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Conte’s phoning it in
This match felt like the culmination of a months worth of growing apathy around Stamford Bridge.
Conte’s conflict with the board has been well-documented, but it seems some sort of point of no return was passed towards the end of December.
Since then the spark has gone from Chelsea. It is obvious when the players and manager are both not fully committed to the task at hand. Passes are half a foot behind, decisions take half a second longer, all small signs that a team is not acting instinctively with full belief in their manager.
This sadly stems from Antonio’s own disinterest in the situation. He feels cheated by the board (not a ridiculous position given that Kante is his only first choice target to have made it to the club) and must believe he cannot be expected to compete with City. He has the cushion of his fantastic work in his first season, and now appears to be happy to watch the clock run down until he is sacked. You can see it in his press conferences, where once he was the consummate professional yet now allows himself to get embroiled in ridiculous spats with Mourinho.
It’s horrible to see, Conte remains one of my favourite coaches in the game and whoever his replacement is will struggle to come close to what he has achieved in such a short time at the club.
However, this problem doesn’t get fixed until he is either sacked or walks away, and with the latter pretty much out of the question it becomes about whether we can risk keeping an unhappy manager (and therefore unhappy squad) until the end of the season when top 4 is still an uncertainty.
Freddie (Not sad, just numb) Buckley, CFC.
1. That was embarrassing. United looked lost and clueless to a man, and there is literally no positive to be taken from our performance at all. Our record against other top six opposition is pitiful and simply has to improve if we are to seriously challenge for the league any time soon.
2. The first goal, quite simply, should not have stood. People complain about VAR but if the referee can’t spot simple things like kick off encroachment then I’d rather all decisions go through VAR. Also, the commentary “that would have been extremely harsh” to have a rules it out is moronic. It’s not harsh to enforce the rules correctly, however much it might decrease the spectacle.
3. Regardless, Kane’s infraction is moot because we still had plenty of opportunity to intercede and the United defence were simply appalling. Jones was woeful and only got worse thereafter. It bore resemblance to the Klose goal off a goal kick against England at the World Cup a few years ago. As much as we need a central midfielder in the summer, on this evidence we need at least one more (left-sided) centre back.
4. Speaking of calamity Jones, what the absolute f*ck was he doing for the own goal? That was only going to ever end one way, and the fact that he consciously thought to do the most difficult thing is terrifying. When you make Smalling look like an average defender then you know you’ve had a shocker. Bailly come back.
Young played a huge part in the own goal too, his inexplicable decision to leave Trippier entirely unmarked meant that he had all the time in the world to pick his cross. It wasn’t actually that good a cross – obviously Jones dug him out of that hole – but Young should have been far closer to him to prevent it from coming in.
5. The biggest worry is the staggering consistent lack of either organisation or communication of the defence. Time and time again, United let Spurs wander through untroubled, despite the presence of 4-9 red shirts on the edge of the box. You just can’t allow players like Eriksen, Son and Kane to roam freely in the final third and expect to keep a clean sheet.
6. But even though there were obvious individual errors leading to the goals, this was a catastrophic performance by all 13 individuals (its unfair to criticise Fellaini, given the circumstances). Every single player was terrible, with possibly De Gea the only one coming out with any excuses because his defence gave him no support at all.
7. Pogba was the second worst player on the pitch. When he wasn’t completely missing, he was wasting possession, diving, fouling, and generally showing childish petulance. He should have been hooked sooner than he was. He’s playing the Pogba of Juventus in more ways than one.
8. But the worst culprit of all was Lukaku. In contrast to the classy centre forward play of Kane, Lukaku did nothing. One shot, as per usual straight at the ‘keeper, and nothing else of note. He was more anonymous and lost than Pogba, and that’s some achievement.
9. That being said, Mourinho got it all wrong. All of it. Team selection, tactics, substitutions, it was all wrong.
Sanchez couldn’t possibly have been ready to start a game of such importance – he did ok against Yeovil but Spurs are a totally different proposition. He should have been on the bench for such a big game, with a settled side a more likely route to success than trying to accommodate the new guy.
So, Shaw goes through one of his best periods of form in the team and then finds himself gone again? Why? I kind of get it against a physical side like Burnley but against a dynamic attack like Spurs it just doesn’t make sense. If Young starts the next game ahead of him then I’ll be furious after that performance.
The subs were ineffectual, taking off the useless Pogba and the much more lively Lingard had no effect, as Mata, Fellaini and later Herrera did nothing at all to change matters. Mourinho’s claim that the attack doesn’t need any work is laughable. He might not want to recruit but he irrefutably needs to improve things.
