Kevin De Bruyne faces lengthy stint on the sidelines after training mishap

Manchester City star Kevin De Bryne faces a lengthy stint on the sidelines after suffering a knee injury at training.

The midfielder will have tests on a right knee injury he suffered at training on Wednesday.

It is understood De Bruyne could miss at least two to three months of the season.

De Bruyne attended the premier of Manchester City’s documentary ‘All or Nothing’ on crutches.

The playmaker was City’s Player of the Season last term, scoring 12 goals and providing 21 assists as his side won the Premier League and EFL Cup.

In 2016, the Belgium missed 12 games after injuring his knee during the EFL Cup semi-final victory over Everton.

The injury will come as a blow to City, who are trying to defend their Premier League crown.

Manager Pep Guardiola aimed to sign a central midfielder in the summer, but failed in his attempts to sign Jorginho, who joined Chelsea instead.

This year the English transfer window closed before the start of the Premier League season.

The De Bruyne injury will only reinforce the need for the transfer window to return to its September 1 deadline, because if it were still open City would have the opportunity to purchase a replacement.

2018/19 Premier League Season Preview

Arsenal

In – Stephan Lichtsteiner (Free), Bernd Leno (Undisclosed), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Undisclosed), Lucas Torreira (Undisclosed), Matteo Guendouzi (Undisclosed)

Out – Per Mertesacker (Retired), Santi Cazorla (Released), Jack Wilshere (Released), Chuba Akpom (Undisclosed)

Position last season: 6th

This season will be a very interesting one for the Gunners. For the first time in 21 years, Arsenal is going into a new season with a new manager. Club icon Arsene Wenger finally handed over the reins last season, with Spaniard Unai Emery taking over the helm. It is just too difficult to tell how they will go this season. Will they play a brand new style of football? Will they return to the top four and finally finish on top of the table? Will their results be consistent over the course of the year? We eagerly await.

New Arsenal coach Unai Emery

Arsenal have made some very solid signings and it looks as though its reputation of hardly signing anyone has been nullified. Bernd Leno provides fantastic competition for current goalkeeper Petr Cech. Stephan Lichtsteiner may look to be a bargain signing. The addition of Sokratis Papastathopoulos strengthens their defence. An exciting season ahead for Gunners fans.

Prediction: 1st-4th

Tim Sperliotis

Bournemouth

In – David Brooks (Undisclosed), Diego Rico (Undisclosed), Jefferson Lerma (Undisclosed)

Out – Benik Afobe (A$17 million), Max Gradel (Undisclosed), Adam Federici (Undisclosed)

Position last season: 12th

After a decent last season, Bournemouth will be looking to back up their previous mid table finish. So far, only three players have been signed, however Eddie Howe is a great manager and has the ability to bring the best out of his side. The Cherries face Cardiff, West Ham and Everton in their first three Premier League matches and could possibly win all three. Bournemouth did beat French side Marseille 5-2 in a pre-season friendly, which would no doubt give them plenty of confidence against the big boys.

Prediction: 9th-12th

Tim Sperliotis

Brighton 

Ins: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Leon Balogun (Mainz), Florin Andone (Deportivo La Coruna), Jason Steele (Sunderland), Bernardo Fernandes (RB Leipzig), David Button (Fulham), Yves Bissouma (Lille), Percy Tau (Mamelodi Sundowns), Anders Dreyer (Esbjerg)

Outs: Uwe Huenemeier (SC Paderborn), Rohan Ince (released), Jamie Murphy (Rangers), Steve Sidewell (released), Tim Krul (released), Sam Maldock (Reading)

Last season: 15th

A busy off-season has meant plenty of arrivals at Brighton but whether the signings have actually improved Chris Houghton’s squad is a major question which has been raised in the lead up to the season.

One man they will be hoping to perform at a consistent level once again is Pascal Gross who was quite the free transfer last season, arguably Brighton’s most influential player and a major reason as to why they retained their Premier League status.

In between the posts, Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan often didn’t get the plaudits he deserved in a team, which sometimes struggled.

An interesting season awaits, where relegation is a real possibility.

Prediction: 15th – 20th

Brayden May

Burnley

In –  Ben Gibson (A$26 million), Joe Hart (undisclosed), Matej Vydra (Undisclosed)

Out – Scott Arfield (Released), Chris Long (Released)

Position last season: 7th

Burnley had a successful 2017/18 season, challenging Arsenal and Chelsea and only falling short of the top four at the end of the season. The Clarets will be full of confidence under manager Sean Dyche and will aim to once again challenge for the top four. England goalkeeper Joe Hart is a massive signing for them, who could strengthen their defence and allow them to win more matches.

Adding to their usual fixtures, this season see’s Burnley in the Europa League. So far they have defeated Scottish side Aberdeen in the second round of qualifying and will take on Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir in the third round. Reaching the group stage would be monumental for them, however would also increase their schedule and possibly hinder their chances at improving on last season.

Prediction: 6th – 13th

Tim Sperliotis

Cardiff

Ins: Bobby Reid (Bristol City), Greg Cunningham (Preston North End), Josh Murphy (Norwich), Alex Smithies (QPR)

Notable outs: Nil

Last season: 2nd in Championship (automatic promotion)

It was a momentous achievement by Cardiff to gain automatic promotion to the Premier League last season. The Bluebirds stunned their highly fancied counterparts to secure a second place finish, even if they did have to rely on Fulham losing to Birmingham on the final day to secure promotion.

Manager Neil Warnock has already suggested his side will struggle to stay in the Premier League and will need to hit the ground running if they are going to avoid relegation.

Cardiff have three winnable games to start the season, taking on Bournemouth, Newcastle and Huddersfield.

New signing Bobby Reid will be relied on in the attacking third, but their squad lacks star quality and will need a miracle to survive the drop.

Prediction: 17th – 20th

Christopher Chrysostomou

Chelsea

In: Jorginho (A$86 million), Rob Green (Free), Kepa (A$125 million), Mateo Kovacic (Loan)

Out: Lewis Baker (loan), Trevoh Chalobah (loan), Reece James (loan), Dujon Sterling (loan), Nathan Baxter (loan), Jordan Houghton (free), Kenedy (loan), Jamal Blackman (loan), Mitcheel Beeney (free), Ruben Sammutt (loan), Harvey St Clair (free) Cole DaSilva (released), Matej Delac (free), Eduardo (loan), Renedi Masampu (released), Wallace (released), Tushuan Tyrese Walters (released), Isaac Christie-Davies (free), Jake Clarke-Salter (loan), Joao Rodriguez (loan), Todd Kane (loan), Mason Mount (loan), Boga (undisclosed), Charlie Colkett (loan), Mario Pasalic (loan), Jacol Maddox (loan), Fikayo Tomori (loan), Matt Miazga (loan), Nathan (loan), Victorien Angban (loan), Kasey Palmer (loan), Kyle Scott (loan)

Position last season: 5th

Chelsea head into the 2018-19 season with a new manager and an entirely new approach, after Antonio Conte’s nasty exit of the club. It has paved the way for another Italian to take charge with Maurizio Sarri taking over the reins for the Londerers, but will have limited time to implement his style.

One thing we can expect from Sarri this season, is his own blueprint with many tipping him to remove the back three, which Conte favoured. Instead it is likely that Sarri will play a 4-3-3 formation currently known as “Sarri ball” which will bring the excitement back to the London club.

New Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri

The 4-3-3 formation will mean there will be more emphasis on attack this season, and it saw him and Napoli become one of the most feared teams in Europe last season. One thing that Sarri does not have though, is time on his hands to implement this type of style, he has had the most of pre-season but even then it was limited due to the fact that most of the players that are normally in the starting XI were on holiday because of the World Cup.

Another problem Sarri needs to fix before the transfer window shuts is to sign an elusive and proven striker having missed out on his number one target Gonzalo Higuain. It has became apparent for a number of seasons that Chelsea needs a proven goalscorer, Alvaro Morata was seen to be the answer but after a blistering start his form began to drop. If Chelsea can get a new striker or if all else fails Sarri can get Morata to reach his potential then we could see the Blues back in the top 4.

Prediction: 3rd

Fraser Stewart

Crystal Palace

In: Vicente Guaita (Free), Cheikhou Kouyate (A$16.5 million), Max Meyer (Free)

Out: Yohan Cabaye (Free), Damien Delaney (released), Lee Chung-yong (released)

Position last season: 11th

It is almost a shock that we are even previewing Crystal Palace for another Premier League season.

10 months ago Palace were anchored to the bottom of the table with zero wins and zero goals after seven games in what was a disastrous run for former manager Frank de Boer. But somehow under Roy Hodgson, Palace were able to gather some momentum and ultimately finished in 11th spot; an amazing achievement considering the horror start.

