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TBR’s 2014-15 Premier League Team of the Season

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With the PFA Player of the Year nominees announced and the finishing line of the 2014-15 Premier League in sight, it seems like a good time to put my neck on the block and concoct a team of the season. I’ve gone with a 3-4-3 formation, partly due to a prevalence of wonderful attacking players and the lack of truly outstanding defenders.

Goalkeeper: David de Gea

A nice, straightforward choice to begin with. The Spaniard was dismissed as too lightweight and flimsy in his debut season at Old Trafford three years ago but he has grown immeasurably into the role since then. Man United’s defence hasn’t been the sturdiest this term, albeit a defence that has been changed very frequently due to a spate of injuries, and de Gea has donned the Superman cape on many occasions. In fact, there was a case to be made for him being the world’s most in-form goalkeeper in 2014-15 and it’s very hard to imagine Louis van Gaal’s team sitting in the top three were it not for the heroics of the 24-year-old in goal.

Defence: Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Laurent Koscielny

No real surprise to see two Chelsea players making the cut for the back line. Ivanovic is not only a strong, versatile presence for Jose Mourinho’s champions-elect; he also has a startlingly good scoring ratio for a man in his position. Nor is he merely a headed goals specialist; he has finished to the net adeptly with his feet and is possibly more composed on the ball than any defender in the league.

His team-mate Terry has again been the epitome of leadership at the heart of Chelsea’s defence. In an era where top-class centre-backs are in frighteningly short supply, the veteran is an excellent blueprint for all practicers of the position, young and old, to follow. While he may not be universally popular, even his more ardent detractors would be hard pressed to pick holes in his defensive duties.

Arsenal and good defending have not been synonymous in the last few years, but at last they have a man at the back who offers security and peace of mind in an area where they have so often struggled. In his fifth season in north London, Koscielny has brought some much-needed consistency and confidence to the Gunners’ rearguard and his part in the team’s spring revival cannot be understated.

Midfield: Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic, Philippe Coutinho, Alexis Sanchez

Anchoring the midfield is Matic, whose physicality in the engine room has been every bit as important to Chelsea as the goals of Diego Costa. Since rejoining the Blues, the Serbian has hardly set a foot wrong and his influence on the side has evolved massively.

While Matic does the dirty work, team-mate Hazard is the box of tricks who has simply been sensational this season. We all knew the Belgian had something about him when he came to the Premier League three years ago and he can now rightfully be considered among the world’s finest. Extremely skilful and with a very satisfactory goal tally, he is my Player of the Year for 2014/15.

Brendan Rodgers’ transfer record at Liverpool leaves a lot to be desired but he got it absolutely right when luring Coutinho to Anfield in 2013. The Brazilian isn’t always at the forefront of things, but he has been his club’s best player in a hugely disappointing season for the Reds and the goals he produced against Southampton and Man City a few weeks ago were just sublime. Never mind Raheem Sterling; this boy is the one Liverpool ought to treasure over any other.

The Merseysiders’ fortunes would surely have been better if they had managed to win the race to sign Sanchez last summer, but instead the Chilean maestro went to Arsenal and needed no time to bed into life in north London. A lethal finisher and an outstanding footballer, he is perhaps the chief reason for what looks set to be the Gunners’ best league finish since 2005.

Attack: Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa, Harry Kane

For a player who has missed a sizeable amount of the season through injury, Aguero’s goal tally has been excellent and it highlights just how central he is to the Manchester City cause. No other player at the club even comes close to the finishing prowess that the Argentine has to offer and, had he been fully fit throughout the season, the champions would almost certainly have been at least battling to the finish for a second consecutive title.

Costa arrived at Chelsea on the back of a disappointing showing for Spain at the World Cup, but he wasn’t long dispelling the memories of that tough time in Brazil once he pitched his tent in west London. Right from the word go, he was banging them in and, combined with his spiky nature, he is a nightmare of an opponent for other teams. The Blues sorely missed a regular goalscorer last season; they have more than remedied the problem since then.

