Can Everton Make the Top Four?

Rooney Everton

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s the finances at the elite clubs in England grow even more astronomical, it was widely assumed that the other clubs would have to scrap for seventh at best. Yet Everton have shocked everyone by shooting for the stars. A flurry of signings has transformed what could have been a preseason bemoaning the loss of Romelu Lukaku into a period of optimism.

Everton 2017

Only time will tell if Lukaku has been adequately replaced, but after seasons of inconsistency, there is a burgeoning hope that Everton will be able to sustain a challenge for European places. Last season saw Ronald Koeman begin to stamp his influence on the side. Having conducted so much transfer business early in the window, there is time for the Dutchman to continue gelling a side together that will hold ambitions of defying the odds and breaking the top four.

Manchester City have spent exorbitantly, whilst most of the other leading clubs have made marquee signings. The only exception is Tottenham Hotspur, with chairman Daniel Levy recently speaking out about how the considerable increase in spending is unsustainable. The two Manchester clubs and champions Chelsea are perceived to be the favourites to battle it out for the title, in part because of their willingness to part with vast sums of money.

Arsenal have signed one of the top European strikers in Alexandre Lacazette, but much will depend on their ability to hold onto Alexis Sanchez. Liverpool still have question marks over their defence, with the possibility of Philippe Coutinho heading to Barcelona a spanner in the works. Spurs have been outstanding over the past two seasons, but inevitable concerns will arise over their potential stagnation compared to their rivals.

Those three clubs will be the ones that Everton will be dreaming of overhauling. In the Premier League top four odds, Everton can be found at a price of 10/1 of securing a Champions League berth, and are almost caught in a league of their own between the top six and the rest of the chasing pack. Yet a strong start to the season for Everton would put pressure on Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal – three sides that will be aware of their vulnerable position in the top six. Unfortunately for Everton, they face Chelsea, Tottenham and the Manchester duo in their first five league matches.

Rooney Everton

Of course, get points on the board in those tricky fixtures and the sky will be the limit. Everton will also have to contend with the balancing act of a domestic charge and Europa League football, but the experience and quality of the new signings should alleviate that burden. Sandro Ramirez arrives on Merseyside on the back of a spectacular breakout season in Spain, although statistical analysis from Paul Riley shows that the Spaniard may struggle to match his level of goalscoring in future seasons.

Yet Sandro will be supported by a strong midfield. Davy Klaasen will bring energy and impact to both ends of the pitch, whilst the returning Wayne Rooney can replace his ageing legs with vision and experience. At the back, Michael Keane and Jordan Pickford will add steel, as well as their youth suggesting the foundations of a dynasty. Everton had an exciting squad already, but now they have quality and depth across the board. It will be a tough ask for them to break into the top four, but their business in the transfer market shows that they are up for the challenge. 

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Euro 2016: England vs Wales preview

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[dropcap]E[/dropcap]ngland looked like on course for getting three points against Russia in their opening group match, but they were led down by a late goal. This denied them an opportunity to open a major tournament with a victory. Roy Hodgson’s team will certainly feel hard done by after having dominated Russia for much of the game. The result leaves them with the need for three points without any fail when they take on Wales and the odds favour an English victory. Chris Coleman’s team were a surprise qualifier for the Euro 2016, but they began the campaign with a 2-1 win over Slovakia.

Euro 2016 England v Wales

This fine victory has put them top of group A and they can potentially go into the game against England are looking for just in draw. England, though, need to get a win in order to stay alive in the tournament. Gareth Bale may have been the easy and obvious target for the opposition in the opening match, but the brilliant Real Madrid winger came up with a goal to ensure that Wales started the campaign in positive fashion.

One of the positives for England will be the form of Wayne Rooney, who was impeccable against Russia. Likewise, Hodgson will contemplate the possibility of resting Harry Kane, who looked weary and tired throughout the game. Kane is coming on the back of a long and hard campaign with Tottenham. After having performed exceptionally well up until now, the Tottenham striker is in danger of losing his position to Jamie Vardy for the game against Wales.

Coleman is unlikely to make many changes to the starting line-up that won convincingly against Slovakia. The race to qualify for the last 16 round of the competition is heating up and the arrival of Vardy to the starting line-up may be the crucial element that pushes England towards their first win.

A big test for Louis Van Gaal in Champions League

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After the humiliating goal-less match against West Ham at Old Trafford, Manchester United is now heading to Champions League clash against Wolfburg.

Last-16 fate of United will be decided by this crucial match and they beat Wolfburg 2-1 with the goals from Juan Mata and Chris Smalling.

