Written by @transferfeed
Although the standard may have slipped in recent years with the influx of money in football the Scottish Premier League (now known as the Ladbrokes Premiership) was once one of the best leagues in the world with Celtic & Rangers competing for European trophies. This year marks a decade since a Scottish team reached a European Final (Rangers in the 2008 UEFA Cup final losing 2-0 to Zenit Saint Petersburg) with this year also marking 34 years since a Scottish club won a major European trophy (Aberdeen winning the 1983 European Cup Winners Cup with a 2-1 win over Real Madrid).
Adding insult to injury, our national team has also massively failed. Put it this way, the last time we qualified for a major tournament: an apple was still an edible object & not a fancy gadget, if someone said to you Manchester City were going to win the UCL they’d probably send you to some sort of asylum as they were 14th in the 2nd division at the time & current Celtic star and candidate to be Scotland captain, Kieran Tierney, wasn’t even born. That was the 1996 Euros. And it wasn’t as if we have fond memories from England. Oh no, we crashed out in the groups. So what are the fundamental problems in the fall of Scottish football?
FOOTBALL HAS CHANGED & LEFT THE SPFL BEHIND
The days of household names of Henrik Larsson, Paul Gascoigne & the like playing in cold hard fought wins against Raith Rovers are well & truly over. Ok, your normal avid football fan could name you a selection of Celtic’s talents but bar Celtic we don’t have many talents on our shores.
This is down to money in the Scottish game. This problem is the SFA’s fault and no one else’s. Why would anyone in the right mind reject a £45m tv deal with Sky (massive at the time) to get a deal with Setanta Sports & then try & make their own TV channel. The obscure Setanta then went bust, putting many of the SPL clubs on the brink of extinction due to TV payments not being made to the league. Now you get the odd Celtic & Rangers away games on the TV along with a very short list of other, probably making the SFA chips compared to the billions in the EPL.
And on the topic of money. You earn £3m prize money for winning the Ladbrokes Premiership. You gain a measly £100m for getting relegated in the English Premier League. If you won the Ladbrokes Premiership 33 years in a row you would make the same as West Bromwich Albion prize money this year for coming last. Says it all really...
Throughout this article you’ll see a running theme. MONEY! As the old saying goes, money can’t buy you happiness but what it can buy you is a half decent footballing system.
Scottish football actually only had one sponsor for the major competitions - William Hill (Scottish Cup sponsor) for a few years recently with Clydesdale Bank cutting their ties to the SPL & Coca Cola cutting their ties to the League Cup. We have got sponsors back for our League & League Cup in recent years (Ladbrokes & Betfred) but the Chief Executives actually came out & said they would like to get rid of sponsors for our competitions & it was all part of the plan. If you’re struggling for money in the first place the best plan is to plug your sponsorships, which is your main source of dolla at the time, eh SFA?
THE FALL OF GIANTS
Rangers & Gretna have both went into liquidation in recent years with Hearts, Livingston & Motherwell all went into administration. Gretna, Hearts & Rangers all for the same reason - trying to challenge in Europe.
Gretna now go by the name as Gretna 2008 going out with a tragic story. After recruiting players like Jake Livermore & getting to obscure club up to the SPL & Scottish Cup final but it all went t*ts up from there with Gretna’s owner falling ill & being forced to cancel his investment in the club.
Hearts & Rangers were more common stories.
Hearts were sold an idea by owner at the time Romanov that they would win the UCL & the SPL during his tenure but a lack of money saw Hearts fall into administration & having to play kids in the 2nd division. Hearts have since made their way back to the SPFL’s top flight. Romanov is now in hiding being tracked down by Hearts fans.
Rangers’ story is a bit more complicated. The club had been exploiting EBT’s (Employees Benefit Trust) & taking out loans they couldn’t afford. It all caught up with them in 2012 with f*** ups from Craig Whyte, Charles Green & the lot now seeing the club gone, whatever way you look at it.
The new club The Rangers or the old club Rangers (whatever way you look at it) had to start from the bottom again & now there is little to no competition for Celtic.
MP’s have actually said government funding in football (the countries most popular sport) should be cut altogether & sports we’re better at like Tennis (if I’m being honest the Murray brothers are our only creditable racket lovers) & curling should be exposed to kids more. Although only £80m is invested in Scottish football a year with Dutch football getting a small investment of £862m. Of the £80m Scottish football get a year £10m reportedly go to professional clubs’ academies whilst £20m goes to youth programs & grassroots.
