This weekend will see a legendary Premier League midfield battle take place on the touchline as Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa take on Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace.
Both men are in their first Premier League jobs as manager after taking over in the summer and during the most recent international break respectively, showing just how far the league has come as a spectacle.
During their respective playing careers, there weren’t many better than them in their midfield roles but now as coaches they are trying to carve a whole new legacy that can help them stand out.
From a team that was set up to defend their box and counter through Wilfried Zaha under Roy Hodgson for years, they are now a team that look to be brave in possession and create their own chances rather than just trying to capitalise on opponent’s mistakes.
They have a young squad that are composed and offensive minded, while defensively they look as solid as they have in the past.
Gerrard has made a name for himself in the Scottish Premiership with Rangers, helping to end Celtic’s dominance and earning them their first league title in ten years.
He plays attacking football, with an emphasis on control and speed while he also trusts youth if he deems them good enough.
For both, it’s an ode to the way they played the game themselves. Both love a powerful midfield with speed in attack and defenders who defend first and foremost. It’s also a blueprint to players of that era in the Premier League who are looking to move into coaching and management.
Playing in that era of football had a magical feeling, as technique and technology had more of a place than just passion and fitness. It’s likely that a lot of players from that era in the Premier League will see the game in a similar light, especially those who had success like these did.
The more we see former players move into management, with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Scott Parker and Frank Lampard already involved it could lead to seeing a reincarnation of the old style of play with the new advancements tweaked in.
If Gerrard is able to continue his successful managerial spell with Villa and Vieira can continue the good job he has done at Palace so far, fellow ex-pros will see the benefits too and be more inclined to try and implement their way of playing onto their teams.
That can only be a good thing with the way football is improving, and that means fans will get a show every week no matter the fixture happening in the stadium.
Since the day Steven Gerrard left Liverpool for LA Galaxy back in 2015, the countdown has been on as to when he would eventually return.
After two seasons in Hollywood, Gerrard returned to Anfield to coach the academy and youth teams after impressing Jurgen Klopp with his work ethic and passion for the job.
Then followed the job at Rangers, where he really established himself as one of the better up and coming British managers in the game right now.
Gerrard spent three years at Rangers rebuilding the club to be able to compete with Celtic once again, eventually culminating in winning them their first Scottish Premiership title since the 2010/11 season.
But midway through this campaign Gerrard accepted the approach of Aston Villa to become the new manager and has made the move back to the Premier League.
At Villa he will have a strong squad, filled with young, talented players and capable of playing several different systems. On paper, Gerrard seems like the perfect fit for a club with aspirations such as theirs and a fan-base like theirs.
The issue for Villa fans is that they know that should he become a success for them, Liverpool will come calling eventually.
Jurgen Klopp has all but admitted that once he reaches the end of his current Anfield contract in 2024 that he will likely leave and take a break from management, so this seems like the perfect time for Gerrard to make the leap over to England’s top flight.
For Gerrard it’s a chance to implement his style and imprint of the beautiful game at the highest level and see if it can transition over in the same way it did in Scotland.
If he is able to bring through some of the many academy prospects on the brink of first-team football and bring success back to a club that has been struggling this season, then the calls for him to be Klopp’s successor will seem justified.
If he fails to make an impact and impression though, then talk is likely to be seen as too premature.
Gerrard made a name for himself playing attacking football but with a rock solid defence in Scotland, so if he can recreate that with Villa it’ll be a good start.
He didn’t need a superstar to carry the team, he did it with great teamwork and spirit and a tactical setup that worked for his side. He will need to do the same at Villa and the chances are that he will find some sort of success there.
This is the step for Gerrard to prove himself as the next top boss or out himself as just another hyped up ex-pro. Which way it goes decides on whether Liverpool have found their next manager or not.
With Women’s Football Weekend fast approaching, it wouldn’t be fair to not dissect the players that you should you keep your eyes absolutely peeled to.
Due to injury we don’t have the full radar of the leagues talent on show, but there’s still so many showstoppers that you should be on the lookout for.
In order to not overwhelm you, I’ll keep the list brief – but you definitely don’t want to miss these players during this upcoming game week.
