Arsenal & Mesut Ozil need to return to form very quickly, should Arsenal be considered title contenders.

When watching the opening thirty minutes of Arsenal’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich, it was hard to tell which team were the champions of Europe. The Gunners started with incredible energy and intent, and Bayern were stunned. Young forward Yaya Sanogo looked a seasoned European talent at points in the opening sequence of the game, Jack Wilshere seemed back to his old best following a string of average performances, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was giving David Alaba real problems down the wing. It was all going so well. All that was needed was a goal to capitalise on a dominant opening display, and then Arsenal may have had a real chance at overcoming Pep Guardiola’s brilliant Bayern. Surely just one chance would be enough to ensure the tie was in their hands. That chance came, in the form of an excellent through ball from the talismanic Jack Wilshere to find none other than Germany’s golden boy, Mesut Ozil. He received the pass with a good touch, and his next was even better. Shaping his body to shoot, the playmaker switched inside onto his weaker right foot with a blissful piece of skill. The majestic turn fooled Bayern defender Jerome Boateng, and the centre-back’s trailing leg caught Ozil. He went down, and the referee pointed to the spot without a second thought. Boateng had no complaints. He had been tricked by the flair and skill of his international team-mate. Arsenal deserved their break, considering their superb performance in the opening spell of the game, and with regular penalty takers Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud away from the game injured or cheating on their wives, it was Mesut Ozil who grabbed the ball. Was this the moment that the £42.5m signing was to announce himself worthy of Arsene Wenger’s men? Unfortunately not. Once Mesut set up to take the penalty, it was obvious as to what the outcome of the spot-kick would be. A miss. His body language was un-disguising, un-concealing, and almost blatant. A mere two steps back from the ball without any angle may seem apt for Ozil, but to others it just shows a lack of backbone and confidence. It almost seems stupid to give off such an aura when facing the man-mountain of Bayern ‘keeper Manuel Neuer in goal. It came as no surprise when he palmed away the weak Ozil penalty with apparent ease.

It was a moment that changed the game. From then on all of the momentum and drive earlier showcased by the Gunners had dispersed, replaced by a lack of confidence and superiority. They went on to lose 2-0 to a side that they had on the rocks for the first 30 minutes of the game.

Image

Arsenal had early momentum against Bayern, but Mesut Ozil couldn’t capitalize on their excellent opening.

This observation could be one that reflects Mesut Ozil’s season. It would have been hard to find a disappointed Arsenal fan following the signing of the German midfielder, but many could be found now. Ozil was in the side straight away, starting his first game against Sunderland, and in turn picking up a wonderful assist. His astonishing touch and cross for Olivier Giroud to finish was the perfect way to announce his self to the fans. It seemed as though Arsene Wenger had finally found that missing link between the superb passing ability that his team possessed and a clinical edge, which they lacked. A string of similar performances led many to believe that Ozil was up there with the very best in world football. It was not to last, however. There are few doubters of Ozil’s phenomenal talent, but it hasn’t all gone to plan for the young man over here in England. Despite starting his Arsenal career with some incredible performances, he began to drift away from his usual influence on games as the long English season goes on. Rarely in the last couple of months has he influenced a game in a positive manner. His effort, confidence and flair have all dropped since his phenomenal introduction to the Premier League. Many have called for Ozil to be rested, and even Arsene Wenger has admitted that the performances of his record signing have dropped to a very low standard. The media spotlight has rarely left Ozil in the past few weeks, especially after that penalty miss that some claim to have lost Arsenal the game against Bayern. But what could possibly be the reason for Ozil’s lack of form? His confidence is no doubt at an all-time low, and it is sad to see such a great talent so unlike his usual self during games. It could be said that the lack of a winter break that he has received in all his previous seasons of European football may have affected him. You could also blame Wenger for his fall from grace. Ozil often looks tired, and it does seem as though Wenger might possibly have overused his star man, possibly out of desperation for his side to pick up silverware. The last time his men won a trophy, Mesut Ozil was still at school. No doubt a troubling fact for Arsenal fans to swallow.

