From Rags to Riches: Jamie Vardy gets an audition for Hodgson’s England plan B

Premier League Results

Premier League 2014/2015 scores, Football England
Premier League 2014/2015 results on have all the latest Premier League 2014/2015 scores, tables, fixtures and match information.

Premier League 2014/2015 scores, Football England -

Rickie Lambert was there first. The original rags to riches story in Roy Hodgson’s England era, the striker who came from Macclesfield, Stockport County and Rochdale and completed his fairy-tale rise with a goal on his England debut against Scotland. That story has now been raised by Jamie Vardy, of Stocksbridge Park Steels as recently as 2007 and who did not play league football until 2012.

Vardy has not yet played for England but he has been called up to the squad that will take on Slovenia and Ireland in June, part of a group of 24 that contains two other new faces in QPR’s Charlie Austin and Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton. Austin and Vardy will join Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck, two ever-presents in the Hodgson era, in an attack that will be without the long-term injured Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings, Harry Kane and Saido Berahino who will be in Gareth Southgate’s under-21 squad for the European Championships in the Czech Republic.

There is however no place for Rickie Lambert who came on as a substitute in November’s victory against Scotland in Glasgow but has since fallen out of favour as he finds first-team opportunities scarce at Liverpool. Initially picked as the alternative striking option, the mixture of physical strength and energy which bullies opposition defenders and provides them with a handful, the selection of Vardy and Austin is likely to be Hodgson’s way of finding a younger, fitter and fresher Rickie Lambert who comes with form and a run of games included.

The form is definitely with Austin, another former non-leaguer who once part-timed as a bricklayer while playing for Poole Town, who has scored 17 times in the Premier League this season for the relegated QPR, though the momentum is with Vardy, the embodiment of Leicester City’s fierce determination and drive to beat the odds and avoid a similar fate. The only match they have lost in their last eight was to champions Chelsea and after Jose Mourinho saw his team won 1-3 at the King Power stadium, he asked the Leicester striker “do you ever stop running?”

Through Vardy, Leonardo Ulloa and David Nugent Nigel Pearson has been able to beat the drop with the same ‘in your face’ formula that saw his side gain promotion from the Championship last season. Vardy’s fondness of hard work is well documented in his rise from the Northern Premier League with Halifax, via Fleetwood Town, to the Premier League with Leicester, but he replicates that attitude on the pitch where his tireless work-rate perhaps compensates for a lack of natural talent.

His coach at Leicester, former England striker Kevin Phillips, is clear that when defending against Vardy there is simply no let-up. “He’s got something a lot of other people haven’t got – he’s got raw pace. He upsets defenders, causes mayhem and that creates space and opportunities for other people”, said Phillips.

Austin is also in a similar mould and although he is far more prolific when compared to Vardy’s four league goals this term, the latter’s vivacious contribution to the team will have appealed to the raging pragmatist within England’s manager.

It is easy to imagine Hodgson getting excited about the 8 assists and 33 chances that Vardy, often playing wide in a three-pronged attack, has created at Leicester this season while he would surely have used his winner against West Bromwich Albion, whom Hodgson used to manage, as a reference point.

It was Vardy in microcosm, still possessing enough zest in the 90th minute to rob Gareth McAuley on the half-way line, he sped towards goal, swerving Joleon Lescott on route, before unleashing a powerful shot beyond goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.

The 28 year old stands at 5ft 10 and is not as focal as Lambert or Austin, but what he lacks in height or stature he makes up for in heart and passion. The 60 headers he has competed for in this campaign, part of a total of 141 attempted duels, and the 40 fouls he has committed (only eight Premier league strikers have been penalised more) suggests any international defender coming up against Vardy will be given a ride that will be far from smooth.

His stand-out performance of this season remains the role he played in terrorising Manchester United’s back-line in the comeback 5-3 win in September, which saw Vardy set up the first goal, win two penalties, score the fourth and even find time to draw the foul that earned Tyler Blackett a red card. Typical once again of the striker who refuses to ever go away.

According to Andy Mangan, who partnered Vardy in attack at Fleetwood, he won’t back down at international level either. “He doesn’t care” said the now-Shrewsbury Town forward, “he just goes out and plays his football. He fears nothing.”

After just one season at Leicester Vardy toyed with the idea of leaving as he struggled to adapt to the new demands on his fitness and professionalism, though he was convinced to stay on by his manager and the striker’s resilience and fight has shone through.

Despite going 21 top-flight games without a goal earlier this season, England is the latest reward in a most remarkable career that continues to reap wonder, and while it may only be an audition for now, Vardy is unlikely to leave quietly.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts

Kenedy: Fluminense starlet and Chelsea transfer target

The phrase ‘Brazilian wonderkid’ is one of football’s most overused, but could the latest youngster to be tagged with it, Kenedy, be the real deal?

