Premier League Promotion – Looking At Brentford’s Chances

Following Brentford Football Club has been a rollercoaster ever since Matthew Benham bought The Bees back in 2012.

His exotic job title – the millionaire owner is a professional gambler – made him a firm favourite with the media, and Brentford received plenty of column inches as a result.

However, the main man is also a shrewd investor, implementing the Moneyball system seen in baseball (Source – The Guardian) to great effect. It was all looking rosy, particularly as the London-based outfit were on course for automatic promotion this season.

However, the team has hit a bump in the road, leading fans and pundits to question whether they have blown their chance. 

An Imperfect Storm 

At this delicate stage of the season, the clubs pushing for promotion hope they can peak at the ideal time to propel their chances of either securing automatic promotion or landing in the playoffs. Sadly, for Brentford, they are going the other way as a run of bad form has seen them draw three very winnable games before finally ending their poor run with win over Preston North End

With a run-in that includes rivals Cardiff City, Bournemouth and Watford, there could be more trouble on the horizon as the fixture list hasn’t been good to them. It gets worse for The Bees since their top players are attracting interest from Premier League outfits such as Southampton (Via The Standard). 

The recent poor results will have panicked fans. The Championship betting makes them 66/1 to win the league outright. This suggests that the team’s main avenue is via the dreaded play-offs, a tournament where anything can happen. 

Bad Memories 

Speaking of The Championship play-offs, Brentford doesn’t have positive memories of the competition. The last time they played was in 2020 when they were thirty minutes away (BBC Match Report) from a penalty shootout. Unfortunately for them, Fulham struck twice to land the most lucrative knockout tournament in world football. 

Being only last year, the scars are still bound to be raw for everyone involved. It’s not often you get the opportunity to play in the Promised Land, only for the dream to fade away in front of your eyes. This Brentford squad has experienced the feeling and will need plenty of resolve to make it all the way to the final. 

Considering the side were nailed on to avoid the round-robin a few weeks ago, it will only make the post-season more challenging. 

New Players 

One thing they do have in their favour is the arrival of new players. Ollie Watkins left for Aston Villa, leaving a massive hole in the forward line. Thankfully for Brentford FC, Ivan Toney has done it with aplomb. 

With twenty-nine goals in thirty-seven games, the striker is a deadly finisher who will give The Bees the type of threat that most teams in The Championship would kill for. The fact Toney has ten assists – joint third on the list (Stats Via WhoScored)– makes him even more valuable as he’s a clinical goalscorer who can also provide. Holding the league’s current top goalscorer mantle, Bees boss Thomas Frank will be hoping he remains fit for the remainder of the campaign. 

They might not win the league outright, yet Brentford still have the safety net of the playoffs on which to fall back. But that’s still a very nervy way to earn that final Premier League spot.

Guessing Scotland’s Euro 2020 Squad

We are getting ever closer to Euro 2020 and as a Scotland fan I really can’t wait!

With that in mind, I have decided to name to Scotland squads. The first will be the squad that I would take and the second is the one I think Scotland boss Steve Clarke will go for.

I have gone for those that will hopefully be fit for the finals and on the basis Allan McGregor doesn’t come out of retirement. I have also selected twenty-six players in each pool as I think the squad numbers will be increased for this tournament.

MY SCOTLAND SQUAD

Goalkeepers

David Marshall (Derby County), Craig Gordon (Hearts) and Jon McLaughlin (Rangers).

Defenders

Andrew Robertson CAPT (Liverpool), Kieran Tierney (Arsenal), Stephen O’Donnell (Motherwell), Liam Cooper (Leeds United), Scott McKenna (Nottingham Forest), Nathan Patterson (Rangers), Josh Doig (Hibs), Grant Hanley (Norwich City) & Jack Hendry (Oostende).

Midfielders

Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Callum McGregor (Celtic), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Ryan Christie (Celtic), Ryan Jack (Rangers), Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), James Forrest (Celtic), Ryan Fraser (Newcastle United), David Turnbull (Celtic) and Ryan Gauld (Farnese).

Forwards

Lyndon Dykes (QPR), Ché Adams (Southampton), Oli McBurnie (Sheffield United) and Kevin Nisbet (Hibs).

