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Monday, 1 March 2021

Player Profile: Virgil van Dijk

Were it possible to go back to 2015, when Virgil van Dijk left Glasgow Celtic for Southampton, every club in Europe would admit their mistake. The defender, seen as ‘too good for Scotland, not good enough for the top’ made a move to Southampton for around £11m. After two years in Glasgow where he looked like he’d outgrown the league on debut, he made the move to England and continued his development.

However, van Dijk was earmarked for major success as early as his youth days with FC Groningen. There, he made a huge impression and moved to Glasgow after the regular Dutch giants turned their nose up at him.

Assured on the ball and built with absolute confidence, van Dijk brings an air of calm that many modern defenders. Exceptional in the air, strong, quick and capable of handling any forward, the Dutchman has rightfully been elevated to a worldwide status. Despite having just 16 caps for a mediocre Holland side at 26 years of age, it would be fair to say that the Breda-born star was overlooked by both Dutch clubs and the Oranje for too long.

Now an established defender for Liverpool, following a protracted and chaotic move that could be worth £75m, van Dijk has become a major part of the future at Anfield. With such a massive pricetag, he’ll be expected to live up to heightened expectations – however, an inner zeal and self-belief that’s hard to break could see him easily achieve his aims.

The 6’4” defender is a regular goal scorer, and has often been one of the most impressive players in his position ever since he arrived in the UK with Celtic. Snobbery aside, some clubs might wish they’d paid the relative pittance that Southampton paid for the Dutch international! 
 
Were it possible to go back to 2015, when Virgil van Dijk left Glasgow Celtic for Southampton, every club in Europe would admit their mistake. The defender, seen as ‘too good for Scotland, not good enough for the top’ made a move to Southampton for around £11m. After two years in Glasgow where he looked like he’d outgrown the league on debut, he made the move to England and continued his development.

However, van Dijk was earmarked for major success as early as his youth days with FC Groningen. There, he made a huge impression and moved to Glasgow after the regular Dutch giants turned their nose up at him.

Assured on the ball and built with absolute confidence, van Dijk brings an air of calm that many modern defenders. Exceptional in the air, strong, quick and capable of handling any forward, the Dutchman has rightfully been elevated to a worldwide status. Despite having just 16 caps for a mediocre Holland side at 26 years of age, it would be fair to say that the Breda-born star was overlooked by both Dutch clubs and the Oranje for too long.

Now an established defender for Liverpool, following a protracted and chaotic move that could be worth £75m, van Dijk has become a major part of the future at Anfield. With such a massive pricetag, he’ll be expected to live up to heightened expectations – however, an inner zeal and self-belief that’s hard to break could see him easily achieve his aims.

The 6’4” defender is a regular goal scorer, and has often been one of the most impressive players in his position ever since he arrived in the UK with Celtic. Snobbery aside, some clubs might wish they’d paid the relative pittance that Southampton paid for the Dutch international!

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Player Profile - Christian Eriksen

For years, the name of Christian Eriksen has been on the tips of the tongue of scouts across the globe. Now 25, the Middlefart-born Dane is one of the most impressive creative players in the world. With a deftness of touch that wouldn’t look out of place in a Brazilian national side to a vision and general temperament on the ball that makes him almost impossible to frustrate, Eriksen is easily among the leading lights in the entire Premier League.

The Spurs man started out at AFC Ajax, like many of his fellow Danes. He quickly became a key man at Ajax, thriving as the key cog in a resurgent Ajax side led by Frank de Boer. With some exceptional performances domestically and in Europe, including rampaging performances on English soil, Eriksen was a player that most teams in the world would have taken a chance on.

It was a surprise, then, when he made a move to Tottenham for just £11m in 2013. The move was seen as a massive coup for the club, as he joined a mini revolution at Spurs. While at first he was somewhat slow to get started, despite an assist on debut, he quickly established himself as a player who could lift the tempo of a math seemingly at will.

