Randy for Goals!

It’s a huge relief to see 21-year-old forward Randal Kolo Muani banging in the goals for Les Canaris. Okay, well, he’s got two goals!

I actually watched back-to-back games where he had strikes disallowed for offside by the narrowest (And I mean narrowest!) of margins. At least one wasn’t even for him being offside. You could see how frustrated the France under-21 cap was. Fortunately, he’s now upto two goals (Plus one assist) for the season and his contribution is a huge positive for a Nantes side who are… doing okay. Nantes have a recent history of hinting at doing well then just getting by. I must admit that I’m pleasantly surprised by how things are going in 2020-21. Having some genuine goal threat is a huge plus. Ludovic Blas amongst others is one who can help create scoring opportunities for Muani and co.

Full back Sebastien Corchia, signed after a few years spent out and about on loan from Sevilla, seems to have been a shrewd acquisition too.

Fingers crossed that the Beaujoire side can maintain their encouraging performances and finish comfortably in the top half of Ligue 1 this season.

In Appreciation of Joe Cole!

It’s safe to say that the standard of football commentary/punditry around the Premier League and other competitions on English TV is pretty abysmal. Many ex-footballers sit there, spouting absolute nonsense. They lack insight and are both biased and unoriginal. I don’t have Sky TV but what little I’ve ever heard from Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher on highlights etc mean that I’d never be in a rush to buy it. I generally watch BT Sport (Though I don’t have it myself) and a little BBC (Though I don ‘t have a TV) at my parent’s house. I’ve found Micah Richards a refreshingly appealable pundit and hope that he doesn’t get dragged down by those around him. I enjoy Steve McManaman’s co-commentary. He’s knowledgeable, well researched and observant but sounds nicely casual at the same time. He’s not too much on his own perch. One person who has stood out to me though is… Can you guess? Has anything given it away?

Joe Cole!

I’ll be honest, I genuinely think that tactics are overrated, that many in football try to convince us that there’s far more to what is actually quite a simple and limited thing. They want to make out that football requires far more thought than it actually does. Don’t get me wrong, of course tactics are part of the game and in multiple ways. I just think that some try to overcook them. As for Rio Ferdinand’s borefest when discussing tactics… yawn!

Joe Cole however comes across as particularly passionate when in-front of a tactics board/screen. In stark contrast to many smug ex-players sitting back and boring us to death, Cole is both insightful without taking it too far and just seems genuinely happy to be sharing his insights with everybody. Of course we’re all going to have preferences/dislikes when it comes to presenters, commentators and pundits etc but I really do feel that we should expect a high standard from those who’ve spent a career playing the game or even coaching/managing. Compared with many, Cole reaches that standard.

The former West Ham and Chelsea man would definitely be in my preferred presentation line-up!

Career Watch #4) Luca Gagliano

Luca Gagliano scored and assisted on his full debut against Juventus at the tail end of last season and has been rewarded with… a loan move to Serie C!

Judging by online images, it looks like there are worse places to be loaned to than Sardinian side Olbia. It seems a bit extreme though to send him to the third tier of Italian football. Surely his development would be better served by playing in Serie B. However, the geographical proximity makes Olbia a regular outpost for Cagliari players. One of Gagliano’s new teammates has been on loan from the duo’s parent club and island neighbour since 2017!

Fingers crossed that in the next Career Watch I’ll be letting you know about the bucket load of goals that 20-year-old Alghero native Gagliano has been banging in!

Serie A Starts Again!

Following on from similar posts featuring players from other leagues, here are three players to watch out for as Serie A (Italy’s not Brazil’s) kicks off once again…

Samuel di Carmine – Hellas Verona

Di Carmine came into his own post lockdown and having finished the 2019-20 campaign with 8 goals in 22 appearances, will look to pick up where he left off. His is a familiar Italian story, lots of clubs but getting better with age. He’ll be 32 soon but that’s nothing in Serie A where ageless frontmen continue to thrive.

