Deadline day was the best day in a long time if you’re an Everton fan, as they completed two big signings and announced a new manager.
After a two week search with plenty of rumours and fan protests, the club finally settled on Frank Lampard as their new manager with the official announcement coming on Monday lunchtime.
Quickly followed was confirmation that Manchester United midfielder Donny Van de Beek has completed a loan move until the end of the season, before the surprising news that Dele Alli had joined on a permanent move from Tottenham
It’s no surprise that Lampard played a big part in both players making the move to Goodison Park, considering both play in a fairly similar way to the way he did during his playing career.
As part of a midfield three or the most advanced in a two, Lampard made a career of arriving late in the box and scoring goals. He racked up striker numbers, and to this day is still the all-time top scorer in Chelsea history as well as the highest scoring midfielder in Premier League history.
Both Van de Beek and Dele have garnered a reputation as goalscoring midfielders, but are both young enough to develop their game and become even more complete. They believe Lampard can help them with that, but can he?
Most importantly for both players is the promise of regular game time, having been starved of football in recent years at their previous clubs.
There is the chance that he could field a 4-3-3 with both fielded as a number eight, but that leaves the defensive midfielder that he selects likely on an island on their own.
Stylistically there is an issue for Lampard to overcome, but there is a big potential that he will be able to unlock the best of both players to help drag Everton out of their relegation battle.
There is the opportunity to change the way the team plays football, emphasising possession and an attacking style rather than defensive structure like Rafa Benitez did.
If anyone can get them both firing it’s Lampard, but he’s proven to be tactically naive in the past with both Derby and Chelsea at times.
If he is to prove he has made bold improvements and strides forward as a manager in his year out of the game, he needs to get them both playing well together and save Everton from the drop.
The pressure is on, but he’s been backed by the board since day one so he has no excuses.
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.
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.
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.
There was a period in time where Dele Alli was one of the most feared goalscoring midfielders in the country, but that time has long gone.
Dele is currently a bit part player at best for Tottenham after losing that goalscoring touch, and reports suggest he is now likely to leave the club in January either on loan or permanently.
But how can the former England star reignite the flame on his dwindling career? There are a few clubs that could provide the platform for him to do it.
This seems to be the consensus among many, but Newcastle could do with someone of the profile of Dele and Dele could do with a brand new environment.
Newcastle are in a relegation battle but have got the funds for January to be able to completely turn their fortunes around. Dele would likely come on considerable wages, but if Eddie Howe can get the best out of him once more he could be huge for their season.
With Callum Wilson the club’s only real source for goals, Dele would be given the chance to re-find his taste for the back of the net and the fans would absolutely adore him from the first minute he pulled the shirt on.
Another team that is desperate for new blood is Rafa Benitez’s Everton side, who have just one win in their last ten Premier League games.
Injuries have plagued them, especially in forward areas, and they have scored only 20 goals in 16 games so far this season. Dele will be seen by any potential signings as a source for goals despite his poor record in recent years, but they know that it is there to be unlocked once again.
Some fresh blood would be good for them and a potential loan deal would suit all parties, with Rafa Benitez having a natural option to play in the number ten role he likes using.
It worked for Jesse Lingard, so why not Dele?
The Hammers are in the hunt for a top four place once again this season, currently occupying the position in the league table as we approach the halfway point of the season.
Last year the arrival of Lingard gave the whole club a boost and his goals and form pushed them to a Europa League spot and revived his career to the point where he got back in the England squad and Manchester United opted to keep him around in the summer.
Dele could have a similar effect in a new squad with great spirit and a style of play that suits him. The rivalry between the clubs could see a deal never materialise, especially with Spurs hopeful of top four themselves, but it could be the perfect move for Dele.
Arsenal were well beaten on Monday night by an Everton side that earned their first victory since September thanks to an injury time Demarai Gray goal.
Everton thought they’d taken the lead in the first half thanks to Richarlison, only for VAR to rule it out for offside and Martin Odegaard to score minutes later on the stroke of half-time.
The Gunners were conservative in the second half and Everton’s pressure continued to build, with the Brazilian forward having another goal ruled out for a marginal offside by VAR.
