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English Premier League

Welcome to the Premier League: Leicester City

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Defeats for QPR and Derby County on Saturday meant that Leicester City were promoted to the Premier League, a level they have not competed at in ten years. It was no less than the Foxes deserved as they have clearly been the dominant team in the Championship this season. Here’s the lowdown on the first team to ensure they will be rubbing shoulders with England’s elite come August:

Key Players

Kasper Schmeichel

Whether it was with Leicester or not, Schmeichel was destined to be playing at a higher level than the Championship next season. Arguably the best keeper in the division, Schmeichel’s form has been nothing short of miraculous this season and has even had a goal questionably chalked off. Having a ‘keeper to rely on makes a defenders job a whole lot easier and Schmeichel has certainly been that – keeping 14 clean sheets so far this season. Son of Peter, he is beginning to live up to the lofty expectations that come with his surname – pulling off spectacular reaction saves and commanding his area with unwavering authority. After experiencing Premier League football with Manchester City before, Schmeichel will surely have a huge part to play as the Foxes look to fight off relegation.

Wes Morgan

At 30 years-old, you could be forgiven for thinking Morgan’s career could be on the decline, the truth is you couldn’t be more wrong. Signed from Nottingham Forest – where he had spent his whole career – last January for £1 million and made club captain at the start of the 2013/14, the monstrous centre back has earned himself many plaudits for his awesome displays at the heart of City’s defence. A beast of a man, you could also be forgiven for thinking Morgan’s size could result in him being exposed by strikers with better mobility, again, this is not the case. The years of Championship football have served the big man well, he reads the game better than any defender in the league, and his positional sense is impeccable, more than making up for any lack of pace. This intelligence allows him to use his size to great effect – a monster in the air and impossible to dribble round – the defender will certainly never be more ready to test himself at Premier League level.

Anthony Knockaert

Signed from Guingamp in 2012, it has not taken the 22 year-old long to get up to pace in English football and he is now one of the most exciting prospects to come out of the second tier in recent years. The French winger is simply irrepressible, starting on the right he jinks and tricks his way past defenders, not only setting up goals but scoring himself. The unpredictability of Knockaert is what makes him so hard to handle, like many young wingers he has a few bad games but Pearson has persisted with him and is now reaping the rewards. The step up in level may be hard for him, coming up against  strong, fast defenders every week will be a test. But from what we have seen so far, it is fair to believe that Knockaert will work at his game and adapt to life in the Premier League and we may see him become a real star in the future.

How They Did It

I would love to be able to pinpoint an area in which the Foxes particularly excelled in order to get themselves promoted, but the fact of the matter is that there is not one tactic they perfected, or one player that has made the difference, they have been the best team in the league all over the park. Nigel Pearson has come back to the club he left in 2010, and since his reappointment, he has been smart in the transfer market and slowly built a powerful team that blow opponents away. Combining flair players from abroad such as Knockaert and Riyad Mahrez with experienced home-grown talent like Morgan and Danny Drinkwater have been the secret to success. The Foxes have been dominant at the back this season, and when you add defensive solidity to 18 goals from David Nugent and 16  from Jamie Vardy, plus contributions from Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Chris Wood and Kevin Phillips all the ingredients for a successful side are there.

How They Will Fare

It’s hard to be anything but optimistic about Leicester’s chances in the Premier League. They have a manager that commands respect from the players and who has developed a successful playing style, being used to winning is a great advantage to a promoted side and often contributes to the “honeymoon period” at the start of a season. However, if City have a tricky start to the season and don’t have as good a start as they would have liked I think it is important the board don’t “do a Cardiff” and dump Nigel Pearson, he is the man who has built this team and surely the man who knows how to get the best out of them.

In terms of new recruits, Leicester have a pretty solid base in which to build upon. They have a strong spine to the team and a number of reliable players that can be counted on. Obviously there are areas City need to target, I don’t think the squad has enough top level experience, especially in midfield, so this is an area Pearson should look to bring in a veteran to calm the youngsters City have. It is also unrealistic to expect Nugent and Vardy to score 15+ goals again next season so some help for them is vital.

After the promotion party hangover wears off the Foxes clearly have a tough job to focus on if they want to remain in the Premier League, this is a job that can certainly be done though. Clever investment, faith in the young team they have and patience will give City the best chance of staying up next year and possibly many seasons after that.

 

 

Genetics student at the University of Liverpool, Blackpool fan and co-editor of the site. Joe's main interests are at all levels of the English game. Twitter: @JoeWalsh17

English Premier League

Shani Tarashaj is back in action for Everton, but does he have future at club?

The Swiss international has struggled with injury and illness at Everton.

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Friday evening saw Everton play their final under-23 game of the season. The side battled to a 2-2 draw with Manchester United, with Matty Foulds and Luke Garbutt the unlikely goalscorers. The fixture also saw the appearance from the bench of a forgotten Everton player – Shani Tarashaj.

