad together and they were picking up points and would have challenged for at least the playoffs. But, he was sacked and now Berg has joined him in the unemployed managers list. After playing 159 league games for Blackburn and being part of their title winning side, it was expected he was going to be given more time as the fans would surely have good memories of him as a player and believe he would want to be the man to get them back into the division that he once won with them. However, in his 10 games he only managed one win and the club has slipped down the table at an alarming rate. So, who can stop the slump and turn the club around?

Kevin MacDonald is currently the favourite to get the job and I do not think this appointment will excite the fans and this is not being disrespectful to MacDonald but the only experience of being a manager is two spells as a caretaker at Aston Villa and Leicester City. He has been a good assistant over the years but only 12 games as manager and only three wins is not what the club should be looking at right now. In his 12 games he also suffered a 6-0 defeat to Newcastle United.
But, even more remarkably Judan Ali has also been linked with the job and this would be ridiculous, so if this is MacDonald’s only genuine competition then he will surely get the job. Not a lot is known about Ali and this would certainly end in disaster. I am not saying Blackburn players are egotistical but they will not respond well to this unknown person coming into the club and telling them what to do. Apparently, Ali is a Bollywood star but if he does get the job this would be his biggest challenge yet.

Finally, Mark Hughes is also linked with the job, but to be honest I cannot see this happening , simply because I don’t think he will talk to the owners after seeing what they have done in the last few years. He would be a great choice and he would certainly bring a bit more respectability to the role but unfortunately for Rovers fans they may be the laughing stock of football once again when the new manager is announced. An interesting side point though is if Mark Hughes wants to get back into management, will he have to drop into the Championship?

Who will be Scotland’s next manager?

Scotland are looking for a new manager after Craig Levein was sacked after just 24 games in charge.

To some fans though 24 was too many and I am sure a lot would have been happier if he had been replaced sooner. He actually won 10 of his games in charge so he doesn’t actually have such a bad record, however, everyone knows that winning percentages in international football don’t really matter because there are a lot of teams around the world that simply are just not good enough and teams like Scotland, who have a full team of professionals, should be able to brush them aside. It is very unlikely they will qualify from their group now, with only two points from their four games so the SFA have obviously acted now so the new man has time to build a squad ready for the next qualifying campaign. They were beaten by both Belgium and Wales in the last two games and even though these results won’t have helped, personally I believe it was the 1-1 draw against Macedonia that really signalled the end for Levein. I don’t know why he was given the extra two games but he was and now their campaign is over, so who should take charge.

The favourite for the job is currently Gordon Strachan, and this would be an interesting choice as he has not had a job since leaving Middlesbrough in 2010. He was very hit and miss at the North East club and a lot of their fans weren’t happy with the type of football he wanted the team to play. But, throughout the rest of his career, he has been largely successful, especially at Celtic, where he won 122 of his 182 games. As a player he won a lot of trophies and played 50 times for Scotland so he would hopefully bring a winning mentality back to the squad.

Alex McLeish may be tempted to come back and finish off a job that he did superbly in the first time round? If they could get him back then I certainly think they should give him the job because he has a fantastic record internationally, winning seven of his 10 games in charge. It may not have gone too well for him at Aston Villa but maybe he wasn’t given a fair chance by the fans and at least with Scotland he will get the backing from the crowd.

Finally, recently sacked Owen Coyle is a name that has been mentioned and this would be remarkable. Coyle, spent most of his playing career in Scotland and managed Falkirk and St Johnstone, however, he decided to play internationally for Republic of Ireland, so would this go down well with the Scotland fans? But, he does have a good record for the most part and although his time at Bolton Wanderers ended miserably he did still take them to an FA Cup semi final. In all honesty I can’t see Coyle getting the job but if given the chance he could do a good job.

Other names linked with the job are Joe Jordan, Walter Smith, Ally McCoist and Billy Davies. So who would you like to see in charge?

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.

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.

Who will win the Championship playoffs?

It is that time of the year again and the unpredictability is bound to cause a lot of excitement for the neutrals but for West Ham, Birmingham City, Blackpool and Cardiff City fans it is one of the most nerve wracking times of the season.

