Ross Barkley

Premier League Preview: Manchester City

There are only 4 weeks to wait ‘til the start of the Premier League. Over the next few weeks @0riginalfooty will preview the new season, take a look at each team and offer our predictions as to where each side will finish. Here we take a look at Manchester City.

City enjoyed a successful first season under new boss Manuel Pellegrini and won both the Premier League title and the League Cup. Pellegrini had the strongest squad at his disposal so victory in the league was no real surprise, despite Liverpool pushing them close. The bigger challenge will be retaining the title with Chelsea, city rivals Manchester United and Arsenal all strengthening well.

The Manager
Manuel Pellegrini spent most of his early managerial career working in South America where he won plenty of silverware. He moved to Europe to manage Spanish sides Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga and although he was deemed to be a success he had yet to win a trophy in Europe. There were fears that he would struggle to bring titles required to keep city’s mega-rich owners happy. However, winning two trophies in his first season quickly set those fears aside. Not only did he bring home silverware but he brought together a squad largely divided under former manager Roberto Mancini and developed a far more attractive style of play than his predecessor.

Pellegrini guided City to Premier League glory in his first season as boss

Pellegrini guided City to Premier League glory in his first season as boss

Biggest Signing
City have been fairly quiet in the transfer window thus far, possibly due to their massive financial fair play fine from UEFA, and have signed 3 players to date. Bacary Sagna has joined on a free transfer from Arsenal and will offer competition to Pablo Zabaleta. Goalkeeper Willy Caballero has also been drafted in from Malaga in a deal believed to be worth around £4 million and he will offer fierce competition to Joe Hart having been Pellegrini’s number 1 in his time at Malaga. City’s biggest signing, however, has been completing the transfer of Fernando from Porto. Fernando is a powerful and hardworking defensive midfielder who will add extra bite to the city midfield. Pellegrini may opt to field both Fernando and Fernandinho along with Yaya Toure in the midfield to allow the Ivorian more freedom to get forward.

The much coveted Fernando is a good buy for Pellegrini

The much coveted Fernando is a good buy for Pellegrini

Who is tipped to join them?
Eliaquim Mangala is widely expected to complete a move to Manchester in the coming days for a fee believed to be around £32 million. Ross Barkley is also believed to be on their radar, should Yaya Toure decide to move elsewhere. Finally Paul Pogba has been tipped to be on the move this summer and City are one of the few clubs who could afford him. Pogba used to play for bitter rivals Manchester United so that would be a devastating blow for United fans if it were to come to fruition.

United fans would not be impressed if their rivals City were able to sign Pogba from Juventus

United fans would not be impressed if their rivals City were able to sign Pogba from Juventus

Who should they sign?
Pellegrini has a very strong squad available to him and does not really require too many reinforcements. He has correctly identified centre-back as his weakest position, Vincent Kompany aside, but the signing of Mangala will significantly strengthen them in that regard. Once Mangala arrives, City seem to have strong options and back up in every position and we shouldn’t expect too many more faces through the door.

Mangala is expected to partner Kompany at the heart of City's defence next season

Mangala is expected to partner Kompany at the heart of City’s defence next season

Key Player
Yaya Toure. On his day, Toure is unstoppable. His ability to make powerful, marauding runs across the whole length of the pitch is second to none. He scored 20 league goals last season and, with Fernando added to the midfield to allow him more freedom, it would be no surprise to see him match that feat again this campaign.

Yaya Toure is one of the best players in the Premier League

Yaya Toure is one of the best players in the Premier League

Manchester City have one of the strongest squads in the league and they will be expecting to challenge on four fronts this season. They will be in the title race right till the end but I think they will fall just short of Mourinho’s Chelsea this season. Expect City to finish 2nd.


Premier League Preview: Everton

There are only four weeks to wait ‘til the start of the Premier League. Over the next few weeks @0riginalfooty will preview the new season, take a look at each team and offer our predictions as to where each side will finish. Here we take a look at Everton.

Last season was certainly one to remember for the Toffees. They were under new management after the long and relatively successful (even without silverware) David Moyes era. They broke club record after club record including their highest points total in the premier league and most wins in a season.