With the ball under his control almost permanently, he’s become a player noted for important goals, including wonderful free kicks. He’s also a player who is known for his top quality link-up play, having become a key foil for teammates Harry Kane and Dele Alli and, at international level, alongside the likes of Lasse Schone and Kasper Dolberg – fellow Ajax players.

For many, he’s among the most underrated players in the world and, just 25, could yet establish a career to rival Danish legends such as Michael Laudrup.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Player Profile - Paul Pogba

If you have somehow managed to get to 2018 without hearing the name of Paul Pogba, we’d be quite impressed in a way. The big Frenchman is among the finest midfielders in the world game; a unique blend of grace, style, personality and raw power. Whether he’s nutmegging a fellow midfielder or lashing an unstoppable drive from distance, the fiery midfielder has earned his right to be among the global pantheon of midfield stars.

At 24, he’s maturing into the next midfield legend at Manchester United. Following an acrimonious exit from the club due to a lack of playing time under Alex Ferguson, Pogba made his way over to Italy with Juventus. In Turin, he established himself as a global star and quickly became an icon for a club perpetually in the midst of winning titles.

In four years in Turin, he clocked up over 150 appearances and won several medals, including four Serie A crowns as the Old Lady became one of the most dominant sides in the European game. While his then-world record move back to Manchester United is yet to truly catch fire, a League Cup and UEFA Europa League is a fine start to his return to Manchester.

Seemingly set with the aim of finishing off what he left behind the first time, the 2013 Golden Boy has all the talent and aptitude to make it at the top of the game. His unique blend of power, precision, persistence and personality makes him the kind of player that is so easy on the eye.

While his critics might say he is yet to score enough goals or truly blossom into a world-record worthy player, there’s much to admire about Paul Pogba. For years to come, he’ll be remembered as a genuine Premier League great.

Monday, 2 November 2020

Dwight McNeil


It’s not often that we see a club often fighting in the bottom half of the Premier League producing exciting homegrown talent. In Dwight McNeil, though, Burnley have a young player who has the potential to be among the most exciting in the league.

What makes him so special?


His composure and his ability to handle the breakthrough. Thrown into a Burnley side that looked burnt out and exasperated, McNeil began to produce regularly impressive performances. He’s shown an impressive ability to get his teammates on the ball, and has a decent range of tricks in his locker.

Crossing, shooting, and dribbling are all key skills in a wide player and McNeil has them all in abundance. He’s strong on the ball, he does not mind getting stuck in, and he has a good decision making process when he is on the ball. It’s not often that a young player is so good at creating chances for his teammates, but he seems to have a strong understanding of both his role in the team and what his teammates need from him.

For Sean Dyche, this maturity allied to a natural work ethic should be very exciting.

Any concerns or doubts?


For McNeil, there aren’t too many concerns outside of a propensity to give the ball away. His passing is quite minimalistic at times, and even then the decision making can be poor. The fact that he coves so much ground and gets involved defensively means that, when he does get the ball, he can often make the wrong choice to spring an attack.

However, for McNeil, these are small issues that will be improved upon with time and more gameday experience in the Premier League. For Burnley, this must be the most exciting youth prospect they’ve produced in some time: McNeil looks like he has the tools to reach the very top.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

What do Wolverhampton Wanderers need in the transfer market?


Having missed out on UEFA Champions League football and gone out of the UEFA Europa League in bitter circumstances, Wolverhampton Wanderers are facing a summer of introspection. The club has already seen some moves come into focus, with Matt Doherty making a move to Tottenham Hotspur. It leaves Nuno Espirito Santo and Wolves with some transfer market work to do – so where should we expect to see new faces arriving?

The first place to expect a new signing to arrive is for the right wing-back position. Doherty has left, leaving the club with a gaping hole on the right side. One player who is being heavily linked is Valencia full-back Thierry Correia. He has been linked heavily, and his Portuguese nationality means that he fits in with the general signing policy at Molineux in the last few years.

