Thursday, 28 February 2019

Premier League: February Review

It was another terrific month of Premier League action as February saw the title race very much become a two horse race as Liverpool and Manchester City battle for the title. The Premier League delivered in February with plenty of quality goals, excellent football and more managerial changes. As Liverpool and City scrap for the title, as many as 6 sides battling to avoid the final relegation spot with Fulham and Huddersfield doomed to the Championship.

The title race is definitely going right to wire and heading into the final three months of the season Liverpool lead the way. However, a decent month of results has seen Liverpool be questionned with a severe lack of intensity and firepower in their attacking play. Jurgen Klopp has defended his team's performances despite the lack of intensity in recent performances. But their end to February firmly silenced their critics as they put 5 past an improving Watford team at Anfield. Mane impressed with his finishing but its the crossing of Trent Alexander-Arnold won the night for Liverpool and the result saw them maintain top spot. They kick off March with the Merseyside derby as they make the short journey across to Everton. Jurgen Klopp knows they must win this and their remaining 9 games as Manchester City continue to hunt them down. Speaking of City, it was a very good February for Guardiola's team as City collected their first piece of silverware as they go for the quadraple. City had a perfect February winning all 4 of their league games and have dominanted 2019 losing just once in all competitions and winning the rest of their games. Sergio Aguero is a master in finishing and he has found his groove at the right time with key goals against Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham. His league tally stands at 18 and he will fancy his chances of reaching 25 at least if not 30 before the season finishes. The title race is getting very exciting indeed and no doubt its a two horse race question is will the title be heading for Merseyside or Manchester?

The battle for a top 4 finish is also going to be interesting as Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea fight for the remaining two places in the Champions League next season. There are 7 points between the 4 teams but Chelsea in 6th do have a game in hand. Tottenham in 3rd are looking good for a top 4 finish however, they head into March on a run of back to back defeats having suffered poor defeats to Burnley and Chelsea on their travels. Sleepy defending and poor mistakes have cost an unusually flat Tottenham in recent games and Mauricio Pochettino will be desperate to Spurs to gain their mojo back. Arsenal meanwhile head into March just 4 points behind Spurs having won 3 on the spin. Unai Emery's team are going well with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang in excellent form while Mesut Ozil glistened in their recent win against Bournemouth. Emery still has issues at the back to sort out but Arsenal are heading in the right direction under their manager and their form is good in 2019 having won 6 of their 8 league games. Tottenham and Arsenal kick off March with the North London Derby as the two sides clash in a must win for both at Wembley. Spurs need a morale boost while Arsenal need to close the gap on Spurs and should they complete the double over Spurs the gap will be closed to just a point. Big game for both teams and certainly Manchester United and Chelsea will be looking to close in on both teams. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has enjoyed a magnificent run as United boss with the legendary United striker yet to lose a league game. United's excellent run had them back in the top 4 at one stage until they drew with Liverpool at Old Trafford. United head into March a point behind Arsenal and 5 behind Tottenham. Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford have flourished under Solksjaer while the likes of Victor Lindelof and Ander Herrera have found a new level. Solksjaer's targets remain in reach and United will fancy their chances of securing a top 4 finish having vastly improved under Solksjaer.

It was a very mixed month for Chelsea with embarrasing actions on and off the pitch but terrific performances and results in other matches. Chelsea's 6-0 trashing from Manchester City saw plenty of people question Maurizio Sarri's management and the 'Sarri-ball' philosophy. The players have lacked team spirit and cohesion in many matches this season with Sarri calling on Eden Hazard to provide the spark to win games while big money signing Jorginho hasn't delivered despite knowing Sarri's style. While N'Golo Kante is certainly being played out of position to the frustration of the Chelsea. Furthermore, to make matters worse, Chelsea face a tranfer ban for the whole of next season having been punished by FIFA meaning Maurizio Sarri cannot add to his squad in the summer and the 2020 January window. Despite these issues, Chelsea impressed in their couple of matches in February. Despite losing the league cup final to Manchester City, Chelsea were excellent throughout showing spirit, endeavour and determination but all that was overshadowed by Kepa Arrizabalaga's ignorance and petulance to ignore the orders of his manager. Chelsea carried that excellent momentum into their solid win over Tottenham. Chelsea head into March full of confidence as they hunt those Champions League places.

As the Champions League battles heatens up, the relegation battle is also getting very interesting. With Huddersfield and Fulham doomed to the Championship, the rest are scrapping to avoid the final relegation spot currently occupied by Cardiff. 6 points from 4 games for Cardiff in February but they have lost their last 2 by an aggregate of 8-1 and that isn't good enough. Neil Warnock is running out of time to try and avoid relegation for the first time as a Premier League manager. Southampton meanwhile ended February with a priceless win over Fulham which saw them climb out of the bottom 3. Hasenhuttl's side overall had a disappointing February collecting just 4 points from 4 games and Hasenhuttl knows that must improve if they are to ensure their safety. Meanwhile, it was an excellent February for other strugglers Burnley and Newcastle. Prior to their defeat to Newcastle, in their final game of the month Burnley were unbeaten in 2019 and had collected 7 points from their February matches including a magnificent home win over Tottenham. Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood have delivered scoring Burnley's last 8 goals. Both Barnes and Wood have scored 14 between them this season and their form couldn't have come at a better time with Burnley edging towards safety. Newcastle also had a terrific month with Rafa Benitez's side finally finding some form and goals especially at home with Newcastle winning 5 on the spin at St James' Park having lost their first 4 home games. Soloman Rondon has found form while record signing Miguel Almiron has already won the hearts of the Geordie faithful with a string of impressive cameos and performances. But its one of their own impressing as young midfielder Sean Longstaff has become a fixture in the side and his hardworking ethos and performances is certainly delighting Benitez and the fans. Longstaff is impressing and even scored his first Newcastle goal against Burnley to crown off a truly brilliant start to his Newcastle career. Burnley and Newcastle are 5 points clear of Cardiff and are only looking up while Brighton sink down. Chris Hughton's team are having a difficult patch with Brighton winless in 2019 and have lost 5 of their last 6 league games and find themselves level on points with south coast rivals Southampton and only 2 points above the relegation zone. Brighton need to find that winning formula and fast having been so comfortable for much of the season.

February also saw two clubs change their managers as Leicester said au revoir to the quiet Claude Puel and Fulham sacked Claudio Ranieri after just 3 months in charge. Puel leaves Leicester after just over a year in charge and leaves Leicester afer a six match winless run. However, despite having to deal with the plane crash tragedy, Puel has failed to get the best out of the Leicester players including Jamie Vardy whose caught on camera remarks highlighted his frustrations. But Leicester lacked an identity and playing style with Puel's tactics very reserved. Leicester's season has been flat and even 4 straight home defeats something not done in the Premier League era has left the club unhappy and at a real low. However, they ended February with a home win under caretaker manager Mike Stowell beating Brighton. Puel's replacement is former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers who arrives in the East Midlands after a very successful 2 and half years at Celtic. Rodgers' arrives excited and determined to push Leicester forward and implement his exciting attacking style which brought his success at Liverpool and Celtic. His reign kicks off in March with a trip to Watford who they are competing with for a top 7 finish. Rodgers will want a good start and victory over Watford would be a dream start for the Northern Irishman. Meanwhile, Fulham are now on their 3rd manager of the season and after just 3 wins in 16 league games and losses in 7 of the last 8 games has seen the club dismiss Claudio Ranieri. Ranieri leaves following that loss to fellow strugglers Southampton. He had lost the fans and seemingly some of the players but Ranieri cannot take all the blame as a £105M spend in the summer has seen a lack of cohesion in the team and their defence is abysmal to say the least. Their former midfielder Scott Parker has been promoted to caretaker manager until the end of the season having been a first team coach at the club. He is tasked with attempting to mount a serious charge towards survival but in reality he will be looking to show he is the right man for the job in the Championship next season. His reign kicks off with the West London Derby against bitter rivals Chelsea. 

