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Grading Wednesday’s summer signings

03/09/2021 - League One

By Jude Hall, Sheffield Wednesday writer

To say Darren Moore’s first summer at Hillsborough has been a productive one would be something of an understatement. Following relegation on the final day of the Championship season The Owls have seen a total of 13 departures including long-standing servants like Tom Lees, Keiren Westwood and Adam Reach leaving the club. And in another transfer window where Wednesday found themselves under the constraints of an embargo it looked set to be a measly few month at S6. However, Darren Moore and his staff have seemingly pulled off a transfer window masterclass bringing in 14 new players to Hillsborough on free transfers and loans, with The Owls squad now looking strong in every position, some suggesting it looks even stronger than last year’s championship team. I’ll take a look at each of Wednesday’s new recruits, giving them a grade based on how well they’ve started that Hillsborough and how useful I think they may be over the course of the season.

Bailey Peacock-Farrell: A

It was clear to all involved at Hillsborough that the Owls needed a reliable number 1 between the sticks. With the experienced Keiren Westwood either seemingly injured or frozen out by managers, the gloves were often given to Wednesday academy graduates Joe Wildsmith and Cameron Dawson. Dawson (26) and Wildsmith (25) have both flattered to deceive after some promising signs but also some howling errors in their 129 league appearances between them, with neither convincing enough to hold down the position as their own. 

Darren Moore fought off interest from championship outfit Birmingham City to secure Bailey Peacock-Farrell on a season-long loan from Burnley and immediately gave the new keeper the number 1 shirt. The former Leeds United youth player made his debut at the age of just 19 and went on to make 40 league appearances for the Yorkshire club. In 2019 the Northern Ireland international joined Premier League side Burnley for a reported £2.5 million fee. Signing a four-year-deal Peacock-Farrell is thought to be one for the future at Turf Moor having made just 4 league starts in his two years in Lancashire. 

Wednesdayites can be mistaken for being slightly weary of the 24-year-olds lack of first team football in recent years, along with his share of critics from his time with Leeds. However, the 6’4 ft goalkeeper has brought an air of confidence back between the sticks at Hillsborough, keeping clean sheets in his first four games. Peacock-Farrell looks a different animal to the younger keeper saw at Elland Road and has played a huge part in Wednesday’s solid defensive record, memorably making a stunning penalty save in The Owls 2-0 win over Yorkshire rivals Rotherham. All the early signs suggest Darren Moore has made a superb selection for his number one this season, earning a grade A from me, had it been a permanent deal the Irishman would have got top marks. 

Jack Hunt: B 

They say you should never go back to an ex. But after an already incredible transfer window, one of the world’s biggest names made a dramatic return to his old club. That’s right, Jack Hunt re-signed for Sheffield Wednesday. After an up and down three-year stint at Ashton Gate, Hunt was released by Bristol City on a free and with just one recognised right-back in their ranks the Owls swooped in for the 30-year-old, again fending off championship interest in the shape of Cardiff and Blackpool. The Englishman made 95 appearances in his first spell at Hillsborough, before appearing 109 times in a Robins shirt. With bags of championship experience whilst still possessing his best traits of pace and attacking nous, Moore has himself a fantastic right-back at this level who knows the demands of playing front of the Hillsborough crowd. Whilst some may take slight issue with age as well as possible high wage demands, I see this one as a very solid signing. With Hunt you’re getting a player who can be a fantastic attacking outlet as well as an experienced defender who will give his all for the club. 

Jaden Brown: B+ 

Following his release from Huddersfield Town, Jaden Brown signed for The Owls on a free providing valuable cover at left-back, a position Wednesday have been short since Morgan Fox left in the summer of 2020. The former Tottenham Hotspur youth player made 28 league appearances for the Terriers before his switch to Hillsborough where despite taking the number 3 shirt has been utilised regularly on the wing so far this season. 

Brown gives an injection in pace as well as youth at a good age of 22 with his best years ahead of him. Previously an England u18 player Brown represents a good bit of business for The Owls coming for free able to play multiple positions down the left, with championship experience and plenty of time to improve yet. The Ex-Huddersfield man looks a decent signing and has gave a good account of himself in his early Wednesday career.

Lewis Gibson: C

21-year-old defender Lewis Gibson joined The Owls this summer on a loan from Premier League Everton. The centre half has previously had a stint at League One level with a loan to Fleetwood Town where he made 9 appearances. Gibson also gained championship experience in a loan move to Reading last campaign where he played 13 times. 

With Dominic Iorfa, Chey Dunkley and Sam Hutchinson all having their injury problems in the past, Gibson could well prove a smart signing to provide cover in the centre of defence. The Evertonian is yet to appear for Wednesday having missed pre-season but still remains a much needed name to give The Owls plenty of depth at the back. 

Dennis Adeniran: A*

Darren Moore added Dennis Adeniran to his midfield on a free transfer this summer after the player was released by Everton. The former England under 17s player made his professional debut at the age of 17 for Fulham before moving to Merseyside. 

The 22-year-old enjoyed a season long loan at Wycombe Wanderers in the championship last season where he made 21 league appearances. Since signing at S6 Adeniran has fast become a popular figure amongst the fans, putting in tireless performances in Wednesday’s midfield also grabbing a Hillsborough goal when The Owls beat Yorkshire rivals Doncaster Rovers 2-0. 

Adeniran is at a great age with time on his side and coming to the Steel city on a free makes it a strong capture from Darren Moore, before the player had even kicked a ball. On the pitch, the former Toffee has made a fantastic start to his Wednesday career and already looks to be a fine player. 

Lewis Wing: A

Wednesday surprised most when they secured the season-long loan signing of Lewis Wing from Middlesbrough. One that many saw as a real coup for The Owls, Wing has countless championships experience with his parent club having played 80 times scoring 12 goals, including some stunning strikes. 