Not much has occurred in the off-season at Selhurst but still enough to give Palace fans optimism for the upcoming season. Cheikhou Kouyate should prove to be a solid signing and after his four years at West Ham and will provide plenty of experience in central midfield. 22-year-old Max Meyer has been the most talked about inclusion for Crystal Palace however. The German international has impressed in his time at Schalke and has the ability to play both an attacking and defensive role across midfield and it will only benefit the squad.

If Palace can hold on to Wilfred Zaha by the time the transfer deadline day rolls around, the battle to survive in the Premier League will be the least of their concerns. Zaha plays a critical role, producing pace and flair and it was clearly absent in games he didn’t play last season. He may be the key to bringing Palace back to the heights they reached when they made the 2016 FA Cup final.

However, a start similar to last season will no doubt put Crystal Palace behind the eight ball again and with the promoted sides likely exceeding expectations this season, Palace have to start getting consistent on order to not fall off the pace as the luck they received by surviving last season may not be possible this time around.

Prediction: 10th-15th

Nicholas Sacco

Everton

In: Richarlison (Watford), Lucas Digne (Barcelona), Yerry Mina (Barcelona), Andre Gomes (Barcelona), Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk)

Out: Ramiro Funes Mori (Villarreal), Wayne Rooney (DC United – free), Joel Robles (Real Betis – free), Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray – loan), Ashley Williams (Stoke City – loan), Davy Klaassen (Werder Bremen)

Last season: 8th

Everton will be hoping for a much more settled season, after a tumultuous 2017/18. The Toffees spent over A$100 million last season, but where nearing relegation in October.

Marco Silva has finally taken the reigns and has gone about rebuilding the squad. The Toffees have added world class quality in the form of  Lucas Digne, Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes, who have all come from Barcelona. Bernard is also a talented player that will be eager to impress in the biggest league in the world.

The interesting signing is Richarlison. The Brazilian impressed in the opening stages of last season with Watford, but struggled when Silva departed the club. The A$87 million the Toffees spent him is a hefty fee for someone with minimal experience in the Premier League, but could be a bargain if he lives up to expectations.

Everton will need to be more lethal up front this year if they are going to target a top seven finish. The Toffees recorded the second fewest shots on goal last season and struggled to find a striker to replace Romelu Lukaku.

If they can find a way to score, then they will have every chance of a European berth.

Prediction: 7th – 10th

Christopher Chrysostomou

Fulham

In: Jean Michael Seri (A$47.45 million), Aleksandar Mitrovic (A$31.95 million), Alfie Mawson (A$26.66 million), Fabri (A$9.45 million), Maxime Le Marchand (A$6.33 million), Andre Schurrle (Loan)

Out: David Button (A$7.12 million), George Williams (Free), Ryan Fredericks (Free)

Position last season: Championship Playoff Final winners 

Newly promoted sides rarely receive as much plaudits as Fulham and Wolves. The Cottagers are aiming high on their return to the top tier. Owner Shahid Khan has already said his team aim to “win’ and this could be a blessing for Premier League fans. Fulham lit up the Championship last year by playing possession based football. It is wrong to think they will be able to have as much possession as they did in the Championship last year, but under the guidance of Slavisa Jokanovic, the Lillywhites won’t fear any team.

Ryan Sessegnon is the name on everyone’s lips. The 18-year-old scored 16 goals last season and was named the Championship Player of the Year. Big clubs were circling for his signature, but the winger showed his maturity by staying at Fulham, knowing it was his best option of playing every week.

Will Ryan Sessegnon take the Premier League by storm?

Captain Tom Cairney is another player who could excel in the top league. The 27-year-old has finally found consistency in his game and is the Lillywhites creative force from the middle of the park.  

Aleksandar Mitrovic netted 12 goals in the second half of last season and his signing is a big boost for the Cottagers. Alfie Mawson was heavily linked to West Ham in January and his signing is a show of intent. Jean Michael Seri was linked to Barcelona and Chelsea, while Andre Schurrle is a World Cup winner and both are great recruits.

Fulham should easily avoid relegation and are good enough to finish in the top 10.

Prediction: 10th – 13th

Christopher Chrysostomou

Huddersfield

In: Ben Hamer (Leicester City – free), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City), Terence Kongolo (AS Monaco), Juninho Bacuna (FC Groningen), Erik Durm (Borussia Dortmund), Florent Hadergjonaj (Ingolstadt), Jonas Lossl (Mainz – permanent deal), Adama Diakhaby (AS Monaco)

Out: Tom Ince (Stoke City), Dean Whitehead (retired), Rob Green (released)

Position last season: 16th

Once again the Terriers have added quality throughout their squad, which should help boost their survival hopes.

Not many gave them hope of survival last season but they defied the odds to remain in England’s top-flight but doing it again is certainly going to be a difficult task. If they are able to remain in the Premier League beyond of the season they should be applauded for their actions.

The likes of Aaron Mooy are set to play a key role in helping the club keep that status. While they have made signings, manager David Wagner needs improvement from players who have Premier League experience from last season’s campaign.

While they have made smart savings, it remains to be seen whether they are in a better position than last season.

Prediction: 17th –20th

Brayden May

Leicester

In: James Maddison (Norwich City), Ricardo Pereira (FC Porto), Jonny Evans (West Brom), Danny Ward (Liverpool), Rachid Ghezzal (AS Monaco), Caglar Soyuncu (Freiburg),

Outs: Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City), Ahmed Musa (Al-Nassr), Robert Huth (released)

Last season: 9th

Leicester’s miracle 2015/16 season seems like a lifetime ago. Riyad Mahrez departs the club, after trying to leave in January. The Foxes have set about finding a replacement for the Algerian. James Maddison is one of the most exciting young English prospects and will benefit developing at the Foxes. Johnny Evans will form a solid partnership with Harry Maguire and Ricardo Pereira is an upgrade on Danny Simpson.

A mid-table finish should be Leicester’s aim.

Prediction: 7th – 10th

Christopher Chrysostomou

Liverpool 

Ins: Naby Keita (RB Leipzig), Fabinho (AS Monaco), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Allisson (AS Roma), Issac Christie-Davies (Chelsea – free)

Outs: Emre Can (Juventus – free), Jon Flanagan (Rangers – free), Danny Ward (Leicester), Ben Woodburn (Sheffield United – loan)

Last season: 4th

It has been well publicised just how well the Reds have done and this transfer window and the praise they have received is well deserved.

Across the pitch, the Reds have several strengths which should see them right in the title race until the end of the season. Last season they enjoyed a dream run to the Champions League final, which ended in heartbreak but needing to find consistency in the league remains their biggest challenge.

Could Allison be the man to take Liverpool to the promise land?

The question remains to be seen as to whether Mo Salah will hit the heights of last season, even if he is slightly below those levels we have seen how devastating he can be.

Jurgen Klopp has the tactics which make the Reds one of the most exciting teams in the league and if we see the best of Liverpool throughout the campaign there may well be silverware at the end of it.

Prediction: 1st – 3rd

Brayden May

Manchester City

In: Riyad Mahrez (A$104.6 million), Claudio Gomes (Free), Phillippe Sandler (undiscolsed)

Out: Joe Hart (A$1 million), Yaya Toure (released)

Position last season: 1st

It only took Pep Guardiola two seasons to make Manchester City champions and it is pretty difficult to consider any other scenario than them going back to back in 2018/2019.

Everything went City’s way last season with Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne continuing to be dominant in a record breaking 100 point season for City; while the emergence of Leroy Sane saw him deservingly win the PFA Young Player of the Year award. You would think it is difficult to top such an amazing season but crazier things have happened.

Pep has already made a fast start in the off season, giving plenty of minutes into the clubs young stars during friendly matches while most of the squad were playing in the World Cup. Phil Foden was the standout and will definitely be a player to watch throughout the season.

The signing of Riyad Mahrez from Leicester has also produced much excitement around Manchester in the off-season. He played a pivotal role in the Foxes unbelievable route to winning the league in 2015/16 and it is almost impossible to forget his PFA Player of the Year award from the same season. Both his goal-scoring and his precise passing suit the Manchester City squad well and you will think the Algerian will form some great partnerships in midfield with the likes of De Bruyne and David Silva.

Riyad Mahrez will add another dimension to City.

It was difficult to find any problems that City would need to fix prior to the season opener against Arsenal, although they wouldn’t mind putting teams away earlier rather than panicking to score late; particular games against Huddersfield and West Ham come to mind. But honestly, it would be difficult to improve a red hot team that is Manchester City

Unless they suffer a few shock losses throughout the season, there is no reason why City shouldn’t go back to back.