Image

Ozil was in fine form at the start of the season.

Whatever the reason for Ozil’s slump, it must end now if Arsenal are to be considered contenders for a title this season. It is a worrying time for the Gunners. A mere two wins in their last 5 games leaves Arsenal in second in the Premier League with Manchester City ready to overtake should they win their game in hand, and their Champions League hopes look dashed following their defeat to champions Bayern. Their poor form was epitomized in their horrendous 5-1 defeat to probable title rivals Liverpool. They were 4-0 down within twenty minutes.

 Something needs to change at the Emirates should Arsenal fulfil the promise of their sensational start to the season. A month or two ago they were clear title favourites, but now Chelsea, City and even Liverpool look more likely to win the Premier League. If they don’t turn it around now, it will be too late.

Image

Arsene Wenger’s frustrations have been clear to see in past weeks

Turning a season round is easier said than done, but what must be stressed is the fact that it CAN be done. Arsenal have an array of top-class talent within their squad. Early-season sensation Aaron Ramsey is on the return from a long-term injury, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is beginning to mature and realise his potential, but without a return to form from Ozil, Arsenal have little hope. The playmaker could be crucial to their season. His passing, vision and skill are unmatched when he is at his best, and should his work rate improve he could be the missing link for Arsenal that has previously deprived them of success. A return to form for Ozil is a disturbing thought for the Gunner’s title rivals, and he will be the difference between yet another disappointing season, or quite possibly the greatest of Arsene Wenger’s reign. Arsenal must be desperate for the German to see the light, and renew his early promise. After all, the reason he joined Arsenal was to win the Premier League. Remember that. Mesut.  

Nemanja Vidic & Manchester United: A sorry state of affairs…

download (1)

Nemanja Vidic is one of the greatest central defenders to ever grace the Premier League. Feared by strikers and trusted by team-mates, the big Serb is the kind of centre-back that every team needs, and a player like him is not easy to come by. Vidic is as brave as a soldier, and every time he steps out onto the Old Trafford pitch it is like he is a warrior arriving at the battlefield. Manchester United haven’t had such a passionate, determined, solid player since the days when Roy Keane was in his prime. Injury problems may have hampered Vidic’s playing time in the last couple of seasons, but whenever he is absent from the side, United look like a team lacking inspiration. Vidic marshals the defence, keeping his team disciplined. He is a true leader and an ideal captain. So naturally, it came as a huge shock when the news broke this week that the most successful Serbian player ever would be leaving Old Trafford at the end of the season.

This comes at a time when United are a complete and utter shambles domestically, and are effectively out of contention for every single trophy that they had a chance of winning. At the time of writing, it looks like the Red Devils won’t even make the top 4 of the Premier League. They are supposedly a team in transition, with a new manager and too many aging players. So it makes you wonder why David Moyes is not trying harder to retain the services of Vidic. Not only would it mean that United would hold on to a world-class centre-back and a superb leader with vast experience, it would also send a much-needed message to the fans that the United players are behind their manager. It seems astonishing that Vidic is leaving for free.

Vidic: I'm Out Of Here

Vidic: I’m Out Of Here

The fact that Vidic has no desire to renew his contract at Old Trafford is yet another sign of the instability and distrust within Manchester United at this point in time. I am sure that if Sir Alex Ferguson was still in charge Vidic would sign the contract without a thought, but United are a changed side and the Serb has realised that. He knows that there is no hope of winning trophies this season, and that there is a high chance United will not be playing in the Champions League next year, and he’s had enough. The opportunity to play European football in the Camp Nou or the San Siro as well as the chance to win domestic trophies abroad is a much more lucrative offer than Europa League football on a cold Thursday night in Makhachkala. Do not be surprised if there is a wave of players leaving Old Trafford during the summer transfer window, because without Fergie or Champions League football, Manchester United just don’t have the same attraction for players that they had a year or two ago. There are bound to be rumours linking players like Wayne Rooney and Adnan Januzaj with moves away, and they could become reality. Rooney is an impatient player, desperate to play against the best alongside the best, and a lucrative offer from a team like Chelsea or Real Madrid would be difficult to refuse. Januzaj is another player who could receive big offers, and at the moment there are better teams in which he could play. PSG have been linked, and Paris is currently a more desirable location than Manchester. Would you rather play alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Tom Cleverley? I’ll let you decide on that one.

