World Cup 2018: Predicting England’s Path

You could probably count on one hand the number of people that have given England a realistic shot in this tournament. But that doesn’t mean that the national team are destined for destruction and another embarrassing exit either.

Here are my predictions for how England will fare:

Tunisia vs. England

After a 12-year absence, Tunisia return to the WC. This will mark the African nation’s fifth appearance at the tournament following their Group A-topping qualifier campaign.

They are without a win in their past three finals appearances, however. This time around the Tunisians have a lack of striking options with Wahbi Khazri having moved into the makeshift role after a  successful loan spell in the position at Ligue 1 Rennes.

Match Prediction: With the third youngest squad at the competition and expectations remaining somewhat diluted, England will play with a lot less pressure weighing them down. After an awkward start, England will quickly find their feet and take the game to Tunisia. They’ll enjoy the lion share of possession and produce some free-flowing football as the game progresses. Tunisia will eventually leave themselves exposed and England will exploit to good measure. It’ll be largely what you expect from an opening tie against Tunisia at the World Cup. Their resilient shape will be difficult to break down and a clean sheet is also expectedly on the cards.

Score Prediction: 0-2

England vs. Panama

The Central Americans qualified for their first ever WC with a dramatic 2-1 win over Costa Rica during the final CONCACAF match day. Forward Blas Perez has appeared for over a century for his country, featuring in four qualifying campaigns and scoring 11 goals in the process.

Expect England to utilise their numbers and rotate several positions. Jack Butland could feature with Jordan Pickford rested for the upcoming Belgium decider. Trent Alexander-Arnold could make his first senior international appearance at a major tournament in place of Kieran Trippier, with Danny Rose potentially a suitable option for a similar switch on the opposing side. Marcus Rashford is unlikely to start England’s opener but could see himself favoured over Jesse Lingard this time around.

Match Prediction: England will face even less resistance in a game that could result in a fashionable romping. Southgate may show some restraint though, with one eye focused towards his Group G decider. The team will likely come out of the traps flying, taking the game to a nervy Panama whose defensive vulnerabilities will surface almost immediately. England will control the game from start to finish and see off their opponents comprehensively.

Score Prediction: 4-0

England vs. Belgium

This game could and should offer one of the most tantalising group stage games at the tournament. At this stage, both teams will have 6 points and high goal differences which leaves open an interesting conundrum: do you set up shop and hold out for a point to allow goal difference to see you over the line or do you go out with the intent to win? Anticipate the latter.

Both teams attack in great numbers and can be deadly on the right day. However, both have shown defensive frailties that could largely be exposed down their respective left sides through Ashley Young and Yannick Carrasco. Belgium may also take some satisfaction from this England side’s lack of tournament experience.

Match Prediction: The flow of the game will be difficult to predict. Things will begin pretty neutrally with both teams eventually opening themselves up further as it unfolds. Expect a high-flying game once the dust settles, becoming increasingly entertaining, complete with a dramatic finale. England to start slow and lift themselves with an impressive second-half showing. Belgium display some complacency and are punished for their insolence.

Score Prediction: 2-2

Round of 16 – Colombia

Goal difference will marginally see England finish top of their group and challenging for a place in the quarter-finals against Group H runners-up, Colombia.

Both teams are quite similarly placed. You’d expect that England may not kick themselves at the prospect of a second place with a more favourable L16 tie vs. Poland awaiting them.

Match Prediction: This could prove a largely frustrating game for England who will be matched competitively for both pace and fluidity. Both teams move the ball well and there will be a lot of emphasis on winning the ball high up the pitch. This is a game where your midfield could make or break your outcome. One goal will likely decided who wins and it will come England’s way somewhere deep into the second-half, making for a restless conclusion as a Colombian onslaught ensues.

Score Prediction: 1-0

Quarter-Finals – Brazil

By far the toughest test England will face. No matter where they place in the group stages, the odds appear to be against them at this stage regardless with either Germany or Brazil likely looming.

Brazil will dispatch Mexico without breaking much of a sweat and be ready for their quarter-final tie here.