10. Dele Alli is an overrated sh*tbag.
In the end, Spurs were just far better than us and deserved the win, even if they did have two helping hands with the goals.
…It’s 6am, the sun is well and truly up and dancing and some points to are to be raised this fine summer morning. Some knee jerk ones but fk it i’m pissed so everyone can get stuffed. Here we go:
1. Mourinho team selection – what happens almost every time we play Tottenham? We get dominated in the middle. What do we want? 3 man mid with Herrera. What do we get? Lingard. What happens? That
2. Matic – cooked. Running on fumes half way through the season. Consistency is slipping and needs a decent rest/help to be effective. See point above
3. Eriksen – by god. Can play a bit of football
4. Pogba – rightfully taken off. A little bit of effort is allowed Paul, especially when the team needs it.
5. Jones and smalling will not win you a premier league. Forget about a champions league.
6. Interesting that city have spent a trillion on an entire new defense. Defenses win you titles. Come this summer, United will potentially need to spend close to that to compete again. Smalling, Jones, darmian out. Lindeofs development will be key and Shaw surely has to be trusted at LB now or add him to the list above.
7. Kane didnt have his shooting boots on (cheers) but his hold up play and movement was still very good. Didnt expect him to struggle against the clowns in point 5 to be honest. Mails discussing english players that are world class? Exhibit A
8. How did martial stay on the pitch for that long? Why did fellaini come on? Why does fellaini ever come on? Why is fellaini still at the club?
9. Sanchez looks the business. As expected was very lively with good touches and link up play. Its a shame he had to consistently drop deep to find the ball, would’ve been much more dangerous around the box.
10. The title has been over for a while now but aside from mathematically, its pretty much a deadset certainty now. City have been consistent, dominant and fully deserve this. Now I truly do feel sick
Dennis MUFC Perth (okay I lied, not quite 16 but im sad and vulnerable)
Lads, it’s United
An vast array of issues with United’s performance, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Here goes:
It’s been said before, but Pogba simply does not work in a midfield two. He can’t influence the attack enough and he leaves Matic exposed. He’s been crowbarred in there to make room for United’s other attackers, but the whole attaching system lacks structure.
I can not understand why Shaw has been dropped in the last two league games. Young doesn’t overlap and create space for others, but often gets in the left wingers way because he too is, in fact, a left winger.
I’m beginning to worry more and more that Lukaku isn’t a very good footballer, and that a lot of the preconceived notions highlighted after his transfer last summer may actually have merit. Kane didnt score, but was involved in so much of Spurs positive play. Lukaku doesn’t seem capable of that.
Smalling and Jones, to be fair, were under pressure as a result of my earlier point on Pogba. However, Vidic and Ferdinand they ain’t. Smalling looks terrified in possession and while Jones looks great with his heroic last ditch challenges, the fact that he has to make so many is telling.
How Sir Alex Ferguson passed on Moussa Dembele for £15 million in 2012 I will never know.
Same for Moyes on Christian Eriksen for £12 million in 2013.
“Oh look, here comes Fellaini again for more hoofball. Rashford sitting on the bench. How could this get any wor……oh. Poor Marouane.”
Three different midfield partnerships was pretty astounding, even more so when you consider that Matic was in all three of them. How did he last the 90 minutes?
Apart from that though, I thought it went pretty well.
Can we finally talk about the Manchester United defence? On paper, our defensive record has been good this season, but that’s because we’ve got the best defensive coach; it’s most certainly not because of the imperious form of Chris Smalling or Phil Jones. When you look at the best teams in Jose’s past, he has been able to call upon Terry, Carvalho, Lucio, Samuel, Ramos and Varane; if we are committing to Jose long term, which is what his new contract indicates, then we need to rebuild our defensive unit.
Right Back – The turnaround in Tony V has been remarkable and he’s become a really decent full back, but he’s not as good as some would have you believe, certainly not defensively. The other concern is that he’ll be 33 by the time next season kicks off, and he doesn’t strike me as someone that’ll cope when his athleticism starts to dip. I’d be tempted to give him one more season as first choice, with the recalled Tim Fosu-Mensah (who I’m a big fan of) being his back up and playing most of the cup games. We might well be looking at a new right back in 2019 though.