March is upon us and no doubt the Premier League will deliver more twists and turns as well as plenty of quality goals and excellent football. March kicks off with 3 massive derbies as Tottenham face Arsenal, Chelsea head to Fulham and Liverpool clash with Everton while the rest of March also has crucial, mouth watering games includes Crystal Palace vs Brighton, Southampton vs Tottenham, Manchester City vs Watford, Arsenal vs Manchester United, Everton vs Chelsea, Brighton vs Southampton, West Ham vs Everton and Liverpool vs Tottenham. The business end of the season has arrived as the final 3 months of the season begin and the Premier League is very wide open at both ends of the table. We are in for an exciting climax..

Monday, 25 February 2019

EFL: (Championship, League 1 and League 2) January Review

The Championship, League 1 and League 2 firmly made its presence felt as 2019 got underway. A busy January saw plenty of excellent football, quality goals and even more managerial changes at the top and bottom of the leagues. The Championship is hotting up nearly both at the top and bottom while there is one side storming away in League 1 while the fights for promotion and survival are intensifying in League 2.

The Championship remains an league of endurance with a scrap emerging at the top of the table. Leeds, Norwich and Sheffield United are fighting for the automatic places while West Brom are not too far away. Bielsa's Leeds had a mixed January winning just twice in their 4 league games with the Spygate scandal causing plenty of controversy but despite that, Leeds are in the groove and promotion is within touching distance. Daniel Farke has really built something special in his 18 months at Norwich. After a bottom half finish in his first season in charge, Farke has built an ethos built on young players from Europe as well as the Norwich Academy and he is truly being rewarded. Norwich are having a terrific season and have enjoyed an unbeaten 2019 so far despite winning just once in the league. Norwich are winning plaudits for their enterprising attacking play but their hardworking and determined ethos is also something to be admired. The likes of Max Aarons, Ben Godfrey and Onel Hernandez have sparkled while Teemu Pukki has been one of the signings of the season. Norwich are charging towards the Premier League but will be well aware of the competition around them. Chris Wilder is a true blade and he will be delighted with his sides' application and performances in matches and although they are winless in their last two league games, Sheffield United are looking a far more dangerous team but also are managing games far better than last season were they disappointingly faded away. United head into February in confident mood and with the red hot form of Billy Sharp, United will fancy their chances of automatic promotion.

Meanwhile, the fight for survival is also looking interesting but Ipswich looked doomed at the bottom with just 18 points collected this season and Paul Lambert has failed to ignite the Tractor Boys' season. 5 defeats in their last 6 games has Ipswich further sink towards League 1 and it would take a miracle to surpass all miracles for them to stay in the Championship. Bolton are also getting that sinking feeling with Phil Parkinson's team also sliding towards League 1 with the Trotters on a run of just 1 win in their last 19 league games. Phil Parkinson is dealing with all sorts of issues both on and off the pitch. Bolton's defence is far too frail and their attack is pretty dry at times. While things off the pitch are no better with the club desperate for a new owner with a series of debts building up. A takeover is very near with a local business man closing in on a deal but the future of boss Phil Parkinson remain uncertain with the form woeful but the manager has the fans backing. The others scrapping for surivial include Reading, Rotherham, Millwall and Wigan. All 4 sides have made largely poor starts to 2019 with Reading occupying the final relegation spot with new manager Jose Gomes not having the desired affect yet with just 1 win in his 6 games so far with the new manager attempting to play passing football in a relegation battle which brings its own risks. Rotherham's more direct style has earned more points but a flat 2019 thus far sees them head into February on a run of 3 straight defeats. Millwall and Wigan are a slightly further away but their poor start to the new year has them firmly in trouble and while Millwall are playing well in the FA Cup, their league form is suffering with just 3 wins from the last 13 although those 3 wins have come in their last 5 games so although there is some improvement, The Lions remain firmly in trouble.

The start of 2019 has seen managerial changes in the Championship with Stoke and Nottingham Forest seeing a change of leadership in the dugout. Following a disappointing first half of the season and only 7 months in charge, Stoke sacked Gary Rowett. A summer of spending has severely backfired and Stoke are languishing in the bottom half of the table with the fans unhappy with the club's style of play under Rowett and a lack of consistency in their form. A run of 3 wins in 11 games saw Rowett's short reign come to an end. His replacment is the Luton manager Nathan Jones who arrives after a terrific 2018 in charge of the Hatters which saw promoted to League 1 and are currently flying high at the top of the League 1 table. Jones arrives with the task of igniting Stoke's flailing season. Howver, Jones hasn't started well losing 2 of his first 3 games in charge and it will certainly take a while for Jones to implement his playing style and winning formula which brought terrific success at Luton. In contrast, outsider interference saw Aitor Karnaka resign as manager of Nottingham Forest after 11 months in charge. Despite Forest charging towards the play-offs, Karanka has left following pressures from above and interference in his running of the team and club. His replacement is Nottingham Forest legend Martin O'Neill who arrives following his spell in charge of the Republic of Ireland. O'Neill is tasked with getting Forest back into the Premier League. However, O'Neill has endured a mixed start losing his first game but winning his second in charge. O'Neill will want February to be the month where Forest make their presence felt in the race to reach the Premier League.

Let's move to League 1 and despite the surprise departure of Nathan Jones, Luton's momentum and rhythm has just kept on going. 11 points from their 5 games in January has seen Luton extend their unbeaten run to 17 games with club legend Mick Harford in interim charge, The Hatters are charging towards back to back promotions blowing all their opponents away. With Luton firmly bossing League 1, the fight for 2nd place is getting interesting with Portsmouth, Barnsley and Sunderland battling for that 2nd automatic promotion place. Its been a poor 2019 for Portsmouth with Kenny Jackett's side winless in January including losing their last 3 league games. Portsmouth are falling away despite bossing League 1 for virtually the entire first half of the season. As Portsmouth fall down, Barnsley are rising to the challenge and are motoring nicely towards the top 2 after a terrific month for Daniel Stendel's team. Barnsley collected 11 points from their 5 games in January and despite the departures of Brad Potts and George Moncur, Barnsley's rhythm hasn't been disrupted with the likes of Cauley Woodrow and Cameron McGeehan stepping up to the plate. Barnsley are unbeaten in their last 9 league games winning 6 of those and are pushing Portsmouth hard. Sunderland are also pushing but despite an excellent unbeaten run of 6 games, Sunderland have drawn far too many in recent weeks which has seen their charge stall slightly but Jack Ross has made an excellent impression at the club and Sunderland are very much in the race for a top 2 finish.

