Tag Archives: Championship

Why Wayne Rooney should ignore Everton interest and stay with Derby

It’s been a long time coming but Rafa Benitez has finally been sacked as Everton manager and the fans couldn’t be happier.

The former Liverpool manager was the most unwanted man on Merseyside after being appointed in the summer, with fans unwilling to accept that he had changed allegiances.

But after six-and-a-half months in charge and just one win in 13 Premier League games, his reign at Goodison Park is no more.

Roberto Martinez has been linked as the number one choice to take over on an interim basis until the end of the season, but The Athletic and Liverpool Echo report that is highly unlikely with the Belgian FA unwilling to release him from his contract early.

The next favourite for the role is the club legend and arguably best ever player Wayne Rooney, who is currently cutting his teeth with Derby in the Championship.

On paper, it’s an easy decision for Rooney. Derby were deducted 21 points earlier this season due to entering administration and breaking FFP rules before he was boss.

Their future is still up in the air, with the club unable to sign anyone and even losing Phil Jagielka this month because the club couldn’t provide any sort of plan to the EFL that they would be able to fulfil every game from now until the end of the season.

Wayne Rooney manager of Derby County during the Sky Bet Championship match between Bristol City and Derby County at Ashton Gate on December 4, 2021...

Compare that to Everton who have a billionaire owner and are desperate to get into Europe once again it seems like an easy decision to make.

But what Rooney has achieved with Derby so far is something far greater than he could possibly achieve at Everton.

Rooney has somehow managed to get Derby off the bottom of the Championship table despite the points deduction and has created a morale in the dressing room and a spirit that has people genuinely believing they could avoid relegation.

If he succeeds, it will arguably be the greatest achievement of his footballing career. If he fails, his stock can only go up with the job he’s done so far despite the circumstances.

Everton fans raise a banner referencing manager, Rafael Benitez during the Premier League match between Norwich City and Everton at Carrow Road on...

If he went to Everton, everything changes. He’ll be expected to lift them from their poor position quickly and if he fails then the money the club have and the ability of his credentials will get questioned.

As it stands Rooney can’t lose. He’s an inexperienced coach in a side that have no right to survive, and yet they have a very real chance of doing so.

He should stay with the Rams and ignore the managerial cemetery that is Goodison Park for now. He will have more opportunities throughout his career and no doubt will be linked with the Everton job at every opportunity.

Wait it out and learn your trade with less pressure at Pride Park, would be my advice to Rooney.

Streets Won’t Forget – Adel Taarabt

In every generation of football there is a selection of players that while they may not see the greatest level of success, are never forgotten by the fans.

These players are usually the ones that kept the fans on the edge of their seats during games, provided memorable moments and played the beautiful game in a beautiful way.

This series is dedicated to celebrating those players and giving them their flowers now, before they fade into the distance and it’s too late.

Arguably the first player that comes to mind in the English game with that description is former QPR and Tottenham playmaker Adel Taarabt.

The Moroccan currently plies his trade at Benfica at the Estadio Da Luz as a deep lying playmaker, with a far more conservative style. But the player that many remember earlier in his career was breathtaking.

Joining Tottenham as a 17-year-old, Taarabt was seen as a star of the future at the club. But a falling out with manager Juande Ramos meant he was excluded from the squad and training ground for a short period of time.

He was allowed back in after Harry Redknapp took over, but after limited playing time he joined Queens Park Rangers on loan for an initial three-month period. A knee injury cut the spell short, but he re-joined the following season for the full campaign.

In that season, he performed really well and earned himself a permanent move to the club where he then became a household name and a player capable of viral moments and match-winning performances.

His first season after signing the permanent deal was stunning. He racked up 19 goals and 21 assists in 44 appearances in the Championship, but it was the style in which he did things that was even more impressive.

The cheeky nutmegs, the mazy dribbles, the stunning passes, the ability to put defenders on their bum and the willingness to carry the entire load on his back for a team chasing promotion.

Some of the greatest individual goals in the Premier League in that time were scored by Taarabt too.

His wonder goal against Fulham will forever be remembered not only by QPR fans, but by football fans.

