Tag Archives: Tottenham

Chelsea unlock new attacking level tactical switch in win over Tottenham

Chelsea have one foot in the Carabao Cup final after their 2-0 win over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge last night.

Thomas Tuchel’s side took a 2-0 lead into half-time thanks to goals from Kai Havertz and a Japhet Tanganga own goal, as they lined up with a back-four for the first time under the German coach.

Immediately the differences could be seen in their play, and Chelsea fans were delighted with the differences in their performance.



Tuchel opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation early on, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso installed as traditional full-backs rather than wing-backs. In a midfield two was Jorginho and Saul Niguez, with Mason Mount just ahead of them. Havertz and Hakim Ziyech took up the winger positions with Romelu Lukaku up front.

It didn’t take long for Chelsea to implement themselves on the game, pressing high and keeping possession well in the early minutes.

They quickly established a press too that didn’t allow Spurs out of their own half. A box between the two central midfielders and the two centre-backs meant that whenever the ball reached that zone, they would all squeeze and force possession to be given up immediately.

There was also their man-to-man press, which caught Spurs out early as Alonso pinched the ball from Emerson Royal for the opening goal to assist Havertz.

After that goal though, is when we saw the difference in performance between the back three and the back four really come to life.

Chelsea played with a much higher tempo with one, two and three touch passes in midfield to keep the ball ticking over and force Spurs to chase them.

They were patient in their play, but also had far more intensity in their game and far more intent in their attacks than we’ve seen any time recently.

Lukaku just missed with a header after excellent wing play by Ziyech, while Saul and Jorginho completely dominated the midfield areas. By the time the half-time whistle blew, Spurs hadn’t had a single attempt on goal, had just four touches in the Chelsea box and had just 31% possession.

The second half was much less eventful, with the Blues happy to manage the lead with Spurs not carrying a threat but the performance as a whole was a sign of Chelsea’s potential under Tuchel.

The 3-4-3 has gone stale recently and their attacking potential was limited in that shape anyway. They now have proven that they have the capability to play in a more expansive way with a different system if needs be, and that should strike fear into the rest of the Premier League and Europe.

How Dele Alli can revive his dwindling career in January

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.



Newcastle United

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.

Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli and Newcastle United's Jamaal Lascelles during the English Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle...

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.

Everton

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.

Richarlison of Everton challenges for the ball with Dele Alli during the FA Cup Fifth Round match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison...

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.

West Ham

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.

Jesse Lingard of England celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 1-0 during the International Friendly match between England and United States at...

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.

Three things we learnt from Women’s Football Weekend

Women’s Football weekend took place last week and was a rousing success for the women’s game in the United Kingdom.

Games across the top league were screened on television as exciting matches were played and new stars were born.

But what did we learn from the weekend as a whole and how did it help to shape the Women’s Super League season? Lets take a look at three things in particular that came to my attention.



Vivianne Miedema is clutch

Although this should have been common knowledge prior to Women’s football weekend, Vivianne Miedema showed once again why she is deemed one of the best in the world.

With Spurs on the brink of a historic victory against their north London rivals, Miedema rose the highest from a corner in the 92nd minute of the match to grab a point for her side.

Her stoppage time equaliser epitomised everything she’s about within the box – not only a hugely physical presence, but more so her desire to sniff out danger and weakness of the opposition.

Viv seemed to understand what was at stake as she headed the ball into the back of the net and her reaction to the goal summed up just how clutch she is.

Immediately after scoring, she instructed Nikita Parris to grab the ball and for the rest of her teammates to focus – shouting “THINK!” as her side sought after a winner. What a player. What a team.

Arsenal are becoming used to winning and it’s a feeling that Miedema wants to have running through the club. She embodies everything that the coach Jonas Eidvall is trying to create.


Rehanne Skinner is building a resilient team at Spurs.

Having taken over this Tottenham team mid-season, Rehanne Skinner was thrown into the deep end in regard to the fact that the Spurs team that she joined had yet to win a single game, despite being six games into a 22 game season.

She was tasked with steadying the ship last season and starting to build a team that would last in the WSL long term. After having worked with the players now for a year, this Women’s football week match epitomised everything that a Skinner team is about.

Spurs had never beaten Arsenal before, and this task was made even more difficult because of the great form that Arsenal are in – before the weekend, they were yet to drop a single point. However, Spurs were able to take away a point and were unlucky not to walk away with all three.

