Tag Archives: Kevin De Bruyne

Manchester City confirm status as Europe’s best with win over Paris Saint-Germain

Manchester City cruised into their first ever Champions League final with a dominant display as they swept PSG aside 2-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate at the Etihad.

PSG started the night fast, but Ederson’s long pass in behind the defence found Oleksandr Zinchenko who cut the ball back for Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian’s shot was deflected int the path of Riyad Mahrez, who slotted through the legs of both Presnel Kimpembe and Keylor Navas to give the hosts the lead.

City were absolutely monstrous in defence throughout the game and with just under half an hour to go, they countered the Ligue 1 champions and Foden squared the ball to Mahrez who smashed into the roof of the empty net and secured their route to Istanbul.

It was an outrageous display of composure, skill, quality and game management from Pep Guardiola’s side as they showed a maturity beyond their experience at this level.

They set up with a more defensive outlook to protect their first leg lead, using no natural striker once again but with a rotating front line to leave PSG nobody to mark.

Ruben Dias was at his absolute best, channeling his inner John Terry with some tremendous blocks with his head and chest and winning all his individual battles whenever he needed too. Alongside him, John Stones was imperious once again while Kyle Walker completely shut down PSG’s counter-attacking threat with his phenomenal pace.

It was a performance that they should be incredibly proud of, but it was a result that cements their status as the best team in Europe this season.

Defensively they were impenetrable for the most part but as usual when they were going forward they looked threatening no matter how they decided to attack.

Out wide they were able to isolate the full backs and win their one on one battles, while in midfield they kept possession but were also aggressive in the tackles and brilliant when pressing. It was a truly complete performance.

They will go into the final as favourites regardless of whether they face off against Chelsea or Real Madrid and deservedly so.

A record breaking eight wins in a row and 11 wins in the competition show that they have been the best team in the tournament throughout, and conceding just four goals in 12 games shows that it’s not just been about blowing teams out of the water going forward too.

Their excellent squad depth has obviously helped immensely with the crazy schedule, but Guardiola’s management has been exceptional and he has got the team playing at arguably their highest level since his arrival at the club.

It will be Guardiola’s first Champions League final since 2011 when his Barcelona side beat Manchester United for the second time in three years, and will be a chance for him to put to bed the myth that he can’t win the tournament without Lionel Messi.

Europe’s best, England’s best and arguably the world’s best, Manchester City are here to stay at the top of the mountain. This could be the start of a sky blue era on the continent.

Kevin De Bruyne injured as Manchester City quadruple bid crumbles

Manchester City saw their quadruple hopes crushed at the weekend after defeat by Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final, but it was the injury to Kevin De Bruyne that they were most worried about after the game.

Thomas Tuchel’s side were excellent on the night as they completely nullified the City attack and progressed into their fourth FA Cup final in five seasons thanks to a counter-attack goal from Hakim Ziyech.

City struggled to create chances throughout the game and their chances were dealt a hammer blow when main man De Bruyne picked up an ankle injury less than five minutes into the second half and was forced off the pitch.

The Belgian superstar got a knock on the ankle in a challenge and stayed down, immediately signalling for a change to the subs bench.

After the game Pep Guardiola admitted that it “didn’t look good” and that he would undergo a scan in the coming days with fears that if he has suffered ligament damage he could miss the rest of the season.

As if going out in the semi-final of the FA Cup wasn’t enough, the Cityzens are scheduled to take on Tottenham in the Carabao Cup final before a two-legged Champions League semi-final against the scintillating Paris Saint-Germain side.

City were without De Bruyne for a spell earlier in the season and were able to maintain a spectacular winning run, but in recent games he has been the man keeping it all ticking over along with Phil Foden.

Ilkay Gundogan’s purple patch of goalscoring seems to be over, while Raheem Sterling has found himself dropped from the side for the most part due to his stuttering form. Without those or the legendary Sergio Aguero in form, City looked toothless for the most part against Chelsea and could struggle in the final stretch of the season.