Ahmed Benali – Crotone

An English born Libyan international, former Manchester City and Rochdale player… no seriously! Benali is an attacking midfielder with a decent knack for contributing goals and that habit has helped fire Crotone into Serie A. He’s got an interesting background but has also provided substance on the pitch. Crotone will need him to step up to help them cope in Italy’s top flight but the evidence suggests that he’s capable of doing so.

Kamil Glik – Benevento

Centre-back Glik has 73 caps for Poland and has previously clocked up over 100 appearances for Torino. After a few years in Monaco, he’s back in Italy with newly promoted Benevento. They’ve got some decent players but the addition of his experience at the back will benefit them immensely and despite being 32, he should be able to cope with the demands of Serie A.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that any players featured in One to Watch have not been considered.

The Premier League Returns!

Following on from similar posts featuring players from other leagues, here are three players to watch out for as the English Premier League kicks off once again…

Sam Johnstone – West Bromwich Albion

Johnstone is a former England youth international who progressed through the ranks at Manchester United. There were plenty of loan spells including a good stint at Aston Villa but now he’s now settled as West Brom’s number one. Suddenly England have good competition for goalkeeping spots and Johnstone’s arrival in the top flight can only be good for the national team. Aged 27 he’s a mere pup by goalkeeper standards and has earned the right to challenge himself at the highest level.

Miguel Almiron – Newcastle United

The Paraguayan has been a real live wire since arriving in the northeast but end product has often been lacking. Post lockdown however and goals started to come with more regularity. Newcastle have a host of problems with their strikers, whether it be injury, form… ability but Almiron’s pace and directness from the midfield is exciting and Newcastle will hope, result in the floodgates opening!

Pablo Hernandez – Leeds United

Hernandez is 35 and is unlikely to play every minute for Leeds this season but the former Valencia and Swansea City player is both stylish and high on quality as well as being capable of creating and scoring goals. Despite his advanced years, he should contribute for an Elland Road side that play to their strengths and like to entertain.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that any players featured in One to Watch have not been considered.

La Liga is Back!

Following on from similar posts featuring players from other leagues, here are three players to watch out for as La Liga kicks off once again…

Shinji Okazaki – Huesca

Okazaki wasn’t prolific in front of goal when helping Leicester City to a sensational Premier League title but his indefatigable work rate helps tire opposition defenders and create goals for his team. After an ill-fated move to Malaga, Okazaki banged in 12 goals in 36 games to help fire Huesca into Spain’s top flight. He may be no spring chicken aged 34 but he’s as fit as many younger players. Huesca will benefit from having the experience of a Premier League winner who also has the small matter of a half-century of international goals to his name.

Ivan Alejo – Cadiz

Alejo is a 25-year-old winger at another newly promoted side, Cadiz. He came through the ranks at Atlético Madrid but has had a rather nomadic career whilst picking up 12 Spain under-19 caps along the way. More goals and assists would be welcome but now could he his time to step up.

Yassine Bounou – Girona

Having starred for Sevilla in their successful Europa League campaign, it’s hard to fathom that Canadian born Moroccan shot stopper Bounou will be dropping down to the second tier of Spanish football at parent club Girona. He’s one who could earn a move to a top flight side before the season is out.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that any players featured in One to Watch have not been considered.

Dream Team: My Team for 2020-21

Hi followers

Above is my Dream Team for the 2020-21 season.

For those of you that aren’t in the know, in Dream Team players accrue points via performances not only in the Premier League but in the FA Cup and League Cup as well as the Europa League and Champions League. I’ve mixed it up between a few players that are in Europe and some players that I just like for one reason or another. I’ve also selected two teams for my daughters which are detailed below:

Daughter One’s Team:

Daughter Two’s Team:

All teams have four players that will be competing in Europe alongside a mixed bag of teammates including some of my favourite players. I wanted to keep it fair across all three teams and enjoy it. My daughters and I will be competing in our usual ten team league with other family members. My wife picked her own team and it looks alarmingly strong!

If I was providing serious advice then I’d suggest selecting an XI almost entirely from players that will be playing in European competition packed with as many set-piece takers as possible.

https://www.dreamteamfc.com/g/#login/season

I’ll update you in May 2021 as to how I got on.

