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England World Cup Squad of the Week #3

Roy Hodgson has just named his England squad for next week’s friendly match against Denmark as he continue’s his preparations for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, and there were one or two players in there, such as Ross Barkley and Ashley Cole, who haven’t featured prominently for their clubs in recent months. Cole’s reputation and experience makes him a shoe-in for the finals if fit, but here at aboutaball.co.uk we have been picking an England squad each week based purely on players’ performances in that week’s Premier League matches. Here’s our latest selection.

Starting off as usual with the goalkeepers, there wasn’t much choice as only three Englishmen turned out in goal for Premier League clubs in this round of fixtures. Fortunately they all acquitted themselves fairly well, with Joe Hart and John Ruddy both keeping clean sheets and Ben Foster making some decent saves despite conceding one goal, so they all make the squad with Hart as first choice.

There weren’t too many contenders for the centre-back slots this week but the four we have chosen all had solid performances. Once again the Chelsea pairing of Gary Cahill and John Terry were integral in their team’s shut-out of Everton at Stamford Bridge and their partnership is forming the bedrock of Chelsea’s push for the title. Their individual talent makes them strong contenders for national team starting spots, but it’s their understanding from playing together at club level that would be invaluable to Hodgson come the summer. Therefore, we’ll continue to include Terry in these squads whilst there remains a possibility that he could be enticed back into the frame. Backup this week is provided by Curtis Davies, who stood out in Hull’s demolition of Cardiff, and Mike Williamson, who impressed for Newcastle as the kept a clean sheet in the victory over Aston Villa.

Glen Johnson’s return to action for Liverpool was a welcome sight, but he looked a bit rusty, so he didn’t make the cut for this week’s squad. Instead we have gone for Manchester United’s Chris Smalling and Everton’s Leighton Baines with backup from John Flanagan and Liam Rosenior at full-back. No English full-backs really stood out last weekend, but these four were better than most and the likes of Flanagan and Smalling offer a lot of versatility.

Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson were the outstanding English performers in the heart of midfield last weekend and we’re aligning them in the heart of a 4-4-2 formation this week with the lively Raheem Sterling on one flank and the revived Stewart Downing on the other. Matthew Jarvis will provide cover in the wide areas and Frank Lampard and Jake Livermore in the centre with Swansea’s Jonjo Shelvey as a more attacking wildcard following his great strike at Anfield.

Up front there wasn’t much competition this week with Daniel Sturridge continuing his impressive run of form. Let’s hope it continues into the summer and Wayne Rooney can return to the height of his powers to play alongside him as they would make an fearsome partnership on their day. Rooney scored with a fine strike against Crystal Palace and there were also goals from Carlton Cole and Kevin Nolan in West Ham’s home win against Southampton that earned them a place in this week’s squad.

So our England World Cup 2014 Squad of the Week #3 is:

Goalkeepers:
Joe Hart
John Ruddy
Ben Foster

Defenders:
Liam Rosenior
Chris Smalling
Leighton Baines
John Flanagan
John Terry
Gary Cahill
Curtis Davies
Mike Williamson

Midfielders:
Jack Wilshere
Frank Lampard
Jake Livermore
Jordan Henderson
Jonjo Shelvey
Matthew Jarvis
Stewart Downing
Raheem Sterling

Forwards:Adam Johnson
Carlton COle
Kevin Nolan
Wayne Rooney
Daniel Sturridge

And our England starting XI of the week would line up something like this:

England Team of the Week

England Team of the Week #3

England World Cup Squad of the Week #2

With only thirteen rounds of Premier League matches left before the 2014 World Cup finals kick off in Brazil, here’s the second in our new weekly series of England squads picked solely on the basis of the English players who perform best in each round of Premier League fixtures until the end of the season. We’re looking for the form players in this final third of the season – previous performances and reputation will count for nothing. By the end of the campaign, we will hopefully have a clear idea of who deserves to be on the plane to Brazil.

Starting off between the sticks, we’ve gone for Joe Hart following his clean sheet against Norwich City at Carrow Road. He edges out his opposite number from that match, John Ruddy. As Celtic’s Fraser Forster was on the end of a beating this weekend, we’ve selected Hull’s Steve Harper as our third choice ‘keeper thanks to his clean sheet at Sunderland.

There weren’t that many contenders for the defensive positions this weekend, especially at fullback, so we’ve taken a risk and only picked seven defenders for the squad and beef up the midfield options. Hopefully Jon Flanagan’s ability to play on both sides would mitigate that risk as Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw are the only other full-backs in the squad. There were good performances for Chelsea’s Gary Cahill and Spurs’ Michael Dawson in clean sheet victories for their clubs and they are joined by Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann and West Ham’s James Tomkins to make up a full complement of four London based centre-backs.