Left Back – Much like Valencia, Young deserves a lot of credit for salvaging his career at United, but he’s a 32 year old, right footed winger playing at left back; that won’t win you titles. Luke Shaw is fit and has played well when called upon recently; it’s time to trust him for a while and make a decision. Play him pretty much every game between now and the end of the season, and decide if he’s good enough to be first choice going forward. If not, perhaps it’s time to properly pursue that much talked about Rose swap deal in the summer.
Centre Half – The biggest area of concern. We have Eric Bailly, who is really good and we all love, but as 16 conclusions points out, he seems to be injured a lot. That’s not good no matter where you play, but central defence is the position that requires consistency of appearance the most. Next season may well be make or break for him purely on the basis of fitness. You then have the differing shades of mediocrity that are Jones, Smalling and Rojo. All of them are good enough to be squad players at a top team, none of them are good to be starters at a top team. Come summer, at least one, probably two, need to be cut loose and replaced, ideally with a 25-30yo, ready-made, first choice defender to partner Bailly. Also in the mix, we have Lindelof, who is something of an odd one. He’s easily the best footballer out of our current crop of defenders, it’s just the actual defending side that’s been the problem so far… He started badly, then picked up, then got dropped and has seemingly disappeared down a Mkhitaryan-shaped hole since. I’d like to see him get some more game time, perhaps in the FA Cup or the more routine home league games; he might need loaning out next season to get to grips with English football. Signing another promising youngster could be another option (annoyed we didn’t go for Davison Sanchez; he was Ajax’s best player against us in the Europe League final).
As for the utility men we have at the back, Blind, sadly, needs to go. If he were 6 inches taller, or two yards quicker, he’d be world class, but unfortunately he’s really short and really slow. Darmian needs to go as well. If he was a vastly better footballer in every single facet of the game, he’d be world class, but unfortunately he’s sh*t.
With Carrick retiring and Fellaini possibly leaving (whilst also not being that good), we need to add another defensive midfielder to the mix. Partly to take some of the burden off Matic and partly to play alongside him in games like last night. I really like Herrera, but he’s not actually that good or particularly suited the system and style we want to play.
Lewis, Busby Way
Save us, Johnny
Long time reader, huge fan, Storey acolyte. My first mail in several years.
So: Eriksen’s goal. A packed Wembley, a huge game under the lights; millions watching on television or listening on the radio. Expectation crackling. Anticipation, excitement, nerves. We kick-off. A goal! The atmosphere explodes; wild joy, spine-tingling commentary, an exhilarating intake of breath…
Is Daniel (16 Conclusions) really implying he would swap all that for a minute’s pause while the VAR checks the footage and disallows the goal for a player’s foot being in the opposition’s half?
Save us, Johnny Nic. You’re our only hope.
Pete Hayward, biased Spurs fan.
Wembley woes over
Quick note to ensure Pochettino gets props for how he’s managed to turn around Spurs’ Wembley record.
There’s no doubt it’s been an unwelcome disadvantage versus his rivals this season. Last year when Spurs went unbeaten at home all season for the first time since their ‘61 title winning team, many experts put that down to the small sized pitch. And they had a point: Pochettino himself had seen his Spurs teams lose a league cup final on the larger expanse of turf the season before at Wembley, followed up by successive losses in the Champions League last year and then a semi final FA Cup loss again under the arch. Prior to Pochettino there were losses to Portsmouth in another FA Cup semi final, and another league cup loss. Wembley was the graveyard of broken dreams for Tottenham. Even the most optimistic fans had doubts about Pochettino and his team mastering their new surroundings. By the time Burnley and Chelsea turned up in August, the Wembley record was 12 played and just 2 won.
And yet since that Chelsea game, Spurs have won 13 of 16 games in all competitions. No small feat considering that Wembley is at best a temporary lodging where opposition teams and players routinely comment on the lift that playing at the historical National stadium can give them. Not only are the results impressive, but the performances are resembling last season at White Hart Lane too. Teams with big reputations willing to go toe-to-toe are getting swarmed upon in a fury of brave, aggressive football played on the front foot. It’s not a perfect record, but it’s much better than I imagine any Tottenham fan could have expected at the beginning of September. Given how important home advantage is in games against the top 6 in particular (prior to City’s trailblazing this season, away wins between them have been rare), it was crucial Spurs got to grips sooner rather than later to have any hope of making top 4. Well played Poch. Maybe that “small” White Hart Lane pitch wasn’t quite as crucial as everybody thought.
Marcus Aurelius (The ridiculously early goal must have properly killed all of Mourinho’s buzz. “You want us to attack??”)
