West Ham Utd And Crystal Palace Should Be Courting Xherdan Shaqiri

Unfortunately when teams suffer relegation, it’s usual for other clubs to assess players at the relegated sides and cherry pick who they’d like to see represent them next term.

Stoke City will have a few that will cause an interest from English Premier League sides. The Potters finished the season in the dreaded drop zone and the likes of Jack Butland, Joe Allen and Badou Ndiaye will probably have various suitors interested in them this summer.

Another name that will be linked with a move away from the Britannia Stadium in the coming months will be Xherdan Shaqiri.

People have complained that some of the players at Stoke had lost interest, were unprofessional and undermined the club. I don’t think we can point any fingers in the director of Swiss international.

He always seemed a driving force when he was playing in a Stoke City shirt and trying to make things happen. Now he does most of his work in the opposition’s half and with the ball at his feet but that still takes effort and Paul Lambert would’ve wanted more to show the same kind of attacking qualities as Xherdan.

Stoke coach Lambert was always quick to praise the attacking midfielder in the last few months:

“I think as I’ve said before he’s a real world class footballer”

The creative dynamo spent the season either as a number ten or wide on the righthand side.

Shaqiri topped the Potters goalscoring chart with eight goals and the assist table with seven assists in the league.

He’s a star who’s extremely versatile and who can play anywhere in the attacking positions. It’s hard to believe but Shaqiri is still only twenty-six years of age, he should be just hitting his peak years and he already has plenty of experience under his belt.

The former Basle, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan player is a very confident talent and he’s a man that can be lethal from any set-piece situation. He also has the vision to create an inch perfect cross or a defence splitting through ball.

He’d be a player that could enhance two London sides, who managed to survive the relegation battlefield; West Ham United and Crystal Palace.

The Hammers have just parted company with their boss David Moyes.

The Scotsman managed to keep the Irons up but arguably his greatest impact as their gaffer was to move Marko Arnautovic and play the big Austrian as a centre forward.

It was a stroke of genius decision as the attacker managed to grab eleven league goals and help propel the Hammers to a thirteenth spot finish.

The side looked balanced with Manuel Lanzini and Joao Mario playing behind the big man. West Ham are seemingly keen on keeping Portuguese star Mario but they still need to agree things with Inter. Lanzini had an injury interrupting season and the Argentine is always being linked with a move away from his current employers.

With all that in mind, then a move for Swiss juggernaut Shaqiri could be ideal for the next West Ham manager.

Both Arnautovic and Shaqiri enjoyed playing with each other at Stoke and they seemed to have developed a great understanding on the football pitch. You’d imagine if the Austrian is playing up-top next year, then he’d thrive with the Swiss internationalist playing in behind him supplying plenty of ammunition.

We all know West Ham love creative maverick and Xherdan could represent the same as a Paolo Di Canio or a Dimitri Payet.

Fellow capital side Crystal Palace could also do with a talent like Xherdan Shaqiri.

The Eagles would have a pretty impressive frontline if they could have Shaqiri, Andros Townsend and Wilfred Zaha playing behind Christian Benteke.

Belgian Benteke, didn’t have the best of scoring seasons at Selhurst Park during this campaign but I’d imagine the forward would manage to get back amongst the goals with a trio like that providing plenty of quality service from all angles of the field.

You’d also imagine that Palace manager Roy Hodgson would like to add another experienced face in his attacking ranks. The Stoke maestro can be a game changer and you can’t have too many of them in your squad, especially if Crystal Palace lose Zaha to a big money transfer during the off-season.

It’s probably true to say that Xherdan Shaqiri hasn’t quite lived up to the standards that his potential seemed to suggest he could during his early years in Switzerland. But the forward is still a very good talent, who on his day can terrorise most defences in England’s top flight.

It’s believed that he’ll be available for a paltry fee of just £12m and that should be enough to have teams like Crystal Palace and West Ham United beating down Stoke City’s door to talk to him.

I believe he’d love London life and would thrive in the capital given half the chance!

Remembering World Cup 94 – The American Dream!

Now that most domestic seasons are starting to wind down, I thought it was time to think about the World Cup.

In June, Russia will host their first World Cup but in this article I thought I’d look back at one of my favourite competitions and that was USA 94.

I was ten, when that particular World Cup took over my summer.