Rehanne Skinner, Head Coach of Tottenham Hotspur looks on following the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Tottenham Hotspur Women and...

The amount of defensive discipline on display from the whole team just shows how well drilled they’ve been by Skinner. Their awareness of high danger moments also points towards being an extremely well prepared team as well as the fact that they created many goal scoring opportunities down the other end.

You can really see the changes that Skinner is implementing with the team and everyone seems to be buying into her philosophy. A competitive Spurs only bodes well for making WSL derbies more competitive.


Manchester City are really in a tough spot right now

Manchester City’s injury crisis is unlike one that I’ve seen in recent time. At certain points, they’ve had 5 of their usual starting 11 out with long term injuries – luckily they’ve had Keira Walsh return to the starting line up following her injury lay-off.

It’s less than ideal having your first and second choice keepers out injured and it once again was an area that opposition looked to exploit. Normally these Chelsea vs Manchester City matches end up being the title deciders, however we were met with the opposite of that during Women’s football weekend.

City right now, especially in defence, look bereft of confidence and that is heavily down to the fact that they’re having to use a makeshift back four.

Ellen White of Manchester City is seen dejected during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Manchester City Women and Chelsea Women at...

Though Chelsea seemed to show no mercy as Jessie Fleming scored within the first 90 seconds of the game, I actually thought City did well with the ball and we saw shades of what we expect from them – a team that uses the ball really well and can carve out chances from any area of the pitch.

The main issue was that it seemed as though every single shot on target that Chelsea had was resulting in a goal, whilst City were less clinical offensively.

As their injured players trickle back into the squad I expect City to turn it around soon, but they’re definitely in a bad spot right now as results don’t seem to be going their way – suffering heavy defeats to the other “Big 3” members.

WSL Matchday 6 Report – Arsenal still flying, Reading dominant whilst United hit a block

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.

Molly Bartrip of Reading tackles Sarah Mayling of Birmingham during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Reading Women and Birmingham...

Arsenal 4-0 West Ham

Where to start with Arsenal? They simply just do not look like conceding right now, and this coupled with the fact that they seem to be scoring at will makes them an extremely scary prospect for the league and for their competitors’ title chances.

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!

Antonio Conte to replace Nuno Espirito Santo as Tottenham manager

Antonio Conte is set to become the new Tottenham manager after agreeing to take over from Nuno Espirito Santo.

The north London club parted ways with Santo after just 17 games in charge of the club on Monday morning, with the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United at the weekend the final straw for chairman Daniel Levy.

Santo was dismissed with the club in eighth place, having lost five of their last seven games in charge of the club in the Premier League.



Tottenham attempted to hire Antonio Conte in the summer after their dismissal of Jose Mourinho in April, only for the Italian coach to reject their offer citing concerns over the club’s project.

However after further talks over the last 24 hours with director of football Fabio Paratici, it’s believed that he is now very open to taking the job after receiving some assurances.

According to reports in Italy, Conte has demanded several signings be made during the January transfer window in order to improve the squad and also a contract until 2023.

It’s believed that the former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss will fly to London on Monday afternoon to complete the deal and then take training on Tuesday morning ahead of his first game in charge against Vitesse on Thursday in the Europa Conference League, before a trip to Everton in the Premier League on Sunday.

The news is a huge boost to Spurs fans who were vocal about their dislike towards Santo, who was appointed in the summer after a host of failed attempts to lure other managers to the club left him as the only viable option.

But with the board acting quickly to try and correct the bad decision made in the summer, Conte is a sure-fire way to boost the morale of fans and get the club buzzing again before it’s too late.

Conte has won the Premier League, FA Cup, four Serie A titles and two Italian Super Cups during his managerial career and will be trying to win Spurs their first trophy since 2008 when they won the League Cup under Juande Ramos.

Nuno Espirito Santo sacked by Tottenham Hotspur

Nuno Espirito Santo has been sacked by Tottenham Hotspur after just 17 games in charge.

The Portuguese manager took over from the sacked Jose Mourinho in the summer after leaving Wolves by mutual consent.

However after starting the season with three wins from three with zero goals conceded, the north London side’s season has fallen off a cliff and they have now lost five of their last seven games in the Premier League.



The fans have been vocal about not wanting the former Porto goalkeeper in charge because of his negative style of play, but that climaxed at the weekend after they were thumped 3-0 at home by Manchester United.

Spurs failed to register a single shot on target in the game, marking the first time since 2013 that that has happened at their home ground.

