TFN’s Piers Barber on the Premier League players who will be fighting desperately to make it into their national squads before the season is out.
The Spanish contingent
Spain, current defending World champions and winners of the last two European Championships, are extremely strong contenders for the title of Best Team To Have Ever Played Anywhere In The World Ever, or something like that. Their embarrassment of midfield riches has meant they are once again one of the favourites to walk away with football’s biggest prize in Brazil, yet their strength in depth has also laid on a substantial challenge for some of the nation’s most talented players to even make it on to the plane to South America. Juan Mata, who scored in the Euro 2012 final, felt his place in the national squad under such threat that he recently initiated a move from Chelsea to Manchester United in a quest to secure some playing time in the lead up to the tournament. Jesus Navas at Manchester City and Santi Cazorla at Arsenal, meanwhile, will have to ensure they are on top form throughout the rest of the season if they hope to figure in Brazil.
The suffering Man United players
It’s been a calamitous start to 2014 for Manchester United, who have lost five of their nine games since the turn of the year. Their dramatic post-Alex Ferguson slump has not only put the Old Trafford club in serious danger of failing to qualify for European football next year, but has also threatened to jeopardise several of their highest profile players’ international careers. Marouane Fellaini, for instance, desperately needs to find some form if he is to make the starting line-up for highly fancied Belgium, whilst Nani – who, through a combination of bad form and injury, has barely figured throughout 2013/14 – must also improve if he is to feature for Portugal. Elsewhere, whilst an excellent season last year put Michael Carrick in contention for a starting berth for England in Brazil, a dire first half to the current campaign has cast even his spot on the plane in substantial doubt. Continue reading →
Stephen Stratton looks at the lessons that Joe Hart can learn after being dropped by Manchester City…
Joe Hart hasn’t been performing to the best of his ability this season and has made a series of errors leading to Manuel Pellegrini dropping him for the game against Norwich. Is it possible that Hart can learn from the experiences of Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczęsny?
There are a number of similarities between Joe Hart and Wojciech Szczęsny. Both are young, talented goalkeepers with an extreme belief in their own abilities. Their respective career paths also follow a familiar pattern; signed from a smaller team as a youngster, successful loan spells and returning to their parent clubs to claim the No. 1 jersey. They have also made a series of high profile errors in their careers leading critics to accuse both of a lack of concentration and arrogance. Continue reading →
The latest Editor’s Column from James Dutton tackles the implications of two late goals in the Premier League and next weekend’s top-of-the-table clash…
Is there a top-flight derby in England with lower quality and technical ability than Sunderland v Newcastle?
A central defensive pairing of Mike Williamson and Paul Dummett, a midfield battle between Cheick Tiote and Lee Cattermole and the continued pointlessness of Adam Johnson.
Before Fabio Borini’s stunning late winner for the hosts, it was a derby meandering toward nothingness. Suddenly the Black Cats are reinvigorated, and Newcastle fans are staring at another year wondering what on earth is going on.
Will it be the turning point of Sunderland’s season? Victory against your local rivals can create a cathartic, transformative effect around a club, and given their meek surrender at Swansea last week it no doubt removes some of the gloom that has gripped the Mackems.
But this one result against an alarmingly average Newcastle side doesn’t show that they have the necessary tools to avoid relegation. It doesn’t change the fact that Sunderland have, Crystal Palace aside, the weakest squad in the league. Continue reading →
In a new series for Summer 2013, The False Nine team will provide talking points from the matches they’ve watched. First up, John Guillem on England’s visit to Brazil…
- Prescript: since the game, I have suffered nightmares for the past pair of nights. Murdered ‘Arry in one of them ONLY TO TRANSFORM INTO HIM [!] That one was bad. Chased down the road by Woy with a butterfly night in another. The implications of these are yet to be fully determined. Watching England is bloody miserable, harrowing, traumatic (even if you don’t care) perhaps to a degree which extends beyond the conventional contemporary psychopathology of numbness and alienation…can I get my (figurative) money back?
- Obvious but still merits statement: England had an extremely depleted squad, and the players who were available dictated our strategy and performance for this game. It’s heartening to see that we can still be hard to break down (though Brazil do suck) with such a weak squad.
- This was the perfect game for Joe ‘world class’ Hart. Lots of shots to stop but we were playing a side lacking clinicality and aerial/indirect set piece threats of any note. Continue reading →
Ahead of tomorrow’s Manchester derby, False Nine editor, Andrew Belt, calls for one of the current Premier League champions’ stars to emerge from the shadows and take centre stage again…
You thought Mario Balotelli was the best striker at Euro 2012.
One Fernando was being touted for great things but Llorente was consigned to a watching brief as Spain slay all before them playing the much-lauded ‘false 9’ formation, in which the other Fernando, Torres, managed to bag three goals and restore some much-needed confidence. Continue reading →