With Jose Mourinho almost certain to set his Spurs side up in a defensive way in the cup final and PSG’s best chance of winning coming with a counter-attacking set up in the Champions League the lack of bite they now have in attack could be a problem.

It’s also an issue for Belgium, who will be terrified that they could be without one of their star men ahead of Euro 2020.

Eden Hazard has barely featured for Real Madrid over the last two years which puts his involvement at risk for Belgium, meaning De Bruyne’s role in the team has become even more important. If ankle ligament damage is confirmed, it would leave them with a huge creative conundrum.

City now must prepare themselves for the prospect of being without their main man for the final run in of the season, in their biggest games yet.

Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund – Champions League quarter-final predictions

The UEFA Champions League is back with some absolutely mouth watering ties as we enter the quarter-final stage of the competition.

Two of the most exciting, attacking teams left in the competition will meet as Manchester City take on the Bundesliga’s Borussia Dortmund in the last eight knowing that they have a tough route to the final even if they’re able to progress through this round.

Pep Guardiola’s side were able to come through a reasonably comfortable encounter with Borussia Moenchengladbach, winning both home and away to come away with a routine 4-0 aggregate victory. Dortmund on the other hand were involved in one of the more entertaining fixtures of the last round, winning 3-2 at the Ramon Sanchez Pijuan before fumbling a 2-0 lead in their home leg to draw 2-2 on the night and progress 5-4 on aggregate.

In the Premier League, City look set to win their third league title in just four seasons after defeating Leicester City this past weekend. They now need just 11 points in the remaining eight games of the season to mathematically seal the title as they chase an unprecedented quadruple this season.

Dortmund on the other hand are struggling domestically, currently sitting seven points off the Champions League places after yet another defeat this past weekend to Eintracht Frankfurt.

It’s unlikely to get any easier for them now too, with Jadon Sancho likely to miss the first leg through injury and an away leg at the Etihad Stadium to come before their home tie. City have shown a fantastic defensive ability this season to shut their opponents out of games, keeping 28 clean sheets in all competitions this season including Ederson with 17 in the Premier League – no goalkeeper has kept more than the Brazilian.

Add to that that Guardiola’s side is also the highest scoring side in the Premier League, it’s a recipe for disaster for the German side. Edin Terzic is the man in charge following the dismissal of Lucien Favre earlier this year but he has been unable to really steady the ship. They have maintained their attacking impetus though, with Erling Haaland in particular shining as the top scorer in this season’s Champions League competition and behind only Andre Silva and Robert Lewandowski in the race for the Bundesliga golden boot.

City’s style of play has changed in a big way this season, with them not focusing so much on battering teams and more on control. They’re still possession heavy, as any Guardiola team is, but without a central number nine as their primary goalscorer they’ve seen more rotation and interchanging of positions and been able to share the load more.

Dortmund’s style is also similar to their traditions, with transitions a huge part of their attacking style. City are the masters of stopping the transitions in their tracks with the way they keep the ball and set up to stop counter attacks, and without being able to transition BVB will be in big trouble.

Defensively, Dortmund have struggled to keep teams quiet this season conceding 39 goals in the Bundesliga – more than anyone else in the top half of their league. Against City they’re going to be under the collar throughout, and stylistically there couldn’t be a worse team for them to come up against.

While you can never count Haaland out of being on the scoresheet or Dortmund from creating chances but I’m more than confident in my belief that City will put them to the sword and come away comfortable winners.


PREDICTIONS

Manchester City 3-1 Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund 0-2 Manchester City
(Manchester City to progress 5-1 on aggregate)

My Perfect Footballer #5 – Kendall Rowan

Being a 90โ€™s baby means Iโ€™ve had the pleasure of witnessing some of the G.O.A.T footballers, from Zidane to Ronaldinho and more recently Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

All of them have different abilities and excellence in different areas – so without using a single player for more than one attribute, Iโ€™m going to build my perfect footballer.


