Top 10 January 2016 Transfer Window Signings

10 – Anthony Knockaert (Standard Liege to Brighton)

Brighton had a fantastic start to the season but recently they have lost their form and are in a real battle to stay in the playoffs. They needed a spark and Knockaert could just make the difference come the end of the season.

Anthony Knockaert

9 – Steven Caulker (QPR to Liverpool)

This might seem a strange one but Caulker has a lot of potential and at the age of 24 he could go on to become one of England’s leading centre backs. He is better than what Liverpool have, if Klopp stops playing him upfront.

Steven Caulker

8 – Leroy Fer (QPR – Swansea)

Yet another QPR departure and with them getting relegated from the Premier League last year it would seem like they don’t have the quality but in Fer they had a midfielder that can really grab hold of a game which Swansea are in need of.

Leroy Fer

7 – Gianelli Imbula (Porto to Stoke City)

When he joined Stoke eyebrows were raised, especially when they broke their transfer record to bring him in. £18.3 million is a lot of money but Mark Hughes feels he needs more power in central midfield and is the replacement for Steven N’Zonzi.

Gianelli Imbula.jpg

6 – Steven Naismith (Everton to Norwich City)

He was not prolific for Everton but he can score goals when given the chance. He has got off to a decent start at Norwich and they certainly need more goals in their team if they want to stay in the top flight.

Steven Naismith

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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 relegated from the Premier League?

Relegation from the Premier League can be tough to take and for most clubs their aim at the start of the season is just to stay in it.

Every season it seems to go right down to the wire with more and more teams getting involved in the relegation scrap. The promoted teams are always the ones that are favourites for the drop and this season is no different.

Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace are the favourites to go down and this is probably what he wanted anyway because he feels his teams perform better when they are the underdogs. I am not convinced by the signings that he has made either but it did almost work for him at Blackpool, so second time lucky for him. New signings Dwight Gayle and Marouane Chamakh will need to start well and be regular scorers and Jerome Thomas will probably have to play the best football of his career if they are to be successful.

Hull City also got promoted last season but I do feel slightly more confident that they will stay up because of the players that Steve Bruce has signed. Tom Huddlestone is a very good passer and will add something to their midfield. I also like the signings of Maynor Figueroa, Curtis Davies and Allan McGregor and feel that their experience will get them through some tough times. I still think they lack a goal scorer but Danny Graham should perform better than what he did at Sunderland.

The final promoted team Cardiff City have spent quite a bit of money to try and stay up this season so it would not surprise me to see them finish midtable. I do however think they have overspent on Andreas Cornelius who has potential but you need more of that to survive in the Premier League these days. Steven Caulker and Gary Medel do seem like solid signings though that should impress.

Mark Hughes will be hoping that he performs better at Stoke City than he did at QPR or it will be a long season for their fans. I can see why they are getting backed to get relegated because they stood still under Tony Pulis but they were staying up and sometimes changing things makes clubs go backwards. The team he has inherited only really play one way and if Hughes tries to change that too quickly it will most likely backfire on him.

Norwich City are a team that is surprisingly one of the favourites to get relegated because of the signings they have made this summer but maybe they will not gel and if that is the case then Chris Hughton could be in trouble. They should have enough goals in their team from Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper but neither have played in the Premier League and may find it tough to begin with. But Leroy Fer, Martin Olsson and Nathan Redmond will hopefully create a lot of chances for them. They seem to have an exciting side this year but they have not improved their defence much which is a worry.

Hull City in the Premier League

Hull City have been promoted to the Premier League after a nail biting end to their Championship season.

Under Steve Bruce they have certainly surprised me and did just enough to finish above Watford. A 2-2 draw against Cardiff City was one of the most entertaining endings to a game you will see and both clubs will be hoping that they can be as watchable in the Premier League. Bruce has now gained three promotions in his managerial career and this just proves how good he is as a Championship manager and he has proven in the past that he can succeed to a certain extent in the Premier League. His time at Sunderland did not end well but I still think he had enough ability to keep them in the league and they haven’t grown since or competed any higher up the table so he wasn’t doing much wrong. But with Hull he has won 25 of his 51 games in charge and this is an impressive record and maybe promotion wasn’t quite expected to happen so quickly so quite a few changes might be needed for them to stay up. If they can bring in the right players they have a manager that could keep them up.