Thankfully the tournament went much better than the opening ceremony, the highlight of which was a horrendous miss from singer Diana Ross. Her penalty went wide of the goal but still sensationally managed to split the goal posts!

Despite the fact that no British country made it to the U.S, my interest was still huge! I was so excited to see the best players from around the world descend to the shores of the United States.

The players I was looking forward to seeing were stars like Romario, Hristo Stoichkov, Rai, Dennis Bergkamp, Gabriel Batistuta, Carlos Valderrama and most of all Roberto Baggio (more about the divine one later).

As with many World Cups in that era, before the all encompassing internet was accessed by everyone on the planet, we were also introduced to new players. These men would soon become household names.

I’d never heard of Henrik Larsson before the summer of 94, yet he and Sweden took the competition by storm. As a kid, I thought Henrik was actually a girl (the long dreadlocks confused me!).

The hosts had a whole bunch of talent I’d never really seen before. The standout, for me, was defender Alexi Lalas. He was a hairy bearded ginger, who looked ready for a rock stage rather than a football field. But in fairness to him and his colleagues, they impressed and managed to defy the odds and get out of the group stages. They would end up losing narrowly to Brazil in the Second Round.

Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos also springs to mind. I’m not sure if I was transfixed because of his goalkeeping ability or his multi-coloured fluorescent top that must’ve blinded opposition strikers (it was probably a bit of both to be honest).

I also recall being desperate for Brazil to bring on a young seventeen year old that was in their squad. Ronaldo, dubbed the new Pele, was said to be a raw powerful natural goalscorer. He wouldn’t step onto the pitch in the States but he was well worth the wait when he finally took the footballing world by storm a few years later.

I should note the cracking Diego Maradona goal against Greece in the opening Group D match. Nothing odd about that, the Argentine attacker was known for his world class strikes. No, it was the sight of a batshit crazy Maradona hunting down the nearest camera and screaming down the lens that we all remember. Obviously FIFA tested his urine and I’m betting it looked more radioactive than the Springfield nuclear power plant! It tested positive and he was given a lengthy ban.

Another abiding memory I’ve got of that tournament doesn’t actually involve anything that happened on the pitch.

The BBC had a cracking opening title sequence that just embodied the fine weather, the exciting atmosphere and the fabulous football that was on offer that summer. Hearing ‘America’ the West Side Story tune still takes me back to my bedroom, watching teams like Brazil, Italy and Bulgaria excel.

In the group stage, the biggest game that I can recall was Ireland’s win over Italy.

The Italians were considered one of the main favourites for the whole thing but they stumbled in the first game against what was seen as a mediocre Irish side managed by an eccentric World Cup winner in Jack Charlton.

Over 75,000 watched on at the Giants Stadium in New Jersey as the heat soared. The Italian side boasted the likes of Baggio, Giuseppe Signori and Paolo Maldini, while Ireland had relative unknowns like Tommy Coyne, Phil Babb and Terry Phelan.

The Ireland side showed no signs of nerves as they took the lead through a superb Ray Houghton left-footed strike, that was followed with some sort of over enthusiastic forward roll celebration. The dogged Irish withstood all the pressure that the Azzurri side could pile on and won the game by a goal to nil.

In the knockout stages, the quarter-final between the Netherlands and Brazil was sensational. The Brazilians would win the exciting five goal encounter 3-2.

Romario stabbed home the opener in the fifty-third minute. At the time Romario was one of the most prolific goalscorers in Europe and he was already enjoying this World Cup.

Ten minutes later and it was his strike partner Bebeto who would claim his nation’s second. He picked up a loose ball outside of the penalty area, dribbled it inside of the box, took it around the keeper and stroking it home. His baby rocking celebration alongside Romario and Mazinho is now legendary.

A minute after that strike and the Dutch managed to half the deficit. Dennis Bergkamp controlled a long throw-in before expertly guiding it past Brazil goalie Claudio Taffarel.

The Netherlands then found an equaliser in the seventy-sixth minute, as Lazio midfielder Aron Winter steered his header into the net.

There was still time for a winner and it was left-back Branco would found it for the Brazilian side with a thunderous long distance free-kick with just nine minutes remaining.

In the semi-finals, it was Italy and Roberto Baggio versus Stoichkov’s Bulgaria. They were up there as probably the best European footballers of that time, well actually since Italia 90′ Roberto was the world’s top player.