Prediction: 1st – 2nd

Nicholas Sacco

Manchester United

In: Fred (A$93.31 million), Diogo Dalot (A$34.80 million), Lee Grant (A$2.69 million)

Out: Daley Blind (A$25.31 million), Sam Johnstone (A$6.62 million) Michael Carrick (Retired)

Position last season: 2nd

Following a trophyless 2017/18 season, Manchester United fans expected the Red Devils to add to their squad to challenge for silverware. However United’s off-season has been headlined by a lack of investment, poor results and questionable management from Jose Mourinho. United have made only two headline signings, purchasing Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk and the teenage full back, Diego Dalot. Both signings fill gaps in the United lineup, but will do little to reduce the gap between United and the title winning Manchester City.

The Red Devils pre-season has left little to be desired, winning two of their six friendlies and suffering a 4-1 defeat to Liverpool. United have fielded an under-strength side because most of their players were at the World Cup, but the defensive performance of the team is a worry. United conceded eight goals in six outings, which is alarming considering Mourinho’s teams are built around defence.

Jose Mourinho has been at his grumpy best during pre-season.

Mourinho’s most successful teams have always had a settled back four. However at United it is difficult to work out which is the best defensive partnership. Fullbacks Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are over 30, while centre-backs Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Victor Lindelorf are susceptible to making errors.

United’s midfield trio is set to be Nemanja Matic, Fred and Paul Pogba, which on-paper is one of the most lethal in the league. Pogba is coming off a successful World Cup with France and will  be hoping to translate his national form into consistent performances at club land.

Then there’s the attack. Romelu Lukaku netted 27 goals for United last year and will be the starting striker. Alexis Sanchez struggled in his first six months at United, but has shown promising signs in pre-season and will begin on the left wing. The issue will be who starts on the right wing? Marcus Rashford is the likely option but he is not suited on the right side and struggled when played in that position last year. Anthony Martial is another who could play on the right, but has already signalled his intentions to leave the club and was fined A$360,000 for leaving the pre-season tour to be with his pregnant wife. Juan Mata is the final option on the right but as we have seen over the years, he is better suited playing through the middle.

Mourinho has looked a deflated man in pre-season and of course we know about the ‘third year blues’ he has had at his previous clubs. Mourinho said when he first became manager of United that the Red Devils should be challenging for the title every season, which is why it was unusual for him to refuse to comment on United’s title chances.

Most of the betting companies have him third favourite to be sacked. Knowing Mourinho, this negativity could be a ploy to lower the hype around his team. But the issues around the Red Devils say otherwise and United will be lucky to make the top four and Mourinho will be lucky to be manager come seasons end.

Prediction: 4th – 7th

Christopher Chrysostomou 

Newcastle

In: Yoshinori Muto (A$16.92 million), Martin Dubravka (A$6.33 million), Fabian Schar (A$6.33 million), Sung-yong Ki (Free)

Out: Aleksandar Mitrovic (A$31.95 million), Mikel Merino (A$18.98 million) Chencel Mbemba (A$12.65 million), Matz Sels (6.33 million)

Position last season: 10th

The 2018/19 season could have been the season Newcastle United returned to European football, but because of the stinginess of owner Mike Ashley, the Magpies will be fighting for survival.

Manager Rafa Benitez had to use all his experience last year to get the best out of his side that lacked the talent of the teams around them. Benitez guided the Magpies to 10th, which is an exceptional feat given his starting lineup was almost identical to the one that got promoted from the Championship.

Some smart purchases in the transfer market will bolster the squad, especially the signing of Sung-young Ki, who they signed on a free transfer from Swansea. But in a era where Everton spent A$62 million on Richarlson, Newcastle have not broken their transfer record since 2005, when they spent A$30 million on Michael Owen.

Benitez comes out of contract at the end of the season and is willing to stay if he is given the funds to improve the side. Mike Ashley however won’t give Benitez funds until he re-signs with the club. The standstill could see Benitez leave before seasons end, which will be a blow to the fans, who adore him.

If Benitez stays, Newcastle should avoid relegation, but if he leaves, the drop will be inevitable.

Prediction: 15th – 18th

Christopher Chrysostomou

Southampton

In – Stuart Armstrong (Undisclosed), Mohamed Elyounoussi (Undisclosed), Jannik Vestergaard (Undisclosed)

Out – Dusan Tadic (Undisclosed), Jordy Classie (Loan)

Position Last Year: 17th

The Saints barely survived relegation to stay in the Premier League last season. It was a disappointing season, which saw them winless in December and January. They sacked their manager Mauricio Pellegrino in March too. His replacement Mark Hughes will look to improve Southampton’s fortunes this season. Their first three Premier League matches are against Burnley, Everton and Leicester City, however going by last season’s results, it may be another long season. A 3-2 win over Spanish side Celta Vigo in a pre-season friendly could give them some necessary confidence. It will be interesting to see if the Saints can put last season to bed and finish in the top half of the table.

Prediction: 13th– 20th

Tim Sperliotis

Tottenham

In: Nil

Out: Nil

Position Last Season: 3rd

It’s silverware or bust for Tottenham if they want to make a stand in the Premier League this season.

If it wasn’t for a dominant City, Tottenham were every chance of being a serious title challenger last season while also qualifying in the Round of 16 in the Champions League before being knocked out by Juventus. With Harry Kane and Dele Alli in career best form, the Spurs comfortably secured 3rd place and got themselves another run to go deep in the Champions league next tournament.

It seems to be that once again the club has steered clear of making any big signings, in fact any signings at all, during the transfer window. Mauricio Pochettino was vocal about the club having to be bold coming into this season but with nothing to show the pressure can already start to be unleashed before a ball has been kicked.

Pochettino will still be able to select from a very impressive squad of players as despite many of these players coming off a World Cup there has been little evidence to suggest any significant drop of form coming into the 2018/2019 season.

A midfield containing Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura will continue to enlighten Spurs fans with exciting and mesmerising attacking play while Kieren Trippier and Jan Vertonghen controlling the defensive structures should continue to command the back four. But there is one man who has continued to play a key role in Tottenham’s quest for silverware and after coming off a Golden Boot in the 2018 World Cup, Harry Kane will be hard to stop and another outstanding season from him could lift the Spurs into the title challengers category.

One thing that everyone will be looking forward to will be the Spurs’ new stadium, set to be unleashed in the fifth league fixture when they face Liverpool on September 15. This change from playing all their home games at Wembley last season could possibly recreate a ‘home ground advantage’ for the Spurs and if something along those lines could be generated quickly then it will put the rest of the top 6 on notice.

To be put simply it is long overdue for Tottenham to win any kind of trophy. A bunch of second and third placed finishings along with many unsuccessful league cup journeys will not be in enough for Tottenham to remain out of the spotlight. With no signings to date and now in his fifth season at the Spurs, Pochettino will begin to feel the impatient environment of fans if things do not go his way this season, but expect a top 4 finish to be a guarantee.

Prediction: 1st – 4th

Nicholas Sacco

Watford 

In: Gerard Deulofeu (A$22.6 million), Ben Foster (A$4.3 million), Adam Masina (A$20 million), Marc Navarro (A$17.4 million)

Out: Costel Pantilimon (undisclosed), Mauro Zarate (undisclosed), Richarlison (A$69.7 million), Nordin Amrabat (undisclosed)

Position last season: 14th

After an impressive first two months of the season with now Everton manager Marco Silva where they lost only one of their first eight games, a bad run of form saw the Hornets slide down bad enough to cost Silva his job and while a slight improvement followed, there wasn’t much joy for Watford fans after finishing with just 11 wins for the season.

The signing of Gerard Deulofeu has been an important capture for Watford. The former Barcelona man can provide an exciting attacking presence for the Hornets and also has Premier League experience which will fasten his settlement back into Watford colours.

Their defence stocks will need to improve after conceding 64 goals last season (the third most in the league in 2017/2018) but with the signings of keeper Ben Foster and left back Adam Masina, it should ease the pressure in that area of the pitch.

Another strong positive is the contract signing of Abdoulaye Doucoure. After signing on for an extra five years, the Hornets will hope to use him as the key when transitioning from defence to attack while the return of Nathaniel Chalobah and the steady improvement of Will Hughes will also benefit Watford.

But there are many problems for Javi Garcia to quickly solve for the season opener, especially in the attacking half. The strike force of Troy Deeney, Andre Grey and Stefano Okaka feel limited in their style of play and haven’t been able to consistently score while the departure of Mauro Karate is a dent to their already concerning problem. The scoring front will be a major factor in Watford’s final position this season and whether Deulofeu can lead that charge will be the question of many Watford fans this season.

Unfortunately for Watford it will likely be a scrappy relegation fight for majority of the season. With the promoted sides of both this season and last season expected to stay competitive in the top flight this season, unless they can replicate last seasons fast start, then it will be difficult to see the Hornets escape relegation.

