PL x Liverpool

PL x Liverpool. Titans.

Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool side continue to break records and defy the odds as they storm their way to the Premier League title.

That’s right after a three month absence the PL x series has returned to Dawson Football and we can only begin the year by talking about the incredible and unbeatable Merseyside force that is Liverpool.

First, let’s talk some simple statistics. Klopp’s side have notched an impressive 61 points from their first 21 games this season, surpassing the record set by Manchester City in their 2017/18 title winning season. A season that saw them finish up with 100 points, 25 ahead of Liverpool.

A staggering 44 games were won by the Reds in 2019 (Spurs and United won 51 between them…). On that incredible run Liverpool scored what can only be described as a staggering 129 goals. Incredible.

But what this isn’t is a surprise to anyone, following the 17/18 season where they finished fourth, they went on to finish runners up to City in the league last season but sealed their title as European Champions and then went on to win the UEFA Super Cup for the first time in their history at the end of 2019.

The front three of Mane, Salah and Firmino is arguably one of the best in the world, scoring 69 goals between them in the 2018/19 season in all competitions. That is more than 17 of the 20 teams in the Premier League managed, including Chelsea and Spurs who finished third and fourth respectively.

The end of the season will no doubt bring Liverpools first Premier League title, their first top division championship since the 1989/90 season, but that will only be a catalyst for mass improvement from the top sides in the league to try and topple the Reds.

Will Liverpool remain unbeaten this season? Have your say using the #DFTalks on Twitter.

PL x Silva

PL x Silva. Tchau.

Marco Silva is walking a tightrope in charge of Everton at the moment as The Toffees sit in the bottom half of the Premier League.

With just three wins from nine games and only ten points, the team from Merseyside might look to replace Silva if results don’t start to improve and fast.

The Portuguese manager, whom Everton appointed in May last year following his sacking at Watford in the January, doesn’t have the best record in English football.

With Hull, Watford and Everton Silva has managed a measly 39 wins from his 102 games. Where in a damning stat he has lost 45 games, not the pedigree that the Everton board were expecting when they appointed him.

Whilst he is remembered for turning Hull City around and almost saving them from relegation, if you look deeper into his stats, they weren’t quite as impressive as everyone makes out.

In fact, only six of his league games in charge ended in victory (Yes, okay, one was against Liverpool but that was a different Liverpool than the Reds of today).

The Tigers conceded 36 goals to the 20 they scored under the former Olympiacos manager and lost a staggering nine out of 18 league games. Not the stats of a manager of the calibre he was made to be.

From Hull he made the move South to Watford (where he lasted half a season). He managed 24 PL games for the Hornets and again his win to loss ratio makes for grim reading.

The Vicarage Road faithful saw their side lose 12 of the 24 games, conceding 44 goals along the way.

In fact Silva only won one of his last 11 games before being relieved of his duties in London, after Everton had perhaps already turned his head.

After reading that you might be wondering why Everton made him their primary target to lead the charge for European football. I AM TOO.

In one silver lining for you Everton fans out there, he’s managed to NOT lose half of his games, but he hasn’t exactly won half of them either.

Again, the stats don’t make for pleasant reading. 47 league games, 18 wins, 19 losses and 10 draws.

It can only mean that the Portuguese man is in for a torrid couple of weeks (if given the chance) with Everton fans already seemingly losing patience with him.

PL x Poch

PL x Poch. He won’t go. Will he?

Mauricio Pochettino has undoubtedly performed a minor miracle in recent seasons, cementing Tottenham Hotspur’s place in the top four of the Premier League.

For four seasons running now, Spurs have finished in the Champions League places. Even finishing runners-up in the 16/17 Premier League season.

So what is it that has led to their downturn in fortunes this season?

Following last seasons emphatic Champions League run that saw Poch’s men lose in the final to domestic rivals Liverpool, Spurs have failed to make hay whilst the sun shines and sit in seventh in the league this season.

Not only that, but the North London side was knocked out of the League Cup this week in a defeat to League Two side Colchester United. 

A defeat that has ignited debate amongst Spurs and football fans alike. Should Poch remain in charge?

In answer to the first question, what has led to Spurs downturn in fortunes, I would suggest it’s a lack of confidence and a lack of unity amongst the squad.

Last season, was by no stretch of the imagination, a mentally and physically draining one for Spurs. They reached the final of the Champions League (beating Ajax in the semi-final having looked set to be knocked out by the Dutch champions.) 

