Cahill & Rodwell gone: the time is now for Everton’s Ross Barkley

With the departures of Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell, midfielder Ross Barkley – one of the many exciting young English talents in the Premier League this season – now has the chance to forge himself a regular starting spot at Everton. Continue reading

Premier League round-up: Matchday 32

The game of the Premier League weekend undoubtedly came at the Stadium of Light where West Bromwich Albion came from behind twice to eventually win 3-2. Sunderland seemed to be in complete control as Nicky Shorey put through his own net for the away side before Asamoah Gyan wasted a great goalscoring opportunity, but Peter Odemwingie fired in from close range just before the half-hour mark to level the scores.

Within three minutes, though, Sunderland full-back Phil Bardsley smashed in a free-kick from thirty yards to restore the Black Cats’ lead. But then came the fightback. Roy Hodgson’s side scored first through Youssuf Mulumbu and then Paul Scharner to propel West Brom to 10th in the table.
It can be safely assumed that West Brom’s Premier League status is all but safe but, sadly, the same cannot be said of Wolves, who succumbed to a 3-0 home defeat to Everton. Despite Mick McCarthy’s side dominating the opening twenty minutes it was Everton who took the lead through a Jermaine Beckford header. Wolves’ ‘keeper Wayne Hennessey tried his best to keep his side in the tie but he could do nothing about Everton’s second and third goals, Phil Neville and Dinyar Bilyaleyetdinov firing in before half-time to condemn Wolves to yet another week in the relegation zone.
A Daniel Sturridge-led Bolton overcame West Ham, the on-loan striker brilliantly curling a shot into the top corner to give Owen Coyle’s side an early advantage. The young Englishman scored again just after half-time after Chung-Yong Lee had doubled their lead. Sturridge’s parent club Chelsea were kept at bay by an inspired Ali-Al Habsi in the Wigan goal but Florent Malouda scored with twenty minutes left to keep The Blues’ title hopes alive.
Manchester United are clear favourites for the title and they easily overcame Fulham at Old Trafford, Dimitar Berbatov rounding off a neat move to give them the lead after twelve minutes. Antonio Valencia then nearly finished for Rooney-less United on the half-hour, heading in from close range.
Two relegation candidates, Birmingham and Blackburn, fought out a tense 1-1 draw at Ewood Park. Lee Bowyer had given Birmingham the lead but Junior Hoillet equalised for Rovers just before half-time.
A quite incredible first half at White Hart Lane saw five goals, three of which went to Tottenham Hotspur as they attempted to recover from their crushing Champions League defeat to Real Madrid in the week. Peter Crouch scored two, going some way to making up for that ridiculous and pointless red card, with Luka Modric getting a goal in between. Matt Etherington scored a fine solo goal for Stoke and Kenwyne Jones scored just before half-time, but neither side could gain an advantage in the second half, leaving Spurs in fifth place.
Arsenal comfortably defeated Blackpool at Bloomfield Road thanks to goals from Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Eboue and Robin Van Persie. The Tangerines looked incredibly lax at the back and, within twenty minutes, Arsenal took the lead, Diaby finishing with great ease from a Van Persie cross, before Eboue doubled The Gunners’ advantage, firing past stranded ‘keeper Richard Kingson. Gary Taylor-Fletcher did get a goal back for Blackpool but Van Persie rounded off the victory, Theo Walcott squaring for the Dutchman to calmly slot home.
Blackpool manager Ian Holloway bemoaned the performance of referee Lee Mason (and, possibly, rightly so) but his side were soundly beaten at home by a team who, after being ruled out of the title race by most pundits just last week, seem to be right back in the mix after this weekend.
Sunday’s other game involved struggling Aston Villa host Newcastle United in a match that saw just one goal. James Collins headed home in the 25th minute to send Gerard Houiller’s side five points clear of the relegation zone.
Monday night’s game Liverpool walk all over Manchester City – the Anfield club scoring three first half goals, two from an impressive Andy Carroll and one from an outstanding Dirk Kuyt. The Dutchman finished off superbly with Carroll striking either side to leave Liverpool just five points off a Europa League spot, a quite phenomenal turn-around given where they were before Kenny Dalglish was appointed manager.
Matchday 32 results: Blackburn 1 – 1 Birmingham; Bolton 3 – 0 West Ham; Chelsea 1 – 0 Wigan; Manchester United 2 – 0 Fulham; Sunderland 2 – 3 West Brom; Tottenham 3 – 2 Stoke; Wolves 0 – 3 Everton; Aston Villa 1 – 0 Newcastle; Blackpool 1 – 3 Arsenal; Liverpool 3 – 0 Manchester City
Matchday 33 fixtures: Birmingham-Sunderland; Blackpool-Wigan; Everton-Blackburn; West Brom-Chelsea; West Ham-Aston Villa; Arsenal-Liverpool; (Tuesday) Newcastle-Manchester United; (Wednesday) Chelsea-Birmingham; Tottenham-Arsenal
 
This article originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze, which is now unfortunately defunct.
 