However, they definitely need a goalkeeper because they relied too heavily on loan signings last season and need a number one. Two keepers that have been linked to the club are Chris Kirkland and Kasper Schmeichel. If they could get either of these then I think they would be fantastic choices. Defensively I do think they are poor as well, Paul McShane is someone that works hard but is probably not good enough for the Premier League and they just do not have enough quality in their backline.
Paul McShane
In the midfield it is a similar story with players that are hard working but do not really have enough quality. However, I do think Stephen Quinn could be a crucial player because he does have something else and his passing and creativity will certainly help the side. David Meyler is another that I feel has to have a good season if they are to stay up. He is a former Sunderland player and at times he did look ok for them and without the injuries he may have played a lot more for the club. Robert Koren is probably the standout player and someone that I do like a lot.
Stephen Quinn
Strikers are yet again a problem. They did not have anyone that could score goals in the Championship so I cannot see any of them having great seasons in the Premier League. Matt Fryatt is a good goal scorer and he was unfortunate with injuries last season. This will be his first season in the Premier League so he will be hoping to emulate the success of Rickie Lambert and Grant Holt in recent years, although he is a different player to them two.
Matt Fryatt
At this moment in time I am very worried about Hull City but I am sure many people have said that about Swansea City, Norwich City and Stoke City in recent seasons.

Intersting ties in the 3rd of the FA Cup

The draw for the 3rd round of the FA Cup is one of the most exciting days in the football calendar as it can throw up fixtures that nobody will have even imagined.

Clubs from the lower leagues want to draw a big Premier League side and this year hasn’t disappointed in that respect, with the winner of Lincoln City and Mansfield Town hosting Liverpool. This will add even more incentive to the replay and both teams will be hoping that the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez will be visiting their stadiums in the very near future. Personally, this is what makes the FA Cup special and in recent years the competition has lost a little of its spark but a tie like this will get a lot of attention and possibly even a giant killing.

Two other teams that have to play again are Harrogate Town and Hastings Town and these will be equally looking to win their game after seeing the draw as they will get to travel to former Premier League side Middlesbrough. The team from Teeside may not be in the top league anymore but under Tony Mowbray they are certainly challenging for a place in the playoffs at least.

Looking at potential upsets in this round, you certainly don’t have to look further than Brighton as they have been drawn against Newcastle United, who they also beat in the competition last year and with the Europa League participants not having the best of times at the moment, I expect this game to be on television so more viewers can see if Brighton can win. Other similar to this are high flying Crystal Palace against Stoke City. The Championship side will be looking to test themselves against an experienced and consistent Premier League side and if they can get through the tie then their fans will be optimistic for the rest of the season and their challenge in the Premier League if they do get promoted at the end of the season.

Two more potential shocks in my mind are Crawley Town vs Reading because Reading may be distracted by their own league form and may discount the cup this season. Also, Luton Town vs Wolves could be a potential shock as going away to a non-league side is always difficult, no matter what position you are in.

Finally, the FA Cup also throws up a few interesting all Premier League ties and this year the biggest one is probably West Ham United and Manchester United who will both be looking for good cup runs this year. West Ham may have hoped for an easier tie but you cannot count them out and will be doing all they can to qualify for the fourth round. Swansea have been given an equally difficult draw at home to Arsenal, but their last performance against the Gunners will give them a lot of confidence but Arsene Wenger really needs a trophy this year and the FA Cup may be the last one they can realistically go for.

What is going wrong at Newcastle United?

Newcastle United slumped to their fourth straight defeat and look a long way off the team that challenged for a place in the Champions League last season.

So, what has went wrong? For me, personally, after watching them a lot both last season and this year there isn’t much of a difference at all, especially going forward. Last year, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse didn’t click as a pairing and it is only in the spotlight now because the team aren’t picking up the points and anyone who points to this, has obviously not been watching the games from last year closely enough.

What has changed then? Defensively they look awful this year and last year Tim Krul kept a lot of clean sheets and this was a massive part of their success. All it required was one piece of magic from one of their main attacking players, whether that be Ba, Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa or Yohan Cabaye. Last season, if Newcastle kept a clean sheet I was very confident they would nick a goal but this year they can’t keep clean sheets so they need something extra.