Richarlison finally got himself on the scoresheet with 11 minutes of normal time to go when Gray’s strike from the edge of the box bounced off the crossbar, and the 24-year-old reacted first with a brilliant header over Aaron Ramsdale into the corner.
Arsenal finally stopped time wasting and looked for a goal, but it was Gray’s absolute screamer in the 92nd minute that sealed all three points for the Toffees.
For Arsenal, it was more of the same issues under Mikel Arteta that we’ve see for the last two years. The club had an idea of how they wanted to play but couldn’t execute it to a high level, then crumbled under pressure.
Arteta surprised many by bringing Granit Xhaka back into the team after two months out and despite clearly being tired after around 65 minutes and getting booked, he played the entirety of the game.
Kieran Tierney started the game and was brought off after 65 minutes, with Nuno Tavares coming in and struggling in his cameo performance while the rest of the team didn’t have a good night at all.
Thomas Partey is supposed to be the anchor of the midfield and the metronome with his passing ability, but he is seriously struggling with the pace of the Premier League and he lost 9/14 duels on the night to contribute to Arsenal’s woes.
Arsenal have a decent squad, and while they may be lacking some x-factor in the attacking areas it’s not a big enough deficiency for them to be performing at the low levels that they are doing consistently.
He is struggling to get the best out of senior players, with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang failing to hold down a regular place in the team and looking unhappy, while the young players are having far too much reliance placed upon them in the side.
Ultimately, this side just isn’t very good. They aren’t coached particularly well, they don’t have anyone they can rely on to dig them out of a hole and there isn’t really a silver lining in sight.
Arsenal aren’t good and the sooner the fans and the board realise that, the better for the club.
There were talks with Frank Lampard, Eddie Howe and Nuno Espirito Santo but ultimately, the decision of the owner Farhad Moshiri was to bring in Liverpool fan favourite Benitez.
Immediately fans protested the decision, letting it be known that they were not happy with his involvement in the club considering the brilliant history he has with their fiercest rivals.
Benitez famously won the UEFA Champions League in 2005 as Reds boss while also leading them on a title charge as they competed with Manchester United and Chelsea in the late 2000’s.
Despite some ugly scenes before he was officially announced in the role, Benitez took over officially before the season started and took charge of pre-season where he signed the likes of Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray.
The season started well too, with three wins from the opening four Premier League games as well as progression in the Carabao Cup against Huddersfield. Since then though, it’s been a bit of a nightmare.
A 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa on September 18th was the start of seven defeats in ten games, with just one win in that run that has led them to tonight’s Merseyside derby against their in-form city rivals.
A video from the away section of their defeat against Brentford at the weekend showed just how angry Everton fans are right now, and considering Benitez was fighting a losing battle when he took the job initially it hasn’t got any easier for him now.
Something that would undoubtedly get Blues fans on side would be a victory against the Anfield side, who have long been labelled as one of the very best teams in the world currently.
One of those classic defensive performances with some strong counter-attacking threat and a potential upset win, would be the perfect remedy for the fans and go some way to showing exactly where his loyalties lie these days.
Whether it comes against Liverpool or in the following games against Arsenal, Crystal Palace or Chelsea, Benitez needs to do something and quickly.
The longer this stretch of bad form goes on for, the less likely it is that the fans will be forgiving to him as the season becomes harder and harder to resurrect.
The same way Benitez endeared himself to Liverpool fans by winning big games and trophies, the Spaniard must find a way to make Everton fans love him.
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!
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
Real Madrid have made yet another shocking move in the managerial world after they made Carlo Ancelotti their new manager once again.
Ancelotti was the manager of Los Blancos between 2013 and 2015 winning a Copa Del Rey, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup during his time at the club.
He left after finishing as runner up to an MSN-led Barcelona in La Liga, with president Florentino Perez claiming the decision was made “with a heavy heart”.
But after a spell with Bayern Munich and then 18 months with Everton, Ancelotti has seemingly shown the Madrid board enough that they’re willing to bring him back to replace recently departed boss Zinedine Zidane.
