5 Things You Might Have Missed From This Weekend’s Football

As the season nears the end across Europe, titles and relegations are beginning to be confirmed. This weekend saw titles confirmed in England and the Netherlands, whilst fans of French and Italian football will have to wait for their champions to be crowned. Elsewhere, Bayern completed an incredible comeback in their 5-4 win over RB Leipzig, Real Madrid remain in control of La Liga after a 4-1 win over Sevilla, whilst Benfica were crowned champions in Portugal.

Chelsea Clinch Premier League

West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea - Premier League - The Hawthorns

Image: FourFourTwo

On Friday night Chelsea travelled to West Brom looking to seal their second Premier League title in the last three years. The Blues were four points clear with three games remaining, so a win would see them confirmed as champions. The Blues dominated the match, but struggled to break through the resilient Baggies. But substitute Michy Batshuayi netted his second goal of the season with just eight minutes to go, meaning that the celebrations could begin.

Hull Suffer Relegation

hull relegated

Image: Hull Daily Mail

At the other end of the table, Hull City were relegated to the Championship following their 4-0 demolition at the hands of Crystal Palace. After Swansea had beaten Sunderland on Saturday, Hull needed at least a point to mathematically avoid relegation, although even that would have left them needing a significant swing in the goal differences. A defensive mistake from Andrea Ranocchia in just the third minute set the tone for the match, and Palace raced to secure the victory that kept them in the division.

Juventus Title Celebrations Delayed

Roma

Image: Daily Mail

In the week that Juventus secured their place in the Champions League final, they had the chance to secure their six consecutive Serie A title as they travelled to second place Roma. But it wasn’t to be for Massimiliano Allegri’s side, who went down 3-1 to Roma. Mario Lemina put Juve in the lead, but goals from Daniele De Rossi, Stephen El Shaarawy and Radja Nainggolan ensured that the gap at the top was cut to four points. But Roma’s hopes of breaking the monopoly still remain slim, as Juventus host eighteenth place Crotone next weekend.

Monaco Effectively Seal Ligue 1

AS-Monaco-vs-Lille-OSC

Image: Daily Mirror

A Falcao brace helped Monaco take a step closer to their first league title since 2000, as they beat Lille 4-0. A superb run from Kylian Mbappe set up Bernardo Silva for a tap-in, and a late own goal completed the rout. The victory sees Monaco three points clear of PSG, with a game in hand. PSG, who dismantled Saint-Etienne 5-0, would need Monaco to lose both of their remaining games, whilst the champions would need to win their final and hope for a significant goal swing to secure a fifth consecutive title.

Kuyt Hat-Trick Seals Feyenoord Title

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Image: Sky Sports

On the final day of the Eredivisie season, Dirk Kuyt netted a hat-trick to secure Feyenoord’s first title in 18 years. Feyenoord went in to the final day a point clear of Ajax, so needed a win against Heracles Almelo to secure the championship. Kuyt wasted no time in getting the ball rolling, scoring after just a minute, and adding a second after just twelve minutes. He completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot with just a few minutes remaining. Even a late consolation goal was not enough to stop Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side from clinching the title, ahead of Ajax, who managed a 3-1 win over Willem II despite naming the Eredivisie’s youngest ever team.

Leicester sack Ranieri

It was Leicester winning the title that reminded us why we love football, but it is their sacking of Claudio Ranieri that sums up what we hate about it.

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Image: BBC Sport

When Claudio Ranieri took over at Leicester they were favourites to get relegated. Ranieri had recently failed to win a single game as Greece manager, even losing to the Faroe Islands, whilst Leicester had narrowly avoided the drop under Nigel Pearson. What followed was the most incredible season in Premier League history.

Fast forward nine months, Leicester are again fighting a relegation battle, but crucially sit outside of the drop zone. They reached the last 16 of the FA Cup, and are still very much in their Champions League last 16 tie. By normal standards, Leicester are having a good season. But Ranieri has become the victim of his own success, being judged against an anomaly of a season.