Brain
Andrea Pirlo

Pirlo had the ability as a player to almost stop the game in real time and scan the length of the pitch in the middle of an attack. If he was a yard behind in pace, he made up two anticipating the ball and was fascinating to watch. He even himself famously said, โ€œfootball is played with the head, and your feet are just the tools.โ€

Heading Ability
Didier Drogba

A man mountain on the pitch and a character off it, Drogba ranked very highly for me in terms of players who had an eye, or rather a head, for goal. Scoring some of the greatest goals of his career with his head, Drogba had as much skill up top as he did down at his feet. With heading being almost a dying part of the modern game, an aerial threat like the Ivorian’s is hard to come by. Huge mention to Alan Shearer in this category as well.

Physique
Zlatan Ibrahimovic

I have to go with Zlatan for this one. Itโ€™s hard to ignore the slender, ripped physique of the man that has allowed him to play at the very highest levels of the game worldwide for over two decades. Not many players have the longevity and the strength to compete like Zlatan has.

Hands
Gianluigi Buffon

One of the greatest goalkeepers of all time who has consistently performed at top level for over 20 years, you cannot deny the shot-stopping ability of this Italian beast. Buffon made incredible saves with ease in his pomp and that makes him my top candidate for this category, alongside being the most capped player in Italian history. A testament to his greatness.

Tackling
Carles Puyol

This Spanish international had a defensive career matched by very few, and in terms of trophies is as decorated as any. Puyol was a master tackler and timed challenges with precision we could only dream of seeing today, meaning he only received one red card in his whole career.

Agility
Neymar

Known for the silky way he dribbles past defenders and his showboating, Neymar for me just simply floats across the pitch with or without a football at his feet. He can zip effortlessly all ways around a defender, has a wicked change of direction and on his day is a sublime watch.

Passing
Xavi

The man who is known for completing the vast majority of his passes in every game and controlled the tempo when the ball was at his feet, Xavi was another easy pick for me here. Any type of pass – short, crossing, through balls; he could do it with ease and accuracy and was a joy to watch for me.

First Touch
Andres Iniesta

Iniesta for me is one of the best to ever do it when receiving a ball. It didnโ€™t matter if it was a long or short pass, the ease with which he could bring it under his spell on the first touch was a thing of beauty to see.

Speed
Kylian Mbappe

This category was one of the hardest to choose because the fastest players change year on year, but I went with this man due to the heights he has reached at such a young age, and consistently for the past 3 years has ranked as one of the fastest players in the world.

Dribbling
Franck Ribery

In the 2000โ€™s, this Frenchman was massively underrated in certain areas of the game, but was amazing to watch when taking on defenders one on one. Stats also donโ€™t lie – for dribbling attempts in a single year, Ribery attempted an enormous 1084 dribbles (2013), compared to Messiโ€™s 331 and Ronaldo’s 252.


Skills
Ronaldinho

If you know and watch football even the tiniest bit, you still know how great this man was. One of my favourite footballers of all time, he had the ability to get you off your seat with the way he moved a football, gracefully but with purpose anywhere on the pitch. He is a master of the art of football.

Crossing
Kevin De Bruyne

A lot of people wouldโ€™ve opted for Beckham here, so to be different I opted for one of the best attacking midfielders in the world right now, Kevin De Bruyne. He has lit up the Premier League with his accurate passing, eye for goal and electric crosses and has statistically ranked in the best crossers amongst Europeโ€™s top leagues for a few seasons now.

Right Foot
Cristiano Ronaldo

I donโ€™t think this list would even be complete without including the two greatest players of this era. The albeit contested greatest goalscorer of all time, the weapon that is CR7โ€™s right foot has allowed us to see some amazing goals for club and country, and has cemented him in history.

Left Foot
Lionel Messi

As above, these two categories practically picked themselves for me. You cannot deny the prowess these two possess in front of goal, and itโ€™s hard to even ever imagine a player with the ability in both feet of the two greats.