Prediction: 15th – 20th

Nicholas Sacco

West Ham

In: Felipe Anderson (A$60.10 million), Issa Diop (A$34.54 million), Andriy Yarmolenko (A$31.63 million), Lukasz Fabianksi (A$12.65 million), Fabian Balbuena (A$6.33 million), Jack Wilshere (Free), Ryan Fredericks (Free)

Out: Cheikhou Kouyate (A$16.92 million), James Collins (Released) Patrice Evra (Released)

Position last season: 13th

The owners have listened to the fans and have spent money on rebuilding an aging West Ham. After unveiling Manuel Pellegrini as David Moyes’ replacement, the West Ham owners went about revitalising a West Ham squad that finished 13th last year.

Jack Wilshere’s signature is a cue because at 26, he still has plenty of years left in him. Felipe Anderson was once on the radar of Manchester United and could be anything if he is confident.

New West Ham signings Jack Wilshere and Felipe Anderson.

The Hammers could secure European football next year, but could also fight relegation. They now have the talent to compete against the big teams, but there is a reason they were able to secure the players they purchased. Wilshere, Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko are not on the big clubs radars because they have not lived up to expectations.

We have seen teams prior recruit big names and stumble. Could West Ham do the same?

History has shown it is difficult to predict where they will finish.

Prediction: 6th – 20th

Christopher Chrysostomou

Wolves

Ins: Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon), Benik Afobe (Bournemouth – loaned to Stoke), Wily Boly (FC Porto – permanent deal), Raul Jimenez (Benfica – loan), Diogo Jota (Atletico Madrid – permanent deal), Leo Bonatini (Al-Hilal), Ruben Vinagre (Monaco), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Jonny Castro (Atletico Madrid – loan), Adama Traore

Outs: Ben Marshall (Norwich City), Barry Douglas (Leeds United)

Position last season: Championship winners

Wolverhampton have enjoyed more than a successful off-season making several major signings which have significantly improved their squad.

Could Ruben Neves fire Wolves to a top six finish?

Just by the names listed, you can already see that the newly promoted side have improved their squad, and they should be able to challenge for the top half of the table.

Wolves certainly will be exciting to watch this season and if they hit top gear they could beat anyone on their day.

Could there be a new big boy in English football?

Prediction: 7th – 11th

This article was written by Brayden May, Christopher Chrysostomou, Fraser Stewart, Nicholas Sacco and Tim Sperliotis. You can listen to the boys weekly by subscribing to the English Football Podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud

Expectations need to be raised on the Socceroos

Gallant, valiant and unlucky are words commonly used to describe the Socceroos.

Read a Socceroos match report when they face a team ranked higher than them and you will likely see one of these words to describe the Socceroos performance.

In their opening two matches at the World Cup, the Socceroos have shown that they are capable of being competitive against the best teams in the world.

Australia were unlucky to lose against France and probably should have got all three points against Denmark.

But how long can Australia continue to use excuses for their lack of wins?

It is okay to praise competitiveness, but it is now time to start getting results.

Australians love to use the underdog status. We love to perceive ourselves as small-town heros taking on the big boys. The World Cup is the best example of this.

The Socceroos have qualified for four successive World Cups, making them only the 12th team to qualify for all four World Cup’s between 2006 and 2018 – Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, South Korea, Spain and Switzerland have all qualified for four consecutive World Cups.

Qualifying for the World Cup should be the minimum requirement for the Socceroos, yet it feels like it is an overachievement because football is not our number one sport and because prior to 2006, our only other appearance at the tournament was in 1974.

Australia’s record in the four World Cups is less than impressive. The Socceroos have played 12 games for a total of two wins, three draws and seven defeats.

It would be harsh to criticise the Socceroos performances, given the teams they have come up against. In 2006, the Socceroos lost to reigning Champions Brazil and Italy, who would go on to win the tournament.

In 2010, the Socceroos were smashed 4-0 by Germany, but then responded with a draw and victory over Ghana and Serbia.

2014 was never going to end well for Australia. The Socceroos were drawn in the ‘group of death’ and suffered defeats to Chile, the Netherlands and Spain.

This year the Socceroos were defeated by the seventh ranked France and the 12th ranked Denmark.

Going by ranking, Australia would not stand a chance against any of their opponents. But if you watched the game against Denmark, you would think otherwise.

The Socceroos had more possession, shots and corners than their Danish counterparts. They were compact defensively and always looked a threat when Matthew Leckie had the ball.

But they only secured a 1-1 draw, courtesy of a dubious penalty awarded for a handball.

Mile Jedinak slotted home his second penalty of the tournament, which was also the Socceroos second goal of the tournament.

Despite the positive performance, the only reason Australia secured a point was because of an incorrect decision by the referee.

The issue for Australia is they lack creativity in open play. Tom Rogic and Aaron Mooy are the two creative forces in the team and have combined for a total of seven assists for their club teams this year.

Australia lacks a poacher that can score goals. Andrew Nabbout has been a workhorse in both matches, but has not created a clear opportunity on goal for himself.

Robbie Kruse is another who has started both games but does not have the quality in front of goal.

Without the quality to finish off the good work by Rogic and Mooy, the Socceroos never really threatened to score in open play.

Scoring in open play has been an issue for the Socceroos for quite some time. The Socceroos have not scored a goal in open play in a competitive match since their 2-1 victory over Syria in the second leg of their World Cup Qualifier.

Since the game against Syria, the Socceroos have played four competitive matches, excluding friendlies and have scored five goals. All five goals have been scored by Mile Jedinak. Four of those goals were penalties and the other was a free kick.

Against Denmark, the Socceroos relied too heavily on crossing the ball into the penalty area. Crossing should not be the number one option to create goals because the ratio of scoring from a cross is not high. The best evidence of this was in 2014, when Manchester United had a Premier League record 81 crosses against Fulham, but were still held to a 2-2 draw.

Over-crossing usually occurs when the team is frustrated by their inability to break down their opponents. Australia appeared reluctant to shoot from outside of the box against Denmark. One example of this was when Tom Rogic was running towards goal and had space to shoot, but decided to pass the ball out wide.

Rogic has scored plenty of goals from outside of the box for Celtic, but did not trust his technique on the big occasion.

Australia’s fate at the World Cup will be decided in their final group match against Peru. The Socceroos will need to win and hope France defeat Denmark to secure a place in the round of 16.

It would be a great achievement if Australia progress, given the calibre of the teams they are facing. However if they do fail to qualify, a majority of Australians will praise the gallant performances of the national team.

Yes, football is not the number one sport in Australia and yes we do not have the quality of players like Christian Eriksen in our team. But what is the point of going to the World Cup just to make up the numbers and put up a contest against the big boys?

Minnows have previously shown that they can cause upsets at big tournaments. Iceland defeated England at the 2016 European Championship and Greece won the same tournament in 2004.

It is time we start expecting more from our national team, because we have shown we are good enough to be at the World Cup, now we must start getting results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Premier League Season Review

Arsenal

A disappointing season that resulted in the end of an era. 22 years after coming into the top-job, Arsene Wenger finally made the decision to leave the the club. The French manager won 17 trophies at the Gunners, however the disappointments over the last few years were key to his decision. Arsenal have failed to qualify for the Champions League in the past two years. They were England’s only participant in the Europa League this year and many expected them to win the tournament. After an exciting run, they bowed out to Spanish side Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals.

Arsene Wenger farewells the fans.

Premier League wise, the season was a disaster. Many had become accustomed to Arsenal finishing in the top-four, however for the second consecutive season they missed out and finished in sixth place. They were on track to lose every away Premier League match in 2018, but a 1-0 victory at Huddersfield on the final matchday prevented that record.

The Gunners made an impressive run to the Carabao Cup final where they faced Manchester City, however a disappointing performance resulted in a 3-0 defeat. An embarrassing 4-2 loss to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup 3rd round did not allow Arsenal to retain their trophy. Overall, a shocking season with a sad end.

Grade: E

Tim Sperliotis

Bournemouth

The Cherries finished in 12th place and can consider their season a good one. Some highlights include the 3-0 away win against Chelsea and a 2-1 victory over Arsenal. They would be disappointed with their late November to December form, where they did not register a win in nine matches across all competitions.

April was also a difficult month for the Cherries, as they went five Premier League matches without a victory. Despite this, they finished off the season on a high, with two wins on the trot and with a few decent signings, they can push towards a top-half finish next season.

Grade: B-

Tim Sperliotis

Brighton

Coming into the season, there was only one goal for the newly promoted Seagulls, survival.