Baggio had shone in his homeland and it was now expected he’d take this competition by the scruff of it’s neck.

The striker failed to find the net during the group stages but the superstar came to life in the latter rounds. Bobby netted a dramatic brace against Nigeria in the Round of 16 and then he grabbed a late winner in the quarter-final against Spain.

Barcelona man Stoichkov had grabbed three strikes in the group games and then scored in both games leading up to the semi against the Italians.

It would be Baggio and the Azzurri that would prevail over the Bulgarians.

The Juventus hitman grabbed another double, the pick of which was his second strike. He showed excellent awareness as a nice chipped through ball fell over his shoulder inside the area, without taking a touch to steady himself the Italian number ten superbly connected with the ball on the half volley and sent it beyond the despairing goalkeeper.

That set up a fantastic looking World Cup final between European giants Italy and South American powerhouse Brazil.

Questions marks over the Selecao’s goalkeeper and defence had always been at the surface. The three time winners hadn’t tasted success since 1970 and had never won the illustrious cup without Pele being in their squad. They did have a terrific attack, with Romario and Bebeto leading the line.

Italy had been to the semi-finals in 1990 and had the amazing Roberto Baggio in their ranks. They also had a strong backline with AC Milan duo Franco Baresi and Maldini at the heart of it!

It was the defenders that proved to be the winners during the game as it ended in a goal-less stalemate, not what the finals had deserved to be fair. Both sides just seemed more nervous about losing the game that they didn’t go all out to win it.

So it was down to a palpable penalty shoot-out.

Experienced campaigner Baresi stepped up first and he blasted his penalty over the bar. He was followed by Brazil’s Marcio Santos and he too failed to score.

The next four would stick their penalties away and it would be two each as both sides went to take their penultimate spot kicks. Italian forward Daniele Massaro then weakly struck his kick and saw Taffarel palm it away from goal.

Brazilian captain Carlos Dunga then strode forward with intent and he sent Gianluca Pagliuca the wrong way.

The team in shiny golden yellow strips were now on course to securing a famous victory and taking their world title tally to four.

Yet it’s the formidable, almost unflappable, Baggio that has the chance to prolong the Brazilian success story and put the boiling pressure back onto the South Americans.

The 94,194 fans inside the Rose Ball fell silent as they waited for the inevitable sight of the net bulging, the world watched through their TV screens expectedly and no doubt the next Brazilian penalty kick taker was just deciding on where he’d put his chance of winning the biggest international tournament.

Baggio skips forward, time stands-still, and then he strikes the ball and it goes high. It keeps going higher and higher, even after it passes over the bar the ball seems to continue into the skies.

No one can quite believe it, apart from the jubilant Brazil side as they pile onto the pitch celebrating their greatest victory!

Roberto Baggio is alone, just looking at the penalty spot as if it’s going to open and swallow him up. I bet the hitman would’ve chosen to be in Dante’s Inferno rather than standing there dumbstruck in Pasadena.

Dunga would then clutch the World Cup trophy and we had that happy ending of smiling faces and dancing Brazilians.

If this year’s tournament in Russia can be half as creative, dramatic, entertaining and wonderful to watch then we’ll have one hell of a World Cup on our hands!

HERE’S HOPING!! 

 

Can Arsenal Win The Premier League Next Season?

It is not easy to pick 6 predictions for where the top teams competing for the English Premier League title are going to finish next season.

For Arsenal, a lot will depend on the signings they make over the summer transfer window which is why it is vital to get it right as they need to make up a large gap between themselves and the rest of the pack. Now that Arsene Wenger has left the Gunners, it’s a fantastic time to start afresh and bring in lots of new faces urgently required to improve the team.

Manchester United are prime examples of what can happen when you change long-term managers. The Red Devils have not recovered since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement but this season they showed that they are getting closers to where they need to be to win their first EPL title since the Ferguson retired. Gunners fans will be hoping that they do not have the same fate, although things are slightly different as Ferguson won the title in his last year in charge and Wenger finished sixth.

Chelsea are another great example of what can happen when you change manager as every other season they seem to put a new one in charge. If the new manager at Arsenal can have the same impact as the last couple of managers have had at Chelsea by winning the league title in their first season, then that’ll be a great start! Things always seem to fall off the rails after that first year though, Gunners fans will be hoping for more stability at the Emirates.