The Fluminense attacker first came to prominence in 2013, garnering glowing media reports as he starred for the Tricolor Under-18 side that won the Al Kass International Cup in Qatar.

Fast-forward two years and the 19-year-old, now a regular starter for Flu’s senior team, is being heavily linked with a big money move to either Manchester United or Chelsea.

Kenedy has admitted he would love the chance to test himself abroad, telling press: “Of course, I am happy to play for Fluminense but it is my ambition to one day play in Europe. I like Chelsea because of players like Oscar and Ramires. I like the whole team.”


‘The new Neymar’

In reporting the links, the English media has been quick to dub Kenedy ‘the new Neymar’, while Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo compared him to Hulk. In truth his style is somewhere between the two, with a splash of Arjen Robben thrown into the mix.

The youngster’s stocky build, strength and the sight of defenders bouncing off him are reminiscent of Hulk, while he also possesses Neymar’s silky skills, blistering pace and the ability to play on either wing or up front. Perhaps his best position, though, is on the right-flank where, like Robben, he often looks to cut in and unleash left-footed thunderbolts on goal.

Fluminense coaches have also praised Kenedy for his tactical awareness and excellent technique, however he has been criticised in some quarters for an overreliance on his left-foot, and he would need to work on the defensive side of his game in order to succeed in English football.



One area in which he certainly does not lack is confidence. Off the pitch, friends describe him as extroverted – one look at his Instagram confirms this – and Kenedy is just as uninhibited on the field. This was in clear evidence at the South American Under-20 Championships earlier this year, during which he attempted an audacious lob of the Uruguayan goalkeeper from inside his own half and also sent Twitter wild with a fantastic elastico nutmeg against Argentina.

Kenedy had already starred for Brazil at the Under-17 continental championships in 2013, where he scored six goals, and, if he continues at his current rate of development, it is surely only a matter of time before he receives a call up to Dunga’s senior squad.


Written by Calum Leahy

Follow the fantastic website that he’s a part of on everything Brazilian football on Twitter @Sambafoot_En

Check out Sambafoot’s website here

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts

Matias Kranevitter: The next Mascherano?

Name: Matias Kranevitter
Club: River Plate
Date of Birth: 21 May 2022
Position: Defensive midfield

Who is he?

The latest product off River Plate’s talent conveyor, Matias Kranevitter has steadily seen his stock rise over the past 18 months under Marcelo Gallardo and his assured performances in central midfield belie his young age. It is little wonder then that some of Europe’s biggest clubs are keeping a firm eye on the 21-year-old.

Kranevitter heralds from Tucuman in the north of Argentina and it was here, playing in a local tournament at the age of 14 that River Plate scouts spotted him. Moving more than 1000 kilometres to Buenos Aires cannot have been easy for the teenager but Kranevitter gradually progressed through River’s youth ranks.

The pinnacle of this was lifting the under-20 Copa Libertadores in 2012 where he illustrated his maturity in a defensive midfield role often more suited to battle-hardened veterans.

There was a buzz within the club over Kranevitter, following this and so he didn’t have to wait long for his first-team debut at the end of 2012 Torneo Inicial. The following year under Ramon Diaz, chances were hard to comeby with the experienced Leonardo Ponzio and Cristian Ledesma in front of him.

However, Marcelo Gallardo’s arrival saw Kranevitter seize his chance and become a key fixture in the starting eleven. At the start of the Torneo Transicion, River and Kranevitter were irresistible but a metatarsal injury hampered the youngster’s campaign and seriously dented River’s hopes of balancing a title challenge with the Copa Sudamericana.

Since returning from injury, Kranevitter has slotted straight back into River’s midfield and has continued to catch the eye in recent high-profile River matches against Boca Juniors and in the Copa Libertadores. Several European scouts were said to be present and so Kranevitter’s departure would appear to be only a matter of time.


What type of player?

If an example is needed for a classic Argentine number 5 then Kranevitter is it. Buzzing around in front of the back four, the 21-year-old looks to win the ball back quickly and start River attacks.

Harrying the opposition into mistakes, Kranevitter is fast and strong into the tackle but rarely rash leading to a high percentage of turnovers but relatively few fouls. However, this defensive duty is just half the job of a traditional number five and so they must be prepared to carry the ball forward and shift the ball from defence into attack.

Kranevitter does just this and although his passing isn’t extraordinary, it is effective. The ball is swiftly moved forward or given to those looking to break forward and attack and efficient use of the ball in this position is the order.

Is he the quickest player? No. Does he offer a goal threat? No. But that really misses the point of what Kranevitter is tasked with and what he does do incredibly well.

At just 21, he shows the maturity to play the role – his positioning, tackling and passing are excellent and once he develops more physically and mentally it would be no surprise to most who watch Argentine football if Kranevitter was one of world football’s leading defensive midfielders.