The 26-year-old enjoyed a loan stint with Rotherham United last term, with the midfielder impressing enough for The Millers’ manager to try and re-sign the player this summer. However, Wing chose to cone to Hillsborough and hasn’t looked back since, putting in some strong performances at the heart of Wednesday’s team. 

Many Middlesbrough fans seemed confused when Wing departed after featuring heavily in preseason and possessing enough quality to apply his trade at championship level. In League One with Wing and Bannan, Darren Moore has a midfield which many will see as far too good for the third division and could help them control most games this year. The former Yeovil loanee has been quick to showcase his passing range at Hillsborough and looks as though he will be a quality addition for The Owls. 

George Byers: B+

George Byers joined Wednesday on a free transfer from Swansea City this summer. The 25-year-old played in 56 league games for the Swans finding the net on four occasions before moving to South Yorkshire. More recently Byers had a short loan spell in the third tier with Portsmouth, making 14 appearances for Pompey last season. 

Once again in line with Wednesday’s soft embargo, Byers coming for no transfer fee makes it a fairly low risk move for The Owls and is another with his best years ahead. Alike most in the squad, Byers boasts plenty of experience at a higher level than League One and already looks more than capable in his first few appearances for Wednesday. The former Swansea man brings more strength in depth in the middle, adding another forward-thinking midfielder with an eye for a pass. George Byers looks a very decent recruit at S6 and can count himself unlucky not to have scored the goal of the season so far against Morecambe last weekend when he rattled the post from distance. 

Marvin Johnson: C+

Experienced winger Marvin Johnson added his name to an exclusive list of players to have worn the colours of both Sheffield clubs when the former Sheffield United loanee signed a deal at Hillsborough this summer. 

Following his release from Middlesbrough, The Owls signed the 30-year-old to add to their collection of free transfers this window. Johnson, another with championship interest before penning a deal at S6, played in 42 of Boro’s 46 league games last season scoring 3 goals as Neil Warnock’s side finished mid table in the second division. The versatile Englishman who can play down either flank as well as left-back, will be another player able to bring an abundance of nous having made over 100 championship appearances along with playing experience in the Scottish Premier League and at non-league level. The wide-man made just 11 appearances in a Blades shirt and will be hoping to have more of an impact with his new club on his steel city return. 

So far Johnson has filled in where needed for Darren Moore’s side and is yet to really nail down his place in the side. The former Oxford United player will be keen to show more of what he’s capable of following his first Wednesday goal against Newcastle U21s in the Papa John’s Trophy last Tuesday and could yet prove to be a very useful player to have in the squad over the course of the season. 

Theo Corbeanu: C+

Theo Corbeanu joined Wednesday’s list of loan signings this summer when the Wolves winger agreed a season-long deal at Hillsborough. The 19-year-old is a relatively unknown talent having made just one senior club appearance before his switch to Sheffield, but is thought to be very highly rated at his parent club. 

The Canadian youngster impressed at under 21s level, so much so that he even got a callup onto the international stage. Corbeanu scored four minutes into his Canada debut at just 18-years-old earlier this year, when he came off the bench in a 5-1 World Cup qualification win over Bermuda. The Wolverhampton Wanderers winger was later called up to the Canadian Gold Cup squad this summer, making three substitute appearances in the tournament and scoring a goal in Canada’s 4-1 triumph over Martinique. 

Canada progressed as far as the semi-finals before being knocked out by 11-time winners Mexico. Due to his involvement with his nation Corbeanu missed preseason and therefore didn’t feature for The Owls until this week. The young attacker made his debut in Wednesday’s defeat to Morecambe and then played the full 90 as Darren Moore’s side beat Newcastle u21s in the EFL Trophy. Early signs suggest that Corbeanu could potentially be a very exciting positive player out wide and may have a breakthrough season at Hillsborough. However, with the player coming on a loan and with plenty of competition for places, Darren Moore isn’t too reliant on the youngster making this another risk free signing. 

Olamide Shodipo: B

Sheffield Wednesday added further depth out wide with the acquisition of Olamide Shodipo on loan from Queen’s Park Rangers. The 24-year-old enjoyed a fruitful spell with Oxford last campaign, helping the club secure a League One playoff place grabbing 10 goals in the process. The Irish winger is yet to breakthrough to the first team at his parent club having made 27 appearances in his six years at Loftus Road. After a productive loan in the third tier it looked as though Shodipo may get his chance at QPR this season but Mark Warburton was happy enough for the attacker to go back out on loan. 

Olamide Shodipo made his Wednesday debut in The Owls’ League Cup opener against Huddersfield but was substituted in the first half following a hamstring injury. After missing the first few weeks of the league season, Shodipo looks set for a return to action after the international break. Able to play down both sides Shodipo is direct, brings pace, skill and potentially plenty of goals. Coming in on a loan this is another low-cost deal for Mr Chansiri and if the winger can replicate last season’s form he could be a fantastic addition to the squad, especially if it were to help The Owls back to the Championship. 

Sylla Sow: C

The largely unknown Sylla Sow agreed terms at Hillsborough this window coming on a free transfer after five years in Dutch football. Possessing the ability to play on either wing as well as through the centre, Sow scored seven times in 48 appearances at Eredivisie side RKC Waalwijk before his move to England. 

The Dutch forward scored a debut goal on Tuesday night as Wednesday thumped Newcastle U21s 3-0 in the Papa John’s Trophy and looked fairly sharp throughout the match. The 25-year-old is another that joins The Owls at a decent age and is largely seen as a bit of a wildcard. Again coming in at a small cost if the attacker succeeds it’s a masterclass of a signing, if not there isn’t too much lost for Wednesday. 

Florian Kamberi: C

It was no secret that Darren Moore was on the hunt for a strike this transfer window with Callum Paterson the only recognised centre forward fit ahead of the new season. Florian Kamberi was the first of three out and out number 9s to join The Owls this window, with the signing on loan from St. Gallen. 