One of the major challenges for the new manager will be creating a brand new defence.

This is one area of the pitch that can take longer than others to build as everyone needs to be quickly on the same page. If it was simply a case of having to change the attackers, the job would be far easier to achieve.

A new Goalkeeper is a must along with a couple of center-backs and they are desperate for a defensive midfield player that can provide protection along with adding creativity.

If Arsenal are going to win the Premier League, they will need to bring in at least six or seven world class players over the summer. Without Champions League football that task is going to be almost impossible, so it is going to need a manager that can get the most out of the underperforming stars already there. Mauricio Pochettino managed to do it at Spurs, so it can be done if you have a manager that has faith in young talent.

If Leicester City can win the league then obviously the Gunners can do it too. The main signing of the season is going to be the new manager, as it will be up to him to achieve the miracle that is required.

As Tottenham and Liverpool both showed when they signed lots of players all at once, it takes time for them to settle in and many might not make the grade.

It is a pivotal time in the history of Arsenal Football Club and if they make the wrong decisions it could lead to dire consequences.

Erik Lamela Could Be A Spurs Superstar Next Season!

After spending a year out due to a serious hip injury, this season was always going to be slow one for Erik Lamela as the Argentine was trying to regain his full fitness and get match sharp once again.

The Tottenham Hotspur maestro ended the Premier League campaign with a brilliant double as his side managed to beat Leicester City 5-4 at Wembley. That will have given his confidence a massive boost after such a frustrating time for the player.

Lamela’s performance against the Foxes yesterday, might have him seething that this campaign is over  but the real target for the forward should be shining at the redeveloped White Hart Lane next season!

The Argentine international arrived to much fanfare in 2013 for a fee of £25.8m and the former AS Roma man was seen as the natural successor to Gareth Bale who had just left to join Real Madrid.

Erik struggled with the rigours of the English game and only managed nine league appearances in his debut season.

When Poch arrived in 2014, Lamela’s appearances became more frequent.

Then in the 2015-16 things started to click and the attacker started to produce more consistent high end performances, he ended that term with eleven goals and nine assists.

Yet before peaking, Lamela succumbed to his devastating hip injury.

Now after rehabbing and getting more minutes on the pitch towards the end of this campaign, the forward should be aiming to show that he can once again become a match winner next season.

Yes he’ll have competition, Spurs have plenty of great creative talent within their ranks but at twenty-six years of age Erik Lamela should be coming into his best years. He can play on either wing as well as through the middle, that flexibility could give him an edge over others in the squad.

His manager seemed delighted with his exploits on Sunday:

“It was important for him, a massive motivation,”  

“His performance today was fantastic, scoring goals.”

“I think it’s a massive boost for him. Yes, I think fantastic.”

“If you work hard every day in a tough season but finish in that way, always it’s a massive thing for him.”

Now the exciting attacker needs to enjoy his summer holiday, get a full pre-season under his belt and come back fully fit, confident and raring to go as Spurs try and challenge for more glory next year!

Chelsea Should Give Alvaro Morata Another Season At The Bridge

I think it’s fair to say that Alvaro Morata’s debut season at Chelsea hasn’t been quite as successful as everyone at Stamford Bridge was hoping for.

The £58m man has been called a flop by some, the Spaniard has scored eleven Premier League goals in thirty appearances. He has only scored three since the turn of the year and seems to have lost his starting place to January signing Oliver Giroud.

The disappointing season comes to an end tomorrow with Morata already being linked with a move back to Italian champions Juventus.

The striker has come out and stated he has struggled to adapt to the London lifestyle and that:

“Italy for a Spaniard is the best country to live”.

I’d urge that the London club resists any temptation to sell the forward, especially if the offer is a three year loan deal before permanently joining the Turin giants.

Looking back to the 2004-05 season and Didier Drogba managed just ten league games in his first season with ‘The Blues’. He wasn’t that great and people questioned the fee that was initially paid for him.

Fast forward seven years and Drogba has won all the major trophies with the club and scored 100 league goals in England’s top tier.

The Ivorian needed that first year at Chelsea to settle and get used the the team’s style and the rigours of playing in the Premier League.

Morata is a superb striker; he’s got pace, skill and he can score with his head. I have no doubts he can be prolific in England.