Within the 58 games that they played last season, Tottenham featured in the League Cup until defeat in the semi-final to London rivals Chelsea whilst fighting on the F.A. Cup for just two rounds until their defeat against Crystal Palace.

Not only did Pochettino lead his side in 58 games last season but the whole new stadium saga continued to roll, as stories from behind the scenes began to leak into the national press. It couldn’t have been easy to concentrate on your job 100% with stories about your club on the back page of every paper across the country every other day.

The cherry on top of the cake for Spurs is the transfer speculation that followed them around this summer. More specifically the speculation around one of their star players, Denmark international Christian Eriksen.

Yep, the playmaker was often said to be joining former Tottenham star Gareth Bale at the Bernabeu, but nothing ever came of it.

It makes absolute sense that Eriksen’s head was turned by the prospect of moving to Spain, where he could win more trophies and all in a much warmer climate than the unpredictable UK.

So Eriksen being less than concentrated on Spurs and their fight to establish dominance in the league, a stadium move that was unpredicatble and a taxing season last season will all be playing apart in the current demise of Tottenham but that brings me onto the next question; is Pochettino the right man to take this side to the next level?

There is little doubt in anyone who knows anything about football, how much quality Poch possesses as a manager.

The Argentine has provided Spurs fans with some truly memorable moments but last seasons Champions League run has to top it.

It was a less than ideal start when Tottenham travelled to Milan and lost before falling to defeat at home to Barcleona, but from there they kicked on.

Four more group games came and Spurs took every one in their stride. Two wins and two draws saw them qualify for the last 16. A 4-0 aggregate win over German outfit Borussia Dortmund gave Manchester City a crack at showing Poch up. But…

VAR played it’s part in the two legged affair that would end 4-4, with Spurs going through to the semi-finals thanks to the (ridiculous) away goal rule.

Ajax were drawn away at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium where they would run out 1-0 winners, but as Spurs travelled to the Netherlands it was all to play for and boy did it give us some viewing.

In arguably one of the games of the season, Spurs came out on top but not after a rollercoaster of emotions. At half time the score was Ajax 2-0 Spurs (3-0 on aggregate) but the second half is what really shone the light on how good of a manager Mauricio Pochettino is.

A second half hat trick from Lucas Moura saw them qualify on the away goal rule AGAIN. But it was a truly spirited, together and passionate performance from the players in the Spurs shirts.

It showed they weren’t just playing for themselves, or the shirt or even the fans. But they were playing for their manager and that is the biggest compliment players can give to a manager and the scenes after the game truly showed that as Poch was in tears and I’m sure the celebrations went deep into the night.

For me, it’s not a case of is Poch the man to take Spurs forward. It’s are Spurs the side to take Poch forward. He is undoubtedly one of the best managers in the world at this moment in time, to take Spurs where he did having not made any signings for two windows was a miracle and he’s got a young team playing some really brave football.

Listen, he won’t be there forever of course he won’t. But Tottenham fans I urge you to have patience and remember the grass isn’t always greener, make the most of Poch whilst you can before he’s poached by one of the worlds biggest sides be it Barca, Real or United.

DF x DW

Dan talks about his love for international football in the latest DF x DW.

GIVE INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL A BREAK

For many, the international break is seen as something of a hindrance. An unwanted, enforced break from the exhilarating standard of club football being played across the continent, in which, especially when it is the turn of European Qualifiers, matches are played with a mundane intensity and a frequent gulf in class. 

And you’d be right, if you watch the more ‘mainstream’ matches. Tune into Spain vs Faroe Islands, Belgium vs San Marino, or Italy vs Finland, and you’ll get an encounter that matches the description above. One side, boasting evident prowess and a sense of superiority, against a minnow, happy to play backs-to-the-wall football and hope that the scoreline doesn’t embarrass them by the time ninety minutes of gruelling defending has passed them by. 

But, head down the beaten track to some of the less publicised matches, and you’ll find bundles of under-appreciated teams, who’s opportunity to qualify for a major tournament is not seen as an automatic right like it is here in England, but instead, is a nationwide dream. An obsession. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that fills out stadiums and sends an entire, starry-eyed, football-loving population, into overdrive. 

Take Kosovo, England’s most recent opponents . Before the game, the nation who only gained recognition from FIFA to play international football in 2016, boasted the longest unbeaten run in European national football until that 5-3 defeat at St Mary’s. And for the country itself, which has only existed formally since 2008, to already be capable of scoring three goals against a superpower like England, is nothing short of remarkable. They are vying with Czech Republic to genuinely challenge England for qualification in Group A, which if they achieve it, will surely go down as one of the greatest footballing fairytales ever to have taken place on the international stage. 