So who is going to come out on top? West Ham will playing Cardiff at home in the second leg so does that give them an advantage over their Welsh rivals or does it not matter like in the Champions League this season where both away teams in the second leg went through. Will Blackpool’s attacking and sometimes gung ho tactics work against a hard working Birmingham side or will Chris Hughton secure a second promotion to the Premier League?

First of all, let’s start with West Ham as they finished third and were in contention of an automatic spot right up until the final day but ultimately lost out to Southampton. This can sometimes knock your confidence and the players may feel quite disappointed with their season as they were favourites to return to the top flight. But in there squad they have enough experience to steer them to Wembley and into the promised land once again. Their key player will be Kevin Nolan who is a fantastic player and in my opinion has been unlucky not to receive an England cap in his career. He can grab a goal from midfield and always seems to score important goals when he is needed, he may not have done as well as the last time he was in the Championship but he still needs to be watched and 12 goals this season has been quite a good return.

Birmingham City have had such a long season and there is a worry that they might burn out as they have played in the Europa League and took Chelsea to a replay in the FA Cup. But  don’t see this as a problem as they just keep getting better and better. With manager Chris Hughton in charge you know the camp will be in high spirits and everyone will be enjoying themselves. But maybe the speculation that West Brom are interested in Hughton might just put the players off slightly and they might lose focus but I honestly don’t think this will happen. The key player in my opinion will be Curtis Davies who has had a fantastic season and will want to play Premier League football next season. He has been a rock at the back for the club and has been crucial in their good form all season, he knows he will have to be at his best to keep out the opposition in the next few games.

Blackpool are also looking for an instant return to the Premier League under the always entertaining Ian Holloway. The way the team play their football is fantastic to watch and his players are very brave to keep playing the way they do which may give them the advantage in the playoffs and the fact they have won the playoffs with a very similar team only two years ago will also help their cause. Key player to watch for me is Kevin Phillips, he has scored 17 goals this season and is looking as threatening as ever, he may not be able to start both legs because of his age but when he is on the pitch his movement will worry defenders and like Nolan always has an important goal in him. With him on the pitch I think defenders know they need to mark him which gives more space for wingers Matt Phillips and Thomas Ince who on their day can take apart any defence in the Championship.

Cardiff City have possibly been one of the most unlucky teams in the playoffs with them losing in them time and time again. What has made it worse is that Swansea City are in the Premier League and are doing well. But manager Malky Mackay has brought together a new squad this year who look hungry and determined to get to the Premier League. The goals haven’t quite flowed as much this season as they have done previously but all that matters is that they are in the playoffs once again. Key player will be Peter Whittingham as he has really quality from midfield whether he plays out wide or in the middle and has contributed 13 goals this season as well as many assists. If he is on form it will be difficult for their opponents to stop him and he can change a game in the blink of an eye.

So now it is prediction time, I believe that the final will be between Cardiff and Birmingham with Birmingham winning the final. I just think that West Ham may crumble under the pressure and the expectations and Blackpool will be unable to break down the Birmingham defence often enough. In the final I think it will be a case of déjà vu for Cardiff and they will sadly underperform on the big stage.

Do you agree with my key players and my predictions?

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.

Will Reading succeed in the Premier League if they get promoted?

Reading are timing their run perfectly to gain promotion to the Premier League after beating Leeds United and moving to the top of the Championship.

 

Adam Le Fondre may have the strikers instinct to score goals in the Premier League

After beating West Ham 4-2 last weekend the whole team must have been very confident going into the game especially when Leeds were reduced to 10 men after 13 minutes. But they were made to work hard for their win as Leeds stuck at it and defended very well and also attacked on the counter to good effect which made the home fans very nervous towards the end of the game and maybe 2-0 flatters the Royals slightly. Adam Le Fondre stepped off the bench to score twice and prove that he can be the man to fire the team into the Premier League. The signing from Rotherham United hasn’t quite settled in as quickly as the fans would have hoped but these two crucial goals will give him the belief that he deserves to be playing Championship football at least next season. He was expected to score the goals this year but that hasn’t quite worked out, however in his defence, nobody has hit double figures for Reading this season so they have had to rely on goals from all over the pitch with even centre back Alex Pearce chipping in with five goals this season.

