Keep those emails coming to email@example.com…
Is Giroud the best back-up striker in the Premier League?
Is Giroud the (second) best back up centre forward in the league? Certainly superior to Batshuayi and Llorente. I think more reliable than Sturridge. He is clearly not as good as Ibrahimovic, however I would argue that for reliability and fitness as well as adding a different dimension to our attack he is at least as useful as a squad player. that only leaves Man City and Jesus who is clearly a better option.
I have always had a soft spot for the HFB, but I honestly think he would improve any squad in the premier league. He wouldn’t be a starter in any, and would probably struggle to fit into Herr Klopp’s tactics but I think my point still stands. Thoughts?
He would also make any team far better looking.
Dave (Wishing Iheanacho was still back up at city to complete my point) Windsor
Giroud will go to Russia whatever
Fully expect to have this rammed back down my throat in May but Daniel Storey states:
“Still, the competition for places in France’s attack is fierce. Stephan and Didier Deschamps must choose between Antoine Griezmann, Lacazette, Nabil Fekir, Kylian Mbappe, Kingsley Coman, Anthony Martial, Ousmane Dembele, Kevin Gameiro and Giroud. It is hard to justify selecting a striker that hasn’t started a league game in six months, particularly when a compatriot is the one keeping him out of his club team.”
France will take seven or six of those and that will include Giroud regardless of minutes unless Benzema’s recalled. He’s not just Arsenal’s Plan B – there’s no one else in that squad or on its fringes that can do the job he can.
Sorry the tone of this is so crushingly pedantic, it’s just annoying me that this quote is getting so much play this week.
Big Weekend’s little brother
This should be a corker, between a side that have scored more goals than Spurs (Watford) and a side that have allowed as few goals as Chelsea (Burnley). Robbie Brady’s knee surgery is a heavy blow for the Clarets. Scott Arfield, although there’s no doubting his workrate, doesn’t offer the same creativity. Matthew Lowton is still recovering from a knock, so it might be Phil Bardsley matched up against Richarlison—and if Bardsley wins that battle, Sean Dyche should get the Barcelona job immediately.
Marco Silva has a striker choice between André Gray and Troy Deeney—I’m guessing Gray because James Tarkowski and Ben Mee match up well against a target man like Deeney. Also, as an ex-Claret, Gray will have extra motivation. Abdoulaye Doucouré continues one of the most exciting players in the league, although his defence could use a dose of dullness.
Stat: Richarlison ranks sixth in the league in dribbles attempted, but his success rate is only 46.3%, second-lowest among the top ten dribblers. Eden Hazard is at 81.3%.
Huddersfield Town-Brighton & Hove Albion
This was always going to be a six-pointer, and with both clubs dropping down the table it assumes massive importance. Can either team score? Combine the Terriers’ last four matches and the Seagulls’ last three and you get only an own goal and a highly dubious penalty.
Both Glenn Murray and Pascal Gross have gone off the boil for Brighton, and if that continues all the attacks will have to come from the wingers, Anthony Knockaert and probably José Izquierdo. Still, Huddersfield like to get their fullbacks forward, and assuming they press high there’ll be gaps near the touchlines. It’s hard to see a clear path for the Terriers’ attack. Rajiv van la Parra, who had just been finding form, is suspended. Neither Steve Mounié nor Laurent Depoitre have convinced lately. But last year in the Championship this finished 3-1 to the hosts.
Stat: Tom Ince has taken 32 shots without scoring, most in the league.
Swansea City-West Bromwich Albion
Here’s another match where the tears are more likely to flow than the goals. But Wilfried Bony gave Swans fans hope with a vigorous performance against Stoke City, and with Tammy Abraham off form we might see Paul Clement try five midfielders to get his striker some service. Alan Pardew pulled out as many stops as he could and went 4-3-3 against Crystal Palace, so expect an attacking approach here as well.
At the moment the big story for West Brom is 19-year-old midfielder Sam Field, who seems right at home in the top flight. He should be able to cause some damage on the left side of attack. A Paul Clement quote from Thursday: “We need to start enjoying the games, Monday to Friday they are focused and committed. It is about the Saturday, putting the work into the games.” And that’s why he’s a football manager.