The 6’2 ft striker’s goal return isn’t one to hang your hat on if you look at his previous numbers. No goals in 11 outings in his latest loan with Aberdeen and the 26-year-old is yet to score for his parent club having played just eight games for the Swiss Super League team. The forward’s best record came for Scottish Premier League side Hibernian where he bagged 20 times in 67 games. 

However, once again this signing comes with little disruption to Wednesday’s finances whilst giving Darren Moore plenty of strength in depth. The striker has shown glimpses of quality in his career, hitting a purple patch in a 14-game loan spell at Hibs scoring 9 times before signing permanently at Easter Road. And with further strengthening up front providing plenty of competition for places, Wednesday may just be able to get the best out of Florian Kamberi. 

The Swiss has already opened his account in blue and white scoring at the New York Stadium in The Owls’ South Yorkshire derby win and has shown plenty of signs for optimism in his first few appearances. Again, with more than enough options up front Darren Moore won’t be solely reliant on Kamberi this season meaning the forward may make a very useful squad player this campaign. 

Lee Gregory: A

Despite the addition of Florian Kamberi, Wednesday were still screaming out for that all important goal scorer and Lee Gregory may just be that man. The former Sheffield United academy player made his return to the Steel city signing for The Owls from Stoke on a free transfer. The 33-year-old boasts a lethal goal-scoring record, especially in League One. The veteran forward has over 150 career league goals scoring 82 times in 129 appearances for Halifax Town before his big move to Millwall where he netted 64 times in 204 games for the London club. At this level alone Gregory has 35 goals in 78 League One games. Mouth-watering numbers for Wednesday fans.

Despite missing preseason Gregory was quick off the mark at Hillsborough, scoring the match-winner in his first start for The Owls as they beat Fleetwood 1-0. Wednesday’s new number nine doubled his tally the following weekend as The Owls beat Rotherham United. 

The Sheffield-born striker knows what it’s all about at this side of the country and will be eager to fire Darren Moore’s side back to the Championship, with the frontman telling the club’s media that their aim is to win the league. Although age may not be on his side, the former Derby loanee is far from done yet and looks to be that all illusive goal-scorer that Wednesday have lacked for some time. 

Saido Berahino: C

Possibly Wednesday’s most talked about signing this year saw Saido Berahino make a return to English football as he took a paycut to join The Owls for a free transfer on deadline day. Renown for his eye-catching breakthrough at West Bromwich Albion, Berahino scored 14 Premier League goals in the 2014-15 season, attracting interest from some of the big six. After West Brom refused to sell the player, the Burundi forward’s career at the Hawthorns went downhill with the striker unable to replicate his early form before moving to Stoke City for £12 million in 2017. 

Berahino struggled to make his move a successful one, with the player unable to score a single top flight goal for his new club in 28 games. The former England u21s international did eventually break his Potters duck as he scored three times in Stoke City’s first year back in the Championship. After a failed move with Stoke Berahino has spent the last two years applying his trade in Belgium. 

The 28-year-old has just 10 goals in 58 Belgian first division games but is keen to resurrect his career in England. Having previously worked with the player at West Brom Darren Moore may well know how to get the striker firing again. In a Podcast interview with Rio Ferdinand 6 months ago, the Burundi international spoke highly of The Owls manager saying he had kept in contact with his former Baggies coach. 

It is widely reported that the Ex-Stoke striker has taken a pay-cut in order to get his chance at Hillsborough, with the player seemingly having a change in mentality. This move is another that is of little expense to Sheffield Wednesday and could prove to be an excellent piece of business or amount to nothing. It is certainly one of the more interesting signings of the summer. 

Overall: A

All things considered, Owls fans can be very pleased with their window and optimistic of the season to come. Despite a soft transfer embargo Darren Moore has managed to assemble a deep squad full of genuine quality players at this level. The Wednesday camp has a nice mix of experienced professionals along with younger, hungrier up-and-coming players who will be keen to impress. Furthermore, the club deserve huge credit for securing the likes of Josh Windass, Dominic Iorfa and Barry Bannan on longer deals, fighting off strong interest in the players. A great window at S6 with a lot to be optimistic about at Hillsborough. 

Mbappé, Kane and the summer of the gentleman’s agreement

02/09/2021 - General

By Sam Ketch, Editor-in-Chief

The summer transfer window of 2021 will go down in the history books as one of the most staggering of all time. 

Lionel Messi traded Barcelona for Paris, Cristiano Ronaldo traded Turin for Manchester, Harry Kane did not trade London for Manchester, and Kylian Mbappé couldn’t trade Paris for Madrid in time. 

There have also been the huge moves of Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid to PSG), David Alaba (Bayern Munich to Real Madrid), Rafael Varane (Real Madrid to Manchester United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United), Jack Grealish (Aston Villa to Manchester City), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan to Chelsea) and many, many more. 

Yet the most dominating phrase of all has been ‘gentleman’s agreement’. A nonsense phrase, given that a gentleman’s agreement is just an understanding between two parties – it's not an agreement, nor between gentleman when it happens in football. 

Harry Kane tried his hardest to push through his transfer to Man City. His agent, who happens to be his brother, went for the masterplan of saying Daniel Levy and Kane had an agreement that Kane could leave – but Kane also had years left on his contract, and Spurs had no need to sell their talismanic number nine. 

Kane pushed and pushed, he didn’t turn up for training for days after his holiday and was not included at all in Spurs’ opening day victory over, ironically, Man City. He’s since had to do a gigantic U-turn - the likes of which Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party would be proud - and say he’s staying because of the fan's reaction to his cameo appearance in the Wolves game. 

Now, we hear PSG saying they have the same concept of a gentleman’s agreement with Mbappé. The PSG hierarchy will be desperately hoping that their agreement is more legitimate than Kane’s was, and that Mbappé and his agent – who are also his relatives, as with Kane – are far less successful in pushing him out of the door before the season is through. 