Match Prediction: There won’t be any need for extra-time or penalties. England will sadly crash out at this stage following a dominant display from Brazil. But it won’t all be doom and gloom. There will be glimmers of hope peppered throughout the tie. Brazil will prove to be the eventual winners of the entire tournament as their uncompromising style and sharpness proving too much for England to curtail.

Score Prediction: 3-1

Verdict

All-in-all, a satisfying first tournament for Gareth Southgate,. His new-look England side will take this as an opportunity to blood themselves in on the biggest stage and defy expectations with a number of quality performances and some attractive football. A stepping stone towards what could potentially become greatness.

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10 Young Players To Watch In The World Cup

With the kick-off to the biggest competition in World Football only weeks away, I’ve taken a look at some of the brightest prospects heading to Russia, who I expect to impress during the tournament.

#10 – Yerry Mina (Colombia)

yerry mina

At 23 years of age, Mina is arguably already a complete defender. He’s very comfortable playing from the back with a range of passing ability, as well as possessing an aerial threat thanks to being an imposing 6 ft 5 inches. He completed a dream move to Barcelona earlier this year in January, however, has found game time hard to come by so far, making only 5 appearances. The World Cup gives him a great opportunity to test himself against the best players in the world and put himself firmly in Ernesto Valverde’s plans for next season.

#9 – Lucas Torreira (Uruguay)

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The 22-year-old Uruguayan is currently playing for Sampdoria in Italy, where he’s impressed in his first two seasons at the club. Playing in the defensive midfield position, he reads the game well beyond his years, as well as having a good mixture of playmaking ability to keep possession and start attacks. He’s being touted the top, with several of Europe’s heavyweight clubs already being linked with him, and the World Cup gives him a great chance to prove his ability and put himself in the shop window.

#8 – Keita Balde (Senegal)

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The 23-year-old Senegalese winger has is highly rated by many. He firstly shot to prominence in Italy with Lazio in the 2016/17 season where he scored an impressive 16 goals in 31 games which lead to French side Monaco paying £27m for his signature. He enjoyed a moderately successful debut season scoring 8 goals in 23 appearances. He possesses frightening pace and dribbling skills which is enough to frighten even the world’s best defenders and is continually improving his composure in front of goal. With him and Mane on the wings for Senegal, expect plenty of attacking flair from Senegal this summer!

#7 – Timo Werner (Germany)

Timo Werner

The 22-year-old German Striker has already established himself as one of the best strikers in the Bundesliga. A key part of RB Leipzig’s team, he’s scored 42 goals in all competitions in just two seasons for the club since signing from Stuttgart. He’s carried his scoring form in International football too, scoring an impressive 7 goals in 12 appearances for Die Mannschaft. Werner has the pace to burn and loves playing on the shoulder of the defender and has excellent finishing ability when through on goal. It remains to be seen if Joachim Löw will opt for the younger option of Werner or the more experienced option of Mario Gómez, however, I expect him to have an impact either starting or from the bench in what could well be back to back World Cup triumphs for Germany.

#6 – Goncalo Guedes (Portugal)

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The 21-year-old Portuguese Winger is coming into the World Cup in great form after an impressive season on loan at Spanish side Valencia from PSG where he established himself as a key member of the team that helped secure a Champions League position for next season, scoring 5 goals and assisting 9. He has outstanding dribbling capability, which combined with his passing and crossing ability makes him a handful for fullbacks. Expect him to create the chances for Portugal’s talisman Ronaldo to finish, as Portugal go for another trophy after their Euro 2016 triumph.

#5 – Marcus Rashford (England)

Marcus Rashford England

The 20-year-old English striker has shown glimpses of a world class player in the making. Since debuting for Manchester United in 2015, Rashford has become a fan favourite of the Old Trafford faithful, thanks to his blistering pace, and ability to take players on. His development has arguably been stalled with him struggling to nail down a position in the starting XI, as well as Mourinho often playing him on the wings. It’s likely he could be employed in the same position in Russia for England with Harry Kane expected to lead the line. Rashford will be keen to showcase his ability in Russia and show Mourinho that he has the ability to be a regular starter for United next season.