Lauren Hemp (Manchester City) Position: Winger
It wouldn’t be right to do a ‘ones to watch’ list without the talent that is Lauren Hemp.
Outside of her Manchester City and England teammate Chloe Kelly (who is still recovering from her ACL injury), she’s probably the most electric player in the league. What makes her stand out amongst other people is the fact that she can beat every single full-back in the world with her direct and positive running.
Her first thought always seems to be beating the defender and driving into the dangerous areas in the final third. Another thing that makes her so electric also revolves around the fact that she is comfortable going down the byline and whipping in a cross, but also cutting in on the inside and delivering a shot or killer pass.
Either way, her unpredictable nature, speed and decision making makes her an easy decision for ones to watch – both this weekend and beyond.
Kim Little (Arsenal) Position: Midfielder
Kim Little – where do I start? Probably the most dependable player in the league.
Between her intelligent movement, understanding of her teammates movement, and her ability to make a moment (even when dealing with scraps) is unmatched.
What makes her so dependable is the fact that this ‘moment’ with Little, may not even necessarily be a goal. She seems to just understand exactly what her team needs at that given moment and she delivers it.
This could be her ball retention when her team is under severe pressure, but also the fact that she can single-handedly dance her way through a midfield and put it on a plate for her attackers.
Based on how Arsenal have been looking this season, it’s been the latter as she’s been popping up with goals and assists weekly. But her intelligence is a joy to watch and someone that I recommend playing close attention to as she’s at the heart of everything good Arsenal do.
Sarah Mayling (Aston Villa) Position: Full-back
Sarah Mayling is known for the whip she gets on all her crosses, set-pieces or not. She has to be included in this ones to watch list because given the fact that it’s a local derby against what was her former club Birmingham City, I expect her to have to say in what the eventual result is.
We’ve all heard of a set-piece specialist, but Mayling appears to have mastered how to manipulate the ball especially when crossing or taking free-kicks.
More notably, her set pieces have sparked numerous comebacks for her club and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her changing the game with her deliveries this weekend.
Villa have started well and so I expect them to be on the front foot in this game – giving Mayling the license to go forward and shine.
Jessie Fleming (Chelsea) Position: Midfielder
Since Fleming’s arrival last season, she has struggled for minutes in this absolutely stacked Chelsea side.
This has had less to do with her ability, but more so the fact that this Chelsea team is filled with top class talent all over the pitch. Following her success with Canada at the Olympics, she seems to have started this season full of confidence off the back of winning Olympic gold.
Her cameo performances earlier on in the season have seen her rewarded with consecutive starts – and she’s been sure to take her chance.
The thing that makes her a standout for this weekend is the fact that she’s unpredictable. She fully understands the role that’s required of her in that Chelsea midfield – between supplying the wingers but also making sure that she’s aiding the attack by making third-player runs into the box and arriving late.
Her ability to do this has made her so dangerous because she’s an excellent finisher as well as the fact that her decision making is beyond her years. I can see her making more strides this weekend as Chelsea look to make strides towards the title.
After spending eight years of her senior career at Chelsea, Hannah Blundell made the switch up north – in search of more playing time.
Her ability to stay calm defensively as well as in offensive areas has seen her slot into the United line-up seamlessly. She’s already registered three assists this season, and I can see her adding to that tally this weekend.
Despite the difference in location, United vs Everton games have been played as though it were a derby since Casey Stoney’s tenure – with United coming out victorious most of the time.
That being said I expect Blundell to have a lot to do this weekend and she will need to be switched on, but there will be space for her to exploit and offer support to the forwards.
United have a legacy to protect when it comes to our fixtures against Everton and I’m sure Blundell will thrive on that pressure.
England’s next generation of managers are looking to get back to the Premier League as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard get linked with new jobs.
Lampard has been without a club since being sacked by Chelsea in January, but has been linked with several jobs including Newcastle, Watford and Crystal Palace.
Gerrard on the other hand has found great success in Scotland with Rangers, ending Celtic’s dominance and winning the Scottish Premier League last season and also guiding them to a good run in the Europa League.