That mission was completed and we will once again get to see them strut their stuff in the big time next season. Despite threatening with the prospect of relegation in the back half of the season, the players stood tall when their club needed it most.

Manager Chris Houghton deserves to be in talks for manager of the season, after a terrific season. Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan drew plenty of plaudits throughout the season and rightfully so, producing several big performances, against the Premier League big boys. While he may have conceded goals, he certainly did stop a lot more finding the back of the net.

Pascal Gross was an exciting acquisition from Ingolstadt in Germany prior to the campaign and the Seagulls may have a battle to retain him with other clubs sure to be interested.

Grade: B

Brayden May

Burnley

Sean Dyche would have to be one of the only men to rival Pep Guardiola for manager of the season. Lifting the Clarets to seventh and subsequently securing a chance at the Europa League title.

While that may sound like a stretch for Burnley, so was finishing anywhere near the top sides of the Premier League 12 months ago.

Burnley managed just the one away win, along with 20 losses and a 16th place finish in the 2016/17 season. This year, The Clarets managed to take a total of 28 points away from Turf Moor as well as just the 12 losses for the entire season.

Dyche has transformed his side into a squad full of young, promising talent with great depth, particularly within the Clarets defensive third.

Burnley only conceded 39 goals for the season, one goal more than 4th place ranked Liverpool and Chelsea. James Tarkowski and Ben Mee lead the Clarets from the back, and rightfully put themselves in contention for team of the season.

New Zealand striker Chris Wood and Goalkeeper Nick Pope took their games to a new level, with Pope stepping up in the absence of Tom Heaton.

Dyche will look to stabilise the consistent efforts he found within his side this year, and perhaps turning to the transfer market to invest in a chance at grabbing a top six spot in 2019.

Grade: A

Mitch Keating

Chelsea

Once again the Blues failed to launch a proper title defence after ending the season as the reigning champions. Several players who helped guide the club to the title last season failed to reach the same heights this year, particularly their defence, which went through a major reshuffle.

On the new signings front, Tiemoue Bakayoko failed to fill the hole left by Nemanja Matic who joined Manchester United (and a player who evidently featured in the English Football Podcast’s Team of the Season). Meanwhile, Alvaro Morata started like a house on fire before being overtaken by January signing Olivier Giroud. Elsewhere, Antonio Rudigier proved to be a more than respectable signing.

Chelsea have failed to recapture their form from last season.

Rumours continued to swirl surrounding the future of Antonio Conte, who often cut a frustrated figure during the season. There was a lot more complaining from the Italian and it was clear he wasn’t happy with how the club was being run. His relationship with the club’s board has dwindled and we shouldn’t be surprised if he moves on.

A big off-season looms for the Stamford Bridge club if they wish to be in the title discussions next season, because as it stands they are a club with big question marks hanging over them. We shouldn’t be surprised if there are big changes during the summer transfer window, possibly with a new manager in charge.

Grade: C

Brayden May

Crystal Palace

The 2017/18 season could not have started any worse for Crystal Palace. After losing their opening four matches without scoring a goal – the first team in 93 years to have begun a top flight season in such fashion, Palace sacked manager Frank De Boer, making him the shortest reigning manager in Premier League history.

De Boer was replaced by Roy Hodgson who also had trouble changing the clubs fortunes. Hodgson lost his opening three matches in charge without hitting the scoresheet, before a 2-1 victory over Chelsea ended the Eagles seven game winless start to the season.

Palace looked like a sure bet to be relegated this season, but in the end Palace easily avoided relegation. A lot of Palace’s good form is due to the brilliance of Wilfried Zaha. The Ivorian played in a more central role this year and scored nine goals in 28 starts. Zaha was also named the April Premier League Player of the Month for his four goals in four games.

Hodgson also deserves a lot of credit for the way he turned Palace’s season around. Hodgson’s reputation took a hit after his failure as England’s national team manager. But his record has always been good in the Premier League and once again guided a team away from relegation.

Grade: C

Christopher Chrysostomou

Everton

At the start of the season Everton were expected to be challenging for the top four. The Toffees had spent A$250 million on new players and the blend of the new arrivals with the talent already at the club was expected to propel them up the table.

But the loss of Romelu Lukaku left a massive void in the team and by mid October, Everton sat in the relegation zone. The Toffees sacked manager Ronald Koeman and replaced him with Sam Allardyce.

Allardyce’s arrival saw improvement in results and quickly the Toffees were out of the relegation fight and moved into mid table. Despite guiding Everton out of relegation, there wasn’t any harmony between Allardyce and the club. Fans protested against the style of play and booed Allardyce’s negative approach at home games. The fans protest were heard by the directors, who sacked Allardyce after their final game of the season.

Majority owner Farhad Moshiri has grand plans for the club and wanted Watford’s Marco Silva to replace Koeman in October. Now that Silva is without a job, Moshiri may try to get his man.

Despite avoiding early fears of relegation, Everton’s season is a failure because they failed to live up to the pre-season expectations.

Grade: D

Christopher Chrysostomou

Huddersfield

The new boys surprised us all in the first part of the season, with a string of victories giving them some confidence. A 2-1 win over Manchester United was no doubt a great moment in their history. Their form then dipped and relegation looked to be inevitable. One win between March and May highlighted this, however the Terriers managed to survive the drop and will compete in the Premier League for another season.

Aaron Mooy has starred this season.

One of the main men was Socceroo Aaron Mooy, who impressed many and featured in 36 of the 38 Premier League matches. Once he burned out, so did Huddersfield’s form, however they could be a team that finishes in the top half of the table next season with some good acquisitions. Overall, they surprised many and will be ecstatic to remain on the top division.

Grade: C-

Tim Sperliotis

Leicester

When Craig Shakespeare departed the club in October 2017, there was a genuine fear that the Foxes could be in for a relegation scrap, just two seasons after claiming the league title. Then came Claude Puel, a former Southampton manager, and his arrival was not very warmly welcomed by sections of the club’s supporters.

Looking back on it now, the Foxes couldn’t have got the appointment any more correct. Puel guided the club to another top half finish, ninth place. He continued to get the best out of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, although the Algerian did prove difficult during the January transfer window.

At the other end of the pitch, Harry Maguire proved to be one of the signings of the season and is only set to develop further next season. As a whole, there is plenty of room for improvement in this team.

Grade: C+

Brayden May

Liverpool

A season which offered so much promise on the domestic front, ended in Champions League qualification once again for the Anfield club. The signing of Mo Salah was easily the biggest bargain of the season, with the Egypt international romping to the Golden Boot with 32 goals – a record in a 38-game season.

Mo Salah was the Premier League player of the season.

On the European front, Jurgen Klopp’s men have one more mountain to conquer, Real Madrid in the Champions League final on May 26. As they have shown throughout the season they are capable of anything so we should not be surprised if they do scale the heights of the Champions League mountain.

Throughout the season, Klopp had an instrumental effect on some of the lesser likes in the Liverpool side. That included Dejan Lovern and Andrew Robertson, who arrived from Hull City in the summer, with the pair both becoming important regulars. Consistency was once again the main issue the club faced in the Premier League and if they can fix this ahead of next season there is no reason why they can’t challenge for the title.

Grade: B+

Brayden May

Manchester City

It is hard to believe that Pep Guardiola was ever questioned if he could perform in England. 100 points and 106 goals later see his second season at the helm of Manchester City to be arguably the most dominant in premier league history.

Apart from defeats to rivals Manchester United and Liverpool, City could not put a foot wrong throughout the year. Guardiola has found the best out of every player who has stepped onto the pitch and represented the Sky Blues.

The midfield trio of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Fernandinho have taken over the league from matchday one. All three rightfully have an argument for a place in the Premier League’s team of the season.

Manchester City were unstoppable this season.

De Bruyne and Silva join winger Leroy Sane as the first trio of players to reach double digits in assists in Premier League history. Along with Sane, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and veteran Sergio Aguero together put on an unstoppable force for City, breaking the single season record for goals by one club.

It wasn’t just the forward half of Pep’s side that stood apart from the rest of the league. It was made clear after City’s record-breaking spending that Pep was looking to bolster his defensive stocks and managed to do so perfectly. Half backs John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi have came under immense scrutiny shortly after signing for City and this year made any critic look foolish. Along with Kyle Walker and Brazilian Goalkeeper Ederson, City’s defense managed to concede just the 27 goals for the season, proving to be both an unstoppable force and an immovable object.

City will go into next season outright favourites and with such a youthful side already taking the championship, Premier League fans could be in for more of the same for some time.

Grade: A+

Mitch Keating

Manchester United

A second place finish and a spot in the FA Cup final would usually signal a successful season for a club. That is unless the team is Manchester United.

United 2017/18 campaign will be remembered as a season of unfulfilled expectations. United were supposed to be a title contender, after spending over A$500 million on player acquisitions in the past two years.