Real Madrid and Florentino Perez, the leaders of the European Super League fiasco, said that they desperately needed money – hence their heading up the breakaway competition. But, within six months, they are now able to make an offer of £140m for Mbappé? Something seems fishy to me. Where has the money come from? 

An interesting twist in this saga would be for PSG to accept an offer, given that Madrid said they don’t have the cash. That would upset the Mbappé camp once the Madrid representatives run out on the deal with their trousers falling down, as they declare they don’t have the finances to make the French superstar a Galactico. 

Many publications have examined the deal, pointing out there are two rather stupid parties involved in the deal. One is not accepting offers in excess of 100 million euros and the other is making those offers. Mbappé sits impatiently in the middle, trying to forego his chance to play with Lionel Messi to move to Madrid sooner instead of waiting a year. 

His impatience, though, has yet to reach Kane or Cristiano Ronaldo levels. 

Kane actively decided not to go back to training, while Ronaldo said goodbye and packed his bags before an offer had even been made to Juventus. Mbappé, at least, has turned up to training, started matches and scored goals – all while hoping that his representatives, PSG and Madrid could sort a deal in the summer window. 

It’s a fascinating phenomenon of the modern transfer, though, that Mbappé and Kane are relying on informal agreements rather than formal details. Jack Grealish, for example, had his pre-agreed contract clause that let him leave to City this summer for £100 million. Plus, even when things were moving slowly, he turned up post-Euro holiday and trained with his former teammates – he did not feel he had to engineer a deal. 

Perhaps the most impressive deal of the whole window, for traditionalists like me, was Danny Ings’ move to Villa Park. 

It happened at a point when the news cycle was dominated by Grealish’s move, but the details of Ings’ transfer were so unknown that Villa didn’t even have the obligatory picture of a player holding some merch while wearing a new piece of kit. 

That’s how the best transfers are done, if you ask me – the very old sounding 21-year-old. In quiet, without a lot of faff and speculation. 

Take the announcement of Rafael Varane (and, to a lesser extent, Joe Willock) on the Old Trafford pitch minutes before their opening game of the season. It was basically done for weeks, but no announcement had been made making it officially official. Then out comes the Frenchman, with his new shirt enhanced by the addition of ‘R. Varane 19’. 

It’s a hit-and-miss for me. Not on the pitch, it’s definitely a very good signing for the Red Devils. But the announcement is one of the biggest wins the team could get, it made Old Trafford electric... However, the amount of talk around the deal made it feel like it had been done for far too long for such a performative announcement. 

It feels like the golden ticker tape of Sky Sports News now is permanently inscribed with player names and clubs who are interested. There is no place for the surprise deal. It must always be the developing story: from first contact to confirmation, every step is monitored and commentated on by Sky Sports’ ‘crack-team of experts’ despite the real desire from football fans everywhere for these deals to be more surprising and startling. 

The world of football transfers will forever be moved by this summer.  

The idea that a club’s greatest ever footballer, who had never played a (senior) game for another club, could depart for free to another super club on the same continent will now not seem so far-fetched.  

The concept of a gentleman’s agreement will be no more, every player looking to make a move happen will ensure they have a signed piece of paper that they can flaunt. 

The world’s greatest players no longer require huge sums of money in transfer fees. They will move for free when they want to. Sergio Ramos, Gigi Donnarumma, Gini Wijnaldum, Lionel Messi... All went to one club, all went for free. Mbappé could do the same next year, Ronaldo could have done the same. 

Transfer fees are now just there for buying out contracts, not trading commodities as owners would hope. Footballers will now use their nous to manoeuvre deals that earn them the largest signing on fees, agent fees and wages (Aaron Ramsey, we all see what you did). 

 

The problems behind Premier League’s travel ban on Brazilian footballers

02/09/2021 - International

By Maurício Alencar, Brazilian football writer

If you put Boris Johnson, Gianni Infantino (President of FIFA), Richarlison, Richard Masters (Premier League CEO), and Alejandro Dominguez (President of CONMEBOL) in a room together, you will find some awkward stares and wry smiles being exchanged. The Premier League recently announced that clubs would block players from travelling to UK red-list countries (which means players would have to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel alone upon return) for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers. All South American countries are red-listed countries. This caused Gianni Infantino to send a letter to the Premier League and English football officials ‘calling on a show of solidarity from every member association, every league, and every club’ to allow exemption for players to travel for World Cup qualifiers. The government refused the request. It’s a power game between hopeless governing bodies.

Aston Villa have backtracked on the agreement, allowing their Argentinian players Martínez and Buendía to travel. Those selected to play for Brazil are stuck in Liverpool (Roberto Firmino, Alisson, Fabinho, and Richarlison), Manchester (Ederson, Gabriel Jesus, and Fred), Leeds (Raphinha), and London (Thiago Silva). The Chilean football federation has asked FIFA to punish Watford and Blackburn for not releasing Francisco Sierralta and Benjamin Bereton. Brazil are assessing their options for the meantime. 

Boris Johnson and the England FA have potentially compromised the success of their 2030 World Cup bid. FIFA deceived themselves into a false sense of authority. And South American football’s export successes have been undermined by Eurocentric power plays. Brazil have recalled (the un-incredible) Hulk to the national squad ahead of matches against Chile, Argentina, and Peru.

Brazil comfortably lead the Qualifiers table by 6 points. Although there’s little at stake for the Seleção, and given players would have to quarantine in low-quality hotels with no spas upon return, it’s not the biggest deal in the world. However, careers are short; players justifiably want to play in those yellow shirts as many times as possible in these years. The current climate is a sign of Europe’s usurpation of power in all matters football, and the absence of Brazilian football’s power in world football politics. 