What next?

The immediate future with River is obviously to try and lift the Copa Libertadores but whether Los Millonarios are successful in this or not, Kranevitter is Europe bound. The past year has seen interest from Manchester City, Valencia, Napoli and AC Milan to name just a few but perhaps the side most strongly linked is Atletico Madrid.

Atleti manager, Diego Simeone managed River, albeit when Kranevitter would have been in the youth ranks but will be more aware than most of his talents given that he plays alongside Simeone’s son, Giovani.

Already in possession of an Italian passport, meaning there will be no problems with visas and playing for a River side in financial difficulties, Kranevitter poses a very attractive proposition to wealthy European sides.


Written by Peter Coates

Follow Peter on Twitter @golazoargentino

You can check out more of his excellent work on Argentinian football through his website, Golazo Argentino

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts

English Premier League: 2014/15 Team of the Season

And so, with another Premier League season drawing to a close, it’s time to once again indulge in a debate on who has performed well enough to get into the hypothetical best XI. The PFA’s official team was announced back in April, with Chelsea dominating the list with 6 players, but this one may be slightly different…….


Goalkeeper- David De Gea (Manchester United)

That the sound of his name belted down from the upper echelons of Old Trafford after United’s final home game of the season is testament enough to the regard the ‘keeper who has now become one of their main players.

No longer the slender boy that was bullied by opponents in the air when he first come to England but now confident, dominant and wonderfully agile, he has been a massive component to United’s return to the Champions League.

Saves against Liverpool, Everton and Crystal Palace stand-out in a sensational list of stops by the Spaniard who will leave a huge void behind should he join Real Madrid this summer. Louis Van Gaal may find it as hard to replace him as Sir Alex Ferguson did Peter Schmeichel.


Right-Back- Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea)

Apart from Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne, nobody comes close to keeping the Serbian out of this side. He has started all of Chelsea’s league games as they have sauntered to the title and, like the rest of Jose Mourinho’s back-line, he has been the embodiment of dogged defensive solidity. Only Joel Ward of Crystal Palace has won more duels than Ivanovic’s 223.

Known for his fearsome aggression and determination at the back, he has also proved an able asset going forward, creating 34 chances and grabbing five assists, as many as Mesut Ozil at Arsenal and Nacer Chadli at Tottenham, a respectable haul for a full-back who doesn’t take set-pieces.


Centre-Back- Jose Fonte (Southampton)

When Liverpool convinced Dejan Lovren to follow Adam Lallana up to Anfield from St Mary’s last summer it turns out the wrong defender was taken to Merseyside. As Southampton underwent an exodus, Fonte signed a new two-year deal, took the mantle left behind by Lovren and inherited Lallana’s captain armband, growing into one of the league’s most assured centre-backs.

Alongside a partner who is new to the league in Toby Alderweireld, the 31 year old Fonte has been a consistent part of a back four that has shipped just 31 goals, a record that is joint-best in the league with Chelsea.

Of the top seven clubs only Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel has contributed more defensive actions than Fonte’s 337 and his number of interceptions, 113, is the highest in the division. The Portuguese is now rumoured to rock up this summer at, yep you’ve guessed it…. Liverpool.


Centre-Back- John Terry (Chelsea)

Set to become only the second ever outfield Premier League winner to play every minute of every game, the superlatives have long since ran out for the standards Terry sets on the field. He has been the steel base on which Chelsea’s fourth title win has been built, now getting by more on intelligence and reading of the game than the full-bloodied committal that characterised his earlier career.

A model of resilience, he has made a mockery of Rafael Benitez’s claims he can now longer play two games in a week and at 34 he is by far the best defender in the league.


Left-Back- Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Signed originally to provide cover at right-back, the Spaniard has proved an invaluable asset to Mourinho at left-back, filling the boots of Ashley Cole while keeping the £16 million Filipe Luis out of the side. Starting 28 times he has been another personification of grit and resolve that Mourinho instils in his team.

He was named as the league’s best defender by Sky pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher while he has not yet made a single error that has led to an opposition chance. He has been typically understated, missing out on the PFA Team of the Year to Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand but Mourinho is a massive fan of his Spanish full-back. It is easy to see why.


Defensive Midfield- Nemanja Matic (Chelsea)

Who else? Matic has been the cornerstone of Chelsea’s title win and seemingly impregnable defensive effort, the outstanding holding midfielder in the league. Nobody has made more clearances or tackles in the entire league than the colossal Serbian who has missed just two of Chelsea’s games this season.

As well as being defensively imperious, the 26 year old who Mourinho braved-face to buy back from Benfica last January is also a gifted distributor of the ball, initiating the Blues’ attacks from deep and only Cesc Fabregas has completed more passes than Matic this term.