There were plenty of impressive English central and wide midfielders this weekend and it was difficult to narrow to selection down to the nine that we have chosen. Liverpool’s line up from their 5-1 crushing of Arsenal has provided Gerrard, Henderson and Sterling, with goalscoring wingers Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and Tom Ince also joining the party. Swansea’s Leon Britton, Chelsea’s Frank Lampard and Fulham’s Steve Sidwell complete the midfield options, the latter after an impressive display in the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford.

A few English strikers found the net this weekend, but Darren Bent misses out on the squad in favour of Southampton’s Rickie Lambert, who turned in another fine all round performance, Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge, Stoke City’s Peter Crouch and West Ham’s two-goal hero Kevin Nolan.

So our England World Cup 2014 Squad of the Week #2 is:

Goalkeepers:
Joe Hart
John Ruddy
Steve Harper

Defenders:
Gary Cahill
Scott Dann
Michael Dawson
James Tomkins
Jon Flanagan
Kyle Walker
Luke Shaw

Midfielders:
Steven Gerrard
Jordan Henderson
Frank Lampard
Leon Britton
Steve Sidwell
Raheem Sterling
Nathan Dyer
Wayne Routledge
Tom Ince

Forwards:Adam Johnson
Kevin Nolan
Daniel Sturridge
Rickie Lambert
Peter Crouch

And our England starting XI of the week would line up something like this:

England team of the week

England team of the week

Do you agree? Who would you have picked on this week’s Premier League performances? You can leave your comments below.

England World Cup Squad of the Week #1

There are now only fourteen more rounds of Premier League matches left before England manager Roy Hodgson must name his twenty-three man squad for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil. We thought it would be a good time to start our countdown to the tournament with a new weekly feature on the English players who perform best in each round of Premier League fixtures between now and the end of the season. We’re going to pick our own England squad each week based solely on performances in the most recent set of matches and see which players most consistently make the cut so that we will be able to tally up their appearances come June and see who most deserves to be on the plane to Brazil. We’re looking for the form players in this final third of the season – previous performances and reputation will count for nothing.

We will start with the goalkeepers. There isn’t a lot of competition at the moment and Celtic’s Fraser Forster is likely to be in the final squad, which leaves two places for Premier League goalkeepers. It wasn’t a vintage weekend for English ‘keepers, but Ben Foster produced a couple of crucial saves and performed well enough in West Brom’s draw against Liverpool to earn one of the spots. We’ll hand the third spot to Joe Hart, who was beaten by a good shot in Manchester City’s defeat to Chelsea, ahead of Hull’s Steve Harper, who could have done better with the Tottenham goal, and John Ruddy, who let in two for Norwich at Cardiff.

In defence there weren’t many outstanding performances from English full-backs in the Premier League this weekend but several centre-backs staked a claim for a place in the England squad. Not least among them were the club partnership of Gary Cahill and John Terry who did what nobody else has done for over three years and shut out Manchester City at the Etihad. Yes, we know John Terry is out of the reckoning for England selections at the moment, but stranger u-turns have happened in the past so we’re going to keep him in contention for the time being. As a partnership, those two are going straight on to this week’s England teamsheet with squad back up from Sunderland’s Wes Brown and James Tomkins of West Ham, who both impressed with clean sheets for their clubs. Leighton Baines gets our nod for the left-back slot ahead of Southampton’s Luke Shaw but right-backs are a bit thinner on the ground at the moment. We’ll hand Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne a starting spot even though he only played the last thirty two minutes. He made a big impact as all three goals came after his introduction and he created one of them with a good run and cross. Liverpool’s Jon Flanagan gets in as his back up.

There was a bit more competition for places in midfield this week, where the stand out performer was Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He scored two goals and will be a certainty to make the squad if he carries on in that form. It’s a real boost to England to have him back from injury and he should be fresh for the World Cup having missed over half the season. He’ll slot into a midfield three alongside Gareth Barry, who was effective as ever in Everton’s comeback win against Aston Villa, and Jack Colback, who shone for Sunderland against Newcastle. Other options in the centre of the park will be provided by the West Ham pair of Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan as a more advanced option.

We were somewhat spoilt for choice in the wide areas this week, with plenty of Englishmen putting in stellar performances in the Premier League. In the end we went for Sunderland’s Adam Johnson on the right side of attack with Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge on the left, but it could just as easily have been Adam Lallana or Jay Rodriguez of Southampton, who also make our squad, as does Sturridge’s team mate Raheem Sterling. That doesn’t leave many places for out and out strikers in the squad, which is just as well because not many made an impression this week. Only two really stood out and they were West Ham’s Andy Carroll, with his two assists against Swansea, and Southampton’s Rickie Lambert, with a goal and two assists against Fulham.