When Mauricio Pochettino took the Tottenham job last year, he was most likely counting on strikers Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor to come good. Although both of those have been anonymous this season, goalscoring hasn’t been a problem for Spurs, mainly thanks to the wonderful form of Kane, a sure-fire contender for the best English performer in the Premier League in 2014-15. If he can build on this debut season and not get overwhelmed by the hysteria surrounding him, he will go on to be a top-class striker for years.


TBR Team of the Year - Football tactics and formations


 

Nearly men

In his first season as a Chelsea regular, Thibaut Courtois has been a commanding, error-free number one, picking up where he left off from his superb form with Atletico Madrid last year. An honourable mention, too, for Simon Mignolet, whose Liverpool career looked ominous in December but since a brief spell on the bench he has consistently worked wonders for the Reds.

As the team with the fewest goals conceded in the league, I really should at least give a hat tip to some Southampton defenders. Nathaniel Clyne has been magnificent at right-back, with Jose Fonte thriving at the heart of the Saints’ defence. Hector Bellerin has shown plenty of promise for Arsenal, while Cesar Azpilicueta can also look back on his year with satisfaction.

In terms of defensive-minded midfield protectors, Morgan Schneiderlin has again been on song for Southampton, who will do very well to hold on to him for another season. He has been linked with a switch to Arsenal, for whom Francis Coquelin has suddenly become an instrumental figure. At the outset of the campaign, not too many would have expected the young Frenchman to become so indispensable to the Gunners’ cause.

Further up the midfield area, David Silva and Christian Eriksen have been rare chinks of shining light in gloomy seasons for their respective clubs. Juan Mata hasn’t had the most straightforward of times at Man Utd, but when given a chance he has almost always been effective, as Liverpool will certainly testify. Cesc Fabregas‘ form has tailed in recent weeks, although he had been flying earlier in the campaign, while the vast 2015 improvement of Crystal Palace is in no small thanks to the all-action displays of Yannick Bolasie.

In attack, Olivier Giroud has developed into a hugely reliably goal-grabber for Arsenal, while even if QPR and Burnley don’t manage to beat the drop, they still have every chance of doing so because of the potency of Charlie Austin and Danny Ings. After both players performed so impressively in the Championship last season, they have taken to the demands of the top flight like ducks to water.

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Arsenal

What can Arsenal supporters expect from Unai Emery?

The 46-year-old looks set to be named as the next Arsenal manager.

Jake Jackman

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Unai Emery
Photo: Getty Images

There has been much speculation about who would be the manager tasked with following Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

Former player Mikel Arteta has been the bookmaker’s favourite for a long time, but BBC Sport report that Unai Emery is set to become the new boss at the Emirates Stadium.

There has been a widespread search for the next manager, with the Arsenal hierarchy keen to make the right appointment and avoid the deep that Manchester United suffered after Sir Alex Ferguson.

The report goes on to say that Emery was the unanimous choice and an official announcement and press conference could take place as soon as the end of the week.

Emery arrived after leading PSG at the end of the French season.

Although it will be remembered as an underwhelming spell in Ligue 1, he did manage to win a league title and four domestic cups.

(Photo by Christophe Simon/Getty Images)

His performances in the Champions League weren’t great and he struggled to manage a squad full of big characters.

However, the club from the French capital are now part of Europe’s elite and no coach has managed to be a total success there.

The job at Arsenal seems more suitable to Emery and comparable to the situation he found himself in at Sevilla. He wasn’t in charge of one of the biggest clubs in the league, but he was expected to challenge for Champions League qualification and trophies.

During his time with the Spanish outfit, he oversaw impressive recruitment and won three successive Europa League trophies.

Considering the strength of the Premier League, it could be that the second European competition could be Arsenal’s best route into the Champions League.

In Emery, they will have one of the most successful coaches in the competition’s history. That can hardly be considered a bad thing.

There won’t be a tactical revolution at Arsenal after Wenger, with Emery likely to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation that the former manager used for the majority of recent seasons. That bodes well for Mesut Ozil, as he isn’t a great fit for other formations.

(Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

Although the formation won’t be a huge change, Arsenal are likely to be more functional under Emery.

He is less likely to produce scintillating attacking football, with the focus being on control and small margins. That especially plays strongly in cup competitions and his record reflects that.