Predicted Steve Clarke Squad

Goalkeepers

David Marshall (Derby County), Craig Gordon (Hearts) and Jon McLaughlin (Rangers).

Defenders

Andrew Robertson CAPT (Liverpool), Kieran Tierney (Arsenal), Stephen O’Donnell (Motherwell), Liam Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday), Scott McKenna (Nottingham Forest), Andrew Considine (Aberdeen), Declan Gallagher (Motherwell), Grant Hanley (Norwich City), Greg Taylor (Celtic) & Jack Hendry (Oostende).

Midfielders

Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Callum McGregor (Celtic), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Ryan Christie (Celtic), Ryan Jack (Rangers), Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), James Forrest (Celtic), Kenny McLean (Norwich City) and John Fleck (Sheffield United).

Forwards

Lyndon Dykes (QPR), Ché Adams (Southampton), Oli McBurnie (Sheffield United) and Ryan Fraser (Newcastle United).

Analysing Club Allegiances & Asking If They Can Influence England Squad Selections

Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the March World Cup qualifiers certainly made him public enemy number one in West Yorkshire.

The ire of the Leeds United fans fell upon the England manager after it emerged that he had selected Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins ahead of Patrick Bamford.

Many were left scratching their heads at this decision given Bamford’s superior goal and assist tally to that of Watkins’. Indeed, the list of the Premier League’s top scorers (Stat BBC Sport) at the start of the March international break showed Bamford in fourth position with fourteen goals, astonishingly, not far behind Harry Kane who tops the charts. Crucially, it’s also worth noting that Bamford could indeed be tied with Kane in the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot if it weren’t for some desperately unlucky VAR decisions going against him. 

Ollie Wakins, meanwhile, has now scored twelve. The Villa striker is also lagging behind Bamford in terms of league assists after registering three whilst Bamford has recorded an impressive seven. 

Further analysis of the comparison between the seasons that Watkins and Bamford are both having shows that the Leeds Utd forward also has a better minutes-per-goal ratio. 

Try as one might, it’s hard to ever recall a striker being called up to the England squad who averaged a goal more than every 4.2 hours in the Premier League. Perhaps Emile Heskey or Andy Carroll did, but even then, both those players were target men whose jobs were to work in tandem with their quicker counterparts, the telepathic little and large strike partnerships if you will. In Watkins’ case, however, he is the Michael Owen to Heskey’s tireless work rate being a striker that makes a living off hanging on the shoulders of the defenders. 

Indeed, having put the available stats and evidence under the microscope, you can all of a sudden understand why there was such an uproar in Leeds after the decision. 

Now, fans are always going to be aggrieved whenever an England manager neglects one of their players who is producing the goods at club level. It’s an age-old story of a fan base’s indignation which leads to wild theories as to why. But when the evidence is so startlingly clear like it is in Bamford’s case, what possible defence is there for Southgate’s decision not to call him up in his last Three Lions squad? (Squad Via FA.com)

Could Southgate’s Aston Villa connection have played a role in his decision to pick Watkins ahead of Bamford? The England manager did turn out 219 times for The Villains over the course of six years. Admittedly, the last thing the world needs in 2021 is another conspiracy theory but when the evidence of Bamford’s superiority in front of goal is so overwhelming, one is forced to perhaps connect dots that aren’t there in a bid to make sense of it all. 

What’s done is done though and Ollie Watkins had the privilege of joining up with an England squad that are the joint-favourites to win the Euros. Indeed, when you bet on football at Space Casino, you’ll see that the Three Lions are well placed to win the summer showdown. There really isn’t a better time to be involved with the England national team.

In Watkins’ case, he grabbed a debut goal against San Marino and he’s now in serious contention to win the Euro 2020 with England. 

For Patrick Bamford, he hasn’t been under the Wembley arch yet but he continues to further his footballing education under Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United. Who knows, he might still have a chance of claiming a spot in Southgate’s squad!

Both Manchester Clubs Should Make England Star Top Transfer Priority

Sky Sports have been reporting that England captain Harry Kane is set to ask to leave Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, that’s if the North London club fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

The striker might feel that it could be the right time to leave The Lilywhites. He’ll turn twenty-eight in July and will be in search of silverware while he’s playing at his peak.