The Manager
Roberto Martinez had an excellent debut season in charge of the Toffees and has again shown himself as a perpetual over achiever. His track record is admirable, having pulled Swansea from League One to 8th in the Championship and keeping Wigan in the Premier League for 3 of his 4 seasons. Despite succumbing to relegation in his final season with the Latics, Martinez masterminded a miraculous FA cup victory, overcoming Man City in the final.

Going to Everton, however, was always going to be a big step up for Martinez, taking over from David Moyes who had undoubtedly done a fantastic job in his 11-year tenure. This did not seem to faze the Spaniard, as he successfully implemented his possession-based footballing philosophy into the Everton squad and played exciting, attacking football throughout last season.

Roberto Martinez has really enhanced his reputation as a manager over the past few seasons

Roberto Martinez has really enhanced his reputation as a manager over the past few seasons

Biggest Signing
Whether they retain the services of Lukaku or not, I firmly believe that snapping up Gareth Barry on a free transfer will still be their most important signing. The former England international proved he’s still got it after a frustrating spell at Man City, striking up a fantastic midfield partnership with James McCarthy who had an equally impressive season. Furthermore, retaining the services of full-backs Seamus Colman and Leighton Baines, which looks increasingly likely, is an impressive statement about their intentions next season and is as good as any signings they are likely to make.

Gareth Barry has made his move to Everton permanent

Gareth Barry has made his move to Everton permanent

Who is tipped to join them?
With Lukaku being central to Everton’s fortunes last season, Roberto Martinez will no doubt be doing everything in his power to bring the strong Belgium striker back to Goodison Park. He’ll probably be quietly pleased that Lukaku didn’t have the great World Cup campaign that many were expecting, as there may not be quite as much interest in his services from the top European clubs. That said, there will still be plenty of teams desperate for a player of his quality should Jose Mourinho decide that he is not needed at Stamford Bridge. Martinez has also admitted that he is keen to bring Lacina Traore of Monaco back for a second loan spell despite an injury limiting him to just 63 minutes of football for the Toffees in the second half of last season.

Finally, Everton remain hot favourites to sign Jack Rodwell, who will provide competition in midfield and be a future replacement for Barry who, at 33, may only have a few seasons left in the top flight. Martinez will be hoping that he can get the England international on a loan deal with a view to buy, as if not, he could prove to be an expensive signing, given the inflated price-tags attached to English talent.

Will Rodwell return to Everton?

Will Rodwell return to Everton?

Who should they sign?
Last season, the Toffees relied heavily on three of their loan signings. Of the two mentioned previously, Barry has been signed and Lukaku will either return on loan or they must sign a similarly quick and powerful striker with an eye for goal. The third loanee was Gerard Deulofeu. New Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has deemed him good enough to join up with their first team and Everton should now seek a replacement. They do have options on the wing with Mirallas, Pienaar and McGeady – all more than capable players – but it does look like they could do with one more flair player who can really get at opposition full-backs.

A loan move for Joel Campbell of Arsenal could be an ideal option. He proved himself both last season on loan at Olympiakos and during the World Cup with Costa Rica. Should he not be deemed ready to compete in Arsenal’s highly populated midfield ranks, he would fit perfectly into Martinez’s pacey attacking system. However, it remains to be seen if Arsene Wenger would allow such a player to go to a team who pushed them hard for their Champion’s League spot at the end of last season.

Would Wenger allow Campbell to move to one of his top-4 rivals?

Would Wenger allow Campbell to move to one of his top-4 rivals?

Key Player
Ross Barkley will surely have a big impact on Everton’s fortunes in this coming season. Having gone from one for the future to a key member of the Toffee’s first team in a very short space of time, this is no doubt going to a big season for the young England international.

Ross Barkley could be crucial to Everton's Champion's League hopes

Ross Barkley could be crucial to Everton’s Champions League hopes

I expect Everton to have a similar season in terms of causing the big teams problems, and will find themselves buzzing around the Champion’s League places once again. However, I believe that the four teams who finished above them last season still have more about them than Martinez’s side, and with Man United seemingly strengthening more than the Toffees, I expect to see Everton slip down one position. Expect Everton to finish 6th.