As the promotion scrap excites League 1 fans, the relegation battle is also bubbling away nicely with the entire bottom half fearing for their safety in the league. The resurgent sides in the scrap have certainly been Plymouth and Scunthorpe with new impetious and belief installed in both clubs. Plymouth started 2019 bottom of the table but 4 wins from 5 in January has the Pilgrims charging towards safety and certainly Derek Adams has had his critics this season but he has got a tune of the players and Plymouth look a completely different side. As do Scunthorpe and that is certainly down to Stuart McCall's excellent transfer business which has seen Scunthorpe go unbeaten in January winning 4 of their 5 games and are motoring towards safety and are only looking up. McCall has tightened a very leaky defence and add goal power in re-signing Kevin Van Veen. Overall the Iron are improving winning 6 of their last 7 games and McCall will be delighted having endured a mixed spell in charge thus far. The new manager bounce hasn't quite lifted off at Shrewsbury or AFC Wimbledon. Despite excellent FA Cup runs, both teams are enduring very poor runs in the league with the Shrews winning just one league game since Sam Ricketts took over while Wimbledon have lost 4 of their last 5 games and collected just 2 wins since Wally Downes replaced Neal Ardley. Wimbledon are stuck at the bottom and things must improve fast in February if they are to drag themselves out of trouble. Meanwhile, Sam Ricketts also needs a morale boost as the Shrews slowly sink towards the bottom 4.

Despite occupying the final play-off spot in League 1, Peterborough decided to end Steve Evans' spell in charge of Posh after a run of 3 wins in their last 13. Evans built a completely new squad in the summer that started the season brilliantly winning their opening 5 league games and overall lost just 3 matches in the opening three months of the season. However, disappointing results and performances especially at home has left the fans unhappy and chairman Darragh MacAnthony in a position where something has to change and Evans was dismissed just 30 minutes after Posh's home draw with promtion rivals Charlton. His replacement is man entering his 3rd spell in charge of Peterborough. Darren Ferguson is back and more determined than ever to bring success back to Peterborough but his third spell started with a disappointing draw at struggling Bristol Rovers. Darren Ferguson will be determined to get Posh pushing towards the top 2 with a big February on the horizon.

England's 4th tier is getting very exciting indeed with scraps both at the top and bottom of the table. Lincoln continue to lead the way but Mansfield and Bury are hunting them down as the MK Dons slowly fall away. A good January for Lincoln saw them collect 9 points from their 5 games and also avoid defeat. However, Bury are hunting them down after an even better January which saw them collect 13 points from their 5 games and are beginning to heap the pressure on Lincoln who have led all season. David Flitcroft's Mansfield are also very much in the race following an extremely busy January which saw them play 7 league games due to various fixtures changes. 4 wins and a draw from those 7 represents a good return from a tough month of matches. Mansfield remain in the hunt for the automatic promotion as well as the title but the MK Dons have dropped off the pace after a disappointing January which saw them lose 3 of their 5 games and Paul Tisdale will be frustrated with his sides' severe loss of form after an excellent first half of the season. Chuks Aneke's injury has hit them hard but Tisdale will be hoping his fit and firing in February.

Another side in the promotion race is Carlisle who enjoyed a terrific December and start to 2019 which in this period has seen them win 6 in a row. However, John Sheridan resigned from his post despite the Cumbrians terrific run to takeover at National League side Chesterfield a club close to Sheridan's heart. So its a unique situation for a new manager to walk into and that is excatly what Steven Pressley has found out. The Scot arrives following spells at Coventry and Fleetwood and he is tasked with continuing Carlisle's excellent run of form and push for promotion. Pressley heads into February with a perfect record having won his opening 2 league games in charge and Carlisle very much the dark horses in the race for promotion.

The relegation battle is also getting interesting with Macclesfield closing in on the sides above after a really positive run under Sol Campbell while Notts County are enduring a tough run under their third manager of the season Neal Ardley. Its been a good start to Sol Campbell's reign at Macclesfield and although they haven't moved out the relegation since his takeover, they are firmly moving in the right direction having collected 7 points from their 5 games in January. However, Notts County are slowly getting that sinking feeling having won just once in Neal Ardley's 9 league games in charge. A winless start to 2019 has left the fans concerned and to add to their misery the club is up for sale with chairman Alan Hardy deciding its time to leave the club. As Macclesfield push for survival the sides above are certainly becoming very worried. Yeovil, Morecambe, Cambridge, Port Vale and Cheltenham are all looking over their shoulders. Yeovil are a sinking ship with Darren Way's side on a very poor run which has seen them win just twice in the last 13 league games although they have won 2 of their last 3 games. The fans are unhappy with Way and despite having games in hand on the sides around them, The Glovers are not taking advantage and the pressure is growing on Way. However, this pressure has proved too much for Neil Aspin at Port Vale who has resigned as their manager following a disappointing first half of the season and a run of just 2 wins in the last 14 league games including losing 4 of the last 6. Port Vale are sliding towards danger and Vale has replaced Aspin with the former Macclesfield and Shrewsbury manager John Askey who is tasked with keeping Port Vale in League 2. His reign kicks off in the first round of February fixtures with a crucial six pointer against fellow strugglers Cambridge. Morecambe continue to look over their shoulders as Jim Bentley's side slowly sink towards the relegation zone after a winless 2019 and an overall run of 7 games without a win. Colin Calderwood has certainly had a positive affect at Cambridge and the U's had an excellent January which saw them collect 3 wins from their 5 games and are slowly easing any fears of relegation but Calderwood will be aware there is still plenty of work to do. 

The first month of 2019 was excellent in the EFL and as the business end of the season approaches, teams will be wanting to find form or continue their good runs to push towards their aims of the season. The promotion battles are heating up nicely in all three leagues as are the scraps for a play-off places and the fight to avoid relegation.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Premier League: January Review

2019 has certainly kicked off with a bang with the Premier League firmly clicking into gear with the title race and relegation battle heating up very nicely. Manchester City and Liverpool are locked in a colossial battle for the league while as many as 8 sides are scrapping to avoid the drop into the Championship. While one club has waved goodbye to their manager as David Wagner leaves a hero despite Huddersfield's very bleak situation.

Liverpool's unbeaten record was taken away from them in January as they fell to the powers of Manchester City in a sensational match to kick off 2019. However, despite that loss Jurgen Klopp's team remain top of the table and head into February unbeaten in their last 3 league games. Liverpool have bounced back from that disappointing grudge match with City and Klopp will firmly believe that can still lift the title. Manchester City have seemingly got their groove back with goals flowing in the team right now. However, they will start February 5 points adrift of Liverpool after suffering a very poor defeat at Newcastle and while at the time Guardiola conceded the title, Manchester City are still very much in the race as they seek back to back titles. Aymeric Laporte is sparkling at the back with a string of impressive performances while Sergio Aguero continues to deliver the goals and gain the affections of all City fans. Guardiola will head into February seeking an immediate bounce back in the league as well as ensuring safe passages in the cup competitions and the Champions League. The Quadraple is on but Liverpool are in the driving seat. 3 wins from 4 in January has seen Tottenham keep a firm grip on 3rd in the table despite the injuries to key players Harry Kane and Dele Alli. Pochettino is working wonders with Tottenham and head into a crucial February not too far behind Liverpool and City but should they carry on their terrific run, you'd be a fool in ruling them out of the title race. Chelsea make up the top 4 but they are firmly clinging on after a disappointing January which saw them collect a poultry 4 points and they've lost their last 2 which saw a shocking 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth. There is a real air of frustration around the whole football club with the players looking unhappy, Sarri frustrated and the fans confused with 'Sarri-ball' which is not baring the fruit many thought. The pressure is beginning to mount and Chelsea must improve heading into a busy February with the league cup final and the Europa League knockouts on the horizon.