Many of the Brazilian players of the past would not have had to deal with having to sit through long-haul flights from Europe watching films to pass the time. Yes, there is some pride in seeing Brazilian players add enticing flavours to European football, and Asian football, and football in the Faroe Islands. But there’s also a more palpable feeling of saudades, of longing for the days where the Brazilian league had some international pedigree, and also of some resignation in seeing Brazil’s best clubs, like Flamengo, be made up of veterans and other washed-up players who had played in Europe for years before, like Filipe Luís and Kenedy, rather than the best.

One solution some Brazilian clubs are considering involves creating a “breakaway super league” with significant investments from an American investment company. This phrase is a traumatic one for English readers, but the nature of it is to emulate the formation of the Premier League in 1992. Kudos to the conflict between Brazil’s football federation and the Premier League. So much for keeping Brazil’s elite footballers at home, fans in the country may not like the cultural degradation of the league in practice so much. Other constructive solutions are possible. 

The tensions between South American football and governing bodies in Europe puts into clear perspective the disadvantages of the exportation of young Brazilian talents to other continents. The weakness and vulnerability of Brazilian footballers’ power in the negotiating rooms is just as clear to see. The Brazilian football federation (CBF) or CONMEBOL must show their own ‘show of solidarity’ for the continent’s own football, especially in a situation where there is an incentive to respond. One regulation which could go some way in improving the quality of the country’s football is increasing the age at which players move to Europe; Neymar left Santos at the age of 21, rather than 18, ready to perform at a world-class level. Yet, instead of phoenix-rising from the burning wildfires that is Brazilian football in its current state, you can expect the continent’s footballing bodies to be unreliable, corrupt, pragmatic, and also let super-reliable FIFA do some of the dirty work on their behalf.

Olafoe Makes Sutton Return

01/09/2021 - League Two

By Finley Chung, Sutton United writer

There was some deadline day joy for Sutton United supporters as the club confirmed that Isaac Olafoe, a hero of last season’s promotion campaign, has returned to the club on a season long loan from Millwall.

‘Tanto’, as he’s affectionately known to the Sutton faithful, has penned a one-year loan deal at the VBS Community Stadium. This marks his third year on loan at Sutton, his first being the curtailed 2019-2020 campaign where he only made 5 appearances for The U’s. Last season though was where he really made his name. 14 goals across 37 matches for Sutton United in their historic promotion season saw ‘Tanto’ become an instant hit with the Gander Green Lane faithful. Millwall manager, Garry Rowett was keen for Olafoe to get out and keep putting the ball in the net, speaking to the South London Press this week, Rowett said, “The safest bet is for him to go out and play some games”.

Speaking to Sutton United’s website, U’s manager, Matt Jay spoke on the move, “I’m delighted to get Tanto back after he done so well for us last season with his goals being so crucial to our Championship success. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury in pre-season, so he won’t be available for a couple of weeks but we’re looking forward to seeing him in Sutton colours very soon. I would like to thank Millwall, especially Harvey Bussell for their help arranging the loan”.

Olafoe joins fellow new recruits, Joe Kizzi, Enzo Boldewijn, Ricky Korboa, Donovan Wilson, Richie Bennet, Filip Chalupnizcak, Alistair Smith and Adam Lovatt at the VBS, looking to help Sutton defy all the odds and escape relegation from League 2 this season. If he can match his form from last campaign, The U’s could be a real handful for some sides.

Son sends Spurs top

31/08/2021 - Premier League

By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer

I dont want to get too ahead of myself but, its a wonderful time to be a Tottenham fan. Thanks to a Son Heung-min free kick, Spurs top the Premier League table as the only team to have won all three matches. Nuno Espirito Santo is the first Tottenham manager to have won his opening three league matches since Arthur Rowe in 1949 and following a 5-0 thumping, Arsenal are currently sitting bottom of the league.

Who would have thought at the start of the season that a centre-back partnership of Eric Dier and Davinson Sánchez would have kept three clean sheets in as many games with one of those matches including the reigning champions Manchester City.

For the third successive Premier League game Spurs ran out 1-0 winners, this time against a resilient Watford side that made it incredibly difficult, in my preview I said this game would pose a different kind of threat to what Tottenham had faced so far and it certainly did. Watford set up in a 4-5-1 formation, encamped in their own half and looking to release the ever dangerous Ismaïla Sarr on the counter-attack. For large portions of the game it worked, especially in the first half where on balance Watford had the better chances, once again it took the world class Son to give Spurs the advantage, the South Korean free-kick deceived everyone and crept into the far corner.

Tottenhams second-half performance was really pleasing to watch, unlike last season when a 1-0 lead meant sitting deep and inviting opposition pressure, Spurs opted to play on the front foot. Both full-backs got forward, Dele Alli was coming from deep and Steven Bergwijn and Son Heung-min were making runs throughout, Kane dropped deep to link play between midfield and attack, resulting in plenty of chances and on another day Tottenham could have ran out three of four nil winners.

Most importantly, it was entertaining to watch and the atmosphere around the ground was one of positivity and optimism instead of the toxic feeling Mourinho had installed at the club. Tottenham are playing as a unit again, Nuno inherited a disjointed squad with their star player wanting to leave, he has done a fantastic job to get three gritty performances out of them. Tottenhams next three fixtures are London derbies against Palace, Chelsea and Arsenal, I think we will know far more what this squad is capable of after those games but for now, Spurs fans should enjoy being top of the Premier League going into the international break!

COYS!

Red card controversy overshadows good first half performance

30/08/2021 - Premier League

By Louis Pantziarka, Chelsea writer

Chelsea and Liverpool played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at Anfield on Saturday, in a game that was overshadowed by a controversial penalty and red card.

The first half was open and free flowing, with Chelsea just about edging it. Kai Havertz gave them the lead with a superb header in the 22nd minute, but despite their best efforts the Blues weren’t able to double their lead. Liverpool were awarded a penalty just before half time, with Reece James adjudged to have handled the ball on the line. The England full back was sent off and Mo Salah netted the equaliser.