Elsewhere, in Group J, Armenia and Finland are fascinatingly neck-and-neck in a similar situation, vying with Italy for top spot. Two unlikely contenders, genuine underdogs, who have already stunned Bosnia & Herzegovina and Greece, sides who have plenty of pedigree on this stage let’s not forget, for whom an opportunity to line up at Euro 2020 would mean just about everything. Just look at Iceland’s heroics at Euro 2016 for what qualification for a major tournament can do for a small nation’s footballing status. 

And if you look even further abroad, every single qualifier played between African teams is free to stream on FIFA’s website. And for those amongst you that are as big of an AFCON fan as I am, this should really appeal you. The sheer madness of African international football, the rhythmic passion, the frantic intensity, completely cost-free. If you want entertainment from your international break, you just have to look harder for it. 

Furthermore, you shouldn’t tar all of international football with the same brush. The Nations League has been a resounding success in my opinion, replacing dreary friendlies with highly competitive encounters, between sides of almost identical ability. It is a competition that will only grow in both popularity and in how important it is perceived to be, but the inaugural showcase was very positive indeed. 

So, to conclude, I can fully understand people’s hesitations with international football. The small proportion of it that is provided to us by the mainstream channels perfectly explains such complaints, but we have an underlying arrogance – a bias toward the highest calibre of football – in this country, which has prevented us from seeing the true beauty of international football, in countries where it really matters. So, next time that club football does cease, and we see our respective nations take to the field once again, delve a little deeper into our beautiful game. Broaden your footballing horizons. 

Who knows? You might just love it as much as I do. 

PL x Pukki

PL x Pukki. Some start.

One of the most unsurprising surprise packages of this Premier League season is Norwich’s frontman Teemu Pukki.

The Fin has started the season in blistering form, hitting the net six times in five appearances in what is his first season in the English top flight.

The Canaries have meant business since their return to the Prem this season, having won the Championship title last season and Pukki played a big part in the show too.

In fact, being Norwich’s main man last season meant that Teemu Pukki finished the season on 29 league goals in his 43 matches that he featured in, an outstanding stat.

In only his second season in England, Pukki has netted against the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and in the Canaries 3-2 victory over Manchester City on the weekend. An honourable mention must also go to the hat-trick that he bagged against Newcastle in just his second Premier League game (EVER).

An international star for his native Finland, Pukki has some real good qualities that have helped him become the star of the show in East Anglia.

Being a late bloomer, Pukki possesses some skills that really allow him to play freely. His link up play is sharp, his movement is unrivalled at the moment and his explosive finishing means he is likely to set the cat amongst the pigeons when it comes to the golden boot in April/May.

It remains to be seen whether Pukki will launch himself into super stardom in the Premier League, but he’ll certainly be remembered for his aggressively good start to the season.

PL x VAR

PL x VAR

The PL X series is back with the newest in football technology in the spotlight, stay with us as we look at the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the Premier League this season.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the introduction of VAR would make the Premier League more entertaining and fair but it has not been received well at all… apart from by Spurs fans.

The latest team to really suffer at the hands of VAR was Aston Villa in their away game against Crystal Palace.

Being 1-0 down away from home is never an easy task to manoeuvre but in the very last minute of the game at Selhurst Park, Villa looked to have got a very important point before referee Kevin Friend consulted VAR and ruled out the strike by Henri Lansbury.

In a statement, the Premier League said: “The referee considered that Jack Grealish committed an act of simulation in the penalty area, and blew his whistle to stop the game before the ball went into goal.

“Under the IFAB protocol the video assistant referee system (VAR) is allowed to review the potential penalty situation. Having reviewed the incident the VAR judged that no ‘clear and obvious’ error had occurred and the on-field decision of simulation remained.”

In my personal opinion, VAR will eventually better the game. There are so many refinements and so much clarity that needs introducing to the process but ultimately once the powers that be have gone through it with a fine tooth comb it will mean a more consistent approach to the laws of the game being abided.

For now, fans in the stadiums will have to persevere with the constant waiting whilst referees consult with there counterparts in the office and teams will feel the nerves as they ponder any little aspects of goals or decisions made.

Whether you like it or not VAR is here to stay. It’s still the same game of football, just reimagined.

Jack Dawson.

DF x DW

A friend of the site talks about his own teams upturn in fortunes.

In another new feature for the upcoming season, guest writer Dan Wiseman has spoken about his teams return to the promised land that is the Premier League.