Both Manchester clubs will probably be after a new hitman during the off-season.

Manchester City are losing striking legend Sergio Aguero in the summer and will be desperate to replace the Argentine’s goals.

Manchester United could also be set to lose a South American goalscorer with Edinson Cavani being heavily linked with a move to Boca Juniors this summer (Source – ESPN).

So, it looks likely that both City and United will be wanting a guaranteed marksman.

The Premier League giants will no doubt be interested in Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland. I’d guess that both Real Madrid and Barcelona will also be earmarking the Norwegian as a possible target. United might feel that Haaland is a non-starter given his agent is Mino Raiola and they have a frosty relationship with the Italian (Via Football365).

Kane has been prolific for a number of years in England’s top flight, scoring 162 goals in 238 Premier League appearances.

He’s a scorer of a wide variety of goals. Kane can be a poacher, he’s very competent in the air and can score from distance too. The England hitman has been the closest thing to Alan Shearer the league has seen since his retirement in 2006.

Harry isn’t just a natural goalscorer though. As well as leading the scoring charts with his nineteen strikes this season, the Spurs man has also contributed with thirteen assists (he leads in that stat too).

He can be a focal point and stay up-top but he can also drop deep and receive the ball in those positions too. That in turn provides space for others to run into – Gareth Bale and Son Heung-min a particular benefactors in Kane’s unselfish play. The forward is also very capable in finding space and playing very cute through balls.

South Korean internationalist Heung-min recently explained how his relationship with Kane works:

“We have a lot of conversations. Harry knows what I’m going to do if he drops deep. And then I always know what he’s going to do – I try to find him too because he can create a lot of problems for defenders,”

Via Football.London

Both Man City and Man Utd have players within their ranks who would relish playing alongside Harry Kane on a regular basis. For example; City’s Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez would no doubt love getting used to Kane’s link-up play. The same could be said of Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes at Old Trafford.

Harry Kane is probably the best all-round striker in England at the moment. If he were to hand in a transfer request it would only make sense that both Manchester City and United would be desperate to get their hands on him.

He’s clearly ambitious as are they.

City want to create a trophy laden era with Pep Guardiola in charge. They will need to replace Aguero’s goals and Kane is well proven in that field.

United and their boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will want to return The Red Devils to their glory days. They’ll feel that an attacker of Harry’s qualities can help speed that process up.

The biggest stumbling block will be convincing Tottenham to sell. Spurs supremo Daniel Levy is a tough negotiator and he too wants to win trophies. Kane’s contract expires in 2024, so even if a club or the striker can convince Levy to sell, it will only be done at a premium price.

That shouldn’t put the two Manchester sides off though, as a deal (even if extremely expensive) could be a difference maker when it comes to securing major titles in the future!

Liverpool Target Serbian Forward Who Could Ruffle Some Feathers

Liverpool have recently been linked with ACF Fiorentina striker Dušan Vlahović (Source Sports Witness).

I wouldn’t be surprised if Reds boss Jurgen Klopp is on the lookout for a young hitman to bolster his forward ranks. The trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino haven’t been quite as prolific in the Premier League this season.

As I mention on this website last month, this summer could spell the end of Divock Origi’s time at Anfield. The Belgian striker hasn’t reached his full potential on Merseyside and he’s no longer a viable back up either.

Dušan could be a player that would offer Klopp a different dynamic up-top.

The twenty-one year old has enjoyed a breakout year in Serie A this term, scoring thirteen league goals in his twenty-eight appearances. He has also broken into the Serbian national team, scoring twice whilst winning his first seven caps.

The Serbian is very competent in the air. According to Whoscored, the attacker on average wins 2.6 aerial battles per games and that’s far superior than what any Liverpool forward can manage. That ability in the air would provide The Reds with a different threat in the final third, it could become invaluable when you consider the balls that full-backs Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold can hit into the penalty area.

There’s more to Vlahović’s game though!

He has no issues in working hard for the team. The strong Serbian can come deep and receive the ball to feet while holding off opponents and he can also run into the channels. This can help in keeping the ball in sticky situations but it also creates space which would once again galvanise the likes of Salah and Mane.