SMALL POPULATION? I THINK NOT
You may argue, but your a small country with a small population, you can’t expect great things!
Uruguay has 1.5 million less people than Scotland with their national team winning 15 Copa America’s & 2 World Cups. Scotland have won nothing. Zilch. So growing our populations can’t be the answer to our national team’s success. Neither is Alex McCleish on that note.
So what are Uruguay doing that we aren’t? Uruguay put all their focus in Youth football, providing such talents as Suarez, Caceres & Cavani whilst we are stuck with Allan McGregor, Jamie Murphy & Jason Cummings.
LACK OF INTEREST IN MANAGERIAL JOB
In recent years Craig Levein & Alex McCleish have been Tartan Army manager. Credit to our last manager Gordon Strachan who just missed out on World Cup qualification but let’s be real.
Levein & McCleish are never going to take a country forward. Alex McCleish was appointed Scotland manager in January - his last job was in Egypt with Zamalek were he flopped. Even Rangers fans don’t particularly like him & he won them several league titles! & Craig Levein. The man thought playing a 4-6-0 is a good idea!
In recent years we’ve been playing players like Barry Bannan, Darren Fletcher, James McCarthur, Matt Phillips, Russell Martin, etc. who are consistently terrible on the international stage but seem to be the 1st names on the team sheet for years. Now we have Jamie Murphy & Jason Cummings starting....
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Written by @chelsea.edition
As a Chelsea fan every time I get into a debate about anything to do with Chelsea one of the comments that I always get is that "your club are just a bunch of racists" and that angers me so much and I'll tell you why.
First of all I would like to say that I do not condone any racist behaviour from fans and as a black person myself find them absolutely disgusting and don't deserve to be called "fans".
I'm going to go back to 2015 when videos emerged of Chelsea fans not allowing an innocent black man onto a Paris metro while singing "We're racist, We're racist, and that's the way we like it".
Since that, rival supporters or just anyone that doesn't support Chelsea has started to stereotype us fans as being racist because of these five idiots. Five people have made millions around the globe that watched that video think Chelsea are just a horrible club and are disgusting and that enrages me so much.
I repeat, five people gave this club this stereotype, what about the other millions that just love the club like I do and are not stupid like those five. Us fans welcome in everyone and these disgusting people just thought they were hard. If you fans that like to call us racist have forgotten, the five people involved were banned for life and Chelsea even offered the man VIP tickets which he kindly accepted.
I was mostly speaking about this to a Celtic fan who's only real comeback to any of my statements was "You're all racist" and I just returned with, well Celtic aren't exactly all saints are they. It is not unknown for Celtic fans to be causing trouble on away days, ripping up seats and starting fights but I know that that's not the real Celtic, it's just a tiny, tiny percentage of the fan base that give them a bad name.
I don't even want to call them fans, these people give the club they apparently love a bad name because of their beliefs and that makes our beautiful game look ugly.
Welcome to Episode 2 of 'The Sam and Dave Show', if you haven't already read the first article in the series, check it out here!
Goalkeepers are one of the most vital members of a football team. In fact, every single team has one. But along with vitality, there is a lot of beauty behind goalkeepers and watching some of their most fantastic saves is incredibly satisfying.
There's always a constant debate though; fans of the world struggle to find the conclusion on who the best goalkeeper in the world is. Dave and I set ourselves the challenge of naming our top 5 goalkeepers playing right now.
Dave's Top 5:
1. David De Gea - Manchester United
De Gea has been an elite keeper for the last 4-5 years now. In my opinion, he is the best shot stopper I’ve seen in the game since peak Casillas. When he first came to England he was a skinny kid who was afraid of crosses - as he’s matured, he has grown into a keeper that commands his penalty area and with that comes the trust of his defenders. His stop stopping ability has always been evident, though - with both his hands and his feet. He is sometimes accused of making ‘camera saves’ because of the aesthetics of them. His reflexes are unbelievable and his positioning has always been elite. He also has decent distribution, something that I feel people don’t really acknowledge him for. Since his arrival at United, he has played 230 league games and kept 90 clean sheets. Baring in mind how dire United have been since 13/14, these stats are impressive. For me, he’s the best.
2. Jan Oblak - Athletico Madrid
The Slovenian shot-stopper has been impressive since his move from Benfica in 2014. Like de Gea, he excels in pretty much every category as a keeper. His positioning is exceptional - he will rarely get beaten because his angles are wrong. His shot stopping is up there with de Gea. The only things going against Oblak is that he has a slightly smaller sample size in comparison to others on the list. What he has achieved in that stint means that he cannot be left off this list. 59 clean sheets in his first 100 appearances aren't either! That’s more than De Gea and Courtois managed in their first 100 at the club.