As an Aston Villa fan, I have learned to savour and appreciate every opportunity that I get to feel pride in my club. They have been few and far between of late, to say the least. The slow, gruelling demise that lead to an inevitable and humilianting relegation from the Premier League in 2015/16, left behind a lingering air of negativity that engulfed the whole club. 

The core of the squad that fell to that 17-point finish was rotten. Brad Guzan, Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards (who’s contract has only just expired) and the like, were a burden to the club, even after their respective departures. Their abhorrent attitudes meant that it took so much time, and so many different approaches, for Villa to finally eek such disruptive influences out of the dressing room.

The Championship was a particularly depressing period in the life of any Aston Villa fan. It took three different managers and their own respective squads, two new ownership groups and a rogue cabbage for Villa to finally find a formula that worked – but when they found it, boy, did it. 

With Dean Smith at the helm, and Jack Grealish as captain, the club found a combination of boyhood Villa supporters that the fans instantly fell in love with. But it was only three months after Smith’s initial appoiment, once Grealish had returned from a long injury lay-off, that the club enjoyed the incredible 10-match winning streak that resulted in the illusive promotion everyone at Villa Park had craved for three seasons.

So when Jack lead a new, improved and very expensive Villa side out into the magnificent Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, alongside Harry Kane and his band of Champions League finalists last Saturday, I couldn’t help but crack a sizeable smile. It felt right. But above all else, it felt like we deserved it. 

But what pleased me most, was the fact that every measurable drop of the pride and passion I felt for Villa in that moment, they repaid on the pitch. It was a superb performance. Dean Smith’s gameplan was executed to perfection – defend deep and in numbers, congest key areas of the pitch, and counter attack quickly and effectively. The defeat was unfortunate, but probably deserved in the end. We tired towards the end of the second half and were quick to squander possession – something you can’t do when playing a side of Spurs’ calibre. This league is a cruel mistress.

But I saw more enough in that match to tell me that Villa will be alright this season. And for a newly-promoted side, that’s all that matters, first and foremost. The performance then enabled me to relax, and enjoy all of the little things that make being in the Premier League the constantly thrilling experience that the fortunate ones amongst of us will know and love.

The simple matter of being on Match of the Day, for example, was something I dearly missed. Being in the Championship, you realise how the size and stature of the Premier League does mean that in the media, especially on television, it can be easily forgotten that there are 72 clubs that exist beneath our fabled first tier. To receive the media coverage and interest, especially when we’ve been spending so much money on transfers, made for a whirlwind transfer window. It seemed like every day there was a new £20M target we were linked with. And I loved every second of it.

Now however, matchday 1 of 38 is in the past. It’ll be a long season, full of ups and downs no doubt, but as a club, we’re more than used to that. We’ve endured the reign of Roberto Di Matteo, the Ross McCormack saga, Attacks from Birmingham fans and from cabbages, John Terry’s tears at Wembley to administration and the verge of financial collapse, amongst all else. We are a club with a storied history that gained one hell of a chapter whilst in the Championship. 

But with all of the new signings, changes to the stadium thanks to our new ownership and their relatively new manager, this era in our history doesn’t feel like just another page – this is a completely different book altogether. Aston Villa are back where they belong.

And it feels fantastic. 

DF Previews…

Ben previews his teams upcoming season.

Crewe Alex

Manager: David Artell

Last season: 12th   

key player 

Perry Ng is the real standout player in terms of quality.  He deserves to be playing at a much higher level but the state of the football market means clubs are reluctant to spend money on defenders when there are so many on free transfers.  

The joy of watching Crewe is watching young players progress and improve.  Many players tend to have a dozen good games before dropping in form as the adrenalin from being a new player runs out and the test is whether they come good after that introduction.  One player this applies to is Tommy Lowry (“Miniesta”) who at 3ft tall standing on stilts sticks out on the pitch.  He was first name on the team sheet at the start of 2017-2018 season but by Christmas had fallen out of favour.  End of last season he was back in the team and coming up with an assist or two every game.  If he carries that on then we will have a good season.

Other promising players include Ryan Wintle who is the anchor of midfield, Olly Finney who broke through last season, and Harry Pickering.  Owen Dale and Charlie Kirk provide flare up front in very different ways.  Either one can win you a match but not be seen for a month after

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Daniel Powell – signed from Northampton.  Looks fantastic in preseason (don’t they all) and a good replacement for Jordan Bowery who had the look of a great striker, but the ability to control a ball further than most players can kick one.