Another interesting player being linked, though, is Arsenal wing-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Having improved in the last few months, though, it might be hard to prise away an academy graduate from Arsenal. He is seen as the preferred option for Nuno, though, and unlike Correa would be expected to come right into the first-team from week one.

Outside of the wing back position, though, Wolves are thought to be looking at central midfield. The most common name being linked is Morgan Sanson, the Marseille midfielder who is regularly linked with a move to come to Wolves. However, the 26-year-old is also interesting other clubs who can offer UEFA Champions League football – including his current employers.

One name who was also linked was Abdoulaye Doucoure. The Frenchman appears to want a move to Everton, and looks unlikely to accept a move elsewhere. For now, though, Wolves look certain to strengthen on the right-hand side of defence and midfield, both centrally and in the wide areas.


Wednesday, 2 September 2020

What do Aston Villa need in the transfer market?


When Aston Villa returned to the top flight after an extended hiatus, the club spent heavily to fill out a depleted squad. Despite heavy spending in the summer and in January 2020, Villa stayed up with the skin of their teeth. Several signings, including the likes of Trezeuet, Wesley, and Marvelous Nakamba have struggled to make a proper impact.

This has left the Villans with a lot of work to do in the summer, both in getting rid of deadwood and clearing their squad to make way for quality. With their talisman Jack Grealish expected to leave, too, this removes one of their only major talents.

Villa are expected to look for a new forward, with Wesley still unfit and Mbwana Samatta struggling to make a proper impact. Young forward Keinan Davis is too raw at the moment, leaving them short of goals. With Grealish leaving, too, expect Villa to have to make reinforcements in the wide areas as well.

Goalkeeper, though, could be a priority with Tom Heaton still out for the long-term and Orjan Nyland struggling to make a proper impact. While some young talent at Villa is worth building around, they have too many veterans failing to contribute and a distinct lack of creativity in key positions.

Even in central midfield, only John McGinn can truly say that he looks Premier League standard. 

Douglas Luiz was excellent in the end of the season, too, so the duo could be worth building around if Villa want to rebuild their side.

However, much like last summer, it feels like this one could be a major rebuilding job for Villa. With limited funds, not as many offers for Grealish as hoped, and a season about to kick off, getting the job done is going to be tough. They need a lot both in quantity and quality as well as shifting a lot of deadwood out the door – is it too much for one summers work again?

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Joe Linton


It’s not often that you hear of Newcastle United splashing the cash. So, when the club managed to spend over €40m on Joelinton from TSG Hoffenhiem, fans were naturally excited. The 22-year-old has been around the German game for a couple of years now, as well as having spent time out on loan in Austria. An explosive and exciting talent, does he have the means to make the Premier League a little less challenging for the Toon?

What makes him so special?


Joelinton is a lot like another former Hoffenheim forward in Roberto Firmino in that he does not necessarily stick up top. He works hard in harrying the opposition defence, and he loves to link-up with his teammates. He gets involved in the defensive side of the game before getting his teammates involved in the play – that might explain a rather lacklustre goals return.

A good passer and a fine dribbler, too, Joelinton can take players on and make a positive impact when he’s on the ball. The fact he has no issues working back is a big boon, too, as the Premier League demands high intensity forwards.

Though Newcastle fans might expect more goals from a striker who cost so much, he offers so much in various other parts of the pitch that, if they can supply him with good teammates, he could be of great value to Newcastle.

Any concerns or doubts?


However, part of the problem with Joelinton is that he’s often in so many places, he’s not in the right one when it matters. Goals are an issue, as is fouling the opposition. He has a habit of reliving pressure by being too aggressive on defenders, which can be a problem.

Also, given that he spends so much time outside of the box, he often shoots from distance instead of getting in close to finish chances off. In a team that does not create as much as many of their competition, that barren nature that can strike Joelinton could be problematic.

If they can build the team around him without expecting him to a static striker, though, Newcastle should profit from the purchase of the Brazilian.