Ranieri was one of the main reasons behind the wealth of goodwill towards Leicester last season. Everyone that wasn’t a Tottenham or an Arsenal fan was willing them to the title, and you would have thought that it had given him at least enough credit with the owners to give him a chance to keep his side in the division. It is a sign of modern football that the man who gave the Foxes their greatest ever success was unceremoniously dispensed of less than a year later.

If you look at Leicester’s season in isolation, then sacking Ranieri was the right decision. The Foxes sit just one point above the drop zone after 25 games, and have not won a Premier League game in 2017. The champions have won just five games all season and seem to be sinking without a trace. The owners may have seen the impact that Marco Silva and Paul Clement have made at Hull and Swansea respectively, and felt that this is what was needed.

But how much of this slump is Ranieri’s fault? Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have simply not turned up this season. Vardy’s goal against Sevilla was his first in 758 minutes of football, and only his seventh of the season. Mahrez has not been the same player since the summer; he looks lethargic and hasn’t shown the same hunger as last year. Wes Morgan and Robert Huth have reverted back to the players that they have been for their entire careers: relegation candidates, not title winners. Obviously the loss of N’Golo Kante has had a major effect, and his work-rate has been the thing that Leicester have been missing. Whether or not it was Kante that inspired this relentlessness is up for debate, but players like Danny Drinkwater have not showed the same levels of application since the Frenchman’s departure.

Have the Leicester owners made the correct decision in sacking Ranieri, or is it a sign that modern football has lost its way? Have your say in the comments, or tweet me @MoodyMan147.

Who Should Be On Puel’s Christmas List?

With the January transfer window approaching, Claude Puel sees his Southampton side sitting in seventh place. The window will be seen as a crucial one by Saints fans, with top scorer Charlie Austin facing several months out with a shoulder injury and the persisting rumours surrounding centre-backs  Jose Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk. If the Saints are serious about securing qualification for European football for a third consecutive season then they may consider signing the following players.

1. Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool (Loan)

Liverpool-v-Villarreal

Image: Mirror Football

The Liverpool striker has found himself out of Jurgen Klopp’s plans at Anfield, and the Reds are prepared to let him leave. Sturridge has played just 42 minutes in the last 9 games, and he would certainly see that increase at St Mary’s. The England striker has a knack for finding the back of the net, but injuries have reduced his effectiveness over the past two and a half seasons. A run of first team football could be what he needs to re-establish himself as England’s first choice striker, and possibly impress for a better move in the summer. A concern would be whether Sturridge would fit in to the Southampton system with his selfish style of play, whilst another stumbling block could be Liverpool’s desire to see a permanent deal struck instead of any loan deal.

2. Jermain Defoe – Sunderland (Transfer)

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Image: Daily Mail

Having almost single-handedly kept Sunderland up last season, Jermain Defoe has continued his form in to this year, netting 8 times in the league. But with the club’s current financial situation, the Black Cats may have to cash in on one of their few saleable assets. Defoe is your typical poacher, given a chance in the box and he will likely stick it in the back of the net. Their are two real problems with this transfer, though, the first being his age. At 34, this is not a long term transfer. Defoe would probably cost upwards of £10m, meaning Saints will not get any resale value. More importantly, Defoe spent a year playing for Portsmouth in 2008, so he would have some job winning over the St Mary’s faithful.

3. Alassane Plea – Nice (Transfer)

alassane-plea

Image: le10sport

 

One man that could be on Claude Puel’s radar is Nice striker Alassane Plea, who has netted 10 goals in Ligue 1 so far. The Frenchman can be also deployed behind the striker or on the wing, which would give greater depth all across the front line. Plea made 54 appearances for Nice under Puel, and has one cap at Under 21 level. As well as being a player that Puel will know, he also has the advantage of being in the mould of a Southampton signing. At 23, there is plenty of time for him to develop, giving the club the option of making a profit on him in a few seasons time. Outscoring Mario Balotelli this year means that Plea probably wouldn’t come cheap, and he would need an enticing offer to leave the French league leaders.