Ollie Lancashire – signed from Swindon.  Looks a good player on paper but then again so did Michael Raynes when we signed him.

Who TO SIGN

There are forwards and defenders on trial but one of the problems at Crewe is that every player brought in is a block to an academy player coming through.  I’d be more than happy to go with what we have up top.  In defence we are low in numbers with only Nicky Hunt and a young lad with a couple of appearances to his name as back up to the first choice 4.  Realistically it will be a cheap young centre back which will come in. 

EXPECTED FINISH

Play offs seen realistic given our form the second half of last season.  We had near the best home form in the league so sorting out the away form will be the deciding factor. 

EXCITING GAME

Macclesfield away.  Proper old ground, local derby, crammed away stand.

TROPHY?

Usually a good bet for the fair play award, although if Artell’s antics on the side line are anything to go by then this is unlikely.

DF Previews…

Luke previews his teams upcoming season.

Sunderland

Manager: Jack Ross

Last season: 5th   

key player 

Aiden McGeady. Throughout his career he has always been a player who can create something from nothing, but finally delivered consistently last season, albeit in League One. McGeady has matured into a real leader and our season fell apart after he broke his foot with 8 games to go last year.

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Three so far – Conor McLaughlin (right back) from Millwall and Lee Burge (goalkeeper) and Jordan Willis (centre back) from Coventry. Our 2ndchoice right back and 2ndand 3rdchoice goalkeepers all left in the summer so McLaughlin and Burge have been signed as backup, but there are high hopes for Willis, who by all accounts turned down offers from the Championship to come here. Our centre backs were so poor last season and really cost us at times, although signing Coventry’s goalkeeper and defender doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence given put 4 past them (but still lost 5-4!) towards the end of last season. 

Who TO SIGN

We were strongly linked with Marcus Maddison from Peterborough at the start of the summer – who is from the area and would have been an excellent signing – but that seems to have cooled off. Otherwise, we’re crying out for pace and athleticism in midfield. We have a lot of midfielders who are all quite similar – some quality on the ball, but slow and immobile. That is the root of most of our problems – the strikers are isolated and feed off scraps because there is no link between the midfield and attack, but but the midfield is often overran by more powerful, physical opposition. I was really impressed by Joe Aribo from Charlton who has since moved to Rangers, he is exactly the type of player we lack.

EXPECTED FINISH

We hovered between 2ndand 3rdmost of last season and were seconds away from extra time in the play-off final, so logically you’d think we’re not too far away from automatic promotion. However, performances seemed to get worse as the season went on before unravelling completely in the final few weeks, so the jury is out. I’d expect to finish comfortably in the play-offs again, but a lot depends on who we bring in whether or not we break into the top 2. We only lost twice between August and April last year, but drew 19 out of 46 and really need to learn to kill teams off if we’re to challenge.

EXCITING GAME

Portsmouth. We play them at home very early in the season and I’d expect there to be an edge to the game – we played them 5 times last season including the Checkatrade Trophy Final and play-off semi-finals, where a couple of their fans tried to attack one of our players during the game.

TROPHY?

I’d expect us to compete for the Checkatrade Trophy again, but otherwise I’d be surprised if we made it through to the 3rdround of the FA Cup, nevermind challenge for a ‘proper’ trophy.

DF Previews…

Adam previews his teams upcoming season.

Coventry

Manager: Mark Robins

Last season: 8th   

key player 

Jamie Allen 

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Gervane Kastaneer

Dan Bartlett

Josh Pask

Wesley Jobello

Fankaty Dabo

Ben Wilson

Marko Marosi 

Kyle McFadzean

Micheal Rose

Jamie Allen – My favourite. Proven Division One player who will strengthen our midfield and add that bit of bite since Michael Doyle left.

Who TO SIGN

Bright Enobakhare – had him on loan from a Wolves last season and has been linked with another loan move back to ourselves for a further period. A gifted player who made a massive difference when he came to us last year, when he’s on form he’s unstoppable at Division One level.

EXPECTED FINISH

10th – I think we’ll play away from home as we did last year, but with our move to play our home games at St Andrews Birmingham will hinder our chances of pushing on further in Division One this year, a huge disappointment that an agreements couldn’t be made to keep us in Coventry. 

EXCITING GAME

Sunderland home & away – no love lost here, they still hold a grudge from many years ago when we stayed up and they were relegated on the final day of the season. Extra fuel has been added to the fire this season as three of our promotion winning team have joined them.

TROPHY?

No – a play off place would be a huge result for us this season

@adamursell on Twitter.