Manchester United are motoring nicely under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer who is firmly enjoying his interim spell in charge. Solksjaer has transformed the entire football club with a much more attack minded style of play and unlocking Paul Pogba's true potential in the United midfield. Unbeaten in his first 7 league games winning 6 of those surpassing the great United managers of the past with Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Matt Busby not reaching those heights. United are hunting the top 4 down and are closing in on Chelsea and Arsenal in the race for a Champions League spot. His unbeaten record almost went at Old Trafford against Burnley but a dramatic fightback from 2-0 down earned them a point and emphasises the real change around the football club. However, Solksjaer will head into a testing February with PSG on the horizon as well as games with Liverpool and Chelsea. Solksjaer has transformed the players with the players seemingly very happy and committing their futures to the club and the standout thus far is Anthony Martial who signed a new five year contract at the club. The players want Solksjaer, the fans want Solksjaer and should this form continue, he will certainly be throwing his hat into the ring. 

Both Southampton and Newcastle have enjoyed their starts to 2019 with both collecting excellent results as they look to pull away from danger. Ralph Hasenhuttl has been an excellent appointment for Southampton with the likeable Austrian transforming the atmosphere around the whole football club and building a philosophy he wants to drill into his players and the fans. The players are certainly taking his advice on board after an unbeaten January which saw them collect 8 points from their 4 games. Its just 3 defeats in 9 league games since Hasenhuttl came in and his decisions to incorporate youngsters like Yan Valery, Kyle Ramsey, Tyreke Johnson and Michael Obafemi is going down well with the board and the fans and shows a new direction Hasenhuttl is taking them in. Newcastle have also enjoyed 2019 thus far with 6 points collected in their 4 league games including a comeback victory over Manchester City. Whats more, after 14 years of waiting, Newcastle fans have finally seen their transfer record broken by disliked owner Mike Ashley as he forked out £20 Million to sign Paraguayan playmaker Miguel Almiron. He will add a much needed spark to the Newcastle attack with goals in short supply for the Geordies this season. While this may be a stunt to keep Rafa Benitez, Mike Ashley has pumped some much needed new blood into the football club.

In contrast, it has been a very disappointing season for Huddersfield with the Terriers notching just 11 points from their 24 league games so far this season and the likeable David Wagner has decided to call time on his three years at the club where he will forever be a club hero and legend for the job he has done. Wagner transformed the entire club when he came in keeping them in the Championship before guiding them to a shock promotion and stabilisation in the Premier League. However, things just haven't gone for them this season with a number of factors coming to play. But their main issue is a severe lack of goals with none of Huddersfield's strikers scoring a Premier League goal this season. Wagner leaves following a goalless draw with fellow strugglers Cardiff and chairman Dean Hoyle has gone down the Borussia Dortmund II route once again with Jan Siewert given the impossible task of keeping Huddersfield in the Premier League. His first game in charge was a narrow home defeat to under performing Everton and while Siewert will have seen positives, its yet another defeat for Huddersfield which now makes them winless in 11 league games losing 10 of those. Big task ahead for the unknown German.

The Premier League delivered plenty of quality football, goals and surprise results in January and no doubt as February draws near there will be more excitement to come. There are plenty of key games to come at the top and bottom including Crystal Palace vs Fulham in a tasty London derby, Chelsea vs Huddersfield, Tottenham vs Newcastle, a six pointer between Burnley and Southampton, Manchester City vs Arsenal, West Ham vs Liverpool, Everton vs Manchester City, a London derby between Crystal Palace and West Ham, a six pointer between Southampton and Cardiff, Marco Silva returns to Watford for the first since his sacking as he brings Everton to Vicarage Road, Manchester City vs Chelsea, Manchester United vs Liverpool, Southampton vs Fulham in a crucial six pointer and a mammoth London derby between Chelsea and Tottenham. A tasty February is on the horizon as the business end of the season approaches. 

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

La Liga: January Review

January was another excellent month in La Liga with plenty of action, quality goals and excellent football. There was also another change in the dugout as Villarreal changed their manager for the second time this season. Barcelona continue to the lead the way but the two big Madrid clubs are in pursuit behind them.

Barcelona have started 2019 brightly winning all 4 of their league games taking their current run to 8 straight league wins. Ernesto Valverde's team have found their gear at the right time after an inconsistent opening few months of the season. Messi and Suarez continue to deliver the goods while the rest are beginning to find their groove. Barcelona are cruising at the top and are looking very good to pick up back to back La Liga titles. However, competition is fierce and Atletico Madrid are not too far behind but are on a terrific 19 match unbeaten run including winning their last 3 league games. A solid January saw Simeone's men collect 10 points from their 4 games but the gap between themselves and Barcelona is 5 points so they must continue their good form if they are going to catch the Catalan Giants. In general terms, it has been a disappointing season for Real Madrid with a managerial change and lack of quality replacements for departed players but Santiago Solari has enjoyed a positive start to 2019 with Los Blancos collecting 10 points from their 5 games including winning their last three matches. Young Brazilian Vinicius Junior is beginning to show his qualities and is slowly becoming a real excellent buy. He is showing signs he could be a real galactico for years to come. Solari's side have shown some improvement but remain 10 points behind Barcelona. Sevilla make up the top 4 but the honeymoon period appears to be over for Pablo Machin with Sevilla enduring a difficult start to 2019 collecting just 4 points from their 4 matches which has seen them lose ground on Barcelona and their place in the top 4 under severe threat from sides below. Its just 2 wins in 8 matches for Machin's team and he will be desperate for them to recapture their early season form heading into a busy February.

Sides who enjoyed January included Ath Bilbao, Real Sociedad and Rayo Vallecano. It has been a very solid start for Gaizka Garitano who is unbeaten so far as the boss of Ath Bilbao. He has transformed the Basque club following a shocking start to the season under Eduardo Berizzo. Garitano has started brightly winning 4 of his 7 matches in charge including 3 of their 4 league games in 2019. They end January in 11th place just a 3 points off the European places with Garitano very much inspiring a side who lacked belief and confidence. Inaki Williams has ignited his season while their defence has managed to solidify having conceded poor goals for much of the season. Ath Bilbao are looking up as are their big Basque rivals Real Sociedad who are also unbeaten under their new manager Imanol Alagucil. A solid start for Sociedad's new manager has seen him go unbeaten in his opening 4 matches in charge. 8 points from their 4 games is a good start and Sociedad are looking up the table end January in 9th place looking to push those European places. Alagucil has managed to get Sociedad firing especially at the Anoeta where they had won just once all season prior to Algaucil's takeover. Willian Jose looks a completely new player and inspired them to a terrific win at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid. Meanwhile, at the wrong end of the table, things are looking up for Rayo Vallecano who have enjoyed a terrific start to 2019 and after a terrific January which saw them collect 10 points from their 4 games, Rayo are now out of the relegation zone and are currently two points clear of Celta Vigo. Michel has emphasised his belief that Rayo could stay up and their start to the new year has emphasised his beliefs. Raul De Tomas is their key figure and he has scored crucial goals in their recent victories and should he keep firing, Rayo have every chance of staying up. Rayo Vallecano head into February full of confidence.