All hail Arsenal’s transfer gurus
There’s re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, and then there’s fitting a rocket to the Bow. Arsenal might sink before they reach the shore-the back-line’s leakier than an uncorked wench- but it’s going to be one hell of a journey, either way.
You’ve got to credit Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi, Arsenal’s new Head-scout and Chief negotiator. They arrived in an absolute sh*t storm with two star players running down their contracts, a divided squad and a host of deadwood on heavy wages.
What they’ve achieved by exchanging a disgruntled star for a quality player, getting our remaining star to sign a deal and picking up a world class striker is nothing short of remarkable- they even managed to shift Walcott and Coquelin off the wage bill! Given they started their jobs in November (Raul) and January (Sven) they’re my pick for winners of the window.
Liam Gabriel Hoskins (misusing Shakespeare since yesterday) AFC
On Eriksen’s very fast goal at Wembley.
Daniel Storey in 16 conclusions: “It’s a decision that you cannot blame Andre Marriner for not spotting, because a) he cannot have his eyes in every place at once, and b) this happens all the time. Yet given that Kane won the header to create the chance, it was crucial. I fear I’m going to end up saying this an awful lot in the coming months (and not doing so with any flourish because I’m not wholly in favour), but VAR would have picked it up.”
During the match BT Sports coverage asked Graham Poll about the incident and he said (without any reason why) that the goal would have stood because it came straight from a kick off and would never have been reveiwed by VAR.
Who is correct?
How many Arsenal fans have actually watched Aubameyang?
I have to admit that I really like the rise of the statistics usage and the work that Peter G is doing. It’s really fun to see how some stats explain the style of a team or a player. The thing is that he (from what I can tell) is mixing good knowledge and actually watching matches.
What I really hate is using some numbers to prove a point about a team/player that you haven’t ever seen. I know that many fans are watching only their favorite teams (or in the case of all Barca fans – the El Classicos are enough), but this is getting to some stupid levels.
For example, in the last few days all my Arsenal supporting friends and many Mailboxers are explaining how good Aubameyang is and how the deal is great. All they saying is that he is fast, scores a lot of goals. Which, I suppose, means that they haven’t seen him play. Ever.
Yes, he has a very good scoring record… In (arguably) the second best team in the Bundesliga, which has so much attacking talent that’s getting silly. Half of the teams they will meet in a season aren’t even close to their level. The reason for their position this year is the coach and their suicidal defensive tactics.
Aubameyang scores a lot, yes, but he misses a lot too. I remember matches where he could have scored 5 instead of 2 goals. The thing is that the team is creating chances at such rate, that he looks like a good striker. In the Premier League the chances are far fewer and you need someone with good conversion rate. Lacazette is pretty much the same, but with better hold-up play.
Basically, what I’m saying is that Aubameyang is kinda overrated. Not bad, but not great and with Giroud going, I don’t see what’s Plan B for Arsenal. Making Nacho Monreal a central forward, maybe?
Another bad use of stats is the form of Mkhitaryan in the beginning of the season. Five assists in three matches looks fantastic, but he was actually playing the same way that brought him out of Manchester United. I believe it was against Swansea, that he was on the verge of a substitution when he assisted two time in a few minutes.
What I wanted to say is – watch more actual football and don’t use stats to predict the future. You will probably learn that someone is great for your club after it has already happened. Meanwhile, enjoy what you have.
Sit back and enjoy the Arsenal ride
I don’t really understand the pessimism and outrage other Arsenal fans are voicing, and it’s starting to grate on me a bit.
I get that we all love the clubs we support and we take pride in the clubs we follow, but seriously!? If Arsenal win the league it doesn’t change your life in the slightest. The players who win it, sure. The manager, of course. The club as a business, absolutely. The fans though? You don’t get the following day off work to celebrate, you don’t get discounted merchandise or tickets for your continued support and being ‘the 12th man on the pitch”. You you don’t even get a season to gloat about it because as soon as the new season starts no one cares about last year.
I guess what I’m alluding to is – who gives a f**k! We lose embarrassingly to Swansea, we also knocked Chelsea out of the league cup with a dominating display. Football is, to us as consumers, entertainment. What is more entertaining than watching a team play that can go toe-to-toe against Liverpool in an all attacking orgasmic feast of football but can also turn out displays like that at Swansea. You really never know what you’ll get. The racing of your heart in anxiety of anticipation to which Arsenal will turn up is enough to surpass any other clubs supporters heart rate. The catastrophically appalling displays we’ve had to watch has left us more dejected than Aston Villa fans of two years ago, and FA cup displays against Manchester clubs and Chelsea has left made us feel giddy and optimistic for the following year. That’s basically an Oscar worthy amount of emotional twists. So while you bemoan and hiss, I think we get a decent amount of entertainment for our money.