Major blow for Manchester United is Wayne Rooney’s ankle injury. Anthony Martial is going to replace the England forward, but Champions League needs experience to taste the victory.

Fans were booed and shouted ‘Attack, Attack, Attack’. It shows that they are expecting the numbers on scoreboard. Louis Van Gaal is handling an unbalanced situation.

But Van Gaal said this Champions League match won’t rely with Premier League results.

He said: “You have to prove yourselves, as a club, as a team and as players,”

He also believes his experience will bring back the United from trouble.

“When you are creating chances you shall finish those kind of chances,”

“That’s why we have that belief. It’s a matter of time and I hope we can prove it against Wolfsburg.

“I have the experience as a manager that the goals shall come.”

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Van Gaal about Martial: “We have to give him time and that’s always difficult when you are playing for a team like Manchester United because the expectations are very high,”

“But I am very convinced that he will continue with his performances, and that he shall score at the right moment again.

“You cannot expect a 20-year-old player coming to the Premier League to score every week. I didn’t expect it either.

“When he came he was accelerating in the start of his campaign at Manchester United. I know that and I have to explain it to everybody because he doesn’t need that pressure to score every match.”

Even a draw will help Wolfsburg to reach their Champions League knockout for the first time. If they beat Manchester United they will stand next in group table.

Wayne Rooney ruled out from Champions League

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Wayne Rooney has to wait for his 500th appearance due to his “nasty injury” which is described by Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal.

30-years-old forward failed to complete the 90 minutes the 1-1 draw at Leicester City. Now it seems his ankle injury become serious issue.

Saturday United has a clash against West Ham and a crucial match against Wolfburg in Champions League so the live Football tickets for these games won’t be a simple task to get.

But, England playmaker will miss these two games. Last month LVG said Rooney has to earn his forward position from Anthony Martial, but the injury blows the possibilities to worst.

Van Gaal said: “It’s a nasty injury. He shall not play his 500th game because he is more injured than I thought so we have to wait for that game. His ankle is not good enough. He has to do a lot of exercises to make his ankle stronger. He needs more time.”

“Wayne’s ankle is not good enough and we have to recover that ankle with a lot of strength, so he has to do a lot of exercises to make it stronger. He needs more time.”

United boss also believes giving a break to the player will bring the best form of him again.

Van Gaal is aiming for the January window due to the major injury blows in key players.

“We have a lot of contact injuries and long-lasting injuries. That’s our problem. We are looking but it’s not so easy to buy players in January; it’s more difficult. We are looking but it’s not for sure.”

 

Who will be England’s star man at the World Cup?

England’s group is the clichéd ‘Group of Death’ in the media, but there’s no reason why Hodgson’s side shouldn’t get the better of either Uruguay or even Italy, who both appear fairly mediocre.  Qualification into the knockout rounds could project some of England’s young talent onto the world stage, so just who will shine in Brazil.

It appears that Hodgson favours Henderson and Gerrard in the engine room, with Lallana, Rooney and Sterling playing behind Sturridge.

England U21 v San Marino U21 - 2015 UEFA European U21 Championships Qualifier

The omission of Ross Barkley is the most obvious bone of contention.  Many armchair pundits would rank his abilities over those of Lallana, but it’d be difficult to make a case for him ahead of Sterling, who is the Premier League’s man of the moment.

Sterling has revolutionised the number 10 position at Liverpool.  Instead of sticking a creative ball player in the hole, Sterling gets past the forward and grafts down the channels.  In terms of betting value he’s an enticing 33/1 to be England’s top scorer.

This is highlighted when you consider that Rooney’s basically playing the same position or deeper, and he comes in at 7/2.  Sturridge is the obvious favourite at around 5/2, but bear in mind, England will play on the break and Sterling will get chances aplenty.

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Another man towatch will be Jordan Henderson who has had a hard time convincing a lot of pundits of his abilities; purists can get too ingrained in their desire for complete ‘technical ability’, which I would suggest comes as much through systems as it does through players.

Most teams needs an engine and there are few better than Henderson, who is also a highly underrated footballer.

The Liverpool contingent will be prominent in Hodgson’s side, and if they can combine that understanding with the addition of world class players like Rooney, Cahill and Baines, they start to look a decent prospect for the latter stages.

The big question is whether Hodgson will strap these players into a 4-4-2 formational straight jacket, or let them off the leash and utilise their energy.

Paul Scholes has gone public in saying Hodgson should try to emulate Liverpool’s style, in the manner of, if you score 2 we’ll score 3.