The season got off the best possible start, with successive 4-0 victories over West Ham and Swansea. United were on the tails of City until October, when Jose Mourinho parked the bus at Liverpool. From there, the gap between United and City was too large to overcome. United had the opportunity to reduce the deficit when City traveled to Old Trafford in December, but the 3-1 defeat ended any hopes of a title push.

Manchester United became a team to fear again this season.

2017/18 was not all doom and gloom for United. United defeated all the ‘big six’ teams, including an amazing come from behind away victory over Manchester City. United had little trouble coming up against the best sides in the Premier League, however, it was their inability to kill off the bottom half teams that proved costly.

United suffered defeats to all three promoted sides (Newcastle, Brighton & Huddersfield). The Red Devils either drew or lost to seven of the bottom 10 teams in the league. Added to this, they were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Bristol City and the Champions League by Sevilla.

Despite their poor record against the bottom teams, United have proven they are a defensively competent team, conceding the second fewest goals and goalkeeper David De Gea awarded the Golden Glove for most clean sheets.

United will be expected to put up a better title fight next season, but to do that they will need to close the gap to a Manchester City side who only look like getting better.  

Grade: C+

Christopher Chrysostomou

Newcastle

The Magpies finished in a respectable 10th position under manager Rafa Benitez. A disastrous November and December left them with only one win and put them at risk of relegation. However, they recovered and results such as a 1-0 win over Manchester United, a 2-1 win over Arsenal and a 3-0 victory over Chelsea on the final day ensured they gained some confidence.

The off-season will be key, as some new signings can make them stronger and allow them to challenge for a European place. Ayoze Perez scored eight goals and got five assists, while Jonjo Shelvey’s looks to only get better.

Grade: C

Tim Sperliotis

Southampton

A Manolo Gabbiadini winner against Swansea confirmed Southampton’s survival in the premiership. While the success of avoiding relegation has brought a sigh of relief to the club, Saints fans should still feel on-edge heading into the new season.

For a side that has finished 8th or higher in the last four years, a 17th placed finish is nothing to celebrate. The Saints’ ability to perform at home has become an ongoing concern with just four wins to show for the season.

The mid-season loss of Dutchman Virgil Van Dijk certainly left a large gap in the Saints defense and soon cost the club its form.

The Saints endured an eight game winless run between February and April and soon found themselves deep into the relegation battle, prompting the sacking of Mauricio Pellegrino.

Mark Hughes failed to lift the Saints’ spirits and soon found himself relying on the poor performances of other sides to help his side stay out of relegation.

Crucial home wins against Bournemouth and Swansea saw Southampton move out of the bottom three and guaranteed a spot in the Premier League next season.

Grade: D

Mitch Keating

Stoke City

After years of mid-table finishes, Stoke City have been relegated and the blame game has begun. Midfielder Charlie Adam said on BBC Five Live that some of his teammates were “getting away with murder”.

“As players, you have your seven or eight in the group that try to make it work, and we failed.

“I think some players have been getting away with murder for a long time and it’s difficult for supporters. It’s not just one or two, I think there are four or five that could be counted.”

Stoke had all the ingredients to cement a top half finish this season. The club had more Champions League winners in their squad then any other Premier League team this season.

But that was also the reason for their failure.

Players like Jese, Bojan and Ibrahim Afellay were frozen out of the squad because of poor performances and attitude. Giannelli Imbula was Stoke’s record signing but he was loaned out to Toulouse. Saido Berahino was once a top transfer target for Tottenham, but has failed to score a goal in his two seasons at Stoke.

Because of the poor form of these players, Stoke had to reply on the old brigade to keep them up. Peter Crouch was relied on to score goals, Adam and Joe Allen were expected to patrol the midfield.

Stoke messed up with their recruitment and paid the price with relegation to the Championship.

Grade: F

Christopher Chrysostomou

Swansea

At Christmas it looked as if Swansea were guaranteed to drop to the Championship, when Carlos Carvalhal took over from Paul Clement and for some time it looked as if they would survive towards the back half of the season. The 2017-18 campaign started in impressive fashion off the field, when the club captured Bayern Munich and Portugal youngster Renato Sanches on a season-long loan.

But just like the South Wales’ club season, that would end in disappointment. The club hit a purple patch between January and April where they lost just two matches to Brighton and Manchester United in a run of 11 games. During that period, Carvahal guided his side pass the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Burnley. And for a time it looked as if they would survive.

Despite their wonderful show of fight, things came to a grinding halt as the club lost five straight matches to end the season. The final nail in the coffin, a 1-0 defeat at fellow relegation battlers Southampton, a result which left the club needing a miracle on the final matchday. A wonderful fightback ended in disaster, as their goal of remaining in the top-flight ended in tears.

Things weren’t made better by Cardiff City’ automatic promotion to the Premier League.

Grade: E

Brayden May

Tottenham

The 2017/18 season was another year which promised a lot, but delivered little for the Spurs. This season will be highlighted by a victory over Real Madrid and finishing on top of their Champions League group.

The Spurs also made the Semi-final of the FA Cup, but let slip of a 1-0 lead to Manchester United. Tottenham will rue their failure in the tournament because they have played home games at Wembley all season and would have had the home ground advantage if they made the final. Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to pick Michel Vorm, instead of captain Hugo Lloris in goal will be questioned for a long time as Vorm was at fault for United’s winning goal.

Tottenham have been arguably the most consistent side over the past three years but have no silverware to reward their good work. The squad is not deep enough to challenge for the Premier League title and their is an over reliance on Harry Kane to score the goals. This season Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool overtook Tottenham in the race for the title and with Chelsea and Arsenal likely to spend big in the summer transfer window, Tottenham may find themselves dropping out of the top four. Lucas Moura was brought in to compliment Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min in attack, but he has struggled for consistency.

Harry Kane showed why he is one of the best strikers in the world.

The Spurs needed to secure Champions League football, ahead of the move to their new stadium. Pochettino was able to deliver on expectations, but it is now time to deliver silverware.

Grade: B-

Christopher Chrysostomou

Watford

No Watford fan would be satisfied with a 14th place finish during their season previews. Yet after the sacking of Marco Silva, Hornets fans would probably have taken anything outside of the relegation zone.

A strong start to the season saw Watford sitting high on the table, losing only one of their first eight matches.

Abdoulaye Doucoure and Brazilian forward Richarlison were pivotal in the Hornets early season form but soon faded, along with Watford’s performances in the second half of the season.

Kiko Femenia was another name to burst into the spotlight under Silva but his formed dropped off as the season progressed.

Javi Gracia took over the reigns of first team responsibilities in January but struggled to find any growth in results.

The Hornets conceded 31 goals at home in 2017/18, the most in the premiership and continued to drop points to sides below them in the standings.

Heading into next season, Gracia will look to the transfer market to add to what ended up being a disappointing finish for a side that had the potential to push for the top six.

Grade: D+

Mitch Keating

West Brom

Relying on three managers in the one season sums up the efforts made by the Baggies. Whilst a late run of form under caretaker Darren Moore gave West Brom fans hope, damage had already been done by the tenures of Tony Pulis and Alan Pardew.

The Baggies managed to win their first three games of the season, but were unable to grab a victory in their next ten and soon sent Tony Pulis packing.

The appointment of Alan Pardew had little to no effect on the sides performances with West Brom winning only one of 18 games under the silver fox.

In the midst of their nightmare run, the Baggies were soon under fire after Gareth Barry, Jonny Evans, Boaz Myhill and Jake Livermore were accused of stealing a taxi in Barcelona in February.

Moore took over the managerial position in April. Coming into the caretaker role, Moore soon increased his chances of the full time job with a fantastic run of late form, including a 1-0 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Unfortunately, the run was too little, too late as relegation was confirmed with one game remaining. The Baggies have the squad to be successful in the Championship next season and could make a swift return to the Premier League.

Grade: F

Mitch Keating

West Ham

The Hammers finished in a disappointing 13th and manager Slaven Bilic was sacked mid-season. The campaign began with three straight Premier League losses and new manager David Moyes allowed them to find some form, with a 1-0 victory over London rivals Chelsea standing out.

Despite some disappointing results, West Ham finished the season on a high, going undefeated in their last three matches. Marko Arnautovic led the scoring for the Hammers with 11 goals and no doubt they would want to sign some more important players to help them charge up the table.

It was a tumultuous year at West Ham.

David Moyes left the club at the end of the season, after being told by the owners that his position was not guaranteed and that they would be interviewing other candidates for the manager position.