This is a troubling time for Manchester United fans, and they may have to get used to a lack of trophies and top players for the time being. Manchester will be a blue City for a while, and I just don’t see United improving without major movement among the squad. It is a thought to make both Alex Ferguson and David Moyes’ stomachs turn.

Jordan Rhodes: The Most Dangerous Striker In England?

Image

Before you read this article, you must know that I am an avid Blackburn fan, and although I will try my hardest not to be biased about the best striker to play at Ewood Park since Alan Shearer, I no doubt will be.

I mean that claim by the way. Jordan Rhodes is the best striker Blackburn Rovers have had, since that incredible title-winning 1995 in which the Premier League’s all-time top scorer Alan Shearer donned the blue and white of the Rovers. A bold statement to make, but one that many fans of the Lancashire club will agree with. The 24-year-old Scotsman is a revelation.

It has been a tough few years for Blackburn. Off the pitch controversies involving Blackburn’s barmy (asshole) owners, the millionaire chicken farmers from India otherwise known as the Venky’s, have caused a terrible turn in the on the pitch fortunes of the former Premier League winners. Rovers were relegated soon after the idiotic Indians took over, and mismanagement of the club has caused financial turmoil and in-fighting between the executives and board members. Three managers came and went in Blackburn’s first season in the Championship, and a poor lower-half finish in the second tier means that one of the founding members of English football are in real trouble, both economically and in football terms. It is a sorrow time for us Rovers fans. But there is one positive to come from all this. The silver lining of our dark, dark cloud, you could say. And that is Jordan Rhodes. The young forward was brought in from Huddersfield for a club-record fee of £8m at the start of Blackburn’s first Championship season, which was a bold move considering the financial losses a Premier League relegation brings. Fortunately for Rovers, it paid off. Big time. The Scotland international hit the ground running at Ewood following a sensational spell at Huddersfield, that saw him win the League 1 golden boot and attract huge attention from a whole host of not only Championship, but Premier League clubs, and without his firepower up front in that debut season, there is a high chance that Blackburn would have suffered double relegation to League 1. Us Rovers fans owe a huge amount to the young man, and we are proud to say that arguably the most prolific British striker for generations is a Blackburn player.

Of course, we must now talk about the player himself. He first impressed as a teenager at Ipswich, but it was after he joined Huddersfield that he gained major media attention, and it was Blackburn who won the dogfight for his signature. Rhodes is not the quickest striker you will see, but this lack of pace by no means stops him excelling when he plays. He has a brilliant change of pace, and he is a great target man. It is not easy to hold the ball up and battle in the air with some of the centre-backs playing in the Championship, because they are often brutal. Most strikers are swallowed up by the aggressive, solid approach of these players. There is one forward, however, that these defenders dread coming up against; Jordan Rhodes. His strength and ability to hold onto the ball when all sorts of tackles are flying in is unmatched in most strikers, even at the highest Premier League level, and this makes him a feared opponent. Rhodes embarrasses and demolishes defences all by himself.

 All these skills are a major part of the Scotsman’s game, but we have not even touched upon his greatest talent; goals. And lots of them. Rhodes is the complete goal-scoring package. He is a predator in the box, always in the right place at the right time, and when the ball falls to him he consistently converts. He can score with his head, he can score tap-ins, and he can dribble from the half way line and find the top corner from 20 yards. You name it, he can do it.  No player has a better talent inside the box, and it is almost an impossible task to stop the young man from finding the net. Since joining Blackburn, he has converted 43 times in just 70 appearances, a phenomenal record at any level. Before that, he scored an equally impressive 73 times in 110 games for Huddersfield. These are goal-scoring feats unmatched anywhere in England.