3. Manuel Neuer - Bayern Munich
His position this low on a top 5 may be slightly controversial. However, I have been of the opinion that in the last 4 years he has regressed as a keeper. He is still a fantastic keeper, but I feel he offers less to his side than the above. Neuer’s huge frame makes him a commanding presence in goal. For someone of his size, he gets down well and has excellent reflexes. I do feel he’s slightly overrated due to this sweeper keeper role he adopted. That’s normal among football fans though. All things considered, he’s still an elite goalkeeper and has the trophies to back up these claims.
4. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen - Barcelona
I haven’t always been the biggest fan of his, but over the last 18 months or so he has improved dramatically. He’s a keeper blessed with all the natural abilities of a keeper but made a lot of mistakes. He would get beaten at his near post often and come for crosses he had no business coming. As he’s aged and gained experience, he’s become a well-rounded keeper of elite distribution. The young German will be seen as a genuine threat to Neuer’s starting spot with the national team. 15 league goals conceded in 30 games. Only one less than Atletico.
5. Alisson Becker - Roma
Admittedly, he’s the keeper I’ve watched the least of the 5 on this list. However, I believe that I have seen enough of him to make an informed decision on his ability. The keepers he beat to 5th place were Courtois, Ederson and Lloris. He is better than all three. The main reason is composure. Alisson rarely, and I mean rarely, crumbles under pressure. All the keepers in the top 10 have similar shot stopping abilities which are why they are the elite of the elite, however, consistency and individual brilliance set them apart. Alison’s biggest criticism last season was his distribution. He’s gone a long way this season to improving it. Over both games against Chelsea, he sprayed passes into midfield like prime Paul Scholes. He has performed at an elite level for Roma over the last couple of seasons. A Champions League quarter-final and 3rd place cap off another impressive season for the Brazilian. With a World Cup to look forward to in the summer, Brazil will be in safe hands.
Sam's Top 5:
It was very strenuous to decide, but after a lot of changes this is what I've come up with:
1. David De Gea - Manchester United
Dave perfectly illustrated why David De Gea deserves to be number one on the list, and this season, he's proved himself. Currently sitting top of the clean sheets table in the Premier League for this season with 16, De Gea has worked hard; making 99 saves so far. He fits top spot for me.
2. Jan Oblak - Atletico Madrid
Oblak, in my opinion, is the best goalkeeper in La Liga. Since the 2015/16 season, (his second at Atlético) he has been at the top of the clean sheets table. Atlético Madrid has yet to win the league in that time, so if this wonder keeper wants trophies, he might even be heading for the door.
3. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen - Barcelona
Ter Stegen's method of goalkeeping is a unique one. He shows that you don't have to use only your hands to be considered a world-class keeper. The saves from his feet are as good as the ones from his hands. He currently sits second in the La Liga clean sheets list, a goal to the difference of Jan Oblak, so he might even be fighting for the golden glove.
4. Gianluigi Donnaruma - AC Milan
Donnaruma is 18 years old. Eighteen years old. If you're still not convinced, I can't help you. Give it a few years and this man will be sitting top of my list. He is one of the youngest 1st team goalkeepers in the world and Milan are more than lucky to have him because the fee you'd have to pay for him will be ENORMOUS. Not to mention his buy-out clause is £88m. Watch this:
5. Manuel Neuer - Bayern Munich
Manuel Neuer narrowly fits this list as a fantastic keeper in decline, at age 32, he is nowhere near his prime. It's crazy to think that a man who would once have been top of this list not too long ago is barely reaching top 5.
The Fan Zone:
Yes, it's now time for the fans opinions and up first with his opinion is Socabol favourite - @1860marc. His top 5 goalkeepers consist of the following:
1. David De Gea - Manchester United
He has an awful defence in front of him and is the only reason why Man U is in second place. Would be 4th or 5th with Romero in goal. The saves he pulls of simply shouldn't be possible
2. Jan Oblak - Atletico Madrid
Although you have to admire Atleti's defensive stability, they look even more secure with Oblak in goal. He saves them vital points and has constantly had the top clean sheets in La Liga for the last few seasons. I don't think he's quite at De Gea's level, can't tell you why.
3. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen - Barcelona
He has such a unique way of goalkeeping and understanding the game, it's hard not to rate him. He has not made a single mistake this season for Barca and has pulled off some impressive saves and saved some important points. He made another step forward from last year as well, agility and saving with his feet are a big part of his game.
4. Manuel Neuer - Bayern Munich
Neuer was at his peak in 2014 but has been declining ever since. Despite revolutionising the game, other keepers have also adapted his style and the guys above have been better for their teams in the last 2 years, if not for longer. He is still a great keeper though, let's see if he can recover for the WC.
5. Alisson - Roma
I do not see Alisson as a guy who is even close to the four guys above to be honest, mainly because he's only come through this season really, but he's been amazing for Roma and has great reflexes. Best of the rest.
I also have to make a special mention to one man - Marco Hiller. It may seem strange listing a goalkeeper that plays in such a low division, but he has earned it. Marco Hiller was made 1860 Munich's first choice keeper in July of 2017 and has played every single league game for the Bavarian side ever since. While he still lacks ability in goal kicks and judging crosses, he has improved his game especially in terms of reflexed and 1v1 situations. Hiller has often saved his team at important points in the match and has the top clean sheets in the Regionalliga Bayern, collecting six consecutive clean sheets already this campaign. At only 20 years old, the young German goalkeeper has a bright future ahead of him."
Up next is the SENSIBLE voice of Arsenal (not AFT) - @cannonwire who writes:
"1) David De Gea - Manchester United
His reflex saves are second to none, winning countless POTS awards for United and recently asserting himself as the best in the business.
2) Manuel Neuer - Bayern Munich
A foot injury in recent times has lowered his stock but he is arguably been the best in the last 5 years and is amazing to watch so I hope the 'sweeper-keeper' comes back to fitness for the World Cup in a few months.
3) Thibaut Courtois - Chelsea
A tall, reliable pair of hands where mistakes are rare. Only 25, he has a commanding presence and does his job on a consistent basis, having already won two league titles with Chelsea.
4) Jan Oblak - Atletico Madrid
The up and coming 24-year-old has a strong command of his penalty area and brilliant shot-stopping ability.
5) Gianluigi Buffon - Juventus
What more can you say about Gigi? He’s still one of the best around at 39 years old and possesses superb positing and reactions.
My special mention goes to Ter Stegen, as someone I could have easily put in here but haven’t watched enough of him to put him in the top 5."
We know there's going to be so much controversy over this but we need to know your opinions - tweet us using the #DaveAndSamChat. You can also find us on other Social Media - use the following:
Sam - Twitter: @samjsneddon
Dave - Twitter: @simply_dave // Instagram @footballreview4
Written by @samjsneddon & @simplydave_
Welcome to the first article in our brand new series: The Dave and Sam Show. We'll be covering some of the latest and greatest football news, rumours and gossip, all here on Socabol. Today, we are discussing Chelsea FC head coach, Antonio Conte.
Conte's future at Chelsea has been in doubt recently, as the Italian gaffer has received criticism over some of the results his team have produced and the drop in league standing since last year's incredible league title win. Rumours were also circulating about the opening of an Italian National Team manager position, with the board allegedly eyeing him up as their number one target.
On this part of the article, we'll be giving OUR opinions.
Antonio Conte’s reign at Chelsea has been interesting, to say the least. After winning the league relatively easily last season, he has struggled to replicate the same results this season.
There have been a few factors that have contributed to the decline in results and performance. The first being the sale of Diego Costa. Costa has integral to everything Chelsea did well, especially in the first half of the season. After the switch to 343. His tireless running and harassing of defenders allowed Chelsea to operate higher up the pitch, as well as allowing Hazard to be more involved higher up the pitch.
Secondly, recruitment over the summer was poor. Chelsea loaned out young players like Baker, Aina and Loftus-Cheek - as well as selling Chalobah, who was a big part of the title-winning season. Because of this, players like Bakayoko and Drinkwater were bought for a total of £80 million. None of them being significant upgrades on Chalobah or Loftus-Cheek.
Moreover, replacing an experienced striker with Morata, in hindsight, may have been a mistake. The signing of Morata in isolation isn’t bad. His insistence on playing him, even when in terrible form was. Morata has had problems with his mentality all his career.
When things aren’t going well for him, he tends to hide. Conte’s reluctance to play Batshuayi looks all the more strange considering he is the best finisher at the club and this is evident through the numbers he is putting up at Dortmund.