#4 – Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)

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The 23-year-old Serbian midfielder is being tipped for the top and is arguably already the complete midfielder. Currently playing in Italy for Lazio, Milinkovic-Savic has established himself as one of the best midfielders in the league thanks to his combination of aerial, passing, and shooting prowess. Scoring 12 goals last season proves his ability, and he’ll be hoping to impress in Russia as Europe’s elite will undoubtedly be monitoring his performance.

#3 – Hirving Lozano (Mexico)

hirving lozano

The 22-year-old Mexican winger is coming into the World Cup in scintillating form, having scored 17 goals, and assisted 8 for PSV in Holland. He has outstanding crossing ability from both open play and dead ball situations and loves to cut inside from the right onto his stronger left foot. However, he has had issues with his discipline for PSV having been sent off twice this season which he needs to work on. A good performance in the World Cup could make it very difficult for PSV to keep hold of him should Europe’s elite come calling for his services and he’ll be hoping to guide Mexico out of what is an incredibly tough group alongside Germany, Sweden & North Korea.

#2 – Kylian Mbappé (France)

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The 19-year-old French Striker has enjoyed a whirlwind start to his professional career. He came to prominence for French side Monaco during the 2016/17 season where he scored 26 goals in all competitions to help Monaco to the title, as well as reaching the semi-final of the Champions League where he received rave reviews for his performances. This led to rivals PSG agreeing to a transfer which will is believed to eventually reach over £100m. Mbappé continued his scoring form for PSG scoring 23 goals in 44 appearances, securing another Ligue 1 crown in the process. The complete forward, he possesses lighting pace, passing and unbelievable composure in front of goal. He’s been compared by many to Brazilian legend Ronaldo, high praise indeed for someone so young. He will be hoping to guide France to World Cup success in what is arguably the best team of a generation with the likes of Pogba, Kante & Griezmann lining up alongside him.

#1 – Gabriel Jesus (Brazil)

Gabriel Jesus Brazil

The 21-year-old Brazilian Striker has the world at his feet after his impressive debut season in England with Manchester City. Scoring 17 goals in 42 appearances in all competitions, Jesus has become one of hottest prospects in world football. It’s a great credit for such a young player to establish themselves in one of Europe’s elite sides in Manchester City so quickly, especially with fierce competition from the world-class Sergio Aguero to contend with. He possesses pace, great passing and finishing ability, as well as being a true goal poacher thanks to his elusive movement off the ball. Jesus is expected to lead the line for Brazil with a countries reputation to restore, after their humiliating 7-0 defeat at the hands of Germany in their home World Cup in 2014 still fresh in the memory. With the likes of Marcelo, Coutinho & Neymar lining up alongside side, expect Brazil to be serious contenders this Summer.

Which young player are you most excited to watch in the World Cup this Summer? Let us know below!

Who should start at Right Back for England at The World Cup?

With the World Cup just weeks away, there’s one position, in particular, that is giving England Manager Gareth Southgate a real selection headache. Southgate included three right backs in his World Cup Squad, including Manchester City’s Kyle Walker, Tottenham’s Kieran Trippier & Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold. Below we take a look at each player to discover who deserves a starting place in The 3 Lions starting line-up in Russia.

Kyle Walker

kyle-walker-england

The 27-year-old comes into the World Cup on the back of the successful debut season for Manchester City after his £50m move from Spurs last summer. Helping City cruise to the title with a record-breaking 100 points total, Walker established himself as Pep Guardiola’s number 1 right back, ahead of Brazilian Danilo. He played 32 games in the Premier League providing 6 assists, & 7 games in the Champions League providing a single assist.

Of all the 3 options, Walker is by far the most experienced having made 34 appearances for England since debuting in 2011. However, this is Walker’s first World Cup having missed out on a seat for the plane to Brazil in 2014.

Walker has blistering pace which allows him to stop even the fastest of wingers from getting past him, as well as being comfortable in possession, a necessity for City’s style of play. Despite registering 7 assists in total last season, Walker has an infamously weak final ball, often deciding against delivering the ball into the box at the right time or being unable to beat the first man.