FC Barcelona v Juventus: Group G - UEFA Champions League : News Photo

Manchester City aren’t dark horses, they’re favourites

Another win and another clean sheet on the board for Manchester City as they beat Brighton 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night to move into the top three.

Pep Guardiola’s side made it seven wins on the trot in all competitions thanks to Phil Foden’s first half strike, putting them four points behind league leaders Manchester United with a game in hand.

It was another one of their reserved displays, although just the one goal was probably a bit unfair on their performance as they largely dominated.

It was a performance that deserved praise, as Guardiola’s side played without that focal point up front with Sergio Aguero isolating after coming into contact with someone with COVID-19, while Gabriel Jesus continues to try to recover to full fitness after testing positive on Christmas day.

Kevin De Bruyne, Foden and Bernardo Silva floated while Riyad Mahrez stayed quite rigid in his position out on the right wing. The three playmakers floating just filled in gaps wherever they could and the controlled the ball in attacking zones throughout.

On another day, they hit at least four goals. De Bruyne missed a big chance in the first half, Silva hit the crossbar after some great skill inside the penalty area and Raheem Sterling even missed a penalty in stoppage time after coming on as a substitute.

City’s results against the top six have been very inconsistent so far. They beat Arsenal and Chelsea, drew to Liverpool and Manchester United and lost to Tottenham and Leicester. But they look a very different side now compared to those games. The Chelsea game was most recent and they looked like the City of old.

They also went to Old Trafford in the Carabao Cup semi-final and came away with a fairly comfortable win once again.

De Bruyne looks in imperious form, creating at will, while Foden has found goalscoring natural this season with ten goals in 25 appearances for club and country. Sterling hasn’t quite shown up and is only on seven for the season but at some point it will click for him, while Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan have rediscovered their good form in recent weeks too.

What’s more impressive though is their stunning defensive record. They have kept 11 clean sheets in their last 14 games in all competitions, conceding just three times in those games. Ruben Dias and John Stones have formed a partnership that has shone and made City their strongest defensively since Vincent Kompany was in his prime.

Joao Cancelo’s form has also been top drawer, whether it be at right-back or left-back. He has filled in for Kyle Walker perfectly in his natural position but even prior to that when playing on the opposite side, he got forward with intent and created well. He has been a revelation for Guardiola.

The defensive situation has improved to the point that they can now afford to score just once to win games. With the attacking potential we already know they have, it means they have an extra gear to go up if they want or need to.

Manchester City aren’t the dark horses in a two-horse title race involving Manchester United and Liverpool. They’re the favourites in a multi-horse race.

Manchester City’s New Slow Approach is Deliberate and Effective

It wasn’t long ago that I wrote about how Manchester City looked stale and bored of Pep Guardiola’s style and constant meticulous tactics.

Always praised for his attention to detail and the tweaks he makes so often depending on the opposition, this season has seen a much more reserved version of ‘Pep Ball’.

Manchester City this year have been much slower in possession, much less ruthless in front of goal and nowhere near as intense off the ball.

Originally it was thought this was down to the lack of pre-season that the club had and they were just taking a while to get back up to speed. Then it was down to injuries, then as mentioned, staleness and a need for change. Now though, it’s clear it is all deliberate.

Guardiola has set his team up in a more conservative way in order to be able to play his best players more often. City will often start games quickly, looking for an early goal, and then retreat into themselves as the game goes on.

This is seen in the fact that of their 21 goals in the Premier League this season, only six have come in the second half. They’re also the lowest scorers in the top half of the division, level with West Ham United.

Guardiola has gone with a 4-2-3-1 system more often than not so far, using Rodri and one one of Fernandinho or Ilkay Gundogan in the double pivot with Kevin De Bruyne more advanced. That lessens the running of the three midfielders, but also allows the team to keep the ball higher up the field and keep a strong base defensively.

FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-FULHAM : News Photo

The Blues have got the best defence in the Premier League so far this season, conceding just 12 goals in 14 games which is even more impressive considering they conceded five of those in the game against Leicester.

While it’s not the entertaining, free-flowing football that we’re used to seeing from a Guardiola team it is getting results to an extent. They’ve lost just twice this season in the league but the lack of firepower early on has seen them draw five times.

Currently they sit just outside the top four, but have a game in hand which could potentially allow them to move into those places.

City seem to be undergoing a bit of a rebuild currently and this is Guardiola’s way of stemming the flow and maintaining results while not hanging the team out to dry for the gap in quality.

Expect somewhat of a title challenge this season but not a genuine one as we’ve seen in recent years, followed by a spending spree in the summer.

One thing is for sure, it’s highly unlikely that we will see them return to their high-scoring, free flowing ways of days gone by any time soon.

Champions League Group Stage Predictions – Manchester City

After an inconsistent start to the season so far, Manchester City look to excel beyond previous seasons to finally win a Champions League tournament.

Pep Guardiola is in his fifth season at the club now, his longest spell at any club during his career and yet it comes off a relatively poor campaign. City finished a massive 18 points behind league winners Liverpool, while crashing out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage against Lyon where they were expected to be real contenders to win the whole tournament.

They enter this years tournament with similar expectations and with a relatively easy group once again they will be expected to qualify to the next round comfortably.

Ederson is the guaranteed starter in goal, with his distribution key to the approach that Guardiola insists his side take part in. In defence, Kyle Walker and Aymeric Laporte seem to be automatic choices to start when fit while the club brought in Ruben Dias from Benfica for a club record ยฃ65 million. Joรฃo Cancelo is also a fantastic option in defence, but Guardiola tends to opt for naturally left-footed players in the left-back position which lends itself to either Nathan Ake or Benjamin Mendy taking that role.

My Best XI: Ederson; Walker, Laporte, Dias, Cancelo; Rodri, De Bruyne, Foden; Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling.

In midfield, Rodri and Fernandinho battle it out for the holding midfield position. As the deepest midfielder, they are tasked with starting attacks but also with ensuring the side don’t get counter-attacked against when they lose the ball. Alongside them will almost always be Kevin De Bruyne, partnered by one of Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan or Phil Foden. The creativity, passing range and dribbling ability of all of them mean that City always have an outlet from deeper positions to break lines against a low block while also all possessing somewhat of a goal threat.

In attack, when everyone is fit the team picks itself. Sergio Aguero will almost always lead the line over Gabriel Jesus, while Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling will occupy the wide positions as Ferran Torres, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden offer cover.

With a group containing Portuguese champions FC Porto, Marseille and Olympiacos, Manchester City are the firm favourites to progress.

I spoke with Manchester City fan Mak, a member of podcast ‘Blame It On The VAR’ on his thoughts of his sides group stage and what he predicts will happen.

Episode 16 – Martial law Blame it On The Var Podcast

Talking last weekend's results, midweek CL games and the form of Anthony Martial.
  1. Episode 16 – Martial law
  2. Episode 15 – The special one
  3. Episode 14 – Draft day
  4. BOTV Quiz Episode 1 – Denzel vs Lyes
  5. Episode 13 – The Theatre Of Nightmares

I think City will comfortably win their group and they should get it wrapped up with a game or two to spare. Iโ€™m glad the draw is somewhat different playing the likes of Porto and Olympiacos instead of the usual draw against Shakhtar. I expect City to comfortably win this group and amass 16 points in the process.

Having seen Manchester City’s performances this season, it’s easy to disagree with Mak on this occasion but when you look at the teams they’re coming up against, he’s likely not far off being correct.

Despite the issues they’ve shown defensively, especially against Leicester in the 5-2 defeat, going forward they have still scored goals this season and the teams in their group just aren’t strong enough defensively to be able to cope. They may concede some goals in the process, but they have more than enough firepower going forward to blow these teams out of the water and take the points needed to claim qualification early.