England vs Uruguay: the key battles

Tonight is the night where England’s destiny will be sealed. Fans will be on the edges of their seats as they take on a hurting Uruguayan side that will be desperate to bounce back. Both sides will be desperate for a win but who will come out on top? Here we take a look at the key battles that will take place on the field tonight and suggest where the game will be won or lost.

Gary Cahill vs Luis Suarez

Suarez’s return will be a huge boost for the Uruguayans. Against Costa Rica they looked extremely one dimensional and lacking any spark and creativity that, in my opinion, Edison Cavani rarely fails to provide. Suarez, in comparison, has it all. He will pester defenders all night long and cause England endless headaches. On his day he is absolutely unstoppable and even when he isn’t on top form, you can guarantee that the defenders will have had a tough evening. Cahill is quickly becoming England’s most important defensive player having had a fine season with Chelsea but he will need to be at the top of his game tonight to keep Suarez at bay and to organize an unconvincing English back line.

Raheem Sterling vs Egidio Arevalo

Sterling and Rooney will most likely have fluid roles behind Sturridge and Sterling will most likely be marshaled by Egidio Arevalo. Arevalo is a ferocious, hard working and experienced centre-midfielder with wild-dog-like tenacity and will be snapping at Sterling’s heels all night long. Sterling can, however, take real heart from his performance against Italy and believe that he can mix it with the best on the international stage. If he performs as we know he can, he will give Arevalo a really hard nights work.

Daniel Sturridge vs Jose Maria Giminez

This is where England will feel the match can be won. Diego Godin is a quality centre back but is not the quickest defender. At Atletico Madrid he plays alongside the pacey Miranda who can easily cover Godin’s lack of pace. However, there is no Miranda for Argentina. Godin normally plays alongside the snail-paced Uruguayan captain Diego Lugano who endured a torrid season for West Bromwich Albion. However, Lugano has been ruled out with injury so in comes 19 year old centre back Giminez. Giminez is an inexperienced centre back but will offer more pace than Lugano so that could work in Uruguay’s favour If Sturridge can play on the shoulder of Godin and the likes of Rooney and Sterling can provide the quality of pace required to thread it through the defence then England will get plenty of joy as the night goes on and Sturridge will find himself on the score-sheet again.


Overall, England should go in to this game believing that they can and, in my opinion, should win against a fairly average and aging Uruguayan side. If our attackers play to the best of their abilities, they will break down their defense and I will be stunned if England does not manage to score at least one goal. However, the three lions must cut all the supply to Suarez to get success and when he does get the ball he must be stopped as soon as possible, by a foul if necessary. Suarez’s inclusion does make this a much tougher match but there is no reason that England can’t get the all important victory tonight and begin their push for qualification to the last 16.

England 1 – 2 Italy : match report

A disappointing but not unexpected result in Manaus has left England’s hopes of group qualification looking somewhat precarious.

After a highly spirited performance, England will find themselves hard done by to finish the game without a point to show for their efforts.

England started so promisingly with early long range efforts from Sterling and Henderson, the former cruelly rippling the side netting in a manner that sent many England fans into a state of mistaken euphoria.

Antonio Candreva, who caused England’s left hand side no end of problems, forced Joe Hart into a less than convincing save from distance twenty minutes in. The Lazio man kept Leighton Baines constantly busy, who in truth could have done with more protection from his winger Rooney.

Shortly after, the first clear cut chance of the match fell to England. Welbeck beat his man on the right before sliding a low cross towards Sturridge who was ready to pounce in the centre, only for Andrea Barzagli to get a crucial touch, flicking the ball just inches away from the Liverpool striker.

The tempo dropped around the half hour mark, with both sides keeping the ball well when in possession and Pirlo looking increasingly threatening when allowed space.