Hodgson does like defending in two banks of four – perfectly reasonable – but he must build angles into the attack; a modern team doesn’t move out with the ball in straight lines.  Defensive rigidity and attacking flair aren’t mutually exclusive; just look at Jorge Jesus’s disciplined but ultimately creative Benfica side.

England probably aren’t going to win this World Cup, but players like Sturridge, Sterling, Barkley and Lallana can announce to the world that they’re fit to play on any stage.

 

Job half done as England beat Montenegro 4-1

England

England

 

In what was a very nervous first-half last night for an England team that could not find the back of the net despite Wayne Rooney hitting the post with a shot that any other day would have been a certain goal.

Things picked up for the “Three Lions” when three minutes after the break a Danny Welbeck shot was parried by the keeper into the path of Manchester United striker Rooney who managed to bundle the ball home to open the scoring.

A few moments later Montenegrin midfielder Branko Boskovic put the ball in his own net to give England a 2-0 lead, and you could feel the tension around Wembley ease as the crowd realized that England had the cushion they needed in order to secure the win.

The respite was short lived however as tiny Montenegro refused to give with an instinctive prod from Dejan Damjanovic scoring a goal and putting them right back into the match.

England knowing that the job was not done went back on the attack with the most impressive player for me Tottenham’s Andros Townsend scoring a terrific 25-yard swerving stunner to give England back their two-goal lead.

Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge scored England’s fourth goal from the penalty spot in extra-time after being fouled by Ivan Kecojevic in the box.

The 4-1 win keeps England on top of Group H, but they still require a win against Poland on Tuesday in order to seal a spot in next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

England manager Roy Hodgson was happy with last night’s win, but knows that nothing is certain if they do not beat Poland on the 15th surely remembering a similar situation back in October 1973 when England needed to beat Poland at Wembley in order to qualify for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany only to be denied by Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski.

After the match the England manager Hodgson said: “The job’s half done,” he insisted. “If we want to qualify direct we need to win against Poland on Tuesday night. That won’t be easy.

“That game will be very difficult. I watched them (Poland), in the first half they played very well against Ukraine [a 1-0 defeat on Friday]. They had the best goalscoring opportunities.

“If they play as well against us on Tuesday as they did against Ukraine in the first half then it will be a tough game, but I always back the players. I trust them.

“We are still unbeaten in this qualifying group. We are capable of going unbeaten in the 10th [game] and with the backing we got from the fans and playing at Wembley I have got to back them. I would be foolish not to.”

Mourinho: Competition will be good for Torres

Torres

Torres

 

What lies ahead for Chelsea’s Fernando Torres at Stamford Bridge should Rooney arrive to bolster the teams front line attack?

The former Liverpool striker has never lived up to his £50 million move from Anfield to Chelsea back in 2011, but looked to be getting some of his old form back last season following the arrival of fellow Spaniard Rafe Benitez that saw Torres score 27 goals in all competitions.

It will be interesting to see if that form continues under Jose Mourinho who thinks that competition up front will have Torres battling for his place in the team.

Last season Torres only had Demba Ba to contend with for a starting spot, but next season it will be not only Ba but Romelu Lukaku who netted 18 goals while on a season long loan at West Brom.

Mourinho’s first signing Andre Schurrle from Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen will also be keen to make an impression on the Portuguese manager who thinks that last season only having to compete with Demba Ba did the Spanish international no favours.

“I think Fernando should be happy because we have competition in the team and that is good for everybody in every position,” he told reporters.

“I think Fernando will be pleased because during his time at Chelsea he was basically the only striker and then after that there was the arrival of Ba in January.

“Now the team has three (other) strikers and that is good.”

It will be very interesting to see what would happen should Rooney arrive at the club with my guess that either Ba or Torres could be sold.

Torres will be out of Chelsea’s first match of the season at home to Premiership new boys Hull City, as will Juan Mata and César Azpilicueta.

The trio are all part of the Spain team that are playing a friendly against Ecuador in Guayaquil on 14 August and will be too tired to play following such a long flight back to London.

Chelsea to test United with a £40m bid for Rooney

Rooney

Rooney

 

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has already said that his number one target this summer is Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, and after already having a first bid of £25 million turned down but Chelsea is prepared to test their resolve by offering £40 million for the 27-year-old striker.

United maintain that the England international is not for sale with current manager David Moyes convinced he can get Rooney to stay, despite the fact the Sir Alex Fergusons presence as a director at the club is a problem for Rooney after Sir Alex claimed Rooney asked for a transfer back in April, something the Rooney camp denied ever happening.