The controversy at the end of the half will grab the headlines, but Chelsea looked the better side in the opening 45. Havertz scored his first goal since the Champions League Final, meeting James’s corner with a header that looped over the stranded Alisson. Mason Mount then missed a glorious chance to make it 2-0, after some good work from Romelu Lukaku, skewing a shot wide from inside the penalty area.

The hosts’ equaliser came after a chaotic goal mouth scramble ended in James blocking Sadio Mane’s attempt with his arm. The Liverpool players appealed and Anthony Taylor was advised by VAR to take a look at the pitch side monitor. After an incredibly quick check, the referee brandished a red card and awarded the Reds a penalty. The drama didn’t end there though – after Salah hit the back of the net, Chelsea keeper Edu Mendy became involved in an altercation with Jordan Henderson, which resulted in a booking and nearly caused a brawl. In the end the half time whistle was a welcome relief.

Thomas Tuchel sent Thiago Silva on for the second half and the Brazilian played his part in an immense defensive performance. Mendy made some saves from range, but the Blues’ defence held firm as Liverpool failed to push home their man advantage.

The Chelsea boss was rightly proud of his team’s performance and had this to say to BBC Sport after the game: "I cannot praise the team enough, I do not know if there is a harder stadium than City and Anfield to go one man down”.

"With pure will, we took the heat out of the game. That was team effort at its very best”.

Chelsea will take heart from a defensive masterclass as their players head off for the international break. Their next game is against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on the 11th September.

PSG: Un BUEN problema por resolver

30/08/2021 - Europe

By Juan I Giulianelli, Escritor de fútbol argentino

Antes de la llegada de Lionel Messi, el PSG ya había sumado a su equipo a otros cuatro futbolistas de primer nivel, el portero Gigi Donnarumma (ex. Milán), el defensa Sergio Ramos (ex. Real Madrid), el defensa Achraf Hakimi (ex. Inter de Milán). y el mediocampista Georgino Wijnaldum (ex. Liverpool). Todos ellos, junto a Lionel Messi jugarán la próxima temporada en el PSG y este equipo solo será comparable con un equipo creado en el modo carrera de la Play Station. 

En el PSG Lionel Messi se encontrará con viejos conocidos como Ángel Di María, Neymar y Leandro Paredes, con ellos construirá un equipo de ensueño sumando jugadores que ya están en el PSG como Kylian Mbappé y Marco Verratti, entre otros. Sin duda se conformará uno de los equipos más poderosos del mundo y eso crea un "problema" a su entrenador, Mauricio Pochettino, al respecto de cómo mantener el equilibrio en todas las líneas. 

La temporada pasada el equipo del PSG solía jugar con un clásico 4-3-3, a veces con un delantero centro clásico como Mauro Icardi u otras jugando con Mbappé como falso nueve y Di Maria & Neymar en los laterales.  Ahora Mauricio Pochettino debe incorporar a Lionel Messi al funcionamiento del equipo y deberá modificar la distribución del equipo.

El verdadero desafío deportivo del PSG para la presente temporada será ganar la Champions League, los últimos años estuvo muy cerca pero siempre ha quedado en las últimas rondas, este año el PSG ha creado el nuevo "equipo galáctico" para finalmente ganar la UEFA Champions League, pero muchos jugadores con gran técnica no son la garantía para ganar el torneo continental europeo, el equipo debe recuperar el balón cuando los cuatro fantásticos lo pierden o el rival lo recupera, y en esta parte del campo, el entrenador debe tomar algunas decisiones complejas. 

En el campeonato local y las primeras rondas de las competiciones continentales (no contra el Machester City que formara parte del grupo clasificatorio con PSG), el equipo puede jugar con dos futbolistas en el mediocampo como Verratti y Wijnaldum y utilizar a Messi como creador del fútbol, ​​Mbappé como delantero centro y Di Maria y Neymar en los extremos, lo que será una tentación y garantizará muy buen juego en el equipo y probablemente grandes resultados en las competiciones locales y primeros pasos a las competiciones continentales. El desafío de Verratti y Wijnaldum será recuperar el balón y pasarlo a uno de los cuatro fantásticos contando con la ayuda de Hakimi y Bernat (los defensores laterales) que se sumarán al centro del campo cuando las circunstancias del fútbol lo permitan, dejando a Sergio Ramos y Marquinhos en una posición estática como defensas como lo estarán Verratti y Wijnaldum como mediocampistas, de hecho, con Messi, Mbappé, Di Maria y Neymar debería ser suficiente para desarrollar el fútbol. ¿No creen?

Desde ya que esta distribución del equipo creará espacios a espaldas de los defensores y mediocampistas laterales que deben ser explotados por los oponentes, pero no muchos equipos tienen las condiciones para lidiar con Sergio Ramos, Marquinhos Verratti y Wijnaldum, los responsables de evitar el gol en la portería de Gigi Donnarumma. 

Para las competiciones locales y las primeras rondas de la Liga de Campeones funcionará muy bien jugar con los 4 fantásticos y aumentará el mito del fantástico PSG, pero en las rondas finales de las competiciones continentales los equipos de Inglaterra como Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool o Arsenal, equipos de Alemania como Bayer Munich o Borussia Dortmund y también equipos de España o Italia como Real Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Atlético de Madrid, Juventus o Inter también tienen grandes equipos y suelen lidiar con este tipo de desafíos y superarlos. 

En las rondas definitivas de las competencias continentales, buscar un equilibrio entre todas las líneas debe ser un desafío, y Mauricio Pochettino debe pensar en cambiar de los “cuatro fantásticos” por “tres fantásticos” y agregar un mediocampista en el equipo para compensar las líneas. Es muy pronto para decir quiénes estarán fuera del equipo, pero Di María es un firme candidato para salir y Leandro Paredes seria quien se sumaría en el medio campo moviendo la posición de Messi a los laterales y dando más flexibilidad para el pase de los centrocampistas al ataque, por supuesto, puede probar esto durante muchos de los partidos de la League 1 para estar preparado para los desafíos más grandes. 