England will be disappointed to have conceded in such a manner, but it was a well worked corner routine which put the Italians in front on 35 minutes. A clever dummy from Pirlo on the edge of the box allowed Marchisio to drill home from 25 yards. His low shot slotting through the legs of both Rooney and Cahill before finding the bottom left hand corner.

Just two minutes later however, England found themselves level. It was the perfect response, with an incisive counter attack allowing Rooney space on the left to play a perfectly weighted cross to Sturridge who still had a lot to do, but England’s number 9 made it look easy, converting coolly on the half-volley.

A nervous moment just before half time saw Joe Hart rush out to close down Mario Balotelli, who’s smart chip required a vital goal line header from Jagielka to see England in level at half time.

After the break Welbeck switched sides with Rooney to try and sure up England’s left hand side. It was to little effect however as once again Candreva had the better of Baines and supplied one of many superb crosses over Gary Cahill, leaving who else but Balotelli to nod in at the back post.

How England needed another quick response, but the Italians had learnt from their earlier mistake and bought on Motta for Veratti to sure up their midfield and suffocate the game.

Despite this, the best chance of the match fell to Wayne Rooney who picked up Baines’ excellent pass before cutting inside and fooling Sirigu who went the wrong way, but his shot rolled agonisingly wide leaving Roy Hodgson with his head in his hands.

In the last twenty minutes however, as England tried desperately to create chances, there were only free-kick efforts from specialists Baines and Pirlo to speak of. Pirlo’s strike was by far the more promising as he wickedly whipped the ball from right to left, only for it to plant the crossbar and fly over, leaving Joe Hart motionless and the crowd awestruck.

All in all, Italy probably deserved their victory but England will rue that Rooney miss which would have made their position in the group look far more promising. That said, with Uruguay’s shock loss against Costa Rica, England will fancy themselves to come out victorious in their next match if they can put in a similar performance, even if talisman Luis Suarez returns for the game.

England player ratings:

Hart : 6
A few nervous moments but generally solid. Couldn’t do much for either goal.

Baines : 5
Had a very tough afternoon against Candreva who was allowed to cross all too often. Did provide a good pass for Rooney’s chance.

Johnson : 6
Showed good attacking intent and generally solid, but perhaps should have been covering for Italy’s second.

Jagielka : 7
The best of our back four, looked assured and confident. Impressive.

Cahill : 6
Generally solid but caught out for Italy’s winner.

Gerrard : 6
A quiet night by his high standards, and wasn’t involved much going forward but kept the ball well on the whole.

Henderson : 6
Promising early on, with some good runs and a decent effort. Faded before being substituted.

Sterling : 8
Adventurous and dangerous for large parts of the match. Had a few great dribbles and put in some decent balls, also hit an excellent strike just wide.

Rooney : 5
Very quiet for much of the game. Didn’t provide adequate cover for Baines to help quell the threat of Candreva and Darmian. Missed the chance of the match but provided a sublime ball for Sturridge’s leveller.

Welbeck : 7
Never stopped running and showed his importance by winning the ball back on numerous occasions. Criticised for lacking drive going forward and taking easy options, but almost found Sturridge early on to put England in front.

Sturridge : 8
Found him self in good positions on a few occasions, had some good link up play with both Welbeck and Sterling and put away a superb finish for England’s equaliser. He should take a lot of confidence from that performance.

Subs: Barkley : 7 (on for Welbeck ’61) Showed promise, looking fearless and threatening going forward.

Wilshere : 5 (on for Henderson ’73) Looked to make things happen but gave away possession too easily.

Lallana : 6 (On for Sturridge ’79) Not given much time to make an impact, but looked good when he got the ball.


England Team Analysis vs Italy

I wrote an article a little while ago on what I thought England’s best Starting XI would be in the World Cup, as I stated then that was what I viewed as our ‘best team’ but necessarily the one I would play in our opening match against Italy in Manaus on Saturday. In this piece I will explain the team I would select vs Italy taking into account various factors such as Italy’s style of play and the conditions we will be playing in.