My last gripe with Conte is his apparent inability to manage games effectively. This again in hindsight was evident last season. He rarely makes substitutions before the 70th minute. When he does, it is either defensive or pure stupidity. Take the second leg vs Barcelona. The first mistake was playing Giroud instead of Morata when pace was needed in transition. His second mistake was not making a single tactical change until Chelsea were already 3-0 down. This was the poorest Barcelona team Chelsea had faced in over 15 years and he made them look like Pep’s Barca of 10/11.
With all this being said, I don’t believe Conte is a bad manager. In fact, I still think he’s an elite manager and a very good coach. However, he needs to move on for two reasons. Number one, his pragmatic nature stifles players like Hazard and Morata. In a free-flowing attacking system, both would easily hit 20+ goals in all comps.
With Conte, I’m not sure either can. Number two, Conte is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Chelsea has the best academy in England and among the best in Europe. Conte will not bring these players through. He prefers experienced players with tactical discipline. That isn’t conducive to Chelsea becoming the super club that Abramovic wants them to become.
So, what’s the solution? Chelsea needs a young vibrant coach that promotes youth and plays attacking football. To use a phrase that Jose Mourinho recently coined, Chelsea’s ‘football heritage’ is that of sacking managers to continue the winning cycle. That needs to change. A project similar to what Pep is doing at City needs to begin.
The infrastructure is there. The money is there. Someone just needs to execute. Pochettino would be the ideal manager to take the job, but Levy would never let that happen. Thomas Tuchel is another avenue that should be explored. He promotes young players, plays good football and has a pressing system similar to Klopp’s that we see works in the Premier League. He would be my ideal candidate to take over from Conte.
It's difficult for me to express my opinion on Conte, as I do not support Chelsea. Yet, I am an avid football fan and watch the occasional Premier League game when the opportunity arises. This season, I've not been entirely impressed with Chelsea.
Chelsea has been victims of some embarrassing losses, most of which, away games. These include a 0-1 loss to West Ham, a 0-3 Bournemouth defeat and a shocking 1-4 thumping from Watford.
I think Conte deserves to stay until the end of the season at least before the Chelsea board make any decisions. Now it's all down to how he performs until then.
The Fan Zone:
In this section of our article, we'll be looking at the opinions of the fans. Today, we've chosen two Chelsea fans.
“Personally I don’t think Conte should be sacked; I don’t think he got exactly what he asked for in the summer and it has therefore affected Chelsea this season. I also believe he should become the manager instead of head coach, so he makes the transfer decisions.” (via @chelsea_fans_p4ge on Instagram)
'The Chelsea Edition' had a different say.
“I just feel that he is starting to lose his love for the club each week as his relationship with the board is deteriorating. I think he has lost his charisma on the touchline which defined him but I think it will all be back if we get the win tomorrow [referring to Chelsea's second leg match against Barcelona, which ended 4-0 to the latter]” (via @chelsea.edition on Instagram)
Opinions are very spread on a matter like this, and it's understandable why many Chelsea fans wouldn't be happy with the Conte regime. Only time will tell if he'll actually keep the job.
The conversation isn't over - Tweet us using the #DaveAndSamChat. You can also find us on other Social Media - Use the following:
Sam - Twitter: @samjsneddon
Dave - Twitter: @simply_dave // Instagram @footballreview4
Written by @football.noww
No matter how often he gets knocked down, he always stands up again. After a career full of ups and downs, Paulinho now finds himself as a cult figure at legendary FC Barcelona.
José Paulo Bezerra Maciel Júnior was born on 25th July 1988 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Child to a council worker and a supermarket manager, he grew up in bad conditions and started his footballing career when he played for the youth team of Pão de Açúcar Esporte Club, now known as Audax Sao Paulo. Aged 17 in 2008, he already had enough of it. After failing to break into Pao´s first team, Paulinho signed his first professional contract with Lithuanian side FC Vilnius in 2006. After two unsuccessful seasons marked by relegation and racial abuses, Paulinho left Lithuania for Poland. After less than a year playing there for LKS Lodz (where he was paid way less than agreed), he quit it and said that he never wanted to play football again. But his wife, then pregnant, convinced him of not giving up, as she argued that he couldn´t do anything else and he had to care for his parents and his soon-to-be-born daughter. So he joined his youth club Pão de Açúcar for a second time, basically starting from zero again.
