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English Premier League

Newcastle United 0-1 Manchester City: Three talking points from St James’ Park

Jake Jackman

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Newcastle

Manchester City made it 18 Premier League victories in a row as they overcame a determined Newcastle United team.

On the balance of the play, it was a fair result and it could have been by a bigger margin, but the home side made it difficult for the league leaders and stayed in the game until the death.

In each of their last three league matches, City have scored four goals. They were limited to one by the Magpies and that is a moral victory for Rafa Benitez. Here are three talking points from the match…

‘The Premier League is becoming a joke league’

The first half was one-sided as Newcastle United showed little ambition and remained deep in an attempt to frustrate Manchester City. During the half-time break, Jamie Carragher blasted the tactics and suggested that it showed a wider trend in the Premier League. The Daily Mail reports the following comments from the pundit:

“Not just Newcastle but the Premier League in general, when they come up against the top six, certainly at home, it’s becoming embarrassing.

“The Premier League now is becoming a bit of a joke league, with the top teams being so far ahead of the ones at the bottom. For those clubs, its almost like they are accepting they are going to lose the game, as long as it is only one or two-nil.

“The Premier League has been built on every team having a go, that’s why everyone around the world wants to watch it. Will they keep watching if they keep seeing football like that?”

It is difficult to argue with Carragher as the gap between the top six and the rest of the league is growing on a yearly basis. The finances that the top clubs have mean that they can bring in a level of player that the rest can only dream of and that leads to one-sided matches.

During this game, Newcastle wanted to remain in the game until the late stages and play a more offensive style then. Their game-plan became more apparent as the game progressed. That said, the league is becoming less competitive as Carragher alludes to and that is a huge shame.

Newcastle were beaten but not embarrassed

Newcastle United nearly delivered the perfect game-plan as they had chances in the second-half to end Manchester City’s winning run. Considering the visitors had scored 12 goals in their last three Premier League matches, it was the right idea from Benitez to concentrate on staying in the game until the late stages. The tactics not only gave his side an opportunity to take something from the game but it meant their goal difference didn’t take a major hit. That could be important come the end of the season.

They may have been negative, but they did have chances to get on the score-sheet. Rolando Aarons came close to scoring in the first-half. His chipped effort was cleared off the line by Nicolas Otamendi. Later in the game, the Magpies started to push hard and Dwight Gayle had two good chances to equalise. He chose to dive on one of these, rather than strike an effort on goal, despite being in a good position. Then late on, he put a header just wide. This was a loss, but it wasn’t as embarrassing as it has been for a lot of their rivals near the bottom of the table.

Kevin de Bruyne is the best player in the Premier League

This is an opinion rather than a fact, but the Belgian international ran the game on Wednesday and was the difference between the two sides. The only goal of the game was made by De Bruyne as he lofted an incredible ball over the Newcastle defence to an on-rushing Raheem Sterling who finished past Rob Elliot. It was a very difficult pass to get right and the classy Belgian deserves a lot of credit for it.

During the match, he made four key passes and attempted five shots. One of his efforts on goal struck the post as he once again showed how dangerous he can be from range. It was exhibition stuff from De Bruyne at times as he showed he was a cut above the opposition at St James’ Park. There are a lot of great players in the Premier League, but few manage to dominate matches with regularity like the Belgian. He is already a frontrunner to win the PFA Player of the Year award. If he continues to perform like this, that will be a guarantee.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

English Premier League

Aston Villa reportedly not keen on keeping Josh Onomah, so what next?

The talented England youth international has had a mixed campaign at Aston Villa and Tottenham have a decision to make.

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Reports this week have confirmed what has long been suspected regarding Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Joshua Onomah. The talented maestro headed to Aston Villa at the start of the season in the hunt for regular first-team football. But next season he will not be at Villa Park, as the club have decided not to make any move to retain him next term – according to the Birmingham Mail.

This is no shock for Aston Villa or Tottenham fans. Onomah has had a difficult season at Villa Park. The 20-year-old has played plenty of football during his spell in the Midlands. Onomah has featured 34 times for Steve Bruce’s side and scored four goals. But his form has been indifferent throughout the campaign. The second-half of the season saw his form drop off dramatically. Since the turn of the year, Onomah has played just 10 times, mostly as a substitute.

Aston Villa fans were vocal in their displeasure at Onomah’s performances, perceiving him to be lackadaisical and disinterested. Most wanted to see their own talents such as Callum O’Hare and Keinan Davis get a shot instead.

(X during the Premier League 2 match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on February 5, 2017 in Liverpool, England.

So what next for Onomah?

He started the campaign with great hope. After playing a pivotal role in the England under-20 World Cup win, many felt this could be his breakthrough season.

But his spell at Villa has just highlighted the fact he is far from the finished article.

As far as a future at Tottenham goes, it is hard to see him not being loaned out again next term. Spurs have ample options in the centre of midfield – with the likes of Mousa Dembele, Moussa Sissoko, Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks all at Mauricio Pochettino’s service. With rumours of new central midfield options also arriving Onomah is likely to be loaned out again next season.

If that is the case, Spurs must choose his next location with more care. Villa already have plenty of midfield options and the youngsters coming through led to resentment among much of the fanbase whenever Onomah got the nod ahead of them.