Back in January 2016, the then Everton boss Roberto Martinez signed Swiss international Shani Tarashaj from Grasshoppers Zurich. The fee involved, according to the Liverpool Echo, was around £3 million for a player that Martinez had high hopes for.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The young attacker had come through the ranks at Grasshoppers and was immediately loaned back to them until the end of the season. He continued his fine form, which saw him earn a first Swiss cap and make the national squad for Euro 2016.

All the signs pointed to a future Everton star, but that has not been the case. Instead, Tarashaj has flopped at Everton and it would be no surprise if he was sold by the club this summer.

So what went wrong?

Firstly, the change of manager. It was Martinez who brought Tarashaj to the club in the same window he had signed Oumar Niasse. Once the Spaniard left, getting into Ronald Koeman ’s plans was always going to be a more difficult task.

Tarashaj then spent 2016-17 on loan at German side Eintracht Frankfurt. He struggled to make an impact in Germany and to compound his misery, injury and illness have struck.

(during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Switzerland at Aviva Stadium on March 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland.

Benign angina and severe tonsillitis have disrupted the sickly Swiss’ career on Merseyside before he suffered knee ligament damage last summer, which required surgery.

This season, the attacking midfielder has managed just two appearances for Everton’s under-23s and his career as a Toffee has, so far, been one to forget.

There is still hope for the Swiss international. He still has two years left on his contract at Everton and perhaps there is still a chance he can make it at Goodison Park. But two-and-a-half years after first signing for the club, Tarashaj is still waiting to make his Everton debut.

The Manchester United tie may very well prove to be his last as an Everton player.

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Manchester United

Tottenham’s decision to rush back Harry Kane cost them in the FA Cup

The England international has only recently come back from injury.

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Harry Kane
Photo: Getty Images

Harry Kane was a shadow of his former self against Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final Saturday afternoon, contributing little as Tottenham Hotspur fell to a 2-1 defeat.

The English international struggled to influence the match and was clearly off the pace. It is glaringly clear that Mauricio Pochettino rushed Kane back from his ankle injury far too soon; a decision that may well have cost Spurs their best recent chance at silverware.

Back in March, the striker crumpled under an awkward challenge from Bournemouth‘s Asmir Begovic and left the match on crutches. Spurs fans held their breath in fear and were crushed when it was later revealed Kane had suffered ligament damage.

It was a blow that was widely expected to keep Kane on the sidelines for the next couple months, but remarkably the striker returned just three weeks later in a 3-1 away win against Chelsea.

However, in the following run of matches leading up to the season-defining encounter against Manchester United, Kane had largely looked unfit and missing his classic verve and intensity that has come to define his game.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

This lethargy was notably on show in the midweek fixture against Brighton. Although the 24-year-old scored a goal, he appeared tired and unwilling to make his characteristic attacking runs behind the defence.

On the biggest stage of them all, Tottenham’s star striker was well off his prolific best. It was a shame that Kane could not rise to the Wembley occasion and send Spurs to the FA Cup final.

However, it is through no fault of the Englishman, as the blame must be placed on the over-eager Tottenham backroom staff. There was no need to rush Kane back for the league matches before the massive semifinal, and the striker should have been saved for the United match.

As a result of Pochettino’s poor decision, Spurs are trophy-less and Kane is damaged – a tragic turn of events for the north London club.

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Championship

Conor Coady shows Liverpool what they’re missing in masterful Wolves campaign

The Wolves captain was tipped for big things at Liverpool but never made the grade.

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Back in 2011, Liverpool had one of their young starlets being tipped to become the ‘next Steven Gerrard.’ It was a tag being occasionally branded around the club about young talent Conor Coady. With good reason as well. The teenager was looking like the most natural successor to Gerrard yet.

The summer previous, he had helped England win the UEFA under-17 Championships, which is where the hype all began. Liverpool had unearthed a gem who immediately found himself tipped to become a future Kop captain.

But it never happened for the young man.

(Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

Instead, he headed to Sheffield United on loan – where he excelled. After getting a taste for regular football, the idea of returning to the reserve life with Liverpool clearly did not appeal to the utility man. Therefore, he left Liverpool in 2014, joining Huddersfield Town.

Liverpool fans soon forgot about him. Just another hyped up youngster who could not match the expectations laid at their door?

Well, this season Coady has finally looked like the real deal.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

The Melwood talent did not stick with Huddersfield for long. In 2015 he joined Wolverhampton Wanderers and he is now looking like the talent Liverpool thought they had at Molineux.

One issue with Coady has always been his position. Often moved around the park, this season he has played as a settled central defender. The results have been exceptional. Coady has been one of the best players in the Championship this campaign. That was highlighted by his inclusion in the Championship team of the season. The 25-year-old is now looking like a future Premier League star and will be playing in the big time next season after captaining Wolves to the Championship summit.

When Liverpool sold Coady to Huddersfield, they did so for a fee reported to be just £500,000 by the Liverpool Echo. The Reds obviously felt he would not live up to those once lofty expectations.

Based on his form this season, Liverpool could be rueing this mistake in the not so distant future.

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