He won promotion with them before joining Bragantino in the second Brazilian division. From there he headed to Corinthians, where he won the Brazilian title, the Copa Libertadores and the Club World Cup. Having turned down Internazionale Milan, he joined Tottenham for a club-record 19 Million Euros in 2013. The Premier League suited him in general, but André Villas-Boas, the coach who knew him, who convinced him to come to the Spurs, was gone shortly after Paulinho´s arrival. And with him, the Brazilian's confidence and playing times. He started 28 games in his first season in North London and just three in his second under new coaches Tim Sherwood and later Mauricio Pochettino. In between, the shameful night of the 8th July happened, when Brazil´s national team was shockingly defeated 7:1 by Germany in the semi-final of the 2014 World Cup, in Brazil.
That summer was the second time Paulinho finally gave up. For him, it was no option staying at Tottenham, but he also had no other offers. Thank god Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande, then coached by his old friend Tite, called. It was a time where the Chinese Super League flourished with several big European transfers coming in and Paulinho took the chance, although he was aware of the fact that this was certainly a step down for him.
Going to China is where the story was supposed to end. Media and Fans both cribbed off his career, they all put it down for him to cashing in a few years and then ending it for the Brazilian midfielder. But his time in the middle kingdom turned out to be a restart. Paulinho found his joy in playing football again and was one of the few European players who really took their time in China seriously. 28 goals and nine Assists in 95 games for Guangzhou are great numbers, he also won six titles including two consecutive Chinese championships and the AFC Champions League.
When the news headlines reported a 40 Million Euros move of Paulinho to FC Barcelona, most people shook their head. After a world record departure of Neymar, Barcelona was in the middle of a crisis, and this transfer was seen as a definitive sign of this club´s downward spiral.
Seven months later and we all know better. The now 29-year-old proofed to be the biggest transfer surprises for long and a sign of the incredible intelligence of the Blaugrana´s management. Paulinho is something Barca actually never had in their history. A beefy, hard-working, much-running box-to-box-midfielder. His playing style doesn´t belong into the “normal” Barcelona system, but it perfectly fits Ernesto Valverde and his idea of the game. The way he redefined this club is remarkable and outstanding and believe it or not, Paulinho plays a big part in all that, not just because of his eight goals and two assists in the league, but also because of his mentality and presence on as well as off the pitch.
Written by @football.noww
Mbappé grew up in Bondy, a working-class suburb of northeast Paris. His father Wilfried was a coach at the local non-league club AS Bondy, his mother Fayza was a professional handball player. And his now 28-year-old adopted brother Jires Kembo Ekoko is a professional footballer who currently plays for Bursaspor in Turkey.
At seven, Mbappé started playing for his father's club and as soon as he was competing against older boys, it was clear that he was a rare talent. The first scouts appeared when Mbappé was ten years old and Chelsea made the first big step by inviting Kylian for a week´s trial at their training ground when he was eleven years old. The Mbappé family didn´t refuse, but their real plan was different. His father went to London for the experience, while Kylian himself enjoyed seeing one of Europe´s biggest clubs and meeting his role models, but neither of them intended to leave France for long. During his time in England, Mbappé played one game for the Blues under-12 side, an 8:0 win against Charlton Athletic. He then played alongside players like Tammy Abraham or Jeremie Boga, who are still under contract at Chelsea but loaned out to Swansea and Birmingham, respectively. Nevertheless, he wasn´t blown away by this trip. Because of his self-confidence and self-assessment, he knew that he could play for such a club one day, but it was too early at that time. At the end of the week, Chelsea had been keen to offer the talent a place in their academy, but his family, though grateful, did not contemplate it at all and returned to France.
Six months after coming home from England, Kylian Mbappé joined Clairefontaine, an academy run by the French Football Association, while still going home on the weekends to play for AS Bondy.
In December 2012, Wilfried Mbappé received a call from Real Madrid, inviting him and his son to travel to the Spanish capital for a trial in the same week Kylian turned 14. Most young boys and their families would have jumped at this once-in-a-lifetime chance, but not the Mbappés. They approached it the same way they had Chelsea. They would go only for the experience. Mbappé trained with real´s second team, met Zidane and shot his famous picture with Cristiano Ronaldo, but it didn´t change the fact that the youthful was determined to stay in France.
After two productive years at Clairefontaine, Mbappé chose to continue his football education at AS Monaco, lured by the reputation of their academy and the knowledge he would have the chance to play in their first team as soon as possible. There, the Frenchman developed into one of the world's most exciting players, becoming Monaco's youngest-ever player and goalscorer in his first season. His goals helped them win the French title and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2017.