A very instinctive finisher. Dušan will often score with first time finishes, which shows he can remain calm inside the box. He’ll also head straight for the penalty spot area whenever another forward has the ball and is pushing forward in the final phase of play.

The international striker would certainly add strength to the Reds attack, if he signed. A new added physical presence would give Liverpool something different to focus on, they’ve missed that during this campaign when their fluid front three haven’t been at the races.

I think that the hitman would be well suited to the Premier League style. I also believe that working under Jurgen Klopp would do a lot to improve him as a player. Vlahović shouldn’t expect to walk into the first eleven if he joined the Anfield club. He would have to wait for his opportunities and then grab them when they arrived. That’s the same method Klopp used with Robertson and Fabinho, they learned the Liverpool way and starred regularly when they got acclimatised to their new surroundings.

I’m guessing The Viola wouldn’t be in a rush to sell the young marksman but it might be out of their hands if they want a premium price. Dušan’s current deal runs out in 2023 and Goal.com have reported that he has turned down a new offer.

Dušan Vlahović might have been more inclined to sign those new terms had coach Cesar Prandelli stayed on at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. After the Italian manager departed the Florence side, the young striker stated:

‘ (I) cannot describe with words what I owe Cesare Prandelli’

Via Football Italia

Fiorentina won’t get a better deal for the goalscorer if they can’t tie him down to a new contract. That current contract standoff will alert potential suitors, who are willing to pounce this summer.

That could open the door for Liverpool to swoop in and buy the striker who has vast potential and would instantly compete with the current crop of forwards already at Anfield.

Arsenal Should Be Looking At Purchasing ‘The Dutch Vieira’

Copyright – Ajax.nl

Arsenal are seemingly in constant transition these days.

The era of them going out and bringing in already established world class stars seem to be over.

The North London giants should go back to a time when they spotted world class potential and go out and build their squad around talented youth players ready to break the glass ceiling.

Just like Patrick Vieira did in the late nineties.

He was a young French midfielder that joined from AC Milan and who soon dominated the Premier League with his commanding and energetic displays. He would soon become an international and help Les Bleus to World Cup triumph in 1998.

One player of a similar mould could be current Ajax starlet Ryan Gravenberch.

Still only eighteen years old, Ryan has already made himself a fixture in de Godenzonen first team.

His performances in The Eredivisie and in Europe have seen the youngster propelled straight into Frank de Boer’s Dutch national squad.

Although he’s predominantly a central midfielder, he can also be deployed in that holding role that protects the backline.

Gravenberch also has the ability to venture forward. He’s bagged himself four goals so far this term and more than a handful of assists too. He has no issues with lashing the ball goal-wards.

Like most Dutch internationals, Ryan is comfortable taking the ball to his feet no matter where he is on the park. The young midfielder has tidy ball control and is a natural dribbler and that helps get the ball into attacking areas. He also has the physique that makes it easy to brush opponents off, whenever they’re challenging.

In the league, Ryan Gravenberch possesses an 86.8% passing success rate. He also makes more than one tackle per game and 1.5 interceptions (Stats via Whoscored). He could and probably will improve on those defensive stats as he gets more experience in the bigger encounters.

Ajax coach Erik ten Hag has also suggested that this will happen:

“He has a lot of capacities, especially in an attacking sense … but he also comes to understand ‘that other work’ better and better,”

Via One Football

For Arsenal, Ryan would be strong if partnered alongside Thomas Partey. They’d create a strong midfield core that could be disciplined and also get the ball forward. The Gunners have definitely missed having an engine-room that can win the toughest of battles.

Granit Xhaka just isn’t good enough to get Arsenal back in the top four positions in the Premier League. I don’t think The Gunners will want to sign Real Madrid’s Dani Ceballos on a permanent basis. Mohamed Elneny isn’t any more than a bit-part player.

To progress, Gunners boss Mikel Arteta will need to bring in another top class central midfielder.

I think Ryan Gravenberch would be a great fit but I’m sure some some of Europe’s elite sides will be scouting the Dutch youngster, in the hope of securing his signature. I am also not certain Ajax will be desperate to sell the teenager this summer!

Maybe The Gunners can offer a large fee to Ajax and give the player guaranteed first-team football, which would give Ryan the chance to shine in one of the world’s top leagues.

