Ikechi Anya, Watford’s rising star is Britain’s shining example.

October 4, 2013 in Championship

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Watford winger Ikechi Anya is fast becoming a household name. This season has started where the last kicked off with Anya’s career going from strength to strength. His first goal for Scotland came in his first international call up. Domestically his form has helped Watford recover from their chaotic end to last season (where they were all most promoted both on the final day and in the play-off final), this also included an early goal of the season in which he ran half the length of the field with the ball before netting against Barnsley.

However if Anya and the Hornets can secure promotion to the Premier League Anya’s route to the top will not have been easy. In fact Anya’s young career may have stopped before it had even started, which would have not only been a shame for the player himself but an indictment on the British player development system itself.

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Clarity for Sunderland

October 1, 2013 in Premier League

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Some things need to be made clear.

Despite some of the ludicrous protestations that have been made over the last few days I am still 100% sure that if we had kept Martin O’Neill as manager last season Sunderland would have been relegated. I am also sure that very few men would have been able to galvanize the lacklustre squad we had to impressive results against both Newcastle and Everton which were enough to keep us up. Paolo Di Canio managed this feat.Paolo-Di-Canio-Unveiled-As-New-Sunderland-Manager-1797628

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Alone and an Easy Target

September 13, 2013 in Premier League

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It didn’t take long.

52 minutes for some. 90 minutes for others. 2 games or 3 games for those most committed to the cause.

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Season Preview 2013-14: West Ham United

August 16, 2013 in Premier League, Team Previews

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The securing of a second season in the Premier League came as no surprise for the fans of West Ham. Far from the normal first season struggles, the Hammers faithful saw their team finish a comfortable 10th place. That top half finish, along with the permanent signing of Andy Carroll following his loan spell from Liverpool, has ambitious Hammers dreaming of Europe this season, rather than any worries of second season syndrome, leaving memories of their single season in the Championship behind them as a mere breath on the road to success.

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Is Simon Mignolet’s move to Liverpool a good one?

July 10, 2013 in Premier League, Transfers

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Now don’t get me wrong, Simon Mignolet is a good enough goalkeeper to play for Liverpool. However following the comments of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers last week, the question must be asked: why has he gone there?

Mignolet’s main reason for leaving Sunderland this season has been his desire to replace Thibaut Courtois for Belgium. With a World Cup coming next summer, Mignolet felt that a higher profile club would serve as a better means of getting past the Chelsea goalkeeper. However, in order to become first choice, he will first have to cement his place at Anfield.

Rodgers said that “Pepe Reina has been terrific here; Brad Jones was excellent when he stood in last year and I felt we needed another one.” This is perhaps not the news that Mignolet had expected when he signed. Rumours persist that Reina could move on, but the rumours aren’t strong enough to guarantee Mignolet his first choice wish. Rodgers’ quotes won’t bolster the former Sunderland keeper’s hopes any; “I spoke to Pepe about this a few months back and told him we wanted to bring in another goalkeeper as real competition.” Rather than coming in to the Liverpool camp as a natural first choice, it seems likely that Mignolet will have the sizeable frame of the Spanish international in his way.

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This move will not help Mignolet’s international ambitions if he remains on the bench. Sunderland’s remaining goalkeeper knows this only too well. Kieran Westwood had command of the Republic of Ireland’s number 1 shirt following the retirement of Shay Given following the 2012 Euros. However due to Mignolet’s form, Westwood was benched and lost his place to Milwall’s David Forde, even though he was playing in the second division.

As stated earlier, I do believe though that ‘the Mig’ is good enough to force his way on the pitch; however, his biggest weakness will be quickly exposed when put up against Reina, particularly with the style Rodgers is used to. Through last season, the one criticism that could have been levelled at the Sunderland keeper was his distribution. Too often, balls were kicked out a little aimlessly, which didn’t help the Black Cats’ weak attack. Striker Steven Fletcher, despite being good in the air, struggled to get on to Mignolet’s deliveries. This won’t be acceptable under Rodgers style; Reina’s greatest strength is his ability to pick a pass quickly to set his team off on the counter attack. Mignolet will have to improve in this area drastically.

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It also seems a bit unusual that if Mignolet was so keen to move for his international ambition that he chose a club that will not be competing in any international competitions this season. As Liverpool have found already this transfer window, being able to compete in either the Europa or Champions League is a big draw for players. They have already missed out on Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Borussia Dortmund, while they are struggling to keep hold of top striker Luis Suarez with Champions League clubs circling. With Courtois going on loan to Atletico Madrid, he is guaranteed to play in the group stages of the Champions League and will have a chance to shine against the best teams in Europe; Mignolet will not be afforded those opportunities at Liverpool this season. If Mignolet had waited, surely a club in a European competition would have come and signed him. Arsenal, for example, are by all accounts in the market for a top quality keeper, and Mignolet would have been a perfect fit for them.
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Undoubtedly, Mignolet will become a good keeper for Liverpool, as he did at Sunderland. However, for a season in which he wants to cement his international place, it is a risk going to a club in which he will not even be guaranteed first choice for his domestic club. If he is able to gazump long-term goalkeeper Reina, then he will also face the problem of not playing at the same level of competition as his rival Courtois. All in all, the move is a big risk in the short term, and perhaps Mignolet would have been better off waiting for a season before moving to a bigger club like Liverpool.

However on the plus side, Liverpool have signed a good keeper, and with the team that Rodgers is building, the long term looks bright for the Anfield club. With Mignolet part of the team, the Kop faithful can be sure that their future is in safe hands.

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