Injuries have obviously hampered the team, in particular the two French players, Cabaye and Ben Arfa because without them there is a clear lack of creativity. Just look at the midfield that started against Stoke City, Vurnon Anita, Cheick Tiote, James Perch and Jonas Gutierrez, every one of them gives something to the team, in terms of workrate and commitment but they aren’t going to create many chances for the front two, who can’t seem to link up, so a lot of the long balls which, Mike Williamson loves to play is pointless and is resulting in the opposition getting the ball back and launching an attack.

So, what can manager Alan Pardew really do? He needed to be backed in the summer by Mike Ashley but unfortunately he wasn’t and with the extra games in Europe and the injuries that are adding up, he is fighting a losing battle. He wanted to bring in quite a few players but it just didn’t happen and he actually wanted a goal scoring centre back and one point which turned into nothing and maybe that is part of the reason why the team can’t score from set pieces. Which is another thing that has been awful, both defensively and offensively.

I think the team will sort itself out and anyone that thinks Pardew should be sacked really needs to understand that stability is the way forward. The only worry I can see at the moment is if Newcastle finish midtable, other clubs will be looking to take their better players and with no Europe next season, they will be a lot more likely to leave. He needs to bring in players in January just to convince the rest of the players to stay, but the potential is there and we all seen last season that at times they can be unbeatable and have the players to really hurt the opposition. Finally, I would just like to say fair play to Pardew for not blaming the injury list on the teams form but if he had brought in more players in the summer, where would Newcastle be now?

Game, Team and Player of Matchday 3

Arsenal continued their great defensive start to the season with yet another clean sheet at Anfield which has left Liverpool in the bottom three along with pointless Southampton and QPR. There are still eight teams without a victory though so none of the teams should be worried at this stage. Somewhat surprisingly Tottenham Hotspur are one of these teams and after two draws in a row is the pressure already building on Andre Villas Boas? Aston Villa picked up their first points with a draw against Newcastle United which will make Paul Lambert feel a lot better and Stoke City picked up their third draw out of three so it is looking like it could be another midtable finish for them already.

But, now onto team of the weekend, Arsenal deserve great credit for the way they conducted themselves at Liverpool and were the better team throughout, creating the better chances and finishing them off superbly, while also being very tight at the back and not allowing their oppositions flair players to have a major impact on the game which has not always been the case in the past. Norwich City picking up a point at White Hart Lane is a fantastic achievement (they did win there last year I know) but they are expected to struggle a lot this year and hadn’t shown enough to suggest that they were going to be as good as last season. But, they battled and probably should have won the game in all honesty so they deserve a lot of praise and if they can perform like this for the rest of the season they will stay up. Newly promoted West Ham are not expected to struggle this year but not many will have expected them to have disposed of a confident Fulham side so easily. Debutant Andy Carroll looked very happy and within a minute he had a positive impact and the team never looked like losing from there. However, my team of the week has to be West Brom, they have started their season fantastically and their performance against an inform Everton was very good. I personally didn’t expect the Baggies to start this well and they know it is only three games in but they already have seven points on the board so this could be an interesting season for them.

There were some standout performers this weekend with Robin Van Persie scoring a hatrick but unfortunately for him, even though he did win the match for Manchester United against Southampton, I am not giving him the player of the weekend simply because of his awful penalty. His movement was great and all three of his goals were different and showed how good of a striker he is (if that was ever in doubt). Another new signing impressed this weekend and that was Steven Fletcher who scored twice for Sunderland against Swansea City and although his first was gifted to him he still had to finish it and that wasn’t easy at all. The price Sunderland paid for him may have been slightly over the top but if he can get them between 15 and 20 goals then it could turn out to be one of the best signings of the season. My player of the weekend goes to Brad Friedel who must have been feeling the pressure after Hugo Lloris was signed on transfer deadline day but the 41 year old produced the goods and kept Tottenham in the game, pulling off save after save including two spectacular ones. He couldn’t do anything about the goal and it would be a real shame if he was dropped after this performance.