El nuevo equipo galáctico, un equipo galáctico francés, que tendrá como suplentes esperando una oportunidad a jugadores como Keylor Navas, Rafinha, Paredes o Di Maria, Icardi, etc. 

Poch's Paris Problems: tactical issues to be solved

30/08/2021 - Europe

By Juan I Giulianelli, Argentinian football writer

Before Lionel Messi's arrival, Paris Saint-Germain had already added to their squad another four top football players, the goalkeeper Gigi Donnarumma (from AC Milan), defenders Sergio Ramos (from Real Madrid) and Achraf Hakimi (from Inter of Milan), and midfielder Georgino Wijnaldum (from Liverpool). All of them will play next season at PSG, in a team that will look like it was created on career mode on the PlayStation.

At PSG, Lionel Messi will meet up with old friends like Ángel Di María, Neymar and Leandro Paredes, with them he will build a dream team adding players already on PSG like Kylian Mbappé, Marco Verratti and so on. Undoubtedly this team is one of the most powerful in the world and this creates a "problem" for its coach, Mauricio Pochettino, on how to maintain the balance between all lines.

Last season PSG played with a classic 4-3-3, sometimes using a traditional centre forward like Mauro Icardi or others, like Mbappé, playing as a false nine and Di Maria & Neymar as forwards on the wings. Now, Mauricio Pochettino must add Lionel Messi to the team and probably will have to modify the team distribution.

The real challenge of PSG for the current season will be the Champions League, the last few years they were very near but always lost in the later rounds, this year PSG has created the new "Galácticos" to finally win the UEFA Champions league, but many players with great technique are not the warranty to win the biggest club tournament in Europe, the team must recover the ball when the Fantastic Four lose it, or the opposition recover it, and on this part of the field the coach must take some decisions.

In the French League and the first rounds of continental competitions (doesn't apply against Manchester City, who is part of Group A in the Champions League with PSG) the team can play with two in the midfield such as Verratti and Wijnaldum and use Messi as a playmaker, Mbappe as centre forward and Di Maria and Neymar on the wings. This will be a temptation and it will guarantee great football from the team, and probably great results in the domestic competitions and firsts steps to the continental competitions, the challenge of Verratti and Wijnaldum will be recover the ball and pass it to one of the fantastic four. Most likely Hakimi and Bernat as wing backs will join the midfield when the circumstances allow it leaving Sergio Ramos and Marquinhos in static positions as defenders. With Hakimi and Bernat as wide midfielders, and with Messi, Mbappe, Di Maria and Neymar in forward areas - there is enough to create beautiful football. Don't you agree?

These tactics will create spaces behind the back of the defenders and midfielders that must be exploited by the opponents, but not many teams have the skill to deal with Sergio Ramos, Marquinhos, Verratti and Wijnaldum, let alone to create shooting opportunities at the goal of Gigi Donnarumma or Keylor Navas.

For local competitions and firsts rounds on the Champions League it will work well and will increase the myth of fantastic PSG, but in the finals rounds of the continental competitions the English, German, Spanish or Italian teams have great squads too and they are used to dealing with these kinds of challenges and beating them.

In this step of the competitions trying to achieve a balance between all lines must be a challenge and Mauricio Pochettino must think about changing the fantastic four to a fantastic three, while adding a midfielder in to the team. It is very early to know who will be out of the team, but Di Maria is a firm candidate and Leandro Paredes would be added on the midfield probably moving Messi's position to the sides and giving more flexibility for the midfielders pass to the attack, of course he can test this during many matches to be prepared for the bigger challenges.

The new Galácticos, a French, not Spanish, Galácticos.

Reality check for Wednesday

29/08/2021 - Championship

By Jude Hall, Sheffield Wednesday writer

The Owls came crashing back down to earth this weekend as they were handed their first defeat of the season away at Morecambe. 

Darren Moore’s lineup saw just one recognised central defender in Dominic Iorfa who was partnered by usual versatile fullback Liam Palmer due to injuries for Sam Hutchinson and Chey Dunkley. Lee Gregory and Dennis Adeniran returned to the starting XI on the West Coast whilst Lewis Wing was notably benched for the first time since joining the Yorkshire club. 

In a dominant first half display the Owls were frustrated to go into the break level, with Jaden Brown and Lee Gregory both coming close to putting The Owls ahead. Jack Hunt was almost an unlikely source of an opener as he also came close in the first period when his cross looped over the Morecambe keeper but clipped the crossbar. 

The men from South Yorkshire continued to look the more threatening side in the second half, with George Byers inches away from opening his Wednesday account when the midfielder’s spectacular  25-yard strike smashed the post. 

With two goals already in the blue and white, Gregory threatened to continue his goal-scoring form. The striker was unlucky to see his volley fizz over the bar following a clever turn. Five minutes later, Gregory was played in by Barry Bannan but saw a low effort saved well by Jokull Andresson in the Shrimps goal. 

With 5,481 supporters the fixture saw a record attendance at the Mazuma stadium and the hosts ensured it would be a day to remember when they took the lead on 63 minutes. Adam Phillips’ corner went into a crowd of bodies in the Wednesday box and found its way into the back of the net with the final touch adjudged to have been from Dennis Adeniran for an unfortunate own goal. 

Darren Moore’s defence had finally been breached for the first time this season by newly promoted Morecambe, and The Owls seemed stunned as they stumbled to defeat. 

The 1-0 win sees Stephen Robinson’s side end their run of three straight losses whilst Wednesday were knocked off top spot in League One by new leaders Sunderland. Following the conclusion on the game Darren Moore said: 

“We have got to take our medicine and move on to Tuesday. When you have nine or 10 men behind the ball, it is difficult. We will analyse the video later on. There will be more games like that. I know the division and there are certain teams. Morecambe had a game plan and credit to them. They got the three points. We are disappointed because we set our stall out to get a win.”