Mourinho definitely wants Rooney who still has two year remaining on his contract, and after hearing Moyes say that he will play second fiddle to United’s top scorer Robin van Persie there is a definite feeling around the Bridge that Rooney will be heading south.

Talk of the first bid involved a cash sum plus either Juan Mata or David Luiz something that Mourinho later denied saying never happened as neither player was for sale although it is known that either Paris Saint-Germain or Barcelona are likely to make an offer for Brazilian defender Luiz who Chelsea would let go for around the £45 million mark.

Mourinho sent out a coded message to Rooney last week that you can see in the video below indicating that is you want to play for your country in the World Cup you need to be playing first team football for your club.

The only way I can see Rooney not going to Chelsea is if United decide that they do not want him playing for the competition and would rather keep a very expensive bench warmer.

 

 

Chelsea fire the first shot in the race to sign Rooney

Rooney

Rooney

 

Just about every big club in the world has been on alert over the Wayne Rooney situation since Manchester United manager David Moyes said over the weekend that Rooney would be used as a backup for United’s star striker Robin van Persie.

This of course is a role that Rooney would find to be unacceptable, as the England international has no intention of being a backup player to anyone or playing for a team that rotates their players in and out.

Chelsea currently on tour in Asia have expressed an interest in the 27-year-old with new manager Jose Mourinho commenting on the news of Rooney possibly looking for a way out of Old Trafford.

Mourinho said: ‘If Wayne is a second choice for Manchester United, then the national team will be affected.’

He also said that Rooney is ‘a player I like very, very much.’

Today we can reveal that Mourinho like’s Rooney enough to have made Manchester United an offer of £10 million plus either Spanish playmaker Juan Mata or Brazilian defender David Luiz.

The offer was immediately rejected by Manchester United sticking to what they have said all along, and that is that Wayne Rooney is not for sale.

Now we all know that everyone is always for sale, and that this is just United’s way of trying to get more money for the England striker.

The question now is who is ready to play the game, with United much more inclined to see Rooney if he is sold go to a team outside of the Premiership, yet it would appear to be Chelsea and Arsenal that would be the most interested in his services.

Sky Sports just aired the following statement from their reporter Kaveh Solhekol:

Rooney believes he is at the peak of his career and has no intention of becoming a squad rotation player or by playing second fiddle to anyone at Old Trafford.

He believes he has nothing left to prove after nine successful seasons – yet that is what is being suggested by reports in the media which have interpreted the club’s statement as meaning he’s currently on trial for the coming season.

Since he’s returned from the pre-season tour due to injury, Rooney has been in touch with the club and spoken to David Moyes on the phone – he is angry and confused at the way he’s been treated.

If this report is to be believed it appears that even if he is not sold United will have a very disgruntled player on the bench in Rooney who can prove to be a distraction to the rest of the team.

Moyes plays hardball with Rooney

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Rooney

It is looking more likely that Wayne Rooney days at Manchester United are coming to an end after listening to new manager David Moyes comments regarding United’s star striker Wayne Rooney when he said that Rooney was only vital if “we had an injury to Robin van Persie.”

“Wayne can play up on his own, he can play dropped in. Overall my thought on Wayne is, if for any reason we had an injury to Robin van Persie, we’ll need him,” said Moyes, speaking in Thailand before flying to Sydney for the next stop of their summer tour.

“I want to be able to play the two of them; I want to use Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernández as well. I want to give myself as many options as possible.”

Moyes has said every time he has been asked that Rooney is not for sale, and new United chief executive Ed Woodward has no plans to discuss a new contract with Rooney at the moment with the England international being one of the premierships top earners on a salary of £250,000 per-week.

To put it more bluntly it sounds like United only need Rooney if Robin van Persie is unable to play, hardly a position the former top dog wants to be in.

While at Everton Moyes preferred to use a lone striker up front, in what you would call a traditional center forward role, with a number 10 man in behind which in United’s case will be Japanese international Shinji Kagawa.

That man up front would of course be the Premierships leading scorer last season Robin van Persie, and not Wayne Rooney.

Rooney had been hoping that the arrival of Moyes at United would see him play as the front man, as that was his natural position, and the reason he and Sir Alex had problems because Rooney thought he was not playing where he should be.

I am sure that Jose Mourinho is watching the situation closely and could offer Rooney a way out of United as Chelsea desperately search for a strong striker to play the role that would be perfect for Rooney.