Ach Terry. Remi Garde – played mostly midfield deputising for whichever of Vieira or Petit wasn’t available.
Matthew Upson – Never going to play much given he was there for 4 years and spent most of that time behind Keown and Campbell. Add in his ACL and his broken leg in those 4 years and his League Winner medal seems like a decent return.
Gilles Grimandi – Excellent utility player. Played CM, CB & RB and won 2 Doubles.
Nelson Vivas – Bought to offer cover at both sides as full back. Was never intended as a first choice player.
Oleg Luzhny – Good solid RB. Deputised well for Dixon and then Lauren and played 110 games in 4 seasons. League and FA Cup winner.
Sylvinho – Excellent. Dodgy passport activities aside that saw him shipped off. His career post Arsenal speaks for itself. Still it got Ashley Cole a run out. But I’ll get to him…oh wait, he’s not on your list.
Lauren – Excellent RB, no need to argue. Signed as a midfielder funnily enough.
Moritz Volz – signed on a free as a youngster, played twice. No league games, no harm done.
Igor Stepanovs – Poor.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst – Was a midfielder who occasionally filled in at the back – like Flamini.
Sol Campbell – Top notch CB.
Kolo Toure – Average midfielder who played very well at CB for a while.
Stathis Tavlaridis – Not good enough. Didn’t work out for the kid.
Pascal Cygan – 4th choice CB who still managed 18 league appearances for The Invincibles.
Philippe Senderos – Aw maaan.
Johan Djourou – Perfectly servicable CB.
Gael Clichy – Was very good for a while. Which is why City wanted him.
Emmanuel Eboue – Often forgotten how good a RB the guy was before we signed Sagna and moved him to the wing.
Armand Traore – Average.
Joe O’Cearuill – Had 1 season with the club when he was 19. Made the bench once never played. Clearly not good enough.
William Gallas – Great player, horrible attitude.
Bakari Sagna – Top Notch
Mikael Sylvestre – Horrible signing
Thomas Vermaelen – About average.
Sebastien Squillaci – Looked ideal on paper. Experienced international, signed as 4th choice etc….But the games isn’t played on paper….
Laurent Koscielny – Brilliant CB
Per Mertesacker – Massively Underrated.
André Santos – Oops
Carl Jenkinson – a few good games but ultimately not good enough.
Nacho Monreal – Massively underrated. Consistently good at LB and CB
Gabriel Paulista – Nah, not good enough.
Krystian Bielik – Signed as a midfielder. Just tried him at CB. Didn’t work.
Ilias Chatzitheodoridis – Academy player who never progressed beyond the U18 squad. Odd addition to this list when Ashley Cole didn’t make it.
Calum Chambers – Time will tell. Has great games and awful games. But still young.
Mathieu Debuchy – Very good player when we signed him. Full French international. Horrible injury early on. Came back..another horrible injury… came back… Bellerin. ( Who for some reason didn’t make your list )
Cohen Bramall – Just a kid from non league given a shot. Only signed last year. Give him a chance.
Shkodran Mustafi – Bad players don’t get Germany Caps.
Rob Holding – Young and looks a good prospect.
Konstantinos Mavropanos – Literally just signed this month.
Sead Kolašinac – Literally signed this season.
I mean, that’s a big list and we’re all entitled to our opinions. You also seem to have included a few midfielders in there to make a point. And you left out Hector Bellerin and Ashley Cole who’re actually defenders. It’s hardly a ragtag bunch of misfits with no experience or career. There’s quite a lot of silverwear in there and some excellent careers forged with and post Arsenal.
Any chance that what you meant to say was, in 20 years at Arsenal, with looking at the players I remember, Wenger has signed some crackers and some duds?