Mak is a Manchester City fan who is a regular member of the ‘Blame It On The VAR’ podcast, which is available every week.

You can follow Blame It On The VAR on Twitter:
@BOTVPod

You can follow Mak on Twitter:
@JudasFan1

Premier League Team of the Season

As the craziest Premier League season of all-time ends, all eyes go immediately towards the new season. People begin to talk about new transfers, new clubs, new managers and predictions for the new campaign.

Before I start doing that though, I want to give my thoughts on the best XI in the Premier League last season.

GOALKEEPER
Dean Henderson

A phenomenal debut season in the league has seen the Manchester United loanee break into the England squad and now be spoken about as a potential starter at Old Trafford next season ahead of David De Gea. With 13 clean sheets in 36 games, Henderson helped push Sheffield United towards a European place and although they missed out in the end it was Henderson’s performances that stood out more than others.

Honourable mentions: Allison Becker, Nick Pope, Ederson.

RIGHT BACK
Trent Alexander-Arnold

Self explanatory pick this one to be honest. Trent has continued to excel as the best right-back in the league and is now among the best in the world. While he still learning and improving in a defensive aspect, going forward he is one of the best there is and that helped propel Liverpool to a record breaking run that saw them lift their first Premier League title. With 13 assists in the league, he broke his own record for assists by a defender and had more than anyone else bar Kevin De Bruyne. A truly remarkable season by a truly remarkable player, he’s my pick for young player of the season.

Honourable mentions: Ricardo Pereira, Matt Doherty, Aaron Wan-Bissaka

CENTRE BACKS
Virgil Van Dijk & Joe Gomez

A pairing in real life and a pairing in my team of the year, Liverpool dominate the defensive side of this team. Van Dijk has continued to show the world that he is the best in the world in his position right now, while Gomez has shown why Jurgen Klopp has so much faith in him. Gomez is undoubtedly better when he has Van Dijk alongside him but on his own, he has shown good reading of the game and positioning while also becoming more vocal as the season progressed. Together they have the perfect blend of strength, speed, aerial dominance and ability on the ball to keep any attack quiet and they are a huge reason as to why Liverpool had the best defensive record in the league this season.

Honourable mentions: Caglar Soyunรงu, Willy Boly, Aymeric Laporte

LEFT BACK
Andrew Robertson

It’s a full house for the Liverpool back-four as Robertson completes the defence. The Scotland captain is often outshone by teammate Alexander-Arnold as a creative full-back, but he himself managed to get 12 assists this season. His surging runs on the overlap are a big reason why Sadio Mane is so successful at cutting inside in this team and while his form certainly dropped off post-lockdown, the position Liverpool were in was clearly a big reason as to why so I won’t hold it against him. He’s among the best full-backs in the world currently and will continue to perform at a high level under Klopp’s rock ‘n’ roll football style.

Honourable mentions: Enda Stevens, Jonny

Liverpool players Andy Robertson, Joe Gomez, Roberto Firmino ...

CENTRE MIDFIELD
Kevin De Bruyne & Mateo Kovacic

I want to have some form of balance to this side and this is the best performing duo that gives me that. Mateo Kovacic was arguably Chelsea’s best player this season, really coming into his own as a lynchpin in Frank Lampard’s midfield. His fantastic dribbling and passing means he can break lines in multiple ways but he was also excellent defensively. Kevin De Bruyne’s inclusion is self-explanatory. 13 goals and 20 assists from central midfield is a stunning return and he has cemented himself as the best player in the league for me. His creativity, pace, power and ball striking is at a world class level and he would be an asset to any team in world football. He’s impossible to leave out and in his current form Man City will be looking to him to lead their charge to potentially lift the UEFA Champions League.