Finally, game of the weekend is a difficult one to choose as always because the game at the Liberty Stadium between Swansea and Sunderland had everything, including goals, red cards, mistakes and injuries. Sunderland took the lead twice through two Steven Fletcher goals but were pegged back each time with Wayne Routledge and Michu grabbing the goals for the Swans. Chico was sent off for a ridiculous challenge on Louis Saha and was rightly sent off. It was a fiery game and a draw was probably the right result in the end. Wigan against Stoke may not have been a game that caught many people’s attentions but in my opinion it was really entertaining and had a lot of drama in it, with two converted penalties and a lot of chances for either side with Franco Di Santo and Peter Crouch also scoring to make it 2-2. Plus, the save of the season from Ali Al Habsi made it a very fascinating game to watch. But, the match of the weekend has to go to Southampton and Manchester United because they produced an epic game which could have went either way. The away side pinched in injury time but it could have been very different. Rickie Lambert opened the scoring but when Van Persie scored his first everyone expected it to be a rout and Fergie’s men to walk it but a slip from Patrice Evra allowed Morgan Schneiderlin to get free and put the Saints back in front. But the runners up from last season never lie down and came back to win like they have done on so many occasions over the years.

Who do you think should have got the player, game and team of the weekend?

Will Matt Phillips sign for a Premier League club this summer?

Blackpool winger Matt Phillips could be set to leave the club in the next few weeks with a number of clubs looking to sign him.

Phillips scored 11 goals in 35 games for Blackpool last season

The 21 year old had a fantastic season last year both at Blackpool and during a loan spell with Sheffield United early in the season where he scored five goals in just six games. But, it was his performances in the Championship that are making him one of the hottest properties in the division. There is no doubt that manager Ian Holloway will want to keep him but he is a very good manager and if he thinks a player deserves a move then he will let them go at the right price. However, another year in the Championship wouldn’t do Phillips any harm and under the guidance of Holloway he could become an even better player. Six teams are heavily linked with him and they are Wigan Athletic, Reading, Sunderland, Everton, Aston Villa and Stoke City and he could do a very good job for all of this teams. But which team would he have the most success at?

I think Aston Villa could be a good move for him as they are largely underachieved last year and didn’t play to their full potential and with them likely to play 4-3-3 again next season he would easily fit into their team. A front three of Agbonlahor, Bent and Phillips would be frightening to any team as they have the pace to punish teams on the counter and would link up brilliantly. New manager Paul Lambert also likes to take young players from the Championship and give them a chance in the Premier League and most of his players at Norwich City succeeded and he has to be given a lot of praise for this.

If he is allowed to leave Blackpool then he will also have to take a look at Stoke City because they are now an experienced Premier League side and they will help him become a better player and maybe push onto the next level as he will learn a different way to play. Obviously, Stoke still have Jermaine Pennant but he didn’t seem too happy last year and could be moved on if they get in a replacement. Sometimes people are harsh on the way Stoke play but if you watch them properly they do try and get the ball wide and cross the ball which Phillips will enjoy.

Finally, out of the teams linked with him Everton are probably the best team and have the best manager in David Moyes so this will help his career and a lot of players have progressed from Everton and been sold on for a lot of money. Plus, they are always up there challenging for a place in Europe when it comes towards the end of the season so this will obviously interest Phillips. If they bring in Steven Pienaar it may be difficult for him to get in the side as Moyes likes to play Leon Osman on the wing a lot of the time and with Ross Barkley set to feature more this season he may not be guaranteed a start every week and this may put him off.

Who will Sebastien Bassong play for next season?

Sebastien Bassong has had a tough time since joining the Premier League but will he get another chance to show he has enough quality to stay in England?

The central defender is currently at Tottenham Hotspur but it looks as though his time at the club is coming to end after being shipped out on loan to Wolves for the second half of last season. In his three seasons at White Hart Lane he has only played 44 league games and has had to settle for a place on the bench a lot of the time with manager Harry Redknapp preferring others like Ledley King, Michael Dawson, William Gallas and Younes Kaboul. The 25 year old does have time on his hands but he hasn’t quite lived up to the potential he showed at Newcastle United where in his only season there, he was voted their player of the season, however this was in their relegation season and nobody performed that well and it can’t have been such an honour to win the award. In his loan spell at Wolves he also suffered relegation and did not perform that well, although he cannot be blamed for their relegation, he still has to take some of the blame as he did not look good enough for the Premier League.