I personally see Walker as the more defensive option at Southgate’s disposable. Southgate has realised this too, as was proved by his decision to trial Walker at Centre Back in England’s last 2 friendlies against Italy and the Netherlands, in which he more than proved his ability to be able to play the position.

Kieran Trippier

kieran trippier england

The 27-year-old has had a mixed season for Spurs. Walker’s departure paved the way for Trippier to establish himself at Spurs number 1 right back, only for Spurs to sign Serge Aurier from PSG. Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has struggled to decide who his number one is, however despite the competition Trippier still managed 39 appearances in all competitions, registering 8 assists.

Trippier has made 7 appearances for England since his debut in 2017 but has again often found himself behind Walker. He was given a chance at Right Wing Back by Southgate during England’s last friendlies against Italy and the Netherlands and impressed, more than proving he is worthy enough of being in the starting line-up in Russia.

Trippier has a high work rate often overlapping opposite fullbacks in order to create space and deliver crosses into the box. His crossing is his main strength, able to consistently deliver dangerous balls into the box for his teammates from both open ball and dead ball situations. It’s also worth considering Trippier has formed a lethal partnership with Harry Kane at Spurs, with Kane often on the end of Trippier’s crosses.

I see Trippier as the more attacking option for England. With games against Tunisia and Panama, England will be expected to attack, and if previous tournaments are anything to go by, I expect teams to sit very deep against England to try and minimise their threat of pace in behind. For these situations, Trippier is the best option as he’ll be able to stretch teams on the wings and deliver dangerous crosses into the box as England look to break teams down.

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent-Alexander-Arnold england

The 19-year-old has had an incredible season for Liverpool, breaking into the first team following Nathaniel Clyne’s injury-hit season. He made 18 appearances for Liverpool in the Premier League, scoring 1 goal and registering a single assist. However, it’s his performances in the Champions League which have earned him the most praise. He scored a free kick in Liverpool’s 2-1 first leg victory against Hoffenheim and became a regular player in the side that made it all the way to the final against Real Madrid.

His call-up to the World Cup squad was a surprise inclusion considering he is previously uncapped at senior level for England, however, Southgate highly rates the youngster.
Alexander-Arnold plays with his heart on his sleeve, showing a great physical presence combined with great ability on the ball. He reads the game well beyond his year showing intelligence in both attacking and defensive situations.

I see Trent Alexander as the backup option should Walker or Trippier pick up an injury. I’m sure he’ll be given a chance to show what he can do in England’s upcoming friendlies against Nigeria & Costa Rica. Alexander-Arnold has an incredibly bright future ahead of him, and I expect to strengthen his place in the England team over the coming seasons.

The Verdict

Which right back Southgate chooses will be dependant on what formation he decides to go with. His recent line up in the friendlies against Italy and the Netherlands suggest he will adopt a 5-3-2 formation which would likely see Walker at CB with Trippier at Right Back. Should Southgate look to adopt the more traditional approach with 4 at the back, I expect him to start with the more established Walker. However, for the games against Tunisia & Panama, I feel Trippier would be the better option to help break them down, should they set up defensively. Should any games head into the dreaded extra time territory, providing England advance from the group stage, Alexander Arnold offers great energy to utilise from the bench.

One thing is for sure, England have a wealth of talent at right back which can hopefully make an impact in Russia this Summer.

Who would you start at right back for England at the World Cup? Let me know below!

 

4 Steps to Championship Promotion – The Wolves Model

After Brentford’s late equaliser against Fulham at the Weekend, Wolves sealed their promotion back to the Premier League. It was some feat considering their 15th place finish the season before. I’ve taken a look at the steps behind Wolves rapid success, to see how they’ve gained promotion, and what other Championship teams can learn from them for the future.

Step 1 – Owner Ambition

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Wolves are owned by International Conglomerate Fosun, who took over the club in 2016. They arrived with a clear ambition of turning Wolves into an established Premier League Club. They arguably made too much change too quickly in their first season with the appointment of Walter Zenga to replace Kenny Jackett an unsuccessful move, as well as several signings who failed to make the desired impact. Lessons were learnt, and they approached their second season with a better understanding of the division and the fanbase, heavier financial backing, and a manager with European experience in Nuno Espirito Santo.