Zizou served as Ancelotti’s assistant as Madrid lifted ‘La Decima’ and the Frenchman credited the former Milan and Juventus boss for teaching him a lot. But considering recent campaigns, the decision to bring Ancelotti back seems very rushed and bizarre.
He’s hardly lit the Premier League up since joining the Toffees, leading them to a 12th and 10th placed finish in his one-and-a-half seasons with the club. He’s developed some good talent while there, with the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin shining since his arrival while others like defender Ben Godfrey has really improved his all-round game.
But other than a few stand-out performers and some big spending, Ancelotti has barely improved the side.
They didn’t play particularly attractive football, didn’t earn European football during his time at the club and hardly stood out in a league full of top coaches. His in-game management has always left plenty to be desired and now it seems as though it’s his cup competition pedigree that has attracted Perez back to him.
He’s one of only two managers, along with Zidane, to win the Champions League three times and with Madrid so hell-bent on bringing the trophy back to the club it seems like he’s just decided to go with what he knows already.
But with Madrid struggling so much financially, it’s unlikely there will be any sort of rebuild this summer or in the near future. That means Ancelotti will be forced to just deal with the squad he has currently, which is not the best.
Several key players will be 30 or over this summer while the futures of Eden Hazard, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane are still up in the air.
Without investment it’s really tough to see how the squad can improve on last season’s performances, despite ending the year trophyless.
With Ancelotti going to sign a three-year contract, it seems as though Real Madrid are putting their eggs into his basket in the hope of one last big push to end his career and get them back to the top of the game while the rest of Europe undergo a big transition period.
Risky, bizarre and just weird. But it’s happening. Carlo Ancelotti is the new Real Madrid manager, again.
In a Premier League season that seemed like everything was sewn up nice and early, the football Gods made sure there was still some kind of action to pay attention to on the final day.
Manchester City are champions, Manchester United are runners-up and Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United are going down to the Championship. Everything else however, including the final two top four places, Europa League places and Europa Conference League places are still up for grabs.
With the middle of the table so tight and congested, lets simplify all the possibilities of the final day of the season for you.
Champions League places
Aston Villa vs Chelsea Leicester vs Tottenham Liverpool vs Crystal Palace
Three teams will battle it out for the final two spots to compete in Europe’s elite competition next season, with Chelsea, Leicester and Liverpool all still in the race.
As it stands, if all three teams were to win their games then Chelsea would finish in third place while Liverpool would pip the Foxes on goal difference, unless Leicester won by five goals more than what Jurgen Klopp’s Reds could muster up.
With the points difference so tight, if any of the teams were to slip up on the day and the other two were to win, then the team that messed up would miss out on Champions League football.
There is of course a wildcard option, that if Chelsea were to finish fifth in the league but then win the Champions League final against Manchester City on May 29th, they would then qualify for the competition as holders and England would have five representatives in next year’s tournament.
EUROPA LEAGUE & EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE PLACES
West Ham vs Southampton Leicester vs Tottenham Manchester City vs Everton Arsenal vs Brighton
This is where it gets a bit complicated, so bear with us.
That means one of West Ham, Everton or Tottenham will join one of Chelsea, Liverpool or Leicester in UEFA’s secondary competition. David Moyes’ Hammers are the favourites to finish in sixth place, with a three point head-start over their rivals before the games kick off. They’ve also got the most favourable fixture, with a home tie in front of their fans against a Southampton side with nothing to play for.
Should they fall to a defeat though, Everton and Spurs can match their points tally with a win. That means it would come down to goal difference, which would earn the north London side the position in the table. However if Spurs were unable to beat Leicester and Everton could get a win over the champions Man City, they would take the spot.
There is also a new competition for UEFA though, the Europa Conference League which the team who finishes in seventh place will qualify for. That allows Arsenal to sneak into the conversation for a European place on the final day with a win over Brighton at The Emirates Stadium.
Should the Gunners win and both Spurs and Everton fail to, Mikel Arteta’s side would leapfrog both teams in the table and claim European football for next year – extending their run to 26 consecutive years in UEFA competition.
It’s sure to be an exciting final day of the season after originally looking like it would be a bit of a dead rubber weekend in England. But now it matches up with the rest of Europe with plenty of happenings on to settle at the top end of the division.
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.