I should also point out that the former league champions have had a mixed season themselves. Speculation regarding manager Antonio Conte and his future at the club has persisted all season. The side have struggled to get back into the top four and the standard of football has dropped this term too.

Maybe next season will offer more clarity and stability for the Chelsea players, Alvaro Morata might thrive if the off-field sagas are no longer distracting the first team squad.

I also think it would be ideal for Chelsea to have both Alvaro and Giroud at the club next term. Both are strong hitmen who can pose plenty of defences problems. Both are also used to playing with a rotation policy.

Chelsea have regretting dumping the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne after not giving them enough time to settle in at the Bridge.

I believe that they might make the same old mistake, if they don’t give Morata more time to establish himself as Chelsea’s number one striker.

Big Sam Met His Targets At Everton But Merseyside Club Should Replace Him

When Sam Allardyce arrived at Goodison Park as the new Everton manager, his priority was to keep the Merseyside club away from any relegation trouble in the Premier League.

When the Toffees hierarchy sacked previous boss Ronald Koeman, the side were in the dreaded relegation zone.

After losing out on number one target Marco Silva, Everton turned to safety specialist Big Sam.

Sam came in and did what was asked. He’s guided them to a mid-table finish, made them harder to beat, tightened up the defence (just) and he’s also made Goodison a bit of a fortress.

Yet the problem is that the Toffees support haven’t bought into the new gaffer’s style, an issue that has plagued Allardyce’s career. When he arrived and turned things around that was to be expected and while the home fans appreciated it initially, they now want to see exciting football and challenging for a top four finish next term.

It’s still early in the Farhad Moshiri era and the majority owner wants to establish a good footballing side that can play regularly in Europe. His hope will be to have a manager that can meet that expectation and one who’ll also have the backing of the support.

Two managers might have caught Moshiri’s eye and both will be available this summer.

Former target Marco Silva is now a free agent and reports linking him with a move to Merseyside have resurfaced.

The Portuguese boss left Watford after a bright start, with his former employers blaming the Everton interest in turning Silva’s head and thus the Hornet’s form dipped.

Silva has impressed during his stints in the Premier League. His sides play exciting, attack-minded football and he also seems to be a good man-manager. He is a talented, ambitious young coach and that would seem to meet Farhad’s requirements in a football manager.

Another potential new boss could be the departing Arsenal manager; Arsene Wenger.

We know the current Everton owner has links to Arsenal and Wenger is obviously a huge name in world football. That would be a statement signing and Moshiri likes to have big names connected with his club.

Wenger knows the English game inside out and likes to build creative attacking teams.

Plus the sixty-eight year old has already stated that he’s not done with football just yet:

“I honestly don’t know what I will do. Will I take a little rest? I will continue to work, that is for sure. At the moment I’m not ready to commit to anything else.”

Whether he wants to stay in England remains to be seen but both managers mentioned are probably more in keeping with the Everton owner and the fan’s ambition.

I think Allardyce deserves credit for getting the job done but if the club want to move forward, then the time is probably right to part ways with Big Sam.

While they’re at it, I think the Toffees should also dump Steve Walsh. The director of football was fantastic at Leicester City but he hasn’t had the same success at Everton. He seems to collect number tens and struggles to pick out a good centre half.

So for the Everton project to get to the next level and get the supporters buzzing for next season, then I think serious changes need to be made.

Three Players That Could Transform Arsenal Next Season!

Arsene Wenger is about to manage Arsenal for the last time tomorrow.

After twenty-two years, the Frenchman will walkaway from the North London club.

Now the Gunners have still to identify his successor but their recruitment team can’t stand still and wait until a new gaffer is in place, they need to try and bring in new faces that can improve the first team squad and enhance Arsenal’s chances of returning to the top four next term.

It doesn’t take a footballing genius to spot that Arsenal have problems defensively and it’s that area that they need to strengthen this summer.

In attack, they have plenty of good and strong options. They actually have the third best scoring record in England’s top flight this season.

Liverpool and Manchester City have been transformed by recent defensive arrivals and I think Arsenal could see a similar impact if they are smart in the transfer market this off-season.

No other team in the top seven have conceded as many as the Gunners, who have let in a whopping fifty-one goals in thirty-seven Premier League games. In truth, Arsene’s men have conceded more than promoted sides Newcastle Utd and Brighton.