Stat: West Brom launched more aerial balls in Pardew’s first match (31) than they did in all but one of Tony Pulis’ matches this season.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
Shakhtar are still a good story
Regarding your Champions League Winners and Losers. You’re quite right that Shakhtar are no minnows and the owner has stunning resources available. However, I think it’s important to point out that he is a working class local bloke who done well. He only had became head of the club after its chairman was killed and he was nearly killed in the process, and has invested massively since then.
The Brazilians are often decent youth prospects given first class facilities and coaching in Donetsk. Not like they’re picking up Neymar and Ronaldinho. The club remains about half Ukrainian, half Brazilian, with the exception of players like legendary Darijo Srna.
I think they’re a great side and a unique story of a club doing bloody well despite being in perhaps one of the most unattractive places for players to go, barring clubs like Anzhi, where players jet back to Moscow at every opportunity.
Money is a factor, yes, but they’ve used it to attract good youth prospects and develop them as they’re not able to pay Anzhi wages to tempt has-been megastars.
Theo, LFC, Liverpool
Your ‘ideal’ Premier League is just misplaced nostalgia
Every so often people talk about their ideal premier league, or a list of the five they’d most like to see in the prem. It always comes down to what teams were in the top division when you were a child.
The nostalgia for the group of teams in your first panini sticker album makes them seem established in a way others don’t. But you shouldn’t let that take presidence over what the ideal premier league should be: always in flux.
My team, Nottingham Forest, always makes these lists, yet we’ve been absolute crap for most of the last decade or two. And we’re only included because of a golden era that started when we came from the lower reaches of division two to win the title from out of nowhere.
I always want new teams in the mix. My ideal is probably formed by a shock relegation for manu and an unlikely playoff win for Burton Albion. Only for the whole thing to turn itself around again in a few years.
I want teams to go away and come back reinvented. I enjoyed the presence of plucky underdog fortress dell le tissier led Southampton in my youth, and I enjoy the youth focused foreign manager you hadn’t heard of before Southampton we’ve had for a few years now. They’re more interesting for their time away from the top.
Leave calcified closed shops to the NFL, and never forget the best things about the sport we love. The romance, the unpredictability and the amazing stories.
But here are some thoughts
The big 6 are obviously in. Of your next 3, Newcastle are always entertaining one way so get in but West Ham are run by the dildo brothers so they’re out, no arguments, and Everton have been too boring for too long to be in my perfect 20 so off they go too.
Villa – no, they’ve disgraced themselves too recently and need to sit on the naughty step for a bit longer.
Wolves – no, as I also grew up in the 90’s there’s no other team I’m comfortable referring to as ‘a sleeping giant.’ Sleeping giants belong in the championship.
WBA – yes, but only because I like Ben the Baggie’s emails.
Leicester and Forest – yes
Sheffield United – no, Championship club all day long but Wednesday, yes and Leeds of course (dirty bastards).
Sunderland – f**k off.
Southampton and Brighton – yes and chuck Portsmouth in there too.
So we’ve got 5 spots left. Swansea and Cardiff make for fun games and a Welsh derby so they go in too. Three left. Well it’s always nice to have a team that have never been in the Prem before so lets’ reserve a spot for them. The final two are Rangers and Celtic, because I’ve always thought that would be fun.
And this is pretty great: Which squads in an ideal Premier League?