He is the very definition of undroppable to Mourinho.


Centre Midfield- Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)

Alexis Sanchez was the Gunners sole representative in the PFA version of the team of the year but Cazorla has been more integral to their excellent form in the second half of the season. Sanchez has more goals to his name but the cultured Spaniard has more assists and is Arsenal’s most consistent mover of the ball.

His form beside Francis Coquelin in the engine room of Arsene Wenger’s midfield since Christmas has been impressive and he has been Arsenal’s Mr versatile, filling in on the left and in a more advanced midfield role.

Full of work, energy and creative guile, he assures Arsenal of a shift wherever he plays.


Right Midfield- Phillipe Coutinho (Liverpool)

The Brazilian’s form has been a rare bright spot for Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool this season, scoring five goals and assisting five more while also signing a new long-term contract. The 22 year old has shown signs he can morph into a match-winner for Liverpool and his quick-feet and boundless energy has been too difficult for teams to deal with at times this season.

In the Liverpool squad nobody has completed more dribbles or taken more shots, while only Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling have created more chances. In the absence of Luis Suarez, Coutinho has become Liverpool’s most serious attacking threat, though he still has to become more clinical.

Faced with another crucial summer of recruitment, Rodgers can do worse than build his team around his gifted playmaker.


Left Midfield- Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Becoming Chelsea’s fifth player on this team the Belgian has been the talismanic presence that has elevated Mourinho’s team above the contenders. 14 goals have been scored, including vital winners in games with Manchester United and West Ham, and he has the league-best total for chances created and dribbles completed.

His nimble-footed drives towards the opposition are a nightmare for defenders who have fouled him 110 times, another league-high. The 24 year old was the outstanding candidate for PFA Player of the Year.


Centre Forward- Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

The PFA’s Young Player of the Year has been one of the season’s best stories. Restricted by manager Mauricio Pochettino to a bit-part cup game role before November, Kane burst onto the Premier League scene with a winner at Aston Villa and has not looked back, hitting 19 more to sit on a total of 20 with one game to go, while in all competitions he has hit 31.

His uncontainable dynamism in-front of goal swept Chelsea and Arsenal away at White Hart Lane while he also did for West Brom, QPR and Leicester with displays of deadly finishing. Strong, fearless and clever on the move in the mould of Alan Shearer, the 21 year old was rewarded for his unexpected rise with an England call-up in March, where he scored on his debut.

Now held up as the example for all young talent to aspire to, and linked with a move to Manchester United, his future promises to be very bright indeed.


Centre Forward- Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Now above Harry Kane in the Premier League scoring charts with 25 and on a personal best for a campaign with 31 despite missing a large portion of the season with injury, it has been a superb return from the Argentine who has been the stand-out player in City’s feeble defence of their title.

Blessed with a freakishly low centre of gravity and a wonderful balance, Aguero can often appear impossible for defenders to stop and he can run riot with ruthless accuracy in-front of goal when he is given the service.

Despite the huge overhaul planned for City’s squad this summer, keep Aguero, get him regularly fit and they will be some way to returning a genuine challenge to wrestle the title back next season.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts

Football Tip: How to Avoid Being a Sports Widow

When you dread seeing the leaves fall from the trees because it signals the start of football season, or cringe when the first crocus pops its head out of the soils because it means baseball is just around the corner, you may be a sports widow.

Sports widows are women who feel that their life and their needs take a backseat to their husband’s interest in sporting events. Rather than mourning the loss of your husband’s company during the sports season, why not join him in his interest and share some special together time?


If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

While you’ve probably found ways to entertain yourself while your husband watched sports in the past, you may not have considered joining him in his enthusiasm.  Even if you find sports mind-numbingly boring, there are ways to focus on other aspects of the festivities and draw your own enjoyment from the event.

This year, inform your husband that rather than complaining about his obsession with sports, you’d like to join him in his love of the game. Just stand back when you make your announcement in case he passes out from shock.


Dress the Part

Before the start of the season, go shopping. Buy yourself some new duds to wear while you watch the game. Team-oriented apparel is mandatory to put you in the proper frame of mind.  If you’ve never worn a t-shirt with your team’s name emblazoned on it, you may be surprised how doing so can raise your enthusiasm level.

Check out the official team sites for apparel, or visit your local big box store. Grab a baseball cap and situate it atop a jaunty ponytail, or buy an oversized football jersey and wear it with a sexy pair of leggings or tights.


Block Out Your Schedule

In order to be able to enjoy game day, you may need to plan ahead. Clear your schedule, and ensure that there’s nothing else tugging at your attention while you settle in for quality time with your family. It’s hard to immerse yourself in the moment when the sink is full of dishes, you have laundry to do or you can’t quit thinking about how you need to balance your checkbook.