Reports suggest that Norwich are keen to bring in Lampard to help their battle for survival, with the Canaries currently sitting rock bottom of the league with just five points from 11 games this season.
Lampard is a young coach and with Norwich’s relatively young squad, Lampard’s love for youth players as shown at Chelsea could be a positive for him – especially with Scottish midfielder Billy Gilmour among the playing staff.
Gerrard on the other hand is among the top targets for the Aston Villa job, with the Midlands outfit keen to bring in someone to continue the progress that Smith made during his three years in charge.
Villa’s squad received great investment in the summer but obviously they lost Jack Grealish to Man City in a £100m deal and have failed in trying to adapt quickly.
But with Gerrard’s arrival, the club would have a new and fresh mindset on how to approach games and set up the team. The former Liverpool captain has seen his reputation as a manger grow exponentially over the last few years and he has been tipped to eventually become manager of his beloved Anfield club.
The transition to eventually take that job however would be better placed with a prior job in the league and Aston Villa present a brilliant opportunity for him to take over a club with a big fan base, a decent squad and not exaggerated expectations.
It would be a great coup for the league to get the name value of both back in the league, but it would also be a good chance for Lampard to build his reputation back up and for Gerrard to continue to grow as a coach with a step up.
We are already into match day six of the 2021/22 Women’s Super League season and so far, other than the injury-stricken start to the season that Manchester City are having, we are yet to see many upsets to the other components of the ‘Big Three’.
Whilst City have dropped numerous points to opposition that they previously would have comfortably beaten, Arsenal have been completely dominant – yet to drop a single point in the WSL so far, and only conceding two goals in the first game of the season against reigning champions Chelsea.
Meanwhile Tottenham, who in the previous season found themselves in a relegation battle, have enjoyed a great start with four wins out of the first five games.
Week six brought us some matchups that saw teams that we could expect to finish in and around that fourth spot – with Manchester United taking on Spurs while Everton and Brighton faced off. Here’s what happened.
Aston Villa 0-1 Chelsea
Ever the embodiment of a Carla Ward side, Aston Villa presented a difficult entity for Chelsea to breakdown.
As expected Chelsea absolutely dominated the ball, having 76 percent possession and boasting 16 shots in the game, despite Emma Hayes heavily rotating her starting lineup.
Within this, a rare start for the talented Canadian starlet Jessie Fleming – who went on to score the eventual winner; scoring a neat and composed finish following a great pick out from Ji.
The defensive set-up from Villa definitely did its job in frustrating Chelsea, but the quality that they possess – even when they rotate – is clear to see.
Everton 0-1 Brighton
Following the managerial change that happened at Everton after the sacking of Willie Kirk, I was interested to see how they’d look against a well drilled side in Brighton who like Tottenham, have enjoyed a good start to this new season.
New Everton manager Jean-Luc Vasseur attempted to provide some stability to his new squad by keeping the same starting XI as the midweek cup match, and someone who benefited from this was Kenza Dali, who again looked like a bright spot in the Everton team.
Despite this, it was Brighton that were able to score the winner in the second half, after Danielle Carter played in Aileen Whelan – a win that puts them fourth in the table as it stands.
Tottenham 1-1 Manchester United
As a United fan assessing the opposition before the game, I was aware that Tottenham were going to be narrow and compact – a problem that Manchester United boss Marc Skinner also alluded to both pre and post-match.
There seems to be a real lack of width in Skinner’s United side – an area that was previously used as a point of emphasis under Casey Stoney. Under Stoney we saw left-winger Leah Galton being utilised a lot more than she currently is, stretching opponents with not only width but also her pace and trickery at the by-line with her ability to accurately cross.
However, against Spurs, we once again saw a real lack of width which often made it easy for them to stop United in their attacks.
A key missing point for the United side was also the absence of midfielder Jackie Groenen who is vital in how they set the pace of the game.
Too many times were the United midfield especially caught on the ball in that first half and they were lucky to go into the half 1-0 up. That goal does however need its own special mention as Alessia Russo (who I’ve previously spoken so highly of), brought some individual brilliance with a wonder strike on the brink of HT.