With the Championship becoming increasingly competitive, owners will need to invest heavier into their club’s infrastructure, as well as take calculated risks to give their teams the best chance of reaching the promised land.

Step 2 – Playing Style

nuno

Wolves adopted a 5-3-2 formation under Nuno which required a lot of work to introduce to the players on the training ground. The formation, when executed well, makes teams incredibly difficult to break down with the added defender, as well as enabling teams to stretch the play with wingbacks constantly free in the wide areas of the pitch. Nuno also introduced a passing and possession retaining style which encouraged attacks to begin from the goalkeeper and out of defence, a style rarely before seen in the Championship.
Many teams in the Championship are guilty of adopting a direct style of play. Whilst arguably this can be effective (Cardiff being a prime example), Wolves adopting a formation unseen in the Championship before gave them a competitive edge against many teams and one which other managers struggled to set their teams up to stop.

Step 3 – Support

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Wolves have always had a fantastic support, but this season they’ve consistently sold out both home & away. A noisy and passionate fanbase, they rally behind their team from the very start and keep the atmosphere going for 90 minutes.
Many Championship grounds struggle to maintain an atmosphere past kick off, a key problem being lower attendances, in particular, in the midweek games. Clubs need to address their matchday atmosphere with more affordable tickets for fans, as well as encouraging their fans to get behind the team as much as possible.

Step 4 – Players

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Wolves went against the traditional model of signing experienced Championship players, instead, opting to scout further afield. Whilst the majority of their talent came from Portugal in the form of Helder Costa, Ivan Cavaleiro, Ruben Neves & Diogo Jota, they also picked up a few gems from the lesser known divisions. Scottish left-back Barry Douglas was signed from Turkish league side Konyaspor for £1.2m and contributed an unbelievable 5 goals and 14 assists. They also signed Brazilian striker Leo Bonatini on loan from Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal, who scored 12 goals and provided 6 assists.

Whilst many clubs don’t possess the financial firepower of Wolves, it shows that there are players out there on the market that can be snapped up for cheap who can make a real difference. Clubs need to improve their global scouting network, so they don’t miss out on players who could become real assets for their team.

 

Janurary Transfer Window

It’s that time of the year again!

The biggest news stories currently are:

Barcelona are prepared to spend £140m to sign Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool.
Chelsea are close to signing Ross Barkley after making a new bid for the Everton midfielder.
The future of Alexis Sanchez is also a big talking point especially if the rumblings are true that Man City are really serious about obtaining the services of the Chilean.

With the vast amount of players who’s contracts run out this summer, many teams are looking for a bargain or a free transfer. This is especially the case for Juventus who are in advanced talks to sign Liverpool’s Emre Can in the summer, according to Sky in Italy. The 23-year-old Germany midfielder is free to sign a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club, having entered the last six months of his contract at Anfield

To avoid a similar fate for a few of their players, Manchester United have triggered year-long contract extensions with Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Ashley Young and Daley Blind.

The January transfer windows are never really that exciting as most clubs refuse to sell their best players and those players are usually cup-tied if they did move so it’s not worth it but with player power at an all time high, some players will try to force moves away so this January transfer window may not be as boring as previous years have been.

How Grassroots Football Could Be Affected By New Premier League TV Deal

It’s no revelation that football has become a money-oriented machine since the Premier League’s inception back in 1992. This priority shift has seeped through from the top to the very bottom of the pool, helping create a wider gap between the elite and grassroots teams. This divide is only expected to further increase, particularly following news that dropped on Friday 22 September.

Reports surfaced surrounding Ed Woodward, vice-chairman of Manchester United, who predicted that Facebook and Amazon could well be in contention to acquire the Premier League TV rights when the deal is renegotiated later this year. Woodward said: “Absolutely I think they will enter the mix and we would welcome their interest”.

As well as this supposed interest in the Premier League TV rights, interest has been sparked for a similar negotiation with European competitions for the distribution of these matches including the Champions League and Europa League.