The Brazilian Wonderkid That Could Be Man United’s Next Ronaldo

A Brazilian teenager could be the catalyst Manchester United need to send them back to the top.

Gabriel Veron could be Brazil’s next footballing superstar.

The eighteen year old helped his nation in securing the FIFA U17 World Cup in 2019. In that tournament Veron wowed everyone with his ability and he go on to win the much coveted Golden Ball award.

Gabriel was also part of the Palmeiras squad that won the 2020 Copa Libertadores.

In January The Sun newspaper linked both Manchester clubs with his signature.

I think if United were to win that race and bring the youngster to Old Trafford, then the Red Devils would definitely get ‘Cristiano Ronaldo‘ vibes from that transfer.

When Ronaldo signed for Man United as a teenager, he was raw but you could always see the potential he had. He was always an exciting talent that would get supporters and managers alike off of their seats as he jinked past opponents. As he developed, the Portuguese forward would rejuvenate the United team and help them to claim top honours.

Veron has those same qualities. If anything, he might instinctively already possess a better end product than Cristiano did at the same age!

In his first thirty-five games in professional football with Palestra, the attacker has produced ten goals and a handful of assists.

Whilst he’s had to deal with illness and injury during his early years at Palmeiras, whenever Gabriel Veron has entered the field of play he has excited those that have watched with his direct style. He attacks opposition full-backs and always wants to create something in the final third.

Veron is a wide-man that can be effective on either flank. He loves to dribble beyond opponents, has the vision to create something in the final phase of play and isn’t scared to hit a shot when required.

The youngster has no issues with the ball being played to him in tight spots as he has the control and presence of mind to get him out of most awkward situations. He also has that ability to spot what’s going on before most other players, to be able to read the game that quick is always a huge advantage.

Veron has electric pace and a wonderful skill-set that again echoes a young Ronaldo or compatriot Neymar. Whenever and wherever the eighteen year old gets on the ball, his first thought is to drive forward and make something happen!

His current manager, Abel Ferreira, has suggested it will take a fee higher than the one that Neymar went for in 2013 to get Gabriel out of Brazil:

“I’m going to tell a story. Luis Campos is director of Lille (from France) and he was my coach when I was Verón’s age. I went to talk to him about coming to Palmeiras. The first player he talked about was Verón. He knows all the youngsters with potential. He knows that he has a lot of quality. I always tell Verón to remember what brought him to this level. It is impossible for Palmeiras to sell this player for less than Neymar was sold to Barcelona “

Via Goal.com

Now Abel is a manager who loves to talk up his players and no doubt he’ll be hoping for a huge fee if he’s going to lose Veron’s services. The player’s contract has €60m release clause (Source Sport Witness) in it but it’s believed potential suitors will want the player for half that price.

Manchester United love bringing in players with world class potential. They may have been underwhelmed by the last Veron that trotted through the doors of Old Trafford but I believe they’d be getting a superb talent who could eventually lead the Red Devils back to glory if they were to sign Gabriel Veron!

Eddie Howe To Celtic – The Pros and Cons

It’s looking increasingly likely that former AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe will become the new boss at Celtic (Source Daily Record).

The Scottish Premiership side are hoping that the Englishman can come in and bring success and trophies back to Parkhead.

But as with every managerial appointment there comes to risk.

So here’s what I feel could be some pros and cons in Celtic appointing Howe as their next manager.

PROS

Excites The Fans

Out of all the realistic and talked about managerial targets, Howe was the one that most of the supporters wanted.

His arrival will remind them of Brendan Rodgers coming to the club in 2016. Howe is seen as a progressive coach, he’s a good communicator and was well thought of during his time as a gaffer in the Premier League.

Favours Attacking Football

Bournemouth, especially when they were chasing The English Championship title, liked to focus on an attacking brand of football. That changed slightly as they got used to life in England’s top flight but they never became overly negative, just more of a counter attacking side.

Being one of the big boys of Scottish football, I’d bet that Howe would once again look to attack opposition teams. That would add to the excitement at Celtic Park, The Hoops fans love to see their players on the front foot.