Doug, AFC, Belfast
Kick the habit
I’m addicted to football. It’s gotten so bad that I don’t even care anymore if Liverpool win a title during my lifetime. I understand what it takes to win titles, and the choice of selling your soul to the Middle East or Russia doesn’t really interest me. I’m not criticizing those clubs that have because my club is even worse selling our soul to the Americans who stupidly think football is still a business that can be run using fundamentals like gross revenues and net income and cash flows. I was talking to an Arsenal friend of mine lamenting offensive signings when the defense is the issue. I told him to take winning titles and trophies out of his equation for enjoying the game. Just recognize what awful people we are not having the heart to support small, local clubs and not having the brain to support, mega-rich champions. We are the problem so just know the only enjoyment you deserve is an occasional thrashing of the champions-elect or a late-season charge that falls short because you can’t field two starting XI’s as fixtures pile up due to the powers that be scheduling soccer all the time to empty the pockets of those of us foolish enough to still support this bankrupt endeavor. Manchester City and Barcelona will be champions in May, then Chelsea and Real Madrid next May, and rinse and repeat. Don’t fight it, just enjoy the seduction of being told every day by every entity that newer and better really is newer and better. By all means have discussions about Salah and Ozil and Pogba as if they aren’t human beings who hate rain and will jump at the chance to follow Coutinho and Henry and Ronaldo. It’s your right after all. You can’t really help it. But do the world just one favor and don’t pass on your addiction to the next generation. We talk often about leaving the world a better place for those who come next, but we don’t actually mean it if you look at the evidence of rising deficits, crumbling health care, no serious attempt to save affordable education, and politicians who only care about you if you are about to die or you aren’t born yet. But this is your chance to put your money where your mouth is. Stop taking your kids to games and go on your own without looking in the mirror to see your sad, pathetic life on display, a grown man with a beer belly wearing a knock-off jersey because you think the man on the field and his boss in the suite actually cares about you.
Why sell Mitrovic?
Seen Mitrovic’s move to Anderlecht has broken down but he’s still free to leave, let’s make a list of teams who could do with a big International striker with a 1 in 3 strike-rate.
Why are they letting him go?
KC(give him a shot!)
Given that Marcos Rojo was singled out for – what I would see (with a large dose of conscious bias) – somewhat unfair criticism due to having been ‘given a torrid time by Sam Surridge, a 19-year-old on loan from Bournemouth’, can I suggest a new feature based upon Phil Jones being given a torrid time by Phil Jones, a 25 year rubber faced defender from Preston.
For some reason, I have a strange little man-crush on Rojo, Superman tattoo and all and was willing him to tear his tracksuit off, come charging onto the field and toe-punt Jones into the stands in order to shore up our defence. Sadly, want doesn’t always get.
Jose’s getting an easy ride
I have to say… four transfer windows to remove unwanted players, and phenomenal funds to add desired players of his choosing. Eight new players to be precise. Almost an entire starting eleven.
It’s his team now. It really is a Jose Mourinho team, it’s not LVGs anymore. He can’t hide behind that. These are his players. The eight he bought, and those he hasn’t wanted to sell despite having four transfer windows should he have wished to do so.
A Centre Back pairing of Jones and Smalling, Fellaini (future vice Captain?) on the bench, not a left back at left back whilst a left back sat with Marouane. And finally, the obedient and ethusiastic, but limited Lingard now a key player.
And no real criticism?
I tell ya that Walcott lad has a big future ahead of him. If he keeps that up only a matter of time before a big 6 team coming swooping in I reckon!
Wilson for England
With deadline day wrapped up, I thought it would be a good time to have a look some potential “bolters” for the World Cup squad. Promisingly (and somewhat astonishingly) the stable is well stocked with dark horses; many players have secured loan moves in a bid to increase their form and fitness (think Sturridge, Walcott, Lookman among others), whereas others are finally putting their injury woes behind them (Wilshere, Shaw and Rodriguez) and clicking in to gear.
Fitting nicely into this second category is Callum Wilson. After suffering the dreaded ACL curse (twice!) he is finally back on the horse (tenuous), scoring goals.
He’s strong, tall, holds the ball up well and has an excellent all round game. Crucially, he is getting regular games and scoring goals (8 in 18 this season, all competitions). Watch him, and Bournemouth, go from strength to strength in the back end of the season, and he is my pick for the final strikers’ spot.
The last category, or course, is the young emerging player. Looking at recent squads, it is clear that Southgate has no qualms in throwing in a young gun if he believes they have the quality. And boy, does 17 year old Jadon Sancho possess the quality. Now getting regular starts in the Bundesliga, it won’t be long before he becomes a key man in the England squad – but will the World Cup come too soon for him? I’ll stick my next out and say that this boy is ready, he is special, and he will get the nod. Which makes everything so exciting; suddenly there is genuine competition for spots, and someone more experienced may end up being very disappointed. Adam Lallana, get your skates on.
Rob S (stupidly, foolishly, being engulfed by World Cup optimism)