She was on bully mode for the entire game – constantly pinning defenders on the halfway line and beyond. This allowed her not only to relieve pressure on the team, but also to bring the wingers and fullbacks into play. Her fantastic performance, as well as crucial saves once again from United keeper Mary Earps almost brought the team the three points.
However, Spurs stayed in the game till the very end, and their determination paid dividend as defender Millie Percival saw her 94th minute free-kick sail all the way in without a touch. The bounce appeared to confuse everybody in the box and much to the delight of the Spurs players, rewarded the side with a well-earned point.
Leicester 1-4 Man City
Leicester scored what was only their third goal of this league campaign against a City side that are slowly starting to get important players trickling back into the side following injury lay-offs.
However, the Foxes goal in the first 90 seconds of the game didn’t stop City from sealing all three points – with Leicester continuing to give away too many chances in games.
They managed to carve out some chances in the game, but overall City were too good for them and managed to overpower them in the end. Lauren Hemp was a constant threat and the pick of the bunch from the City goals has to be awarded to Keira Walsh who unleashed an unstoppable shot from outside of the area giving the keeper no chance.
Birmingham City 0-3 Reading
Birmingham City were unable to respond to Reading’s dominant display at their ground – with another young Canadian starlet Deanne Rose shining brightest.
Kelly Chambers’ Reading side looks to be shaking off their initial early season rust and have now put together two consecutively strong performances in the league, with the forwards especially in this game combining well.
The loss however puts an even bigger strain on Birmingham City in their bid to stay in the league, as they still only have one point on the table. They’ll be looking to start building in next week’s derby against Villa.
Once again, the ever-dependable Kim Little was front and centre to everything good that Arsenal did in the game. The nimble and intelligent Little opened the scoring with some clinical finishing late into the first half and not content with just scoring one, she went on to score her 50th league goal soon into the second half also.
Not wanting to miss out on the fun, probably one of the most in-form people in football right now Beth Mead joined in, adding a third after great work from Nikita Parris in the middle of the pitch.
The great thing about this Arsenal side is that they look like they can score from any area of the pitch, as well as the fact that they work with such intensity even when out of possession in order to win the ball back. West Ham made some good openings, but Arsenal never really looked like conceding.
Next Week is Women’s Football Week, so look out for some ones to watch on Friday!
Two Premier League managers lost their jobs over the weekend, with differing results leading to the decisions.
On Saturday evening Norwich were celebrating their first win of the season, a 2-1 victory away at Brentford masterminded by Daniel Farke.
However by that evening it was announced that the German had been sacked with immediate effect, despite the win, and that the club were looking for a new boss.
Then on Sunday, it was Aston Villa’s turn to wield the axe as Dean Smith was relieved of his duties following a fifth consecutive defeat against Southampton on Friday night.
The two departures mean that the Premier League has already lost 25% of their managers that started the season, a quite incredible stat considering we’re only 11 games into the season.
Xisco Munoz was first at Watford, followed by Steve Bruce at Newcastle and then Nuno Espirito Santo at Spurs. While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains under severe pressure at Manchester United, we’ve already seen the likes of Mikel Arteta and Sean Dyche survive a bad run to come out on the other side with support from their clubs.
But what it shows is that clubs are no longer content with just existing, they want to see clear progression.
It used to be an achievement for the lower and mid-table clubs to simply survive and compete amongst themselves, leaving the big boys to do their thing further away.
Now though, clubs want to see a plan. They want to see positive football, they want to see a silver lining in defeats against those top sides and more importantly they want a path to become one eventually.
Leicester and West Ham have successfully implemented themselves into the conversation for European places on a regular basis now under Brendan Rodgers and David Moyes. There are no reasons why others teams can’t do the same with the right manager and right plan.
Smith oversaw his boyhood club getting promoted to the Premier League, kept them up and even got them to a domestic cup final. None of that mattered in the end when the club decided it was time to move on.
Farke got Norwich promoted twice, with a relegation in the middle of those two. The Canaries tried to give him time, giving him the chance to keep them up and then bring them back to the promised land but he once again proved he wasn’t up to it at the highest level. The club have now moved on.