Inevitably, form like this is bound to attract attention from bigger clubs than Blackburn. Many Premier league teams have been linked, including Fulham, West Ham and even Liverpool, and Championship side Bolton also showed an interest. Blackburn are in massive financial trouble, with their debts reaching as much as £50m and net losses of huge figures being reported, so why has Rhodes not been sold? A large sum of money would be received, and a cheaper replacement found. But there is a simple reason why he is still a Blackburn player, and that is the fact that he is just too good to lose. Rhodes’ goals effectively saved Rovers from relegation last season, and they are funding a charge for the play-offs in this current campaign. Selling Rhodes would be a huge, possibly fatal step back for the club, however much money the club receives for his services. He is not just a crucial goal-scorer, but a leader, a player that will inspire the rest of the team to victory. The fans adore him, too.

What is even more impressive about Rhodes is that he has all this talent, all these attributes, at the tender age of 24. It feels as though Rhodes has had an incredible career already, considering his club and international achievements, but he still has his whole career ahead of him. Surely better things are to come from Rhodes at the highest level, be it with Blackburn, or a top, top club. He is a crucial part of Rovers’ team, and the club would be at a stand- still without him. He is a shining star in a modestly average squad. He is bound to be a legend at Ewood should he stay. Mark my words, Rhodes will play at the very highest level, and I wish him all the luck in the world. Maybe his performances will be enough to take Rovers back to where they belong, the Premier League. Believe me, he’s good enough.

20140202-195106.jpg

Eliaquim Mangala: Can he improve Manchester City?

It was a relatively disappointing January transfer window for Manchester City, with not a single player coming into the squad. At one point on deadline day however, it looked like they were poised to sign French centre-back Eliaquim Mangala from Porto, for a fee that was believed to be around £40m. Unfortunately, the move fell through, but don’t be surprised if City renew their interest in the talented defender this summer. He could be exactly the player they need. 

It shouldn’t matter much to City that they didn’t sign Mangala, as it looks as though they will go on to win the Premier League, but next season will be different. All the top clubs will be expected to buy big, and as David Moyes plans an overhaul of his Manchester United squad, City will look to improve so as to stay ahead of their close rivals. However, when you look at City’s current crop of superstars, it is hard to find an area that needs improvement. They have a world-class attack, an incredible set of midfielders, England’s best goalkeeper and one of the best centre-backs in the world in Vincent Kompany. So any player that could come in and make them a better side needs to be something special. Mangala, however, is just that. I knew little of the so-called ‘Beast’ before this season, but several hours of YouTube clips (including an odd montage of the young man wandering around Porto) and a few Porto games streamed online later, I have discovered why he has been labelled such a name. He is the footballing definition of a monster. He is almost unbeatable in the air, with power, strength and bravery unmatched In it’s young defenders today, and the body of a top athlete. All this at the age of 24. He has the pace and strength to easily compete at the highest level, and has been a standout performer for Porto in both the Portuguese league and the Champions League this season. He would make an excellent defensive partner for Kompany, and playing alongside a leader like him would help Mangala’s development no end. It is no surprise that Porto want £40m for him, but the Portuguese champions are a selling club, and the right bid would mean that young Mangala would be a City player. I could see Eliaquim being one of the top defenders in world football in a few years time, along with Chelsea’s new signing Kurt Zouma and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane (both of whom are also French, unfortunately), and a move to England would suit him. A defensive pairing of Kompany and Mangala could be unstoppable, and if City are prepared to stump up a large sum of money, then they will surely be contenders for every trophy available.

20140202-194639.jpg

Atletico Madrid: Are they the real deal?

It has been a very long time, too long in fact, since a team other than Real Madrid or Barcelona won the title in Spain. However, this year could be different.

At the time of writing, there are two teams currently joint top of La Liga, with 51 points from 20 games, but incredibly, one of those teams is Atletico Madrid. 

 
Diego Simeone’s team are having a sensational season. Thanks to a great squad of players, a fiery manager and an incredible worth ethic, Atleti are challenging for the title with the big boys, one point clear of rivals Real Madrid and level with the incredible Barcelona, a team that contains the likes of Andres Iniesta and of course Lionel Messi. Real and Barca are head and shoulders above Atletico in terms of squad depth and finances, so how are the men in red-and-white not only competing, but overcoming, these incredible powerhouses of world football? And could they do the impossible and pinch the title from the strong grasp of Barcelona and Real Madrid?