He collected the ball on the half way line, before forcing a nutmeg through Brede Hangelaand’s legs. He then ran straight through the heart of the Fulham defence with feints, before a delicate ball roll and a shot with the outside of his right boot which never left the ground but curled into the far corner.

That wasn’t even his best. Down in the Championship against Preston during his brilliant QPR season, Taarabt received the ball from a teammate out wide.

He did a fancy trick pass before receiving the ball back from him. He’s then fronted by a defender who he casually nutmegs with ease, leaving the defender walking off in embarrassment and his teammate putting his head in his hands.

Taarabt then takes the ball another stride and curls a strike into the far corner, that can’t be kept out by the goalkeeper’s hand he gets to it. It’s a sensational strike and just typifies what he was about as a player during that moment of his career.

If you ever get bored or have some time to kill, just go on YouTube and watch highlights. You will be entertained for hours and ultimately, that’s what football is all about.

History may forget him one day, but the streets never will.

Is Emiliano Buendia the answer to Arsenal’s creative problems?

Even a recent good upturn in form for Arsenal hasn’t been enough to paper over the cracks in their squad currently.

After earning just one win in ten Premier League games, the Gunners are now on a run of three wins in a row following victory against Chelsea, Brighton and West Brom. They’ve scored eight goals in those three wins, conceding just one as they seem to have found their rhythm under Mikel Arteta once again.

Prior to this run of results, Arteta was under serious pressure to deliver after the side struggled to score goals or create any sort of clear chances in games.

The poor form of star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has continued but the blossoming form of academy stars Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe has seen Alexandre Lacazette find the net four times in these three wins.

With Mesut Ozil still blackballed from the Arsenal squad, the burden currently weighs on the 19 and 20-year-old graduates from the Hale End Academy to lead the creative charge of the side. While it’s working currently, surely it’s too much to rely on these players throughout the entirety of the campaign in their first and second full season of first-team football respectively.

This is why the Gunners continue to be linked with attacking midfielders, most notably Norwich man Emiilano Buendia.

The Argentine has been linked with a move to the Emirates for around £20m, with Norwich reportedly willing to let him leave if their price tag is matched. At 24 years old, Buendia is youthful enough to continue to improve but also has Premier League experience.

While at Norwich last season in the top flight Buendia created 83 chances for his teammates, a number only bettered by Kevin De Bruyne, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jack Grealish. He got seven assists throughout the campaign and scored just the once, but his performances often deserved more than what the statistics show.

So far this season in the Championship, his good numbers have continued. He has seven goals and six assists in 19 appearances, mostly coming from the right wing to cut onto his wand of a left foot.

Willian has struggled at Arsenal as many expected he would, while Nicolas Pepe has continued to show form that has fans and media questioning why the club spent a club record £72m on him last summer.

With reports suggesting that Arsenal could be willing to let one of Joe Willock or Reiss Nelson go the other way to get a deal for Buendia done, it could be smart business by both parties.

Buendia is clearly too good for the Championship and is going to become unhappy if the club deny him a move to a top Premier League side, should an offer come in. While they are currently sitting pretty at the top of the table, they will want to secure an effective replacement should Buendia leave to ensure they have the best chances of an immediate return to the top flight.

Willock has impressed in domestic cup games and the Europa League this season but hasn’t really broken into the Premier League side, while Nelson hasn’t featured much with so many options ahead of him.

Both players are physically capable of the demands of mens football but also have good technical qualities. Nelson is likely to be the better replacement, playing on the wing and having an eye for goal himself as his seven Bundesliga goals while on loan in 2018/19 showed.

Should either player be given the opportunity to move to Norwich, they may see it as a step down but they should look at it as a chance. If they perform to the level we’ve seen them do before, then Norwich should have enough to continue their charge to the Premier League and then either Willock or Nelson will have the chance to show they are Premier League talents.

It may be hard to leave the club you’ve grown up at and supported your entire life, but footballer’s careers are short and this deal is, on paper at least, the type that sees everyone win.

Said Benrahma: What’s His Best Move?