Meanwhile, it has categorically been a shocking, woeful, pathetic season for one of La Liga's biggest clubs Villarreal who are in real danger of dropping into the Segunda after a season where they have fired 2 managers, struggled in the Europa League and La Liga and have won just 3 league games all season. Javi Calleja's sacking was coming and things needed to change but the appointment of Luis Garcia Plaza failed spectacularly with the former Villarreal B manager having just 6 league games in charge where he collected just 4 points from a possible 24 and with the fans and board unhappy for most of the season, things need a drastic change and fast. Garcia Plaza was dismissed following a 3-0 defeat to bitter rivals Valencia but their overall form is horrendous with Villarreal winning just once in their last 15 league games since their 2 wins in September. Things have to improve and the club have bizarrly reinstated Javi Calleja just 2 months after sacking him. Like Monaco in France, Villarreal have turned back to the manager who began the season in hope that things will improve. Calleja is tasked with keeping Villarreal in La Liga and his reign begins with a must win home match against fellow strugglers Espanyol and that is followed by a trip to Valladolid before Sevilla head to the Ceramica. Calleja must get the fans back on side because they are extremely passionate down in Southern Spain and the club has quality players plenty of them have underperformed but the quality that team has should be good enough to get out of their current predicament.

Janaury was entertaining and no doubt February will be just the same with clubs heading into the business end of the season. There is plenty of crucial games to come including Barcelona vs Valencia, The big Basque derby between Real Sociedad and Ath Bilbao, Real Betis vs Atletico Madrid, Villarreal vs Espanyol, A madrid derby between Vallecano and Leganes, The big Madrid Derby between Atletico and Real Madrid, Ath Bilbao vs Barcelona, Sevilla vs Eibar, Valencia vs Real Sociedad, Villarreal vs Sevilla, a Basque derby between Ath Bilbao and Eibar, a Madrid derby between Getafe and Rayo Vallecano, Sevilla vs Barcelona and Atletico Madrid vs Villarreal. A big month ahead with plenty of football to come including the return of the European competitions meaning more surprising results could arise and managers will begin to feel the heat as the business end of the season dawns.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Ligue 1: January Review

It was another excellent month of action in Ligue 1 with plenty of excellent football, quality goals, surprise results and more managerial departures with two clubs waving au revoir to their manager. PSG continue to dominate while Guingamp, Monaco and Amiens make up the relegation zone.

PSG continue to dominate Ligue 1 and at the end of January their lead at the top is 13 points and even its not surprising the title is a matter of when and not if for PSG and Thomas Tuchel. However, the bigger picture lies ahead as the Champions League returns in February and Tuchel must plan for two difficult matches against high flying Manchester United who are revitilised under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Tuchel's men head into February in good form winning 4 on the spin including all three of their January matches. Victories over Amiens, Guingamp and Rennes by an aggregate of 16-1 emphasises their imperious form right now. PSG are aiming to go the league season unbeaten and you wouldn't put it past them to acheive that by May. Meanwhile, it has been a tremendous 2019 for Lille and Christophe Galtier who seem an absolute match made in heaven. Lille have won all 3 of their league games in 2019 and head into February full of confidence and a three point gap on closest rivals Lyon. The form of Ivory Coast winger Nicolas Pepe has caught the eye because he has been nothing short of sensational for Lille with 16 league goals and 7 assists. Lille could only have dreamed of a top 4 finish back in August but the way they are playing, Champions League football is firmly within their grasp. Its been a solid start to 2019 for Bruno Genesio's Lyon who have collected 8 points from their 4 league games thus far including back to back wins and a league double over bitter rivals ST Etienne. Genesio's team have started 2019 in business like fashion with the aim of securing Champions League football in their sights. But Genesio will be well aware of the competition below with plenty of sides fancying their chances of securing a place in the top 4. 4th place is currently occupied by ST Etienne who started 2019 brilliantly with back to back wins but they have ended January on a two match winless streak. Defeat to Lyon and a draw with Nantes have seen ST Etienne' positive momentum stall and Jean Louis Gasset will be hoping his side can recapture that form as February arrives.

Other sides who have started 2019 brilliantly include Strasbourg and Nice. It has been a terrific month for Strasbourg and a terrific season overall with the club absolutely flying and they end January just one point off the Champions League places. Strasbourg won all 3 of their January games and overall have won 4 on the spin with Thierry Laurey's side full of confidence, belief and goals. Victories over Toulouse, Monaco and Bordeaux in January have seen Strasbourg in just their second ever Ligue 1 season sit in a European football spot and based on their current form you'd be a brave man to bet against them. Strasbourg are a young team full of unknown players to many fans but are beginning to make a name for themselves. The impressive Kenny Lala has won plenty of plaudits for his outstanding displays at right wing back while his defensive partners Stefan Mitrovic, Lamine Kone, Pablo Martinez and Lionel Carole have also been outstanding. While strikers Ludovic Ajorque and Lebo Mothiba have been excellent replacements for the departed Stephan Bahoken who scored the goals to keep them up in the previous season. Ajorque and Mothiba have 11 goals between them with the latter notching 7 goals. A big February dawns for Strasbourg and Thierry Laurey knows their good form has to continue if they are going to achieve the unlikeliest of league finishes. Like Strasbourg, Nice have also enjoyed 2019 collecting 8 points from their 4 league games which has seen them climb into the top 7 and are just 2 points behind the Champions League. Patrick Vieira has made an excellent start as Nice manager and despite losing key players like Jean Michael Seri, Maxime Le Marchand and Alassane Plea at the start of his tenure. But despite the big losses, Vieira has created a well organised team who take their chances. 8 points collected in 2019 from their 4 games and overall have lost just once in their last 12 matches so things are going well for Vieira in his first management job in Europe. They head into February full of confidence and will hope to make a surprise gatecrash on the top 4 come the end of the season.

However, 2019 hasn't been brilliant for other clubs and two managers waved au revoir in Janaury. Dijon parted company with their long serving manager Olivier Dall'oglio who departs after 6 and half years at the club where he guided Dijon to Ligue 1 for the very first time and stabilised them in the league. However, a run of just 1 win in 15 league games having won their opening 3 league games has seen Dijon act and both parties move on. Dijon have replaced Dall'oglio with the former Guingamp boss Antoine Kombouare who arrives having been sacked Dijon's relegation rivals Guingamp in October. His first game in charge was a difficult home game with Montpellier and they managed to sneak a draw with Michel Der Zakarian's side. As January ends, Kombouare has had 3 matches in charge and collected 4 points. Kombouare is tasked with ensuring Dijon avoid relegation and he will be confident he can deliver what he couldn't with basement side Guingamp. The other side to dismiss their manager in January was Monaco who have become a shambles of a club right now with the club sacking Thierry Henry after just over two months in charge. Henry's appointment was a disaster from the start throwing in a rookie manager into a very hard situation. Henry won just 2 league games during his reign. Monaco's problems run throughout the club with owner unrest, unhappy fans and players as well as the worst home record in Europe with Monaco the only club in Europe's top 5 leagues without a home win. Henry's replacement is the man Henry replaced back in October with Monaco re-appointing Leonardo Jardim. Jardim is tasked with a much more complicated challenge which is ensuring Monaco are not relegated from Ligue 1. He was in the stands as Monaco suffered another defeat this time against Dijon. Jardim's first league game back in charge is a must win home match against Toulouse and with a completely new squad available to him, Jardim must hit the ground running immediately because a poor start and relegation becomes an even more realistic possiblility.