The Gunners are currently at a low ebb after finishing in 6th without a trophy, but the incoming manager looks to offer hope for a better future.

There is a desire for instant gratification in football now and there will be a lot of Arsenal fans that will be wanting to see immediate progress on the pitch.

Considering the size of the job that Emery is inheriting, it would be unwise to expect the club to be challenging for major honours next season.

This needs to be seen as a long-term project and time needs to be given to the 46-year-old.

His success with Sevilla bodes well and he will be stronger for the experience at PSG, even if he didn’t fare as well as he would have expected.

Emery looks to be a safe appointment and is capable of getting the club back to challenging for a top-four finish.

In addition to that, Arsenal will be a bigger threat in cup competitions with improved game management.

It may not be the most exciting appointment and Arsenal fans will be disappointed to be giving the job to a manager that has just failed with PSG.

However, considering their current position, he looks to be the best man to lead the club forward.

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It is too soon for Mikel Arteta to be considered for Arsenal job

The 36-year-old has been linked with the Emirates hot seat.

Jake Jackman

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Mikel Arteta
Photo: Getty Images

Arsenal have a huge summer awaiting them as they will need to appoint a successor to Arsene Wenger and rebuild a squad that has missed out on Champions League football for the second season in a row.

It won’t be an easy task and the board must act swiftly to make sure the club are prepared for the 2018/19 campaign.

Considering Wenger’s departure was announced weeks ago, Arsenal should have made progress in their search for a replacement.

There will be a number of names under consideration and it is important that they do their due diligence to ensure they can start to move in the right direction again.

BBC Sport report that Manchester City coach Mikel Arteta is one of the options being considered by the hierarchy at the Emirates Stadium.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

As a former player, he would be well received by the fanbase, but it would represent a huge gamble by the club.

The 36-year-old was part of the playing staff under Arsene Wenger as recently as 2016.

Although he will know the problems that exist at the club, he may struggle to exert the authority to correct them considering many of the current squad were his peers.

It has only been two years since the Spaniard retired from playing and he wouldn’t have expected to be in the running for a job of this size this soon.

Upon retiring, he took up a coaching role at Manchester City and the experience will stand him in good stead to move into management one day.

After all, he is working with one of the best managers of all-time in Pep Guardiola and Arteta will have played a role in the team’s record-breaking Premier League season.

That coupled with his history with Arsenal makes him an attractive left-field option for the Gunners.

However, the size of the risk attached to an appointment means that the club should look elsewhere this summer.

The club will want stability, but first and foremost, they will want success.

The fact that Arteta has no managerial experience means that he would be learning on the job and the North London side can’t afford to allow that.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Arsenal are a huge club and as the man following Arsene Wenger, the next manager will be scrutinised closely.

It would be a job better suited to a manager with experience and know-how at the top level.

The article goes on to mention both Luis Enrique and Massimiliano Allegri. Either of them would be a better appointment for Arsenal at this time, as they have both managed big clubs previously.

For Arteta, the fact that he is being linked to a job like Arsenal shows how highly he is thought of within the game.

If he wants to go into management, he needs to leave Manchester City and gain experience as a number one.

If he does that, whether it be in England or abroad, he could be ready to take the hot-seat at the Emirates Stadium at a later date.

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Exclusive: Havard Nordtveit – Hoffenheim move, Julian Nagelsmann and facing Liverpool

The Norwegian international discussed his time at Hoffenheim and his experience of English clubs.

Mathew Coull

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Havard Nordtveit
Photo: Getty Images

This summer West Ham United utility man Havard Nordtveit called time on his career with the Hammers, after just one season.

Signed from Borussia Monchengladbach on a free transfer he suffered from the London outfits’ own struggles, the change of stadium and being asked to play out of position at right-back.

After just 21 games for the Hammers, he headed back to Germany, where he had such success previously.

Now, speaking exclusively to The Boot Room, the Norwegian international has discussed working under an exciting new manager, facing Liverpool in the Champions League and coming through the ranks at Arsenal.

Plenty of teams in Germany would have wanted Nordtveit this summer.

He built a fine reputation in the Bundesliga during his time with Gladbach.