Can Make Astute Signings

Looking back at his earlier times at The Cherries and Eddie Howe brought in good players at a decent price. These are player who often remained at the club for a long time and probably overachieved.

Callum Wilson joined for £3.3m from Coventry City and would become an England international. Current Cherries captain Steve Cook has been at the club since 2012, when Howe returned to Bournemouth.

Trusts Young Players

David Brooks, Lewis Cook, Junior Stanislas, Adam Ramsdale and Ryan Fraser were all given prolonged spells in Bournemouth’s first team at young ages.

Some Celtic managers shirk at picking younger players, they get bogged down by the pressure of winning titles. I would imagine Howe will believe he can win silverware with talented youngsters within his first team squad. Those players are the ones that can be moulded and help with a club’s vision.

It would also fit the Celtic philosophy of buying potential at certain fee and then giving them a chance to shine before selling them on for a nice profit.

A Dedicated Professional

When you listen those that have worked with Eddie Howe in the past, you’ll notice most will point to how hard he works and his dedication to the job.

Former Bournemouth captain Tommy Elphick said:

“He’s very meticulous,”

“He’s detailed in his work and spends a lot of time getting to know his players.”

Via BBC Sport

In an interview with The Guardian in 2015, Howe showed how much detail went into bossing Bournemouth. Communication with his coaching team was vital. He would note everything down in diaries and he’d then delve back into those same diaries to give him the chance to reflect on what’s worked in the past. Every training session is filmed and is watched, as he craves learning from every detail and improving wherever and whenever possible.

He’s also a manager that really throws himself into learning about a club’s history. That sort of exhaustive dedication will impress both the Celtic hierarchy and the club’s faithful.

Open To New Ideas

The forty-three year old has always been keen to scour world football and highlight trends that are working in other countries.

Howe has visited many clubs on the continent to learn from various coaches and their techniques. Many felt that Neil Lennon had struggled to adapt to certain new nuances in modern day football and that he was stuck in a rut. That’s something that Eddie seems to try and avoid.

CONS

Struggled To Get Most Out Of Bigger Transfers

When established in the Premier League, Bournemouth would open their chequebook and spend a bit more on players. It can be argued that some of these signings struggled under Howe.

Current Rangers hitman Jermain Defoe said that he didn’t have the best relationship with Howe and that impacted on his performances:

“I didn’t really have a relationship with the manager. I was closer to (assistant) Jason Tindall, but I just felt like the manager, he probably didn’t know how to manage me for whatever reason. That was it really.”

Via Talksport

Other veterans Sylvain Distin and Asmir Begovic also seemed to fall out with the coach.

Jordan Ibe arrived for a record £15m fee, yet Howe could never get the best out of the forward. Ibe departed on a free four years later on a free transfer. In January 2019, England U21 international striker Dominic Solanke arrived in a £19m deal (Source BBC Sport). Solanke would play forty-two Premier League games for Howe’s Bournemouth and only managed a meagrely three goals!

Couldn’t Stop A Slump

Last season AFC Bournemouth won nine games, four of those victories came in their first eleven games. In that same timeframe they lost just three times.

In the next twenty-seven fixtures, The Cherries would lose a whopping nineteen times. Twice they went on five game losing runs.

Eddie seemed helpless to stop the slide. That might sound eerily familiar to Celtic fans and what they witnessed under Lennon this season.

Hasn’t Won A Major Trophy

Now this isn’t a major negative in my book, a successful manager always has to start somewhere. It was something people also said about Steven Gerrard and Brendan Rodgers before they moved north.

It is a question mark that will surround Howe until he wins something, that’s just how it works in Glasgow.

He Needs To Understand Results Matter

Elphick would state to BBC Sport:

“The biggest message we were given was that the performance would always outweigh the result,”

“If the performances were there, the results would follow.”

That mantra has a pretty short shelf life in the Glasgow goldfish bowl. Yes, you will get given a bit of time to try and marry the two but you cannot afford too many slip-ups as your rival could soon runaway with the title.

Neither of John Barnes‘ or Tommy Burns‘ Celtic teams played bad football, they could be pretty entraining but they didn’t win enough games (Barnes) or trophies (Burns).