Leon Osman, Stan Kroenke and Fulham fury

Has Leon Osman slipped under the England radar?
Leon Osman: England’s forgotten man?
Leon Osman has never made an international appearance despite seven solid seasons with Everton. Is he England’s ‘forgotten man’?

On Saturday, a late Leighton Baines penalty cancelled out two Darren Bent strikes as Everton shared the points with Aston Villa in a dramatic draw at Goodison Park.
The man who gave them the lead in the 38th minute, Leon Osman, put in yet another solid display for the club he has been at since 1997. The 29-year-old, though, is yet to appear for an international side, despite being eligible for Turkey and Cyprus (through his father) and England (through his mother).
Osman, at times, can frustrate the Everton faithful, but his quality is certainly not in question – he’s been compared to Paul Gascoigne in the past and Liverpool’s Joe Cole has stated that Osman was the better talent when they were teammates at England youth level.
Osman can be used both on the right and in the middle, and has even been used on the left, cutting inside onto his favoured right-foot (an ‘inside-out’ winger) and generally causing opposition full-backs problems week-in, week-out.
Everton have struggled this season, with the lack of a genuine, top-quality striker their biggest problem, but Osman has been a consistent source of quality for David Moyes’ side, making nineteen appearances in the Premier League, with five assists and three goals to his name.
The main criticism of Osman is that he can go missing in games, but, surely, Osman is exactly the sort of player England are looking for? He’s a ball-playing, skilful midfielder who can play all across the midfield and is able to use both feet (something which the current crop of English talent is generally lacking and something that other nations have instilled into their players with great ease). He may be diminutive but he does flourish when coming up against big, powerful defenders (against Birmingham, a team notoriously difficult to break down, in October, he was the best player on the pitch as Everton won 2-0).
This season, Osman has started on the left side more than on the opposite wing – seven times to five times, and one in the middle. He’s been used as a box-to-box midfielder in the past and is even useful in a defensive sense when in a side-midfield position, something that could come in handy if he were selected for England, as Fabio Capello prefers to play with attacking full-backs.
In the last England squad, Wolves’ Matt Jarvis, West Ham’s Scott Parker and Osman’s teammate Phil Jagielka were all selected. The argument that Capello only picks players from the so-called ‘big’ teams is nonsense, but, sometimes, it does appear that Capello picks players that are getting rave reviews in the media, as well as succumbing to the pressure of fans and club managers.
Osman is very rarely given any credit for his performances. He might not be a world-beater and he may struggle if put up against a top-quality international full-back. But he’s a hard-working, determined, well-disciplined (he’s never been sent off in the League and has only been booked twenty-one times since his first Everton start in May 2004) and his passing and vision are both excellent.
England and Fabio Capello are still trying to get over the debacle that was the 2010 World Cup and it is a mystery to me how a player who has performed so consistently for so many seasons has seemingly escaped the attention of not only Capello, but the English public too.
Osman has been named Everton’s Player of the Month for March – maybe it’s time to finally give Leon Osman some international recognition.