In fact, just hours before his July transfer was announced, he was being linked with Bundesliga rivals Hamburg.

In the end, it was Hoffenheim who snapped up the Norwegian. They had just finished fourth in the Bundesliga and it was a brilliant move for the 27-year-old.

(Photo by Patrik Stollarz/Getty Images)

But, as the former Hammer explained from Germany, it has been a topsy-turvy season:

“It went well in the first couple of months. But then my games weren’t as good as I was hoping for,” he admitted. “Then obviously I was not good enough for the team. I have been training hard and lately, it has been back to normal again.

“It’s good to be back in Germany and also I needed half a season to get to know the new coach and the new system. I am looking forward to the rest of the campaign.”

Nordtveit started the season playing in the Hoffenheim back three, but found himself out of the squad entirely from mid-December until last month.

Despite his problems, he did not sulk and simply worked hard to get back into the first-team:

“I am not that person,” proclaimed the Norwegian international. “I have been in that situation before with West Ham and Gladbach. It’s all about giving everything you can instead of moaning.

“You have to be positive,” he continued. “This is a team sport. You have to give your best for the team. If that means you are playing or not you know that you will get the chance in the end.”

This season Hoffenheim and Nordtveit were challenging for the Europa League.

However, at the start of the campaign, the Bundesliga outfit were in Champions League action for the first time in their history.

They took on Premier League side Liverpool in the qualifying rounds, with Nordtveit playing in both games.

Liverpool were not yet working under Mohamed Salah power but still proved far too strong for their German opponents over two legs:

“We knew they were strong. With their attacking forwards they are brutal. We had a very good home game. But in the end, it is a little better a feeling to know we went out of the play-offs against a team that reached the finals,” Nordtveit explained, with a sense of vindication for his club’s exit.

“What Klopp has done with the club is massive and also Salah, at this time, maybe is Europe’s best player.”

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Hoffenheim’s entrance to the Champions League was masterminded by their brilliant young coach Julian Nagelsmann. The 30-year-old is just a few years older than the Norwegian but has proven himself a top manager:

“He is fantastic,” said an excited Nordtveit. “He has great experience and his own style of play. It is a lot of tactics for every new player. Also when I came in then there was a lot of new things I had to learn quite quick.

“I am now starting to see that I learn something in myself to get into the rhythm that he wants. He is like a young, bright, football professor.”

He then gave him high praise, by comparing him to his former Gladbach boss Lucien Favre:

“He reminds me a little bit of Lucien Favre. He thinks about football 24/7. Small details, always, which can mean we take the three points.

“If I could compare him with someone it would be Lucien Favre, which is not a bad comparison.”

Nagelsmann’s clear ability has seen him linked with taking over from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

The Norwegian came through the ranks at Arsenal, but made it clear that he spent most of his time working with the current Arsenal assistant Steve Bould:

“I spoke with him of course but he was more observing the training. I was more with the reserve team.

“I was more with Steve Bould, the legend. He was quite important for me, a really good guy. I think he was one of the more important guys in Arsenal when I was there.”

Working under the Arsenal legend as a young defender must have been a big learning experience for the Hoffenheim player, who speaks highly of his time at Arsenal:

“I went quite early, about 16,17,” remembered the talented utility man. “It was perhaps the most important choice I did in my career because there I learnt how to do the basics in football.

“I did not play much with the first-team but the experience of training with the first-team and getting to know English football and a really high standard was really important to me.

(Photo by Nikolay Doychinov/Getty Images)

“From there, when I moved to Germany, I had the perfect base to have an OK career.

“Jack Wilshere was there before he finally broke through to the first-team. We had Wojciech Szczesny now second goalkeeper for Juventus. Many of the players are having big careers.  

“For me and a lot of the players we were quite lucky to have this opportunity.”

But Nordtveit still remembers his time fondly. He still follows the club, where good friend Granit Xhaka is also playing.

The Gunners have been unable to put a smile on the face of Nordtveit by picking up the Europa League trophy in Arsene Wenger’s final year.

However, with London outfit set to compete in the competition again next season, under a new manager, the two could well come face-to-face. 

That would be an opportunity Hoffenheim’s intrepid Norwegian would relish.

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