Then last summer, when Real Madrid returned for Mbappé and had a bid of 180 million euros accepted, it was assumed he would leap at the chance to join his hero, Ronaldo. It was all done, but KM refused. A month later, he became the second-most expensive player in history when for the same fee he chose to join Paris Saint-Germain, which came as little surprise to those who know the Mbappé family and Kylian's career plan.
At 19-years-old, Kylian Mbappé now sees himself playing alongside Neymar and Cavani in one of the best-attacking trios in Europe. At the time of writing, he scored 16 goals and assisted 14 in 29 games, will most likely win the French league and is playing against Real Madrid in the Champions League. His perfectly thought-out plan is coming true right now…
Written by @JamesWootton95
Surely now, time must be almost up for Arsene Wenger. The bells have chimed and the curtains have fallen after Arsenal slumbered to their fourth straight defeat at Brighton this afternoon.
First half goals from Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray marked the Gunners eighth loss of 2018, and a fourth successive defeat for the first time under Wenger’s reign.
Despite Aubameyang’s strike at the end of the first half, it wasn’t enough as the north London side struggled to force an equaliser against a resilient Brighton side.
Brighton centre-back Dunk notched his first goal of the campaign after smashing in from Duffy’s knock-down, which should really have been Petr Cech’s ball to claim. The veteran goalkeeper will also be disappointed that he wasn’t able to keep out Murray’s header 20 minutes later. The Brighton talisman climbed highest to take his total for the Premier League campaign to 11.
Owning up to his mistakes, Cech tweeted after the game: “If you want to win a game away from home in the best league in the world, your GK can’t concede 2 goals like I did today. It’s simply not possible. The team fought back but the damage was done.”
Arsenal were able to put pressure on the Seagulls and managed to pull a goal back through their record-signing as Aubameyang flicked home from Xhaka’s cross. They were unlucky not to go into the break level as Koscielny hit the post just before the whistle.
The roar of delight as the final whistle blew at the Amex emphasised how much the victory meant to Brighton and the home fans. Albion’s victory lifts them into the top half of the table, with a seven-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone. As for Arsenal, the misery piles on, with the Champions League positions surely out of reach. They must now prepare to go again on Thursday in the Europa League against AC Milan. The Italian giants find themselves in a similar position to Arsenal, flailing in seventh place in Serie A as the once successful team struggle to keep up with the leaders.
Wenger’s reputation seems to be in tatters, and his post-match press conference didn’t help when he addressed the media with a bizarre expression: “When you have just the trousers on it’s easy to take the trousers off as well. When you’re naked completely you have to find a shirt, and try to put it on again and then you’re dressed normally again.”
With many fans shifting into the Wenger Out camp, the writing could be on the wall for the man who once led ‘The Invincibles’.
Written by @northcurverising
With Arsenal seeming to be the laughing stock of England at the moment and Arsène Wenger looking out of his depth, could this be an opportunity for current Celtic and ex-Liverpool Brendan Rodgers to get back in the mix of the Premier League?
The Northern Irishman has done an excellent job at the Scottish Champions as he had qualified for the Champions League two seasons in a row, has only lost two domestic games and is still on for another domestic treble.
I think it’s safe to say that majority of Arsenal fans want rid of the Frenchman after he has been at the north London outfit for almost 22 years.
Brendan Rodgers is still a young manager with a lot of potential and he has shown that in England already - he came just a few points off of winning the title with Liverpool.
However, Rodgers does have his faults, for example in Europe he still tries to play the same passing football that he plays in the Ladbrokes Premiership. What is effective against teams like Ross County or Hamilton Academical is hardly going to be effective against the likes of PSG or Bayern Munich (no disrespect to any of the clubs). My point is he just doesn’t have a plan B which I vital for any manager.
The Northern Irishman has publicly dispelled rumours that he may leave Celtic and claims he is still buzzing to be at the hoops.
What do you think, would Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers be good at the Gunners?
Written by @simplydave_
Spurs and Pochettino’s success has been a point of contention among rival fans for the last few seasons. The fact that they have made monumental strides without winning trophies is seen as a detracting factor. For me, that’s ludicrous, especially considering the state Spurs were in when Pochettino took over.
Poch was appointed for the 14/15 season. To give you some context, this was the after season that the Bale money was wasted and they saw players like Paulinho and Chadli bought it. A team with Roberto Saldado and Adebayor as the main attacking options going into the season. Imagine. An overhaul was desperately needed at the club and Mauricio wasted no time in doing so. Opting for young players like Mason, Benteleb, Dier and of course Harry Kane instead of ‘experienced’ pros. Their first season was reasonably successful, they finished 5th, 6 points behind United. Harry Kane finished with 21 league goals and 31 in all comps - at 21 years old. Progress.