Santo was audibly booed when he chose to substitute Lucas Moura for Steven Bergwijn during the game, with chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” going around the stadium during the game.

Reports in the media now state that chairman Daniel Levy was furious with the performance and the club have sacked him as a result.

It’s believed that the club now believe that while it was clear that he was never the first choice option for the job, it’s a decision that has now come back to bite the club as he has only added to the turmoil surrounding the board’s decision making.

Reports in Italy suggest they will retry for Antonio Conte to take over although it is unknown if he is interested after turning the position down in the summer.

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.

Harry Kane’s poor form continues as England held at Wembley

Harry Kane is just not the same footballer this season after failing to get his move to Man City in the summer.

His poor form for the season continued at Wembley in an England shirt as he turned in another horror-show with the Three Lions being held to a 1-1 draw by Hungary in a World Cup qualifier.

Gareth Southgate opted for an attacking lineup with all of Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Kane starting in a 4-3-3 formation.



However it was Hungary who took the lead in the first half, after Luke Shaw’s high foot to clear the ball was deemed dangerous play and a penalty was awarded. Striker Roland Sallai sent Jordan Pickford the wrong way and England were up against it.

They struggled to create many openings with the visitors very organised, before Phil Foden whipped a free-kick onto the head of John Stones to equalise before the break.

In the second half England looked to their talisman Kane for inspiration, but he was more interested in dropping deep to get on the ball than actually getting into dangerous positions to affect the result of the game.

His touch was off all night, his passing wayward for most of it and physically he just doesn’t quite look at the races again.

Harry Kane of England interacts with Gareth Southgate, Manager of England as he is substituted during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between...

He did create a good chance for Sterling in the second half when the City winger won the ball back high up the pitch, with Kane putting a great through ball into his path only for Sterling to hit the ball straight at the goalkeeper.

Kane’s poor performance was summarised by Southgate who with the game deadlocked at 1-1 and England pushing for a winning goal, decided to bring Tammy Abraham on in place of the skipper.

It means that in 10 appearances for England and Tottenham (in the Premier League) this season Kane has scored just three times, with all of them coming for the national team.

His only goals this season have come in the Europa Conference League and Carabao Cup, adding six more goals to his tally.

Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 03,...

He looks disinterested and unhappy and his unmotivated state seems to be rubbing off on those around him.

Spurs have struggled this season with some poor attacking performances despite earning some victories, while England’s attacking options haven’t looked particularly in gear despite their wins over lowly opposition.

It’s a problem for club and country if it continues, but it shows no signs of stopping.

Spurs refused to sell him and the opportunity could be gone forever now. If so, we may have already seen the absolute best of Harry Kane’s career.

Premier League 2021/22 – Top Six predictions

The Premier League is arguably at the strongest and most competitive that it’s been at since the 2015/16 season when all of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino and Arsene Wenger were managers and Leicester City were crowned champions.

This time around though it’s not the managers that make the competition competitive however, it’s the actual players available to all the different squads.

This summer we saw the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho to the league, while Jack Grealish was also on the move as one of the better players in the division.

Despite Arsenal spending over £150m on new players their squad is arguably weaker than it was at the end of last season and they will find it a struggle to get back into the top six this season when compared to the likes of Leicester and West Ham.

But after three Premier League games, the transfer window is complete, so these are our pre-season picks for the top six positions in the Premier League this season.


6TH
TOTTENHAM
Likely lineup: Lloris; Emerson, Romero, Dier, Reguilon; Skipp, Hojbjerg, Alli; Bergwijn, Kane, Son

Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Watford at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on August...

It seems to always be the same teams in and around these conversations but Tottenham actually had a pretty good transfer window this time around.

They kept hold of Harry Kane after months of speculation, signed Cristiano Romero for their problem centre-back position, signed Emerson Royal at right-back and have also managed to integrate Oliver Skipp and Dele Alli into their midfield.

They lack serious depth and injuries at any point in the season could be an issue for them, but keeping Kane is huge. He guarantees them goals throughout the season and means they always have a chance to win games, but his overall enthusiasm to be at the club could be an issue.

My gut tells me that defensively they’ll be strong but they won’t score enough goals and that will see them get too many draws to finish in the top four, plus Kane won’t be as productive as he has been in recent years.

5TH
LEICESTER
Likely lineup: Schmeichel; Pereira, Soyuncu, Evans, Castagne; Ndidi, Tielemans; Barnes, Maddison, Perez; Vardy

Jamie Vardy of Leicester City celebrates scoring the first Leicester goal during the Premier League match between Norwich City and Leicester City at...