Fans can ‘go to hell’, says Fulham owner
Fulham fans fury over Michael Jackson statue
Fulham fans are furious with their owner, Mohamed Al-Fayed, who has had a statue of Michael Jackson erected outside Craven Cottage.
Fulham fans have reacted angrily after their owner, Mohamed Al-Fayed, decided that a statue of Michael Jackson should be placed outside their stadium – Craven Cottage.
Al-Fayed, who was good friends with Jackson, infuriated Fulham fans further by claiming thatFulham fans will love it. If some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift they can go to hell.
“I don’t want them to be fans. If they don’t understand and don’t believe in things I believe in they can go to Chelsea, they can go anywhere else. People will queue to come and visit it from all over the UK and it is something that I and everybody else should be proud of.”
Fulham message boards were later besieged with posters demonstrating their disgust at what Al-Fayed had said, with one member of a Fulham message board labelling the Egyptian “an arrogant bully”. Another member stated: “I find this very disrespectful and insulting.”
Fulham fan Callum Kerrins told the Fulham Chronicle: “I wrote to the club to complain, not that it will do any good. I feel really let down.” Another fan argued “that at least 90 per cent of Fulham fans are against the statue, yet he wants us to go to hell and support someone else.”
Cottagers fans are clearly not happy, not just with the statue, but with the way Al-Fayed has completely disregarded the thoughts of Fulham fans, as ‘Ash’ told the Chronicle: “[Al-Fayed’s] comments were disgraceful today. I’ve paid so much money to see my team play and you’ve disrespected us all. We are entitled to our opinions. A public apology will be nice. Stop favouring the tourists over the diehards.”
Al-Fayed bought Fulham in 1997 and has seen the London club rise from the Third Division right up to the top flight. Under Roy Hodgson’s tenure, the club reached the Europa League final last year. Whilst Al-Fayed has clearly done an awful lot for Fulham, the fans are obviously unhappy with recent developments.
Fulham fans have set up a petition to try and convince Al-Fayed that the fans do not want the statue and that maybe the owner should think about what the fans actually want, rather than what he wants.
Kroenke makes move for Arsenal
American tycoon in advanced talks with Gunners
American businessman Stan Kroenke is in advanced talks over the takeover of Arsenal, which the Supporters’ Trust have welcomed.
American tycoon Stan Kroenke is in advanced talks to take control of Arsenal, according to Sky Sports.
Kroenke is currently the largest shareholder at the club, owning a twenty-nine per cent stake. If he were to purchase a further 0.09% of the Premier League club Kroenke would have to make a bid for the remainder.
“Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov also has more than a 20 per cent stake in the club – but now Kroenke has made a move to secure full control”, says Sky Sports. “Sky sources understand that Kroenke has come to an agreement with fellow shareholders Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith to purchase their shares.”
Both own 16% of Arsenal and, therefore, if Kroenke were to confirm those deals, a takeover bid would be triggered.
Arsenal would become the fifth Premier League club to be owned by an American, along with Manchester United, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Liverpool.
The Arsenal Supporters’ Trusthas cautiously welcomed the news, releasing a statement on Sunday night: “AST thinks it is really important that supporters remain involved in Arsenal’s ownership structure.
“Stan Kroenke has a good relationship with the AST and recently supported our fanshare scheme.
“We are hopeful of having discussions with him to discuss how our members and Arsenal supporters can keep their shares in Arsenal Football Club.”
Kroenke is the owner of Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which includes the Denver Nuggets of the NBA, Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer, Colorado Avalanche of the NHL, Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League and St. Louis Rams of the NFL.
The reaction to this news seems to be a little mixed; some Arsenal fans are worried, given that there have been clubs in the Premier League who have struggled with foreign owners; many Arsenal fans are happy for a sport-savvy owner to come in and, as long as he doesn’t own 100% of the club and does commit funds to Arsenal, they are happy to support him; while most are just happy for some investment, or at least intention of investment.
In other Premier League news, FC Porto manager Andre Villas Boas is being linked with Liverpool. According to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport (and Gabriele Marcotti), Villas Boas is Liverpool’s top managerial target – apparently, the 33-year-old has a pre-contract agreement with Liverpool. However, The Times’ Tony Barret quickly quashed the rumours.
These articles originally appeared on Sports Haze.

English Premier League: What next for Everton?


This English Premier League season has been an odd one. Liverpool currently sit sixth in the table after Roy Hodgson pressed the self-destruct button before being sacked, leading many to believe that The Reds, now managed by Kop legend Kenny Dalglish, wouldn’t even finish in the top half.