Sheffield Wednesday fans will be looking for a reaction on Tuesday night as they host Newcastle under 21s in the Papa John’s Trophy. The Owls will have a while to wait before they can right their wrongs in League One as their fixture against Sunderland has been rescheduled due to international call-ups in the Mackem camp meaning Wednesday’s next league game is not until Saturday 11th September when they make the long trip to play Plymouth Argyle. 

 

 

 

Arsenal – from elite club to fighting on the verge of the top half

29/08/2021 - Premier League

By Samuel Ketch, editor-in-chief

Martin Keown was repeatedly quizzed by Steve McManaman on BT’s coverage about Arsenal’s personnel and what he would do with them. ‘3, 4, 5? What would you do with them?’ 

Henry Winter said of Granit Xhaka on Twitter: “Why is he still at #afc anyway? One minute he’s off to Roma, the next he’s starting the season with the armband.” 

People will write and write and write on Arteta’s job security, on the stupidity of Granit Xhaka, on the necessity for the Kroenke family to sell up, or even on the excellence of an effortless Manchester City side. 

Not me. I would love to do so, but it’s got to be different – unique – for me. I want to say something that others might not. 

It's the obvious thing but people try to overanalyse the fact: Arsenal are just not the football club they were 15 years ago, and the football club they were a decade ago – when they were thumped 8-2 by Manchester United, causing Arsene Wenger to sign Mikel Arteta – was already a shell of the club that reached the Champions League final five years prior. 

When you go back to their 8-2 defeat to Manchester United in 2011, Wenger’s team was hardly filled with his first choice but it was also hardly devoid of talent. Robin van Persie, captain of Arsenal at that stage, would later go to United. Laurent Koscielny became club captain at some stage in the years after. Wojciech Szczesny and Aaron Ramsey are at Juventus. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a debutant from the bench, is at Liverpool. Tomas Rosicky was a trusted player by Wenger over the years. Theo Walcott was deemed important enough to stay at Arsenal for years afterwards. 

Fast forward a decade to Arsenal’s 5-0 loss to Manchester City in 2021 and there are only a handful, if you are being very kind, of players in the squad who could move up the table (or sideways, realistically). 

Bernd Leno could, but after his time at Arsenal it’s increasingly unlikely. He’s already been outshined by Emi Martinez – now of Aston Villa, rather than Arsenal – and will likely be replaced at some stage by Aaron Ramsdale. 

Kieran Tierney almost certainly should be in a team playing in Europe. Perhaps Celtic could get him back, if a team like Leicester or West Ham don’t get there first – or maybe even a surprise move from Man City who might need a left-back? A good left-back, who clearly defends well and can attack, Tierney is above this Arsenal team. 

Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe are academy prospects, and I would suggest that neither get in any of the top four teams – perhaps even the aforementioned Europa League sides for the 2021-22 season would see them not as must-have starting options.  

Saka, an England international after the Euro this summer, and Smith Rowe could do with moving on to clubs who will let them play freely and be the dynamic options in attack that they want to be. But I would also say, Smith Rowe is a rotation number ten for all bar West Ham of the European teams this year while Saka is a starter for none of the top four but is for Leicester, West Ham and Tottenham. 

Odegaard clearly came to Arsenal from Madrid to play football after his loan spell. It’s obvious that he can move the ball creatively, and that he could be an excellent player – much in the same way as Smith Rowe, but without the ability to help the English quota – who should probably go outside of England to play continental football. I see him as a player whose career trajectory is destined to be perennial transfer rumour to return to the elite club. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette should depart to be honest. I think neither particularly help Arteta’s side, despite their obvious quality, but – unfortunately for Arsenal – I think there is no club that needs an Aubameyang or Lacazette. 

To come back into the Arsenal team there is Ben White, Hector Bellerin, Thomas Partey, and Nicolas Pepe. Partey left Atletico to join Arsenal – which Champions League team is taking him now? Bellerin wants out – to where? Pepe – £72 million, where has that quality been? White is fresh from a big money move – is he going to become worth it in a few years? 

Arsenal’s squad is just mediocre. It has individuals who will carry them to victories when it matters, but if you analyse it closely the Arsenal squad has been filled with players who – like former big club players at a club of the stature of Leicester, for example – are capable of good performances 1 in every 3 games. It works beautifully when done for a ‘smaller’ club in the league, because players like Jonny Evans become recognised for being actually good players; but it’s not enough to get Evans, for example, a move back to Manchester United – in fact, it was almost enough to get him to Arsenal to really prove my point. 

Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, Ainsley Maitland Niles... You get the types I am talking about. 

Then there is the awful players who’ve never proved their capable to play at Arsenal. Mo Elneny, for example, somehow still plays for them. Cedric Soares is so notable in being bad at defending that Carl Anka tweeted that when Man United played Arsenal last year, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told Marcus Rashford that Cedric "cannot defend”. He just played 90 minutes against the Premier League champions. 

Wenger, Emery, Arteta, Edu, the club’s ownership, whoever is responsible for the building of this squad has failed miserably. 

Xhaka was supposed to leave, as mentioned in the Henry Winter tweet, and then captained the club this season. Willian and Cedric were given bumper contracts when they clearly should’ve been allowed to leave the club. William Saliba was allowed to go out on loan while Sead Kolasinac just played two matches in a week, including a centre back against City, after not playing for the club for eight months. 

Arsenal should now look at eighth place and try to finish there, now known as top of the ‘non-qualification-for-European-football’ table. That means their ambition is now to finish above clubs like Leicester, West Ham and Leeds – rather than local rivals Spurs and Chelsea, and former domestic rivals Manchester City, United and Liverpool. 

The Top Six had already become outdated and factually incorrect, but now the Big Six has fallen too. Arsenal are no longer big enough, arguably neither are Spurs. It’s a Big Four now, and it’s likely the Top Four too. 

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