It shows you that in the modern game there is no space for romanticism and history. It’s about the present and the future, and rightly so.
You can be thankful to the job a manager has done and what they have given, but accept that it’s time to move on and try something fresh in order to progress. Because ultimately, progression is key.
The Premier League returns on August 14th 2021 and the fixtures for the opening weekend have been released, including an absolute banger of a start for the champions.
Manchester City will travel to Tottenham Hotspur in their first game of the season, meaning a potential transfer for Harry Kane could be a nightmare debut against his former club.
City won the Premier League by 12 points last season to claim their third league title in four years under Pep Guardiola and will be hoping that with some investment to the squad this summer that they’ll be at the top end of the table once again come May 2022.
Last season’s runners-up also have a tasty game to start the season with, as Manchester United will host Leeds United in a Rose derby at Old Trafford too.
The sides met in the league for the first time in 16 years last season, with the Reds winning 6-2 at home before a stale 0-0 draw at Elland Road, but there were no fans in attendance so this will be a great way to welcome them back to the stands.
Newly promoted Brentford will welcome London rivals Arsenal to their new stadium in their first ever Premier League game, while Norwich City will take on Liverpool in a repeat from the opening day fixture two seasons ago when the Canaries were last promoted.
Chelsea will host Crystal Palace in yet another London derby, where the Eagles will be playing their first game since manager Roy Hodgson left the club at the end of last season.
Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester side will look to put the disappointment of finishing outside of the top four behind them when they take on Bruno Lage’s Wolves side on the opening day at the King Power Stadium, while ex-Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez will be in charge of Everton when they take on Southampton at Goodison Park.
Newly promoted Watford will welcome Aston Villa to Vicarage Road, while David Moyes’ Europa League-playing West Ham side will travel up north to take on Newcastle United. Burnley will play Brighton in the final game.
Dates of the games will be rescheduled depending on television viewings, although the exact date for the changes is unknown at the moment. Kick-off times will also change depending on television selections too.
With the national ‘Freedom Day’ expected to take place on July 19th, all games should be able to host a full capacity crowd on the opening day of the season although that is not official yet either. Games are currently scheduled for the weekend of August 14th 2021.
FULL OPENING DAY FIXTURE LIST
Brentford v Arsenal Burnley v Brighton Chelsea v Crystal Palace Everton v Southampton Leicester City v Wolverhampton Manchester United v Leeds United Newcastle United v West Ham United Norwich City v Liverpool Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City Watford v Aston Villa
After Arsenal’s worst season in 25 years, their summer of rebuild has got off to an awful start as they have missed out on a top transfer target to Aston Villa.
The Gunners ended the season in eighth place, meaning no European football at all for the first time since 1996 when Arsene Wenger eventually took over. Despite that, manager Mikel Arteta has been given a chance to rebuild the team in his image.
Brazilians David Luiz and Willian will leave this summer, while right-back Hector Bellerin is also on the list of players who could depart along with strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and midfielders Dani Ceballos and Martin Ødegaard who’s loans expired.
The Argentine was relegated with the Canaries in 2020 but was instrumental this past season as he scored 15 goals and assisted 16 goals to earn them immediate promotion back to the Premier League.
With that though, the club agreed to honour a gentleman’s agreement to let him leave this summer should their asking price of around £30m be met. That gave Arsenal encouragement that a deal could be done, however the player won’t be heading to the Emirates.
Aston Villa were also interested in the 24-year-old’s signature and after hearing of Arsenal’s interest and subsequent bid, they have moved quickly to seal the deal.
Villa will pay a club record £33m up front, with incentive based add-ons taking the total fee up to a club-record £40m. After speaking with international teammate and former Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, Buendia made the decision that a move to Villa Park would be more beneficial for his career.
It plunges the future of Jack Grealish into further doubt, with the England international linked with a move to Manchester City and Manchester United this summer after a sensational season. Buendia operates at his best in the attack from the right-wing, cutting in on his left foot.
But he also is at his best when the team runs through him as we have seen with Norwich, and that won’t be the case if Grealish is at the club. The likelihood remains that both will be at the club next season and will find a way to play with each other, while the attacking burden on Grealish will be somewhat relieved with some quality help alongside him.