They may be seven points away from fifth-placed Tottenham, maybe making qualification for the Europa League just out of reach, but the turnaround has been staggering.
The same, to an extent, can be said for Everton. David Moyes’ side has struggled with injuries and various other misgivings and, as the turn of the year loomed, some were touting the Merseyside club for relegation.
There were murmurs of Moyes leaving the club. That old line of “he can’t take them any further” was brought out time and time again, but Moyes never gave in.
Everton are now 8th in the table and, although they are only effectively eight points above the relegation zone on forty points, one should think that they are safe this season, given the form of the clubs nearer the drop zone.
Yesterday’s 2-1 win over Fulham marked Moyes’ ninth anniversary as Everton manager, quite an impressive feat for a mid-table side at a time where managers rarely stay longer than two years if they don’t hit the targets set by ambitious owners.
The performance was one of pure confidence. There was a period, before and after Seamus Coleman’s goal, where Everton simply dominated. Wave after wave of attack came Fulham’s way, with the attacking full-backs Leighton Baines and Tony Hibbert providing great width as Leon Osman and Coleman like to cut inside and roam across the park.
The opening goal yesterday came when Baines and Osman combined, the wide midfielder putting a deft ball over a stranded Fulham defence to find an unmarked Coleman, who headed home with exquisite ease.
Coleman is one of many young exciting talents at Goodison Park. In the middle of midfield yesterday was Jack Rodwell, apparently a target for Manchester United, who had a relatively quiet game but got forward well and put in some strong challenges. Next to him was Everton captain Phil Neville, who excels in linking the defence and midfield.
At the back Everton look strong and at times seem to be unbeatable, as Fulham’s front line found yesterday for the majority of the match. Sylvain Distin is a contender for Player of the Season while his defensive partner, Phil Jagielka, is surely going to be given more of a chance in an England shirt soon. The pair are resolute, brilliant in the air and just as good on the floor, distributing the ball to those in front of them to start attacks.
In goal they have the ever-present Tim Howard who has been superb year-in, year-out. Since his move from Manchester United (who are now, incidentally, looking for a ‘keeper as Edwin Van der Sar will retire at the end of this season) he has been a strong figure at the back for Everton.
Everton’s second goal yesterday came from the injury-plagued Louis Saha. The Frenchman smashed home a free kick after a Fulham wall crumbled but an injury was sustained by the striker late on. His fitness has caused problems for Everton this season as they have left Moyes with one, main striker – Jermaine Beckford, a clearly talented but inconsistent and sometimes ineffective forward.
Victor Anichebe has failed to impress this season and, while Jose Baxter continues to be highly rated, Moyes would do well to sign a striker in the summer, someone to play in front of the mercurial Tim Cahill, who missed a large chunk of the season because of the Asian Cup. Tottenham’s Roman Pavlyuchenko would be the name that immediately springs to mind.
Everton is a football club that strives for success and, given that they were challenging for Europe a few years ago, this season has certainly been a disappointment. But Moyes has steered them to safety. Safety won’t be good enough next season but, if Moyes were sign a striker and perhaps an extra creative midfielder to cover for Mikel Arteta, who has also struggled with injuries this season, then Everton can look forward to a high-flying 2011/12.

This article originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze, which is now unfortunately defunct.

Could Mikel Arteta be in Capello’s future plans?


Manuel Almunia was denied the chance to play for England by Fabio Capello this time last year, and now it looks as though another case has arisen. Spanish-born Mikel Arteta has played for Spain at youth level forty-two times but, under FIFA’s residency rule, is allowed to play for Capello’s side.


The Everton midfielder has lived in England for five years now, after moving to Merseyside from Real Sociedad in 2005, and, because the twenty-eight-year-old is yet to feature for the Spanish senior side, could now play alongside Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry.


England captain, Gerrard, has waded into the debate after telling TalkSport that he would “love nothing better than to see Mikel Arteta available for England”. The two players may play for two teams that are bitter rivals at club level but Gerrard stated that “you want to play with the best players, and if it makes the England squad better, of course I’d like to see it.”
Gerrard did add “Fabio Capello is the man to answer the question because he’s the manager”. The news comes just days after the Italian announced to the world that thirty-five-year-old David Beckham would be “too old” to play for England at the EURO 2012 championships.

Arteta would be a massive asset to England; that goes without saying. His technique on the ball is something that many of the current English central midfielders lack, while the ability to retain the ball and be comfortable in possession, something which England definitely lacked in the World Cup and something that world champions Spain definitely had, is a fabulous prospect. After the recent 2-1 friendly win over Hungary England fans were filled with a cautious optimism; England looked good but the performance was hardly breathtaking.

After England crashed out in the World Cup to a decent Germany side many were calling for more passion and more pride in the England set-up. The fact that another nation’s cast-off, albeit a very talented one, is being linked with England may not be appealing to some. The fact of the matter is, though, that Arteta is a great player. If Spain weren’t so unbelievable impressive in the central-midfield position, with Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets all occupying that role, then Arteta would surely have a part to play in the set-up. He might not be technically English but if he wants to represent this country and he wants to put on the England shirt, then he’s got as much passion as anyone in the England side.