Grade: D

Tim Sperliotis

You can hear Brayden, Mitch, Tim and Chris weekly by subscribing to the English Football Podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud

 

The unheralded number 44

Number 44 is not a number accustomed to football superstars. 44 is a number that is usually given to footballers who barely make it onto a football list or a young draftee, who has to earn his stripes before being given a lower number.

But at Carlton and Geelong, 44 is a number worn with great pedigree.

Footballing wise, Justin Madden and Corey Enright were extreme opposites. In his own words, Madden was a lumbering ruckman who could not run, but could use his height and footballing smarts to forge a career.

Enright is 19 centimetres shorter than Madden and forged a career playing across halfback in a Geelong side deemed one of the best to ever grace the football field.

Despite the gulf in their abilities, Madden and Enright’s careers drew similar paths. Both players played 332 games wearing number 44 and both were held in high regard internally at their clubs, but did not receive much acclaim from the wider footballing public.

Madden began his career as a tall, skinny ruckman at Essendon in 1980. Recruited from Airport West, Madden was played predominately as a forward, because his brother Simon played in the ruck.

Realising his chances of dethroning his brother in the ruck were slim, Madden transferred to Carlton at the end of the 1982 season.

At first, Madden played in the forward pocket, but soon he was moved into the ruck and retained that mantle for the remainder of his career.

Madden was a cult figure to Carlton supports, due to his bubbly personality and awkward style of play.

Speaking on Fox Footy’s Open Mike, Madden said he always wanted to have fun on the football field and didn’t take the game too seriously.

The ruckman played with some of the greats of the game, including Greg Williams, Stephen Kernahan, Stephen Silvagni and Anthony Koutoufides. Because of the superstars he played with, Madden’s own success went unnoticed.

Madden leaping for a mark.

Madden won two premierships, two John Nicholls Medals (Carlton Best and Fairest award) and was an All-Australian, as well as finishing runner-up to Brad Hardie in the 1985 Brownlow Medal,

Similarly to Madden, Corey Enright had great success at his football club, without receiving the fame of his teammates.

Enright was drafted with pick 47 in the 1999 draft by the Geelong Football Club. Originally from Adelaide, Enright moved to the Cats with Joel Corey, Paul Chapman and Cameron Ling, who were all recruited in the same draft,

An extremely hard worker, who used his leg speed and strong pair of hands to his advantage, Enright won Geelong’s best first year player award in 2001.

2001 would be a pivotal year in the future of the Geelong Football Club, as they recruited Jimmy Bartel, James Kelly, Steve Johnson and Garry Ablett in the draft.

The names Bartel, Kelly, Johnson, Chapman, Corey and Ling all featured alongside Enright in the Cats best in the 2007 Grand Final. Enright finished the with 29 disposals and four marks, outstanding numbers for a Cats defender in the game they won by 119 points.

Enright always possessed dashing speed.

Enright would reach the pinnacle of his career in the following years, claiming six All-Australians (2008-11, 13, 16) and three premierships (2007, 09, 11).

Enright’s biggest achievement was winning two Carji Greeves Medals (Geelong Best and Fairest award) in premiership years.

On the night he claimed the 2011 Carji Greeves Medal, Geelong coach Chris Scott introduced Enright as “still the most underrated player in the competition”.

Enright finally started to receive recognition from the wider public later in his career. This was largely due to the departures of his more heralded teammates.

But like Madden, Enright would prefer to be an unheralded player in a successful team.

When asked by Mike Sheahan on Open Mike if there was ever the possibility of switching to a lower number, Madden said he was given the option, but preferred to remain in number 44, because it reminded him that he was not one of the best players in the team and needed to work hard to remain in the best 22.

Knowing the type of player Enright was, he too, probably preferred wearing number 44 to remind himself of all the hard work he completed to forge a successful career.

 

 

 

EFL Play-offs Semi-final recap

Championship

Derby 1-0 Fulham

Cameron Jerome 34

Derby stunned Fulham with a hard fought victory at home. Cameron Jerome was the match winner for the Rams, heading home his fifth goal in four games.

Fulham had plenty of possession but could not find the killer pass to break down the resilient Derby defence. Fulham’s sideways passing was reminiscent of Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal. Teen sensation Ryan Sessegnon had a night to forget and was subbed off in the 76 minute. The Cottagers will need to improve if they are going to overcome their first leg deficit. Fulham have not won any of their past seven playoff games.

Middlesbrough 0-1 Aston Villa

                                                  Mile Jedinak 15

Socceroos skipper Mile Jedinak gave Aston Villa the advantage in their playoff tie against Middlesbrough. The midfielder headed home from a corner to secure the all-important away victory. Villa possessed more quality in attack and almost doubled their lead when Robert Snodgrass hit the woodwork late in the first half. Middlesbrough committed more bodies forward late on in the game but could not create any chances. The two sides will meet again on Wednesday morning.

League 1

Charlton 0-1 Shrewsbury

                                Jon Nolan 80

A superb Jon Nolan volley was the difference in a closely fought contest at The Valley. Both sides looked destined to remain level, before Nolan’s wonder strike gave The Shrews the advantage. Both sides will do battle again on Monday morning.

Scunthorpe 2-2 Rotherham

                                       Jon Taylor 17’
Michael Ihiekwe 18’ (OG)
                                      Joe Newell 64’
Cameron McGeehan 88’

Scunthorpe and Rotherham played out the most entertaining match in the first week of the playoffs. Jon Taylor put the visitors ahead, before an own goal from Michael Ihiekwe levelled the scores. Substitute Joe Newell took 58 seconds to score and give the Millers the lead, which was again pegged back by the Iron, as Cameron McGeehan scrambled home a goal.

League 2

Lincoln 0-0 Exeter

Lincoln City and Exeter could not be separated as they fought out a tense goal-less draw in the first leg of the play-off semi-final. Both sides found it difficult to create any chances on goal, with the one-standout chance coming early in the second half, when Matt Rhead headed the ball onto the woodwork.

PPAUK_SPO_Lincoln_City_120518_043JPG

Coventry 1-1 Notts County

                                           Jonathan Forte 49’
Marc McNulty 87’ (P)

Marc McNulty kept Coventry City’s Wembley hopes alive with a late penalty to ensure the tie hangs in the balance at the halfway stage. The Sky Blues dominated the affair in the opening half, but could not convert their chances. Jonathan Forte gave the visitors the lead with a fine finish early in the second half. But just as it looked like the Magpies would come away with the win, Tom Bayliss was caught by Magpies right-back Matt Tootle on the edge of the box and was awarded a penalty.

Why we want Warner to be the culprit

“I’m here to accept my responsibility for the part that I played in day three,” was the well-rehearsed line used by David Warner to answer questions at his press conference.

After the press conference Warner went to Twitter to explain that he was restricted with his responses, due to the formal process by Cricket Australia.

But to the eye of the Australian public, it appears an arrogant attitude by a player who has always been an outsider in the game of cricket.

From the beginning, the public believed Warner was the instigator in the ball-tampering saga.

Already in the South African Test series, Warner had been involved in a bust-up with South African Quinton de Kock and was the centre of ball tampering allegations in the second test, when the Proteas made complaints about the bandage on his thumb.

Yes Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft are also to blame for sandpapergate, but both have the sympathy of the public.

Smith is the golden boy of Australian cricket, described by many as Australia’s best batsman since Sir Donald Bradman. He is a traditional player, who can bat all day and score tons of run.

Bancroft also has the support of the public because he is the rookie in the squad, willing to do anything to attain the respect of the leaders.

Warner however, has always been opposed to the traditions of the game. Warner made his international debut in a Twenty20 match against South Africa at the MCG, before representing his state in a first class match, being the first player since 1877 to do so.

Questions have always been raised about Warner’s ability in the long form of the game, given his aggressive style of play.

But when he was given the opportunity of representing Australia at Test level, Warner became the most destructive player in the game, scoring 6363 runs and accumulating 21 centuries.

Warner’s most memorable century was the one he scored before lunch on the opening day of play against Pakistan at the SCG in 2017.

The way Warner went about his Test cricket was opposite anything seen prior. He was not a player who could be relied on to bat all day. He would not play a defensive shot or scrapper home for a single.

Warner is a traditionalist rebel, which is why fans never fully accepted his style of play.

The ‘win at all cost’ mentality has drawn criticism from fans. Cricket is a gentleman’s game that should be played in the right spirit. That’s why when it was announced Steve Smith had asked for the wicket microphones to be turned down so the Australian players could sledge the South African’s, fans questioned if they supported this side as much as those who wore the baggie green in the years prior.

The chief instigator of the sledging culture in Australian cricket was David Warner.

“I’m hearing it (sledging) is part of the game — that’s rubbish, it’s not part of the game,” Ian Chappell told 3AW’s Sportsday.