Over the last few seasons, Spanish football has become increasingly dominated by the two giants, and they have been leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the league. With the top two often finishing 15 or 20 points ahead of their nearest rivals, is it too naive to say that Atletico have a big chance of winning the league this season? Or are they genuine contenders?

Firstly, we must look at the reasons they have come this far in the first place. Much of the credit must be given to their talismanic young manager Diego Simeone, who’s aggression and passion is pretty much un-matched in the managerial world. He has brought a new philosophy, a new drive, to the club, and he has turned them around from being a team content with a top 5 finish, to a team challenging for trophies. All of his players put in 110% in every game for him and if they don’t, they’re in big trouble. This do or die mentality has changed the way his players perform. Simeone has been a major part of Atletico’s wonderful season, and will surely see his talented squad grow and grow over the years.

Another big reason for their success is the goals and feistiness that striker Diego Costa has brought to the team. After some successful loan spells away from Atletico, Costa returned to the Vicente Calderon a much more developed player, and his performances this season have attracted attention from some of the Premier league’s top clubs. Many criticize his offensive, often brutal style of play, and his aggression can sometimes step over the line in games, but no one can deny his ability, and he is the kind of player that can inspire a whole team to victory. 

Atleti’s performances often reflect those of Costa’s. Without the 19 goals he has supplied this season, Atletico would be in trouble, but there is more to their squad than one quality striker.
Atletico have one of the most impressive squads in Europe, not necessarily because of the value of the players, or the amount of goals and assists they have, but because of their incredible willingness to perform, to help the team and impress the manager and fans. They never give up in any game, be it the first round of the cup against a Second Division side, or a crucial league game against Real or Barca. An attitude like this is hard to find among the egos of European football. 

 
The squad at Atletico have a strong bond, and will do anything for their team mates. Losing hurts them as individuals and as a unit. Not only do these players have a great attitude however, there are also a large group of massively talented lads in that team. Koke, their 21-year-old midfielder, has been dubbed the next Xavi, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is on loan from Chelsea and is seen by them as Petr Cech’s replacement, and they have a top class defence that includes the Brazilians Miranda and Filipe Luis. And of course, there is Diego Costa. 

This team sounds like a team that could be challenging for European trophies, dominating their league campaign, so why shouldn’t they go on to win La Liga? The dominance of the big two in Spain needed a big kick up the backside from the rest of the league as they were beginning to become unbeatable, and they got it from Atletico Madrid. Should they Take their chances and play to their full abilities, this could be the year of a new champion. And if it is, they fully deserve it.

Adam Johnson: Does he still have a future with England?

The name Adam Johnson can bring up many mixed opinions on his worth as a footballer. Words like “talented” and “skilful” are often used, but matched with criticisms like “inconsistent” and “lazy”. He is a player that divides opinion whenever he plays. 

When young Johnson burst onto the scene at Middlesborough, making his debut at 17, many talked about him as a player with huge potential. He was part of a team that had won the FA Youth Cup with Boro in 2004, and he played a key role in that triumph. Once he settled in the first team, he immediately impressed the fans at the Riverside stadium. He is blessed with incredible natural talent, and his skill and dribbling abilities are often too much to handle for even the best defenders the Premier League has to offer. After some fine performances for Boro, and at loan spells with Watford and Leeds, he made a big-money move to newly-rich Manchester City, and became a crucial part of a City team that contained the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tevez. He began to blossom at the start of his career in Manchester, and he made his England debut in a game against Hungary just a few months after joining City. His career was booming, and he looked as though he could become an excellent attacking player.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go to plan. When Roberto Mancini came in as manager of City, Johnson fell down the first-team pecking order. Mancini spent big on players like David Silva, James Milner, Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli. The competition was phenomenal as City’s megabucks owner Sheikh Mansour looked to make City a major European powerhouse. This was not good news for Johnson. He was a very talented player, but he was only 21 at the time, and just wasn’t developed enough to compete with the world-class players in the City squad. There were also rumours that his relationship with Mancini wasn’t great, and the Italian accused Johnson of being a a lazy trainer. Adam found himself playing less and less, mainly featuring in cup games or substitute appearances in the League, and with every transfer window came another top-class player ahead of Johnson in Mancini’s plans. Things weren’t looking good for the winger. He was dropped from the England squad, and saw himself being pushed out of City. However, his undeniable talent never went away, and in his last season in Manchester he recorded an impressive 7 goals in 38 appearances, many of which were off the bench. 