Even though the transfer window closed for Europe last week, Said Benrahma is still hopeful of a move this summer.

The Brentford winger was in inspired form last season as he led the West London side to the playoff final, where they were beaten by Fulham. He was linked with a move away all summer, but as the season began he was still a member of the Bees’ squad.

He didn’t feature for the team at first, with links to the likes of Crystal Palace, West Ham, Fulham and Aston Villa continuing but when he did return to the side he reminded everyone of his quality with a stunning solo goal against Fulham in the Carabao Cup.

A move to West Ham was reportedly close after the two clubs agreed a fee of around £25million but reports on Monday claim the deal could be close to falling through over personal terms. West Ham are set to move on to Josh King now, so what is Benrahma’s next move? Better yet, what is his best move?

The Algerian is clearly too good to be playing Championship football at this point in his career. A Premier League move at this point is definitely needed, with several interested parties.

Fulham are in desperate need of a player of his quality. A natural talent with an eye for goal and a quality of pass is hard to come by and Fulham have struggled massively so far in the Premier League for any kind of attacking threat. With Aleksandar Mitrovic up front, they have a proven goalscorer but without service he is rendered completely useless. For Benrahma though, Fulham isn’t a great move. They are likely to go straight back down to the Championship because the defensive issues haven’t been sorted during the window and the manager isn’t showing any signs of ability to improve the situation. With Parker just signing a new contract too, it’s highly unlikely that he leaves mid-season and therefore more likely Fulham go straight down.

Aston Villa is another tough move for Benrahma. With captain and talisman Jack Grealish occupying that left wing role, Benrahma’s role would likely become as more of an option. With Ross Barkley also joining on loan, the likelihood of Villa boss Dean Smith changing his formation to get Jack into a No.10 role is highly unlikely. While a link up with former teammate Ollie Watkins may be appealing, if he wants to push on to the next level he needs to be playing regularly and he likely wouldn’t be doing that at Villa Park.

Crystal Palace could potentially be his best option. With Wilfried Zaha, Michy Batshuayi and Eberechi Eze making up three quarters of the front-line, Benrahma could be the perfect shout to come in and take Andros Townsend’s position in the side. Zaha is naturally a left-winger but has often found himself playing as a striker in Roy Hodgson’s 4-4-2 formation and performing well. Eze has stepped into the left wing role but as a player who excels in a central role, whether he’s coming from the left or the right likely won’t matter too much to him. Bringing Benrahma into the side adds an extra goal threat and also takes some of the burden off of Zaha. He’d be playing in a side that is established in the Premier League, has space for him and with quality players that will help get the best out of each other.

At £25million, Benrahma is a deal that the majority of the Premier League should probably have taken a look at. As it stands though, it’s likely to be a London side that take him once again and he will have to work his way up the league table too.

Ollie Watkins Joins Aston Villa In Club Record £33M Deal

Aston Villa have completed their striker search after signing Brentford’s Ollie Watkins for a club record fee.

The 24 year old was one of Brentford’s best performers in the Championship last season as the West London side fell at the final hurdle, being beaten by Fulham in the playoff final. Watkins scored 26 goals in all competitions for the Bees last year in what was his first full season as a centre forward.

Flanked by Said Benrahma and Bryan Mbeumo, Brentford formed a formidable attack that had it not been for a late season collapse would have seen them in the Premier League this season. But after failing to make the grade, they are now set to lose their best stars and Watkins is the biggest.

Aston Villa have agreed a fee with Brentford of an initial £28million, rising to £33million – a club record fee. The previous record was held by Brazilian striker Wesley who was signed just last summer from Club Brugge for £22million, but he scored just six goals in 22 games across all competitions. Villa also signed Mbwana Samatta in January from Genk for £8.5million but he scored just twice.

Dean Smith has prioritised the attack this summer and Watkins will be Villa’s second signing of the summer after Matty Cash signed from Nottingham Forest. The club are also interested in Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, while they also look set to keep hold of captain Jack Grealish with nobody willing to meet their £70million asking price.

After scraping survival last season, Villa need to improve in all areas of the pitch. Their midfield is good enough to be a decent side in the Premier League but defensively and going forward they got no support and thus struggled.