Honourable mentions: Joao Moutinho, Jordan Henderson, Declan Rice

RIGHT WING
Mohammed Salah

Another stellar season in which Mo Salah dominated attacking charts and records for Liverpool. Just one goal away from a third consecutive 20+ goal season and he also hit double figures for assists this season. His electric pace, superb movement from the wing and ability to hold the ball up with his back to goal despite his smaller frame are all at a world class level. Regardless of aesthetics, Salah is among the best players in the world and without him Liverpool’s attack would drop a level.

Honourable mentions: Riyad Mahrez, Adama Traore

LEFT WING
Sadio Mane

Much like Salah, Mane is continuing to perform at a world class level in the Premier League. Another season where the Senegal international has notched double figures in goals and was also instrumental in creating. Mane’s goals won more points in this season’s Premier League than anyone else (21). His movement, touch and ability to beat a player one on one is among the greats in the game today and you’ll be hard fought to find a better left-winger for Klopp’s system. His willingness to defend too is a credit to his professionalism and makes him impossible to leave out. He was my contender for Player of the Year along with Kevin De Bruyne, although KDB pipped him towards the end in my opinion.

Honourable mentions: Marcus Rashford, Christian Pulisic

NUMBER 10
Raheem Sterling

Now Sterling’s inclusion will be controversial because he doesn’t play as a No.10 but there was no way I could leave him out. 20 goals in the league with no penalties is a personal best for the England man and his performances are a key reason as to why Man City fans didn’t panic when Sergio Aguero got injured and ruled out for the remainder of the Premier League season. He has mastered the run from outside to in for a back post tap-in but also has the ability to beat players one-on-one, play intricate passes between the lines and link-up with teammates in tight spaces. A truly top class player, Raheem Sterling was a player I simply couldn’t leave out of the side despite the qualities of rivals for this position.

Honourable mentions: Jack Grealish, Bruno Fernandes

STRIKER
Danny Ings

Another slightly controversial pick but Ings deserves recognition in my opinion. While Vardy won the golden boot, he went on a big barren run without a goal and it was ultimately his run of scoring in 9 games in a row earlier in the campaign that got him there. Ings was a consistent goal threat for Southampton this season, has stayed fit and is the reason they were able to turn their season around and end up finishing comfortably in mid-table. 22 league goals in a side that doesn’t create a lot of chances and were fighting for their lives is a mightily impressive return following his injury problems in recent years. His movement, link-up play and finishing with both feet was evident for all to see all season long and he deserves a place in the team of the season mainly due to his, lack of, supporting cast in comparison to his rivals.

Honourable mentions: Jamie Vardy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Anthony Martial

Do you agree with my team of the year? What would you change? Let me know in the comments or over on Twitter at @TapInsTapOuts.

Who Should Be Premier League Player of the Year?

A crazy Premier League season is drawing to a close and many questions we had are beginning to be answered.

Liverpool have officially been crowned Champions for the first time in 30 years, while Norwich and Aston Villa look certain for the drop having not won a single game between them since the resumption of the competition. Top 4 is still up in the air as are the Europa League places. One thing that seems to still be debated among fans, pundits and players is who is the player of the season?

With Liverpool on course for a record breaking season, a number of their players have been named as potential winners. Captain Jordan Henderson, winger Sadio Mane and young defender Trent Alexander-Arnold are all among the candidates after stellar campaigns and media pushes.

Liverpool FC v Aston Villa - Premier League : News Photo
Trent Alexander-Arnold has 12 assists this season, more than any other defender in Premier League history

Another name that comes to the fore but isn’t from Anfield is Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian is on course to break Thierry Henry’s assist record and has been the standout performer in an underperforming Man City side.

January signing Bruno Fernandes has turned Manchester United’s season on it’s head since joining from Sporting CP, with no player being involved in more goals (goals or assists) than him since his arrival. While he’s only been here for half the season, it’s hard to argue that anyone has had a greater impact.

Jamie Vardy is the current golden boot leader so could be in with a shout as Leicester currently sit in the Champions League places, while Virgil Van Dijk’s performances have once again seen Liverpool record the best defensive record in the league this season.