4. Michael Keane – Burnley (Transfer)

michael-keane

Image: ITV

Claude Puel will certainly be looking out for a centre back, with rumours surrounding both of his current first choices. Burnley’s Michael Keane will certainly be a player that Southampton are monitoring. The 23 year old has been a mainstay in Burnley’s defence for the last three seasons, and his performances this season have seen him linked with a host of top clubs. Keane certainly seems a strong option in defence, with a wealth of first team experience, including two seasons in the Premier League. If Southampton were to sign him in January, then he would have the rest of the season to settle in to the team, learning under Van Dijk and Fonte, before stepping up to replace them next time around – much like Charlie Austin did this time last year. Keane is reportedly attracting the attention of much bigger clubs than Southampton, and with Burnley keen to hold on to their star defender, this would not be a cheap deal.

5. Fabian Schar – Hoffenheim (Transfer)

fabian-schar

Image: Daily Star

The Swiss centre back has been linked to both Southampton and West Brom recently after impressing at the Euros in the summer. After an inconsistent first season and a half at Hoffenheim, Schar could be open to a move away. At 25, Schar still hasn’t reached his prime, and can only benefit from half a season to adapt to the English game. His strengths fit with the style of defender that Puel seems to prefer, being very good on the ball whilst also being a physical presence in both areas. Although he was one of Switzerland’s stars from the summer, Schar has yet to impress in a top league, perhaps putting off potential suitors.

A further option available to Claude Puel is to recall young striker Sam Gallagher from his loan spell at Blackburn. Gallagher has nine goals in his 18 starts this year, which is a fantastic return after suffering a serious injury last season. Although might be beneficial in the immediate future to recall Gallagher, Puel will surely favour keeping him out on loan playing regular football, with Olufela Olamola and the returning Ryan Seager offering back up to Saints’ first choice strikers.

Who do you think Saints should target in the January window? Would you welcome a return for Morgan Schneiderlin? Have your say in the comments or let me know on twitter @MoodyMan147.

Premier League 2016/17 Preview – West Ham

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Dimitri Payet was West Ham’s top scorer last season, with 12 goals in all competitions. Image: BBC Sport

West Ham have had an odd summer, as they have been linked to almost every striker in Europe. Come the start of the season, they have brought in Andre Ayew and Jonathan Calleri to support Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia. They are amongst ten new signings as the Hammers move in to the Olympic Stadium, which also include the impressive captures of highly rated defensive midfielder Havard Nordtveit as well as wingers Gokhan Tore and Sofiane Feghouli. These arrivals have prepared West Ham’s squad for Europa League football, where the Hammers will be looking to improve upon last season’s shambolic European campaign. Slaven Bilic’s side really impressed in the league last season, especially new signing Dimitri Payet, and keeping hold of the Frenchman will prove to be West Ham’s best piece of business this summer. November and December will define whether West Ham can push on from last season’s seventh place finish, as they face consecutive games against Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Key Man: Dimitri Payet. The French midfielder proved the signing of last season, chipping in with nine goals, including several impossible free kicks. With West Ham’s new signings coming in, Payet can only improve, having more quality players to support him.

One to Watch: Sam Byram. The young right back joined from Leeds last January, and made four appearances in the second half of the season. Byram has been continually nominated for the Championship Young Player of the Season during his time at Leeds, and will flourish in a West Ham side that is geared towards attacking. His versatility is also an asset, with him being able to be play all the way down the right wing. If he establishes himself at West Ham this season, you can expect to see Byram challenging Nathaniel Clyne for an England spot.

Last Season: 7th   

Prediction: 9th

 

Premier League 2016/17 Preview – West Brom

Matt-Phillips

Matt Phillips has joined West Brom and will be relied upon to replace the creativity of Stephan Sessegnon. Image: Mirror Football

West Brom’s summer stinks of a lack of ambition. They have only made one signing, Matt Phillips from QPR for £5.5m. The rest of the Baggies’ business has been getting rid of the deadwood from their squad, with Sessegnon, Anichebe and Lindegaard all being released. Despite the signing of Phillips, Tony Pulis’ side will not be exciting to watch going forward. They only scored 34 times last season, with no player managing to hit double figures in league goals. Rather riskily, the club also only have seven senior defenders, if you include the newly converted left back Chris Brunt, so they could be in trouble if injuries stack up or with the fixture congestion around Christmas. West Brom don’t face any of last season’s top six until mid-October, so if they are going to avoid a relegation scrap they will have to get points on the board early on. This does mean that they face five of last season’s top eight, plus Chelsea, in their last ten games, so Pulis’ side could get dragged back in to the relegation mix.