Watkins is a big piece of the jigsaw that will see Villa improve. His willingness to run in behind but also his strength off the ball to hold play up and get his teammates involved will surely boost the likes of Grealish and McGinn who make bursting runs from deeper and out wide. On top of that, he clearly knows where the back of the net is after his season last year. The Premier League is a different kettle of fish to the Championship, but Watkins has the attributes and age to be a success.

£33million is a huge price tag and if Watkins lets it affect him then he and Villa will suffer but realistically he will thrive on the pressure and could be the man to fire Aston Villa to safety in 2021 and potentially make a late push for the England squad in next summer’s European Championships.

Troy Deeney To Lead Promoted Side Into Survival Battle?

Watford captain Troy Deeney is a target for both Fulham and West Bromwich Albion as they look to survive relegation at the first attempt.

Deeney was relegated with Watford last season as the Hornets went through four managers in a season and finished in 19th place. Deeney was the club’s top scorer with 10 goals but it was his leadership qualities that were greatly praised by former bosses throughout the season.

He’s known for his straight-talking, no nonsense style where he will publicly take the blame or pass it to others if he feels it necessary. That is something that is appealing to both Fulham and WBA as they look to grow tough skin to hang with the big boys for a little while longer than just a year.

His physical presence up front, plus experience of Premier League football will also be a boost to these clubs. At Fulham, he would compete or partner with Aleksandar Mitrovic who despite his own experiences has struggled in the Premier League in the past. At West Brom, he would likely take over as the first choice striker from Charlie Austin. Austin is another who, like Mitrovic, has plenty of experience scoring goals at all levels but has struggled in the Premier League for the most part.

Deeney would come in as a boost to the first-team of both clubs on the pitch but his mentality off it would likely be as much of a boost and help to the managers.

Another option for Deeney could be a move to Aston Villa, who struggled without a striker last season despite spending big money on Wesley and Samatta. While there is no reported interest from Villa Park just yet, there have been links to Burnley and even Tottenham.

Burnley would make sense, with Sean Dyche looking to add proven cover for his burly style up front to help manage Chris Wood and Sam Vokes’ playing time. For Spurs, he would be exclusively cover for Harry Kane but with Jose Mourinho as manager the two would likely get on like a house on fire and the prospect of potentially winning trophies would appeal to him. It would also mean staying in London and not uprooting his family which at this stage in his career, is surely something that would play a part in his decision.

With plenty of options and still plenty of time to go in the transfer window, Deeney is highly unlikely to still be at Watford through the new season. West Brom lead the chase, but the decision is Deeney’s.

Liverpool Targeting Jamal Lewis Makes Total Sense

The Champions of England are making their move in the transfer window.

According to reports by The Athletic, Liverpool have seen a £10million bid for Norwich City defender Jamal Lewis rejected. The Reds reportedly offered £8million up-front rising to £10million based on playing incentives, but Norwich value the young defender at double that amount and are frustrated that Liverpool offered such a low fee.

It’s unknown whether or not Liverpool will return with a fresh bid considering the gap in valuation between the two clubs but Lewis is said to be very keen on a move to Anfield and is hopeful that the clubs can find a compromise that will allow him to make the switch.

Jurgen Klopp is desperate for a left-back signing this summer and rightly so. Over the last two league campaigns Andrew Robertson has missed just four games in total and has often been deputised for by ageing midfielder James Milner. Robertson’s form in the last six-months has dropped off with the Scotland international suffering from knocks, but with no natural cover for him Klopp has persisted with him.

Liverpool’s tactics are very focused on creativity from full-back, hence both Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold both reaching double figures for assists in each of the last two campaigns. With Robertson’s explosiveness from left-back, it allows Sadio Mane to be the demon he is in front of goal with essentially a free-role from the wing. Milner has never been able to offer that level of threat but Jamal Lewis could help in that regard.

While not the best aerially, Lewis has greet speed and is very comfortable on the ball. He is left-footed naturally which is immediately an upgrade on Milner in that position while he also now has experience of playing at the top level. At only 22 years old, there is plenty of room for improvement and it’s expected that he will have no problem playing Robertson’s understudy to begin with as he looks to learn from Klopp and develop into a top full-back.