For Arsenal, their summer plans are in trouble now. Ødegaard currently looks out of reach, with Real Madrid placing a £50m value on him and newly-appointed boss Carlo Ancelotti name-checking him as someone who can help refresh an ageing squad.
With creativity an issue throughout the season last year and obviously an area they want to strengthen they will now need to look at alternatives, which could include keeping players on that they didn’t originally plan to.
West Brom’s Matheus Pereira is surely a target if they are intent on bringing new faces in, with the club relegated and needing to sell. Pereira shone in the Premier League last season with 11 goals and six assists and has a similar skillset to that of Buendia and his asking price is likely to be pretty similar too.
But the fact that Arsenal made Buendia a ‘top target’ and were not only blown out of the water by Aston Villa financially but also deemed to be a worse project by the player himself tells you a lot about where they stand currently.
If ever you needed a sign that you weren’t wanted at a football club under a certain manager, it’s being the top goalscorer for the team across all competitions, being available and not even making a 12-man bench for the Champions League final.
That’s the position that Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham found himself in most recently, as the Blues were crowned champions of Europe without him thanks to Kai Havertz’s strike.
With Thomas Tuchel now guaranteed to stay on next season, Abraham must start looking at the next chapter of his career if he wants to continue pushing on to become an international striker on a regular basis. But where is best for him? Lets take a look at some realistic options and which would suit him most.
The Saints are likely to be on the lookout for a number nine this summer, with Danny Ings’ future up in the air. Ings’ contract is entering the final 12 months and he has attracted interest from the likes of Tottenham, which means they will need to replace him.
Abraham has scored goals everywhere he’s been, including Chelsea, and Southampton could do a lot worse than looking to bring him in whether it be permanently or on loan. He has great feet, is good in the air, good strength and is at his best in the penalty area where Southampton would want him to hang around to take chances.
Unfortunately for them, his wages could be an issue in getting a deal done. Southampton aren’t the strongest financially and Chelsea are notoriously tough negotiators when it comes to selling so unless it suits them they won’t do it. Add to that they’ll definitely have competition for his signature, they’d need a miracle to make it happen.
Graham Potter has built a tremendous squad with Brighton since joining, but the thing that has had them in relegation battles since his arrival is the lack of a clinical front man.
Neil Maupay, Danny Welbeck, Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Aaron Connolly combined for just 16 goals in the league this season and missed a whole host of chances between them, leading to the Seagulls having the worst xG differential among the entire league.
They didn’t have any issues when it came to creating though and having a striker in the box who is always available and reliable to find the back of the next is exactly what they’ve been calling for. They’ve got some cash available and while it’s unlikely to be the £40m that Chelsea reportedly want, they can make an enticing offer or get him in on loan.
Much like Southampton though, a lack of European football and competition for his signature means it would be a huge coup and is unlikely to happen.
A return to his old stomping ground perhaps? Abraham spent a season on loan at Villa and scored 26 goals in 40 games as he boosted them into the Premier League. Following that loan spell, he earned the chance at Chelsea under Frank Lampard and never returned.
But the connection has always been there and he admitted that he greatly enjoyed his time in England’s second city, so why not? Villa were a side who really struggled going forward if Jack Grealish couldn’t get going and while Ollie Watkins scored 14 Premier League goals in his first season, there’s always room for improvement.
Abraham would provide great competition and depth to their attack as well as goals, but it just seems unlikely that Villa would spend so big on him with Watkins performing well. No European football is again a factor, but the lure or returning somewhere he’s clearly still adored could be more tempting.
WEST HAM UNITED
David Moyes did a phenomenal job with the Hammers last season, pushing for a top four place all the way until the end before securing a place in the Europa League.
The loan signing of Jesse Lingard gave them a much needed boost for goals in the second half of the season and with Michail Antonio’s fitness up and down they need someone reliable to run the line in attack and Abraham fits the bill.
The lone striker role with interchanging attacking midfielders behind him would suit him perfectly and they have the money and position available to be filled. It would also mean he can stay in London, and hopefully improve his chances of getting back into the England set up.