“He (Warner) decided he’d had enough of that, he didn’t want to do it, he didn’t want to be the attack dog, now for some reason or other he’s back as the attack dog.”

“The more you allow players to talk on the field the more likelihood there is something personal will be said.”

And that was the case when Quinton de Kock retaliated to the baiting from Warner.

All three players have the opportunity to return to the national team one day. Smith’s on-field ability will guarantee him a spot in the team once his 12-month ban concludes. Bancroft is also likely to once again play for Australia, given he is only aged 25 and has shown glimpses of star quality.

But will Warner ever play for country again? According to reports, Warner went ‘rogue’ after the ball-tampering saga and was angry at his teammates, who distanced themselves from the incident.

Warner feels like a scapegoat and from his lack of responses at his press conference, appears eager to confess all at the right time, which will surely rock the Australian team.

If Warner does come out with some explosive statements then there is no chance he could return to the team.

Warner said he is “resigned to the fact” that he may never play for Australia again.

But the real question is; do we want Warner to play for Australia again?

AFL Championship

Imagine if AFL clubs played for a title that could be won weekly.

A title similar to the one’s seen in the world of Boxing, UFC and the WWE.

The AFL Championship is a title that is up for grabs during every round of the home and away season.

Teams defeating the previous holder of the title win the belt.

The championship first began in 1898, a year after the inaugural season of the VFL.

The 1897 season was a year played out to determine the championship holder, which ended up being Essendon, who defeated Melbourne in the Grand Final.

The Bombers entered 1898 as the inaugural champions and started the campaign strongly, winning their first five games.

In round six the Bombers were defeated by Geelong, who became the new titleholders.

From there, the championship was shared between all the VFL/AFL clubs for 120 years, including University, who held the crown on two separate occasions for a total of four weeks.

During the 2018 season, regular updates on the title holder will be posted on the Sportdot Twitter and Facebook page.

For more information on the AFL Championship, click on the link below.

https://create.piktochart.com/embed/29083499-new-piktochart

YES YES YES | Bryan given all clear to return to wrestling

The WWE announced four-time Wold Champion Daniel Bryan has been given the all clear to return to in-ring action.

The WWE announced in a statement published on Wednesday, “Bryan underwent a full review of his medical history and received comprehensive neurological and physical evaluations independent of WWE.”

“It took extensive evaluations by leading neurosurgeons, neurologists and concussion experts, including Dr. Robert Cantu, Dr. Javier Cárdenas and Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher.”

“He was cleared by each doctor as well as WWE’s Medical Director, Dr. Joseph Maroon.”

In February 2016, Bryan retired from wrestling after suffering post-concussion seizures.

Bryan admitted he had lost count of the number of concussions he had suffered over his 16-year career.

Tests revealed Bryan had a lesion on the front of his brain, which is an abnormality to the brain caused by inflammation or cuts.

But as one of the doctors at Evoke Neuroscience explained to Bryan, a lesion isn’t actually a cut.

“I told him what happened and I said, ‘They found a lesion in the temporal-parietal region of my brain.’ He goes, ‘Wait, hold up, a lesion?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ And I don’t know what lesion means to you guys, a lesion to me means you have a cut. I have a cut on my brain. He goes, ‘No. Lesion, in medical terminology, is a very vague thing. It just means something is there. We don’t know what it is, so we call it a lesion in the temporal-parietal region of your brain,” Bryan retold on the Edge and Christian ‘Podcast of Awesomeness’.

Bryan has spent much of the past year meeting with top neurosurgeons in the quest of being cleared to return to the ring.

Every neurosurgeon Bryan met gave him the green light, yet the WWE refused to allow Bryan to wrestle.

In January this year, Bryan told Sports Illustrated that if he weren’t cleared by the WWE before WrestleMania, he would assume he would never wrestle for the WWE again.

But following their own investigation, the WWE have deemed Bryan fit to wrestle.

Focus now turns to whom Bryan will face at WrestleMania. One possible match up could see Bryan and Shane McMahon team up against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.

Whatever the match up, fans across the world will tune in to see Bryan back in his briefs, defeating opponents with the ‘Yes Lock’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The week that was (Premier League Matchweek 29)

News

MEN uses tragedy as click bait

The football world was in mourning this weekend after Fiorentina captain Davide Astori sadly passed away aged 31. Heartfelt messages from colleges were published on social media for the Italian international, including one from Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon.

The Manchester Evening News however decided to use Astori’s death as click bait. Manchester United defender Matteo Darmian was a former teammate of Astori and the paper used the headline ‘Matteo Darmian woke up to some terrible news’.

The paper received backlash on social media for their actions.

https://twitter.com/BillyBeanpole84/status/970381170792943617

Henry says ‘yes’ to managing Arsenal

Thierry Henry admitted he would be willing to manage Arsenal if the club asked him to.

However, the Frenchman continued to support Arsene Wenger in the role but said he had never shied away from a challenge and if the club and Wenger wanted him to coach, he would be willing to step up to the task.

“Listen, I’m a competitor, you don’t back down from a challenge,” Henry told Sky Sports.

“We are hypothetically speaking before people jump ahead of everything, [but] I have never backed down from a challenge since I was young.”

Pipe bomb from Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte branded Sky Sports pundits Jamie Redknapp and Gary Neville ‘stupid’ after they described Chelsea’s display against Manchester City as ‘anti-football’.

Informed of the comments, Conte said: “The pundit has to use the head to understand when you speak about tactics. I think you must have knowledge to speak about tactics and not only to speak in a stupid way. You have to accept every criticism but I am not so stupid to play against Manchester City open and to lose 3-0 or 4-0.

Maybe if Conte’s side showed as much fight as their manager they would be challenging for the title instead of trying to secure a spot in the top four.

Results

Burnley 2-1 Everton

Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle

Leicester 1-1 Bournemouth

Southampton 0-0 Stoke

Swansea 4-1 West Ham

Tottenham 2-0 Huddersfield

Watford 1-0 West Brom

Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea

Brighton 2-1 Arsenal

Crystal Palace 2-3 Manchester United 

Sir Alex Ferguson Award

 The Sir Alex Ferguson of the week is awarded to the best-performed team of the week.

 Swansea

Swansea moved out of the relegation zone following their big win over West Ham. The Swans looked relegation bound at the end of 2017, but the appointment of Carlos Carvalhal has changed the fortunes of the Welsh club.

The Swans have won four of their eight games in 2018 to ignite the hopes of an unlikely relegation survival.

The victory over West Ham saw Swansea jump up to 13th on the table, three points above 17th place Crystal Palace.

Jordan Ayew, Andy King, Ki Sung-yueng and Mike van der Hoorn all found the back of the net in the victory. Van der Hoorn’s goal was his first for the club.

Continued performances like this will see the Swans avoid relegation and could see Carvalhal named manager of the season.

Bebe of the week

Bebe is widely considered Sir Alex Ferguson’s worst ever signing. The Bebe award is given to the most disappointing team from the week.

Arsenal

The last time I wrote one of these articles, Arsenal had just beaten Everton and were my Sir Alex Ferguson of the week. Four consecutive defeats in all competitions have changed the entire dynamic of the club and the ‘Wenger Out’ movement has reached a level never seen before.

The Gunner’s latest defeat to Brighton leaves them in sixth position, 13 points behind fourth place Tottenham.

Arsenal’s only chance of qualifying for next years Champions League is by winning the Europa League, which will not be an easy feat. The Gunners will face AC Milan in the round of 16, which will not be an easy task given Milan have not lost a game in 2018.

Some Arsenal fans, such as Troopz from Arsenal Fan TV believe the club will sack Wenger if they are knocked out by Milan in the Europa League.

As Troopz said in his recent video on Arsenal Fan TV, “Every story has an ending and for Wenger his story ended five years ago.”

Player of the Week

Son Heung-Min

Son is pushing his claim to be regarded Tottenham’s second best players behind Harry Kane.

The South Korean netted both goals in the Spurs 2-0 victory over Huddersfield on the weekend. Both goals showed off Son’s array of abilities, with the first being a fine shot with this left food and the second being a header from distance.

https://twitter.com/officialuwem/status/969959377766637568

Son has now scored 16 goals in all competitions this season, making him the Spurs second highest scorer, behind Kane.

Sportdot goal of the week

Riyad Mahrez

A 96 minute equaliser from a free kick is the perfect way to get back into the fans good books. Mahrez’s sublime curling free kick was his first goal for Leicester since the closure of the January transfer window.

Mahrez’s was said to have sooked it up after his transfer to Manchester City was blocked. But by his celebration after the goal against Bournemouth, it appears he is happy to be at the club for the remainder of the season.

Retro clip

Premier League launch advert 1992

This is Sky Sports launch advert for the Premier League. Check out the bad haircuts and try naming some of the players.