So will anyone in the Premier League take him on or will he have to go back abroad or into the Championship? I think any of the three promoted teams should have a look at him as they all lack a little bit of experience in that area. West Ham currently have James Tomkins and Winston Reid as their starting pair but after releasing Abdoulaye Faye, they will need some competition and cover. Reading are also suffering from a lack of experience in that area with both Alex Pearce and Kaspars Gorkss hardly kicking a ball in the Premier League so Bassong would at least have a little more knowledge, and personally I think he is slightly better than Gorkss. Southampton have two good centre backs in Jose Fonte and Jos Hooiveld but they do lack cover so they will need to bring in someone so why not Bassong, I cannot imagine Spurs wanting a big transfer fee for him but his wages maybe a stumbling block.

Other teams that are already in the Premier League may also like the look of him because of how well he did at Newcastle and the talent he has shown at times at Spurs. Stoke City may be interested in signing him as he will add a slightly better ball playing defender to their team. With Matthew Upson and Jonathon Woodgate not exactly performing as well as manager Tony Pulis expected he may be in the market for another defender.

Finally, I believe QPR should be looking at him as they struggled terribly at the back at times this season and he is a much better player than Clint Hill and is arguably better than Anton Ferdinand so I believe he would walk into their team.

Who will Michael Owen sign for?

Michael Owen has left Manchester United and will be looking for a new club this summer with many teams surely interested in his services.

Michael Owen wore the famous number 7 shirt at Manchester United

After bursting on the scene with Liverpool, he has been considered one of England’s greatest strikers with his fantastic movement and unrivalled finishing ability. Since leaving Liverpool he has had an indifferent career with his move to Real Madrid ending after only one season for one reason or another. He was still quite a consistent goal scorer in Spain with 13 goals in 36 league games which was quite impressive especially considering a lot of these appearances were from the bench. He left the Spanish giants for Newcastle United and his time there has been criticised a lot by the Geordie faithful as he seemed more interested in picking up his wages than actually helping the club. His commitment was often questioned and as soon as the club were relegated he was leaving and there was no chance of him sticking around. However, he did get 30 goals in 79 appearances which convinced Alex Ferguson to sign him up for three seasons. At Old Trafford, he was largely an unused substitute but he still contributed in particular the winning goal against Manchester City in the sixth minute of injury time.

He does not want to retire so he needs a new club but will anyone in the Premier League take him on or will he need to go back abroad? Stoke City are currently the favourites to sign him and that would be quite a signing for the team and would surely give the squad a much needed a lift after a disappointing end to the season. He would provide that little bit of extra quality that Stoke need to lift them into the European places and possibly a good cup run. Owen would simply just give them a different option as they wouldn’t be able to pump it straight up to him. In my opinion he would work  well alongside Peter Crouch with his movement and Crouch’s ability to win the ball in the air. He would definitely benefit from Matthew Etherington’s crosses and would score a lot of headers for the team.

His boyhood club Everton are also linked with him and that would be a really good move for both him and the club. He could start up a very good combination with Nikica Jelavic and they would grab a lot of goals between them. David Moyes would love two strikers that can score consistently which he hasn’t always had during his time at Everton. Owen, I think would enjoy playing for Everton because of their quality in the midfield with players like Darron Gibson, Marouane Fellaini and Leon Osman able to play killer through balls. The only problem is his wages, would he be prepared to drop them or would Everton have to break their wage structure to sign him?

However, it wouldn’t surprise me if he just went to the MLS and picked up a huge way packet every week. If he does go to America then it is basically because he knows he doesn’t have the quality to perform in the Premier League anymore or just simply he doesn’t want as much pressure on him. He is also 12/1 in some bookmakers to retire before the start of the season which also wouldn’t surprise me as at times he does seem more interested in his horses and will just concentrate on that.

It would be a sad end for a player that scored 40 international goals for England so I personally hope he does get another club in England even if it is just in the Championship just so he can prove to everyone once again that he needs to be feared. At the minute there are a lot of jokes about his injuries and the amount of time he spends on the bench but if he gets a chance in the box, nine times out of ten he will score.