Get your work done ahead of time and free yourself to really watch the game with your attention on it.


Learn the Rules of the Game

While you don’t have to be an aficionado, you may want to gain a rudimentary understanding of the rules of the game. Visit a website, or pick up a book that breaks the game down into simple, understandable terms.

Better yet, ask your husband to explain the finer points of the action to you as the game goes along when he doesn’t mind.


Enjoy the Extras

Even if you find that you really can’t immerse yourself in the sports action, you can still enjoy a special day with your family and friends. Focus your attention on creating special dishes for the game. Make a cheese ball, spicy bean dip, a football-shaped meatloaf or any other recipe you choose for everyone to enjoy while the game is on. Women’s magazines and recipe websites abound with game-time treats.

Decorate the room where you’ll watch the game. Blow up balloons, and hang streamers in the team colors to surprise your family. They’ll be thrilled at your show of team spirit.

Even when sports aren’t your favorite activity, it’s still possible to turn any athletic event into valued family time, rather than isolating yourself from the action. Once you put forth the effort, you may be surprised at the results and actually find yourself looking forward to game day.


Written by Amie Taylor

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts

Petr Cech: Chelsea’s reluctant loss of their veteran keeper could be Arsenal’s doubtful gain

Arsene Wenger chose to get himself in a war of words with Garry Monk after he saw his Arsenal side lose to Swansea on Monday, but the Frenchman would have been better placed to focus on how his team conceded the game’s only goal instead of how the Welsh side achieved their win. It would surely not have been lost on Wenger that goalkeeper David Ospina was at fault for Bafetembi Gomis’ header creeping over the line as the Sky punditry team singled out for criticism the Colombian who remains no closer to solving Arsenal’s goalkeeping problem.

The future of Wojciech Szczesny, who hasn’t started a league game since New Year’s Day, is uncertain and although Ospina has been a significant factor behind Arsenal’s resurgence in the second half of the season, last summer’s £3 million acquisition from Nice is short of the reliable, dominant and experienced goalkeeper Arsenal require if they are to once again genuinely compete for the Premier League title.

Bayer Leverkusen’s £13 million Bernd Leno has been linked with a move to north London but reports involving Chelsea’s Petr Cech appear to be the more prevalent. On Friday Wenger avoided questions about a possible move for Cech, but it would surely make sense to attempt to lure away the 32 year old who finds himself playing second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois and whose agent has said is free to talk to other clubs.

With one year left on his current contract at Stamford Bridge, Cech would be available for a reduced price and would bring with him the expertise that won him four league titles as well as a Europa League and Champions League with Chelsea. He is Chelsea’s record clean sheet holder with 220 over 11 years with the club in which he has appeared in the PFA team of the year twice.

Taken from Rennes for £7 million in 2004, Cech is arguably one of the best signings of the Roman Abramovich era and he was a key feature of the Blues’ first two league wins under Mourinho, setting a new Premier League record of 1,025 minutes without being breached in 2005, only to see it bettered by Manchester United’s Edwin Van Der Sar four years later.

However age has caught up with the Czech stopper and having been displaced by the excellent Courtois, nine years his junior, together with his contract ticking down, it seems as if his days at Stamford Bridge are numbered. Cech, a fine servant throughout his career at both club and country level, such professionalism and loyalty continuously epitomised by the distinguishable helmet he wears to tell the story of the skull fracture he took four months to recover from in 2006, is undoubtedly able, and perhaps deserves, to again play first-team football for a club competing for major honours.

Inter Milan and Roma have been among the clubs rumoured to be eyeing the goalkeeper as his agent Viktor Kolar touts interest but Chelsea will take issue with Kolar’s motives given how much he is still revered by Jose Mourinho.

“I don’t know that it’s absolutely true what the agent is saying. Maybe it is, but the player has a contract with Chelsea and Chelsea will have a very important say in the decision,” said the Portuguese coach who has entrusted Cech to 15 appearances this season, including every game in the run to their League Cup triumph.

“I want my best players. Petr is one of my best players” he said on Friday, though Mourinho is wise enough to be aware that he has two of Europe’s top 10 goalkeepers on his books and it is unviable to deny one of them first-team opportunities. It is testament to Mourinho’s much lauded man-management skills that he has kept both of them happy for this long.

Cech’s invaluable nous will be an undisputedly huge boost to an Arsenal backline that has seen Per Metersacker and Laurent Koscielny forge a solid partnership but it can be questioned whether Chelsea would relinquish such a prized possession to a league rival. Czech media outlet Radio Praha have said Arsenal are willing to pay up to £10 million for the goalkeeper but it is easy to picture Mourinho’s determination to direct Cech’s future, if it is not at Stamford Bridge, anywhere but across the capital.