Understandably, Johnson was becoming frustrated at City. A few clubs across England started to notice his situation, and soon Man. City were recieving bids. Sunderland eventually won the race, and signed Johnson for £10million. It was a huge transfer fee, but then- Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill was sure of his talents. Johnson settled in well at the Stadium Of Light, and he was finally getting the regular playing time he so badly craved. He put in some memorable performaces for Sunderland after signing, and he topped off a great start with a goal in a fantastic win over his former club Manchester City. Johnson was now out of the spotlight compared to his time at City, where he was often being called a flop and a disappointment, and he was getting the game time he needed to reach his potential. He has improved steadily at Sunderland, and is now their top scorer so far this season (2013/2014). Johnson’s ability brings an extra dimension to the teams he plays in, so If his impressive form continues, and England’s lack of creativity continues too, a call up for Johnson may not be as far away as it seems. 

Top 5 Players to Watch: Serie A

5. Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan)

Argentina international Ricardo Alvarez, also known as Ricky, has been a recent target for both Manchester United and Liverpool for his impressive performances for the San Siro club, and has become an established member of the first-team with Inter. He has picked up an impressive 4 goals and 4 assists in just 13 Serie A appearances this season and has two Argentina caps to his name, including a recent appearance in a world cup qualifier against Columbia. Early in his career over in South America he picked up a serious knee injury, meaning his development has been slowed, but now he is emerging as an excellent midfielder with great vision and an eye for goal, as well as a big physical presence at 6 foot 2. Alvarez looks like he could become a top player for Inter and a regular for Argentina alongside the likes of Messi, Aguero and Di Maria, and his excellent talent will no doubt attract even more attention from Europe’s biggest clubs. There is a big future ahead for ‘Ricky’.

 

4. M’baye Niang (AC Milan)

When you watch young M’baye Niang play up front for Milan, it is hard to tell he is only 18. Niang was picked up by Milan from the second division in France over a year ago, beating the likes of Arsenal and Everton to his signature and since then the young striker has gone from strength to strength. He is a quick and skilful striker who can also play on the wing, and shows great strength for a teenager. Sometimes he can show a lack of composure in front of goal, but with time his experience and maturity will grow, and he looks like he could become a world-class forward. Many were sceptical of his signing by AC Milan, but he has soon waved away many of his critics with impressive performances, and the fact that he started a Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona is a sign of the trust in his ability by Milan. Remember the name, because one day he could become one of the best strikers in Italy, and even Europe.

 

3. Mattia De Sciglio (AC Milan)

Another young talent emerging through at the San Siro (this list tells you there is a lot) is 21-year-old full back Mattia De Sciglio. De Sciglio is right footed but can play in either full-back position, and his versatility has meant that he has been a regular at Milan in the past couple of seasons. The youngster plays with incredible maturity for his age, displays great composure on the ball and he is very good defensively. He is also incredibly consistent for his age, which is very important as a full-back. One flaw could be his more cautious attacking approach, as the modern-day full-backs often play as extra wingers rather than defenders, but when De Sciglio does get forward he has an excellent delivery and can take on players. His talent hasn’t gone unnoticed, because at the tender age of 21 he already has 8 Italy appearances, and with his consistency and excellent ability, he should go on to make many more. He made 27 appearances for the Rossoneri last season and was one of the best young defenders in Serie A, and many people believe he will go on to become a legend.