Lewis is also a good dribbler considering his position and likes to drive past players with the ball at his feet or play short one-twos to explode into space, something Robertson also enjoys doing.

Stylistically the two options fit each other very well and £20million isn’t an extortionate fee from Norwich for a defender regarded as a top prospect in this market. However for Liverpool, in their current climate, £20million for a back-up left-back from a newly relegated club seems like a step too far. If a compromise can be reached for under £15million then I’m sure Liverpool will take it but if Norwich are adamant that a deal won’t be done for anything less than the asking price then Lewis may be forced to sit and wait in the Championship for another year.

Brentford Braced To Lose Stars Following Playoff Final Defeat

Brentford have braced themselves to lose their star players this summer following defeat to Fulham in the Playoff final.

After twice fluffing the opportunity to go into 2nd place and thus earn automatic promotion in the final week of the season, Brentford came from behind in their playoff semi-final against Swansea before Tuesday’s clash with Fulham.

But two goals in extra-time from full-back Joe Bryan were enough to see off the challenge of the Bees, despite a late consolation goal from Henrik Dalsgaard and secure promotion for Fulham back into the Premier League.

The defeat means Brentford will continue in the second division of English football but with the talents of their squad widely praised throughout the season they will now surely be under pressure from Premier League clubs to sell.

Reports suggest star striker Ollie Watkins has an £18million release clause and Premier League sides Southampton, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa are all keen to trigger it. Said Benrahma was the star of the season and has reportedly attracted interest from Chelsea while Josh DaSilva, Bryan Mbeumo and Christian Norgaard will all surely attract attention from other clubs too.

With the squad they built having cost around £30million and the new stadium now ready to move into without fans being at games for the forseeable future, Brentford may have no option but to cash in.

Brentford v Fulham - Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final : News Photo

Replacements will likely come from lower leagues and obscure countries much like they have in the past, with their stats model leading the way in their recruitment process for a while.

With the BMW partnership set to be broken up, Thomas Frank will not only have the task of replacing them but he will need to ensure he is given the time to rebuild and get back to a level where Brentford can compete at the top once again and potentially get back to a position where promotion is a real possibility.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Thomas Frank targeted by a Premier League club next year if a club decides to part ways with their manager and go in the direction of exciting attacking football. Knowing he can work on a shoestring budget will be appealing but the fact that he will likely have some sort of money to work with will appeal to him and give encouragement to any club interested in his services.

It’s a big ask for Brentford now as they go into a season short on money, short on star quality and needing to bounce back from the biggest heartbreak in English football that is losing out in the Playoff finals.

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth Fairy Tale Failure

After more than 450 games as manager across two spells in charge, Eddie Howe’s time at Bournemouth has come to an end.

After a five-year spell in the Premier League, Bournemouth were relegated on the final day of the season and this has caused the club and manager to bring to an end his time in charge by “mutual consent”.

It was a true fairy tale run for Howe, who took over at Bournemouth during his most recent spell in 2012, as he oversaw three promotions before this most recent failure.

Bournemouth were 23rd in League Two when Howe took over and he led them to three promotions in six seasons to get to the Premier League. But it hasn’t always been all fun and games at the Vitality Stadium.

Howe was heavily backed by part-owner Maxim Demin and that financial backing was a large reason why they were able to push through the leagues at such a fast rate. Even in the Premier League, Howe spent a lot of money improving the squad to make them capable of hanging around in the top division.

It worked for a while but recruitment has suffered in recent years and they’ve got closer and closer to the drop each season until they eventually went down this year.

Huddersfield Town v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League : News Photo

Players like Jordon Ibe were signed for £15million with the idea that they would develop him with first team football. During this season, he featured just twice and left the club prior to the end of the season when his contract expired as he was deemed surplus to requirements. Dominic Solanke is another one, who was signed for £19million but scored just 3 goals in 32 league games this season and all of those were post lockdown.

