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Joe Hart: The English Exception

With the former England number 1 making a surprise move to Spurs, we take a look at his downfall and what led him to team up with Mourinho.

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As the last days of summer fall away, the Premier League readies itself for its short-awaited return. It has for company such well-worn maxims as “If so and so were foreign” and “But can he do it on a rainy day in Stoke?” By contrast there is little to be said about the English player; very few go abroad, and it is largely considered bad form to talk about their travel troubles in polite circles.

At 6’5, 197lbs, Joe Hart is the biggest (and highest profile) Englishman to play overseas since David Beckham. His signing in mid-August with London based Tottenham Hotspur marked the end of a three-year mid-table journey that included stops at both Burnley and West Ham and Serie A outfit Torino.

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None of these misadventures netted success for the stopper, at least not to the extent to which he had grown accustomed to at Manchester City. His arrival at the Turf Moor in 2018 coincided with a period of newfound optimism at Burnley, who had recently qualified for Europe for the first time. But his participation as a starter was to be cut short after only 19 league games by the recovery of regular goalkeeper Tom Heaton. The previous year spent in Torino had been met with similarly indifferent results; the Serie A side finishing 9th in a season in which he started 36 games. 

To borrow a phrase from Al Pacino’s portrayal of down-and-out coach Tony D’Amato in Any Given Sunday, “I don’t care if you make mistakes…make them big.” The former England international and Man City mainstay has taken such advice to heart; his unmitigated descent from starter for the national team to out of fashion at Torino punctuated by consistent unforced errors. I vividly remember Joe Hart sprinting off his line to punch a ball outside of his box that was no longer there (having been played back to him by Nastasic). And that was about the same time a crossbar saved him from Andrea Pirlo. So perilous was his time as a keeper in Serie A that the club president made mention of it, saying that they “did not expect so many mistakes from an English international.”

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On £135,000 a week (at least until 2018 when he was signed by Burnley), and fundamentally incapable of meriting his contract: professionally, it’s a hell of a move. Though signing to be the third-choice goalkeeper for Tottenham Hotspur – probably also a mistake – certainly represents the end for him internationally on a club and national level. With talk of MLS or another move abroad making way for a switch to Mourinho’s Spurs, Hart will surely see himself behind Lloris and Gazzaniga.

Despite the transfer looking fair on paper, this is yet another missed opportunity for Hart to regain his form with regular first-team minutes.  On the other hand, it’s good to see the Shrewsbury-born keeper back at a club fighting for the European spots.

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How could Lampard set up a new-look Chelsea next season?

With the additions of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech to compliment a youthful Blues side, how could manager Lampard position his side in 2020/21?

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It is almost a year since Frank Lampard returned to Stamford Bridge. The Blues legend was facing a one-year transfer ban which meant he could not sign any new players until the summer of 2020. The ban saw local young players finally getting a chance to play for Chelsea instead of being loaned to a Championship side or any other team.

Many players like Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have benefitted from this transfer ban as they have embraced this chance and proven to us and Lampard that they deserve to play at the top level.

However, Chelsea’s ban was lifted last winter and they agreed terms with Ajax playmaker Hakim Ziyech who will join the Blues at the start of the new season. The Moroccan international will team up with the Londoners for a reported fee of €44m.

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Recently, the Blues also confirmed the signing of German striker Timo Werner (above) who played his last match for RB Leipzig on 27  June and became the club’s top scorer with 95 goals. Chelsea are also heavily linked with Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell.

With their two new star signings and a host of impressive names also on their radar, Chelsea are looking to get back to the pinnacle of the Premier League. Here are a few ways how the can line up next season:

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Chelsea will be a team to reckon with next season and with the youthful energy running through the veins of their players who will be hungry to lift some silverware, Chelsea will have a chance in all the competitions they will be a part of. 

With their squad depth, they can easily rotate and keep them fresh for big games and can have a serious chance of going all the way in cup competitions if the players gel. 

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With the Chilwell rumours looking strong, the Foxes left-back would be a great addition and can only make this brilliant team even better.

Chelsea fans will be really excited as their team strengthens in the correct areas and if they can perform consistently, they will surely be challenging for trophies next season.

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Three replacements for Jack Grealish at a Championship Aston Villa

Despite a double from Trézéguet securing three points for the Villans over the weekend, Dean Smith’s men are still struggling to escape the grasp of relegation.

The Midlands giants sit in 19th place, four points from safety, at the time of writing and are yet to face Everton, Arsenal and West Ham United.

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Relegation to the Championship can be detrimental for top-flight clubs trying to keep a team together and often results in them losing their star players.

For Aston Villa, not only are they facing their prospect of losing their star player. He is also their captain, hero and one of few Villa players to rise from their academy.

As Jack Grealish persists to be linked with the giants of English football, here are three players Villa could buy to replace him if they go down.

Eberechi Eze | 22 | Queens Park Rangers | England

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QPR midfielder Eberechi Eze is one of the brightest talents coming out of the Championship right now. The Londoner joined the club from Millwall as a teenager and began to establish himself in the first team before he turned 20.

Eze, who plays for England’s U21s, has a similar playing style to Grealish but exceeds the Villa man when it comes to goals and assists. The QPR star has scored 12 and assisted eight goals this term, becoming his side’s talisman in the process. Grealish managed six goals and six assists in his last Championship season when Villa were promoted.