Key Man: Matt Phillips. The winger is now 25, and has joined for a fee of £5.5m. He has so far failed to live up to the promise that he showed at Blackpool, but this new move could be what it takes to reignite his career. He has big boots to fill in the form of Sessegnon, who although inconsistent was a player who could create things out of nothing for the Baggies. Phillips will be relied upon to create for Rondon and Berahino, but there will be limited opportunities going forward given Pulis’ reserved style.

One to Watch: Jonathan Leko. The Congolese striker made five appearances for West Brom in the league last season, and you can expect him to feature more this season. With Anichebe being released, game time will be more easily available for the England Under-17 international, who also happened to win the Baggies’ Young Player of the Season award last season.

Last Season: 14th   

Prediction: 17th

Premier League 2016/17 Preview – Watford

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Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo scored 28 out of Watford’s 40 goals last season. Image: Metro

It was a season of two halves for Watford last year, after they started off very well before being found out in the second half of the season. Manager Quique Sanchez Flores was sacked and replaced by Italian Walter Mazzarri. The Hornets have brought in a number of new players, with centre backs Dja Djedje and Kabasele strengthening the defence, alongside new full back Juan Camilo Zuniga reuniting with his Mazzarri on loan from Napoli. Isaac Success and Jerome Sinclair have come in up front, suggesting that Mazzarri will continue with the two up front system, given the success of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney last season. The worry for Watford will be if Ighalo and Deeney suffer a dip in form again this season, given that no other player scored more than two goals last season. Watford only won four league games in 2016, which led to them slipping down to 13th place. But at the start of the season, 13th would have been seen as a success, and you can expect Watford to be aiming for that sort of position again this time out.

Key Man: Odion Ighalo. The Nigerian striker hit the ground running at the start of last season, ending the year, scoring 15 goals in the league. He has been rewarded with a new five year deal, and will once again be relied up to score the goals to fire Watford to another mid-table finish.

One to Watch: Jerome Sinclair. The 19 year old striker has joined from Liverpool for a £4m fee. Having only made five appearances for the Reds, Sinclair is definitely one for the future. He will probably act as a fourth choice striker this season, but will likely see some game time in the league over the course of the year.

Last Season: 13th   

Prediction: 13th

Premier League 2016/17 Preview – Tottenham

Kane

Harry Kane has hit twenty goals in both of the last two seasons, and he scored one of the goals of the season against Arsenal last season. Image: The Independent

At the beginning of the season, third place would have been seen as a success for Spurs, but given the nature of their late collapse it seems a bit of a disappointment. But with a squad of young, hungry players, Maurico Pochettino’s team will be looking to improve this time around. Spurs haven’t gone crazy with their signings, only adding Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen. Wanyama adds a real presence in midfield, being the ball winner in a holding midfield duo with Eric Dier. Janssen was the joint top scorer in the Eredevisie last season with 27 goals, so will look to ease the goal scoring burden on Harry Kane. Having to compete in both the Premier League and the Champions League could really test Spurs this season, as it is unlikely that Pochettino will be able to completely change his side in Europe like last season. The defensive trio of Lloris in goal, with Alderweirald and Vertonghen in front of him is one of the best in the Premier League, whilst the creative talents of Lamela, Eriksen and Alli behind Harry Kane will mean that Spurs will again be one of the most exciting teams to watch.

Key Man: Toby Alderweirald. The Belgian defender has been very solid since moving to the Premier League. He was a key reason behind Spurs’ 13 clean sheets last season, and having a partnership for both club and country with Jan Vertonghen means that they will know each other’s game inside out.

One to Watch: Harry Winks. The young midfielder is yet to play for Spurs in the league, but has featured in the Europa League over the last two seasons. He signed a new deal in March and will look to follow Deli Alli, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb in breaking in to the Spurs midfield. With the pressures of European football on Spurs’ squad, you can expect Winks to break through in to the team this season.

Last Season: 3rd  

Prediction: 5th