Many thought it would be third time lucky for Brendan Rodgers’ side this season to finally break back into the top four after their summer window, but I think they’ll fall just short once again.

The Foxes added Patson Daka, Boubakary Soumare, Ademola Lookman (loan), Jannik Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand to their squad and for the first time managed to keep their previous squad together into the new season, with no major sales. However the serious injury to Wesley Fofana in pre-season will have harmed their defensive strength and Jamie Vardy is one year older now.

They’ve started the season well but I feel the teams above them last year have further strengthened too and it means that unfortunately for them, they’ll just miss out once more.

4TH
LIVERPOOL
Likely lineup: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago; Salah, Jota, Mane

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on August 28, 2021 in Liverpool, England.

I’m going to get this in there early, but the top four I have selected could genuinely interchange in any way and I wouldn’t be that surprised. But something in my gut tells me that Liverpool will finish fourth this season.

Jurgen Klopp’s side managed to scrape a third place finish last season despite having minimal defenders for most of the campaign, and this season they welcome back all of Virgil Van Dijk, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and new signing Ibrahima Konate in the heart of their defence.

Unfortunately for Reds fans though, they failed to strengthen the squad anywhere else. Harvey Elliott returned from loan and has done well so far in the Premier League but I don’t think he is quite at the level where he can help launch a title challenge and their lack of depth means they’ll likely fall off as the season goes on.

At their best though they’re without a doubt one of the best teams in the world, and with one of the best managers in the world on the bench it’s really hard to completely write them off.

3RD
MANCHESTER CITY
Likely lineup: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo; Rodri, De Bruyne, Grealish; Mahrez, Torres, Foden

Jack Grealish of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on August 28, 2021 in...

The reigning champions were just three wins away from winning the lot last season and then went and added the first £100m player in Premier League history to their squad, yet I think they’ll fall off this year.

Jack Grealish’s arrival to the squad obviously boosts them, but the failure to sign a top striker to replace Sergio Aguero is a problem. Yes, they won the league last season without a striker but to expect to do that again seems short-sighted and Guardiola’s chase of Harry Kane all summer tells me he knows that too.

Ferran Torres has started the season well in that role but I’m not totally convinced he can be that consistent goalscorer they need, so I think they may struggle in games against the better defences this season. Defensively they’re arguably stronger this season with Aymeric Laporte playing himself back into form, but the team just doesn’t strike fear into me like it once did.

As good as they are, with the depth and manager they have, they just don’t have that aura about them for me this season and for that reason I think they’ll fall to their lowest finish under Guardiola.

2ND
MANCHESTER UNITED
Likely lineup: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford; Ronaldo

Image

I’m willing to admit this could be a bit of bias, but Manchester United look so strong this season.

As a unit they have one of the best defences in the league and their attacking options can compete with Paris Saint-Germain for depth and talent. They have match winners all over the pitch and credit must go to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for building a squad that is now expected to compete on all fronts.

There is a glaring midfield weakness though and ultimately, that could be what lets them down. Against the top sides, the lack of a top defensive midfielder could be an issue and Solskjaer is likely to make up for that by using both members of McFred together and sacrificing an attacker.

While they’re probably best placed to win things this year moreso than any other since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, it may be a cup competition that falls their way rather than the league because the gap between the top managers and Solskjaer is just that big. They’ll run it close, but ultimately it’ll just be one step too far.

1ST
CHELSEA
Likely lineup: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell; Havertz, Lukaku, Mount

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea celebrates his goal. During the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on August 22, 2021 in...

The champions of Europe looked formidable under Thomas Tuchel in the second half of last season but they had one glaring weakness – finishing in front of goal.

So what did Uncle Roman do? He signed Romelu Lukaku for £97.5m fresh off arguably the best season of his career to date to lead the line. The Belgian scored in first game against Arsenal and played well against Liverpool as Chelsea earned a draw with ten men at Anfield and already looks the perfect man to shoulder their title challenge.

Defensively they still look imperious but they look even more well drilled and with added depth to their midfield with Saul Niguez joining on loan from Atletico Madrid it’s hard to see where they will come apart this season.

A top manager, arguably the best squad in the league, a solid defence, a world class midfield, a goalscoring machine up front and a system that they’ve seemingly mastered – Chelsea are my picks to win the title this season.

Premier League 2021/22 opening day fixtures released

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