As has been well documented ever since the draw took place for the World Cup; our first game is in Manaus, a tropical rainforest in the north of Brazil. On Saturday the humidity is expected to be around 76% and temperature at 30 degree Celsius, they are extremely challenging conditions in which to be playing football. Despite preparing for conditions like this through our training camps in Portugal and Miami it will still be virtually impossible to play a high intensity pressing game. These conditions will be a perfect example of how this World Cup is going to be a 14 man game; substitutions will be of vital importance, as the differential in energy levels between the players that come on and the ones already on the pitch will be larger than usual.

The back 5 picks itself (not helped by the lack of options at right-back) with Joe Hart in goal, Glen Johnson at right-back, Cahill and Jagielka at centre-back and Leighton Baines at left-back. As with the majority of the matches England has played in the past few years under Roy Hodgson I would play a 4-2-3-1 formation with two holding midfielders. One of whom would be Steven Gerrard, who has performed that role so well for Liverpool in the second-half of the past Premier League season. I would start with Jordan Henderson alongside Gerrard not purely because of the natural chemistry that the two already possess from Liverpool but also because of the energy that Henderson gives to the team. Jack Wilshere would be a fine player to have coming off the bench for a game like this as he showed against Honduras on Saturday.

I believe Ross Barkley would also be best served as an impact player coming off the bench after about 65 minutes if all is going well, he is still perhaps not defensively up to scratch and in a game of this magnitude it’s important all players are tactically aware of what their roles are. If Ross Barkley played he would be playing in the hole behind Daniel Sturridge most likely, this would hand him the job of nullifying the threat of Andrea Pirlo. If lessons are to be learnt from Euro 2012 where Pirlo ran the show, it is important that we have someone dedicated to ‘doing a job’ on Pirlo and practically man-marking him. This is where the controversial selection of Danny Welbeck comes into place, Welbeck whilst not being the most technically gifted player England possess, has bags of energy and is willing to sacrifice himself for the benefit of the team. I would start Welbeck and play him on the left when we are going forward but importantly when we are defending I would give him the job of closing down Pirlo in the central area of the pitch. In my starting XI, Wayne Rooney would interchange with Danny Welbeck depending on whether or not we are attacking or defending, going forward I would have him in the hole behind Sturridge but defensively on the left allowing Welbeck to mark Pirlo.

The final selection decision that has to be made is who to start on the right-wing, it’s between Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana as to who gets that last space. Personally I would give Adam Lallana the nod in this game, I can just see Sterling being a complete nuisance coming off the bench in whichever situation we are in – winning, losing or drawing. That pace he possesses will terrorise defences when they’re mentally and physically tired after 70 odd minutes of the Manaus heat. Lallana is a brilliant, technical player and one who is unlikely to give the ball away often which will be of vital importance in this match.

With this starting XI on the bench we would have lots of options in both attack and defensive. Sterling, Wilshere and Barkley can all come if we need some more attacking impetus; Ricky Lambert can offer us that plan B if the Rooney-Sturridge link-up isn’t quite happening and the ever versatile James Milner could come on in holding-midfield to sure things up late on or even do a job on either wing if needed.

I would also like to add that this is also the team I think will start vs Italy, the Honduras match was the last chance Roy Hodgson had to look at his team vs Italy and he chose the same team as I mentioned above. The only thing he could possibly change is bringing Sterling in for Lallana as Sterling was somewhat controversially suspended for the Honduras game.

Stone’s view: What have we learnt about England in Miami and what is our best XI?

In the past few days we have witnessed England play two World Cup warm up matches, firstly at Wembley against Peru and then on Wednesday against Ecuador in Miami. But what have we actually learnt from these matches if anything at all?

Against Peru the team was: Hart/Johnson-Cahill-Jagielka-Baines/Gerrard-Henderson Lallana-Rooney-Welbeck/ Sturridge. This to me looks like Roy putting out what, in his eyes, might be his starting XI vs Italy. In terms of performances of players, Sturridge scored a world-class goal but it should be noted that his partnership with Wayne Rooney didn’t click as hoped, with Rooney often dropping too deep in search of the ball. Other commendable performances include Danny Welbeck and Leighton Baines. For me there were some large question marks brought up as a result of this game, Glen Johnson (not for the first time in recent months) looked very poor and defensively at times was caught completely out of position. Wayne Rooney, as perhaps expected, having been injured for the past few weeks, didn’t look match sharp and, as mentioned above, continually dropped too deep in search of possession. However, the Gerrard-Henderson partnership in holding midfield showed signs of promise, obviously helped by the fact they played at Liverpool all season together.