I liked Rob from Leicester’s ‘Ideal Premier League 20’ but thought I’d go one better and actually choose the specific squads who’d be involved; no idea who’d win this one…
NB: I may be 43 but I still can’t be bothered to go back further than the Premier League era…
Man Utd: 1998/99 (Treble Winners)
Arsenal: 2003/04 (EPL winners & unbeaten)
Chelsea: 2004/05 (Drogba/Lampard/Terry – EPL winners & record points scorers)
Liverpool: 2008/09 (Torres/Gerrard/Alonso – EPL runners-up)
Everton: 2008/09 (Arteta/Yakubu/Cahill/ Pienaar)
Spurs: Current team
Man City: Current Team
Leeds United: 1999/2000 (Kewel/Ferdinand/Viduka – CL Semi Finalists)
Newcastle: 1995/96 (Albert/Asprilla/Ferdinand/Ginola – EPL runners-up)
Middlesbrough: 1995/96 (Juninho/Barmby/Fjortoft)
Southampton: 1994/95 (Poch’s 2013 team would be more competitive but you can’t NOT have Le Tiss in his pomp)
Portsmouth: 2007/08 (Kanu/Muntari/Kranjcar – FA Cup winners)
West Ham: 1999/2000 (Di Canio/Wanchop/Lampard/Cole/Ferdinand)
Aston Villa: 1991/92 (Saunders/Atkinson/Houghton/McGrath – EPL runners up)
Nottingham Forest: 1994/95 (Pearce/Collymore/Roy)
Leicester City: 2015/16 (Mahrez/Vardy/Kante – EPL winners)
Blackburn Rovers: 1994/95 (Shearer/Hendry/Le Seaux – EPL winners)
Sheffield Wednesday: 1992/93 (Waddle/Hurst/Warhurst – FA Cup and League Cup finalists)
Swansea: 2012/13 (Michu/Dyer/Routlidge – League Cup winners)
Bolton Wanderers: 2003/04 (Okocha/Djorkaeff/Rickets)
Honourable mentions for Fulham (2003/04) and Ipswich Town (2000/01).
What’s your ideal football stadium?
Lovely question from ‘Rob (I’ve clearly got nothing better to do with my time), Leicester’ and it’s something I also ponder in a dull moment.His list is pretty close to mine but I would add Cardiff maybe in place of Brighton and Derby instead of Leicester (he he).
Something I also daydream about is what would be the ideal football stadium? Having been a fan in the seventies I’m definitely old school and my favourite stands are…The Shelf at Spurs, the Kippax at Maine Road, the old Holte end at Villa and the North Bank Highbury. What a heaving, beauty of a stadium that would make and hardly a seat in sight.
Runners up are the cantilever stand at Hillsborough, Palace’s Holmesdale end, the Spion Kop St. Andrews and QPR’s Loft terrace where I spent my youth. I can still remember the rush of excitement and awe upon entering those fine old stadiums as a teenager.
Ah happy days, I’m so pleased I got to see all those wonderful grounds (and nearly 50 more) before they went. Now Hillsborough is the only one left, sigh.
Atletico could still challenge for La Liga
I take issue with Darragh, Dublin’s assertion that their failure in this season’s Champions League could mark the end of Atletico.
Sure, failing to beat Qarabag in 2 games is, to put it lightly, incredibly embarrassing, and they have had issues this season with scoring goals and having an out of form Griezmann, possibly with his mind elsewhere, but these problems are being rectified with a team that is evolving.
Their group could have looked very different if Atletico had beaten Roma in gameweek 1 in one of the most one sided draws I’ve ever seen, or beaten Qarabag as they should have, although Roma scraped past them twice, winning just 2-1 and 1-0.
Griezmann’s loss of form is seemingly over, with Simeone abandoning the plan to play him as a lone striker, therefore isolating him, by pairing him with Torres, Correa or Gameiro. He has scored in the last 3 wins and Atletico certainly look up for a title challenge. Koke and Carrasco’s return from injury makes Atletico a much more potent attacking threat, and with Costa and Vitolo arriving in January, the squad looks very strong everywhere other than RB, with Juanfran a lot more fragile than recent years.
As much as I would like Valencia to compete for La Liga, their lack of depth, evidenced by the loss to Getafe without Guedes, will likely see them fade away and fight Sevilla for 4th. Barcelona aren’t invincible, with Suarez playing terribly but Valverde still won’t trust Alcacer ahead of him so the reliance on Messi is as big as ever. I expect the return of Dembele will help.
All in all, I expect Atletico to seriously challenge Barcelona for La Liga now that they’re out of the CL, as well as go deep into the Europa League, a tournament they’re now favourites for and rightfully so. 1 defeat all season speaks for itself.
Dan, Dublin (Oblak and Ter-Stegen have to be in the conversation with de Gea for best in the world)