So our England World Cup 2014 Squad of the Week #1 is:

Goalkeepers:
Ben Foster
Joe Hart
Fraser Forster

Defenders:
Gary Cahill
John Terry
Wes Brown
James Tomkins
Leighton Baines
Luke Shaw
Nathaniel Clyne
Jon Flanagan

Midfielders:
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Gareth Barry
Jack Colback
Mark Noble
Kevin Nolan
Adam Lallana
Raheem Sterling

Forwards:Adam Johnson
Daniel Sturridge
Jay Rodriguez
Rickie Lambert
Andy Carroll

And our England starting XI of the week would line up something like this:

England team of the week

England team of the week

Do you agree? Who would you have picked on this week’s Premier League performances?

Chelsea end Manchester City’s unbeaten home record

Chelsea have ended Manchester City’s unbeaten home record in the Premier League this season and kept the title race wide open with a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium. Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic lashed home the only goal of the game in the thirty second minute to lift Jose Mourinho’s team up to fifty three points, leaving them in joint second place with City, only trailing the Manchester club on goal difference. City, who had won all eleven of their previous home league fixtures this campaign, failed to find the net on home turf in the league for the first time since November 2010 and missed out on the chance to go top of the table.

Arsenal have a two point advantage at the top of the table thanks to their 2-0 home win in a London derby against Crystal Palace at the weekend, which came courtesy of two goals from the returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. However, things could change at the top as early as next weekend with the Gunners facing a difficult looking trip to Anfield to take on fourth placed Liverpool, who could only draw at West Brom on Sunday, and Chelsea and Manchester City having easier looking fixtures against Newcastle and Norwich respectively.

Coventry City facing liquidation

English League One club Coventry City are today facing up to the prospect of liquidation after they failed to agree a Company Voluntary Arrangement with their creditors. Coventry City, who have been in administration since March, were deducted ten points last season for entering administration and ended the campaign in fifteenth spot, but they now face a further penalty of at least a fifteen point deduction for this season. They will still be able to start their new campaign on Saturday, when they have an away match at Crawley, but they will have a nervous wait to see how many points the Football League decide to deduct.

Coventry look set to be playing their home games outside the city this season following a rent dispute with Arena Coventry Limited (ACL), which operates their usual home ground, the Ricoh Arena. A reduced annual rent had been proposed but the sides were unable to agree the exact terms and Coventry have arranged to share the Sixfields Stadium with Northampton Town for the next three seasons. However, that move has disenchanted many fans and will ultimately result in reduced gate receipts as reports this week suggested that the club have sold fewer than three hundred season tickets for 2013-14. It remains an extremely worrying time for supporters and employees of Coventry City Football Club.

Liverpool bid for Costa amid conflicting advice for Suarez

Liverpool have made a £21 million bid for Atletico Madrid’s Brazilian striker Diego Costa, which will trigger a release clause in the player’s contract with the Spanish club allowing him to discuss terms with the reds. Costa, 24, has two caps for the Brazil national team, having made his debut as a substitute against Italy in March this year. He grew up playing street football in Brazil before moving to Europe at the age of seventeen where he joined Sporting Clube de Braga in Portugal and was swiftly sent out on loan to gain experience at second division Penafiel. He impressed there and was snapped up by Atletico Madrid, who immediately loaned him back to Braga and then to Celta Vigo and Albacete in subsequent seasons, where he started to build a reputation in Spain‘s second level. His career continued in an upward trajectory when he was sold to Valladolid at the start of the 2009-10 season and enjoyed first team football in the Primera Division, doing enough to convince Atletico to exercise their buy-back option on him at the end of the season. Since then he has gone on to play eighty three times for Atletico in all competitions, scoring twenty eight goals, either side of a loan spell at Rayo Vallecano, for whom he scored nine goals in sixteen appearances. The highlight of his club career to date was scoring in Atletico Madrid’s historic Copa del Rey final win over rivals Real Madrid at the end of last season.

It is thought that Liverpool are interested in signing Costa to bolster their attacking options, rather than to replace Luis Suarez, who is contemplating a move away from the club. A couple of high profile signings like Costa might convince Suarez of the club’s ambition and convince him to pledge his immediate future to Liverpool, and signing more top strikers will relieve Suarez from some of the burden of pressure to provide goals that fell so heavily on his shoulders last season. Meanwhile, Suarez has been receiving conflicting advice from all quarters about whether or not to stay with the club. Yesterday, former Liverpool Chief Executive Rick Parry was reported as saying that he should be allowed to leave as it’s counter productive to keep a player who wants to leave at a club, but today former Arsenal striker Ian Wright has said that he thinks Suarez should stay at Anfield. Arsenal are the only club to have made an offer for Suarez, but Wright told the BBC “if I was Suarez, when you look at everything, it does seem strange he would want to go to Arsenal. I would give Liverpool another season … if you look at Arsenal, not won anything in eight years, just challenging for fourth place, not really any players there who will make him say ‘I’m going to play with him and him’.

