As we continue through the first Premier League season without Luis Alberto Suárez Díaz since 2011, there is the distinct feeling that a void has emerged. The PFA Players’ Player of the Year departed the Northwest of England to relax in sunny Spain while his four month ban for gnawing on Italy’s Chiellini at the World Cup was drawing out, and it marked the end of his love affair with the English top flight.
The start to Suarez’s career at Barcelona was a slow one and has very much been modelled around the fact that he has promised not to break any more rules and more specifically, not to bite people. I agree it is slightly odd that someone has to promise not to do this, but this is what makes Suarez such a spectacle. In occasional ill-advised attempts to show their “aggressive” side, many footballers go head-to-head, many connect with a slap and others push their opponents over (I know, such naughty boys!) but very, very few will use their teeth as the first line of defence. One time could be an accident or a momentary lapse of sanity, twice is a freak occurrence but we can still hope that there is no trend going on, but thrice…words fail me.
As soon as Suarez infamously “fell onto Chiellini” during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, football fans around the globe were appalled, calling for the Uruguayan to be hanged from the nearest lamppost for bringing such dishonour to the beautiful game. But, over time, that volatility has become something a lot of English football fans have craved.
In return for the departure of Luis Suarez in the summer, the Premier League was given a treat, a hub for controversy and the kind of player who brings volatility like no other, the human equivalent of a dodgy nuclear power station if you will; Super Mario Balotelli. The only player in the world who could match the Uruguayan for the entertainment factor off the pitch was back and fans up and down the country rejoiced. Half way through the season, it has transpired that the Italian is a reformed character and has promised, much like Suarez that he will stay out of trouble! The excitement fades like a painting that has been left in the sun for too long.
The most important difference between Balotelli and Suarez is that in the few moments when they were not causing a stir, Suarez treated the fans to breath-taking football, unrivalled enthusiasm and a multitude of goals; Balotelli simply does none of these.
Many top class Premier League legends have had a mean streak, and the nation has embraced them for it. Be it Cantona’s karate kick at Palace, Di Canio’s push on referee Paul Alcock, or Tevez’s golfing trip, the top players can get away with it in the eyes of the fans, because they are the best. The truth is that these incidents are legendary throughout the Premier League era.
Not only did Suarez bring controversy to England in his own unique way, he also took the league by storm on the pitch, and made Premier League football look easy. In a deadly trio of Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling, the ex-Ajax man was the first player to carry the Liverpool team to the same extent as Gerrard had been doing for so long.
The EPL has now seen top players such as Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale (to name but a few) make the trip to La Liga, and each has been sorely missed due to the amount of goals, skill and excitement that they provided; it is no secret that the fans would love to have any one of them back in the league. However, Suarez has left a gap in the hearts of the public that they didn’t know existed.
Of course, now he is playing alongside Messi and Neymar, he is not running the team and therefore has his critics, but his desire to succeed and to better himself endears him to the spectators around the world. The key point to make is that everybody, not just Liverpool fans, wanted to see what magic Suarez had cooked up for Match of the Day week in, week out. We have seen Sanchez, Hazard and Yaya Toure all try to emulate Suarez’s dominance this year but despite their outrageous ability, none have come close.
Liverpool have not been able to replace Suarez since his departure and nor, unfortunately, has the Premier League.
Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract
The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.
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.
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.
Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line
The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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