Sitting in second place in Scotland isn’t seen as an achievement at either Celtic or Rangers. So finding a good attacking brand of football is important but it’s essential to find a winning formula quickly.

Might Favour Attacking Football Too Much

Howe may have the same stubbornness to stick to his attacking philosophy that Rodgers had at Celtic Park.

That won’t really be seen as a negative amongst the Celtic support, especially not to begin with but it may hamper Howe in Europe and in bigger domestic encounters.

Rangers are now a different prospect to what Rodgers usually had to deal with during his era at Parkhead. They can win in various different ways and if Gerrard manages to workout a way of beating Howe’s Celtic, then can Eddie divert from his chosen attacking path?

If Gerrard shows teams how it can be done then others like Aberdeen and Hibs will try and use a similar template against Celtic.

Rodgers’ Celtic were humbled in Europe, can Howe change things in that arena to make the Glasgow giants competitive?

…..

If Eddie Howe is to become the next Celtic manager, as widely predicted, then it will certainly bring excitement and optimism to Glasgow’s East End.

I am not as quick to jump onto any hype train. He is still a manager that has to prove he has what it takes to step into such a major role.

But compared to others that were being linked with the job, I’d say that the pros outweigh the cons and Celtic will be a better and more attractive team next term!

James Tavernier Deserves Scottish Player Of The Year Award

Rangers have enjoyed an wonderful season this year with Steven Gerrard’s men securing the Scottish Premiership title last month!

Many of the Rangers players deserve a huge amount of credit for their club’s success this term and a few will probably receive nominations for individual awards once they get announced.

Veterans like Allan McGregor and Steven Davis have been superb. Centre-back Connor Goldson has been immense. Forward Alfredo Morelos has been a better all-round attacker, which has been a big bonus for his teammates. Winger Ryan Kent has also enjoyed a good season, especially at the start of the campaign.

Yet for me, I have to single out right-back and Gers club captain James Tavernier as my pick for Player of the Year.

James joined the club back in 2015, when then boss Mark Warburton brought him up from Wigan Athletic (Source Sky Sports)

In his first season at Ibrox, Tavernier showed that he was a right full-back that loved being on the front-foot and bursting forward. He also showed in that year in the Scottish Championship that he had a keen eye for goal, notching up ten league goals during a campaign that saw Rangers win promotion to the top tier.

Then in his second and third seasons in Govan, Tavenier (like the team as a whole) were too inconsistent. Again there were no issues with him bombing forward but question marks surrounded his ability to defend, especially in the important fixtures.

Being a right-back, you are classed as a defender before anything else. You have to be able to get back and make tackles or you become a bit of a luxury and one your team cannot afford if they aren’t winning football matches.

Some of the Gers support started to wonder if Tavernier was too complacent at the back? Was he making too many mistakes?

Then Steven Gerrard entered in 2018.

The Gers gaffer handed his fellow Englishman the captain’s armband and Tavernier seemed to grow with the added responsibility.

James Tavernier gave his account on when he was given the captain’s role:

“He asked me where my head was and I said I was fully committed to this club, that I have unfinished business here and I want to see this club do well.”

“I could never have imagined being named captain of Rangers when I first arrived here but I always knew one of my ambitions was to be a captain one day. I have always seen myself as a leader and this has come at a perfect time.”

Via Daily Record

It’s interesting because if I had to sum up Tavernier as captain under Gerrard, ‘fully committed‘ hits the mark.

He’s a player that will always run and run. Even when things haven’t gone well, you’ll notice that James doesn’t shirk his responsibilities or go and hide from the ball.

Defensively, the right-back has developed. He’s stronger in the challenge. The twenty-nine year old doesn’t rush in, he has become smarter and pounces when an opponent makes a mistake.

As a team, Rangers have been dominant at the back.

They’ve only conceded ten times in thirty-three Premiership outings thus far. Tavernier has played a big part in that. On average the Englishman is making around 2 tackles per game, that’s more than any other player at Ibrox. It is worth noting that most of those tackles have been clean, the defender has only received two yellow cards in the league in his twenty-nine appearances.

While the marauding full-back has vastly improved on his defensive game, James also hasn’t stopped going forward and doing his bit in the final third of the field.