New sport channels go live with Bayern Munich v Man City tonight

The much heralded BT Sport channels go on air for the first time at 18:00 this evening in the UK with an introductory show from their new studio in the London Olympic park followed by live coverage of the Audi Cup final from the Allianz Arena in Munich where hosts Bayern Munich take on Manchester City from 19:00. The new channels can be viewed by anyone with BT broadband or, for tonight only, for free by anyone with Freeview.

BT is the latest in a series of challengers to Sky Sports’ dominant position in the UK televised football market, following in the footsteps of the ill fated ON Digital/ITV Digital channels, Setanta Sports and ESPN. BT has acquired the exclusive rights to 38 Premier League matches in each of the next three seasons, as well as FA Cup, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga, French Ligue 1, Russian Premier League, Dutch Eredivisie, Brazilian Serie A, Europe League, Copa Libertadores, MLS and Scottish PFL football rights. They will be showing a few pre-season friendlies before they screen the first Premier League game of the season, Liverpool v Stoke from Anfield on Saturday 17th of August.

Soldado set to become Spurs record signing

Tottenham Hotspur have announced that they have agreed terms with Valencia of the Spanish Primera Liga for the signing of striker Roberto Soldado. In doing so, they will smash their transfer record for the second time this summer as Soldado’s agreed price tag of £26 million follows their £17 million capture of Paulinho from Corinthians of Brazil. The twenty-eight year old forward is expected to put pen to paper tomorrow if everything goes well with his medical examination by the north London club. The transfer fee is expected to be paid in instalments with an initial payment of around £10.4 million followed by three further annual payments of about £5,2 million.

The signing takes Spurs’ summer transfer spending commitments to over £50 million, which could be an indication that they are counting on receiving a large income from the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. If they can get around £80 million plus a top player from the Madrid club then they will have made a net transfer profit this summer and replaced one outstanding player with several top class players such as Soldado, Paulinho, whoever they can prise from Real and the promising Nacer Chadli. Spurs have also just received a sizeable fee from Cardiff City, who have broken their own club transfer record in paying over £8 million for defender Steven Caulker.

Agustien completes Brighton move

Swansea City and Brighton and Hove Albion have confirmed that Dutch central midfielder Kemy Agustien has completed his move between the two clubs. Agustien, who had been with the Swans since 2010, moves to Brighton on a free transfer and has signed a two year contract with the Seagulls under their new manager Oscar Garcia. Recent midfield signings meant that he had fallen down the pecking order in manager Michael Laudrup’s plans at the Liberty Stadium.

Agustien made forty seven appearances over his three years with Swansea and also had a loan spell with Crystal Palace during which he played eight times for the Eagles. The twenty-six year old was born in Willemstad in the Netherlands Antilles but spent his early career in Holland where he earned five caps for the Dutch national team at under-21 level and started his club career with Willen II and AZ Alkmaar. He has also had loan spells at JC Roda, Birmingham City and RKC Waalwijk before he moved to Britain permanently with Swansea.

Steven Gerrard speaks about the Suarez situation

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has been speaking about the ongoing situation surrounding Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez’s future at the Anfield club. Gerrard, speaking to the Liverpool Echo ahead of his testimonial match against Olympiakos this weekend, spoke of how he’s been trying to persuade Suarez that his future lies at Liverpool, and explained that the Uruguayan’s decision is key to Liverpool’s chances this season.

Gerrard described Suarez as “the third best player in the world” and went on to say “you’ve got Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who are on a different planet then you’ve got Suarez and Gareth Bale.” He expressed his concerns that if a player of that quality should leave the club and go to one of their direct rivals in the English Premier League then it would complicate things for Liverpool, saying “if he goes to Arsenal, it obviously makes our season that bit more difficult, it strengthens them an awful lot and they are our rivals for a top four position. From the club’s point of view it doesn’t make sense at all, no matter how much money is put on the table. Luis wants Champions League but so do I. If he was to stay around for twelve months and we achieved a top four finish, there is no better place in the world to play Champions League football than in front of an Anfield crowd.”

If Suarez is to eventually leave then Gerrard would like to see him go to one of the big two in Spain and would understand if that’s where he sees his future as with the majority of world class Spanish speaking players. However, he hopes to convince his team mate that it’s worth staying with Liverpool for at least another season to spearhead their Champions League qualification efforts and get back into Europe’s top club competition with his current employers. He feels that the squad isn’t far off the level needed to get back into the top four and said “if we get the couple of marquee signings we need and keep Luis that will give me confidence that we can compete. Keeping Luis could be our best signing of the summer”, so he remains hopeful of further top class arrivals at Anfield before the transfer window closes and thinks that those additions to the squad could help swing Suarez’s decision towards staying put. Suarez is expected to feature in the team for Gerrard’s testimonial.

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