If Tottenham can find Onomah a home in the Championship where he can play regular football week in and week out and be a star for the fans that would be the ideal solution.

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Crystal Palace

Three potential England replacements for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

The Liverpool midfielder has been ruled out of the summer’s World Cup.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

It looked bad for Liverpool and England when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was stretchered off during the first half of the Reds’ game against AS Roma in the Champions League and their worst fears were confirmed on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old has suffered a knee injury, which will keep him out of the rest of the season and this summer’s World Cup.

This is incredibly harsh news to take for the midfielder, who had been playing the best football of his career under Jurgen Klopp.

Last summer, he made a huge career decision as he chose to leave Arsenal to join top-six rivals Liverpool and, in hindsight, it has been a great move for him.

His influence and consistency have stood out from the centre of the park and England would have benefitted from that in Russia.

However, Gareth Southgate needs to readjust quickly and find a suitable alternative to the Liverpool midfielder.

Here are three players that could replace Oxlade-Chamberlain and receive a World Cup call this summer:

Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Crystal Palace

The injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain has opened up an opportunity for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will now have a chance of making the plane for Russia.

The midfielder has impressed at Crystal Palace and he delivered an assured performance against Germany on his international debut. Although injuries have hindered his progress since he remains one of the only dynamic midfielders available to Gareth Southgate.

Against Germany, he completed 96.2% of his passes and completed four successful dribbles. There were a lot of people that thought the call came too soon, but he looked at home on the international stage and he will be unknown to a lot of the teams England are due to face.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was going to provide the power and pace in the England midfield. Loftus-Cheek may not be as experienced as the Liverpool man, but he can step up and perform a similar role. If he can finish the season strongly, he will have a great chance of making the squad.

England Training Session And Press Conference

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Jonjo Shelvey – Newcastle United

There are growing calls for the Newcastle United midfielder to be called up by Gareth Southgate and they will only increase with the news of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury.

Shelvey won’t be able to step into the same role, but he can provide different qualities and could be a worthy selection for England.

Newcastle’s recent surge up the league table have shown Shelvey in a good light and he has been a major reason for his team’s success.

The 26-year-old dictates the game from deep and has a passing range that can’t be matched by any other English player.

Against Arsenal, he was putting his team-mates in on goal at will and there is a place for his skills in the national set-up.

England have a number of quick attacking players and against better teams, Shelvey would provide a good option.

Southgate will need to set his side up to counter-attack and there is no better player to pick out the runs of Raheem Sterling and Jamie Vardy than the Newcastle midfielder.

There are risks to selecting the 26-year-old, but he deserves to be considered for the summer’s tournament.

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Dele Alli – Tottenham

The Tottenham midfielder is going to go to the World Cup. Nobody can debate that, but he has found himself out of the starting eleven during recent friendly matches.

The injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain may benefit him, as there will now be a midfield position up for grabs.

Alli isn’t as comfortable in a central role as Oxlade-Chamberlain, but his goal threat and intelligent movement means that he could step into the starting eleven and play well.

The 22-year-old has had his critics this season, but a return of eight goals and ten assists in the Premier League underline the quality that he provides to a team.

Southgate will need to make sure Alli knows his defensive responsibilities and that the player carries them out to the letter, as England can’t afford to carry a midfield player.

At the age of 22, this summer could be an opportunity to break out for the Tottenham man.

It would be a risk to start him in a deeper role, but the rewards may be worth it.

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English Premier League

Liverpool fans licking lips at potential Mohamed Salah duel with Marcelo

Liverpool v Real Madrid is now the likely Champions League final, and Salah could leave Marcelo exposed.

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Real Madrid are now looking likely to be in the Champions League final against Liverpool after they defeated Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. After Joshua Kimmich gave Bayern the lead, it seemed the Bavarians might manage to upset the bookmakers and send Real crashing out. But goals from Marcelo and Marcos Asensio saw Real pick up a vital away win.

With Liverpool winning their first-leg against Roma 5-2, the two sides look well placed to make the final in Kiev.

Real Madrid might have won the game, but it was a performance that left Liverpool fans hopeful of facing Los Merengues in the Champions League final.

The Reds currently have perhaps the best player in world football today. Mohamed Salah has been a revelation since joining the side in the summer. Since arriving at Anfield from Roma he has scored 43 goals for the club and put his former side to the sword last night.

(Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

He infiltrated Roma’s weak and attack-minded left side over and over again in the first-leg and Liverpool fans believe he will do the same if they face Madrid.

Whilst Marcelo may have scored in the game, he did not put in the best of performances.

He left an acre of space for Kimmich to run into for Bayern’s goal. He struggled to deal with Thomas Muller at times, but if Arjen Robben had remained on the pitch it is fair to wonder if Marcelo may have had a more torrid time.

Liverpool fans are certainly excited at the prospect of Salah perhaps facing off with Marcelo in the Champions League final. Defending is not the Brazilian’s favourite aspect of his job and fans at Anfield feel that Salah might be able to leave him embarrassed if they go toe-to-toe.

Based on the evidence of the past two nights, it is hard to disagree with the Liverpool fans who feel Salah can leave Marcelo trailing…

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