Incredibly the right-back (along with Morelos) leads his side’s Premiership goalscoring tally with eleven strikes to his name. Yes, quite a few of those have come from the spot but that’s still a phenomenal record for any defender in one season!

As if that wasn’t enough Tavenier also leads the way in assists. No player in Scotland’s top flight has bettered the nine assists he has provided for his teammates.

James Tavernier has stuck around at Ibrox, when other maybe less committed or hardy would’ve left. He’s probably the best player to point to when you want to show the impact that Steven Gerrard has had on the club, because of his determination to improve and give his all for the badge.

This term Rangers have simply been the best!

They have out scored all their opponents and they’ve also got by far and away the best defensive record in the league. Their club captain has been the epitome of both that free-scoring forward play and that stubborn backline.

That’s why James Tavernier would be my pick for Player of the Year!

Four Players Who Liverpool May Sell This Summer

It could be a busy summer for Liverpool and manager Jurgen Klopp.

The current Premier League champions have failed to put up much of a fight in retaining their title and it looks set to be heading back to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

The Reds will point to a defensive injury crisis as a major reason for their slump but maybe they were also too honourable in keeping a few faces around that should’ve departed last year.

I suspect the squad clear-out that should have happened last summer may happen when the transfer window reopens.

While Adrian isn’t amongst the four I’ve suggested to leave, I don’t believe his contract will be renewed beyond June. I also expect Georginio Wijnaldum to leave on a Bosman, with FC Barcelona his likeliest destination according to TeamTalk.

The four first team squad members that could be facing the chop are Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi, Joel Matip and Naby Keita.

Swiss star Shaqiri undoubtably has talent but he’s failed to hold down a regular spot in the last two seasons. He’s picked up too many injuries and that’s really stalled his career at Anfield.

He hasn’t proved himself when asked to play out wide and The Reds would want someone who offers more consistency.

Stated at the start of the campaign he wanted to play more and make an impact:

“When you are injured or just don’t play, you are disappointed. But I am looking forward to next season and will try to help the team at any time. So I have a chance to play again like in the first season.”

Shaqiri via Show Sport

That hasn’t worked out of Shaqiri this term and the attacker would benefit from taking a step back and getting first team football elsewhere.

While every Liverpool fan will remember Divock Origi for his famous goals against Barca in the Champions League and against Merseyside rivals Everton, the striker hasn’t realised his full potential at Anfield.

Has failed to score or create an assist this season and is no longer seen as a useful Plan B to have at the club. Would benefit in moving to a club that will use him as their focal point and give him a run of games as their number nine. It’s clear he won’t get that opportunity again at Liverpool.

Joel Matip is a solid defender and has looked capable when playing alongside Virgil van Dijk (Who hasn’t?) but the twenty-nine year old is very injury prone.

When Van Djik and Joe Gomez were sidelined with longterm knocks, a lot of pressure was heaped onto Joel’s shoulders and unfortunately he succumbed to yet another injury setback.

Has missed far too many games during his Liverpool career and with The Reds being linked heavily with RB Leipzig centre-back Ibrahima Konate (Source Daily Mail), I feel it might benefit Liverpool to move Matip on.

Much was expected from Naby Keita when he first arrived in England during the off-season of 2018. Unfortunately the Guinean has never found his rhythm on Merseyside.

The twenty-six year old has missed twenty-three games this season due to injuries and illness. When fit he hasn’t shown Klopp what he’s really capable of. In his fourteen appearances this term, he hasn’t scored or created an assist. During his two and a half seasons at the club, Naby has only scored four league goals and only has four assists to his name.

Naby Keita hasn’t lived up to the £48m price tag (Via BBC Sport) and it may be best for all involved if he tries to resurrect his career elsewhere next season. Now Liverpool won’t recoup that large fee that they forked out a few years back, so maybe they could loan him out for a season and see if that helps him rediscover his form and then take it from there!

I would also suggest that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ben Woodburn and Ben Davies should worry that their futures at Anfield are also under threat.

Getting rid of those four players, plus seeing Adrian and Wijnaldum leave on frees, will see a sizeable load lifted from The Reds wage budget. That would then allow Jurgen Klopp a chance to freshen his pool of players up and get them ready to wrestle the title back from City next term.