This follows several happenings over the last couple of months where Facebook submitted a £445m failed bid for digital rights to the Indian Premier League. Despite this rejection, they did, however, successfully broker a 22-match deal with the Major League Soccer for live streaming acquisition of the 2017 regular season campaign.

Amazon have also entered the fray after paying £37m to live stream the 10 Thursday night NFL games this season. Digital coverage is becoming increasingly popular and this also follows recent news that the Football League have granted major broadcast partner Sky along with all participating clubs the permission to live stream any midweek match.

Woodward, in turn, acknowledged the growing importance of establishing a digital engagement with fans which certainly alludes to the direction that the sport is heading towards. The rise of Premier League TV income from 1992-1997 to 2016-2019 has seen revenue increase exponentially from £191m to a whopping £5.136bn, serving as further proof to the catastrophic shift that’s been endured.

It’s also expected that Sky will have to pay a premium of 45 per cent on the £4.2bn they paid last time around – which equates to a further £1.8bn – in order to fend off competition. So, what does this mean for grassroots football?

The severe lack of investment and support from football’s elite to grassroots football is plain to see. This change will butcher grassroots further along with affecting Premier League clubs and the sport as a whole. For many, it depends where you rank to determine whether this inflation is a positive or negative, but it’s almost completely unanimous that grassroots will suffer drastically whatever your allegiance.

This summer has seen the two most expensive transfer signings in history completed. Neymar and Ousmane Dembele moved to new clubs for fees of £194m and £92.6m respectively. Manchester United were also revealed to have surpassed their £250m wage barrier, showing salaries had risen from £232m to £265m in the annual year.

But while many fear spending will grow to unimaginable levels, Ed Woodward firmly believes this to be untrue. In fact, he stated that there is a willingness amongst clubs, as well as the authorities of the game, to enforce Financial Fair Play regulations in a bid to avoid this seemingly inevitable consequence. The current leniency towards these rules is unfairly disadvantaging teams while extenuating and ultimately rewarding others for the governing body’s negligence and the clubs’ ignorance. This abuse of power is likely to continue whether ideals are supposedly on the verge of implementation or not.

With these increases, there has been a consistent neglect from the Premier League to backing grassroots football. The inclusivity and the accessibility of grassroots has always been its appeal but without the money behind the campaigns, it’s bordering on impossible for clubs to stay afloat. This is in addition to the already staggering number of clubs that have either downsized or folded over recent years at this level.

Following on from this, even the Premier League is feeling the heat in certain capacities. A restructuring was imposed by Huddersfield Town on their academy system which has seen them move from a category 2 to a category 4 in the Elite Player Performance Plan. Only the U18 and U23s teams remain outside of the senior squad with the rest being dissolved, effective immediately.

Already, Manchester United are raiding some of the top talent being dispersed out into the abyss, courtesy of their Premier League companions. And worse yet, this shameful act is being sold as a helpless attempt to forge the club as a stand-out option for the finest youngsters in the country. When in reality, the club have scaled back their investment in relation to youth development and have pitifully disguised this act as best as they possibly could. What’s more frightening is the inadvertent precedent that Huddersfield have set in motion for the sport.

The rapid decline of grassroots is in direct correlation with the inflation of today’s market. Local governments’ expenditure has been cut dramatically which has forced them to secure funding through selling pitches to private administrators who are only looking to exploit this demand for their own personal gain. For the ones who don’t succumb to this pressure, it has somehow resulted in the same pitches previously used becoming more expensive to hire and the conditions of these pitches getting progressively worse.

Back in 2012, it was believed or at least pitched to the public that the Olympic Park would reinvigorate life back into the sport and more notably, at developmental levels. However, 5 years on, this could not be further from the case. Without reform and major investment from the pantheon of football, it’s unlikely that the rot will stop anytime soon, if ever.

Although, a petition to impose a 5% levy on the Premier League’s broadcasting rights back into grassroots football has recently been launched. The government has been called on by campaign creator Kenny Saunders of Save Grassroots Football to introduce the tax percentage and reinvest the resulting money into grassroots from the £8.3bn combined revenue and international deal that the Premier League currently upholds.