Manchester City v Liverpool FC - Premier League : News Photo
Kevin De Bruyne and Virgil Van Dijk both have big claims to Player of the Year

So who’s the deserving winner?

For me, it has to be Sadio Mane. The Senegalese winger has scored 16 league goals this season and provided 7 assists for Liverpool en route to their title. But it’s more than that. His influence on games has been immeasurable with stats. If you talk to Liverpool fans, it’s always Mane that they mention as their biggest threat.

His ability to beat players one on one, to go in either direction with either foot, his first touch, his final ball, his finishing are all of the absolute highest level. Not only that, but the goals he scores are crucial.

According to Sky Sports, Sadio Mane’s goals have been worth a staggering 21 points this season – more than anyone else in the league. Liverpool’s lead at the top of the table as of right now is 23 points, which shows just how dominant they’ve been but just how important Mane is to them.

After winning the golden boot along with Mo Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last season, his fine form has continued this year. Rumours of potential interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona are far from surprising, but he seems incredibly happy at Anfield.

Despite De Bruyne’s potential record, Vardy’s potential golden boot, Henderson’s captaincy and Trent’s assists, Mane has been the main man this season for the most dominant team in recent memory. He should be the man to take home the individual awards to go with his shiny, new Premier League winners medal.

Manchester City 3-0 Arsenal – David Luiz Horror Show Costs Gunners

The Premier League returned last night with the usual – controversy about a refereeing decision and Manchester City demolishing Arsenal.

The Citizens beat Arsenal 3-0 at an empty Etihad Stadium thanks to goals from Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and substitute Phil Foden as a David Luiz horror-cameo took all the headlines in Manchester.

The Brazilian centre-back was initially left out of the starting line-up by manager Mikel Arteta, who hinted at problems behind the scenes pre-game as a potential reason. He was forced to bring him on however in the 24th minute as Pablo Mari, making his Premier League debut, picked up a calf injury and was unable to continue.

Arsenal had done relatively well up until that point, with City only really creating one clear-cut chance which forced Bernd Leno into a very good save low to his right. But then the big-haired former Chelsea and PSG defender entered the fray and the Gunners seemed to get anxious. A hopeful ball down the line by Kevin De Bruyne was sliced by Luiz straight into the path of Raheem Sterling, who took his time before smashing the ball into the corner for the first Premier League goal since it’s resumption and his first of 2020.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Luiz wanted the limelight a bit more in the second half. A quick Man City throw-in saw Riyad Mahrez react the quickest and chest the ball around a corner, out-pacing Luiz into the penalty area. The Brazilian then repeatedly tugged on Mahrez despite them being in the box, which brought Mahrez to the ground and gave Manchester City a penalty. Referee Anthony Taylor deemed that Luiz hadn’t made a genuine attempt to play the ball and thus produced a straight red card, reducing Arsenal to 10 men.

It took David Luiz just 25 minutes of pitch-time to completely dent Arsenal’s ambitions and likely end their chances at making next season’s Champions League, although the odds were already slim.

Following the game, Luiz came out and took responsibility for his performance saying that he felt he had to show his face and apologise. Speaking to Sky Sports, Luiz said:

“It’s my fault. The team did well, especially with 10 men. The coach is amazing, all the players are amazing, it was my fault. I want to be here. The coach knows. He wants me to stay.”

The 33 year-old signed for Arsenal last summer on a one-year contract with the option for a second year. That option hasn’t been triggered yet and if it’s not agreed before June 23rd, Luiz will leave the club at the end of the month. He took the blame for the contract situation also, but claimed he wants to stay at the Emirates.

“I should have taken a different decision in the last two months but I didn’t. All about my contract, if I stay here or not. I have 14 days to be here and that’s it. I should have tried to decide my future as early as possible, but I didn’t. I don’t want to use that as an alibi or excuse, it’s my fault – that’s it. I love to be here. That’s why I continue to train hard.”

Arsenal sit in 9th place in the league, 8 points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with 9 games to play this season.