 

2. Stephan El Shaarawy (AC Milan)

Not only does El Shaarawy possess an excellent haircut, he is also a very good footballer. A pacy player who can play on the wing or through the middle, ‘The Pharoah’ has been one of Italy’s most talked about players in years. Despite intense competition in the AC Milan attack, with the likes of Mario Balotelli, Kaka, Robinho and many more to fight for places with, he has already made 63 appearances in the famous black and red stripes of AC and scored a very respectable 18 goals in that time, despite being just 21 years old. Since joining Milan for £10million from Genoa back in 2011 he has improved massively, and now has 10 Italy caps to his name. Many clubs have been linked with him, including Arsenal, Chelsea and Real Madrid, and one day we may be seeing him as one of the best players in the world.

1. Paul Pogba (Juventus)

lt still surprises me that Paul Pogba was allowed to leave Manchester United in 2012 without any financial bonus. Pogba had heard of interest from Italy and said he wanted to go, leading to disputes between Sir Alex Ferguson and Juventus, and Sir Alex Ferguson and Pogba, and he eventually joined the Italian team for free. Fergie must have known that he had a huge talent on his hands. Maybe he didn’t like Pogba’s attitude or maybe even him as a person, but to let him go, especially with no financial gain seems utterly ridiculous. 

Now onto the player himself. He was very young at United and was rarely in the first-team, and mainly featured in youth team and reserve games. However, that all changed after his move to Italy. He seemed to gain a level of maturity, and soon found himself in the Juve team. It was here that he gained massive attention from all around the world. He showed that he had huge ability, which was rarely showcased in Manchester, and he became a regular member of the Juventus team as well as earning his first France appearances. He is a strong, powerful midfielder, with great pace, balance and agility. He is also very good on the ball, with an excellent range of passing and a hammer of a right foot. He has gained a reputation for scoring long range screamers, and already has 10 goals for the Italian champions in just 45 games. Never has he looked out of place at Juve, even at the highest level, and despite being just 20 years of age he is seen as one of their best players. He recently won the Golden Boy award of 2013, awarded to the best under 21 player in Europe, and he is now a regular name on the France teamsheet. There are very high hopes for Pogba, both at club and international level, and I fully expect him to go all the way.

Kevin De Bruyne: Does he have a future at Chelsea?

No team in Europe, other than Real Madrid and Barcelona, has more talent and depth in their midfield than Chelsea. When you have a look at the players they have, you wonder why Chelsea aren’t the most dangerous team in Europe. Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Juan Mata, Ramires, Frank Lampard, john Obi Mikel, Andre Schurrle, Marco Van Ginkel, Michael Essien… It’s an unbelievable group of players. And then we have the incredibly talented Kevin De Bruyne. When he joined Chelsea back in 2012 for £7million, he was seen as another bright spark in Belgium’s great generation of footballers, another player on the level of Eden Hazard. At his previous team, Genk, he made 92 appearances and scored 16 goals, despite being a teenager. His performances attracted much attention but it was Chelsea who won the race to his signature. De Bruyne was then loaned back to Genk, where he impressed once again. Nobody thought anything of this; He is a young player who isn’t ready for Chelsea’s first team. It was an understandable loan, and it was similar the next year. He was sent off to German side Werder Bremen for a season. Once again he was outstanding, scoring 10 goals and picking up 9 assists in 32 appearances, and becoming a crowd favourite in Germany. He had also become an established part of the Belgian national team. Surely he was ready for Chelsea now. And it seemed even more likely that he would be part of the first team when Jose Mourinho came in after Kevin had returned from Bremen. Mourinho was supposedly a fan of the youngster, and De Bruyne was exceptional in pre-season, playing most of the friendlies. Mourinho must have been impressed. But then a strange thing happened. Despite having a talented young attacking midfielder in De Bruyne, Mourinho went out and bought Willian, no doubt an excellent player, but very similar to De Bruyne, for £30million. There was now huge competition for those 3 attacking midfield roles. Oscar, Mata, Hazard, Willian, another expensive summer signing Andre Schurrle… De Bruyne had no chance of playing to his full ability. Competition can be good for players, but other times it can simply be a hindrance to their development. This was bound to be the case with De Bruyne.
Having signed 2 players in the same position for a combined £48million, it was expected that De Bruyne would once again be loaned out. But Mourinho had other ideas. He wanted De Bruyne as a back-up, a substitute who would only play cup games. This was not a good situation for young Kevin. At the start of the summer he had expected to play a decent amount of games this season, be a part of Jose’s first team plans. Just a month later, he had become 5th in the pecking order. And when the season started to get into full swing, Juan Mata lost his place in the team. If Mata, Chelsea’s player of the year for the last two seasons, couldn’t get in the team, what chance did young De Bruyne have?
January will be an essential time for the Belgian. He has made just 3 appearances for Chelsea this season, only one of which has come in the Premier league, and he now has an opportunity to get out and get himself some playing time, even if it has to be elsewhere. A few clubs have shown an interest already, German side Wolfsburg being one of them, but Mourinho has recently said that it will take £25million to persuade him to sell De Bruyne. If someone does get out the checkbook though, they will get a talented, young, energetic player who is desperate to play football. In the long-term, a move away will benefit both the club that signs him, and the player.