Mourinho has said he expects Cech to still be with his club next season but such optimism is clearly wearing thin. A mooted £2 million move for Rob Green, one of the few bright spots in QPR’s abysmal campaign, suggests he is looking for cover to Courtois whilst reluctantly bracing himself for Cech’s exit.

Where he goes to next is unclear, but Arsenal could definitely do with him.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts

Robin van Persie: The Flying Dutchman on the verge of an exit should he fail to convince Van Gaal

Since his acrimonious £23 million move from Arsenal, Robin Van Persie has scored 3 times for Manchester United in the five games he has played against his former club.

This Sunday afternoon, in what will be a significant game for both clubs in the bid to avoid an August play-off for the Champions League, he will be especially motivated to produce his best form against the club he served for 8 seasons not only for pride in face of the vitriol he will inevitably draw from visiting supporters still bitter over his exit, but also because he finds himself standing nervously on the precipice at Old Trafford.

A campaign in which he has netted just 10 goals from 28 appearances has culminated with reports that his manager Louis Van Gaal may be willing to sell the striker in the summer. Only 2 of those goals have come in 2015 and his strike rate has elevated to 208.5 minutes per goal from 120.1 when he fired to United to the league title in 2012/13 and the 132 he was running at during his season under David Moyes. The amount of chances he has created for others has also declined rapidly, from the 72 opportunities he carved out during his title-winning campaign, he has made just 27 this term.

The comparisons are of course skewed by the 38 games he managed 2 seasons ago when he won that title, hitting 26 goals in the process, but the Van Persie of now is a shadow of the one unleashed in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season. Injuries have begun to take hold, restricting him to only 18 starts under Moyes’s doomed reign and while Van Gaal has been able to utilise him more, the Dutchman has failed to get him firing regularly again.

The manager has tried desperately, often moving his captain Wayne Rooney to a deeper midfield role to fit Van Persie in as the lone striker, but to no avail. Vital contributions came in games with Southampton and Liverpool in December but after a poor run of form in which included dropped points at Tottenham Hotspur, Stoke and West Ham, Van Gaal may have viewed the injury his striker picked up against Swansea as a blessing in disguise as he witnessed Van Persie leave the Liberty Stadium on crutches in February.

United strung together 6 straight wins following that defeat in Wales and Rooney, restored to a main striker, played an integral role to the upturn in form, scoring twice. Anaemic attacking displays resulted in Chelsea and Everton breaking that run and Van Persie returned to the line-up for the game with West Bromwich Albion, only to produce a rusty display which saw him miss a penalty as well as produce a series of fine saves from goalkeeper Boaz Myhill. The game followed a theme similar to the loss at Swansea; of United dominating but being let down by strikers failing to take their chances.

“We are creating chances all the time, but we have to improve our finishing” was Van Gaal’s verdict after the loss to West Brom and it seems like Van Persie, as well as Radamel Falcao who is unlikely to have his loan spell from Monaco converted to a permanent one, could be a fall-guy as the manager clears room for a summer revamp.

Exciting 21 year old winger Memphis Depay has already been snapped up for around £25 million from PSV Eindhoven and Van Persie will be hoping he will get the chance to play alongside his international team-mate by earning a one year extension to his current deal that expires in 2016.

It is customary practice at Old Trafford to offer players in their 30s deals of only one year and Van Persie, who is 32 in August, wants to stay, though he is not clear where exactly his future lies. “It is not up to me,” said the striker back in January. “For the moment I am staying here for 18 months. That is it really. I can’t look into the future. I don’t know what is going to happen after that. We shall have to wait and see.”

The Dutchman missed the 1-2 away win at Crystal Palace at the weekend and now only has 2 more games, the meeting with Arsenal as well as a trip to Hull City on the season’s final day, to prove his case to Van Gaal.

Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and Edinson Cavani of PSG have all been linked to add some bite to United’s attack as Van Gaal prepares to splash his gargantuan cash reserves as the club return to the Champions League while aiming to once again challenge for the Premier League title. Van Gaal may decide there is to be no room for Van Persie and his £220,000-plus wages and relinquish his fellow countryman.

Few would have foreseen Van Persie marginalised by Van Gaal barely 10 months since the pair high-fived each other at the side of the pitch in Salvador as the striker led his manager’s carefully-crafted plan to demolish Spain at the World Cup. The vast majority of onlookers viewed that as the prelude of what was to come in Manchester, the restoration of Van Persie to the beast that drove United to their most recent league title under the manager he once said he would “walk on fire” for.

Driven only by results, Van Persie is unlikely to find the same overriding loyalty forthcoming from Van Gaal.  That is if he doesn’t haunt his former club once again.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts

Manuel Pellegrini: Guardiola linked to his Man City post, but the Engineer deserves better

The conclusion to Manchester City’s mauling of Queen’s Park Rangers on Sunday was a parting of two clubs heading into periods of uncertainty, albeit entering in totally different directions. QPR will head to the Championship faced with possible financial meltdown and an impending £58 million Financial Fair Play fine, but City will head to the Champions League bankrolled by the seemingly limitless fortune of their Emirate owners.