While Howe is undoubtedly a legend at the club, the narrative that the club were relegated because of just players not performing is greatly exaggerated because of how well he’s done in the past. The reality of the situation is that he just wasn’t good enough anymore.

As much as the players didn’t perform and that is absolutely true, Howe failed to adapt to the more recent demands of the game. He didn’t work on getting Bournemouth to be more solid and continued to play an attacking style throughout his time, even when it was clear that it wasn’t working and something needed to change.

If Bournemouth are smart, they should look to bring in Chris Houghton as a replacement. He has experience in the Premier League and Championship, while also being capable of working on a tighter budget and fighting relegation as he did with Brighton.

Howe’s reputation among the media will likely see him land another Premier League job, where he will spend money and struggle once again unless he adapts his methods and ideologies.

Watford FC: Which Players Deserve To Stay In The Premier League?

After a season that saw them go through three permanent managers and hire Hayden Mullins as a caretaker coach twice, it’s little surprise that Watford’s five-year run in the Premier League came to an end.

Defeat on the final day to Arsenal meant Watford finished 19th after Bournemouth beat Everton and Aston Villa secured a point against West Ham. They now face a spell in the Championship, where they will surely see their squad stripped of their best assets and need to rebuild.

So which players in the Watford squad are the most likely to make the move back into England’s top division?

In goal, Ben Foster could go either way. The former Man United stopper has been a Premier League goalkeeper since signing for Watford on loan back in 2006. He’s played for four clubs since then but always in the Premier League. Now that he’s been relegated for a third time, it may be time for his to stay in the second tier. He’s good enough for some of the sides in the league but they won’t be seeing him as a priority signing and I think he’ll end up staying at Watford.

Defensively, I don’t think anyone makes it back into the Premier League. Kiko Femenia, Christian Kabasele, Craig Dawson and Craig Cathcart were the regular back-four for Watford and I can’t see any of them really improving any defences in the top division. If Watford keep the entire back line together, it’s likely to be too good for the Championship and a great base to build from.

West Ham United v Watford FC - Premier League : News Photo

In midfield, they’re bound to lose a few players. Etienne Capoue, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Roberto Pereyra will almost certainly not still be at Vicarage Road next season, although it’s possible they could go abroad rather than back into the Premier League. Will Hughes, like Ben Foster, could go either way. While at Derby he was considered too good for this level although he didn’t exactly light up the Premier League. Someone could come in for him as they look to add quality depth to their squad for a not-so expensive fee but I equally wouldn’t be surprised to see him stay and make a spot in the starting line-up his own. Nathaniel Chalobah could probably do with a full season of football uninterrupted and he is more likely to get that in the Championship at this stage while Tom Cleverley’s best days are way behind him.

In attack is where Watford will get hurt the most. They have five attacking players who will all be wanted and courted by top sides this summer and they’d be lucky to keep hold of any of them. Captain Troy Deeney hinted that he could leave the club this summer following a knee surgery and his leadership would be a huge miss off the pitch as much as his qualities on it. Andre Gray is another who hasn’t lit the league up in the yellow and black of the Hornets but he has got Premier League quality and was excellent for Burnley prior to his move. On the wings, Gerard Deulofeu and Ismaila Sarr will likely be the most sought after of Watford’s players. With electric pace, great skill and an eye for goal both players are the perfect profile for a modern winger and would do well at any Premier League side.

Sarr was instrumental in a lot of Watford’s good moments this season, including scoring a brace in the win over Liverpool and was only behind Deeney in the club’s scoring charts this season in the league. At just 22 years old there is plenty of room for growth and development too, so don’t be surprised to see one of the bigger clubs take a punt on him. As for Deulofeu, he’s proven himself at Watford and Everton that he can do well in the Premier League so anyone looking for a winger will have an eye on him. A club such as Leicester or Wolves could do a lot worse than bringing him in for depth out wide and adding an extra goal threat to their squad. Danny Welbeck is also a player that will catch the eye of Premier League clubs, but he’s probably the most likely to stay out of all those options.

Watford have a huge summer ahead of them now, where they’ll need to find a way to replace all the talent that will almost inevitably leave the club.