As of writing this, the petition has received 3,024 signatures since its activation on September 13. In order for the government to be legally obligated to respond, the figure would need to reach 10,000. A further 90,000 would then be required for the petition to be considered for debate in Parliament. The campaign is active for six months and will conclude on 13 March 2018.

It’s difficult to place where football and grassroots football might be at that stage but it’s fairly reasonable to conclude that should the media giants get their hands on the Premier League for astronomical fees, the direction and dynamic of the game will irreversibly change.

Is Fan Funding the future?

First, you’re probably asking what is fan-funding? Well, similar to Crowdfunding it would allow regular people to have the influence that sponsors and board members have. Far too many clubs treat their sponsors as partners but their fans as mere customers without understanding the untapped potential in having a worldwide fan base.

The mission would be to allow ordinary fans to become investors in the clubs they believe in. Investing in football clubs shouldn’t be left only to millionaires and billionaires. Bringing clubs and their fans closer together will strengthen the bond between them. It will allow clubs to invest for the future, improving their infrastructure and making them less reliant on overseas shareholders to inject capital.

Even the smallest clubs have passionate fans, locally and internationally, and are connected to them digitally. They would love the chance to invest in sports, but there is currently no way to do so for the average fan or investor.

For clubs, this is a massive opportunity and an untapped, digital source of financing. Even your average League Two club will have up to 10 times more people connected to them online than physically going to the stadium on a match day. For larger clubs, multiply that number by 1000. All these millions of people are digitally connected, want to engage with their club and have their voices heard.

Imagine being able to help clubs to fund stadium improvements, fund a statue or youth team pitches. But imagine being able to influence who your club buys, if a player has a release clause or your club doesn’t have enough, fans should be able to come together and put in a small amount to buy a player they want. Of course, there would need to be a lot of rules and regulations established and small print etc. etc. but I definitely believe it could be something for the future.

Where did Bayern go wrong?

It’s still very early in the season, but trouble is brewing at Bayern. Should win the Bundesliga on quality, depth & experience alone but they’re well off their best. Now Carlo Ancelotti’s likely to be sacked as Bayern manager, where did they go wrong exactly?

Many claimed Pep had taken Bayern backwards when he took over mainly due to their lack of European success and in Carlo Ancelotti, it was assumed that he could give them the tactical prowess that would succeed in Europe. This could possibly be the case of ‘you don’t know what you had till it’s gone’ but throughout his reign as Bayern Munich boss, Pep Guardiola’s every move was scrutinised and he was regularly criticised by fans and media alike.

Previous Success

Of, course it was going to be hard to top Jupp’s Bayern, who many believe was one of the best teams since 2000, above Pep’s Barcelona. This is a team that had reached the CL final 3x in 4 years before Pep, and which didn’t in 3 years during his time in charge so the narrative that Pep was the saviour of Bayern and all his work is being undone by Ancelotti is totally false. But it seems even though Pep took 1 step forward he took 2 steps backwards, Carlo seems to have taken 5 steps backwards.

Training

All coaches have different philosophies, players have to learn to adapt. They complained under Pep too but Pep improved every single Bayern player significantly. It’s been reported that Bayern’s players miss Pep’s intellectually challenging training and have found Ancelotti’s style of training too laid back as he’s more hands-off, a stark contrast from Pep’s intense, detail-oriented approach and the players don’t feel like they have improved under the Italian.

Pep’s training approach took many Bayern players to the next level, yet his tactics accounted for their failing at the final hurdle which was the cue for Ancelotti to step in.

Tactics

So the idea with Ancelotti was: With the players having improved under Pep, a new tactical system could put them over the final hurdle again but players feel they aren’t improving in that area either.