Another raft of Sheikh Mansour’s money will be used to fund a squad overhaul designed to restore City to potential title challengers as well as offering them a chance to move past their ceiling of the Champions League last-16.

They will hope fresh impetus will be injected by the likes of Paul Pogba, Ross Barkley and Kevin De Bruyne to a squad that has Yaya Toure, Stevan Jovetic, Samir Nasri, Alexander Kolarov and Eden Dzeko on hand to be offloaded if space needs to be created. It is a reaction to a limp defence of their Premier League title which they have ceded to Chelsea by a gap of 11 points and a run in Europe which was again ended by the brilliance of Barcelona. Drastic change could also extend to the dugout with the manager possibly paying with his job.

Manuel Pellegrini delivered the title in his first season in England but hasn’t managed to avoid a repeat of the same lethargy and weariness that did for Roberto Mancini a season after he delivered the club’s first title for 42 years.

With City’s new-look boardroom containing Ferran Soriano and Txixi Begiristain, who were both part of Barcelona’s board during the era of Joan Laporta, the latter the man who convinced the Catalan giants and Pep Guardiola were right for each other in the summer of 2008, it has fuelled reports linking the now-Bayern Munich coach with a move to the Etihad to succeed the Chilean.

Guardiola has won two Bundesliga titles, a German cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA World Club Cup during his time in Bavaria but the lack of genuine competition in a league that Munich had virtually sewn up by winter has developed cracks in the Spaniard’s reign.

A complacent conclusion to his second season in charge has seen his team lose to Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal, lose successive games in the league and of course suffer a 3-0 first-leg Champions League semi-final beating at the hands of Guardiola’s former club. He still summoned an irresistible performance to demolish Porto 6-1 in the quarter-final second leg, but not before some of Bayern’s impregnability had been ebbed away with a 3-1 defeat in Portugal. It has all echoed the damaging 0-5 aggregate loss to Real Madrid in last year’s semi-final.

Bayern’s former captain Lothar Matthaus and honorary president Franz Beckenbauer have both been recent critics of the Catalan coach who was this weekend reported, by Qatari-owned global sports channel beIN Sports, to have signed an agreement with Manchester City to take charge of the club in the summer. It has all since been sternly denied by the coach who says he is determined to honour the last year of his contract in Germany but from City there has been little response or acknowledgement.

That has in turn allowed a vacuum to fester in which rumour and gossip will thrive. Pellegrini, who had to field questions about the possibility of being replaced by Guardiola just after seeing his team win 6-0, deserves better.

The 61 year old coach will have his performance reviewed by Chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak in the summer and question marks will be rightly asked about the Chilean’s failure to successfully revamp his squad that now has an average age of 28.9 despite the £190 million spent since his arrival. Eliaquim Mangala, Fernando and Jovetic have all been expensive failures, Alvaro Negredo served just 1 year for £20 million and although the jury is still out on the £25 million Wilfried Bony, he is not the standard of signing required to compete once again with Chelsea.

However City’s poor showing this term has been mostly down to the patchy form of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri, all of whom have struggled to repeat their excellent displays of last season for different reasons. A lack of enthusiasm to help out with the defensive effort has undermined City’s chances and the many instances of Nasri, Toure and even David Silva cruising through important defeats to Liverpool and Manchester United have been sad epitomes of the campaign. Kompany’s previously rock-solid position as leader of the team was put into doubt when he was dropped following a dressing room altercation with Fernandinho.

Numerous factors, including consistent injuries to top-scorer Sergio Aguero and the ridiculous saga of Yaya Toure’s birthday that lit the fuse to a sorry, disinterested season from the Ivorian, have all contributed to a limp title defence but it should not constitute the sacking of a manager who has proved he can be successful with Manchester City in England.

The tally of seven league defeats has been disappointing but their 77 goals conceded is a league high while their total of 36 goals conceded has been bettered only by Southampton, Arsenal and Chelsea. The recent revival, following the dejection of successive defeats to Crystal Palace and Manchester United, of four straight wins to put them back in the frame for automatic Champions League qualification is something Pellegrini should receive credit for.

Some may point to the Chilean’s tactical inflexibility that was so brutally exposed on the European stage but no system works in the modern game without the effort of its personnel and City have so often found that absent, just like they did in the season of Mancini’s title-defence.

A squad revamp, bringing with it an influx of younger players hungry for success will go some way to solving that and it should be a truer test of Pellegrini’s qualities if he is allowed to take control of a new-look squad free of those comfortable on lucrative contracts with medals safe on their walls.