The central defensive pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi have had a miserable season and neither one of them has shown the confidence that there experience should afford them.

French centre-back Koscielny has constant issues with his achilles and a fresh injury will see the defender missing the next six months. I don’t think he’ll comeback any better than he was before this latest setback.

German World Cup winner Mustafi offers no leadership at the back and he’s also too inconsistent with his performances. The Gunners team as a whole lacks leadership and Shkodran highlights that perfectly.

With club captain Per Metesacker retiring this month, then the need for new centre-backs this summer is great!

A player based in the Premier League that could fit the bill at centre-half could be Burnley’s James Tarkowski.

Burnley might be one place adrift of Arsenal in the league table but Sean Dyche’s side have conceded less than the superstars from the capital.

Tarkowski has played a big part in that.

He’s averages 1.4 tackles per game and 1.6 interceptions. Impressively he’s averaging 7.2 clearances and 4.9 headers in a game. Arsenal could be doing with a dominant central defender who can bully forwards in the air.

The defender is pretty calm with the ball at his feet, although he could maybe improve on his passing stats.

The Manchester born centre-back started off at Oldham in League One before moving onto Championship side Brentford. After three seasons there, James finally tasted Premier League football at Turf Moor.

He has worked his way up and he’s conquered every challenge he’s had to face. Unlike so many privileged stars that currently ply their trade at the Emirates, Tarkowski has fought hard to get to where he is today.

That determination saw him win his first England cap in March against Italy.

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate singled the Burnley man out for praise after his international debut:

“It was really good to see James Tarkowski, we’ve got people we feel can play in a back three, and have done well, but he showed he can cope with international football, against good opposition.

“He was very comfortable on the ball and played some really calm moments.”

In Italy, only Juventus have conceded less than Inter Milan’s twenty-six goals.

Summer signing Milan Skriniar has greatly improved Inter’s backline and the twenty-three year old has shown that he can handle the pressures of playing at one of Europe’s top clubs.

The Slovakian has the tactical awareness to change his style to suit the opposition that’s playing ahead of him. He is strong in the tackle, winning on average 2.3 tackles per league game this term. His concretion levels are also commendable and his 91% passing success rate is another fine stat for a central defender.

In truth Arsenal might struggle to bring in an already established world class centre-back, so going after a solid, smart and young defender like Skriniar could prove to be a genius move from the Gunners.

Experienced teammate Miranda is extremely complimentary about his defensive partner:

“Skriniar is a great player; he’s doing well,”

“It was easy for me to get used to playing with him, and he can become amongst the five best defenders in the world.”

Another role that Arsenal should look at improving, is the defensive midfield position.

Granit Xhaka is another performer who seems to go missing all too often and his disciplinary record is appalling. The Gunners need someone in there that can marshall in front of the back four or three and win the ball back higher up the field.

With that in mind, I’d test Leicester City’s resolve with a big bid for Wilfred Ndidi.

The Nigerian international had the daunting task of replacing N’Golo Kante and this season the twenty-one year old has shone in that pivotal position.

No player in Europe has a better tackling average, with Wilfred averaging 4.2 tackles per league fixture. The midfield man is also strong in the air and has a 3.5 average in winning aerial battles.

His role in the team would be cutting off potential opposition attacks and then giving the ball to the attack minded players that can create for this strikers. It sounds easy enough but Arsenal have struggled in that area for years now. Ndidi could the be one that could slot in and solve that problem.

If Arsenal can finally fix these defensive issues, then maybe just maybe they can challenge for the big trophies once again under their new boss.

St Mirren – Talking SMiSA, Looking Back On Championship Win & Forward To Top Flight

Is Liverpool Forward Mo Salah’s Premier League Scoring Feat This Season The Best Yet?

With just one Premier League game remaining for this season, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah leads the scoring charts with his thirty-one goal tally. That sees him three ahead of his nearest rival (Harry Kane) and it also has him joint top for the most goals scored in a thirty-eight game season in England’s top flight.

One more goal and he’ll over take the record currently shared by Alan Shearer, Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo. That’s world class company!

The Egyptian has a real chance of breaking the record.

Liverpool are in the Champions League final but they probably can’t risk resting their top talent as they still need to secure a place in the top four. The Reds are only two points ahead of fifth placed Chelsea and they can’t afford to lose against Brighton on Sunday and give up that final Champions League place.

