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English Premier League

Adam Matthews – What He Can Bring to Sunderland



Although not the most high profile transfer this summer, the transfer of 23 year-old Welsh right back Adam Matthews to Sunderland within the past week was one that caught my attention.  At a reported fee of £2 million, this is a potential steal for the North East club, having managed to prize Matthews from Scottish champions Celtic four years on from his move north of the border from Cardiff City.

A regular in Celtic’s side since arriving in Glasgow in 2011, Matthews racked up 150 appearances for the club, winning four top flight titles in the process.  This included 30 appearances in Europe, both in the Europa League and the Champions League, including being a vital part of the side that beat Barcelona 2-1 at Celtic Park in November 2012.  It’s easy to see therefore that, certainly for someone of his age, he comes to the Premier League with experience of winning and playing at the very top level in Europe.  Experience of this kind could prove invaluable to the Black Cats, following on from what was undoubtedly a difficult season in 2014/15.

So, on paper he looks like a good prospect.  The stats are all there to suggest he has earned a move to England’s top flight, but it doesn’t tell us much about his various qualities and how these can benefit a club like Sunderland.

What should be said first is that Matthews is an incredibly industrious player.  ‘The boy’s got a good engine on him’ is a well worn cliche but couldn’t be more appropriate for a player with the work ethic of the young Welsh international.  Signed by Neil Lennon, Matthews played a major role in both an attacking and defensive sense as part of a dominant and dynamic Celtic side.  Like left back and team mate Emilio Izaguirre, he was able to use his considerable pace to support the attack with balls from wide, never failing to maintain his defensive duties through his endless tracking back.  The latter quality is one particularly admired by Celtic fans, given that Hondouras international Izaguirre sometimes lacked this quality.  Although affected by injury for some time during his stint in Glasgow, there’s no doubt that, when fit and available, Matthews was always one of the first on the team sheet.

While motivation has never been an issue for Matthews, Sunderland fans can be assured he will be fired up following his move and is out to prove his quality.  According to STV Sport, one of Matthews’ main motivations for moving south was the potential to improve his chances of adding to to the 12 international caps he currently has for Wales.  With manager Chris Coleman preferring other options playing in England’s top divisions of late, Matthews was all too aware that a move to a league with a higher calibre of opposition would be required for him to improve, saying,

“The league in Scotland isn’t great and I think the Welsh manager saw that and hopefully this move will help me improve my chances of getting into the Welsh team because they are doing really well at the minute. But I just needed a new challenge.  I have been at Celtic for four years and enjoyed every minute of it but I spoke to my agent and it seemed to be a good move for me at this stage. I’m happy to move forward and playing in the English Premier League was a big factor in my decision – Sunderland are a massive club, there is no doubt about it.”

With words signalling strong intent, the young player is obviously out to prove his worth.  Not only is the chance to establish himself at a club in one of Europe’s top leagues at stake, but also a place in his national side, who, under Coleman, look set to reach the finals of a major international tournament for the first time in nearly 50 years at Euro 2016, their last (and only) appearance being at the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden.

There’s no doubt that drive and motivation of this kind will be welcomed in the dressing room at the Stadium of Light.  Having spent much of last season and the previous one struggling for form and results under Gus Poyet, they will be desperate for a strong start in the upcoming season in order to avoid becoming embroiled in yet another relegation battle. Poyet only managed to secure Premier League status with one game remaining in the 2013/14 season, having been appointed the previous October.  At the time of his sacking in March of this year, they were 1 point above the relegation zone in 17th place.  Only a late rescue at the hands of Dutch stalwart Dick Advocaat kept them in the top flight, and the Black Cats will be hoping to build on that in 2015/16.

Advocaat lead Sunderland to another ‘Great Escape’ last season before leaving and then rejoining the Black Cats.

Whatever happens in the North East in the coming season, fans will be hoping for more than they have seen in recent seasons past.  There’s no doubt that, with a work ethic and natural athletic ability that should see him settle well in the Premier League, Adam Matthews can contribute to a more successful run for Sunderland this term.  Though young in years, he has a CV and a medal count of a player many years his senior. Advocaat and co will be hoping he can bring the winning mentality he has no doubt become used to at Celtic and use this to aid his new club in establishing themselves once more as a reliable and permanent fixture in England’s top flight for years to come.

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Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract

The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.

He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.

Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.

It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.

Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.

“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.

“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.

“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”

Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.

Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.

They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.

There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.

This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.

Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.

Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.

This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.

He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.

A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.

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Manchester United

Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line

The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.

Rob Meech



Luke Shaw
Photo: Getty Images

The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.

Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”

The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.

Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.

From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.

Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.

Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.

This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.

But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.

In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.

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English Premier League

Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week

The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.



Photo: Getty Images

With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.

Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.

In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.

Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.

The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.

Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.

This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.

If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.

Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.

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