Eberechi Eze has the ability to glide past defenders and give the impression the ball is stuck to his feet, much like Grealish. He also has an eye for a pass, completing 1.7 key passes per 90 minutes this season. He also completes three dribbles per game – almost double what Grealish put up in 18/19.

Villa would have to put a fight to fend off Premier League rivals for Eze’s signature should they move for him in the window. However, he knows the division and would be easily adaptable to a free-flowing Championship Villa side.

Arnór Sigurðsson | 21 | CSKA Moscow | Iceland

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A lesser-known star with similar attributes to Jack Grealish is 21-year-old Iceland midfielder Arnór Sigurðsson. The youngster, who joined the Russians from Norrköping in Sweden, dreams of playing for Arsenal so the Birmingham club may be a great stepping stone.

The Icelandic attacker is great at breaking through defences and getting out of tight spaces. Despite having no English football experience, these traits should help him adapt to a fast-paced, physical Championship.

Sigurðsson has also scored four goals and assisted twice but is always involved in build-up play and knows when to make a pass and when to take a bold shot from outside the box.

Sigurðsson is a greater risk than Eze but may prove a cheaper option and Dean Smith has a reputation to squeezing quality out of cheaper players from his time at Brentford. It is clear that Villa’s excessive spending hasn’t seen results improve this season, so building a team with more structure on a smaller budget could be key.

Bradley Dack | 26 | Blackburn Rovers | England

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A safe and experienced option to fill the void left by Grealish would be Blackburn talisman Bradley Dack. The 26-year-old Londoner, who joined Rovers from Gillingham in 2017, excels in a free role behind a strike partnership or loan striker.

He is blessed with impeccable timing, often breaking into the box late to get on the end of a pass. He is also renowned for scoring from distance and, not only that, racking up a remarkable 33 goals in his first two seasons in Lancashire.

The Englishman suffered an ACL injury in December and is set to be ruled out for the remainder of the campaign. However, when he returns to full fitness, Dean Smith could pounce on the midfielder who could be Villa’s star man (and a much needed source of goals) in the second tier.

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Eddie Nketiah: Arteta’s first choice No. 9?

Arsenal youngster Nketiah has been showing his value this season under Mikel Arteta. But does this cement his place as a starter under the Spaniard?

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Arsenal finally got off the mark in Project Restart by getting all 3 points in their third game back against Southampton. Mikel Arteta yet again went with Eddie Nketiah to lead the line instead of Alexandre Lacazette, and it paid off.

The youngster scored Arsenal’s first goal in their 2-0 win. Nketiah has started 5 out of the last 6 premier League games for Arsenal and the 21-year-old looks to have won the trust of his manager. So, what does the former Chelsea youth product give to this side which Arteta is looking for?

Arsenal fans will remember the day Nketiah made his debut for the Gunners. He came on and scored with his first touch of the ball in an EFL Cup tie against Norwich City, going on to score the winner just a few minutes later. He became an instant household name amongst the Arsenal fans, who were hoping he wouldn’t be another youth product who would not live up to his potential.

At the start of the 2019/20 season, he was loaned to Leeds United to get more playing time. He impressed in his first few games at the club, with Marcelo Bielsa calling him a ‘complete’ player. However, he was seen as second choice to Patrick Bamford and did not start any of the first few league games.

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Bielsa was going to give him his first start against Queens Park Rangers, but Nketiah picked up a lower abdomen injury which ruled him out for a month. He finally started a league game in December against Birmingham City and another on New Year’s Day, but the loan spell was not going as planned for Arsenal and he was called back to the club in January.

Initially when he came back to Arsenal, Nketiah was not starting many games. His first start came against Bournemouth in the fourth round of the FA Cup where he scored Arsenal’s second goal in their 2-1 win. He made a few appearances off the bench in the Premier League against Sheffield and Burnley.

His strikes against Bournemouth and Everton really showed that he was a born striker with the instinct to score goals. That, coupled with his work rate, meant Lacazette would continue to warm the bench. In the friendly game against Charlton Athletic just before the Premier League restarted, Nketiah got himself a hat-trick, and has played all three games since the restart, starting two of them. His goal against Southampton really captured his value for the team, and it was the reward for his industry. 

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Mikel Arteta clearly prefers Nketiah over Arsenal’s £45m Lacazette who has not got an away goal in more than 18 hours of football. Due to the tight fixture list, Lacazette will definitely get his opportunities to show what he has got, but he needs to prove to his manager that he is willing to do the dirty work and he needs to find his confidence soon if he wants to be a part of Arteta’s plans beyond this season.

Throughout the season, we have seen many young players stepping up at Arsenal, especially since Arteta took over. Players like Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli look really promising and have given Arsenal fans hope for the future. Eddie Nketiah also comes under this bracket and looks like the man Arsenal could hand over the no. 9 shirt to in the future. Arsenal are six points behind sixth place and need a strong end to the season for them to have any chance of being in Europe next season.

With many injures to their backline, Arteta will look to his strikers to provide the goals they need to win games, and it certainly looks like the youngster Eddie Nketiah will the one to partner the captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up front for Arsenal in the last few games of the season.