There have been question marks over Johnson's recent performances

There have been question marks over Johnson’s recent performances

Going into the Ecuador game in Miami the main question marks were over the right-back position and Wayne Rooney. Roy responded by starting with the versatile James Milner at RB in the following team: Foster/Milner-Jones-Smalling-Shaw/ Lampard-Wilshere/ Ox-Barkley-Rooney/ Lambert. After floundering a few early opportunities we found ourselves 1 down after a cross from wide was headed in at the back post. The response to this will have pleased Roy Hodgson as we looked menacing on the attack, led by Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A superb Ross Barkley burst led to our 2nd goal for Rickie Lambert, but we couldn’t see the game through and conceded mid-way through the second half with the final result being 2-2. There were various positives to take from this game; the players seemed to have plenty of energy despite playing in high temperatures which they were perhaps not accustomed to. The Ox and Barkley were very good at times going forward and Luke Shaw showed promise in the 2nd half. A goal for Rickie Lambert will also have done him the world of good knowing that he will most likely get an opportunity to make an impact at some point in the tournament. There were, however, a few below-par performances including Chris Smalling, who honestly doesn’t look like an international footballer. Frank Lampard and Jack Wilshere also gave the ball away in crucial areas at times throughout the game, which against higher-class opposition may have been more costly. The most important thing that we gained from this game is the knowledge that James Milner playing at right back simply won’t work; it’s a difficult position to pick up if you don’t play there regularly and this was evident throughout the match.

Is Chris Smalling good enough to play for England?

Is Chris Smalling good enough to play for England?

From the two warm-up matches I would say we learnt the following key points:

1)    Wayne Rooney needs to play vs Honduras to gain more match fitness.

2)    If we get any injuries to our regular back four we will be in trouble.

3)    Ross Barkley has got the ability to perform and make a difference at the highest level.

The following team I shall mention is the best XI that I think we could put out at this tournament (lack of injuries permitting). This may not, however, be the team that I would put out against Italy with it being the opening game of the tournament and the likely man-marking of Andrea Pirlo. I think the back 5 picks itself in Hart-Johnson-Cahill-Jagielka-Baines. After that I would go with a holding two of Gerrard and Henderson with Henderson just edging it ahead of Jack Wilshere. Daniel Sturridge up front is another obvious choice because of his superb form for Liverpool this season. The hardest part of picking this team is which 3 players you play behind Daniel Sturridge. From what I’ve seen of people’s ‘Best Starting XI’s’ I haven’t seen the one which I’m about to suggest very often, I would select Rooney-Barkley-Sterling as our 3 players in these positions. This may seem very harsh on Adam Lallana, who has had a fantastic season for Southampton, but I will explain why I have chosen these 3 players. Wayne Rooney has to play if he’s fit, he’s a vital member of the dressing room and our best player when fully fit. I feel to hurt teams we need to have pace in our team, we have this with Daniel Sturridge up front but another player is needed and this is why I’ve chosen Raheem Sterling (if the Ox hadn’t got injured I would have chosen him ahead of Sterling). This leaves one remaining space which, in my opinion, comes down to Barkley vs Lallana, I would go with the bolder option of Barkley who really has that X-factor in his play and is willing to run directly at opponents. This 3 behind Sturridge is very flexible and the players in question could interchange positions with all 3 of them capable of playing anywhere across the forward line, therefore always giving the opposition defence something to think about.

Will Ross Barkley play against Italy?

Will Ross Barkley play against Italy?

So to summarise my best England XI would be: Hart/Johnson-Cahill-Jagielka-Baines/Gerrard-Henderson/Sterling-Barkley-Rooney/Sturridge

Do you agree with Sam? Tweet @0riginal Footy to have your say on England’s best XI.