Fail once again and City will be right to turn to Guardiola, but Pellegrini deserves the chance to show that the brighter, younger, more decorated manager from Catalonia isn’t the right route to go down just yet.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts

Football Quizzes: Can you name the Premier League captains?

Created by Sporcle

Check out their website for more fascinating quizzes

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts

Nabil Fekir: Lyon’s in-demand prodigy attracts Arsenal’s overtures, but do they really need him?

The promise in Lyon’s Nabil Fekir is so much that many have compared the 21 year old to Karim Benzema, the Les Gones academy graduate who raised the club £32 million for his sale to Real Madrid in 2009. However the Frenchman himself has another comparison in mind, likening the winger to Hatem Ben Arfa, whom Benzema says “I saw do unbelievable things with the ball”.

Ben Arfa is also a fellow product of Lyon’s fertile youth system but who now acts as the warning for how things can go wrong as much as Benzema, a winner of so many trophies in Madrid, is the poster-boy for what can go right. Now 28, after tumultuous spells at Marseille and Newcastle, Ben Arfa has been a free agent since having his contract at Nice terminated in February. Benzema feels that Ben Arfa left Lyon too young, possibly in a veiled attempt to influence any decision that Fekir is about to make.

Fekir has scored 12 goals and made 9 assists in a season where Lyon have emerged unexpectedly to run the financial powerhouse PSG right to the wire in Ligue 1 and although Les Gones are set to miss out on a first title for seven seasons, their return to prominence under Hubert Fournier has arguably been story of the season in France. Alexander Lacazette, Samuel Umtiti, Jordan Ferri, Corentin Tolisso and Anthony Lopes have all starred as Lyon have gone with the kids and, along with the free-scoring Lacazette, Fekir has grabbed the headlines.

Playing as a left-footed central attacking midfielder, nobody has completed more dribbles or crafted more goals in the Lyon squad than the 21 year old Fekir who is second only to his strike-partner Lacazette in terms of attempted shots and chances created. Standing at just 5 ft 8 inches tall, he has the ability to keep the ball in tight areas and weave through defences with both feet.

That style draws similarities to Eden Hazard and Mario Gotze but Lyon’s president Jean-Michel Aulas, no stranger to fits of enthusiasm when it comes to his own players, likes to go a step further. “He is my Messi,” he says. “In a match he is capable, like Lionel Messi, of shaking things up.”

After breaking through into Lyon’s senior team last year but being restricted to 11 appearances, this season has seen him play 32 times in the league. For a debut campaign it has marked an impressive rise and his form certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed. Didier Deschamps was forced to go to extensive effort to personally convince Fekir to choose France over Algeria and has recently rewarded him with 2 caps, but while the latest in the long line of Lyon-created players to represent their country may be yet another source of pride for the club’s academy, concern will grow about the attentions coming from elsewhere.

Aulas has had to trim the club’s wage bill by 40% over the past three years and the age of restrained spending is due to continue for the near future as the club continues to pay for the construction of the new stadium they are due to move into in December. Lyon hope to enter their new 58,000-seater home with their best players in tow and with the prospect of Champions League football being used as a bargaining tool, Aulas has been allowed to take a stoic stance on wide-spread interest in top-scorer Lacazette.

Manchester United and Liverpool have been linked to Lacazette while Fekir has seen interest come from Arsenal but the pair, who have 39 goals between them this season, will both remain at Lyon according to the insistent Aulas. Yet the president will be aware, just like he experienced with Benzema, every player has a price and as midfielder Maxime Gonalons, another of the club’s graduates, says, both players can make their own minds up regarding their future.

Fekir’s father has said that Arsenal is the best possible destination for his son rather than moving to sit on the bench at Manchester City and while fees in the region of £15-20 million have been said to be the extent of the Gunner’s willingness to take the playmaker to north London, he is right to seek assurances on the chances of first team football at the Emirates.

He would be moving into a squad that currently houses Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in advanced midfield spots, as well as Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott as they continue their rehabilitation from injury. Fekir may add versatility and a penetrative aspect to the attacking midfield, one who can chip in with goals consistently enough to complement Olivier Giroud, but he faces a stern contest with Cazorla, Ozil or the fit-again Ramsey for position in support of the main striker.

Manager Arsene Wenger may be better using the funds available to reinforce the spine of his squad as he has once again discovered that the difference between Premier League success and also-rans has been the ability to game-manage and shut-out the opposition when needed, but that will be of little concern to Lyon who will be intent on keeping their star attractions.

Fekir is likely to be told of the dangers of ending up like Ben Arfa and he will be constantly reminded of his potential to be another Benzema, or Messi, or even Zidane like he has also been likened to.

Fekir meanwhile, will be focussed on being himself, regardless of wherever he ends up next.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts