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English Premier League

Fulham, Southampton, Spurs and the Europa League rant



This week has been a challenging one on what to write about in terms of football. Are Chelsea dull? Big up Bournemouth? Farewell Tranmere? None if the above.

My attention is pointed in the direction of the Europa League. Like a middle child, the Europa League has to do something extraordinarily good or bad to get noticed but I believe shouldn’t this stigma attached. The main reason for this, primarily in England, is not because of exposure but because of the negative connotations that our media given off by the stance of our bigger clubs falling into it. I use the term “falling into” because that is the perception grasped by anyone who’s ever read or heard the lines of “vying for fourth spot, missing out and having to settle for the Europa League next season”. Teams shouldn’t be settling for anything, as a football fan, I long to see entertaining football and what is as exciting as a foreign team to be playing on British soil to compete for a continental cup?

The main David versus Goliath example is the age old, Spurs missing out on a top four spot and a “plucky” side pushing it all to the end aka, your Southampton. I know I’m going cliché crazy at this point don’t worry. Spurs have naturally had to accept over the last couple of seasons that they will compete for the top four and when it work out, they’d have to settle for The Europa League places. When this has been the case, long-travelled journeys to Russia and Eastern Europe are a nightmare prospect for say Pochettino who needs compete vastly on four different fronts, like Germany circa April 1945. Yes clubs have to rotate heavily, but the correct use of something as prestigious as the competition can be can prove valuable to a younger generation, in which Spurs actually are starting to do very well.

At some point though, there then becomes a turning point from development into serious contenders. It’s normally at this point things tend to go not so well for English clubs, which invariably, has happened this year. I hoped that Everton would take it seriously and get far if not do a Fulham, given the quotes earlier in the season from Martinez, but the Spanish swooner was unfortunate in losing out to Dynamo Kiev. In order to compete Everton have lost their footing on numerous occasions and cups, which leads to the fact that they’re competing for top 10 as opposed for that illustrious “I’ll get you into the Champions League” campaign which saw him hired on. At this point I’m quite happy it took 396 words to mention Champions League, but it’s hard not to draw it into the equation when talking about European football, given that the most valuable accolade of winning the Europa League is not a name in history, nor the trophy/winners medals, no, it’s the idea of getting into the Champions League the next season. Don’t even mention the Super Cup at this point.

Yes, I can understand that clubs have to heavily rotate in order to compete on all fronts, especially in England, given the FA Cup, League Cup, Premiership and Europa, but to be one of those illustrious clubs you have to do that in order to get recognised. Clubs aren’t set in stone over time due to someone writing on a piece of silverware “Someone FC, played well, but didn’t win” well at least in the long-term anyway. Noticeable trends for the Europa League is that fringe players are getting more of a look in, which is helping out England in the long-term. An example of this is the emergence of one Harry Kane who’s rise due to promise shown through exposure in both the cups in England and Europa League. Without the vast amount of matches this season, he wouldn’t have been able to reach Gary Lineker levels of goals.

I think with this we should ultimately dispel the idea that the Europa League is either a platform to get into the “holy grail” Champions League or, something like an obstacle or tester pot. We should be celebrating the fact that we’ve got something like the Europa League and if we continue in the manner that we face it, certain teams excluded, then we can only lose seeding positions, something that teams face for how well we do in European matches. Granted there are a few kinks and undesirables that need to be looked over by both UEFA and the Premier League, but we should be celebrating the idea not condemning or “settling for”.

Football sadist by choice, only choosing to go to lower league matches when the weather is terrible.


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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