Whether Salah scores at Anfield on Sunday or not, I believe his scoring performances in a single season have bettered that of anyone else in the Premier League era.

The twenty-five year old gives you a wide variety of strikes, from various parts of the park. He is full of confidence and you can see that in his game. He’s electric, he has the skill to put defenders on their backsides, the strength to stand up to tough challenges and the calmness to cooly finish under immense pressure.

The forward has also managed to score in the important games against Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton. Plus he has also scored a whopping ten goals in twelve Champions League appearances.

The other impressive stat, is that Salah has also managed to provide thirteen assists for his teammates this term too (nine in the league). He works hard and even tracks back and gets the ball in deeper positions when called upon.

Plus unlike Shearer, Suarez and Kane, Mo isn’t actually an all out centre-forward. He’s started most of the fixtures out on the righthand side. Yes he plays in a very fluid front three alongside Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane and that can see them rotating positions throughout a game but he does usually stick to the wing as a starting position.

As a front three; Salah, Firmino and Mane interact perfectly as a team. They must terrify opposition defences with their fast, direct style and their willingness to fight for their side. Salah just happens to be the main man of that wonderful trio.

My last point regarding Mo Salah’s tremendous scoring feat this year is that he’s only scored one penalty, he also missed one earlier in the campaign. Usually the top scorer has a few penalties to his name but not Salah, that’s pretty impressive.

I remember watching the Egyptian international during his time in Italy with Fiorentina and AS Roma, I always liked him but thought he was more of a provider than a goalscorer. I knew he’d get goals but didn’t think for a second he’d be this prolific but he has been sensational and fun to watch. He play’s with a smile on his face and has turned into one of the best players in the world!

Now he has a few things still to do…

Can he break that Premier League record? Can he help Liverpool to their sixth top European title? Can he repeat his superb form next season? 

I for one, won’t be betting against him!

Scottish Football Would Be The Poorer If Neil Lennon Left Hibs!

Neil Lennon stunned the Scottish media after he stated he could leave Hibernian this summer.

After watching his side fall to a 2-1 defeat to Hearts in the Edinburgh derby, Lennon told a press conference:

“We look like we’re going to finish fourth. It’s unacceptable. I will be considering my position over the summer.”

“I need to think about my own personal aims and ambitions. We’ve got a board meeting next week. So we’ll see.”

Now we all know that Lennon is a very passionate manager, who has been prone to making hasty quotes when things don’t go his way.

Maybe the Hibees gaffer is wanting more backing from his board.

Star performer Dylan McGeouch is set to leave on a free this summer, top asset John McGinn might make a money spinning move elsewhere and Scott Allan will return to parent club Celtic when the current campaign ends. That could mean that Hibs will need to replace their core midfield personnel, not an easy task and one that could be fraught with problems!

Maybe the Northern Irishman believes that he’s taken the Scottish Premiership side as far as he can. Getting them promoted and then up to fourth place and close to the runners up spot is a pretty good achievement in anyone’s book.

I have a personnel theory that the outburst is designed to give his squad a kick up the backside after they failed in their task to get to second place. Lennon will be desperate to finish with a win over Rangers this weekend and his statement could be designed to get more from his players in there last game of the season. Basically I think he might be throwing down the gauntlet.

Whatever the reason for Lennon had for saying that he’s considering his position, I really hope he stays on at Easter Road as Scottish football is better with him in it.

He’s a proven winner, a wind up merchant and he is box office. Our top tier could have big names in Brendan Rodgers, Steven Gerrard and Steve Clarke. You’ll also have a former Scotland manager in Craig Levein that can get under everyone’s skin and talented coaches like Stephen Robinson and possibly Jack Ross too.

Add Lennon to the mix and you’ll be hard pushed to find a better array of managers in our top flight in the last twenty years!

Hibs have been in scintillating form for much of this season. They’ve managed to record wins over champions Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Kilmarnock and Hearts. They play attractive and effective football, that get’s results!

Yes of course, Neil Lennon can go over the top and back his team to the hilt but in all honesty that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re a fan of the Leith side.

It’s a case of now waiting and seeing what happens next. I for one, hope Lennon takes his place at the home dugout at Easter Road next season!