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English Premier League

Romelu Lukaku – A Big Season for the Big Belgian



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I was at the Southampton vs Everton match last Saturday and was sat several rows behind the Saints supporter who got pummelled in the head by a wayward shot from Romelu Lukaku in the pre-match warm-up. The Belgian exuded nothing but pure and utter class when he instantaneously jumped over the advertising boards and up into the stand. He gave the female supporter his jumper and apologised profusely as the entire Southampton end applauded the excellent gesture from the man who was to come back and haunt them later that afternoon. As many Saints fans wished, I had hoped that that misfired shot from Lukaku was a sign of what was to come. It wasn’t. The striker was the star performer in an impressive display by Everton in their emphatic win at St. Mary’s.

It’s a coincidence that at the match where Everton fans paid for a plane to fly over St. Mary’s with a banner attached protesting against the club’s ownership and lack of financial backing in the transfer window that the man that The Toffees forked out £28m for was, arguably, the best player on the pitch. It’s understandable that Everton fans are frustrated at the club after the club’s underachievement last season and the mere £4m that has been spent to date this window.

In the 2013/14 season, Everton were the surprise package of the season. Many were talking about The Toffees deservedly securing a Champions League place with the likes of Gerard Deulofeu, Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku impressing on their respective loan deals. Their attractive brand of football helped them seize a Europa League spot but despite splashing out £28m for Lukaku, the following season was not to have a patch on the previous.

In the space of one season, Roberto Martinez’s men dropped from fifth to 11th despite performing well in the Europa League. Their football was criticised for being too patient and not penetrative enough and the Everton boss was under pressure at Goodison Park. But now, with the Spaniard’s sole focus on domestic competitions, he’ll be hoping Everton return to the heights they reaches in his first season in charge. If they are to do so, Romelu Lukaku will be a pivotal factor in their return to the top half.

Everton’s club record signing has just begun his third season at the club, his fourth as a regular starter in the top flight and has scored 35 times in the Premier League, a startling and remarkable achievement for a player that only turned 22 at the end of last season. The season that lies ahead for both Everton and Lukaku is a big one. Lukaku has the potential to play, no disrespect to Everton, on the highest level; in the Champions League for a top club. His performances this season will not only go a long way in driving Everton back up the table but could also help him get a dream move in the future. If the Belgian’s display on the south coast is a sign of what is to come from him this season then he could find himself next to the likes of Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa as the league’s top goal scorers come May.

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Lukaku caused the Southampton defence all sorts of problems last week and his bullish performance showcased all of his strengths. Lukaku’s obvious strength is his strength. The sheer size and hulking physique of the forward allowed him to bully Jose Fonte and Maya Yoshida. But it wasn’t just the centre backs he caused problems, his pace in a one-on-one tussle and foot race with the nippy Cedric Soares in the opening few minutes was highlighted the pace and power of the Belgian.

His goals exemplified his ability to finish regardless of if the ball is in the air or at his feet. A powerful header from a swift counter attack and well placed low finish after showing grit and determination to win the ball back on the halfway line typifies Lukaku’s ability and versatility.

Martinez found a formula to get the best out of his attacking players last weekend. The usually unimpressive Arouna Kone impressed out wide, the talented Ross Barkley played terrifically behind Everton’s powerful number 10 who was unstoppable. That formula will be crucial if Everton are to return to the top half of the table.

Yes, we’re only two weekends into the new Premier League season, but early form is pivotal in setting the tone for the rest of the season, both for the player and for their team. Lukaku has frightening potential and as I said, I believe Lukaku is destined to play for a top club. If he can build upon this early form this season and continue to develop into the player that he is capable of becoming, then surely that move has to come within the next couple of years. Not bad for a player that Jose Mourinho said lacked motivation.

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Dan is a Journalism student at UWE and is an aspiring football journalist. His first ever football match was Southampton's 3-2 win over Leeds in 2003 and he has been a Saints fan ever since.


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



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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
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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.



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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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