One side enduring miserable 2019, run of form and overall season is Marseille who are going through all the elements of bad luck and a bad atmosphere is brewing at the once fortress Velodrome. Rudi Garcia is feeling the heat despite recently signing a contract extension at the club. Marseille have enudred a disappointing Janaury winning just one league game and collecting just one point in their other 3 matches. Marseille's overall form is no better with just 1 win in their last 7 league games which has seen them slide down the table and they end January in 8th place 5 points off the Champions League places and that is simply not good enough. The fans are majorly unhappy with the players, the manager and their American Owner who is witholding his cash meaning their squad isn't as strong as the Marseille fans would like. The players are feeling the heat from fans with missles thrown at full back Jordan Amavi in a recent league game while the players were booed for the entire match in their derby draw with Monaco. The Velodrome is becoming extremely toxic and their season is becoming to implode. Something has got to change at Marseille whether that be the fans' approach, a change in management or a boost to the playing staff and could Mario Balotelli be that man to change the atmosphere of the club? We shall wait and watch but one things for sure Marseille's season must drastically improve and fast.

January was another top month of Ligue 1 football and with the business end of the season in sight, things are only going to get better with more goals, excellent football and surprise results. February begins with a tasty clash between in form sides Lille and Nice while Lyon will be looking to end PSG's chances of an invincible season. There are plenty of crucial matches in February including Monaco vs Toulouse, the second Languedoc derby of the season between Nimes and Montpellier, Strasbourg vs St Etienne, Marseille vs Bordeaux, a huge six pointer between Amiens and Caen, Nice vs Lyon, Montpellier vs Monaco, the second Garonne derby of the season between Toulouse and Bordeaux, ST Etienne vs PSG, PSG vs Montpellier, Monaco vs Lyon and if all this wasn't enough there is also the second Atlantique derby of the season between Nantes and Bordeaux. So a big month of Ligue 1 action to come and could February be the month where the league becomes much clearer in terms of Champions League football and the relegation battle? We shall wait and see.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Serie A: January Review

The winter break has eaten much of January for Serie A sides with the season only resuming on the 19th January but we did see two rounds of league games with plenty of excellent football, quality goals and another manager waving goodbye to his job.

Juventus have pretty much picked up where they left off in 2018 by collecting 2 wins out of 2 in January sealing victories over Chievo and Lazio. Max Allegri's team have also seen their lead at the top increase to 11 points after Napoli dropped points in a goalless draw with AC Milan at the San Siro. Cristiano Ronaldo continues to deliver even in a new league with the Portuguese talisman already on 17 league goals this season and despite a slow start by his standards, he has firmly found his groove in Serie A and it would take a massive shock for Juventus not to be lifting an 8th consecutive Serie A title in May. Napoli will try to run them close but Ancelotti's men failed to collect maximum points in January albeit they did play Lazio and AC Milan. Napoli beat Lazio but couldn't snatch a win at the San Siro and begin February 11 points behind but 8 points clear of 3rd Inter Milan who have had a very poor start to 2019 with Luciano Spalletti's team collecting just a single point in their opening 2 games of the new year. They've also failed to score a goal in 2019 having drew 0-0 with Sassuolo and lost 1-0 to Torino. They are beginning to fall away from Napoli in their quest to be best of the rest. Spalletti will demand improvement going into February as the league intensifies as well Inter's first games in the Europa League knockout phases.

The battle for 4th and possibly 3rd is going to be a real battle this season with anyone in the top half of the table potentially looking at sneaking a Champions League spot. AC Milan currently occupy 4th spot on 35 points but Roma, Sampdoria, Atalanta, Lazio, Fiorentina, Torino and even bottom half sides Sassuolo and Parma are within touching distance. To put into perspective Sassuolo in 11th are just 6 points behind AC Milan in 4th so you can see just how tight a battle for European football will be during the second half of the season. Its interesting to note that none of the sides including AC Milan won both league games in January. In fact the only side who didn't pick up at least a victory is Lazio with Simone Inzaghi's side losing both their games. Majority of the sides collected a win and a draw with the exceptions being Lazio, Parma and Torino with the latter two collecting 3 points. So exciting times lie ahead in Serie A with 10 sides battling for a place in Europe next season. Some sides will be disappointed but from a Serie A fan perspective this could be one of the most exciting battles this season with the title seemingly heading to Turin once again.

However, the new year hasn't brought something different for some clubs and Bologna certainly fit this agenda. Following a humiliating 4-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers Frosinone, Filippo Inzaghi was sacked after just 2 league wins in charge. Their form is pretty shocking with the club winless in 14 league games and it was a matter of when and not if the club was going to make the call to dismiss Inzaghi. The legendary striker struggled to get Bologna going and he leaves with the club in the relegation and just 14 points amassed so far this season. His replacement is an experienced Serie A manager in Sinisa Mihaljovic who is tasked with ensuring Bologna stay in Serie A. The Serb has managed the likes of AC Milan and Torino in the past so is fully aware of the task ahead. However, his first game in charge is a tough trip to the San Siro to face Inter Milan. Goals have been a major issue for Bologna all season and Mihaljovic needs to get an attack which has scored just 16 league goals all season. While their defence has faired no better conceding 34 goals with only fellow strugglers Empoli, Chievo, Frosinone and mid-table Genoa have conceded more. So Mihaljovic has plenty to do but will be confident he can save Bologna and it would be a dream start if they could shock the San Siro.

So Serie A has started brightly in 2019 but there will be plenty to come in February as the second half of the campaign really clicks into gear. There are plenty of tasty games to come on the opening February weekend including a relegation scrap between Empoli and Chievo, Napoli vs Sampdoria, Roma vs AC Milan and The Romano- Ciociaro Derby between Frosinone and Lazio. The rest of February isn't bad either with games including Fiorentina vs Napoli, Sassuolo vs Juventus, The Lombardy Derby between Atalanta and AC Milan, Inter vs Sampdoria, Another Romano- Ciociaro Derby this time between Frosinone and Roma, Parma vs Napoli and Fiorentina vs Inter. So plenty of football to come as Serie A firmly announces its return from the winter break.

Bundesliga January Review

The Bundesliga enjoyed a winter break throughout much of January and the season resumed on the 18th January so there has only been two rounds of matches. However, plenty has happened with managerial debuts and departures, excellent football and quality goals.