It’s not as if adopting a new nationality is a new idea. Marcos Senna was the mastermind behind Spain’s  victorious 2008 European Championships, even though the holding midfielder is from Brazil. Former Chelsea midfielder Deco starred for Portugal on many occasions but is also actually Brazilian. England also have a foreign manager, which was well-documented when England came crashing out of the World Cup but it wasn’t even considered a problem when the side cruised through the qualifying group for South Africa.

The English cricket side has, for a long time, fielded many South Africans which has, no doubt, increased the quality of the side massively. Capello is bound to receive criticism if he decides to call up Arteta, especially from the traditionalists. Although Arteta is a great talent, he plays in a position that is slightly over-populated already. As well as the Gerrard-Barry-Lampard combination England also have the talents of such players as Joe Cole, Tom Huddlestone, Michael Carrick and James Milner. Arteta would be another option, though, and his natural ability on the ball can only be of benefit to England if the Spaniard does decide to make himself available for the England set-up.

The fact that England might even consider calling up a player from foreign lands really does say something about the state of the national game. A great side like Spain don’t want Premier League players such as Arteta and Almunia, whereas England would do anything to produce players with these sorts of talents.

Premier League Preview: Everton

My Premier League previews continue with the focus this time on Everton. After a poor start to last season but still managing to finish eighth, manager David Moyes will be looking to push his side further up the table this season.

The squad is largely unchanged with Jermaine Beckford arriving from Leeds on a free transfer making him the only notable transfer. Beckford has had a good start to his Everton career, scoring two against Preston and one against a Chilean side that share the same name as the Goodison park club. An administrative failure for the club meant that promising midfielder Dan Gosling departed for Newcastle on a free transfer. With Manchester City buying everyone they possibly can and Tottenham retaining their strong squad, it may be too much for fans to expect Everton to push for a top-four finish, which is surely the goal for Everton.
            In Tim Howard, though, Everton have a strong ‘keeper. The former Manchester United stopper has been solid for the last few seasons and his performances in the recent World Cup suggest that this season is going to be no different. In front of him Everton have got the reliable Tony Hibbert as well as Leighton Baines who, if this season goes his way, could be in with a shout for an England place. Joseph Yobo has also been a great servant to the club and Sylvain Distin has been a fantastic centre-back in the Premier League for the last few seasons. John Heitinga struggled with the English game last season but, now that he has had the summer to settle down and get used to the pace of the game, the Dutchman could enjoy a good season in English football.
            The return of Phil Jagielka will be a huge boost to Everton. The versatile player was injured in the at the end of the 2008/09 season and, until now, hasn’t got back to full fitness and worked his way back into the first team. This season could be really important for Jagielka, who will not only be looking to get back into Everton’s first team action but also to try and break into the England squad.
            In midfield, Everton are full of creativity and sheer quality. Mikel Arteta looks to be staying with the club after speculation throughout the summer that the Spaniard would be leaving the club. Arteta’s passing and quality on the ball will link up perfectly with the attacking flair and potency of Tim Cahill. Leon Osman is another player that can push forward and cause havoc in defensive ranks, while Phil Neville holds the whole team together. The captain sits back while Diniyar Bilyaletdinov can fly down the wings. Marouane Fellaini can also sit in the holding role but the Belgian is also very capable of pushing forward and causing problems with his height and power. Steven Pienaar had a poor World Cup and will be looking to improve his form as Everton look to get above sides such as Aston Villa and maybe even local rivals Liverpool.
            One to watch next season, though, is definitely Jack Rodwell. The English midfielder impressed immensely last season and will be looking to improve further this season. If Rodwell can get a string of games under his belt this season he may well find himself being called up into the international set-up. Rodwell can play as a conservative central midfielder but can also roam forward with the best of them. This season is a big one for the nineteen year old.
            Goals shouldn’t be in short supply for Everton this season with Louis Saha hoping to continue his fine form from last season. The Frenchman scored thirteen goals in thirty-three appearances last season and will be looking to improve further in 2010/11. Moyes’ main problem last season was the lack of strikers he had available. Yakubu Aiyegbeni, James Vaughn and Victor Anichebe will all feel like new signings to Everton this season after all three strikers endured torrid injuries throughout the season. Beckford’s arrival could be a real coup if the former Leeds striker can adapt to the Premier League. If it all clicks for Everton, though, this could well be a good season for the Toffees.
           
Where will they finish?: 8th
Official relegation odds: 13/2 (Bet365)
Star man: Tim Cahill
One to watch: Jack Rodwell
Main weakness: Everything has to click