Boredeaux!

FC Nantes commenced the new season with a woeful 0-0 draw away against 10-man Bordeaux last night.

Mehdi Zerkane was harshly sent off on his professional debut for the home club who had inexplicably installed their new manager only eleven days ago. Bordeaux hadn’t even been able to play under their new boss due to coronavirus and lack of recovery time, forcing the cancellation of two friendly matches. Still, in front of up to 5000 fans allowed inside the stadium, Les Canaris failed to exploit the home team’s lack of prep and a seventy minute man advantage. Whilst I understand the logic behind Zerkane’s dismissal, it highlighted a cynicism that every challenge must be sinister. Zerkane actually had the ball and if you lift your feet up to run then they must come down. Nicolas Pallois slid in and yes it could’ve been dangerous but it was accidental and unfortunate not intentionally dirty.

Nantes themselves had been struck by coronavirus and given that this match was brought forward due to the original curtain raiser been cancelled, it would be no surprise if Ligue 1 is severely disrupted or even temporarily halted.

Moses Simon was by far the brightest spark for Nantes but he can’t do it alone. As usual, you wonder where a serious volume of goals will come from. Quite honestly, a clean sheet and point away from home, even against 10 men, is a result Nantes should be grateful for. I’m really not sure what the ceiling limit is for Nantes this season. There are going to have to be some extremely poor sides in Ligue 1 otherwise the 2020-21 campaign could be fraught with danger.

This match, a derby encounter actually, was a horrible advert for an often maligned French top flight and an uninspiring way to kick off the campaign. In fact, from a TV viewing perspective, fake crowd noise would’ve been better than the sound of only 5000 spectators. Fingers crossed for better in the near future both for FC Nantes and French football in general.

Premier League 2020-21 Table Prediction

Hi followers

Below is my prediction for how the Premier League table will look at the end of next season:

  1. Manchester City
  2. Manchester United
  3. Liverpool
  4. Tottenham Hotspur
  5. Chelsea
  6. Leeds United
  7. Arsenal
  8. Southampton
  9. Wolverhampton Wanderers
  10. Leicester City
  11. Newcastle United
  12. Burnley
  13. Everton
  14. Aston Villa
  15. Brighton & Hove Albion
  16. West Bromwich Albion
  17. Fulham
  18. West Ham United
  19. Sheffield United
  20. Crystal Palace

I’ll see you in May 2021 to see how wildly off the mark I was!

Soul Sellers!

In England, fans and club directors crave and pay extortionate sums of money for the world’s premier football talent. Should a player move in the opposite direction and transfer to a historical big league (Namely a European one) then that seems to be okay. However, if a player moves to China or the USA for example, then phrases like “They’re selling their soul” get thrown about.

If it’s okay for teams in England to acquire the best players from around the globe and for all of us to boast that we’ve got the greatest league in the world, then why shouldn’t other countries be allowed to do the same? Don’t the people of China, USA, Japan, Australia and India etc deserve a great league of their own, one where local players combine with the world’s best? The aforementioned countries have at least tried and made progress. As for many nations in Africa or even South America, their top players have consistently abandoned their homeland to grace Europe and often the English Premier League.

Hypocrisy, jealousy and arrogance are just some of the words that can be applied to the attitude of many who turn their nose up at players venturing to less heralded footballing nations. Some of the attitude seems to stem from the fact that fans in nations such as China could be considered ‘new’ fans and that unlike in England because their grandfather didn’t grace the terraces every week fifty years ago, the league… doesn’t count!

Of course the Premier League is the most watched league in the world which is in part why the league’s big wigs won’t want other leagues raising their quality and profile. Sure, top players moving to China in particular are spectacularly well remunerated (Even with recent salary changes) but if they inspire Chinese youngsters to take up the game and their native teammates to up theirs then isn’t that a good thing? I’m a huge cricket fan but it’s shamelessly a far from global game, only recently hinting at catching up.

Football sells itself as the global game. Experienced professionals sharing their skills and knowledge in non-historical footballing hotbeds can surely only help football live up to its self-proclamation!