We'll start with the Bundesliga where in January Borussia Dortmund maintained their 6 point lead at the top of table after winning their games. Victories over RB Leipzig and Hannover have maintained Dortmund's surprise title charge. They are really on roll carrying on the positive momentum built from the first half of the campaign. Dortmund are really looking imperious right now having won 9 of their last 10 league games heading into February and its no surprise the fans are excited and dreaming of a first Bundesliga title since Jurgen Klopp's days in charge. Bayern Munich are also on roll and having won both league games in 2019 thus far, they have now won 7 on the spin to keep them in touching distance of Dortmund. It seems Niko Kovac is finally getting a tune out of his Bayern players after a very slow start but the Bayern board's backing is certainly being vindicated. Leon Goretzka has started 2019 excellenty with 3 goals in 2 games scoring twice in the win at Hoffenheim and most recent win against Stuttgart. However, the Bundesliga title race certainly isn't a two horse race because Borussia Monchengladbach are firmly in the race. Dieter Hecking's men are 9 points behind Dortmund but they have won 3 of their last 4 including both league games in 2019. Alassane Plea has been one of the signings of the season and along with Thorgen Hazard, they have made Gladbach genuine title contenders but they will be fully aware they must keeping win with the top 2 expected to pick up points most weekends.

One side who have enjoyed 2019 thus far is Mainz because they like Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach, have won both league games. Sandro Schwarz will be delighted with his side's start to the new year beating Stuttgart and Nuremberg. Mainz who have struggled for goals all season have scored 5 in the last 2 games having only scored 17 in their first 17 league games. Schwarz has relied on a stubborn defence for results having conceded just 25 so far this campaign. To put that into perspective, sides including Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen, Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen who are all above Mainz in the table have conceded more. Sandro Schwarz will be hoping Mainz can build on this going into a busy February.

However, despite only just reaching 2019, we've seen managerial departures in the Bundesliga. We'll start with Bayer Leverkusen who sacked Heiko Herrlich in December and their new manager Peter Bosz made his debut in the hot seat. So far its been mixed start for the Dutchman having lost his first game against Borussia Monchengladbach but they did bounce back and pick up a thunderous victory away at Wolfsburg. Bosz will be hoping his side can build on that win and take that momentum into February with a crucial match against Bayern Munich to come. Bosz is tasked with getting Leverkusen into the top 4 but they will start February 8 points behind current 4th occupiers RB Leipzig. The first sacking of 2019 in the Bundesliga goes to Hannover who decided to dismiss Andre Breitenreiter following defeats in both league games in 2019. A heavy 5-1 defeat was the final nail in the Breitenreiter coffin. But the writing has been on the wall for some time having won just twice all season and are currently 8 without a victory losing 6 of those matches. His replacement is Thomas Doll who arrives tasked with keeping Hannover in the Bundesliga and his first game is a tough home match against RB Leipzig. Hannover are desperate for a change of fortune and they will hope Doll is the man who can save them.

January was generally quiet with Dortmund keeping up their title charge and of course the transfer window brought plenty of activity so February will certainly see the season really ignite once again and there are plenty of tasty games to come. The month kicks off with Hannover vs RB Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt vs Borussia Dortmund. Other matches to come include Bayern Munich vs Schalke, Borussia Dortmund vs Hoffenheim, a basement clash between Hannover and Nuremberg, Eintracht Frankfurt vs Borussia Monchengladbach, The Rheinland Derby between Bayer Leverkusen and Fortuna Dusseldorf, Borussia Dortmund vs Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig vs Hoffenheim. Plenty of big games to come full of entertainment as the second half of Bundesliga 2018/19 announces its return.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

A Busy Transfer Window

The winter transfer window closed last week for clubs across England and the rest of Europe with plenty of deals done with managers adding new faces to ignite their teams' season or to continue a push towards silverware, european football or promotion to a new division. 

We'll start with the Premier League where there was plenty of deals. Liverpool and Manchester City were very quiet in terms of incomings with neither side making a signing for their immediate squad. City did sign highly rated youngster Ante Palaversa from Hadjuk Split for a fee of £7M. He has been loaned back to Hadjuk Split for the rest of the season. Like Liverpool and City, Manchester United and Tottenham also had a quiet window but both clubs did sell Belgain midfielders to China with both Mousa Dembele and Marouane Felliani departing for the Chinese Super League. In contrast, Chelsea and Arsenal were active in this window with both Maurizio Sarri and Unai Emery adding new faces. Chelsea were active from the start with plenty of rumours and speculation about many of their players. The likes of Cesc Fabregas, Alvaro Morata, Victor Moses and Michy Batshuayi all departed Stamford Bridge with Sarri culling the deadwood. Sarri will be satisfied as he has been reunited with Gonzalo Higuain who flourished under Sarri at Napoli. Sarri will be confident he is the striker Chelsea have craved all season. But Chelsea have also made a signing for the summer by splashing £57M on winger Christan Pulisic who has been loaned back to Borussia Dortmund for the rest of the season. Like Sarri, Unai Emery has also reunited with a player he knows well with winger Denis Suarez arriving on loan from Barcelona. The winger worked well with Emery at Sevilla and the Arsenal boss will be confident he can add more flare to Arsenal's attack. Some of the other deals for Premier League clubs include Michy Batshauyi joining Crystal Palace on loan, Nathaniel Clyne and Dominic Solanke joining Bournemouth from Liverpool with the latter joining for a club record £19M. Leicester completed a terrific piece of business with Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans joing in a loan swap deal seeing Adrien Silva head to Monaco. Struggling Fulham dipped into the market and added Ryan Babel, Lazar Markovic and Havard Nordtveit. Newcastle smashed their transfer record for the first time in 14 years when they snapped up Paraguay international Miguel Almiron for £20M from Atlanta United in the MLS. The tricky, exciting midfielder is certainly a player Newcastle desperately needed and Rafa Benitez will be hoping he is the man to ensure Newcastle's Premier League safety. Cardiff also broke their transfer record to sign striker Emiliano Sala for £18M but tragedy has struck and Cardiff fans may never see him play for the club following the disappearance of his private plane bringing him to Cardiff. A tragedy that has united the football world and certainly football becomes insignifcant with incidents like this and my thoughts are with the families involved.

The 72 EFL Clubs were also busy with plenty of deals done in the Championship, League 1 and League 2. Leeds dipped into La Liga and pinched Real Madrid goalkeeper Kiko Casilla who has won Champions League and La Liga titles and Marcelo Bielsa will be hoping he can aid their promotion charge. Norwich dipped into Germany to sign defender Philip Heise. West Brom added plenty of attacking quality with Jefferson Montero, Stefan Johansen and Jacob Murphy arriving at the club for the rest of the season. Middlesbrough added pace with winger Rajiv Van Parra on loan from Huddersfield. Frank Lampard's Derby were also busy snapping up Andy King from Leicester and free agent Ashley Cole who reunites with his former teammate Lampard. Aston Villa flexed their transfer muscles by adding Tyrone Mings, Tom Carroll, Kortney Hause on loan and Croatian goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic. Sheffield Utd snapped up Scott Hogan, Kieran Dowell and Gary Madine. The most active clubs were Ipswich and Preston. Basement club Ipswich added 7 new faces including veteran defender James Collins. Preston added 5 new faces including the most profilic English striker of 2018 in Jayden Stockley. Stoke spent a combined £10M on signing Danny Batth and Sam Vokes to add their disappointing season and ignite it.