If Reading do get promoted, do they have a good enough squad to compete in the Premier League or are they just very good Championship players? In goal they have Adam Federici who in my opinion is very underrated outside of the Championship but he is one of the best in the league and has made some heroic saves this season. Including an important one against Leeds when Robert Snodgrass had the opportunity to score but Federici stood up for as long as he could and palmed it away.

The defence is a mixture of potential and experience. Ian Harte is one of the best footballing left backs and has been his whole career, as it is worth remembering he once played in a Champions League semi final. How many players can say that in the country never mind the Championship? As mentioned previously they also have Alex Pearce who not only defends very well especially in the air, he also adds an attacking threat from set pieces which are usually precisely delivered by Harte.

The midfield is where I think they are at their best, especially out wide where they have many options with Hal Robson-Kanu and even Michail Antonio good enough to make most teams which is remarkable seen as though Antonio is out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday. But their first choice wingers are fantastic in Jimmy Kebe and Jobi McAnuff, they are both very direct and force full back onto the back foot as soon as they get the ball. In the middle they also have quality in Jem Karacan and Mikele Leigertwood who at every opportunity look to feed the wingers and provide a good screen for the back four as well as get into the box to grab goals.

The strikers is where I think they may fall down as they have good players but maybe not Premier League standard. Jason Roberts has came in and done magnificently but there is a reason why Blackburn didn’t feel he was good enough when they were in desperate need. However there were contractual issues there so maybe he would have played more of a part if that was sorted out. Noel Hunt works hard and has a great leap on him but he was easily marked out of the game by a second choice Leeds defence so they would need to invest in a striker if they do go up.

I really like the way Reading play as they look to cross the ball a lot and force defenders into mistakes. Brian McDermott deserves a lot of credit and seeing his celebration after the first goal showed how much it meant to the whole club. I would like to see them go up and them to achieve some success as the fans have been fantastic over the years and the stadium deserves Premier League football once again.

How has Dave Jones changed Sheffield Wednesday’s style of play?

Sheffield Wednesday beat Preston 2-0 which sounds quite comfortable but they were made to work for their three points and Dave Jones will be very happy with his team.

Jones likes his players to keep the ball on the floor

So, what has Dave Jones done to make Sheffield Wednesday into a free scoring side as they have scored in every game he has been in charge and have looked a lot more threatening in recent weeks. First of all though, I would give some credit to Megson for this as he brought in the players who are able to play a long ball game and if things aren’t going well you need other options, especially when the passing game isn’t working and you can’t break down a defence. A lot of teams come to Hillsborough and just sit back and try and get a draw, like what Preston did, and they will succeed if their team is organised and committed for a full 90 minutes against a passing side unless there is a moment of brilliance from someone and sometimes the long ball can cause confusion and is good to have both options.

Onto Dave Jones, what has he actually done for Wednesday or is it simply just the honeymoon period a lot of managers get when they take over? Well to me what he has done is brought in his own style and made the players play his way from the off. He plays with two out and out wingers which straightaway forces back the opposition and makes their fullbacks reluctant to push forward as much. When you have Michail Antonio on one side and Jermaine Johnson on the other you know that if these players have the ball they will take on the opposition and create chances especially on a counter attack.

Jones has also brought in Nile Ranger who is a very good player but maybe has an attitude problem at times. Ranger, is direct and has pace to burn which just adds to teams ability to counter attack. Something that may have been missing under Megson, as his tactics were to keep the pressure on hopefully the opposition will crumble. I cannot imagine Jones playing David Prutton out of position on the wing as Megson did because it wouldn’t work with his style of football.

Gary Madine scored both the goals and looked very impressive throughout linking up the play well. He probably enjoys the way the team are playing now because he doesn’t have to challenge as much in the air anymore and can receive the ball into feet and have a lot of runners going either side of him. But yet again, Megson’s style of football probably taught him a few things and his second goal showed that with it coming from a long throw and him making a good run and attacking the ball powerfully.

Rob Jones picked up a yellow card which means he is now suspended which could be a blessing in disguise in my opinion as he does look to send it long too often whereas his partner against Preston, Miguel LLera, looked to play it out from the back and it was clear to see which way was more effective. With Danny Baath also having a great season and more of ball player than Jones, he may find himself frozen out of a Dave Jones side.