Ross Barkley: Should he stay or go?

No English player has been talked about more than young Ross Barkley this season, and he has been linked with many big-money moves to some huge clubs around Europe. It would be any young players dream to play for Manchester United or Chelsea, but would a move away from Everton benefit the development of one of England’s brightest talents?

Being a fan of English football, it is great to see a young homegrown talent becoming a regular first-team player at a big English club. Premier League clubs have come under major criticism from many football fans, and even the chairman of the FA Greg Dyke, for the large amount of foreign players being brought into their first teams and the lack of young English players coming through.
Although it is wonderful to see so many of the top foreign players shining in our league, it is a shame to see such a lack of young English players in the first teams of clubs. Reserve leagues and youth leagues just don’t offer a high enough level of football for our players to develop, and many end up on loan at Championship or League 1 clubs, where the physicality and large amount of games can often have a negative impact on their development. Either our youth scouts and academies must improve, or young players should be given more of a chance at the top clubs.
With this lack of opportunities for young English players, when a 21-year-old English midfielder is playing every week for one of the best teams in the Premier League, they are definitely one to watch. We’ve seen it with players like Jack Wilshere and Wayne Rooney, who both came through at their clubs at a very young age and are now established regulars for both club and country, and we are seeing it again with young Ross Barkley. The Everton playmaker has been the Merseyside club’s standout player this season, and won his first England cap recently. He is an excellent passer, great on the ball, is a strong runner and scores lots of goals. A player like this, who is so young, would make any Premier League manager lick their lips and open their wallets at the thought of having him in their side. All these attributes, and his excellent performances at the heart of Everton’s midfield, have attracted huge attention, not only from the top Premier League clubs, but also some big European clubs, who would be prepared to loosen the purse strings and spend some big money on the Everton youngster. This must be great to hear for Ross, but a move away could mean sacrificing the thing that has brought him all this attention; first-team football. Manchester United are one of the teams linked with him, but their manager David Moyes had Barkley at his dispenses when he was at Everton, but hardly used him, and sent him out on loan deals to clubs like Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds. One could argue that he hadn’t developed fully and wasn’t ready for the first team, and Moyes has been a good judge on young players In the past, but would it be wise to spend £40-odd million on a player that you weren’t even prepared to play just a year ago? I don’t think so. If Barkley did join United, he may only be playing 10-20 games a season at most for the first few years, because of the intense competition, whereas at Everton he will play 30-40 games a season, with major support from the manager and the fans, and without the huge pressure of being a new young player at United that has seen so many players crumble. Everton are a growing club, with a great young squad, a talented manager and a stable financial base. Staying at Everton will increase his chances of becoming an England regular, and help his development, because of the amount of football he will be playing, and Everton will build their team around him. He has the chance to become a legend at Everton, or the chance to play regular football so that he can develop into a top player and then join a club like United or Chelsea.
However tempting a big move to a top club with a multi-million pound contract may seem, Barkley must think long and hard about whether it will be good, or damaging, for his career.