In League 1 high flyers Luton and Portsmouth were both busy with the likes of George Thorne, George Moncur and Jason Cummings joining the Hatters. While Pompey added the likes of Omar Bogle, James Vaughan, Andrew Cannon and Bryn Morris. Sunderland spent a hefty £4M to bring Will Grigg from Wigan following Josh Maja's surprise move to Bordeaux. They also brought back Grant Leadbitter 10 years after his original departure from the club. Charlton lost their top scorer Karlan Grant to Huddersfield and replaced him with Josh Parker from struggling Gillingham. Scunthorpe and Walsall were two of the most active clubs in League 1 with 8 new signings at both clubs. Scunthorpe brought a completely new defence with the likes of Harrison McGahey, Byron Webster and Tony McMahon joining the club while Staurt McCall brought back Dutch striker Kevin Van Veen from Northampton. Walsall used their Midland contacts with signings from their bigger neighbours. Dan Scarr arrived from Birmingham while Corey Blackett-Taylor arrived from Villa and Jack Fitzwater rejoined from West Brom. However, no League 1 club can top Shrewsbury Town with new manager Sam Ricketts making 9 new signings including his former teammate Dave Edwards.

League 2 was busy too with leaders Lincoln adding the likes of Danny Rowe, James Brown, Jordan Roberts and Cian Bolger. Mansfield were also busy adding Jorge Grant, Nicky Ajose and Ryan Sweeney on a permanent deal. A little quieter for Bury but they did add Rangers midfielder Jordan Rossiter on loan. Exeter replaced Jayden Stockley with Ryan Bowman from Motherwell. While MK Dons added Stephen Walker and Jake Hesketh to their attack following the end of Rhys Healey's loan. In form Carlisle were also busy in the window and were one of the busiest club adding 7 new faces including Conor Simpson, Mark Cullen, Nathan Thomas and Stefan Scougall. Struggling Yeovil and Macclesfield added 7 new faces with the likes of Alex Dobre, Matt Worthington and Ryan Seager joining the Glovers while the Silkmen added the likes of Reece Cole, Adam Dawson, Zak Jules and Botti Biabi. However, the busiest League 2 club was Swindon with Richie Wellens adding 8 new faces including midfielder Danny Rose from Portsmouth and winger Kyle Bennett from Bristol Rovers.

The transfer window was also busy across Europe. We'll start with Ligue 1 and there was plenty of deals with Thomas Tuchel finally getting a central midfielder which he wanted in the summer. The man in question is Leandro Parades who arrives for £47M. High flying Lille added young players Abou Outtara and Renildo Mandava. Lyon had a quiet window with just one piece of business which saw Jordan Ferri leave for league rivals Nimes on loan. ST Etienne added two new midfielders in Valentin Vada and Youssef Ait Bennasser both on loan. Monaco were by far the busiest club in France with a host of new signings and departures in a desperate attempt to ensure they are not relegated. Monaco have let the likes of Youri Tielemans, Antonio Barreca, Samuel Grandsir and Adama Traore leave the club. While veteran defender Naldo has joined for £2M along with Cesc Fabregas and Fode Ballo-Toure on permanent deals. Monaco also added new players on loan including Carlos Vinicius, George-Kevin Nkoudou, Adrien Silva and Gelson Martins. Some of the other deals included Mario Balotelli leaving Nice for Marseille, Yacine Adil leaving PSG for Bordeaux, Edgar Ie leaving Lille for Nantes and Alexandre Mendy joining rock bottom Guingamp from Bordeaux.

The Bundesliga was relatively quiet with a few deals done at the Bundesliga clubs. Leaders Borussia Dortumd sealing a permanent deal for Paco Alcacer as well as signing highly rated defender Leonardo Balerdi. While Alphonso Davies joined up with Bayern Munich following his summer move from the MLS. Schalke have disappointed this season but have dipped into the window to bring Manchester City youngster Rabbi Matondo for £11M and a loan deal for Wolfsburg defender Jeffrey Bruma. Eintracht Frankfurt who are chasing the top 4 brought in defenders Martin Hinteregger from Augsburg and full back Alamany Toure from Monaco. RB Leipzing continue to recruit young talent and 3 new faces have arrived with Tyler Adams and Amadou Haidara joining permanently while Arsenal youngster Emile Smith-Rowe arrives on loan for the rest of the season. Some of the other deals included Alexander Esswein and Stephane Zuber joining Stuttgart on loan, Nicolai Muller and Kevin Akpoguma joing Hannover on loan, Reece Oxford leaving West Ham for Augsburg on loan and midfielder Renno Schmid joining Werder Bremen from RB Salzburg.

Serie A was by far the busiest league in Europe with plenty of deals. Juventus added Martin Caceres on loan from Lazio to replace Mehdi Benatia who departed for the Middle East. Napoli were very quiet with Ancelotti happy with his squad. Inter Milan added a couple of new faces with Cedric Soares arriving on loan from Southampton and young defender Andrew Gravillon arrived from Pescara for £7M. AC Milan made the biggest splash in the window by spending a hefty £35M on Polish striker Krzysztof Piatek from Genoa. AC Milan were clearly impressed with the Polish international who only joined Genoa in the summer. Genoa replaced him with striker Antonio Sanabria from Real Betis who arrives on loan. The busiest clubs were certainly the clubs battling relegation with Bologna adding Roberto Soriano and Nicola Sansone from Villarreal as well as Lyanco and Simone Edera from Torino all on loan. Empoli sold Jacob Rasmussen and Hamed Traore to Fiorentina but have them back on loan for the rest of the season. In terms of new signings Diego Farias, Marko Pajac, Cristian Dell'Orco and Kevin Diks were amongst their new arrivals. Udinese were also busy including adding 3 players from sister club Watford with Marvin Zeegelaar, Stefano Okaka and Ben Wilmot all arriving on loan. Basement side Chievo added experienced defender Marco Andreoli and Brazilian winger Lucas Piazon from Chelsea. Frosinone added Luca Valzania from Atalanta, Stefan Simic, Federico Viviani and Marcello Trotta all on loan deals. Some of the other deals included Luis Muriel joining Fiorentina from Sevilla for the rest of the season, Emiliano Viviano joining SPAL from Sporting Lisbon and Manolo Gabbiadini joining Sampdoria from Southampton for £12M.

La Liga also had some action with teams doing some deals to enhance their chances of success this season. Barcelona brought in defenders Jaison Murillo and the highly rated Jean-Clair Todibo from Toulouse while Barcelona do get the reward for most unusual signing with Kevin-Prince Boateng arriving on loan from Sassuolo. Real Madrid spent £22M on Manchester City youngster Brahim Diaz. Atletico Madrid brought back Alvaro Morata who began his career in their youth setup. Sevilla flexed their muscles by signing Maximillian Wobler from Ajax, Munir from Barcelona and Marko Rog on loan from Napoli. Leganes were the busiest La Liga adding 4 new faces including Danish striker Martin Braithwaite. Some of the other deals included Vicente Iborra returning to Spain following a disappointing spell at Leicester he has joined Villarreal, Wesley Hoedt joining Celta Vigo on loan from Southampton, Ibai Gomez returning to Athletic Bilbao from Basque rivals Alaves, Jese returning to Spain to join Real Betis on loan and the Chinese Super League's top scorer Lei Wu joining Espanyol.

So as you can see a very busy and exciting transfer window as the second half of the season really clicks into gear now with managers hoping their new signings can aid their sides' push.