There aren’t many negatives to this deal other than whether or not West Ham want to make it happen, or if they prioritise someone else.
Controversial? Maybe. But there’s no doubt that if Arsenal are looking for a striker this summer then Abraham should be high up on their list, and if Abraham is to leave then Arsenal would be an ideal destination.
Mikel Arteta is seemingly being backed to oversee a complete squad rebuild this summer and with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both the wrong side of 30 striker could be a position they look to sign in. From the way Arteta has played previously, he wants his striker predominantly in the penalty area and that is where Abraham is at his absolute best.
£40million may seem high, but if Lacazette or Aubameyang were to leave it would be for a similar price or would free up huge wages to make it possible, and he’d likely be happy to stay in London.
No European football would be a problem, but Arsenal have enough credit in the bank as a big club to tempt him where Brighton and Southampton don’t.
As Euro 2020 continues to edge ever closer, there are question marks about who will make it into Gareth Southgate’s 26-man squad for the tournament.
England are currently selecting through their best pool of talent for several tournaments and that includes defensively, where for once they have an abundance of quality options to choose from.
Despite that though, Southgate seems to have prioritised character and leadership rather than actual defensive quality for two of his centre back options and that is a problem.
It seems pretty certain that alongside Harry Maguire and John Stones it will be Tyrone Mings, Conor Coady and Michael Keane as the central defensive options that Southgate will go for. Mings, Coady and Keane however seem like picks based on reputation rather than form or actual ability.
Currently the likes of Fikayo Tomori, Ezri Konsa and Ben Godfrey are absolutely shining at their respective clubs despite inconsistent form from their clubs and yet none seem to be under consideration for a role at all.
Konsa is currently the secondary centre-back behind Mings at Aston Villa, but is quite clearly outperforming him this season. Whenever you watch them play together it’s always the younger man who stands out, while Mings has been the man to make the more high profile mistakes including most recently in the defeat to Manchester United where he got far too tight to Mason Greenwood, who turned him before finishing.
Godfrey has been brilliant for Everton too, playing at full-back as well as in a back three under Carlo Ancelotti and shining in the Premier League after his move from Championship side Norwich last summer.
With great pace, great physicality and a very good eye for a pass as shown for his assist for Dominic Calvert-Lewin against West Ham this past weekend, Godfrey is a guaranteed future England international. With Stones and Maguire the sure-fire starting pair, seniority as back-up options should’t be a priority.
Holgate and Konsa have been excellent and arguably outshone their club teammates and the fact they’re not even in a conversation for a spot in the now larger squad is beyond strange.
If Southgate is looking for someone similar to his current options and with leadership quality, then Coady’s involvement over Lewis Dunk is just as peculiar.
The 29-year-old Brighton skipper has been excellent this season despite his club’s struggles. Aerially he has been a powerhouse and has proven to be a threat in the opposition box too, scoring five times.
But what’s been most impressive is his ability to play out from the back under Graham Potter, as Brighton have showed a great ability and confidence to outplay teams no matter the opposition. Their league position is greatly effected by the fact their strikers have struggled to find the back of the net, because defensively they’ve not been that bad at all.
Coady’s main reason for getting into the side was his familiarity in a back three for Wolves over the years, but Dunk can provide that now and is better, so why isn’t he under consideration?
Even after those three the most shocking omission is likely to be AC Milan’s young loanee, Chelsea academy graduate Fikayo Tomori.
The 23-year-old barely featured under Frank Lampard at the start of the season, but since joining the Serie A side on loan has been one of the standout defenders in the league. Absolutely rapid, great on the ball, physically strong and with a great reading of the game, Tomori absolutely deserves to at least be in the conversation.
He’s shown leadership qualities too but is also the perfect covering defender alongside the more dominant type like a Harry Maguire. He has experience within the senior set up in both a back three and four under Southgate and his performances should see him in the squad ahead of more senior options.
Southgate’s mind seems made up, but the defensive lapses that have cost them previously are a problem. For that reason, they should be looking to use the most in-form defenders to try and eradicate them.