Hummels: “We were tactically not well placed tonight. It just didn’t work well for us” whilst Müller said that Pep’s training sessions were harder than league games and that’s what pushed Bayern on

Ancelotti has previously replaced intense, nitpicky coaches with great success i.e Real Madrid but unfortunately the players just haven’t got beside him. Carlo’s relaxed attitude & squad stagnation seem to be contributing to the obvious morale drop at Bayern

Players

A huge problem is that Ribery (34) & Robben (33) are still Bayern’s best wingers & Alonso started until he retired. Even though James Rodríguez is a huge plus for Bayern (who they should make a permanent transfer)

Conclusion

Today’s Bayern squad is way different from the squad Pep inherited. Many key players either left, injured or aged. Pep left at a time convenient for him & bad for Bayern. The squad was in transition & didn’t look to future until his final summer in charge. Replacements for Robben, Ribery and Alonso should have been found prior to Pep leaving. Carlo inherited a good but aging squad, and Bayern haven’t invested enough in making theirs elite again.

What do we expect from Neymar at PSG

What exactly do we expect from the most expensive football signing ever? Well we already know his quality as he didn’t look out of place at Barcelona playing with Messi and Suarez but now Neymar has his own stage.

At Barcelona, Neymar touched the ball, on average, 73 times per-game. In 2 games for PSG, he averages 121 touches on the ball per-game. The average number of passes distributed by Neymar at Barcelona was 51 but it jumped to 82 now in PSG. Messi was always the first-choice, and at Barcelona, Neymar received the ball from a teammate, on average, 52 times. At PSG, it’s 87. Against Guingamp and Toulouse, Neymar had an average of 6 shots. At Barcelona, he only had 3.2 chances to score per-game.

Given a team that’s playing to his strengths and him being the main man, Neymar will certainly score more goals and be easily rested for Champions League matches. With Monaco being stripped of their best players, PSG will talk the league and cups and will put all their eggs in the Champions League basket.

Neymar MUST perform in the Champions League and if they fail again to reach the final or win the cup, fingers will surely be pointed at the most expensive player in history.

Champions League Is Back: More great comebacks to come?

Over the years, football has witnessed some amazing comebacks. In fact, the greatest comebacks that spring to mind include Newcastle leveling with Arsenal from 4-0 down, Manchester United’s late turnaround against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League Final and Liverpool’s most recent drubbing of Borussia Dortmund to snatch a last-minute winner to reach the 2016 Europa League Final.

However, for over a decade Liverpool’s performance against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League Final, turning around a 3-0 deficit at the half time remains to be the ultimate bench mark. Not only was LFC’s performance one of the greatest comebacks in football history but arguably one of the most remarkable sporting events ever.

Due to Liverpool setting such a high bench mark, this makes you wonder whether history could ever repeat itself again…

8th March 2017, a truly astonishing day that will be remembered for years to come. The day Barcelona overcame a 4-0 first leg deficit, defeating PSG in extraordinary circumstances.

To start with, it was no secret that Camp Nou needed a miracle to qualify for the next round. Much to the delight of Barcelona fans, Luis Suarez provided the perfect start with a second-minute opener. PSG then tactically sat back and absorbed the pressure without doing any of the pressings that won them the first leg in such incredible circumstances. However, much to the frustration of Barcelona fans, the PSG game plan was working. Andres Iniesta was restricted and the men behind the ball proved difficult to break down.

However, with a touch of good fortune, the breakthrough came in the 40th minute when Layvin Kurzawa mistimed his clearance, kicking the ball into the back of his own net. Shortly after half-time, Barcelona was then awarded a soft penalty, making them in just touching distance of completing the ultimate comeback.

BANG! PSG respond through a devastating Edinson Cavani strike to silence the Camp Nou. Going into the final quarter of the game, hope seemingly faded. It appeared as if it was almost a matter of time before PSG qualified to the next round.

However, Luis Enrique’s men had other ideas. Neymar curling in a sublime free-kick in the 88th minute and then scoring a controversial penalty in the 92nd minute spurred Barcelona on.  Coming this far; Barcelona was crying out for a hero. A Messi? A Suarez? A Sergi Roberto… surely not? BANG! Sergi Roberto win’s it for Barcelona in the dying seconds of the game to complete one of the greatest Champions League comebacks ever.

Filled with anticipation, nail biting moments and controversy on the night; Barcelona managed to win 6-5 on aggregate to progress through to the next round and mark their names down in history books.

Do you think Barcelona completed the greatest football comeback ever? Does it top the famous Istanbul 2005 Champions League Final?

Have your say!