In the next season performance levels increased. Spurs were an entirely different animal. Alderweireld, Alli and Son became regular features of the team - with Alderweireld forming a formidable partnership with Vertonghen at the back. The relentless pressing that we’ve come to expect from Pochettino sides became more evident. They were the best defensive side in the division - conceding 35 goals as well as the second best going forward scoring 69. Harry Kane went a long way to dispel the one season wonder claims by scoring 25 league goals and winning his first golden boot. This was also Alli’s breakout season. 10 goals for the teenager and eye catching performances. The team managed to finish 3rd in a two horse race behind eventual winners Leicester and North London rivals Arsenal. A draw against 10th place Chelsea and getting slapped 5-1 by Newcastle didn’t exactly help their cause. A positive to take from that season was they were the best side, regardless of league position.
16/17 saw further improvement. Tottenham finished 2nd behind a record breaking Chelsea side and also reached the semi-final of the FA Cup. This season turned Spurs into the efficient machine that we see today. Relentless pressing, solid defensively and with one of the most complete strikers we’ve seen in the Premier League era. Additions of Wanyama and Sissoko provided them with some pace and power to compliment the silky ability of players like Eriksen and the ghost of Lamela. Spurs started slowly, drawing a lot of games early on. However, once they hit their stride they were virtually unstoppable. Alli and Son hit 20 goals in all competitions as supplementary forwards, while Eriksen added around 20 assists. Kane enjoyed his most productive season in the league scoring 29 goals in 30 games.
The identity that Pochettino implemented into this side was obvious to see. Elite organisation, pressing high up the pitch and tactical flexibility - being able to switch between 343 and 4231 effortlessly. Pochettino is top 3 coaches in the league, in my opinion top 2. He’s turned Tottenham into a team able to play expansive football or absorb pressure and hit sides on the counter. Such flexibility is needed, especially while they look to advance in Europe. The progress made by both has been staggering and I expect the trophies to follow. Their biggest objective at the moment should be keeping Harry Kane. While him and Pochettino are at Spurs, the sky is the limit.
Written by @samjsneddon
It's the year of the FIFA World Cup, the time where over a billion excited football fans sit around the telly to watch the biggest single-event sporting competition in the world, even if your country is not involved (Sorry, Scotland *wink*).
Since 1998, England has qualified for the World Cup every year and of course, we won it in 1966. Since then, the furthest we've made it is to the quarter-finals. Our worst is the group stages, like last time in Brazil. But how might we do in this World Cup?
Well, the simple answer is hoping to avoid a horrifyingly embarrassing exit. The lads that will be helping us achieve that are of course those who pull on the shirt and to be honest, our players are actually pretty strong. Here's a predicted squad, as created by the Independent.
Joe Hart (GK)
Jack Butland (GK)
Jordan Pickford (GK)
Kyle Walker (RB)
Kieran Trippier (RB)
Danny Rose (LB)
Ryan Bertrand (LB)
John Stones (CB)
Phil Jones (CB)
Harry Maguire (CB)
Michael Keane (CB)
Eric Dier (CDM)
Jake Livermore (CDM)
Jordan Henderson (CM)
Harry Winks (CM)
Raheem Sterling (RW)
Adam Lallana (CAM)
Dele Alli (CAM)
Marcus Rashford (ST)
Harry Kane (ST)
Jamie Vardy (ST)
Daniel Sturridge (ST)
Jermain Defoe (ST)
(Available players as of 15/11/17)
Despite being the likely ones to board the plane, we could see a few surprises and maybe even some younger starlings.
I think it's pretty important to discuss the other members of Group G. When we all sat patiently awaiting the news of who we'd be up against in the group stages, we were surprisingly happy with our results. Group G consists of Belgium, England, Panama and Tunisia.
Here's how I think our results will go; considering we play our best, that is
Match 1 - June 18: Tunisia v England (19:00 KO) - England Win
Match 2 - June 24: England v Panama (13:00 KO) - England Win
Match 3 - June 28: England v Belgium (19:00 KO) - Belgium Win
If all goes to plan, surely that'll put us in the Round of 16, right?
It's really down to how our team plays, and recently under Gareth Southgate, our fans have been victims of some pretty poor performances. No matter how this World Cup goes, they'll be plenty of us England fans cheering on the Three Lions.